THE SIXTEENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 days Has September

THE SIXTEENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 days Has September

The smell of blood would not leave me. A coppery tasting mess of cloying sweet aroma that was invisible, yet overwhelmed every other sense. The sound of Stevens’ body being wrapped inside a slippery wet poncho to be left, like that of the others, along both...
THE SIXTEENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

THE SIXTEENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

The night was coming on fast, what with the west wall of the valley rising up only a few yards to our backs. The question was not whether we would make a rapid advance down the valley to attack an expected and hopefully unprotected enemy rear, but how and when we...
THE SIXTEENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE SIXTEENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

I looked at Nguyen. His features remained as impassive as ever in the face of our dire situation. We could not get to the end of the bridge without being carried down past the tank into the rapids below that led deep into enemy held territory unless Kilo Company had...
THE SIXTEENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE SIXTEENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

It was full dark by the time the Gunny departed for the old air field with two full platoons and parts of the other two. I’d made a deal with the devil to get back a dead body which went against all logic but for no good reason I could think of made a strange sense to...
THE FIFTEENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days has September

THE FIFTEENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days has September

Fusner found me with some difficulty, as I’d gone pretty deep under the camouflage provided by the packed down plant debris that served as the jungle floor. Although the stuff allowed me to hide from the gunships above, it did nothing in providing any kind of cover. A...
THE FIFTEENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

THE FIFTEENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

Jurgens stood where he was, arms slightly outstretched, but he made no other move, his expression unreadable except for a faint tick arching his left eyebrow up slightly every few seconds. “We are the same,” Jurgens said, splaying his fingers out, like his statement...
THE FIFTEENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE FIFTEENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

There was no recoil as the Browning fired. The recoil was absorbed by the fixed tripod attached to the top of the Ontos. I’d never fired such a weapon. In training I’d fired a short burst of an M-60 but it had been a stuttering jerky experience fired standing in the...
THE FIFTEENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE FIFTEENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

I came awake instantly. Crashing roars, with distant but shaking explosions moved me out from the cleft down along the side of a mud wall I’d been sitting up against. I blinked my eyes in fear and nervousness. I was in a cave. I was in the cave. The cave made by the...
THE FIFTEENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE FIFTEENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

The Skyraiders came out of the low level pre-dawn light, the sun still out and down earth somewhere on the other side of the valley’s eastern lip. There were four of them, and the drone of their big powerful propellers and engines built from a faint buzzing to a...
THE FOURTEENTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE FOURTEENTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

Nguyen moved ahead of me, as we departed the perfect overhanging concrete bunker-style encampment the others would be preparing behind us. The mild wind, rushing water of the nearby river, and the mud sand under our feet would all be pushed into the background once we...
THE FOURTEENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE FOURTEENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

The Sandys came sweeping down the river, obliterating all other sound, the roar of their engines and propellers lifting my spirits in spite of my being trapped at the tank with a dead good kid and a living bad noncom. I hugged the edge of the tank’s right tread, the...
THE FOURTEENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

THE FOURTEENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

I’d made it across the river, even after struggling to drag Barnes to the bank. I was dressed back out and had my gear and my .45,  none of which was in bad shape. My self-inventory had been done before the big fifty-caliber had opened up again. My team, positioned...
THE FOURTEENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE FOURTEENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

There was no question that I needed a plan. The company had no equipment for crossing any stretch of water that I knew of, and since the NVA had gotten a full blown battle tank down the river, or some road paralleling it, the likelihood of a U.S. Navy Seabee unit...
THE FOURTEENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE FOURTEENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

A fifty caliber machine gun opened up in short bursts again, but this one wasn’t pouring in tracer rounds from the hill further down south on the other side of the river. We were too close for the tracers to begin to light up from this one, and not far enough away to...
THE THIRTEENTH NIGHT THIRD PART, Thirty Days Has September

THE THIRTEENTH NIGHT THIRD PART, Thirty Days Has September

Casey should have been restrained by force, if necessary and held until resupply arrived, no matter how long that took, but that wasn’t going to happen. Casey wanted to go on the mission down to the river and confront the tank. In the dark. With a small band of men...
THE THIRTEENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE THIRTEENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

I had to put my binoculars down, as the Skyraiders came in much faster than I thought they would from the higher altitude. Seconds before I’d looked in the direction the Sandys were dropping down from, and seen the end of the day’s sunlight glint off something near...
THE THIRTEENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

THE THIRTEENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

The day would not end. The hike to where the objective was supposed to be, that Sugar Daddy’s forward reconnaissance team said wasn’t there, was one of overwhelming fatigue and staggering inattentiveness. The first sign that something was wrong with the company came...
THE THIRTEENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE THIRTEENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

Our return to the company was without incident, although Casey would not shut up. His incessant chatter was more than bothersome, because it couldn’t be listened to for long without the listener realizing that something was seriously wrong with the man. Some of what...
THE THIRTEENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE THIRTEENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

Dawn was breaking somewhere over the high parapet beyond the hill to my back, although the jungle down in the valley only glowed slightly with the coming of the light. The rain was gone. There would be sun. The radio handset hung down from my right hand, the dangling...
THE THIRTEENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE THIRTEENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

I was wrong and I knew it by the time the company had proceeded less than an hour into its rain-flushed mud-slogging move into an impossibly dark night of trying to break through abusive jungle bracken while attempting to be careful not to set off any booby-traps.

THE TWELFTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE TWELFTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

The Gunny left me with my watery coffee, squatting in the soft-glistening dark. Our company commander was going to the rear to get a silver star, which was no small decoration, or at least it had been discussed that way while I was in training. He was going to get it...
THE TWELFTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE TWELFTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

The hill was more of a water and mud-driven mess than when we’d all taken the Vietnam “E’ ticket Disney ride down it, only moments earlier. I wondered, struggling to gain footholds against unstable rocks under the mud, if the whole side of the mountain wouldn’t...
THE TWELFTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

THE TWELFTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

There was nothing to be done about the grenade at the moment, because there were other things that had to be done. I had to make sure that the artillery registrations I’d made earlier with Fire Base Cunningham for bringing rounds in along the lower edge of our...
THE TWELFTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE TWELFTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

I climbed the hill, switching back and forth, heading for chunks of outcropping rock and then toward the density of a protruding stand of low-lying bamboo. It was the Hill Trail climb my platoon at the Basic School had dreaded once a week in Virginia training…

THE TWELFTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE TWELFTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

My attention was drawn by AK-47s firing. I could hear the fire reverberating back from far up the valley even as I took cover and prepared to move out. My full attention, however, was immediately focused back to right where I was, when the Russian-built fifty caliber...
THE TWELFTH DAY, 30 Days has September

THE TWELFTH DAY, 30 Days has September

The first spotting round of the fire mission came screaming in. I didn’t care if I could see or hear it in the rain, or the fact that clustered down under the overhanging cliff behind the berm, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to properly observe anything anyway. I...
THE ELEVENTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE ELEVENTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

I crawled toward where I thought the cliff wall was in the darkness. The rain was unpitying and the drums were driving me insane, as the sound was magnified, bouncing back off of cliff face. All of a sudden, I was out of the rain and the jungle floor turned into a...
THE ELEVENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE ELEVENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

I finished the letter home. It wasn’t my best work because I kept nodding off. Nodding off but not sleeping. I nodded through the letter, forgetting about what I was going to tell my wife, instead going into detail about how much Casey reminded me of Kramer, the major at the Basic School who’d hated me.

THE ELEVENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

THE ELEVENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

There was no hooch for Captain Casey. The remnants of his tent lay scattered about the sand, a testament to the power of the Chicom 82mm mortar rounds that had impacted, taking Billings life with them. Only Billings’ bloody poncho survived, along with some items from...
THE ELEVENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days has September

THE ELEVENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days has September

“There’s a lesson to be learned from this and I’ve learned it oh so well,” was coming out of any number of small radio speakers when we marched across the perimeter and into the temporary encampment Captain Casey referred to as his command post. I walked in the lead...
THE ELEVENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days has September

THE ELEVENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days has September

I took my binoculars and played with the focusing knobs to bring in the landing zone far below. I was trying to get a clearer view of why there was stuff piled up around the edges of the zone, but I couldn’t make out what they were. The Gunny walked over and took out...
THE ELEVENTH DAY, 30 Days has September

THE ELEVENTH DAY, 30 Days has September

I felt a large hand grip my left bicep, as I stood gazing with Fusner down into the hypnotic A Shau Valley below. The hand gently guided me backwards. I didn’t resist, turning to see the man I already knew the hand had to belong to. “Why do you suppose this clearing...
THE TENTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE TENTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

There was nothing to be done but sit with Keating’s body. I’d wanted to carry it myself but the guys would have none of it. Surprising me, Stevens said it all with a strange statement, coming from a non com in a unit that hadn’t tolerated officers well, to say the...
THE TENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE TENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

I wasn’t quite right and I knew it. Even with the rags pulled from my ears I could not hear much of anything. The noise had been too great. Counting wasn’t working either because this night was not about getting through, it was about living through. Living through, I...