The shelf running just down from, and alongside the top of, the mountain’s descending ridge eventually played out. The company once more trudged through the jungle under a barely seen double canopy of heavy brush
I waited, my body spread face down and flat on the jungle floor. It would have been a time of rest and relaxation if an attack by unknown numbers of wily, capable and well-armed opponents weren’t also waiting somewhere out in the night.
The West Pointer Captain Mertz’s plan to stay waiting for resupply, and take credit for the kills and any wounded NVA left behind, made logical sense. I knew that neither I, nor any of the Marines in the company, gave a tinker’s damn about who got credited for anything.
The rest of the night passed in mud, a penetrating mist returning to add some sort of cutting liquid thinner to the blood being sucked in by the feeding mosquitos. There was no more firing or explosions that I was aware of, as I lay in my semi-comatose state replacing real sleep.
The move was a long hard one. In training I’d literally run twenty miles with a forty-pound pack on my back carrying an M-14 and wearing a full helmet and liner. I had none of those things going down the ridge, in hopes of coming in behind whatever units were set up to ambush
I stared up at the unlikely and ungainly monster of a loud propeller-driven airship. The Skyraider didn’t look like it could stay in the air, but there it was, orbiting dependably..
I finished my letter home, the light of dawn sufficient to allow me to see the paper almost as well as the lousy black ink from my cheap government ballpoint.
Dawn would not come. Again. A slight change in the dead blackness of lower jungle life was the only clue that dawn was in the offing. I looked at my combat watch only to realize that I could barely read it anymore.
“Crimson and clover, over and over” The song played over Fusner’s tactically stupid, but achingly home-calling radio. The lyrics just repeated. There was no real meaning, like the days and nights of my life in Vietnam.
I had no idea how the attack into the tree line on the other side of the Agent Orange clearing would go down. Once more, as with each day’s move since I’d been in country, things just seemed to happen without a lot of..
Fusner whispered into my left ear before first light. I blinked rapidly, once again not aware of having slept, but nothing could explain the passage of time from one waking moment to the next. I shook my head. Maybe I was sleeping…
The rain came and the smell came with it, but it was no longer hot. The altitude had taken the steam heat and reduced it to an oily cloying mass of moving air, feeling like spider webs so intensely that I constantly brushed my hands across my face…..
The rolling artillery barrage I’d designed, and the battery had applied so effectively, was of exactly no use in doing anything to damage or disable booby traps that were not constructed with detonators or explosives subject to sympathetic detonation. The machine gun had caused significant casualties ……..
My scout team took apart my hooch and packed me out while I went forward to the perimeter to lay in the defensive fire up and down the area of our travel. The sun was fast rising over the jungle when I laid down on a poncho cover provided by one of the Marines on the line….
The sun was low enough to allow for some cooler air to flow among the bamboo and cypress jammed jungle around me. Low enough to allow the mosquitos to begin to form their more than annoying small clouds, as if they possessed group minds in search of evilly-conceived targets….
Hill 110 lay quiet in the distance. I realized for the first time that I lacked a forward observer’s most important tool. A pair of binoculars. The Army had Leica German range-estimating binoculars back at Fort Sill but any pair at all would be better than bare eyes…….
It wasn’t morning yet because it wasn’t light. There was no moon under the broken bamboo and soggy brush that cascaded down and over almost everything under it. I lay there, disturbed by the fact that I had lost the ability to determine if I was asleep or away……
I sat in my hooch, waiting for the sound of choppers distant in the air. I thought about all of what had gone before, since I’d arrived. It felt terrible to know I would have to sit and wait for orders to move from Hill 110, which we would not be taking, in direct violation of orders.
“Love child, never meant to be. Love child, always second best.” Brother John presaged the lyrics in his deep baritone voice. A different voice introduced John without actually introducing him. Was John really in Na Trang, spinning a platter with the latest Supremes’ song on it?
Once again, backed into the open-sided ‘lean-to’ my ‘scout’ team had made for me, I took out my writing materials to send another letter home. It was getting too dark to write so I did the best I could since using the flashlight under a hunched over poncho cover was out of the question in the heat….