Michael W. Thomas
May 25, 2020

P-38

The P-38, (also called a John Wayne) was developed in 1942, is a small can opener that was issued in the canned field rations of the United States Armed Forces.

The P-38, the canteen and the Helicopter were key pieces that our military forces relied on to keep them alive. My dad had a P-38 that is one of my prized possessions and the canteen was from my uncle or cousin. I love capturing images that expands my interest and knowledge.

The Vietnam War may be one of the most misunderstood conflicts as a whole but just reading about the daily lives of the men “in the bush”, fighting jungle warfare never ceases to amaze me.

  • The brutal heat
  • The monsoon rain for days and days
  • Constantly wet, foot rot, leeches
  • Constant buzz of mosquitos, malaria carrying mosquitos
  • Having to fill their canteens with whatever water they could find, muddy, rivers with dead bodies, bomb craters that collected water  going hours in 100 degree and 100% humidity
  • Living off of canned field rations often carried over from WWII, Lima Beans and Ham, Beans and Weiners, Spaghetti, eggs and ham and many others soaked in congealed fat. Eaten cold many times and also being creative in using whatever they had and shared to boost the taste.
  • Loving the pound cake and peaches, chocolate bars, coffee, cigarettes and gum that came in the rations.
  • It was common for the soldiers writing home to ask for Kool-Aid packets to sweeten the taste of their water that they had to add Iodine tablets to to kill whatever living organisms to prevent them from catching a multitude of infections.
  • Poisonous snakes, spiders, Bengal tigers
  • Oh yeah, also the enemy trying to kill them in jungle warfare never experienced.
  • Spider holes, tunnels, booby traps everywhere.
  • An elusive enemy that could blend in with the civilians and supported by civilians so you never really knew who to trust.
  • A war like no other, it was not about territory, it was about “body count”


To make it 365 days was the goal but the costs were far greater in returning back to “the world” never the same person, spat upon, misunderstood and forgotten.

It is not my place to judge, we lost 58K + soldiers and millions of North and South Vietnam soldiers and civilians and for what?

What I do know is that I appreciate their sacrifice and their duty, they did what they were asked to do. I salute them all for their service and sacrifice.


My interest in Vietnam started with the book, A Life in a Year: The American Infantryman in Vietnam by James Ebert  over 25 years ago up until the latest I completed last week, 

The Boatmen by James Nichols

There are hundreds of books in between and it had gotten to the point that I would go to Barnes and Noble and read every book they had on their shelves.

My favorites: 

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

What it’s like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes

The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick


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