THE FIRST DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE FIRST DAY, 30 Days Has September

The door opened. It was a steel door about six inches thick, or so it seemed.  It hit with a jarring thud when its heavy flat surface pivoted down and smacked upon the mud. Sunlight shot in like a wave of heat, followed by a wave of real heat, the air-conditioned...
THE FIRST NIGHT

THE FIRST NIGHT

I followed the Buck Sergeant down through the dark muddy aisle of the Da Nang Hilton. The aisle was strewn with back packs and other field equipment I could not help running into. My flight bag was tucked under the bunk, for whatever security that might provide.

THE SECOND DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE SECOND DAY, 30 Days Has September

I could not believe I was flying into my first field experience wearing crummy Korean War utilities. I wished fervently that I’d brought my own from training. At least they would have been green instead of whatever color I now wore. Being colorblind as a Marine...
THE SECOND DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE SECOND DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE SECOND DAY SECOND PART Breakfast in the mud pit was ham and lima beans served with canteen cup holders of instant black coffee. I didn’t ask the Gunny why the other men bothered to pull the cream and sugar from incoming C-rations. It didn’t matter. I remained so...
THE SECOND NIGHT, 30 days Has September

THE SECOND NIGHT, 30 days Has September

Night didn’t come easily in the Nam. The day had been a blessing compared to my first night. Moving seventeen clicks through muddy rice paddies wearing a fifty-pound pack was its own form of misery, but the brutality of Marine training had kicked in and setting one...
THE SECOND NIGHT SECOND PART

THE SECOND NIGHT SECOND PART

The radio music transmissions were supposed to stop at night but it was not full dark when my small team of scouts and radio operator went to work setting up shelter halves around them. I was afraid of the radio transmissions giving our position away. I smelled heavy...
THE THIRD DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE THIRD DAY, 30 Days Has September

Ham and Lima beans. Nobody wanted them so I took all four boxes. It was preferable to the sliced ‘spam’ I’d had before. The boxes had already been picked through for sugar and fake cream packets. I got a carton of cigarettes. Lucky Strike. I sat back against a big...
THE THIRD DAY SECOND PART

THE THIRD DAY SECOND PART

I made my way back to the Gunny. The Corpsman lay still, breathing shallowly with a poncho cover wrapped around him. The poncho covers served as our blankets, since they easily separated from the rubber liner. The air mattresses most everyone had, like mine, were...
THE THIRD NIGHT

THE THIRD NIGHT

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….

THIRD NIGHT SECOND PART

THIRD NIGHT SECOND PART

I had heard of the RPG (rocket propelled grenade), the Russian version of America’s recoilless rifle. Basically it was a small rocket fired from a shoulder mount. The rocket body, about two inches in diameter, had a warhead about four inches. Because the weapon...
THE THIRD NIGHT THIRD PART

THE THIRD NIGHT THIRD PART

They came before dawn. How they came was impossible to imagine.  An entire reinforced Marine company, dug into low scrub with marginal cover, waited for them just where they hit. The company used the Starlight scope. The base of fire predicted to be launched from Hill...
THE FOURTH DAY

THE FOURTH DAY

“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?

THE FOURTH DAY SECOND PART

THE FOURTH DAY SECOND PART

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.

FOURTH DAY THIRD PART

FOURTH DAY THIRD PART

On the second day there was no meeting to plan the fake attack on Hill 110. The Gunny drifted by when the big Double Trouble CH46 lifted off from resupply, loaded with body bags, the wounded and one Marine who’d served out his time. Actually, he was six days short of...
THE FOURTH NIGHT

THE FOURTH NIGHT

Once the artillery barrage of Hill 110 was over, the surrounding low growth jungle area subsided into a windy silence. The hot air wafted, like blown cobwebs sweeping slowly back and forth across the face and body of anyone standing. I lay in my hooch, waiting. The...
THE FOURTH NIGHT SECOND PART

THE FOURTH NIGHT SECOND PART

They came back like they left, only slight movements of the nearby undergrowth giving any evidence of their reappearance. Like wraiths just outside the area of my hooch, they moved to where they were already dug in, although it was mostly useless to dig holes in mud...
THE FIFTH DAY

THE FIFTH DAY

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……

THE FIFTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE FIFTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

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…….

FIFTH DAY THIRD PART

FIFTH DAY THIRD PART

The Gunny and Sugar Daddy looked at me when I approached, but neither man stood up. I hadn’t expected them to. I was becoming fully adjusted to life beyond Marine training and stateside barracks behavior. I dumped my supply of C-rations, and other stuff I’d gotten...
THE FIFTH NIGHT

THE FIFTH NIGHT

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….

THE FIFTH NIGHT SECOND PART 30 Days Has September

THE FIFTH NIGHT SECOND PART 30 Days Has September

Zippo didn’t get back from retrieving the starlight scope from Rittenhouse until full dark. There’d been no fire from the hill. I’d registered our new position but not ordered a fire mission. I knew it wouldn’t be long. I wasn’t afraid of taking fire from a heavy...
THE FIFTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE FIFTH NIGHT THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

The NVA Russian-made fifty caliber opened up, and the heavy green ‘flying lantern’ tracers tore through the thick air over our heads. I popped my head up for a micro-second to confirm that they’d moved the weapon lower down on the mountain’s front slope. I adjusted my...
THE SIXTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE SIXTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

Full dawn would not come. I lay there, looking at my little Fusner-dug moat. The mist had stayed all night, which I now knew to be the precursor to the monsoon season. It could get worse. It would get worse. Just how in hell God would figure out a way to make it...
THE SIXTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE SIXTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

“If you go chasing rabbits and you know you’re going to fall, tell ‘em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call…” played on Stevens’ little shoulder-mounted radio. As usual, Brother John’s fatherly deep throated introduction made me feel better just ...
THE SIXTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days has September

THE SIXTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days has September

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 SIXTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

THE SIXTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

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 ……..

THE SIXTH NIGHT 2nd PART, 30 Days Has September

THE SIXTH NIGHT 2nd PART, 30 Days Has September

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 SEVENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE SEVENTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

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 SEVENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE SEVENTH DAY SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

“You want wet or lurps,” Captain Morgan said, holding the radio handset to his right ear. “What are lurps?” I asked, vaguely having heard the word but not understanding what it meant. “Long range patrol rations,” he responded. “They’re dried. Light weight. Just put...
THE SEVENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

THE SEVENTH DAY THIRD PART, 30 Days Has September

There was nothing to be done until crossing the open area in front of us was imminent, except get hold of some of the rations and water. My letter home was in my pocket, forgotten for the first time, my full attention and following thought process had been unable to...
THE SEVENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

THE SEVENTH NIGHT, 30 Days Has September

“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.

THE SEVENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

THE SEVENTH NIGHT SECOND PART, 30 Days Has September

I stayed in my clustered hooch into the dark hours, whiling away the time it would take for the NVA to begin their own H&I fires. The concept of H&I (harassing and interdicting fire) created back at Fort Sill, had been used in Vietnam for years without any...
THE EIGHTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

THE EIGHTH DAY, 30 Days Has September

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.