Sunday, June 14, 2009

War Letters: Introduction

The following are personal letters I wrote to my wife and family while serving as an activated U.S. Marine Corps reservist during Operation Desert Shield/Storm from December of 1990 until April of 1991.

The opinions expressed here are mine, and I have reasons for them. My opinions are based on my experiences and observations. If you don’t like those opinions, tough shit.

Names were not changed to protect the innocent or guilty. If you don’t like it, tough shit.

Events are as I remember them, and I can’t be arsed to research for accuracy. If you don’t like it, tough shit.


I was a member of Detachment Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Indianapolis, Indiana, (DetCommCoHQBN4thMarDiv), from 1984 until 1992.

Roughly half of my Indianapolis unit was activated, and we were folded into our active duty counterparts with Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division (CommCoHQBN2ndMarDiv), out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

It may help to understand and remember a few things about those times…seemingly long, long ago.

I had been married only seven months when my reserve unit got activated.

As interested possible participants to war, we closely followed the news of the day and Saddam Hussein’s adventure into Kuwait. We were warned repeatedly by our higher-ups to be prepared for the “balloon to go up,” so it was no real surprise when I received a phone call at work stating my narrow ass was being activated. Nevertheless, it was a sobering realization that I was now going to be expected to do what I’d been paid and somewhat trained to do!

US military digital and satellite communications were just getting off the ground at that point. In my experience, the technology didn’t work real well. As wireman in the field, occasionally we could hook up our “state-of-the-art” TA-838 field telephones, scam on to some kind of satellite uplink known to us as AUTOVON, and make infrequent and poor quality phone calls home. It was down more than it was up, and we learned on the fly how to install its technology. Before our deployment, few communications reservists had ever worked with it before.

Ta-838 Field Telephone

These were the days before the internet and email, and at the time nobody had heard of personal computers, laptops, mP3 players, digital cameras, or cell phones. Compact discs were all the rage for listening to music, but cassette tapes were still very much in use.

During the run up to the war, nobody really knew how it would play out. There were serious fears that Saddam Hussein would use his vast arsenal of chemical weapons, and that if he did, we would resort to nuclear retaliation.

There were reports of tens of thousands of body bags being deployed and staged to accommodate the casualties anticipated on all sides. The “Mother of All Battles” was most likely coming, and we faced it with grim determination.

I want to state up front that I did not participate in combat. I was not a grunt infantryman or a war hero. I never fired my M-16 in anger. I spent three months in god-forsaken foreign lands, sleeping in holes, and trying to keep communications functioning. I just did my job the best I could. That is all.

What I did many years ago pales in comparison to what the current generation of Marines is doing.

I dedicate these intimate stories to my comrades in arms who have made the ultimate sacrifice, to my brothers in arms who fight the good fight today, and to my wife Lynda, who remains the love of my life.

Semper Fidelis.

Paul A. Johnson

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment away with your bad-ass selves.

Cursing and foul language is fine...even encouraged here. In fact, I think cussing is fucking wonderful.

Just remember...this is MY house, and I will not be insulted or maliciously messed with here.

Good-natured ribbing is cool, but if you and I don't have some kind of previous relationship, you had best mind your fucking manners or I will relegate you to the intardnets dustbin for being a cunt.

To know me is to love me.

Or something.