Relief flooded through me. It was over. I’d survived another of what my team called ‘fire fights’. There was no way to adjust to the change from combat to whatever this was. It was still dark. My ears still rang. But with my night vision returning, I could vaguely see a moon above the ever-present clouds. There was no rain or mist. Just the quiet after the raging sounds of screaming combat with tracers, bullets and explosions blasting the air everywhere. I hadn’t lain in the muck watching for movement, or looking for an enemy who might be attacking at any second. I’d lain face-down like that very first night, my eyes squeezed shut and my face buried in jungle debris and mud. But it was over. I got to my feet and unkinked my shoulders, hips and knees.
The scout unit formed around me, Fusner standing at my side and Zippo moving around absently trying to clear his ears by sticking his fingers in them and shaking his head. I looked up, wondering how to spend a night in the bush with nothing. I’d left all of my stuff back up on the ridge. I wasn’t at all ready, physically or mentally, to be struck by a fast-moving freight train of a Marine Gunnery Sergeant. I flew through the air, the Gunny’s shoulder buried in my right side as he dug his boots into the cloying muck. The weight of his body drove me down hard onto a bed of fern fronds and rough-edged branches. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t breathe even when he sat back and stared down at me, his anger all but paralyzing. Holding my sides I waited, panicked that I would never get my breath back.
“You dumb fucking new guy asshole,” the Gunny hissed at me, his face coming down to only inches above my own. “This is the same goddamned move you pulled when I saw you get off that chopper. I knew you were bad news then and you’re bad news now. You think this is over? Nine or eighteen holes and we all turn in our clubs and get showered up for the drive home?”
My chest heaved and I got in one sucking breath. It was enough to stay conscious to hear the Gunny go on.
“We’re not fighting gooks, VC, or the wooden soldiers in some toy movie. We’re engaged with the North Vietnamese Army and there’s no quit in these assholes. I wish they were Marines of mine, for fuck’s sake.”
The Gunny jerked back and up, bouncing to his feet. I noted that the whole scout team was back to being buried as deep as they could get in the mud, more to avoid the wrath of the Gunny than in fear of the enemy.
“That battery might not be able to do much for us, but they can sure as hell give us some illumination for what’s coming,” the Gunny said. “Get us some light and get the mud cleaned out of your weapon. This fucking night is a long way from over.”
“Sorry, Gunny,” I whispered hoarsely, finally getting my breath back but still trembling slightly at the likelihood that the enemy was nearby.
“They got hit hard,” the Gunny said. “When they get hit hard they counter attack, so get ready and get the goddamned place lit up.”
I rolled over and reached out for where I thought Fusner had to be close by. He was there. The handset was in my muddy fingers. I still held my .45 in the other but it was a black mass I couldn’t really see. I clicked it on safety and jammed the muddy thing into my holster.
“Fire mission, over,” I called, hoping Fusner had the frequency right and that the Army battery would recognize who was calling and not require all the registration crap again. I knew Illumination rounds were the most restricted fire missions because of where the uncontrollable canisters might fall.
I oriented myself. I didn’t want to take out my map because the little pencil of light might give away our position. I took a few seconds to think and try to approximate our position. We’d come pall mall down the slope, heading directly north about two thousand meters, maybe a bit more. We were not on the gun target line anymore so it didn’t matter where the canisters holding the little burning parachute loads might land.
I asked for an adjustment to the last round I’d called in. I moved the round two hundred meters right, which would be correct from where we were the last time I’d called in. Two hundred meters should be close to the edge of the clearing but it was anybody’s guess in the dark. The Starlight scope was useless amid the dense foliage and nobody was going to head into the open area in the dark.
The round came bursting above the jungle, completely visible in all of its amazing technicolor splendor. The explosion went off, and then the white phosphorus draped down like the tines of a giant umbrella. The night sparkled with the sound of the round going off, booming seconds after it exploded.
I called for illumination up and down the edge of the clearing, figuring it was about a thousand meters from one end of the saddle to the other. One round every minute every hundred meters. The shells started coming in and Kilo company opened up from far in the distance. I hugged the mud, pressing myself into it, the sounds of distant small arms different than it had been. I realized that Kilo was firing directly at us but the rounds were impacting the thick jungle between the company and the clearing. Most of them. The sounds were sharp cracks instead of what I had become used to. The few rounds that got through were enough. They sounded like fast moving slivers in the night. No ricochets from the movies. Just hyper-fast flying and invisible snakes going by above my head. I realized then that the illumination rounds had not been for our company. They were to illuminate the open area so Kilo could see the working, withdrawing or reforming enemy before they could get under proper cover and concealment again. I hoped fervently that Kilo was killing them all.
And then I remembered my Colt. I pulled it out and checked it as carefully as I could. The muzzle was jammed with mud. How the hell was I supposed to clear that? My little finger would barely fit into the very end of the barrel. I could not field strip the weapon in the dark. There was only one thing to do. I removed the magazine and stuck it into my pocket to keep it clean, and then ejected the round from the chamber. I took out my pen and began pushing it through the barrel from the tip. A minute later I thought the thing was probably clear enough. I put the extra round in my mouth and swirled it around. It tasted awful. I pulled it out, spit deeply and took out the magazine. I pushed the wet round into the top of the magazine, reinserted it into the butt, chambered the round and clicked the safety on.
A running shape appeared before me. I didn’t recognize what or who it was although I saw the faint light gleaming off a pair of shiny rimmed glasses. I drew the gun smoothly and aimed the Colt .45 at his center of mass, and pulled the trigger. Nothing. I tried pulling harder but the shape disappeared. I heard shots nearby but concentrated my attention on the gun. I realized that the gun was on safe. I clicked the safety off and thought glumly about the apparition that had appeared before me. If it had been the enemy, and who else could it have been, then I was more than lucky to be alive. If I’d been killed, I wondered if anyone would have taken a few seconds to figure out that I’d been killed because I was too dumb to click my own safety off.
I waited. My scout team, nearby, waited with me. The illumination rounds continued until ten had been delivered, the whirring of the canisters eerie in the night. There would be a sudden pop, and then the whirring would start and run for a few seconds until a thud indicated that the forty-pound metal container had hit the mud. I yearned for daylight or a Starlight scope I could wear like a pair of glasses. Waiting in the dark for the enemy to come was painstakingly awful — second by second, minute by minute, with only the mild wind sweeping the tops of the trees to pass the time or make any sound.
After what seemed like hours the Gunny found me. How he knew how to get around in the mess of night combat, jungle and cloying mud was beyond me. I could read a map like there was no tomorrow but I had no idea where I really was in the company.
“We’ve got to form a perimeter for the night,” the Gunny said in a low voice. “They’re done. Kilo ripped them a new asshole. They’ll be back though, and they know right where we are. We can’t stay in a line with our tits and asses hanging out all over the place.”
The Gunny was right. I couldn’t believe how slow my mind was working. The Gunny had told me on that first day, after the first night, that I’d be able to function but nobody would listen to what I said. I now understood. I was caught seconds behind the real world cascading in front of me. I had to somehow catch up. Perimeter. Dig in. Night defensive fires. Ammo check. Commo check. I knew that without the Gunny I’d have laid there all night, waiting for the comfort of a coming dawn that had every chance of never coming.
I got to my feet but stayed hunched over. I followed Stevens with Fusner just behind me, as usual. After twenty yards of bulling through heavy brush it became easier going. Stevens ran into the Gunny’s back and then I ran into Steven’s back. Fusner was quicker and stopped in time.
“Here,” the Gunny said. “Just hunker down. We took some casualties and the docs are hauling one over. He’s hit bad. Take a look at him. I’m going to check the line.” The Gunny was gone for several minutes before a group of men came out of the brush nearby. I realized I had no protection at all except the .45 still gripped so tightly in my right hand that my whole arm ached.
I forced my hand to relax a bit. My whole body seemed to sag with the arm as it relaxed. My holster, filled with dirt, would have to do. I plunged the Colt .45 into it, feeling the squish of it adjusting to whatever muck was pushed into the leather with it. If Jurgens or Sugar Daddy were coming in this night, then I was a dead man for sure, and my Colt .45 wasn’t going to change anything. I squatted down from fatigue, my body a mess of pain. My side hurt like hell where the Gunny had struck. My legs ached from the forced march and I could not get rid of the hand shake that had come back. At least it was night, I thought, and nobody can see the shaking. I massaged some nearby branches instead of my hurting thighs.
Two corpsmen laid out a poncho. The poncho contained a Marine. One of the corpsmen knelt down on his knees beside me. “No chance, sir. Won’t be a medevac until dawn and this is a zero life situation.”
I stared into the corpsman’s eyes but he said nothing further. After a few more seconds he got up to leave. “Might want these,” he said. “The kid got him but then the grenade went off. Spoils of war, if you want to record them.”
I accepted the bandana of goods, reminded of the woman’s face looking up at the chopper and the bloody mess of her stuff right afterward. I handed the goods to Fusner and approached the Marine. I knelt beside him on the poncho liner before realizing he wasn’t all there. Half his body was gone. He had no legs or anything legs might attach to. I looked up to try to catch the attention of the corpsmen but they were gone. The Marine had to be dead.
“Who are you?” a raspy voice asked.
I sucked in my breath. The words had come from the body.
“Ah, I’m ah, Junior,” I blurted out, wanting to curse myself for saying the word.
“The crazy man,” the voice said. I leaned down toward the Marine’s face to listen more closely, and not look at his lower body.
“Can you fix me up, crazy man?” he said. “Can you put me back together like Humpty Dumpty?”
I didn’t know what to say. “What’s your name?” I got out in desperation.
“Alfonso, Lance Corporal,” he said. “But they call me Alfie.”
A moaning sound came low from Alfie’s throat. I waited half a minute for him to say something more. “The pain,” he gasped out. “So bad.” Another long moan.
I didn’t think about anything. All thoughts of waiting the night through with Alfie disappeared from my mind. I eased my right hand from the butt of the Colt down to the outer pocket of my right leg. As if on its own, my hand pulled the morphine packet out and joined my other hand in getting the syrettes unfolded and revealed. I was more watching myself work than thinking anything through.
Alfie started to talk again, so I waited, kneeling and patient, my own pains forgotten as I listened to the story of the boy’s life. How his mother, father and cocker spaniel dog were waiting for him to come home a war hero. He was from a farm in California. A wave of pain overwhelmed him for a few seconds before he went on. He played the piano and was so happy the wounds had not hurt his hands. I waited for the next excruciating wave of pain to come over him, while carefully removing four syrettes from the pack, feeling each one to get it right.
When Alfie stopped moaning again I squeezed the first into the muscles under his right arm. And then I just kept going, The boy recovered again, and then continued his story about how hard it was to do farming chores and go to school at the same time. The fourth syrette was in and yet the boy talked on. I stopped listening to him, instead drawing myself closer until I was lying beside him and hugging him with my head buried in his neck.
“Thanks, Junior,” he said, his voice very faint. After a few more breaths he went still.
I backed away and sat with my butt flat in the mud, looking at what I could see of the boy’s unmoving body in the mud. I looked around but there was nobody there. For only the second time Fusner was gone too. I was alone. With the boy. I moved to wrap the remaining supply of morphine up and tuck it back into my special pocket. I wondered, if I got back to the Basic School, if I could tell them that a short course in teaching what I’d just experienced might be in order, but then I gave that thought up. I was never going back to the Basic School and I knew it.
I rose to my feet and moved to the little open area where the Gunny had led us. My team sat in a circle, smoking cigarettes. Fusner handed one up to me and I took it.
“Is he gone yet?” he asked.
I slid down next to him, inhaling the cigarette without coughing for the first time. I handed it back to him. “Yeah,” I said.
Fusner handed me the little bag of personal stuff taken from the NVA soldier he’d killed before the soldier killed him. I slowly unwrapped it, wondering what the enemy carried with them. I didn’t get far before a pair of glasses fell to the mud. I plucked them up and examined them. Pointed gold rims gleamed out.
“Oh, Christ,” I said, feeling like I’d been hit in the chest, and then the head, with a brick.
“What?” Fusner asked, with a tone of concern in his voice.
I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t tell the truth and I couldn’t think of a lie. I’d killed Alfie when I’d failed to get the safety off of my .45. The soldier had moved by and then tossed the grenade at the kid. Then I’d killed Alfie for a second time with the morphine. I looked around at my team in the dark, ignoring the mosquitoes that were biting me in the face and on the backs of my hands. I could feel nothing, and I could never tell a living soul about killing Alfie twice.
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“I removed the magazine and stuck it into my pocket to keep it clean, and then ejected the round from the chamber. The slide stayed back, held by the detent snapping up for just that purpose.”
Slide on a 1911 won’t automatically lock back on an empty chamber after you take the magazine out unless you manually push up on the slide lock. The magazine follower is what pushes up on the slide lock to lock the slide back after the last round in the magazine is fired. Junior had already taken the magazine out.
That is true, the magazine detent will hold the slide back after the last round is expended but
once the magazine is removed the slide will return to battery.
Thanks for the observant correction.
Thanks for having the sharp eye and reading so carefully.
Noted and corrected.
No prob, James. I’m enjoying the read from the beginning. What unit were you with in VN? Can you say? I’m just a youngster but worked with a lot of VN vets on the PD. My cousin was with 2/9, I think just before Tet. I know he was at Con Thien right after it was overrun. Another guy I worked with was at Khe Sanh and is mentioned in “Siege In The Clouds”. Thanks for the compelling read.
You left the safety on, I was an 0331 M 60 gunner, I put the gas piston in backwards, didn’t find out until they called guns up, my M60 was a single shot!!!! Serious F@&$k up. It was a single sniper, 1 shot, 1 kill. We never saw or found him or her. I understand what you talked about. Some talk about guilt, I think we felt it. Some things just never go away. Take care my brother.
The emotions run so high the small things, that turn into huge things, go to shit.
I had heard of that gas piston thing before but never operated a 60 myself. I remember
the barrel changes too and nobody ever having the asbestos mitt when it was needed.
Those things got hot real fast. Thanks for your work. Artillery and M60s were our
main staple over there.
James,started reading long into last nite and again the last 4 hrs.You sure can write and I’m not a reader ,get bored too easy. I can relate some. I was in Nam in 69-70 Golf 2/7 1 st Marines. Mos was o331. Only thing I remember was getting off Comm flight at Da Nang.Next thing I was standing in formation at L Z Baldy. Golf was in from bush getting FNGs and I was scared shitless.They need 3 gunners and me being the fourth guy they put me in mortor platoon. I didn’t recieve enough training in the m 60 let along the 60 mike mike.I was lost and scared. So they made me ammo humper.Another thing that scared me was handing me a toy rifle made by Matel, looked like. Shot expert in boot with M14.Not like your experence,I lucked all the way through.Some more later . really enjoy your works.Semper Fi
The experience you write of catches not only the mood but the reality of going from the phenomenal world
to the one of combat reality. There’s no describing how that transition goes down on a general basis because it
was so different for each one of us. You give us some of the naked fear that dominates everything but has no place
in the training at all. Thanks for sharing and for reading as best you can.
Another gut punch of reality. Every action has a reaction. Everything you do and don’t do has a consequence. But you have to do something. So what do you do? Do you just try to survive? You’re not born into this world a killer. You have to be taught to kill. And how well you learn determines weather you live or die. Your writing makes me question myself. Would I survive? Would I get killed? Would I kill? Would I get someone killed? I’ll never have the answers to my questions. But I do have you and men like you who have been out to the edge. And thanks to you and men like you I have reports from the edge. More gut punches of reality.
I didn’t know I was at the edge. I knew I was going to die and knew that it was imminent but did not
think of it as anything but maybe an awful unjust and unlikely fate after what I had always known.
Many of my thoughts were reactionary and not planned at all. I did not think of my mistakes as
real mistakes. I thought of them as choices I could have made better and then moved on, until later, much later.
I have been following your story from the start and just wanted to thank you for the insight into Vietnam. I have family members who served in the Marines in Nam that never talk about their experiences and your story has helped me better understand.
Yes Josh, it can a damned difficult subject to discuss because it’s not all very believable and,
should a combat veteran ever favor you with the truth, it might appear that
he or she is seeking sympathy or pity instead of simply reciting what in hell happened and how
it could have all been so unexpected, unreal and of course unwelcome!
Thank you for your interest and your reading, and the comment too….
Dear Jim, Your Company sounds a little FUBAR but I’m pretty sure that even in The Nam Marine Capt. would only come to you from Annapolis not from West Point, just saying….?
Les, I only know it as it was the way it was.
He was far from being the last Poiner I’d meet in the corps,
and I don’t know what your own experience in the corps has been.
The Annapolis graduates were more plentiful but the Pointers were there.
1st brigade 101’st we were a blocking force in the mountains outside the Ashau april 68 and we spent while the marines and 1’st cav were sweeping the valley. We were out there 52 day’s straight before we ever even saw a firebase or rear. Another op. we wen’t into the valley couple slick’s were shot down. That whole area of op the valley and the mountains was very scary and crawling with NVA. Your article here reminded me of it. Semper-fi Marine.
The different units that fought together and apart in that damned valley Tim. Some were close by and I wouldn’t even know they were there because
communication was so lousy from place to place and unit to unit. Battalion command never came down into the valley so it was at time impossible to figure out what was going on except by communicating with the other combat units and usually they didn’t have a clue either. Thanks for the comment and your support.
good read james…just stumbled into this post..brought back memories…from your book down in the valley?
Down in the valley came later Rodger, after I’d healed up from the Corps and the
CIA came calling. I worked as a field agent for many years. Thirty Days preceded Down in the Valley
by a lot of years but the valley is pretty accurate from what happened on that failed mission too.
Thanks for ‘stumbling into’ this story, leading you to take the effort to write a comment.
Most people don’t comment and that’s okay. I understand. I just happened to work at writing long enough
that I got kinda good at it.
Thanks James…sorry for my lack of info..is 30days a book that is available? short story for a magazine?..did an online search for 30days and didn’t find anything…thanks
The first book of the Thirty Das Has September series is being put together for Amazon now.
The books will be three in series.
The First Ten Days should be out in February as I finish the Tenth Day,
(I am on the Ninth Day Second Part) in the writing of it.
Then I will continue in this odd way of publishing continuing chapters online
prior to publishing the book.
That is against all advice in the business but then the publishing business went to hell in
a hand bag a few years ago so there really are no rules left.
What the hell.
I didn’t start out to publish a book or a series of them, but it seems the right thing to do.
Here I am writing away.
Thanks for the interest.
https://jamesstrauss.com will have all the data to find the book
and get it if you want it.
many thanks for the info…will get it for sure..RVN 66-67
Roger that Rodger! I will sure have it up here when we are ready.
Mr. Strauss, I read everything from First Day. I have no word or words to convey to you my gratitude. I was a lucky one. Drafted into the Army in ’72 and spent both years stateside. I have a hard time admitting to being a “veteran” because of what I did not have to do and what guys like you did. I don’t know you but I sure am proud of you and your resilience in such a terrifying environment. Thank you for doing what you had to do. I am in awe of you and your men, you are true heroes. This country better be damn glad there are warriors such as you. May G_d bless you all the days of your life. Michael Mark
I guess nobody could ask for a higher compliment and so I humbly accept that gift from you.
I cannot claim a stake in the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I can only write it the way I remember it
and have assembled from the stuff I sent back.
Over the years there has to be a shading of that ‘truth’ in the work
so I do not want to mislead anyone reading this.
The first book will be published as a novel and not as a recording
For one thing, some of the things that happened are fairly reprehensible
and offend the sensibilities of people reading it and not literally fighting for life.
I’m doing the best I can to include all that and still not totally offend too many people.
Thanks for the support and comment, of course.
keep up the story line as you remember it ….from an old grunt Semper Fi That A Shau Valley was hell….no other way to describe all that entered it came back changed …the NVA WERE NO DUMMIES…..
You could not be more correct Tony. You were there. It was something else again.
The most beautiful place until you stepped past the threshold and started down.
The only safety at all was on the mountain tops and ridges but there were fought over
to the death, and then there was the hell going on down below and the difficulties of getting
anything in or out of there.
Thanks for the comment and support…fellow traveler.
What’s with the people correcting your Grammar? What crap! I was in the sky but the nite terrified me. I would count seconds to dawn. Merry Christmas James.
I too counted the seconds under my breath. One one thousand. For some reason it helped to get me to the light again, alive.
So many people went to the conflicts but then did not end up in the shit. They don’t know about the real crippling fear
or the wanton naked hope for a tomorrow. Any tomorrow.
Who are these people that keep correcting your Grammer? What crap!I was in the sky but the nite terrified me I’d count seconds till dawn. Merry Christmas James.
I’ve been reading this saga from the first day it popped up on my phone. I wait impatiently for each new portion to be revealed. You have sucked me into your story, James, and I can’t wait for the next dawn to come.
I was too young for Vietnam, but had a brother in the army during that time, on a buffer team based in Hawaii, awaiting deployment, so I remember watching the news every night in hopes of seeing a familiar face, seeing casualties being loaded into the choppers, and hoping he was not one of them. Turns out he never got sent over, and that’s ok with us, but I feel for you, & the others who DID have to experience it.
Thank you for your service, and your sacrifice.
Thanks, to ALL of you.
Well, Joel, what can I say. Thank you for reading the work with such interest.
Keeps me going, knowing there are people out there who actually give a damn about what happened so long ago.
I am glad your brother didn’t go and I hope you have a great relationship to this day.
It was a strange and difficult time and I am doing my best to portray it as it went down,
instead of how it should have gone down.
Thanks a lot.
tuck it should be tucked it and Gunny says later I’m going to go. He might have said I’m gonna go? Not sure cloying is the correct adjective to describe mud. There was another spot where the word whole was used . Not sure if that was your intended descriptor. Excellent writing. Not fun when someone dies and you could have prevented it or done more. Thank you for writing your experiences and damm you for doing the same.
Yes, to all Mark. Editing is a bitch! That’s where you go back and not only fix the mistakes but attempt to
fashion the words to better transmit the meaning. It’s hard to get it just right without spending hours upon hours on the work.
Thanks for pointing stuff out that you see. Your literary sense is pretty damned good.
I think the phrase you want is pell mell rather than pall mall.
Mark, you are most correct. I hate this word correct computer stuff. I know I wrote pell mell but there it is.
Thank you for noticing and for commenting about it.
Keep the story coming. I was Marine Air Wing, Hueys, and still wake up and think I am back on the flight line or in the air, dodging incoming.
Thank you for the interest Ed. I will keep the story coming as long as I am able to.
I am working on the next segment this very evening. Glad you care.
I was in Viet Nam in ’71 &’72 and was shot at frequently but I was in a bird dog or a cobra depending on what day it was and we always returned fire. Only province that I worked that had free fire zone was Long Than province and we could shoot at any time I was never eye to eye with the VC or NVA like you guys. Thank you for doing what you had to do. It took the whole team to fight the enemy but you guys were the backbone of the entire effort. Thank you
Thanks for reporting on your own tour over there. There were so many different operations and jobs
in the war zone. It’s easy to think in terms of what we were doing out in the field. Only subsequently, and much later,
did I figure out that the front line in contact combat units were not the norm in that warfare zone.
Thanks for thanking me and saying what you said.
James, It never ceases to amaze me that you folks in Combat can remember all this stuff. I served in the Brown Water Navy carrying resupply to places like Cua Viet and as far south as Vung Tau and can’t remember even half of the shipmates I served with for over two years!!
It is remarkable but quite ordinary for humans to hold vital burned in memories from
emotional charged events. And those combat events were about as emotionally charged as things could ever get, I would presume.
thanks you for the comment and reading the work.
Brings back a lot of memories tet offensive 68/69. My Air Cav unit took 94 % wounded and dead, mostly wounded thank God. that number included me, twice. You are a very talented writer. I wrote for AT&T so I have some concept of what good writing looks like. Thank you.
Al. Casualties were very high in some units, like your own and mine, but that’s not how the military reported them. They would space the numbers out so that no units took real hard hits in any short period of time. They’d learned in earlier wars with the media that losing a lot of guys in one engagement or short period of time would be portrayed as a ‘loss.’ Can’t have those. We ‘won’ our way up and down, over and across, that whole country! Thanks for the straight from the shoulder shit and also liking what I’m writing. Keeps me going because I know the big guns will be coming when they get a load of what I’m writing!
Many have done things they regret from those day weather in combat or not, I am one of them that have some rthings I think I would do diferant, I just keep telling myself that I have had a good life and if one thing were changed I could not be were I am now. And I am in a good spot. God directed us all to be who and where we are. Don
I don’t think anybody with any sanity can argue your point Don. I am pleased that you have found some ‘adjusted’ contentment
through the years. Me too, but in different ways. We were all so different from one another, just like now. Thanks for the
comment and the reading.
Sounds and smells trigger a lot of memories. I think that’s the worst. People will look at you like you have lost your mind. Aco 1st Bn 7th Reg. 68/69. Semper Fi
Well James, a lot of veterans coming home from that one got real quiet real quick.
It was not a believable war, at least not the stuff that went on out in the field at the company level.
But here we are. Made it, you and I. The smells and the sounds are all still there. A friend of mine
bought an AK and shot the think on his property not far from me out here in the country. Man oh man!
Talk about know that sound. I didn’t think I did, at least not that fast and not that accurately!
Thanks for sharing and reading.
James, you remember Jerry Hollingsworth KIA May 68 A/1/7 during a on line frontal assault on concrete bunkers, machine guns and RPG’s prelude to Operation Alan Brooke? Last time I saw him he said he knew he wasn’t going to make it back.
Yes, sir…I do remember him. I hope you yourself are doing well.
Just caught up with the eighth day and night. Again, amazing detail and you put it together wonderfully. Keep up the good work . It seems like the little things evoke the most forgotten memories…good and bad.
Thank you James, for the reading and the compliment. I am working away at it.
The holidays don’t make it any easier but then there were no holidays over there.
Good to reflect and think, especially in these turbulent political times.
Hope more kids do not have to go off and do that sort of thing.
Merry Christmas,LT. I was in the Big Red One, IIICorp 67-68, your story awakens memories long buried.I read it late at nite when my wife sleeps,and I’m alone with my thoughts. Thanks, somehow reading your story is good for many of us. Semper Fi from someone who was a soldier, once, and young.
My brother was with the Big Red One so that outfit is kind of special to me.
I too am a late night writer and reader and that goes all the way back to that
night war we fought. Thanks for reading and thinking about all of it in your
own nights. And the neat comment, by the way.
We were a platoon blocking for a company of “Wolfhounds.” I forgot about it until reading “The 8th Night” segment. I remembered the bullets going by that night with every contact “The Wolfhounds” were in. In the morning, after we got back to the battalion area in a large clearing, we had about 30 NVA “Chieu Hoi”. I was a 11B10 carrying a M60 with Bravo Company of the 2/22 Mech. 25th Inf, 2nd platoon. Keep writing, Jim. I enjoy every segment.
I am not sure, Mike, whether telling this story has brought memories back to me or to the people who’ve been reading!
Some of the things said, like the Chieu Hoi passes, help tickle me too. I hated those, by the way. What were we supposed to
do with those guys out there in the middle of nowhere? The choppers were not big enough to carry them and the wounded, as well.
Thank you for enjoying the read and making such an accurate and thought provoking comment.
James, Wow! Took me back to my first night fight. If you haven’t lived it , you can feel it but you won’t understand it. Merry Christmas, LT and keep up the good fight (your writing) to let others know what we endured and to help some of us get back home.
> Guess “Cool Hand*” has something to say: as others have already said, what happened to Alfi wasn’t your fault – you might have missed, or it might have even been another NVA who tossed the grenade. No matter who, what, or how it happened, it was meant to be, just as it was meant for you to be the dark angel of mercy who ended his pain; remember, you were forgiven by the only person who mattered.
Semper Fi & God Bless,
(*Thanks for the moniker by the way, I’m honored someone who’s seen the elephant so up close would choose a name like that for a “virgin” like me; I’d like to think I’d have “earned” it myself under the “right” conditions as well.)
At the time I was totally taken up with myself and my survival, and the intensity of a
building guilt that would plague me for many years.
Thank you for your support Cool Hand, and also laying it out the way
I’ve worked to come to think of it all, and there’s still twenty one days to go!
Close only counts in horseshoes and grenades. We all learned that analogy before playing either of the games.
If you duck, and the person behind you doesn’t, how can you possibly have guilt for that.
I understand the rationalization, but not the lifetime guilt.
LT Alfi was a goner either way. You did what had to be done. I’m sure he would of done the same for you. Peace.
In retrospect I could not agree with you more, but it has taken a whole lot of years to get this far.
Back then, it was all on me. All. Thanks for understanding and for writing about it.
I can understand your feelings. While with the 3rd Marines in upper I corps I had a member of our squad volunteer for a mission that by all rights should have been mine except I had gone on an earler mission in his place. Anyway he died in a well planned NVA ambush. I have wrestled with this in my mind for almost 47 years. Thanks for your story
Yes, it is the nights Ken. I have night vision goggles but it does not help. It’s the nights when this stuff comes.
Like the nights over there. The analytical conclusion is that you should feel nothing. After all, it was a horrid war. A counselor for the VA
or group would tell you that you were being unreasonable with yourself. But they would have it wrong. A very very small part of you went with that
guy and that small part did not come back. You miss that small part and will forever. Like me. I have a few small parts that went away.
I live with people who don’t know what those small parts are so I must live alone with the fact that they are gone and will not be returning.
You know. I know. It has to be enough.
Another segment of your life shared with us and your writing style. It takes me right along with you. This should be a required read for all BEFORE they head into a combat zone. Though it could never prepare them for what is awaiting them.
It should also be required for those who SEND them in harm’s way – especially those who never served… not that all of them will understand (or even sadder, care).
Merry Christmas James
Thank you Don! Merry Christmas my friend, and fellow traveler….
Jim, every bird hunter I know has tried to fire w/safety on… Including one who had 2 tours as an 0311. Man, let it go. You did the right thing by that young man. And your company. That FNG is growing w/everyone of these episodes. That I so look forward to. Semper Fi, brother!
Thanks Bill for your comment and your letting me off the hook. I know intellectually what you are talking about
and you could not be more correct. But there I was in the moment at that age with those awful responsibilities and
I could not feel that way. I did not keep the gold rimmed glasses. I kept nothing, some of which I regret just for remembering purposes.
Thanks for what you said, though. Means a lot.
Merry Christmas Lt.
Thank you Mitchell. Funny, how it’s still enjoyable to be addressed as L.T. all the way through time.
Thank you for that, the reading and taking the time and interest enough to comment.
There is no measure that makes sense in the chaos of combat. Everything gets distorted, your future breath depends on milli-seconds and micro-inches. What you think happened and what you think you did will evaporate with the coming light, but years later you’ll relive it over and over, trying to make some sense of it. Thanks for sharing this story. Semper Fi.