Dawn was breaking as I tried to stuff a can of Ham and Mothers down my throat. The rain was gone, taking what cover it had provided, but permitting an open opportunity for supporting air to operate with full application using the clear visibility to accurately guide its deadly payload. I finished the can by gobbling down a few big mouthfuls, after loosening the sticky mess of ham, beans and grease with Fusner’s borrowed K-Bar. When I was done I jammed the knife blade repeatedly into the mud to clean it before handing it back. There was no clean where we were, of course, not the clean we’d all grown up with. A knife cleaned by shoving it repeated into the earth was about the best we could expect.
There was no time to prepare anything else because the strange deep drone of piston-powered aircraft engines came echoing down the valley minutes before the planes appeared. I was taken a week back to my first encounter with the ferocious example of modern warfare although not on such a close and fearful basis as I was in, being at the bottom of a confined valley it was ordered to fire down into. A big brown and green cargo plane came lazily floating over the center of the valley, appearing to move about as fast as a city bus but being much bigger and noisier. The two Skyraiders hung back behind the bigger plane at a slightly higher altitude, all three aircraft moving so slow and low that they gave every impression that they were begging to be fired on from below. The flotilla flew over our heads, but nobody fired up at them.
Fusner pushed the AN/323 headset at me, and then rushed to get my helmet off and the wire holder over my skull.
“Got your ears on, Flash?” Cowboy himself said.
“Five by five,” I answered.
“We’re doin’ a low pass, just to make sure we got your position down pat. On count, pop a smoke. Kilo’s already fired up.” Cowboy started to count down backwards from ten.
“Pop a smoke,” I said to Fusner.
I hadn’t thought of marking our positions with smoke grenades, even though I’d learned about the obvious and practical means of noting a unit position in training. In training we’d done it all the time although it’d never been necessary. Training was about as far from my mind, I realized, as cleaning eating utensils with soap and water.
“What color?” Fusner asked.
When I delayed for a few seconds, Zippo handed a small cylindrical grenade to Nguyen. I realized that the color didn’t matter and Cowboy was fast approaching zero in his count.
“Throw the damn thing,” I ordered Nguyen.
The Montagnard ran a few steps up to the side of the berm, went down on his knees and pulled the grenade’s pin. He looked back at me, holding it to his chest tightly.
I nodded at him.
The grenade flew out, but didn’t go far because it didn’t bounce. It immediately sank into the wet mud of the river bank. But it went off, and billows of green smoke began to grow and swirl around where it fell.
The drone of the two big engines on the cargo plane made the valley seem to vibrate with their chattering drumming sound. It was like I could hear all the cylinders of the big engines going off individually, although I knew that was impossible.
In seconds the planes were wheeling back, still holding their relative positions except for the ugly giant guppy of a cargo carrier. It turned in a way that seemed impossible, arching first up and over the lip of the nearby cliff, then leveling out and coming back into a tight corkscrew circle. The plane seemed pasted to the sky above us, too big to be real, but too loud and close not to be real.
I stared up in awe and surprise. I could see the guns sticking out of side of the fuselage and the big cargo door gaping open just to the rear of the line of them.
The C-47 seemed so close that I felt like waving to a man standing bent over, leaning out the door while peering back at us.
Fusner pulled the radio headset off of me and jammed my beaten helmet back onto my head.
Once the cargo plane reached a point where its wings seemed to be entirely perpendicular to the earth the guns sticking out its sides opened up. But they weren’t machine guns. They weren’t anything I’d ever heard or seen before. A lashing red and yellow tongue of fire shot down from the side of the plane, joined as one, and began to weave some sort of pattern on the jungle area we’d run past in our haste and terror the night before.
What followed changed my surprise and awe into stunning shock. The sound that came a few seconds after the moving tongue of fire swept down was so delayed it didn’t appear again, as if the winding, firing and low-flying plane was unreal. The sound was that of a frighteningly loud chainsaw running wild, and somehow mixed in with that of a very rapid air hammer. It was a monstrously raw and physical sound like nothing I’d ever heard.
My hands went to cover my ears and I scrunched down with my pack pushing me up from the mud. I was unable to tear my eyes away from the dazzling display. We were too close, I instantly thought. Everything was too close. I wondered if the smoke was blowing the wrong way giving the plane a bad position, but I couldn’t take my attention away from the low orbiting monster of lashing fire to look.
And then it was over. Puff the Magic Dragon was now much closer to earth, as it leveled out and headed back down the valley. The Skyraiders followed, coming down even lower than the cargo plane, with their twenty millimeter cannons firing. Even though their guns were bigger the attack more resembled two tiny models following the real thing.
The C-47 strained to climb back to altitude. I looked around me, and all my Marines were in the same position as I, facing upward on their backs, like we were all watching some sort of drive-in movie without our cars.
The big brown guppy fought for height, got it, and then curved back.
“Oh shit,” Fusner said, pressing his hands back to his ears, his shoulder touching mine. I felt his shaking and wondered if he felt my own.
Suddenly, I realized that we had to do something. Puff had come to our rescue but we had to move or lose the advantage we’d been lucky enough to secure. We weren’t there for the show.
The Gunny ran by, headed for the water. I wasn’t far behind, running at full speed, one hand on my helmet while using the other for balance, as I raced across the rough muddy surface of the river bank. I looked over my shoulder and up, as I ran. The C-47 was beginning to turn into its distinctive, almost impossible curving posture, so the guns sticking out of its side would point straight down again. I ran by, and then through, the billowing smoke, happy for its camouflaging protection. The giant buzz saw of guns went off again, and the braided string of their lashing tongue of rotary cannon fire seemed to go on and on.
I came out of the smoke before Puff’s second run was done, to see Marines on the end of the bridge tossing ropes to our element’s Marines who had already reached the edge of the river before me.
The Gunny caught me with one arm as I tried to run by him. He took me straight down to the mud on my right side. He laid there with me and hissed into my ear. I’d hit the soft mud hard, taking my breath away. I fought for air.
“Stay down. Let the men get across first. You lead your Marines by waiting until they’re all safe.”
He released me while I worked to breathe. Puff’s second run ended, as I finally got some air into my lungs. Unaccountably, the Gunny ran to the side of the rushing swirling river water and leaped out to catch a rope. He worked his way across without regard for what any of the men might think of him being among the first to cross.
Then Jurgens crossed with his Marines right around and behind him. Sugar Daddy followed. His Marines didn’t get across until Puff’s third run was underway. I watched the show of fire from my back again.
There was a haze over the whole area of jungle the plane was firing down into. It wasn’t smoke I realized. It was haze caused by the chewed up particulate of jungle matter driven up into the air by the huge multitude of high velocity bullets impacting everywhere through and into it.
I’d never seen anything like it. I wondered if I’d ever see anything like it again.
“Come on, sir,” Fusner yelled down at me.
Zippo grabbed one of my arms and Nguyen the other. They raced me toward the water, like I was some sort of invalid. I let them.
The Skyraiders came in again, following Puff, except this time they didn’t fire their rotary strafing cannons. They dropped big casings filled with jellied gasoline called Napalm. The canisters went off behind me with a giant ‘whump,’ and I suddenly couldn’t breathe again. All my air was sucked away, and I staggered. But Zippo and Nguyen would not let me go down. Then I felt the back of my legs and my neck flash with uncomfortable heat. It was impossible that the nightmare fire created by the Napalm could send heat almost instantly all the way to the river where I was but there it was. I was glad again for my flying poncho, my helmet and the protection of my pack.
Zippo tied one of the river-crossing ropes around my waist and motioned to the Marines holding the other end. There was no crossing using static lines. The Marines just pulled anyone across with brute force. Each man was dragged over in seconds, the rope untied and then thrown back for another Marine.
“Marco,” Jurgens yelled from the edge of the bridge, and then laughed loudly.
“Polo,” Zippo and Fusner yelled back, laughing too.
Pretty soon the Marines on both sides of the water were yelling the words back and forth.
I thought the children’s swimming pool game was all about an “it” that was supposed to yell and get calls in return, but any rules for the game had apparently been set aside.
Suddenly I was in the water, having to use one hand to hold my helmet on and the other to grasp my .45 Colt to make sure it didn’t unsnap and disappear into the roiling raging water. The Marines pulled madly, still yelling the children’s game words and laughing. They pulled so hard and fast that my body slid and bounced across the top of the water. Jurgens and Sugar Daddy plucked me from the surface when I got to the other side after only a few brief seconds.
Then all outside sound disappeared again, as Puff started its fourth run. This time I simply laid face down on the hot metal surface of the bridge, just back from the end. I didn’t need to see the rope of killing fire again. I knew the moving red and yellow tongue was forever burned into my memory banks and would remain with me as long as I lived, however long that might be. Fusner, Zippo and Nguyen were quickly hauled over to join me. Puff pulled up and out of the valley, as I got my bearings again, trying to find where Jurgens and Sugar Daddy were. That they’d pulled me from the water personally bothered and scared me. What were they up to and what was the Marco Polo game thing all about? My right hand never left the handle of my .45 as I lay there breathing deeply, trying to recover myself.
I got up and I moved with my scout team to the other side of the river. The platoons that had stayed across the river had dug in while they’d been waiting for us to return. I was gently pushed by the Gunny into a foxhole that was at least five feet deep. The Marines on the bank had dug right down to the river’s water line because the bottom of the hole had several inches of water covering it. I didn’t mind. I was used to wet moldy feet and had extra sox in my pack. It felt silly to crouch in the bottom of the hole and think of soap, a shower and clean dry socks while the jungle blazed a couple of hundred yards away from my position.
The hole was big enough for Fusner to crouch next to me and the Gunny to slide down along the far muddy wall. I stood up to see Puff headed up the valley, gaining altitude as it went, its motors obviously pumping out maximum power. I felt a sense of regret. The Skyraiders remained, however, and I watched Cowboy and his wingman come in low and waggle his wings, like you’d see in some WWII movie. It was a signal but I wasn’t sure what it meant.
“Okay, so far so good,” the Gunny said, lighting up a cigarette. “Puff’s coming back just as soon as those Air Force guys can reload. They fired every last round they had. We’ve got maybe an hour to get ready to go downriver, and then about twenty minutes to make the trip and get Kilo across further down, saying there’s a place to get them across at all.”
“Shit,” I said, in a whisper, slinking back down to the bottom of the hole.
My plan was impossible. We’d gotten ourselves out and quite likely sacrificed Kilo…again, to do so. There was no time. Following my initial plan, we’d be coming back upriver with possibly only the Skyraiders still on station, but they’d also dumped a lot of their ordnance to give us the time we’d needed so far. We had no time.
I stood up once more and looked across the river from the edge of the hole.
“We’ve got to get our boys out,” I said.
The Gunny handed me his cigarette.
“What boys?” he asked.
“You know what boys,” I replied, coughing after my usual one puff.
I handed the cigarette back.
“We’ve got living Marines to consider,” the Gunny said, before taking a couple of long drags on the cigarette. “The dead are dead. They’re good at waiting.”
I didn’t want to think about going back down the river. Getting our dead out by using a bunch of Medevac hops of impossible timing was easier to think about. Or maybe it was enough to be back across the river. I knew that was ridiculous thinking though. I looked at the Gunny and I knew he was reading my mind.
“Don’t even think about it,” he said, puffing some more on his disappearing cigarette. “You’re making your way, earning every bit of it. Don’t toss it all out.”
“Is everyone on the same page for this?” I asked, in resignation.
We had to go down valley for Kilo and there wasn’t going to be any getting around it, much as I hated Captain Carter and had trouble getting by my own terror of going back again.
“Danger Close Cool, so far,” the Gunny said. “The men all think you’re an idiot, but lucky as hell. They’re willing to go with lucky. So they know where we’re going. And they’re in. Maybe for the first time since I’ve been here. Better call Cowboy and his weird partners up there.”
The Gunny looked up, like he was going to see the Skyraiders fly over on cue, but they were patrolling somewhere else nearby and not within sight or sound.
I looked downriver. The edge of the clearing, between the hill to the west we’d taken fire from days before and the river, was narrow and the open bank area on the other side, leading up alongside the burning dusty jungle was too close to the impact area of Puff’s fire. If the C-47 saw us on the move so close to their beaten zone they’d scrub the mission, but there was nothing to be done for it. Going downriver was traveling back into hell and I could not think clearly enough to figure out what to do. I slunk back down to the muddy water-covered floor of the fox hole. I breathed in and out deeply, and almost laughed out loud. I was thinking of the lower valley as some sort of worse hell than the one I was in and there wasn’t much possibility of that. It seemed I could not go forward, back, or stay where I was, and that took care of any potential I could think of for staying alive.
I pulled out my map. The map was my key to the lock I couldn’t seem to open. At least it was something to concentrate on. I scanned the layout I’d made with my grease pencil in the dark a few hours earlier. The plan had been sound, and so far, as the Gunny had mentioned, it was working. What was the problem? Time. We had to have more time. To buy time I needed supporting fires. When Puff was gone from the last run we’d be down at the lower crossing, if there was a lower crossing to use. I’d have to worry about that when we got downriver though. I looked at the stretch of four thousand meters we’d run up the night before on the other side of the water.
And then it came to me. On top of the Skyraiders, we also had our own fire, and we’d been resupplied. The Skyraiders could bring fire onto the hill to our right flank in the west but it was the ripped, torn and burned jungle on the other side of the river that worried the hell of me. The company had four platoons of more than two hundred Marines, and among those Marines were twenty-seven M-60 machine guns. I didn’t have to take the whole company downriver. I could install two fire teams to support one M-60, and emplace another gun unit every hundred and fifty meters to extend almost all the way down the river. The machine guns could cover the jungle from one end of our journey to the other, and their crisscrossing fields of fire would make them a whole lot more deadly than just about anything except a load of B-40 or RPG rockets the NVA didn’t seem to currently have in great supply. If they’d had those rockets, then our position through the night would never have remained tenable. They’d have blown the cliffside behind us down on our heads.
Once down river I knew, somebody who could really swim was going to have get back across that water and run a line to some big strong tree trunk. I could really swim but I didn’t want to go back into that awful killing river. Regardless, of who went over, a single heavy rope or two would do the job because time would no longer be quite so critical if our retreat was protected. I dotted the map with little black grease circles for each gun emplacement.
The only hole in my plan would be the small team of Marines I’d be left with to get across the river and bring the Kilo Marines back over. There’d be no company of Marines on our side to pull everyone across the water, like we’d experienced, and it would take trying to work with Captain Carter and his two lackey lieutenants to get Kilo company set up and installed to do that same setup once enough Marines were across. If Carter would cooperate. I sat back, and looked at the Gunny. I wished we were in a dry environment, or at least somewhere we could light small fires to brew some coffee. The only home in my life I had left was my bogus letter to my wife resting in my thigh pocket. I held the map out to the Gunny with my plan variant, wondering what our 7.62 mm machine gun ammunition supply was like, but then realizing, as I laid out the modifications, that it didn’t matter. Fire control had to be exercised with what ammunition was on hand, and my company of Marines were experienced enough to do what needed to be done without interference, or so I hoped. At least with the company strung up and down the side of the river our and Kilo’s survival would not be totally dependent on air support that might not be there.
“The men are going to be unprotected along the bank unless they dig in, and we don’t have much time for that,” the Gunny concluded, handing my map back.
“Then we have to move out the second Puff makes it back and starts its runs.”
The bank was soft mud and the Marines all had E-Tools. How fast they could dig in would be important but not vital to the survival of the whole operation. Losing some men strung out along the river was acceptable. I sighed at my own conclusion. I still wasn’t over losing Rittenhouse, Stevens or the rest. What kind of cold creature was I becoming? I turned to Fusner.
“Get air up on the net and get us an ETA on Puff’s return. As soon as we hear those engines coming down the valley we leave the line of departure, moving fast.”
“What’s a line of departure?” Fusner asked, reaching for his air AN/323.
I didn’t answer, realizing once again that Fusner was a teenager more than he was a combat radio operator. Line of departure had been an expression I’d learned and liked in training. It was used to describe an imaginary line a unit crossed to make its attack.
“I need to get the platoon commanders together,” the Gunny said, climbing up and over the edge of the muddy foxhole. “I don’t think this part of Danger Close Cool is going to go down as being so cool with the guys.”
“We’ll make it work,” I said up to him.
“It’s not going to work with you at the bottom of this hole. I didn’t have you come across that God damned river as the last man out for nothing. Now get your Junior ass out of this hole. It’s Marco Polo time up here, again.”
Awesome, having had the opportunity (or rather having been in a situation that Puff was the required life saver)
I can attest to the fact that it was a real eye opener for those grunts on the ground.
The truly amazing part was, even after those tongues of fire passed, some of the NVA/Vietcong managed to survive
(not all of course because it was truly a killing machine) and they did not fold their ponchos and run.
Gritty and hard little guys and some gals that while you hated them, you had to admire them.
Looking forward to the next chapter… keep it up please. thanks and take care.
Yes, you could not work in close combat with the NVA and not respect their tenacity, toughness and even willingness to die for their cause, much less just how much discomfort they could put up with. It was astounding, and difficult to deal with mentally at the time. Puff was something else again, more as a psychological tool on all of us even more than in the destruction it wrought….
Thanks for the depth of your comment and making it on here for all to see…
“The Dead are dead….They are good at waiting’….. ….Sometimes Jim, you can take an entire segment like this…riveting, so intense and full of life changing decisions, panic, anger, bewilderment, and determination…..and make it all pale with a single, short statement……the room just swirled and swam all around inside my head upon reading that statement….the sudden, unwanted memories just slammed so hard it hurts…..can’t begin to tell you how many times we had to endure a long night..knowing that just out of our reach lay the bodies of our dead….knowing that we would not leave them, that we would recover them, no matter what it took….but for the moment, we had to leave them, and it was such a betrayal…They were not going anywhere…but we still didn’t have Them with us…and that was so important….and then to suffer upon them one more final degradation.. having to crawl up and tie a rope to each of them and crawl away…and then pull their bodies a short distance to make sure they were not boobytrapped….all the while…having tears of anger and rage at the need to do it this way…Remembering it later, I knew they didn’t mind…we had come for them….and that was all that mattered…Semper Fi Lt..
Powerful stuff you write, Larry. As always. It is always entertaining and meaningful to read what you write.
And to read what you have to say about the work. My new novel called The Bering Sea just came out on Amazon
today. Get it, read it and comment. I will be most interested on your take…
Thanks for another nail biter Jim! Your description of the sound of Puff’ s cannon fire. Was perfect! As someone else stated, every day I look for the next episode. I suspect it is tough for you to write as it is tough for some of my marine and army friends to read. With that said, please keep it coming! USAF Weapons Line Chief, Phan Rang, Bien HOA, Ton Son Nhut
It is difficult at times to move right on through a segment.
It is easier to write away and then come back at it,
rewrite a bit and then move along.
Slower than I thought earlier on but more depth as time goes by, as it was…
In 1966 my Amtrac Platoon worked an op with 1st Marines where each of three Battalions had a Puff assigned to them one night. They formed a circle and lit it up. Always reminded me of when you were a kid and stuck paper in the blade of a fan. Quite a show.
Keep up the great work Jim.
Thanks for the great comment, spot on, Mike. So many guys, like you have offered bits and pieces of their own experiences on here.
So cool…and thank you…
Another great episode. I just read over the mistakes and move on.Glad some of these guys help with the editing. I like others on here only saw Puff work at night. A sight I will never forget.If you see it you won’t forget it. I think your Marines are lucky to have someone who knows how to call in their position and call in fire support. We got a new 2nd Lt. that lead us around in circles for two days. Needless to say he didn’t last long in the bush. Keep on keeping on Jim. Waiting on the next one.
New officers came and went with such speed it was unbelievable. Real combat was no place to
learn much of anything. Nobody to teach and plenty of crap to learn about as it killed you.
Thanks for he cogent comment…
Was good to hear the Gunny’s comments about the troops being willing to follow you. Most troops prefer to believe in the luck of the draw.
While reading about your thoughts, one was left wondering why you did not consider the fact, that the men in Kilo were capable of performing the menial task of crossing the river on their own, after all they were marines! Surely there were swimmers among them, that could take a rope across the river. There had to be a good reason for them surviving in the bush thus far.
Surly Morgan had been in touch with the rear echelon and knew about Puff being sent that way along with the Skyraiders. He also must know that he has to cross that river and join up with your company. Coordination on that effort is of necessity. Obviously you needed to make contact with Morgan, to coordinate the next move whether you like him or not. As the CO of Kilo, he really does not have many options but to work with you.
Ah yes and the saga continues, ego against ego and brawn against brawn.
I was not always right about what I was about…as we shall see….I was 23 and trying to figure it all out
and egocentric while being scared shitless…
Back in our days of growing up, most of us were a bit egocentric to say the least. I believe most of the men who went to Vietnam, had moments where they were scared shitless as most were still very young and had little experience in an actual war zone.
In my twenty years of service, I dealt with a lot of 2nd and 1st lieutenants and all shared the same sense of cluelessness, when it came to working with the troops. We noncoms took them under our wing so to speak and gave them the appropriate OJT. Some of them even turned out to be good officers, when they listened to the noncoms.
Military service is about people and weaponry.
The people part is much harder to teach than the weapons part.
It has become so stratified and class oriented over the years, simply because it is
assumed that nobody will go out there into combat unless they are lied to, threatened and literally forced.
How do we change that?
Could it be Jim and J the reason “The people part is much harder to teach” is we have drifted away, over the past 40-45 years, from teaching Values at early ages?
As you well know Jim, the military strategy is to psyche the trainee into believing that he is indestructible and there is no greater force then the U.S. military. That works with trainees, but not so with the more mature troops, who are tied by contracts that must be fulfilled whether at peace or at war. The honorable discharge or retirement then becomes the tie that binds.
As Chuck mentions, back in the days of WW II, it was honor and values that our troops willingly went to war for. There was no question about defending our nation and the free world, against the AXIS threat. They attacked our nation at Pearl Harbor and that was all we needed to know.
Today it is an entirely different story. Somehow we became the guardian of the free world after WW II by providing them defense, whether it effected our nation or not. Our government used national defense to get us into a war halfway across the globe, just so that it could show it’s might and dictate to other nations through strength. In the meantime, it forgot about national defense at home and ignored it’s borders as well as the social lawlessness. Not a very good example to set for patriotism or peace.
How do we change this? Good question, but it all relates to the meaning used in our Constitution of sovereignty. A sovereign nation does not stick it’s nose in the business of other nations, nor provokes conflict. We have to have leaders that understand that fact and adhere to it. As the leaders go, so goes the nation! When the leaders set a good example for the youth of our nation, then there will be change.
The usual introspection coupled with investigateive intelligent thought J. Thanks for laying some things down here that make so much sense.
And the questions. Leadership is something…as we are seeing right this minute in the nation…
Q. How do we change that?
A. Give them something worth fighting and dying for.
… and if we can’t do that, then don’t go to war in the first place.
There seems to be two issues here:
One: What motivates an individual to risk their life in combat?
Two: What is the best way to lead in a military environment?
One: The closer one is to “home” the easier it is to defend it. “Home” can be a physical location or a set of political or religious beliefs. It helps if the group feels strong bonds towards one another. For example some units in the Civil War came from a single town. They all knew each other. A self selected group i.e. volunteers are more apt to share common values. Armies raised by conscription do not have that advantage. Personality wise we are a herd of cats. Some went to war. Others were hippies. No one wants to be cannon fodder. A combatant is motivated if their commanders are competent and caring.
Two: My military experience is from 65 to 69. Then, for much of the Army, rank was a caste system with privileges taken by those in authority and denied to those of lower rank for no understandable reason other than to reinforce the system. ROTC 2nd LTs were, as previously mentioned, a “unique” group. Mustangs were generally good. I wonder if everyone should first start as enlisted and only be eligible for officer training after attaining at least the rank of E-5. A candidate would have to pass a board of review. That could work in peacetime with long term enlistments; not during a war. I can think of many reasons why the above is not practical … but I want to touch on the idea of “Values” that Chuck brought up. What are they and where do they come from?
People react positively to being listened to and treated with respect. That way the intelligence of the entire group is brought to bear on the issues at hand.
A story. We were building a bunker. As a Buck Sgt I was in charge. I told a guy to cut a piece of wood a certain way. His reply was, “That’s stupid.” I asked, “Why?” He explained his idea. To which I replied, “You are correct. Do it your way.” He was astonished. He said that was the first time someone who outranked him had listened to him and even more surprising had acknowledged his contribution. My reputation in the platoon went way up after that.
One of the commands we supported was SF. I spent some time in “B” camps at the Province level. Rank mattered where it was important; but between individuals there was an ease of communication I did not see elsewhere. Probably more maturity. But information and experience was shared.
I don’t know if I really answered the question. I could blather on for paragraphs more. James, Edit as you see fit.
Wow! Now that’s a comment. I’m not sure I can answer it so much as try to take it all in. Accurate and filled with your own life experience.
Thanks for this. No editing necessary. Everyone ought to read and think aobt what you’ve said.
I want to take a deep breath, but I am afraid I will miss something. Outstanding episode as usual.
Thanks a lot Rob and I continue on with the you guys being the wind at my back…
Been really enjoying this real life drama. I can identify, with the scared shitless. I was not in Nam. I served 4yrs in the Navy from 70 to 74. I was an airdale as Naval aviation. I trained to be a rescue swimmer. I didn’t make it thru S.E.R.E school. I was in immature young man working on my addiction to alcohol. I was chosen as the war baby, I got to experience water boarding, something I’ll never forget. Needless to say, I was tucked away, in Iwaukunee Japan a Marine air Corp station as an Electronic tech. I always felt I didn’t contribute much. Looking back about 48yrs later and seeing what happened to friends and relatives. I’m grateful I was spared that misery.
Later in life I went to work as power lineman. The year I couldv’e retired, I got hurt on the job cutting a tree. The reason I mention this is because I ended up losing the sight in my right eye and the use left hand and arm. That makes a one eyed one finger typer. Keep up the good work I read a lot I like the fact that it’s not full of cuss words and it’s real. I live in Hayward, Wi.
Wow, that’s a helluva story and now here you are…what happened in the tree accident to nail an eye and your arm? Man oh man.
I hope it’s all long term repairable. They do amazing things today, as they’ve proven with me. I much appreciate that you like the work.
Yes, I pulled much of the profanity out of it. Takes too much away from the storya nd also alienates too many readers. Once and a while and that’s it.
Thanks for writing what you wrote on here and motivating me a lot…
Spook was a sight too behold at night the sight and sound. only saw napham used once glad and was not close enough to feel the heat. This is better than a defibrillator. Keep cranking out the word.
I am at it W. and will continue through this night…
Thanks for the encouragement…
Medivac shot down and it was puff that cleared the tree line for our rescue. Spooky is the right word for that thing.
Thanks for that Ken, much appreciate your own experience…
Didn’t get to the Corps until ‘79, was lucky to serve under some Staff NCO’s that had been in Nam. Had a Gunny, Comm Chief at 1/8 by the name of Wendell Green. He used to tell the story of Marshal Sapp, his buddy that was killed in Vietnam. Saw your name and immediately thought about Marshal. 1/8 Comm was decimated on a Sunday morning in Beirut in 1983, we lost 33. Gunny Green had retired, his replacement Gunny Ray was killed.
Thanks for those very personal revelations. Tough stuff and I am sure sorry about the Gunny…. a lot of really good guys in that Beirut thing…
Si second what Ed Evans said. I am looking forward to the hard copy. I want you to know James that you are wearing me out. I come back here several times a day to see if there is a new chapter. Can you hurry ?????
I am kidding of course. I know you are dealing with a little t right now. Thanks for the story line, the excellent writing skill and the knowledge of the subject.
The problem is mine. When I am hooked on a book I just keep reading. I have finished books in as little as two days before. This is the first to me I have ever read a book a chapter at a time.
I AM HOOKED SIR!
thnaks a lot Ken. The first ten days is available on Amazon, of course, and the second ten days is available on here as i finish it to get to hard copy.
thanks for the kind words and the compliments…and writing them here for everyone to hear.
Quite a day, napalm being danger close, gunship & Skyraiders blowing everything to pulp, being rope hauled across the river !! Can I take a breath now ?? !! Wow is all I can say. Next step may be as critical as the previous ones ?? I would sure bet so.
Thanks for keeping me on the edge of my seat once again James..
Don’t mean to make it a cliff hander all the time but it just turns out that way all on its own.
Thanks for the support and care in your words…amd that you write them in front of everyone right here.
Morning Jim, Yes, Up in the morning, Time and again 46 years ago, is only yesterday in the feelings and my mind, Yes, Many the time it is only yesterday when I crawl out of my hole 46 years ago and “DRIVE ON!” Yes this was a trigger when I read it;
““We’ll make it work,” I said up to him.
“It’s not going to work with you at the bottom of this hole. I didn’t have you come across that God damned river as the last man out for nothing. Now get your Junior ass out of this hole. It’s Marco Polo time up here, again.””
But no matter We crawl out of our holes and lead the charge into the day and make it work……..
Yes sing the Jodie as down the road we go…….
God Bless You, Junior…… Proud to meet you in life’s struggles, Men of our word and honor.
Semper fi/This We Defend Bob.
It took me a long time to figure out what honor was. That is is this seemingly cylindrical center running up and down our body and mind. We first recognize it and then respond to it by working away to make it radiate and emanate warmth and truth. To have honor is to have a feeling of what our own integrity is because externally applied integrity systems (applied to us by the rest of humanity) are going to change all the time based on others needs, wants and expectations…not to mention deception brought about by this grand competition among us all. To have internal honor is a thing of vital recognition and the stubborn unyielding self-analysis and considered contemplation. And it takes action to maintain. It’s like reading the New Testament as opposed to taking action on coming to understand that the testament is about action and not verbalizations. Honor is about action. Do good things after figuring out what good things are….
Thanks for the opportunity to write that back to you…a man of honor.
Best explanation of Honor ever I have heard! Thanks
thanks Joe, really appreciate that comment about that subject…and it was through deep thought and analysis…
At Hon Quan SF camp in An Loc end of 67, the Spooky that always came was call sign ” Big Daddy”. Ours was “Tarzan Cages”. You awaken the memories, Jim. Glad your eye is doing good. Great writing, LT.
Tarzan Cages. You guys had some whacked out nicknames for things too. I think it was more common than we know.
Thanks for putting that up on here.
Gerry, Here’s a pic of the main gate at Hon Quan http://oldspooksandspies.org/Photos/Cotts/Scan1609.jpg
Was there in Apr 67 doing COMSEC. Saw Spooky working out over Quan Loi. Next night he was on station above us. Sure sounded good. The expected attack never happened. There again in Apr 68. Old camp was now MACV. SF built a new fortified camp on the other side of the Province Chief’s compound.
thanks for that stark picture when bases were barely guarded.
Appreciate the support on here…
Puff saved my ass once. This installment coming out took me by surprise and I made myself wait to read it. Ham & mothers were my favorite meal.
We were uncommon. Those of us who liked the ham and lima beans, I mean.
Getting saved by Puff, not so common probably…and thanks for the comment about it on here…
Wonder how many times a company lost their leader such as you and not know what to do next. Not knowing how to call in fire support or even knowing where they are. It had to happen many times.
There was that. Once a unit got used to using supporting fires effectively and being
properly oriented in the area then how did it get used to not having that any more. The training
and background necessary to provide those services, at the time, were concentrated in only a very few.
Today’s electronic net thrown over an entire battlefield might have changed all that, but I don’t know.
Thanks for the depth of your comment…
Junior’s spending money like he’s got a printing press today.
A million spent at Sunup and waiting to spend at least another million as quick as he can.
Better Junior spends it than some politician ripping down billboards back in the States. Mr Charles best stay deep in them rabbit holes Uncle Sugar taught him to dig back in 39.
Spend the money Junior
Thanks for the encouragement SCPO. Much appreciated and the enthusiastic support too…
Another good one Lt. my body slid and bounced across the water water . I’d learned and liked I in training. I know you are writing for the masses.Is that why you say fox hole instead of fighting hole ? Later Semper fi
When I was in the corps Roger we still said fox hole. Fighting hole came along later, less descriptive but more macho.
Like war fighter and some of the other new stuff. I.E.D. instead of booby trap which never made any sense but there it is.
Thanks for the comment and the support…
Wonderful to see you cranking out more episodes so quickly.
This one left me exhausted.
I am absolutely thrilled about the success of your recent eye surgery!
Thank you ever so much Walter.
Yes, it is wonderful to be able to sit back and write again instead of
having to be five inches away from the computer in pain.
Delirious with joy…
My dad was a crew member on C-47’s during WWII and although he never talked much about the war he loved those old planes. He did tell me when returned to base in England there was leaves, limbs and brush in the engine cowling. That was tree top flying. Before I left for the Army he read about Puff and Spooky and was proud of those old C-47’s still taking care of the troops.
When I was in the CIA I hopped aboard a C-47, hoary and smelly old thing that it was. It was Zanzibar.
We took forever to get in the air loaded with god knew what. The plane was stuffed with ropped and webbed crates.
I never saw the crew. No cargo door. It was a stunningly visceral and physical experience.
We flew about five hundred feet in the air and the noise was unreal from the engines.
What a machine it was…
Dammit, James, I’m reading so fast I’m out of breath.
I ride motorcycles, and participate in the “Run For The Wall”, which goes from southern California to the Wall in DC. Many of the participants wear patches that say: “I wasn’t there, but I still care.” That’s me: Regular Army, ’71-’74, although I never got sent there.
I can feel it. Great writing. Seriously. Can’t wait for the next installment.
Thank you Clay, especially for that run for the wall. And the care. And writing it on here.
Yes, I am finally reaching some of the heretofore unreachable guys who really never came back
from the A Shau and other places over there. At least I hope I am reaching them…and myself too.
Thank you for what you do, think and care…
You have to experience “Puff” to know what that awesome sound. You saw it in daylight, I saw it at work over Kham Duc in 68. The firing looked like someone had a firehose with red water spraying down. They said it could put a round every inch and cover a football field in a matter of seconds. The sound I remember is like a baritone singer saying AWWWWWWWWW. One continuous sound.