Lyn Lifshin


One man who was never in combat,
spent his tour in Hawaii where his
duty was to process replacements.
“My job was to read casualty reports
and find replacements for those
missing, wounded or killed.” He
said his job was to search the Marine
Corps world to find the right person
with the required occupation skill.
“I simply pulled a name from a
stack of IBM punch cards,” he wrote,
“those chosen were fed into a card
reader. Within 30 days, sometimes
sooner the marine I selected would
receive orders. “There he was,” he said
a 20 year old lance corporal playing
God. “Throughout my life I have
suffered survivor’s guilt from my
IBM punch card selections. The
secret yellow colored casualty reports
started every morning at 8 sharp.
Out of respect, we would sit
quietly without anything to eat
or drink, no candy, no gum, just sit
there quietly and read the horrid news.
From the message board I would
know what my work load was to be for
the day. Some days it was out of
control. Other days it was a few casualties.
I hand those cards as though they were
priceless. I really tried to perform the
selection process at a certain time
of the day because I would only have to
dread a small section out of my day”.
Once the replacements were selected he
tried not to look at their names a
second time and tried to forget them.
He couldn’t always do that. “As
fate would have it, one of my placements
was killed less than 60 days following my
selection. He had been killed in an accident.
However it hit me the same as if he had
died in hand to hand combat


who was taught Vietnamese
during a 40 week Army could
and worked as an interrogator/
analyst—he was in his early 20’s.
His job was to get intelligence
from papers taken off dead
enemy soldiers. “I saw more
than my share of photos,
most from parents and girl
friends and were accompanied
by letters telling how much
he was loved and missed. They
too were soldiers just doing
what their country expected
of them

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