Things were really, really bad in the US Armed Forces in late 1968. Of course, they got even worse. By 1971 more GIs were dying of drug overdoses in Vietnam that from combat. Imagine. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/is-this-any-way-to-run-the-army-stoned-19681109 The key word in this generation is revolt and the current war has no meaning for most draftees — —it is obvious that the Vietnamese don't want them in their country, and it is not obvious at all what interest a draftee has in being there. So incredible numbers of enlisted men are smoking grass to "get away," and more than that, to reinforce their feelings of solidarity with other unwilling conscripts. This is on top of the generation-wide taste for novel thrills and some of these men were blowing pot even even before they were drafted. The fact remains that the military provides at least as much exposure to marijuana as a big-city college. This is implicitly recognized in the practice of allowing servicemen to turn in contraband before reaching US Customs, with no questions asked. A corporal writes from a former French resort town in Vietnam: "There is something about being a head in Vietnam that you can't get back in the world. It may have something to do with complete feeling of oneness (same clothes, same paycheck, no competition for girls, etc.) or it could be other things. But I'm not here to philosophize, am I? "There is one interesting thing about grass here. In Vietnam you buy ten already rolled J's for about 100 piastres (88c). 1 or 2 at the most is all you need to get high, where it might take 4 or 5 in the world. Because it is so cheap and effective, many very straight people come over and by the time they return to Altus, Oklahoma, or wherever, they are full-fledged heads and have a new outlook on many things. The Vietnam experience is doing a lot more good, in some ways, than you would think. "Because pot is so cheap and abundant, it is smoked like a regular cigarette—tossed away like butts when it becomes too short, and a new one is lighted up. The paths are littered with roaches. Walking along a road one might think how ironical it is that here, in Vietnam, the streets are literally 'paved with gold.' "Unlimited supplies. Pot and opium is all they have here. Out of 600 men a good solid half, possibly more, turn on with J's regularly. A few dozen of these on opium. The common practice is to blow outside the barracks, rap a while, then back in to listen to some music. You see GI's walking to and from places blowing all the time. Of course it's not so open in the world." An SP/4 writing from a mountain in Vietnam: "Grass is plentiful and cheap. LSD comes from the States. Occasionally we have Afghani and Pakistani hashish and sometimes meth. Opium is plentiful. We take or smoke anything we can. I'm stoned 50% of my waking hours, like now for instance. War? What war? "We smoke semi-covertly. We work stoned. Music most of the time. Our favorite combination is HOG (hash, O, grass.) I dropped 500 micro-g's of Acid last month. Four people total dropped and we mainly had an introvert head trip, as there was little visual stimulation. I tripped on Byrds' music for about two hours. I also went to Army school in the States stoned on acid. Big color trip. "Most Army jobs are so intellectually easy that it is possible to be stoned all the time, which many of us do for (literally) weeks on end. "Oh yeah, I went to reinforce an ambushed patrol once stoned on Meth. Bodies splashed all over the road, and I just diddleybopped down the road digging people with no heads, and some sergeant starts yelling at me to get down. I walked up to him, an only then did I realize that I was the only guy standing up, and everyone else was under cover. So I turned around and walked back down the road which really blew the sergeant's mind. Speed is good for combat, though. "I've met many paratroopers who swear by grass for killing people. Never killed anyone yet, so I don't know. "I hitchhiked from Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos, in February. Spent about 30c that day. Lived in Laos for four days on about $5, smoking opium with the Laos. The Third Eye in Vietiane is a head-run night-club-restaurant featuring folk and rock. Much of the audience is O-heads." An SP/4 in Dian: "Grass is easier to get than booze. About 60% of the company blows grass and about 40% of the entire post does. The Army likes to lie about these statistics—I am not exaggerating in my estimation. It is smoked everywhere, especially around groovy sounds." A "Speedy 4" from Nha Trang: "Grass is all over the place if you're aware of it. Any kid on the street who pesters you with 'Hey GI, you want number one girl?' knows where you can score. Most barbershops carry it. "For 100 Piastres (about a dollar) you can cop 10 prerolled fat joints (round as cigarettes) wrapped in groovy plastic bags. For just 300 Pee you can cop about four ounces of the most beautiful loose ****. You become lazy here—throwing away roaches and acting so nonchalant about the whole thing—just because the prices are so mindblowing low. "I've found that I can swap a carton of Salems ($1.50, tax free, at the PX) for four or five bags. The best grass I've smoked is from Cambodia, although the Mekong Delta has some excellent ****. "I would say that about 25% of my unit smoke 'regularly.' It is almost as if you can't afford not to smoke, boo is so cheap. I would say that at least 90% of the GI's here have smoked at least once. From what I can gather, the troops in the field smoke a lot more regularly than support troops. Apparently a lot of 'the enemy'— — Charlie and NVA's— — get all ****ed up before they fight the Americans. "Recently I've been getting into the Magic O. Opium usually goes for 50c a bowl although I've blown at one place for 25c a bowl. Like, this place where I go there is a beautiful Buddhist temple in which to freak. 'Papasan' tells me that when the French were here that some of their troops used to do O. "I try to stay away from the ****ing Army when I'm flyin' high, the military in such a ****ing drag. War is a bore." Report from Saigon: "Pot everywhere! From cab drivers, bar girls, cops, you name it. Very cheap I'm told . . . hash as well, and the security people warn us that heroin and opium are flooding across the border. They say that the commies are putting opium in the joints to get GI's hooked . . . I don't know any. "I would guess that 40% of the people here use pot regularly—some places openly—with commanders, NCO's. 80% must have tried it one time or another." Another Marine near Da Nang: "Weed is a snap but I've never looked for acid. I am almost always in places where an acid trip might prove fatal. Not too groovy. As a rule, weed and opium (if that's your thing) are easy as they are native. Other things take longer and more devious routes. Everyone turns on to weed. Pot will be legalized if the 18-20 year-olds can get back from here to vote." Vietnam is the center of the action, but the Navy, because of the continuous travel and the selection of men who enlist, is also full of heads of all sorts. A sailor whose ship runs between Japan and various South East Asian ports reports this: "Marijuana and other drugs are easily available in most ports of the East, but LSD is non-existent. Japan is very poor for marijuana—downers are easily had in any pharmacy, although they are supposedly off-limits to US military. The Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore are all great for pot, and Singapore and Hong Kong have a lot of opium. Hashish is great in Bangkok. "On the ship I was stationed on up until a month ago, forty per cent of the crew turned on regularly. The back (fantail) of the ship was just like a big party with sometimes as many as thirtyfive sailors all turning on in groups of three and four. The cops on the ship had no idea what was going on." A lieutenant ported out of Long Beach: "LSD is only available through the mail from California. Not many guys turn on to acid because the ship is small and it's hard to hide yourself. Grass is plentiful and almost one-half the non-career men turn on. "May I recommend Singapore for Indian hemp and very cheap — $10 a pound. ZAP!" A Seaman 3rd on a communications ship: "Grass is easily available in Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Japan, Subic Bay, P.I. There was one guy who said he'd 'taken' marijuana and then he asked me what 'pot' was—kinda mixed up." An E-3 (enlisted man 3rd class) on a ship touring in the Atlantic reports on the scene on the other side of the world: "When you hit a foreign port it's as easy to get grass as it is in Tijuana. Acid is practically impossible to get. Speed is fairly easy. In Turkey it's easier to get hash and opium than anything else. "In the Caribbean grass is very easy to get. You can get it from the farmers for between $2-$10 a pound. You can buy it in the city for $20-$30 a pound. I'd say at least 50% have tried it. "I was stationed at the Nuclear Power School in Vallejo (near San Francisco) for 6 months. I'd say approximately 30% turned on regularly, it could be higher. It is definitely not lower. I don't know whether to attribute that to the intelligence of the personnel there or to the area. I also think if you took a count of the number of servicemen attending the Fillmore and Avalon you would be surprised." The reputation of California as a drug scene is such that, as a sailor on the USS Arlington says, "Right away if you're from California you're a hippie or a queer (to the officers). It used to bug me." Here's a report from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey: "What available? Just about everything — Grass: Vietnamese, Columbian, Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Carmel Valley Local. Then there are the pills that people get through their local friendly dispensary, Darvons have always been very big. At one point last fall I knew that fully 50% of my barracks had at least tried grass. This is only unusual in that there are no Vietnam returnees here. I would guess that 30-35% of the enlisted personnel as DLI turn on. At Fort Ord it's not unusual to find whole companies turning on." You don't have to be stationed abroad or in California, though, according to a respondent from Fort Polk, Louisiana: "Grass is most popular. Not too hard to hold of. You can always get high because the people in the dispensary always get things. A lot of people smoke, but it is very much discouraged by the MP's. So it's not possible here to turn on in the open. When we do usually we smoke in my room or out in the forest." In Germany, one of the largest duty stations outside South East Asia, a PFC reports that "grass is easy, hash is easier, no LSD. I don't deal in other drugs, but if somebody wanted some, it would be only a small hassle. Very few turn on, never openly. The few who do are very tight. Being stoned and listening to music helps you 'get away.'" An Airman in Turkey says, "Hashish is fairly easily obtained. The price is about $10 for a stick about 2 fingers wide, and about the length of your middle finger long. Recently seven of my buddies got busted for smoking. One cat thought that he was going to die, so he went to the hospital, and turned everybody in. All of them are currently being nailed to the cross. "Generally hash is in fairly widespread use, I'd say that 1/3 of the enlisted men turn on. A lot of the smoking is done in the rooms, although I did see one cat light up a joint in the snackbar." Despite paranoid stories in the Berkeley Barb and other underground papers, it does not seem that apprehended or suspected smokers are being sent to the front lines on certain – death missions. While troublemakers may be treated maliciously, inconspicuous marijuana usage is currently being winked at by all branches of the service, although naturally no official statement has been made to this effect. The reason is simple — —there are too many men involved, and a full-scale crackdown would make for serious depletions in the ranks, especially among the trained specialists. Individuals at lower levels of command, including senior enlisted men, may go in for harassment as individuals, but the top-level policy is to turn a blind eye to the phenomenon. Convicted drug users face discharge, but most often an administrative discharge, which is not dishonorable. Both sailors and Vietnam GI's report cases of men provoking a bust in order to get out of the service. Recently some people in the peace movement have been taking an interest in the plight of the large scale slice of this generation unwillingly imprisoned in olive drab. In addition to the organized pacifists and radicals who put out the GI-oriented newspapers The Ally. The Bond, Vietnam GI and others, an organization formed by Fred Gardner of Ramparts Magazine (Summer Of Support) has been establishing coffeehouses in the vicinity of half a dozen Stateside military bases. These coffeehouses provide a place to talk and listen to music in an un-military environment. They provide the only taste of freedom and Bohemianism available to the men at the bases, many of which are located in dreary places in the rural South. Tom Cleaver writes about musical tastes at the Oleo, Strut, near Camp Hood, Killeen, Texas: "There is more political content than one would probably find in a civilian community, but I think that this is because of the same reasons that black slaves had 'political' music. It is a quiet way of expressing what they think without being too active about it, thus keeping down the possibility of individual visibility." Enlisted servicemen make up a lot of people, caught in a particularly nasty and confusing middle-of-things. But it seems plain that it's all one generation, uniformed or not. "I feel guilty when I think of the people who resisted and went to jail. That was something I couldn't do. I'm not serving my country, the ones who are in jail are serving their country. "There's nothing I can do now but keep stoned. Am I 'passing the buck'? I did go as far as I could. I refused to do anything that had to do with combat."— —A medic in Germany. "People who are lucky enough to get CO or 4F classifications have no idea at all how bad it all is. Especially basic training. Girls have no idea at all what we go through. I am at an Army Reception Station where guys come their first five days in the Army, and I've seen the Army drive people to do things I could not believe. Suicides and attempted suicides are regular things. "I can only suggest that people with the draft very close do either of two things if they don't think they can handle it. (1) Split—they will never catch you if you're cool, and (2) press for a CO (conscientious objector) very hard." ——Fort Polk, Louisiana. "I guess about the only thing that really jucks with my mind is the thought of how foolish this whole ordeal is. Every day I see evidence that indicates the Vietnamese people resent our presence—if they don't want us and we don't want to be here, just what the hell gives? "For three weeks in a row, 'Sky Pilot' was number one in Bien Hoa. I keep thinking of the line, 'A young soldier so ill/Looks at the sky pilot, remembers the words, "Thou Shalt Not Kill".' Man, give me some slack, huh. Thank God for the sense of sound." ——An MP in Vietnam.