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Vietnam Tapes

Lance Corporal Michael A. Baronowski in 1966 at age 19
Lance Corporal Michael A. Baronowski in 1966 at age 19

In 1966, a young marine took a reel to reel tape recorder with him into the Vietnam War. For two months, until he was killed in action, Michael Baronowski made tapes of his friends, of life in foxholes, of combat. And he sent those audio letters home to his family in Norristown, Pennsylvania. More than 30 years later, his comrade Tim Duffie brought those tapes to Lost and Found Sound.

Here is an excerpt of Baronowski's combat commentary:

Mike:There's all kinds of garbage going on. We don't know whether it's outgoing or incoming. No word's passed down like that. The illumination is being kept up. Every once in a while a 60 millimeter mortar mission is called out to our left front, holding on out there. Some of this looks like a nine acre Christmas tree fire. Low peter, high explosive. You can hear the illumination being kept up there.


Mike:Those were heat rounds, high explosives. It's dark now. We're waiting for the illumination to go off. There goes the illumination. [laughs] That's the heaviest thing, a heavy feeling, sitting here in the dark with all that stuff going on. Sounds of the Enchanted Forest."

On several occasions, Baronowski kept talking as artillery shells and mortar rounds exploded, and napalm was dropped. He paused only briefly when his commanding officer ordered the marines in his foxhole to fix their bayonets.

Special Thanks to: the Family of Michael A. Baronowski, including his sister, Lorraine “Cookie Meckley; Tim Duffie, Art Silverman, Darcy Bacon, Deb George and Bill Deputy of NPR; Phil Prince, Mike’s squad leader; Ray Borowski and Tom Mosher, Mike’s comrades; Brent Runyon and Viki Merrick of Atlantic Public Media; Barbara McQuiston; public radio stations WGBH, WCAI and WNAN in Massachusetts.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.