Finding Aid for the Anthony Ayers Vietnam War correspondence 2022.225.w.r
Center for American War Letters Archives
Orange, CA 92866
Contributing Institution: Center for American War Letters Archives
Title: Anthony Ayers Vietnam War correspondence
source: Fagnani, Kris
Creator: Ayers, Anthony, First Lieutenant, 1944-2015
Identifier/Call Number: 2022.225.w.r
Physical Description: 0.01 Linear Feet (1 folder)
Date (inclusive): 1968 March 20 - November 28
Abstract: This collection contains ten letters from 1LT Anthony Ayers, USA to Kris Swanson during the Vietnam War. Also included are digital copies of these letters and some biographical information.
Language of Material: English .
This collection is open for research.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Kris Fagnani.
This collection is arranged chronologically.
First Lieutenant Anthony Ayers, United States Army (11/9/1944 - 2/19/2015) was born in Los Angeles, California to Norwood Austin and Courtney Finch Ayers.
According to the donor, who met Ayers on a plane from Los Angeles to San Francisco in early 1968 and decided to exchange letters, Ayers was en route to deploy to Vietnam. He arrived in Long Binh, South Vietnam on March 20, 1968 and served with Detachment B-52, 5th Special Forces Group, a replacement unit while he waited for his assignment. In two days he was in Nha Trang and participated in Project Delta. He engaged the enemy in Saigon and was later injured and flewn back to the United States to Ward 9, Modigan General Hospital at Fort Lewis, Washington. He survived the war and later moved to Flagstaff, Arizona. Anthony Ayers passed away in 2015.
[Item title / description; Box "n" / Folder "n"], Anthony Ayers Vietnam War correspondence (2022.225.w.r), Center for American War Letters Archives, Chapman University, CA.
For the benefit of current and future researchers, please cite any additional information about sources consulted in this collection, including permanent URLs, item or folder descriptions, and box/folder locations.
This collection contains ten letters from 1LT Anthony Ayers, USA to Kris Swanson during the Vietnam War. Also included are digital copies of these letters and some biographical information.
The correspondence began after Ayers met the Kris on a plane to San Francisco and decided to correspond with one another. He arrived in Long Binh, South Vietnam with a replacement unit and awaited his orders. He describes his travel over the previous 72 hours through Honolulu, Wake Island, Okinawa, and Bien Hoa Air Force Base. He gives his location as across a barbed wire fence from Route 1, "the Street Without Joy [a reference to Bernard Fall's 1961 history on the First Indochina War), from Saigon to the North. We are 20 miles north of Saigon." He describes the area as free from signs of war, with the exception of aircraft, and moves the conversation to her education as a physical education major. He ends with "a few after thoughts concerning the war." He goes on:
He goes on to discuss the upcoming presidential election and Richard Nixon, saying to support whomever may end the conflict; "This thing has gone beyond reason, and there are sick minds prolonging the war."A human being is really the most noble creation that exists, whether Vietnamese or Yankee...the capability to understand himself and to love...never ceases to impress me. What is left is a mutilated corpse. This war has degenerated to simply a contest to see who can kill the most of the other side."
In his next letter, Ayers writes from Nha Trang and got an assignment as an advisor to a Vietnamese Ranger battalion. The living "is unbelievably plush" with the special forces unit and he is happy to not have to watch over American "kids," as he expresses no being bothered too much by what the Vietnamese do to their own countrymen.
In the letter dated April 6, Ayers describes coming under attack of mortars, rockets, and machine gun fire. They suffered so many casualties they could not move out until the next day under jet fighter cover; nine helicopters shot down and six Americans killed, with only three recovered; all of which were carried out and had become "backbreaking loads" for three miles to a helicopter evacuation. He gives his impression of combat as feeling hate for those shooting at him and "the deafening noise which I will never forget and is impossible to describe." They were able to take a prisoner of war. He thanks her for a poem she sent by Rod McKuen.
In his next letter, Ayers discusses politics and a book he read entitled The New Legion by Donald Duncan who served in Vietnam and later wrote criticisms of the war for Ramparts magazine. Ayers explains that this book "is word-for-word the book that I had hoped to write at the end of this year." He closes by saying, "I can't believe that all I have to write is unpleasantness. We seem to find relief from the war here only through mild forms of debauchery...wine, women, and song."
On June 13, he recalls the previous week going to Saigon and engaging a hundred North Vietnamese soldiers with his South Vietnamese unit, whom he describes as "cowardly and inneffective" and they took a large amount of casualties, following up by saying "Fortunately none of the Americans were killed." He continued, "If we left right now, the North Vietnamese could win the war in 5 days in spite of all the training and equipment we have given the south." He then mentions the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, claiming not to be depressed because he is encouraged by the sympathetic reaction even from his detractors. He finishes by talking about the beach in Nha Trang.
Ayers' next letter discusses the situation and his new unit in a Steam Camp in the central highlands with Detachment A-238 of the 5th Special Forces. He gives a brief history of the how "the Indo-Chinese war almost destroyed France during the [1950s]." He continues to criticize the expenditure and presidential campaign promises, referring once again to Bernard Fall's book. His next letter mentions his excitement for the impending political conventions and elections, as well as the 1968 Olympics, and lamenting about the situation in Czechoslovakia. He goes on to say that there is very little evidence of the war near him.
On September 20, Ayers wrote a short note explaining he wrote a long letter but could not send it because his camp was attacked and he took a mortar fragment to the jaw. He was in the hospital in Vietnam and then sent to Japan and Washington before going home for a while.
In his last letter, November 28, he is working at the Presidio in San Francisco processing deserters in the Army who have "messed themselves up...pretty thoroughly" and adjusting to civilian life. He gets out of the Army on December 16 and is looking for a place to live when he returns to school at the UCLA.
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Subjects and Indexing Terms
Vietnam War (1961-1975) -- Vietnam.
Vietnam War (1961-1975) -- Correspondence