Vietnam War letters from Bucks County servicemen preserved – Bucks County Courier Times

December 1966. Dave Mohn was a student at St. John the Evangelist School in Lower Makefield. The Vietnam war raged, body counts tallied each day on the TV news. He was reading the Bucks County Courier Times, as kids did back then and, turning to an inside page, he’s saw something that inspired him. 
“It was a list of the names of men from Bucks County who were fighting in the war,” he said.  
Each year as Christmas approached, the Courier published the names and the overseas addresses of local men in Vietnam, a lot of them from Levittown and other places throughout Lower Bucks.   
Dave Mohn, without any grownup telling him, purchased a box of Christmas cards. 
“I sent a card to every one of them on the list, just telling them I was 12 and wishing them a Merry Christmas,” he said. “It was just a nice thing to do.” 
Sometimes he’d include a prayer. For five Christmases, 1966 to 1970, he sent cards from the lists published in the paper. The cards would be read aboard Navy ships, in deep jungles and front lines. He’s unsure how many cards he sent, but he’s pretty sure how many replies he received. 
“About 50,” he said. 
That’s because he saved them. 
“Some of these cards I got are so beautiful,” he said. “Some of them are made of silk in Vietnam.” 
Reading the return well wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, show most of the replies are cheerful, upbeat and always grateful. So often when a man is fighting overseas in a war he didn’t start, it’s not always apparent that anyone back home cares, especially at Christmas. 
“Here it is, Christmas night and I’m over 5,000 miles from home. Next year will be different,” wrote soldier Jeff Butterfield in 1969. “I got your card today, Dave, and I got the prayer, too. I want to thank you, Dave. It’s great to know guys back home are pushing for me.”  
Some of the responses are witty, like the one from soldier Frank Berringer at Christmas 1968.  
Said Mohn: “I guess I told him that my older sister, who was getting married at the time, that she was going crazy over it.” 
Frank Berringer was amused: “Thanks for the warning on your sister. Well, she couldn’t have gone crazy over a better thing than getting married. As for me, I went that way quite some time ago.” 
At sea aboard the Capricornus, as assault cargo vessel steaming toward Vietnam to attack coastal ports, sailor Jim Henderson wrote: “I’m working as the captain’s yeoman. I like the Navy very much, but still miss good old Levittown and home.” 
Sgt. Dave Bowers of the 101st Airborne wrote: “It’s nice to be remembered by so many people from back home and I want you to know I really appreciate it.” 
Sgt. Bowers signed off, “Take care and Drive On.” 
That phrase, “Drive On”, was said by soldiers to each other on patrol, usually after an enemy ambush, witnessing the deaths of friends. There was no time to grieve, so “Drive On” was used to refocus, move ahead and complete the mission.  
Some soldiers were philosophical. Sgt. Wayne Leinauer of the 101st Airborne wrote on his envelope, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then there will be peace.” 
One was certain of the nobility of fighting in Southeast Asia, and saving Vietnam from the communists. Specialist 4 Billy Pierce wrote: “We are in Vietnam for the cause of freedom and we will do our best to preserve freedom for all Americans and the rest of the free world so that some day this world will be a much better place to live.” 
Another was ambivalent about his service. Senior wireman and radio operator Jim Cassar, 20, who had come home to see his family that Christmas, wrote Mohn that he had extended his tour in Vietnam another six months.   
“I’ve spent 19 months in Vietnam,” he wrote. “Don’t ask me why I’m staying here so long, because I don’t really know myself. If you decide to write again … tell me about yourself.” 
But Mohn never wrote back. 
“A couple of guys asked me to write again, but I never did, I’m sad to say. I wish I had written back. I guess I just got busy with teenage stuff.  
After graduating from Bishop Egan High School in 1972 (now Conwell-Egan) he had a busy life. He graduated from college, got a job as an assistant manager at the John Wanamaker department store at the Oxford Valley Mall, returned to school, attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and became a professional interior designer. He moved to Florida in the 1980s. He lives in Boca Raton today. 
And he still has the cards and letters. 
“I had this collection in a box wherever I was,” Mohn said. “A few years ago I put them all in a scrap book as a way to preserve them. They should be preserved, but now that I’m approaching 70, I’m getting rid of a lot of things. That’s why I contacted the Courier.” 
He’d like to give them to a local veterans organization, or a library or some place that archives such things, but he’s not sure what or who that would be. 
He knows what he has isn’t history written with a capital “H”, but history more intimate, pen and ink on paper, from the people who were there, writing from battlefields and uncertain fates, thinking of their families in Bucks County, thanking a kid from Morrisville they didn’t know for remembering, when so many back home seemed to forget. 
JD Mullane is a longtime columnist and reporter for the Bucks County Courier Times. Reach him at 215-949-5745 or at


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