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 M14 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 and cut Kilo Company to ribbons. Without gear I felt cleaner and light on my feet, but the drop in altitude made me regret leaving my steel pot behind. The repellent was held to the side of the helmet by Fusner’s big rubber bands, and with my increasing perspiration and the rising heat, the mosquitoes were back. I knew they would be worse when we stopped to set in.
Moving through the jungle was nothing like a hard forced march in the Virginia hills. The mud, mixed with the undergrowth, made slipping and sliding part of the journey and sapped energy at every opportunity. By the time the company made it to where I thought we should turn and head north, I was beaten to near submission. As if hearing my unspoken plight, the company came to a halt. I reached for my single canteen and drained half of it down my throat. Fusner handed me a little plastic bottle of the repellent without my asking. I smiled one of my new plastic smiles back at him. I popped the malaria pill I’d forgotten in the morning, put my canteen back into its holder and then slathered the oily mess into the mixed mess of whitish agent orange and jungle dirt that my skin had turned into.
The Gunny came up through a bamboo thicket, prying two shoots apart and looking like a character on a Tarzan movie set. He squatted down but didn’t go to work making his usual concoction of coffee. Instead he drank deeply from his own canteen.
“I’m presuming this is the place you had in mind to head on down,” he said, when he was done drinking.
I passed Fusner’s repellent back without answering. I pulled out the correct map and located our position. I didn’t need my compass because I knew the ridge we hiked along ran almost directly east and west. Down the slope into the heavier growth was obviously north. There was no way to see anything from where we were, and the Sandy had not returned with it’s unlikely but seemingly dependable crew. Instead of reaching for the 323 microphone I went for the artillery net handset. Fusner interpreted what I was doing before I did it. I knew that the backside of the ridge we were on would prevent Americal’s artillery battery from giving us supporting fire, but the ridge would not block an airburst.
After registering our real position with Firebase Cunningham because we’d be moving from it rather quickly, I asked for a single ranging round of Willy Peter to detonate two hundred meters in the air. I gave the coded grid coordinate for the middle of the saddle where the path intersected its open space, hoping that the toothpaste and shaving cream code words were used by the Army in this area, as well as by the Marine Corps. There was almost no delay before “Shot, over,” came from the radio’s speaker. I peered downslope and upward. We were right on the gun target line again, and the range to Cunningham was pretty great. I knew the round would come in arcing low and therefore be a bit risky and dangerous. Right after the ‘splash’ transmission a boom of distant sound radiated up from far down in the valley. I couldn’t see the explosion because of the thick jungle growth.
Nguyen, predicting the arrival of the round, had climbed a nearby tree. He yelled from high above and pointed. Direction was all I needed. With direction back toward the saddle I knew where we were along the ridge and where we had to go. I glanced up at the Montagnard, coming down the tree trunk like he was more spider monkey than human. He let go of the tree from ten feet up, rolled and then jumped to his feet turning to face us while still in mid-air. An Olympic athlete could not have been more impressive. I stared, my eyes wide in amazement. His suppressed smile was almost invisible, but I caught it.
The Gunny hadn’t bothered to take in all that was going on. He lay with his back against a fallen tree branch with his eyes closed. I knew I was not the only exhausted Marine on the ridge. I hunkered down next to him with my map.
“We’re exactly here,” I said, waiting for him to open is eyes.
“More of your artillery map reading magic,” he said, barely opening one eye.
“We need to be here,” I went on, pointing at a spot just back of the saddle area and almost directly north down the slope. I knew the company, after being part of the recent move, would be able to get into place in less than twenty minutes if it left right away. There must have been more urgency in my voice than I intended because the Gunny groaned.
“I’m twice your age, if not more,” he said, closing the one eye again. “I’m twice the age of everyone else in this company.”
“And that counts for exactly what?” I responded.
“Jeez, give the man a little bit of power…” the Gunny replied but opened his eyes and leaned forward to study the map. His eyes went all over the thing. I knew he wasn’t good with maps merely by the way he viewed them. I put my finger back on the target area, and then ran it back and forth from where our location was to the target point.
“The sooner the better.” I knew if we stayed where we were for any length of time the enemy would know, and it wouldn’t take a tactical genius on the other side to figure out we were pulling a potential deadly flanking maneuver.
“We’ve got to be in before dark and we’re running out of light,” I said, looking up and around.
“We get there, set in behind where they think they might be, which is iffy,” the Gunny said, pointing at the target area with his own index finger. “And then what? Call Kilo and have them do a frontal attack so the NVA is driven right into us?”
I hadn’t been looking up and around because of the waning light. I’d heard the very distant but distinctive drone of the Skyraider. Cowboy and Jacko were coming back, as promised. We had to get down in the valley and set in before the plane had to go home, wherever home was for it. We were seriously running out of light for the air crew to see the battlefield by.
“Nope,” I replied to the Gunny. “Kilo’s on the far side of the saddle. They know Kilo’s there because they’ve been shooting at them. We pressure the back of the near side. The NVA is caught in the middle. They can only go north or south to escape and they can only do that quickly, the same way we did back when we had the other open area. They’ll have to expose themselves on the open ground of the saddle.”
“Why do I get the feeling that there’s something more?” the Gunny said, taking another drink of water from his canteen. He got to his feet and stretched his arms and shoulders before he spoke. “Di di mao,” he said, raising his voice to everyone around.
I looked at Fusner in question.
“Means ‘let’s go’…sort of…” he replied, with his usual smile.
The mix of Vietnamese and French was befuddling, but the expressions I was beginning to learn were also indelible. Once heard, the strange words would lay there unused and unknown until someone said the expression again, and at that point understanding what it meant was instant.
The company moved after a very brief discussion, wherein the Gunny related that he’d let the platoon commanders know that the company was to flow down the slope in size, break into platoons and then squads. From there it would form itself into a single thick line of automatic weapons and machine guns, set to absorb the NVA troops when they were forced to back down from their likely ambush at the saddle.
When the company was on the move again, this time even faster than before, I wondered about the circumstantial evidence I’d used to come up with the plan. If we succeeded in hitting the NVA hard, not getting hit hard ourselves, the Gunny would no doubt get the credit. If the operation was a complete failure and we took any casualties at all, then the whole thing would drop on me.
“Cowboy,” I transmitted, using the 323 handset, my heavy breathing making my words hard to understand. The pace of our approach down the mountainside resembled a loping run. Although the growth had increased, the natural trails around the trees and bamboo stands became more pronounced and easier to negotiate. Darkness was fast descending. I could no longer see the illuminated numbers through my melted watch face.
“Jacko back at you,” came over the radio. “Cowboy’s indisposed using these infernal instrument things.”
I told Jacko my plan. I could hear the Skyraider orbiting overhead, but I could also hear the growing roll and then staccato fire of automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the distance. The dark, the Skyraider, the NVA and the saddle were all about to collide and I realized there was no predicting what might happen. What if the enemy troops were set in too far back? That would put them behind the company. What if there was nobody there at all, although the chances of that were pretty slim given that live fire could be heard coming up the slope while we talked.
“We’re gonna lay down some CBU’s for you, so don’t go walking around or sunbathing out there in that open area when we’re gone. Some of that shit blows up later on. We’ll orbit up here for now. We can see the saddle area and some of the dispute going on over that resort property right now. When you want us to come zooming down just use the code words ‘Dale Arden.’”
“CBUs?” I whispered to Fusner, handing the handset back to him.
“Cluster bomb somethings,” Fusner replied.
My scout team had dropped all the way to the rear of the company by the time we stopped. I laid down on the flat cushioning surfaces of a fallen bamboo stand with Fusner on my left and Stevens, Zippo and Nguyen lining up along my right. The Gunny appeared, barely visible, in the low light. I slapped at mosquitoes before turning and squatting down with him.
“Fire one round of white phosphorus like before and Kilo will open up,” the Gunny said. “That will drive the NVA in front of us back. Then we’ll open up and they’ll run out into the open.”
I sat listening to the battle plan. It made no sense. Professor Hrncr, my ROTC instructor, had once taught a class on combat tactics. “Never shoot at your own men, unless you are all dead anyway,” he’d said. I wasn’t about to be behind the NVA taking Kilo’s fire if I could help it.
“No,” I said, as forcefully as I could.
“We open up. Kilo doesn’t fire at all. The NVA react by moving back onto the edge of the open area. Cowboy comes zooming down and drops cluster shit all over them. Let Kilo pick off the survivors. The survivors will head down slope but we don’t have time to set up anything for them as a reception party.”
“We could use the combined fire,” the Gunny said grudgingly after a few seconds.
“Our fire will be plunging down and almost none of it will get over where Kilo’s at,” I argued. “If Kilo opens up they’ll be shooting straight through this brush and we’re going to take plenty of hits. Screw the NVA. Let’s take care of our own.”
“You’re the company commander, Junior,” the Gunny said, a subliminal anger laying there deep between the words. “We’re out of time. Call the damned fire. I’ll tell the guys to open up.”
Fusner held the arty handset out. I called for the round to be put down on the same target as before. I then used the 323 to call Cowboy. Jacko indicated that they would be on target in five minutes and make a single run, releasing sixteen five hundred pounders and plenty of 20 millimeter cannon fire. The Willie Peter came in less than a minute later and the company opened up with so much tracer fire it looked like there was a moving bridge of fire extended out between the strung out company position and the thicket lining the back of the saddle’s open area. The cluster bombs sounded like huge popcorn kernels exploding, sometimes one or two and sometimes ten or twenty of them. I had my Colt out and I tried to see into the Stygian blackness in front of me. What if the NVA plunged backward instead of forward? They would run right over or through us, killing us as they went. My terror returned.
The sounds of combat deafened my ears and the brilliant bursts of light overloaded the rods and cones in my eyes. I realized I was blind, and then I could not hear. But I did feel the roar of the amazing night-flying Skyraider going by. It must have only been a few feet off the earth to transmit its deep propeller drone right into the ground. I felt the explosions and then the second roar of the plane’s 20 millimeter cannons swept by. I tried to talk to Fusner but nothing would come out of my throat. Fusner’s lips moved but there was no sound. I’d forgotten to make field ear plugs. Minutes passed and everything began to die down. The plane was gone, there were no more tracers and my hearing came back, although the ringing in both ears would be a long time in passing.
The Gunny was back. My night vision had not returned enough to see him. He grabbed my upper arm and squeezed to let me know he was there.
“Is it over?” I asked. “What happened? Did they run? Was there anybody there? Did we hit anybody?” My questions flew out, one after another, my adrenalin running so high that I felt the hairs sticking out on the back of my neck and on my forearms.
“Don’t know. There was a whole lot of movement. Get the damned Starlight Scope online just in case, not to mention it’d be a great time to get rid of the asshole lieutenant causing all this trouble. Nobody’s moving until first light. At least we’ll have the saddle to get medevac and supply.”
Medevac, I wondered, but had no time to ask as the Gunny was gone as suddenly as he’d appeared. I, my team and the company would have to lay in among the fronds and mud all night, waiting for dawn, before we could start hiking back to get our packs. I was more worried about how the Marines in my company would feel if they’d done all that work for nothing than I was of anyone coming in the night to kill me. If medevac was coming, then we’d taken casualties.
My scattered mind tried to reassemble itself into some sort of rational condition. Was that it? A whole battle. Just horrid loud sounds and flashes in the night? My left hand reached down to massage the single tiger letter that wasn’t written and not there yet. I didn’t have to massage the right pocket. I knew the morphine was there.
30 Days Home | Next Chapter >>
You capture the heart and soul of the fire fight, some small, short, others seemed to go on for ever. Days blended with nights. Sometimes, they would call ” guns up ” and by the time I got around over thru the ground cover it was all over. Other times, it just went on and on.
Thanks for not glorifying or making it sound heroic.
Movement anywhere was difficult under fire because the locations of the enemy
were varied, well hidden and many. Your words reveal that you were really in the
shit like so many of us. You can’t really know what it was like by the reading but
I am trying.
I was in USAF 366 TFW (Tac Fighter Wing) long after your time and far away from the jungle/bush at the Airbase, in “Bang Bang Danang, Clash of ’72” as I call it.
I was in POL (fuels)and, I swear to God felt like I squirted hundreds of aircraft from the little HH-43 “fire-bottles” and O-2A “suck & blows” all the way up to the Boeing 707-80 and the DC8-63 “Freedom birds” and everything in between. We did F-4Ds and E’s, “the fast-movers, OV-10 FACs, EC 47s AC119 “Stingers” HH-53E “Jolly Greens” their close air support A-1E “Spads” and so many others.
I was a young (even @ 22) airman, E-2, green as wet cement, fresh-poured out of fuel school. In all the work I did, I never really knew the Scope or impact of what I had to do, nor did I ever know what was happening in my “down-line” i.e. their target zones. I felt like all I did was “Squirt birds and Dodge Rockets” And Rockets we did dodge. I had a couple of Close calls myself and other VERRY close-calls by friends whose live were spared by Seconds.. Reading your post (this is the first one I detail-read)helped me gain just a microcosm of what happened after I got done with them. All I knew was to piss’em-up and git’em’gone. Thank you for giving me, even through a very small glimpse, a bit more of the bigger picture of what we really did to cover all of you who “needed it now” and got it. Thank you and, albeit a tad belated, Merry Christmas and a Great New Year!
Semper Fi From an Air Force Guy!
Wow. Quite an odyssey of life experience in fueling all those birds Keith. Another part of the war
gone unnoticed and little written about. The coordination and cooperation of the different military services
was sure evident in Vietnam and I think that’s transferred over to the modern era, although I am not sure.
A lot of it was simply good will on the part of so many service people. Thanks for caring about us down there
back then and today as well! It is a Merry Christmas, indeed, because of veterans like you!
My brother Mike was killed while serving in the 11th ACR, which prompted all of his brothers to serve multiple tours in the Army and Navy, and in one case, both. Two of us served until retirement.
I treasure your stories and deeply appreciate your narrative of real life in Vietnam. Thanks for communicating your story!
Thanks Gregory. You really went at if after your brother was killed. Mine served with me over there (he was Army though)
and didn’t make it either. Tough to lose a brother like that and it is still tough to this day.
Anyway, thanks for the boost and the sincerity of your response.
God bless you, Sir, and thanks.
Thanks Gregory. The men and women writing comments sure do help in working this through.
I thought it would be rather lonely writing exercise but it has not turned out that way
thanks to all the wonderful people who comment, like you.
Mike served with E/2/11 Blackhorse and died ten klicks from Trang Bang while moving to an OP by a mine.
I served 1971-1991, and in’73 aboard USS DULUTH on Yankee/Dixie Stations.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Did my best to get there, but we left too soon for that.
Thank you for sharing your story. I have laughed and cried as it goes on.
Please continue! I haven’t put this down waiting to know what’s next.
Gregory. I wrote it for you and for others who went and also those who did not.
I haven’t been writing to make anyone cry or laugh. That just kind of happens when
you are blasting away deep into the night, lost back in that strange Alice in Wonderland world
I could never figure out how it came to be, and with me right inside it. The vast crevasse from a rather
happy go-lucky childhood and formal education to that. Wow. I spent my entire tour adjusting and then laying there in
that Japanese hospital trying to ‘unadjust.’ Thank you for reading and giving me back stuff to consider and the motivation
to write on.
I wasn’t a grunt. I volunteered (involuntarily) for 3rd Recon. But our experiences are, at their core, the same. You found comfort and some sense of safety surrounded by your Marines. My solace was being in the company of three or four close friends hoping not to be discovered by an overwhelming enemy. Strangely, it was comforting to be in the company of several strong, silent men who were as frightened as I was, who did what they ordered to do without complaint.
I was primary radio and called arty and fixed wing. Quite a sense of omnipotence. Hated calling “danger close” although it happened frequently.
After fifty years (67-68) all that’s left are the memories, dreams and aches and pains.
Calling artillery down on the heads of enemies and friend alike is a damned complex and difficult undertaking. The death
and mayhem from this stuff was pretty shocking in effect. The more i used it the more I learned and the more close to it I grew
will growing more fearful of it. Thank you for this comment. Very cogent. And thanks for the support and the reading.
Thank you for reliving this for us James. I an truly at a loss for words.
Thanks Edward. It has come slow over the years so I thought I’d sit down and lay all this out before it is too late.
Actually, the manuscript that started it all I wrote back when I got out of the last hospital in 1971 but I left it lay
from closet bottom to closet bottom. Now I’ve got hold of it and not letting go. Thanks for the motivation to continue.
Semper fi and Merry Christmas.
I cannot wait until the next installment, even though I’m not a vet and never served, I do sympathize with the veterans of war, especially those from the Vietnam War and like to read about it. I was young while it was going on and remember watching it on T.V.and knowing a few vets that returned from it. You all have my respect and gratitude.
Thank you Scott. Know that real combat veterans hold no grudge against the guys who either could not or would not go. Because you are here to
have a dialogue and secondly because what good would it have done you to go through what they went through even if you lived to write about it?
Combat veterans do not seek to expand their ranks. Thanks and I am glad you are reading and saying something about it and you.
Thanks for a great story. I was in Country ’68-’69 with Mike 4/11. This brings back some memories. I look forward to reading the rest of your stories, and book.
Merry Christmas Ron and thank you for writing in. I will update the segments as we go through the rest of December
and should have the first book ready for Amazon by January something. I’m new at this and kind of running in single harness so
be patient. And thank you, of course.
Merry Christmas James , and thank you for sharing your experiences . I appreciate your writing skills and your willingness to share said experiences .
Thank you Fred, for taking the time to say something.
Comments on Internet stuff are uncommon. I am very happy that you
are enjoying the story.
I served with the 1ST Air Cav 1967-1968. I too fought in the Ah Shau valley. Your writings bring back a lot of memories.I have missed some of the writings and would like to know if its in book form to read the whole story.
Here is the link to the rest of the story Don. You are correct in that most people accessing the particular segments of the story would find it easy to find the rest. Now each segment will offer a button to click to the next chapter. Thanks for helping us out by pointing this out. The link to the rest of the story is: https://jamesstrauss.com/thirty-days-has-september/
Thank you for sharing the comment, Don.
All of the “Chapters” are on this page
Thirty Days Has September
Also trying to put a button on bottom of each chapter to move on to the next.
The First 10 Days will be published paperback and Kindle around mid January.
Sign up for update newsletter so you do not miss the announcements.
Thank you, great writing,looking forward for the next chapter.
That would be today, Don.
Thanks for the comments. I am working on the next segment just now.
I wasn’t there but have always regretted that I didn’t get to pull my share of the load.I have nothing but respect and thanks.I have my issues from my time in fire service but my shifts where 24 hours, yours where 13 months. Thanks for writing this.
Merry Christmas Robert and thank you for taking a few minutes to comment here.
And it is nice that you are here at all, as so many are not because of that service.
You should not beat yourself up over not being there in the thick of it though. That
had a helluva lot more to do w with circumstance than with deliberation, no doubt.
I invariably attempt to compose my comment immediately after reading the segment for the first time. I invariably fail. My emotions are raw. My thoughts totally jumbled. I try to write, and it’s gibberish. I can’t even recognize it as my own writing. I feel within me the panic set in that would accompany your head-long rush down that hill. Soldiers throughout history cause their own stampede as their backwards motion turns into a flight that undoes all thought but escape. Whatever is back there can’t be as bad as what’s coming. Yet you stop. “My terror was back.
I realized I was blind, and then I could not hear. The sounds of combat deafened my ears”. Not only required to curb your own doubts, but to argue your not-even-confident plan to the Gunny, and accepting the “damned if I do and fucked if I don’t” reality. The bald fact that you can, and do, recall these events with such clarity is testimony to the ferocity of the flame that burned them into your brain. You should never have to explain or apologize why that brain is imprinted with the scars of war.
Again, John Conway writes on like the moving of that immutable hand of time.
Thank you for the usual erudite revealing of your rather high powered and long-experienced intellect.
You don’t have to explain out here, in this phenomenal world we came back to.
You have to hide.
You don’t have to apologize because no apology can be accepted for something not understood.
The story reveals me to a degree I had not counted on.
It is easier to recite it than read it again and relive it. By telling it I don’t relive it.
It just comes out and then I can move on.
By editing and working with the material I relive it and then get stuck.
I am stuck right now on Eighth Night Second part because I am reflecting on how I could have been
so stupid as to not see what was coming.
The scars remain over the depth of the searing burns and I know they are not going away.
I can deal with themas I have come to know how. The torso scars are easy because I never ever take off my shirt among people.
The scars of the mind are invisible but harder to hide.
Society has become quite adroit at probing to find every weakness.
Google reveals all but only in the harshest and most awful of perspectives.
For example; my medals were mine and then stolen by the media, and then mine again for a bit.
Then stolen again. Finally, at least for now, they are mine again, but the history of their being
taken away without being given back is all there.
Three take a ways win because the take backs remain unknown and unseen.
I have my Purple Heart license plate that was deemed to be phony
but then not when the records finally were surfaced.
So I’ve got that going for me.
It is every so much better to be a combat veteran in disguise and hidden away.
My one fear in writing the story was not that I would not be believed.
It is that I will be outed as being real…
and then have to be killed off again to make certain I am out of play….
Thank you my friend,
Made two trips into the “Valley of Death” with the 101st. This wS after they said no more US troups in there. .
The 101st was and remains a great outfit. Glad you made it in and out of there twice.
Thanks for telling it here.
Thanks for your service and for putting into works what so many of us have felt. As I read your story it takes me back to my time in country. Rarely a day goes back that I do not think of that time. It helps reading about your time there. Keep it up!
Thank you Jimmy. I am glad to be of some help in this day and age, so many years after.
It all stays right there in front on us, those who were really in it, but almost impossible
to tell people who didn’t go or didn’t serve.
Thanks for commenting and reading.
Did you mean spider monkey rather than spiker monkey?
Of course, Mark. Just learned how to turn off spell assist or whatever the hell that program is in Word. Assist, my ass.
Facebook does the same thing know and it’s antagonizing, to say the least.
Thanks for pointing that out, though, and the reading of the story too.
I’m reading each installment at least twice. There’s so much there, can’t get it all the first time. Good job. I’m wondering how big the market may be for this book. How many like me out there.
Vern. I think you are existing in rather rarified air up here with me. I think Thirty Days will appeal to men who’ve gone, and those who wonder what it might really be like to just drop into the center of a way zone. Aside from that audience, I don’t think the interest will be huge. This site gets about five thousand readers a day so the audience is not small but I don’t think it’s really huge either. We’ll see when the book itself, The First Ten Days, comes out in January. Thanks for your interest and support and the speculation about some success (even though I really don’t much get all excited about publishing anything anymore).
I feel numb. God that was an exciting scene!
Short comment, but certainly to the point. Don’t know what to say, except thanks a whole lot.
I am working on the Eighth Night Second Part this very night.
> Still here, just maintaining radio silence ’till I have something useful to contribute.
> Please keep writing – based on so many of the comments, I truly believe you’re continuing to do something so valuable for so many – possibly more so than you might realize.
> Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, Marine!
Tim. Cool Hand Luke. Just sitting there. Maintaining radio silence. I like it.
You are useful in your silent contemplation, now that I know you are there. Thank you.
Sometime the cold of night can only be warmed by the soft radiance of unseen others. Like you.
Really bringing back stuff I haven’t thought of in along time. I just started remembering all the smells and sounds at night.
You are an old hand at some of this. I feel it from your other writings. I guess most of us alive
now are old hands in one way or another. Dragging all that baggage along with us through life.
Thanks for being what you are and when you are. I know you.
Before I headed to the RVN I was stationed at Travis AFB for about 9 months. I worked in Special Handling. I was an interesting field, Handling Class A,B and C explosives and various other material. There’s one part of it that has haunted me for years. I had the honor of handling KIA’s from Nam. It wasn’t like it is now. No flag covered aluminum transfer cases. No honor guard. No family to meet them. Just me to receive them into a storage area until the Army Mortuary arrived to pick them up. Stacked them in an enclosed 1 1/2 ton truck like cord wood. I recorded each name in a log book and, at the time, was the only airman that would open the container if I was asked to from the Mortuary folks. Hundreds a month. I could and can only imagine the horrific encounters these men that had met their death in that far away land. I cried for so long asking God “Why?”. I dropped to 135lbs, had a hard time eating because of the embalming smell that got on my hands.
When I arrived in-country I already had an idea what to expect.
I enjoy reading your work. It brings back memories that I had buried but don’t deny them anymore. Please keep it up and “Semper Fi” from an airman.
It is good that men like you, with hearts and real minds, stood in guard over those men.
It is good to know that men like you did this, even for those of us who came through the wringer alive. Maybe better for use to know.
Thank you here for this rendition of what it must have been like to be that receiving person on the other end. The final end.
Thank you for all those guys and for us, who are still here, and very much care about what happened to guys as true blue as you.
Bringing up memories, sounds and smells from flying in the Ashau in 1969 with the 101st ABN, Black Widows. Have buried it. Just turned 70, but feel now is the time to reflect. Thanks for bringing it back. PS Thanks for compliments toward the Army helicopter pilots.
John. Trying to lay it down the way it went down and the Army being a class act back then
was a part of that. Just the way it was. My brother was Army and sometimes I would get the feeling that
the Army was treating me well because of his service, but that was ridiculous, of course.
Anyway, thanks for the great comment and your support.
I’ve been following your story and its mesmerizing!! I feel like I’m right there with you! Not a vet but know many and listen intently to anyone that can talk about it!! I can’t wait for the next chapter!!!!
Thanks Mike. Means a lot. Glad, as a non-vet, you have the kind of intellect big enough to pick up the nuances of reality in this work.
It’s not hard to write. It’s hard to live with the writing because sometimes I sit here and don’t want to write this next part.
I want to write something of honor, discipline, order and truth….but I was living such a horrendous series of dishonorable lies to survive back
Anyone that tells you that they did not experience that same emotion was either not there or lying through there teeth. Nothing to be ashamed of marine. God bless and merry Christmas to you and yours.
I’m okay with most all of it now. I got through to wherever the hell I am now. But I don’t drink or take drugs anymore
because the pain of it all dimmed over time. Oh, sometimes it comes cascading back but I am able to turn it aside now
and keep moving. Thanks for the support and for the reading.
Jim, this reply sent me into a tail spin! I feel your angst and perhaps some anger in your voice. But remember survival was your purpose way back then. Now you are sharing that with us and you are doing that with “honor, discipline, order and truth”. Never doubt yourself and your mission. Thanks for sharing and yours service!
Thanks for the supporting note Bill. I am trying to get the balance right. You are correct,
things changed a bit over the years in mental orientation. I can imagine what I was like back then
but imagining is not quite the same as what the reality was. There is some fiction to all memory
work as we get to gaps and then write over them.
Thanks for the time and trouble and the support, of course.
As I said I was in CAG teams, we pulled a lot of night ambushes. Sometimes the fog made everything so scary, just before dawn,after a fight. Never knew who crawled the wrong way trying to get away from death. Some of the ambushes were on moonless nights, that was f**ked up. Still have intense dreams about some of them. By the way, a shotgun was T.O. For each team. The “grease gun” was just on the wall at 2nd CAG HQ armory. Being a lefty the M16 threw brass in my face and down my shirt. A lot of talking, lying, and trading later I had a heavy load out and an old WW 2 weapon. Bad dreams man. SF, Butch
Thanks Butch. Jeez I had forgotten about the lefty ejection problems with the 16! Absolutely.
Our left handers had to shoot right and that was not good. We had no shotguns or any other weapons we did not
find (like AKs) or get in supply. Sorry about those bad dreams. Hope your association on here helps with some of that.
We are all out here like you, and not alone unless we choose to be alone.
Was CAG from Feb 69 thru Aug 69. Rain, fog, night where moon was so bright you could see and be seen for 100s of yards. All this brings back the feelings, sounds, and the rest of the bad stuff. Glad you made it back and that you appear to be doing OK.
Take care my brother, Semper Fi
USMC 68/68. CAP Tango 2, CAP 3/4/2. C co 1/5 .
Funny they called CAG “civil affairs.” How about “get your ass shot off on your own out there” group.
CAG work could be absolutely boring and lonely or intensely frightening. I am working away it it here.
While I am not a Vietnam Veteran, I did serve for 7 years(1975-1982), 3 Army(ARTY/FDC) and 4 USAF Crash/Fire/Rescue. I just wanted to tell you that I have read several of your posts and feel like I am there with you in the jungle, probably 99% your writing skills and 1% my imagination. I have problems with concentrating on reading due to PTSD from the 28 years of being a fireman. But I find no issues staying on target while reading your installments from your time in combat. If it was a movie, I would be sitting on the edge of my seat, through the whole thing. Keep writing, I believe it is helping all who read it as well as you for putting it out there.
It is my pleasure to be allowed to ‘reach’ you, so to speak. I had hoped, when I started writing,
that the things that happened, so different from what is put out there in the media, might resonate
with the guys who were really out there. That has been happening. They guys who were really in the shit,
one and all, get it and understand and are moved because they could not find it in themselves to say that
stuff or if they did it was not believed. Thank you for making me feel like I am doing something good
Just FYI, the A1E in the photo was lost to enemy ground fire April 8, 1966 just west of Danang – very likely providing the same kind of ground support you describe. The good news – the pilot bailed out and was rescued.
Rick Steans – Pleiku AB 1966
Hey, thanks. Needless to say, nobody in our company had a photo that I ever knew of so we took this off the Internet.
The update is meaningful and so much like the reality of what we faced.
thanks for telling like it was
Thank you Mitch. Obviously, you were there. For those who do not or are not able to speak or write about what happened
I hope my work serves to let them know that they are not alone in telling the real hard stories of combat to an unbelieving
public. It can be a very lonely thing to be real combat veteran, especially in later years, unable to adapt to just how
unbelievably unreal the land of the round eyes really is!
Combat is not a grand adventure. It’s a killing place that either kills you physically or, if you survive, then mentally through the rest of your years.
That pretty much says it all in a nutshell. I find myself searching and usually find it before the Email notification. Keep at it as many more need to understand what the troops were dealing with.
Thanks for taking the time and trouble to excerpt from the manuscript. That’a pretty big compliment and I thank you for that.
You are correct, as is that statement. Very few of us were able to put the pieces back together in order to have some sort of
real life back in the unreal world where we all live.
Best combat memoirs in years. Well done!
Thank you Joe! It’s comments, even as laconic as yours, that kind of keep me going in down moments.
Although telling the story is interesting and different it’s also emotionally difficult. Thanks for being
there and saying something.
We’re here. On knife’s edge. Keep writing. We got your back….
Thanks Ed, kind of vital when I am about this kind of work.
I do expect some knifes to come out from somewhere.
Appreciate the backup and support…
Cannot wait for the next installment. Cliffhanger! I sorta wished for more lengthy exposition on the battle at the end, but I get the fog of war scenario and not knowing exactly what happened. Maybe you can post describe what the battle unfolded like in the next installment. Lovin’ it. So gritty.
That will come when dawn breaks. When you are in the battle or incident at night, however, there’s almost no way to figure out what the hells going on except right in front of you and in the jungle that makes it all the more difficult. I wrote it as it happened, not as I hypothesized it might, but the next morning revealed all of it and you get that too but a bit later. The second part of the night is not over yet.
Thanks for staying right with the action and the dialogue. I’m on it.
James. I have told all my Marines and friends about your writings. I am extremely proud to let them know about your writings. Semper Fi.
Dean. I cannot thank you enough. About all I have to keep me going is the comments from the real guys who know and care or even just the guys who
care about the reality of the combat rather than the hyped and usually misconstrued heroism. Combat is not a grand adventure. It’s a killing place that either kills you physically or, if you survive, then mentally through the rest of your years…
Thanks for the sincere and well-meant comment. Merry Christmas.