``A`` Company Memories in Vietnam
by James Evans
A loose collection of memories, combat army life, and firefights from my tour of duty with the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne, 1/327 Inf., A CO. From Feb. 67 to Feb. 68.
Arriving at Bien Hoa airbase at night; the heat and humidity hit me like a steam room.
Boarded a bus with wire covering the windows; we drove through streets passing buildings that seemed to go on forever. Stunned to see how packed together everyone lived and the dirty conditions.
Arrived at 90th Replacement Co and checked in, army style. So tired we fell into open air bunk beds. Then 2 explosions inside the perimeter and my first night in country was over.
Hiding from roll call in the morning because after roll call came detail assignments.
Don’t remember how I got to Phang Rang but I did and again checked in at the” Jungle School”. This school was different than Basic, AIT or Jump School because they taught life and death Nobody fell asleep in classes, skipped out and we all took in as much as possible.
Now began the real combat training. Hated PT in the morning, hot, muggy even before the sun rose. Combat mess took awhile to get use to: even worse than Basic or AIT. Zeroed in our M-16’s, relearned the compass, map reading, watched a film on diseases where you know what could fall off or keep you from going back to the states.
Started practice patrols around the school to see how things worked in the field.
Hated the harness for the ammo belt so did not wear it which rubbed my hips raw and sore.
Last day, skipped out on PT (since we were going to the field, why?) Got caught and had to clean out grease pit with a 5 gal bucket. Took all day in shower to get grease off, that night found out I was assigned to A Co.
Life as I had known it was about to change forever. Father told me before enlisting that if you could not make it in the Army, you would not make it in life. I remember knowing that I was going to make it and didn’t think of what would be my life if I didn’t.
So this was the way us cherries started: no knowledge, just training: and we must have scared the hell out of the field grunts. I Remember Phang Rang, but not very well.
A Co. barracks looked like all the rest. In fact, the whole place looked the same. In the middle of all this stood a small mountain, where I heard all the big brass was. Outside the gate was a small village where some guys spent their off time – don’t know why.
Remember going to the beach by truck and seeing a mound of boulders with goats and Vietnamese worded painted on the rocks; and I thought, not good.
Most of us waiting to go to the field stayed around our bunk beds and did not hang out at the clubs. We shared care packages, letters from girls, talked to old timers if they would. But we did not talk to each other about what was ahead of us, we were cherries, we knew nothing and that was why the field grunts kept us at arms length.
Buddies were the guys you went to your unit with or your squad, who almost had to accept you. However, you had to earn everyone’s respect by humping the boonies, pulling your own weight, not falling asleep on guard duty, holding your own in combat and taking what everyone else was.
I Remember … A convoy of trucks and tanks moving 1/327 from Phang Rang and being sniped at along the way.
1/327 setting up temporary rear base camp in large open field with A Co using Montagnards to fill sandbags. Piss tubes in the ground at a 45 degree angle. ‘
The LST trip up the coast to Duc Pho. Lots of gambling, nothing to do, highlight was test firing our weapons, sleeping wherever you could Amazed at how much equipment and men you could put on a ship.
Hey, I’m Anny Landed on beautiful beach and headed inland to set up rear base camp. All ships unloaded over weeks? And our men went into the boonies after camp was set up. I was the temp clerk until the real clerk arrived Mother’s Day Hill.
I was in the rear and heard of the fire fight and in the next days helped sort out the gear.
First experience with blood, and death and that stayed with me because I was going to the boonies shortly.
1SG Joe Dayoc was our Top, the kind of leader you want in combat.
Life in the rear … you slept on a cot with pillows, ate three hot meals, watched movies at night on old fashioned screens, got mail every day, hot showers every night if you wanted, played cards, shared letters from home, played volley ball..called Jungle Ball had clubs at night. Life could be OK in the rear.
One night walking back to A Co from the EM club with a case of cokes, the whole beach blew up. The concussion picked me up off the ground and the beach was almost a mile away. Many men lost, our ammo dump, fuel and an LST ship.
New clerk arrived and it was time for me to join my buddies in the boonies. This Cherry arrived in the field and was assigned to be Lt. Rivillo’s RTO . The extra 25 lbs almost killed me; the heat, 80 to 100 pounds of gear, almost constant movement and the jungle.
My first night in the boonies was spent on a slight incline on a hill, with the rain pouring down. Had to sleep with a small tree between my legs to keep from sliding down the hill. Terrible night and more was to come Monsoon season in the mountains, raining all day, hard for some time, cold weather, everything is soaked and the jungle is fighting you every inch.
The first time you do it, it’s kind of disgusting but you do it because everyone else is .. You pee down your leg and get a few seconds of warmth before it washes out.
After humping all day, you had to pull guard duty. No matter how tired you were or how many men in your squad, it was every night. I don’t think that anyone whoever pulled guard duty around 4 hours each night stayed awake all the time. How could you, sitting in the same spot for 2 hour shifts; not moving, just looking at whatever is in front of you (jungle most of time), if you have to pee, you do it to your side, you watch your wrist watch constantly waiting to go to sleep, only to do it again before the night is up.
Setting up claymore mines each night for security. Scary at first but after awhile you become a pro; because they won’t go off without the firing pin engaged. Trip flares were easy to set up and we put them out every night to keep the VC from getting to close, didn’t always work but it was the best we had.
One evening around dark, I was showing a Cherry how to set a wire so the least pressure would set it off when he asked me if one ever went off while I was setting it up. Of course, I said knowing when it went pop and lit the whole area up. I took my helmet and covered the flare trying to kill the flares brightness but it just started to melt it.
I Remember … Having to destroy all batteries, especially the RTO battery so the VC could not use them. They would take the batteries and use them to set off 122 mm rockets using a bipod, some wire and the not quite spent battery. They weren’t real accurate but that’s a big bang.
The worse duty in Nam was stirring and burning the shit. Mix it with kerosene, light it and stand their and stir it until nothing was left. The smell and black soot smoke would cling to you and only a long shower could remove it. That is, if you could take a shower.
Outhouse Mamma san in Phang Rang. About the second day at A Co I went to the outhouse to do my duty and while sitting reading a comic book, a Vietnamese women walked in and squated next to me. There were a least 9 other holes she could have used but she chose to do her thing next to me. Took a little to get use to these types of things but after awhile things like this were second hand.
We had a word for guys who did not pull their weight in the boonies. Could be a number of things from whining, lagging behind, complaining, or not wanting to be in the field. We called them duds! Only remember one man in our platoon as a dud and no one wanted to be around him because he could get you killed.
Taking a Pepsi to the field and keeping it for the whole operation. About 20 days into the operation I pulled it out to drink the tasty hot Pepsi, when someone offered me $10. I took the money and tasted every drop as he drank it. The value of money in the boonies was zero.
Eating food in the field as fast I could because you might get fired on and go hungry for awhile. To this day, I still eat fast.
The favorite pass time in the field while on a break was to use your repellent to fire bomb the ants. Light the end of the repellent and bomb the ants with napalm. Great fun.
The fear of the Bamboo Viper snake. Very small but deadly. Never came across one but the stories were passed on about this killer. Ant nests hanging from tree limbs. If you bumped one, thousands of the nasty biting ants would fall on you and the whole operation would stop in order to get them off.
While at Phang Rang I was given the detail to tear down a small building near the fence line. I was assigned one old papa san to help. He started to hit the siding of the building and after a few minutes I realized it would take forever, so I took over and hit the wall with a sledge hammer. The board came flying off and hit papa san in the thigh. He fell to the ground and started to jab his thigh with a needle or something like it. The blood started to flow and I freaked out thinking I had hurt him. Found out later that no blood, no money for compensation.
Sleeping on the ground every night. No padding for comfort. You could use your helmet for you pillow and your hips would be sore from the ground. Never got any real sleep in the field. Could not use air mattress because when you moved it made a sound that Charlie could hear. You lived in your combat boots every minute in the field. Take them off at night and if a firefight started you had not time to put them on. Keeping them on all the time resulted in trench foot. Had to carry extra socks and changed them each day.
One operation where the VC were thought to be hiding in underground caves. It was an open field and we called in a unit to put tear gas into the holes. Our platoon lined up and put on gas masks. We then moved across the field as gas came out of the ground. No VC came up so they blew up what they could. Can’t imagine having to fight with those masks because you could hardly see or breathe and they were very hot.
I Remember … Arriving at Chu Lai and setting up temp camp outside the Marines fenced in camp. Stayed a couple of days because we cut short our stay over some problems with some Marines. The Marines did not like us in their EM club or the NCO club. Some fights broke out· The White Horse Rock Marines from South Korea, did allow us in their club and we got along great with these warriors
Moving up to Song Be and setting up a fire base camp in inches of “moon” dust that coated everything in red. The side of the fire base that A Co was assigned to secure had a valley in front and a mountain range on the other side. We were told that an ARVN unit had that area secured. We dug our bunkers and settled in to connecting all bunkers in a fire zone, etc. One afternoon we heard the thump(s) of mortars and we hit the bunkers just as 4 or so mortars hit along our perimeter killing one of ours. Later learned the ARVNs were firing on some VC they saw in the valley below our positions. They did not clear the fire mission with us and friendly fire killed one of our men.
Some type of religious building in the middle of our fire base at Song Be.
During a search and destroy mission with the temperature unbearable, we stopped at a small creek where their was a small pool of water and set up security then took turns swimming and cleaning our fatigues, sunning ourselves and even sleeping. We spent most of the afternoon there.
Cutting a trail thru the jungle because the beaten trail might be booby trapped. We made a racket that should have been heard a mile away. The point man and slack man were cut up from elephant grass, it can grow up to 6 feet or more and will cut your skin if you brush up against it, plus, you were getting hung up in the vines and carrying 80 pounds on your back. If we would have been ambushed, we would have been in a bad situation.
At the end of the first operation at Song Be, I contracted Malaria and was sent to Vung Tau Hospital. My buddies having to carry me for a few days because I was so out of it, in pain, so weak I could do nothing without help. They even pulled my guard duty at night. Brothers. Period!
Waking up in the hospital to someone hyperventilating, then a nurse put a bag over his head and I thought I was dreaming. Beds lined both walls for 75 feet. Each filled with either a sick OJ. or a wounded warrior. Days went by slowly, the heat was repressive; but I got to watch T.V., listen to the radio, take a hot shower, and watch Bobby the weather girl on Armed Forces TV. Can still remember her to this day.
Getting better and thus; starting to rehab. with exercise and running. The first day almost killed me but the cadence being chanted over the wall caught my attention, so I took a look and there they were again…The White Horse Rock Marines’ from South Korea. As a formation, they were doing push ups on their fists. Doing their martial arts training and running. But they ran like it was race where we were out for a stroll. I think, they were the toughest men in Nam.
Coming into a LZ with elephant grass and before we could land the VC opened up and everyone had to jump from the slick. What I thought was a few feet (could not see the ground) was 6 feet plus and I hit the ground, then my rueksack hit me driving my face into the dirt and stunning me for a few minutes. The high grass, enemy shooting and scattered A Co resulted in confusion until we finally formed our company.
Rejoined my unit after they moved from Song Be to outside Hue where they replaced a marine unit.
I Remember. .. When Bob Hope’s USO show arrived in Phang Rang and if you were in the field there was no chance to see him. However, some guys, it was said, would put a bar of soap under their arm pit to raise their temp. and thus, get sent back to the rear. .
Filling up canteens in a stream and watching the leaches swim or float past. They weren’t small but were up to three inches long. Spending the night, as we did many times, having to sleep in water and waking up feeling like something was nor right with my asshole. Reaching down there, I discovered a leech working his way up to where he did not belong. The only way to get him off without leaving a part of him attached to you was to use insect repellent and in that spot it burned, but the leech was gone. Someone in our platoon had to have the medic “Doc” take a leech out of the inside of the mouth of one of the guys.
While at Duc Pho, I was at the MASH unit when a soldier was brought in with a small bullet nick on his side. He was in shock and could not be saved. I could not understand how you could die from such a small wound that showed no blood. But after going to the field, I understood that combat kills in many ways.
Seeing a field manual for changing oil for a jeep that was printed in comic book style with Betty Boop giving the instructions. How low did we go!
A couple of times trying to move up mountain trails, after or during rain, where you would slide back down, fall down, and expend a lot of energy just to keep upright. It took the help from the guy in front of you, to pull you up.
The art of setting up your poncho to protect you from the rain. You tied shoe strings to the four comers and tied them to whatever you could. Then you raised the hood to some branches and crawled in. This was OK for normal nights to keep the dew off of you. But in a rain storm the water would flow under the poncho and it would make for a long, cold wet night. To solve this problem, you could take a piece of plastic, lay it on the ground and curl it up the outside of the poncho and then sleep on it. The plastic stuck to the poncho and the water flowed under the plastic.
Wearing the army wool sweater at night when the monsoon rains started. In the mountains, it could drop down into the 50’s and being wet and cold wasn’t for me. On a search and destroy mission, moving thru the jungle when firing in front of us broke out. There was a gunship above us firing their machine guns and the shell brass falling thru the trees making weird sounds, then falling on us and they were still hot.
Coming upon a fast moving small river that we had to cross. One man swam across with a rope and then, one by one, we hung onto the rope and crossed the river. It was extremely hard to move in the current with all our gear on our backs. All made it across except one soldier who was swept away and died. Another S&D mission where our platoon (company) was given, for trial purpose, some type on walkie talkies that attached to the side of the helmet. They did not last the operation because they would get tangled in the vines and would pull your helmet off. Can’t remember if we threw them away or turned them in.
WAIT a Minute bushes! Every GI in the field remembers these bushes. If you were walking down a trail and brushed up against this bush, it hooked you with barbs that could not be pulled from. You had to stop. back up and pull them out. Thus, wait-a-minute.
I Remember… Guard duty on top of a mountain by the coast overlooking fields of flat farm land. Lots of large boulders. Super boring and only thing to look forward to was the resupply chopper with mail and goodies. Don’t remember how long we stayed but we may have rotated with another company or platoon. . I tend to look at my platoon as if was the whole company. I don’t remember anything about the other platoons, this is the men and my memories are of my platoon and as a part of A Co.
On a search and destroy op. (they were all this) A Co was moving up a steep mt. My platoon was far in in the back, when we stopped so the lead platoon could catch and extract a boa constrictor for the Phang Rang zoo. Remember the monkeys smoking and playing with themselves. Don’t stand to close or…
A Bn. operation, I think, where we were choppered in and sporadic firefights were happening all over involving most of the platoons. They lasted into the night with sudden firing in different locations. The next day we detained many villagers and recovered some dead bodies, ready for burial. I went into a small cave to discover 4 KIA VC. The smell of death stays with you the rest of your life.
Not knowing the reason, but all companies or platoons were choppered out except A Co or my platoon (?). Before dawn we moved out into some thick brush and trees in the valley with mountains on both sides. We were about 100 yards to 200 yards away from a much used trail. As soon as the evac choppers were out of sight, the trail came alive with VC. We called in artillery, reason we stayed behind, and played a game of cat and mouse trying to catch the VC in the open. Did not work. They could hear the rounds coming in and jumped in spider holes or caves and bunkers. This went on until the afternoon when the VC started to look for the source of incoming fire. From that point until the next day when we were choppered out was one of the most scared times in Nam. They were looking and no one could move so as not to be detected. There was no place to retreat, if we were spotted, and help was not close. We made it that night and were extracted the next day. The reason we were not spotted was because when Bn or Companies were flown out 2 days before the same number choppers that flew into the LZ also extracted them. Thus, the V C thought all in and all out.
Thinking that momma sans and beetle nut went hand in hand in the jungle. Don’t remember ever seeing a full set of white teeth; only saw purple teeth, if any. Darvon 65 compound that our medic, Doc Watson (?) would hand out for soreness, etc. Only problem was you could pull the capsule apart and eat the beanie at the bottom and catch a little buzz.
Doc Watson was killed by friendly fire on night after he wandered outside the perimeter.
Punji stakes and a cherry who went outside the perimeter to take a crap and sat on a punji stake. Since the point was covered in crap, he got infected and was medi-vaced out the next day.
After coming back from R&R, I had a little problem with peeing, you know, that burning sensation and was sent back to the rear for some shots. Thought I might have a couple of day in the rear, some hot chow, but things did not turn out that way. The medic tent had about 8 guys in the same situation as me and after the swab the doc came in and said you, you and you can go and the rest follow me. I followed the doc to get my shot, which I was told was one a day for five days. Laid down on the table and the doc walked over with five needles in his hands and said don’t move… I felt all five shots and was told not to drink beer for 36 hrs. or it would kill the effects of the penicillin. Within in a short time later I felt the penicillin starting to work and it was like having a orgasm or ?
Came down real quick when told I had to take a patrol out that night for an ambush and then would return to my company the next day. Didn’t like pulling an ambush with guys I didn’t know or even trusted.
I Remember… New Years Eve we set up our security and hunkered down for the night. At 12 midnight, with prior agreement, one position opened fire and the rest joined in to celebrate the new year with most the rounds going into the air. If Charlie was close, I wonder what he was thinking.
Another time A Co was pulled back to the rear fire base camp for security duty. Loved this duty after 30 days or so in the boonies. For us, this was a time to rest, eat good food, get mail and other goodies such as cokes, care packages. It got to be boring during the day and nights were guard duty on 2 hour shifts. Real hard not to nod out because the camp seemed so secure compared to being in the boonies every night. This fire base camp was on the top of a mountain where all sides dropped off.
The fox holes and bunkers were already built, so we just moved in. Their was a rumor that another fire base camp built there position on top of a cave system and at night were almost over run, so we were on alert and everyone was somewhat jumpy. Then in the middle of the night someone opened up and the whole mountain erupted in gun fire, machine guns, artillery fired up flares and this went on for sometime. You would have thought we were under a major attack. WW2 airplanes were called in to fire up the mountain side, drop flares and use their machine guns. Some positions were even shooting at the flares because you could see the tracer rounds. I also shot at the flares as well as trying to blow up a huge tree in front of my position, wasting almost a box of grenades. The Sgts, tried to get everyone to stop but it took awhile.
These few times of letting go released a lot of stress because no one was shooting back. My 21 st birthday was spent in the boonies. I took a choc disk (that nobody liked) and mixed it with coco until it turned into something like icing, in looks not taste. Then I took my pound cake, probably the most like food in the c-rations except maybe the peaches (remember mixing peaches and pound cake 7) I poured the icing over the pound cake and sang happy birthday to myself. To heat our food, when you could, we used, if you could get it, C-4. In little pieces, it burned hot and fast. No worry about it going off because you had to have a detonator to set it off. Each night you got into a routine to secure the perimeter, cook or eat cold C-rations, set up your sleeping area, check the landscape in front of you, meeting your Sgt., make sure all claymore mines and trip flares were out and connected to form a complete ring.
The RTO called in our position to get artillery coverage and darkness fell fast and pitch black. The routine in the morning was the opposite of the night before. And yes, we did brush out teeth. However we lived in the same fatigues for 30 days plus, with new sweat added each day, with rips and holes in them. We carried extra socks to rotate them so one pair would always be dry. But not all of us did so and some feet suffered from jungle rot or trench foot. Jungle rot as starting out as a small boil on my leg just above my jungle boot. Each day it got bigger and more infected. (Doc) lanced it and for a week every time something bumped into it, a shot of big pain went up my leg. It finally healed but left a depression or hole in my leg. We also did not wear belts because they could cause jungle rot. Same with underwear.
A Cherry came out to the boonies wearing his grenades on his shoulder straps, like you see in the movies, and was warned or told to move them down to his ammo belt because vines could catch and pull the pin. On a normal search and destroy op. (like they all were) an explosion went off, sending everyone to firefight mode. Then word came down the line that the Cherry’s grenade went off killing him.
Remember … Being slack man and walking down a trail. We followed the trail around the jungle, always looking for booby traps, including bouncing betties, when a single hooch came into view about 50 yards ahead. At about the same time as we saw the hootch, a man figure dressed in black, most were, ran across the window, on the inside, and the pointman opened up and jammed after a few rounds. I stepped to his side and hit full automatic. The following platoon stormed the hootch and chased the man into the Jungle. Inside the hootch were a mother and three small kids, all wounded slightly. Called in a medivac and got them to the rear for treatment. That stayed with me for a long time. Even though I did not know they were there I shot those kids.
On a search and destroy mission, we came across a small hootch with enough rice drying in the sun to feed a whole company of VC. While he was questioned we searched the area and found the front end of a chopper hidden inside another hootch. They were stripping all the wiring and anything else they could use. Don’t remember what we did with him.
The first day of the Phan Thiet operation I was nicked in the elbow during the exchange of gun fire. That date was Dec. 3, 1967. It happened this way, 2nd Platoon was in the lead and we were moving down a well worn trail. The first few days of an operation could be the dangerous because the VC might not know we’re in the area and contact could be by accident with a fierce firefight following. It was getting late in the afternoon and you want to set up your perimeter before dark. Had to eat, set out trip flares, claymore mines and set you bed roll for the night, because once it gets dark nobody moves around. Just before it got dark the m-60 gunner, Dan Bersch, softly yelled to me “VC” and opened up with the M-60. He jammed after a few rounds but we knew he hit him from the yell and moaning of the VC. The trail to his front turned and crossed the creek just in front of the M-60 position and his M-60 position was a few higher than the creek. Thus, the VC fell below our positions and was protected from our firing. We could not leave him there wounded and maybe with grenades. Our Lt. asked for volunteers and since it was my squad I volunteered to go get him. Now it was pitch black and as I started to move forward hunched over to protect myself, Bob Slavik and John McGinn were to my side. Just as I reached the point where I could see him, a trip flare went off and lit the area up bright as day. As soon as the trip flare went the VC opened up on me because I was directly in front of him. The tracers went flying by me on both side and I opened up back at the same time. It was over in seconds and I had fired three clips and Bob and John and others emptied their M-16s. No return fire and just to be sure we threw a couple of grenades and then checked him out. He was dead so we left him until the morning when we discovered he was a courier with mail and lots of documents. I got his boonie hat with a couple of bullet holes in it. I remember this night well because the Stars and Strips had a reporter in the field with us and an article appeared describing the kill as the first of the operation on Dec. 3rd 1967.
Watching a movie named Once Before I Die at some rear base camp. Wonder why Charlie didn’t mortar us. Would have been easy to zero in on us. Never getting to know any of the officers that commanded us. Seemed like they stayed in the field for a few months to get their time in and then were transferred to the rear. To this day, I can only remember one officer, Lt. Rivello and that was because he made a point to know his men. The others were just our officers. The best thing the army did for the grunts in the field was the invention of LRRP’s. Light weight so you could carry more. Add hot water, let sit and a hot meal that tasted great compared to the c-rations. Also, did not jab you in the back like c-rations in the tin cans.
I Remember … On a search and destroy mission, our company was moving down a trail that was perpendicular to a small stream with lost of large rocks along the stream bed and heading up into the mountains. The pointman stopped and passed word down the line that two VC with backpacks were coming up the stream bed. We deployed paralleled along the stream bed and when the two VC got to the middle of our line we opened fire. The VC started to run and one stumbled but kept going. Could not believe that we could not bring them down. They disappeared out of sight. We split up and did a recon of the area and found one of the VC about a 100 yards up stream and around a bend in the stream. He had a small bullet hole in his side with no blood showing. After taking inventory of their stuff, we found he had an American ammo belt and a US 45. Could not find the other VC and we moved on.
When we were running low on food and ammo, we set up camp on top of a small mountain to wait for resupply. In the morning and afternoons, we sent out water runs and security patrols. These we somewhat risky because only a squad or two would go out with the whole platoons water canteens, the canteens would be strung from a rope or something similar and hung from your shoulder; Still remember the biting pain of 20 canteens digging into your shoulder while you patroled looking for Charlie, booby traps, or ambushes.
As we were moving down an old trail to the creek, we walked into a small opening in the jungle that looked like a private rice patty, full of water and rice. As the pointman and slack man were moving across the opening, a large water buffalo appeared and started moving toward our slack man. Without realizing that she was trying to get to her calf we opened up and must have fired 100’s of rounds trying to stop her. We finally killed her and the calf ran off. Since we were waiting for resupply and we had two guys from Kentucky and Tenn., we field dressed the animal and had buffalo meat for dinner. Never liked Tabasco sauce before but the only way you could eat the meat was load it up with hot sauce. The taste was like eating an old leather shoe sole but, we were hungry and we ate.
Target practice for our artillery unit on some wild elephants in a valley. Called in artillery to practice or just for “fun”. Don’t remember if we hit our target or not. Needing to call in Medi-vac but too many trees in the way, so our M -60 machine gunner opened up and cut down the trees in seconds. Amazing how fast that was done.
Moving thru some hootches in the jungle only finding women and children and no men. The hootches were in too good a shape not to have men around so we moved out and down the trail. Just outside hootches, we set up a claymore mine and moved on, only to backtrack and set up an ambush as it was getting dark. Just before daylight, the claymore went off and we could hear the injured and movement to leave. At daybreak, we moved in and found two dead VC and many blood trails.
Leaving the field to go on R&R and flying back with two slick pilots who flew at tree top level. Very exciting ride. The closer to the ground the more it felt like you were on a roll-a-coaster. The first time I got into a slick for an operation, I sat in the door way. I wanted to be the first one out no matter what happened. The slick made a hard bank, to get ready to land, and I thought I was going to fall out, so I grabbed the side of the slick and almost dropped my M-16. Did not know you would have to jump out; you couldn’t just fall out. For the rest of my tour, I rode the slicks rails.
Ssgt Hibbert came back from R&R with the most expensive and complicated camera money could buy. He became frustrated when he could not figure out how to use it and smashed it. Things had no value in the field, except life. Coming across underground classrooms with thatched roofs and other bunkers. Had not been used for awhile. Under the canopy of trees, you could not see them from the air or even 20 yards away.
I Remember … After we set up rear base camp at Song Be, the mortar unit began firing and someone yelled out, “short round” and everyone jumped for cover. The mortar landed inside the compound, hitting a table where four grunts were playing cards killing all of them. Wearing a towel over my shoulders, under the rucksack to help keep the straps from biting into my shoulders. Also used It to wipe away the sweat but you were always sweating so you got used to It.
Asking girls to soak their letters in perfume so we could smell it in the field. We would pass the letters around so everyone could get a lift. I also asked a friend, Paula K., to sent a pair of perfumed soaked panties. We had great fun with these in the field! Red if I remember.
Having my mom send Kool-Aid, gum and chocolate bars in the mail so we could get them on resupply. The choc bars melted but no one cared.
The base camp that the Marines left and we occupied as a classic bunker compound. It was located in a flat valley with mountain peaks surrounding it. The weather was damp, cloudy, and a little cold. We had to wear flack jackets, for the first time, and were fired on a few times by a 50 cal. from of the mountain tops. We grunts in the rear did not understand why the 50 cal. wasn’t blown up. Rumor was that the VC were firing from a shrine of some type and the Marines would not return fire because of the religious site. Well, we weren’t the Marines. So when the next time we received fire from the shrine, we called in an air strike and no more fire.
Being assigned to the rear because I was to DEROS in a week or so. It was miserable just hanging around a bunker, as it rained and I waited to go home. Never got back to my platoon, after catching Malaria, nor did I get a chance to say goodbye. Having to catch a ride in a convoy to DEROS. Thought the biggest and heaviest would be the best protection, so I climbed aboard the 5 ton wrecker. Was given only two clips of M-l6 ammo.
Convoy took off late and the wrecker was the next to last vehicle. Started to think that I made it thru combat, only to get ambushed and you guessed it! A truck broke down and we pulled over to help. The rest of the convoy kept on going and my heart sank. I took cover along the road and pulled security while they hooked up the truck. Took about 20 minutes and we were on our way. It was dark now and I knew we would get hit, but, thank God, we weren’t.
To DEROS was to hurry up and wait. As soon as the plane lifted off the runway the cabins erupted in cheers and the mood was way up, still we had 19 hours to go, packed in so their was no leg or arm room. The flight attendants were beautiful and friendly. My life was about to change and I was more worried about what was to be than what I had been thru.
The best and worse of my life were in Nam. And as I reflect back on my tour, I keep remembering things that I saw, heard, read about, smelled, felt, and experienced.
Things in everyday life send me back to Nam where part of me will always be. Combat forever shapes our lives.