Del: The Plan went like clockwork. 2 hours before leaving Saigon for the airport where I would return to the States and my discharge from the Marines I completed the paperwork that would seal my fate. I put the paperwork in the mail that would inform the US Navy of my untimely demise. I had done this, literally, hundreds of times in the last two years. I knew the drill.
Simultaneously, I sent identical paperwork for one William Carter Mann, who had the misfortune of being blown to bits by a landmine during the Tet Offensive. In reality Corporal Mann was killed by friendly fire, but no one back home needed to know that, and I wanted to hang onto his military ID, social security card, and other forms of personal identification. I even penned the “Compassion Note” from his field commander, praising his heroism in his final hours.
Within 72 hours, Wendell Watson would be honorably discharged from the United States Marines, while it would be more than a week until the paperwork about my death would be fully processed. By the time the next of kin were notified I would have fully disappeared. Poof. I was invisible!
Del: I did think about the impact of my decision on the people I loved, and I considered sending them some kind of message, but that, in turn, would lead to more messages. If this ruse was going to work, I had to give it total commitment.