The cover of Nancy E. Lynch's book, "Vietnam Mailbag." The author will discuss her book -- the result of a promise made 40 years ago -- Monday at Theater 101, Mount Morris.
Author revisits voices from Vietnam
Journalist and author Nancy E. Lynch made a promise more than 40 years ago.
Lynch wrote a column, “Nancy’s Vietnam Mailbag,” during the Vietnam War at the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal that afforded servicemen an opportunity to let those at home know where they stood on issues ranging from the weather to the war.
In her final column in December 1972, Lynch promised “her guys” she would some day put all their war correspondence and pictures in a book to honor them.
That book, “Vietnam Mailbag, Voices from the War: 1968-1972,” was published in 2009 and she has been fulfilling her promise ever since.
“It truly has taken on a life of its own,” said Lynch, of Bethel, Del.
Lynch will discuss the book at 3:30 p.m. April 29 at Theatre 101, 101 Main St., Mount Morris. She will sign copies of her book, which will be available for purchase.
The book, which won a first place gold medal in 2009 from the Independent Publisher Book Awards for best non-fiction in the Mid-Atlantic, features nearly 1,000 letters and hundreds of pictures first published in her newspaper column. The often emotional letters reveal troops’ apprehensions, fears, optimism and hope.
Lynch, in a talk last fall at Byron-Bergen Public Library, Bergen, said she was “one of the luckiest girls on the planet,” for being able as a young journalist to write the column and for the good fortune of being able to stay connected to “her heroes” over time.
“No more compelling accounts of the war exist,” Lynch said. “These men and women — nurses and Red Cross personnel — gifted us at home with a very unique perspective of the war … They served with honor, gladly sharing with us their zest for life in the face of death.”
Lynch said the troops’ letters depicted trials on the battlefield and expressed feelings about the homefront, where protests, assassinations, draft card burnings and riots marked the late 1960s. The second part of the 456-book consists of a dozen “where are they now” profiles of servicemen who frequently wrote Lynch.
Every letter that the newspaper published was exactly the way it was written.
Lynch graduated from the University of Delaware in 1968 and began working at The News Journal. Troops had been receiving the morning paper in Vietnam so in the spring of 1969, during the height of American involvement in Southeast Asia, Lynch’s editor asked if she could get the troops to write to her, and the letters and pictures would be featured in a column.
“I thought I might not get any mail, but the letters starting coming in and they didn’t quit for five years,” Lynch said. “We received nearly 1,000 letters and hundreds of pictures, and I saved them. In December of 1972, I wrote that I hoped to put all the letters and photos in a book someday in honor of those who had served.”
Lynch, whose maternal grandparents lived in Canandaigua, has presented her salute to Vietnam veterans in the Finger Lakes for two weeks each May and October since 2009 to increase awareness of the service and the sacrifices of veterans.
A quick look
WHAT: Talk by Nancy E. Lynch, author of “Vietnam Mailbag.”
WHERE: Theatre 101, 101 Main St., Mount Morris.
WHEN: 3:30 to 5 p.m. April 29.
ADMISSION: Free, though donations are welcome.
Excerpt: A soldier’s letter
A letter from Nancy E. Lynch’s book, “Vietnam Mailbag “:
“We’re sitting here on our hill. At least it’s ours today but nightfall might bring something else. It’s overlooking Khe Sanh. We watch as Charles throws rounds in on the unfortunate marines as we watch the black smoke from them and wonder when he will turn the guns our way. It’s hot and windy and gets worse every day. All the men are lonely and wish mail would come but it won’t. We even wonder when we’ll get our next ‘C’ ration meal and water. We hear about the things back in the states and wonder if the war will ever end. Sure there (are) peace talks but what will they do? While the talks are going on so are the NVA southward and making our job even harder. Some don’t even want to come home because sometimes we think the real war is at home. Why don’t we go north to the home of the fire and put it out? I would like for you to use this in your column and send me an issue of the paper. Please, we want all the people of the United States to know what it’s like here in Nam. P.S. War is our business and business is damn good.”
– Marine Pfc. Terry Ivie, near Khe Sanh, May 8, 1968.