Q&A with Susan Hunter
In this video, Susan Hunter answers questions about her new book “77 Letters: Operation Morale Booster: Vietnam” and how it came to be. She also offers advice for aspiring writers and shares her thoughts on the current state of veteran affairs.
In 1966, during the Vietnam War, Joan Hunter, an ordinary housewife, mother of four from the small, idyllic coastal town of Scituate, MA, spearheads Operation Morale Booster, a mission to ensure that every deployed American G.I. receives mail at weekly mail call. Armed only with her typewriter and her vibrant personality, she reaches thousands of soldiers and especially captivates one battle-tested soul, Bob Johnson. She is white, he is black; she is married, he is not. This potentially scandalous relationship transcends society’s rules of engagement due to their honest and thought-provoking candor. This found collection of letters, providing a full dialogue in many cases and spanning 7 years (1966-1972), engages the reader, allowing them to vicariously experience what it was like to be a recipient in real-time. With the exchange of letters driving the story’s flow, the reader will be taken back in time and into the day-to-day activities of one of the most successful cavalries in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War (1st Cavalry Air, 2nd/7th Cavalry Division, Airmobile). The reader will be privy to the thoughts and undistorted narratives of the war from Bob’s perspective, a young soldier from Philadelphia, PA, who was well respected by the ranks and served four tours in Vietnam. The backdrop of this story is set on the front lines of our country’s most controversial war; however, the focus of these letters is on the other side of this war, delving into subjects previously thought to be inconsistent with the Vietnam War. These being love for humanity amid the war zone, the freedom of racial equality in the Army vs. the stark contrast of racial atrocities simultaneously happening in the States, the acceptance of miscegenation, the strength derived from having faith in God, and the value of understanding … even your enemy. In an astounding quirk of fate, these two unlikely pen pals, reconnect fifty years post-war. But the story doesn’t end there. From this reunion, the most unexpected redemption takes place.
“Until now, military families have never been given an exclusive voice in the historiography of the Vietnam War. Susan Hunter’s book, 77 Letters, highlights the power of human interaction, emotional support, and their collective effect on the health of the human spirit. A book like 77 Letters can remind us that, even during times of social upheaval, we can still find allies through the power of kindness and empathy.” – Mike Guardia, Author of “Hal Moore: A Soldier Once… and Always”