by Roy Aguero
I have trouble staying away from Doc Ortega’s stories. A while ago I was re-re-re-re-rereading his story about C/1/327 finding the trucks and equipment buried in the jungle. I have a short story that goes along with Doc’s to share with you.
During the time in which a lot of the equipment was being pulled out by “Hook” to be taken to the rear, my platoon was sent to a hill next door because the Hooks were getting fired on by the bad guys.
I was walking point and Pete Cipolla was walking slack for me. As we neared the top of the hill we came to a cleared or burned out area that was about 50 yards wide by long, give or take. I remember telling the bosses that I would cross the area first and then have Pete cross after me when I signaled for him and then everyone else would follow after he and I checked out the area. I got the go-ahead.
As I cleared the open area there was a large tree on my right side and as I got paralleled to it I turned to my right to look back at Pete and as I did, there standing next to the tree, within arms length of me, was a VC! We looked at each other for an eternity that must have consisted of six, maybe seven seconds. I remember the look of surprise on his face and if he is alive he probably remembers the look on my face.
At that exact second, in my mind’s eye, I remember seeing my sister comforting my mother because she had just been told that I had been killed! I remember, even as I looked at his face, that I could see his thumb on his AK, yes, it was an AK, as he attempted (or so it seemed to me) to remove the safety.
He broke the spell first by dropping his head to look down at his weapon, I guess to find the safety and as he did, I got out of my trance and threw myself to my right, firing at him as I did and putting the tree between us. When I hit the ground I moved around the tree to his side cause I thought I had hit him but I couldn’t see the man but I found that I was laying on top of a bunker.
It was not a fighting position because it only had an entrance and no firing ports. I thought to myself, “He’s in there, I got him now.” I was on my belly. I pulled a grenade from my gear, pulled the pin and stretched myself forward another foot or so, dropped it in and pulled back. I felt the thud as it went off. I did the same with a second grenade since I didn’t know how many were in the bunker and I felt it go off under me. I was scared _hitless, but I did the same with a third grenade, pulled the pin, stretched myself forward, dropped it in, pulled myself back from the entrance and I felt that one go off. I pulled a fourth one, count them, 1,2,3, 4 from my belt, and as I was pulling the pin I heard someone say “No! Don’t do that.”
I was still shaking with fear. I’m not a hero, not then not now. I looked around me as I shakingly bent the pin back and as I rolled to my right to secure the grenade onto my ammo pouch, I saw a hole in the roof of the bunker and under me where I had been laying. From what I saw, the bunker roof was made of small logs and the third grenade had finally caved in a portion of the roof when it went off. Had I thrown the 4th one, I would have taken the blast in my stomach and I would have probably killed myself.
The only thing unexplained, my friend, was that when I heard the “No! Don’t do that.” I complied. But, and it is a big but, Pete and the rest of the folks came running up a short tad later. THERE WAS NO ONE AROUND WHEN I WAS TOLD NOT TO THROW THAT LAST GRENADE! I have no reason to BS you.
From what I was told years later, when I was in the Nam those two years, my
mother just like a lot of other mothers did a lot of praying.