I came awake instantly. Crashing roars, with distant but shaking explosions, moved me out from the cleft down along the side of a mud wall I’d been sitting up against. I blinked my eyes in fear and nervousness. I was in a cave. I was in the cave. The cave made by the overhang of the concrete runway, routed out by floodwaters as the Bong Song moved about like a living snake in the bottom of the A Shau Valley. My brain fought to take in the dusky damp smell of rotting jungle earth, the shaking pieces of mud and debris falling from the underside of the pavement that had obviously been laid down atop a badly cleared and poorly graded surface. Even in the gloom, barely illuminated through the gaping wound of its opening facing out toward the river, I could see I was alone. Where was Fusner?
I was Junior, the company commander. I climbed to my knees. I didn’t know how long I’d been out, but out I had certainly been. The gloomy sun outside was leaving a shadow stretching along the broken bottom of the cave floor, like the saw-tooth edge of an old woodcutting blade. It had to be afternoon. I got myself together and came to my knees. The cave roof wasn’t high enough to allow me to stand, and I wasn’t sure I was stable enough to manage it anyway. I realized that I’d just thought of myself as Junior. I wasn’t Junior. They called me Junior. I’d never be Junior again if I made it back to the world, which wasn’t likely, as it dawned on me where I really was and what the situation was. I was at the bottom of the life-sucking A Shau Valley, a place nobody back home had heard of, or would ever likely hear about. I pulled my helmet to me, and quickly checked the handle of my .45 without taking it out. The Colt and I counted on each other. I knew it would work when I needed it, and I somehow had come to believe it knew I’d know when that time was right. The Colt being there made me breathe easier. I was okay.
The sounds coming from the outside permeated the cave from through the door-sized opening. Except for the bombs, or whatever the explosions were. Those sounds came right through the walls of the cave. I’d been comatose for a time, but even my near dead state had been no match for the force of those vibrations. There would be no more sleep. I crawled to the cave entrance, wondering if Fusner was dead. He’d never left my side without orders before, and I’d grown accustomed to his presence without knowing I’d grown accustomed to it. He was like a part of my body I’d gotten so used to that I only understood my craven need for it when that part was gone. How could I go on if Fusner was dead? I couldn’t picture it in my mind. I pulled my canteen out and poured water into my muddy hands. I rinsed them, hoping to delay the results of having to deal with whatever was happening outside, by performing the meaningless ritual. I washed my face, using the last of my water.
I was thirsty but I had to think. If I’d had a cigarette, I’d have lit up, in spite of my hands shaking so badly. I clutched them across my stomach to get them to stop.
I remembered the Army combat engineers showing up. They’d gone off to lay down their vintage bridge across the river and bring over the rest of the company.
I looked at the placement of the jagged shadow line running across the floor of the cave. It was mid-afternoon, at least. The company hadn’t made it across, or there’d be Marines all over the place.
I could hear the faint whine of the big Pratt and Whitney engines of the Skyraiders flying at a distance, punctuated by rapid short roars of their twenty-millimeter guns. The explosions had stopped, however. Maybe those had come from a couple of runs of the Sandys dropping their loads. I put my canteen away, going through the motions of doing so very slowly. My job was outside, no matter what was going on, but I didn’t want to leave the cave. I wasn’t sure I could leave the cave.
Somehow, I’d found a pocket of safety and sanity away from the inner walls of the A Shau Valley, running up and down both sides of the what had become the river Styx at its bottom. The Styx was an old mythical river of death I’d read about in college. Was I Charon, the ferryman, taking those from one side of life to their demise on the other side, or was I just one of the passengers, eventually doomed to ride in Charon’s boat?
I made up my mind. I wasn’t leaving the cave. The instant I made the cowardly but intelligent decision, the outside of the cave came right in through the entrance. It was Tex, plummeting through the opening, to sprawl, and then go flat on his stomach right in front to me. His helmet was gone and his fatigue uniform, so spic and span and knife-creased earlier, was literally smoking. I stared down, as he turned his head and stared back at me, his unblinking eyes about the size of golf balls.
“My truck, it’s gone,” he whispered, batting at the parts of his blouse with one hand to get rid of the tendrils of smoke still coming out of it. A tear formed in his left eye, and slowly ran down his muddy smoked cheek. “My men, they’re gone too.”
Tex was a wreck. I’d left him a big strapping character only hours earlier, with a personality as big as a railroad car. What lay before me was a man reduced to elemental form. His eyes had a look I’d seen before, usually in the eyes of the dying.
I didn’t reach down to him. I felt like if I touched him his disassembling would be complete. In only a few hours, the A Shau had taken another human being and reduced him to little more than moving biological plasma, stacked vertically, and waiting to be laid down for fertilizer.
“Did you get the bridge over the river?” I asked, as gently as I could. In spite of the man’s condition, I had to get some information out of him. “Is the Ontos okay?”
I followed when he didn’t answer. If we had the M-50 Ontos , then we had our own version of field artillery. The truck had two fifty caliber machine guns, and I wondered if we still had those, although the guns themselves, without ammunition, were useless.
“The Ontos,” he whispered, looking down at the mud floor of the cave only a few inches from his face. “They came and blew up my truck and my men. I should have had my men come here to this cave. How did you find this?”
I was losing the man, and I knew it. I couldn’t afford to let him go.
“Get on your feet,” I ordered, my voice going from a whisper to the most commanding tone I could summon up. “Stand at fucking attention, and report in like a fucking Marine officer and not some driveling fool.”
The man was six inches taller than I was, and I couldn’t stand in the compressed space, but we both tried. Hunched over, we faced one another.
“The fucking bridge,” I said, glad about the Ontos still being there, and wanting to get outside and check to see if it had six rounds chambered and the eighteen it could store inside, but first I had to know more.
“Army officer,” Tex replied, wiping his wet eye with one dirty hand. “I’m an Army officer.”
“You were a fucking Army officer but not anymore. Until this is over, or you are over, you’re a Marine officer. I’m the company commander and you’re the executive officer, until further notice, got that?”
I had no precedent. I knew nothing about inter-service rank or how any of it really worked when mixed military ranks were together. Tex was a first lieutenant in the Army, and likely a senior one. Did that mean he was company commander of my company? I had no idea and I didn’t care. We were in the A Shau. The river was the Bong Song, although it was not. I was company commander although I was not. And now Tex would be the make-believe Marine Officer XO, or he’d be dead. Those were the choices currently offered by the A Shau, and there was no negotiation. A Shau complaints were handled by Charon aboard that ferryboat.
“What do you want me to do, sir?” Tex asked, total compliance coming off of him like a strong aroma.
“You don’t call me sir, for one thing. I’m Junior in the A Shau, so you might as well call me that too. I want to know about the bridge, right fucking now.” I waited.
I wasn’t much on using the ‘fuck’ word but I knew, for some of the men, it was vital and necessary. For some reason, it worked in circumstances where nothing else would.
“We got the bridge out there fine, but the bank fell apart behind it. The chassis is an old tank chassis, and it’s too heavy. When the cantilever section operated and extended the far edge of the blade fell short. There’s still twenty feet of the river between the machines front edge and the far shore. What with the bulk of the chassis, the river heaps up around the downside end as it goes around. With the velocity and mass of the moving water, there’s no way anybody can cross far enough to reach the bridge.”
“How much rope you got?” I asked, thinking about the only two sections the company had.
One was laid from the far side out to the upside-down Ontos tank, where the end was tightly tied. It wasn’t going anywhere. The other end was on the bank where we’d left it after rescuing Jurgens. That rope still had to be there, or so I hoped.
“None,” Tex replied, his tone disconsolate. “It was all on the truck. Our food, water, extra ammo, everything, all on the truck.”
“Fuck the truck,” I said, “Where are my Marines?” I’d almost said Fusner’s name but changed at the last second. I was company commander again, at least until God and Gunny threw the dice one more time and changed the point again.
“I sent them to the truck to recover what they could,” Tex reported, his voice finally calming, and his words coming out without stutters or long delays between them. “I was there when my men were killed. They died just like that. Standing there. They weren’t even hit by anything. They just fell down and were dead, just like that,” Tex reported, snapping the fingers of his right hand to make his point.
Concussion from being too close to an explosion killed by over-pressuring the lungs while also crushing internal organs. Death was nearly instant, with any personnel so openly exposed going from living to dead before their bodies hit the ground. There was absolutely nothing to be done for men killed that way, except bagging and tagging for pickup, which reminded me of resupply.
“Where are the choppers?” I asked, suddenly. “Did they come in while I was out?”
“No, too much fire,” Tex said.
“God damn it,” I whispered.
The Marine Rotary Wing had denied us again. That left only the Army’s crazy teenager band of warrant officers if they’d come, and those chopper crews would have no idea what we needed or might want if they did come. Most probably, nobody had called them, but only Fusner could tell me that.
“Go get my scout team back, right now,” I ordered. “There’s no point in doing anything with what’s left of the truck. The truck got hit because you left it too close to the jungle edge there. The Ontos survived because the NVA regulars aren’t stupid enough to try to cross a hundred meters of bare concrete to get to it.”
Ever fired the 106?” I asked the question to redirect Tex from thinking about the fact that he was about to run across the same hundred meters of open concrete I’d just said the enemy was too smart to cross. And then, after getting there, he was going to have to cross back with the rest of my team.
“Ah, in training,” Tex started to say, but I stopped him.
“Yes,” I said, knowing where he was going. “Like me, you watched it fire, but didn’t operate it yourself.”
“Yes,” Tex admitted.
“Go get the men,” I ordered, “then get back here, get acquainted with that thing as best you can, and get ready to rock and roll.”
“Yes, sir,” Tex responded, running bent over toward the cave opening.
“And stop calling me sir,” I yelled at his departing back.
I was leaving the cave. I didn’t want to, but there was only one way to suppress high-powered small arms fire from being laid down by the NVA on Tex and my returning scout team. Air would help, but during my short discussion with Tex, the outside world had gone silent again. I had to get the Ontos Tank online and see what I could do. I knew the thing had a turret that moved and axial mounts for both emplacements of the gun’s triple barrels, but I didn’t know how to adjust them to put fire where I needed it. I knew where the fifty caliber semi-auto spotting guns were, and how they worked, but the recoilless tubes were hard-mounted for adjustment. They could only be aimed and fired from inside the vehicle.
I made for the cave entrance but stumbled over something hard. I looked down. I saw the square metal box and immediately knew Fusner had left his Prick 25 radio behind. For me. The AN 323 air radio was right next to it. I had no idea of where the right frequencies were that I might need for either one. I reached down for the main radio handset and squeezed the transmit button, hoping Fusner had thought about how little I knew about radios.
“Gunny, you on here?” I asked, not expecting anything to come back.
“Where the hell have you been?” the Gunny screamed. I pulled my head back from the radio.
I instantly decided I wasn’t going to tell the Gunny I’d been asleep. I paused for a few seconds to think, before replying.
“Tex, the Army engineer who laid that bridge down across the river, is running across the tarmac to get Jurgens and my guys back so do what you can to cover them.”
I waited, while the Gunny processed that data. I hoped he’d get back to thinking and acting to survive instead of evaluating my conduct.
“Some engineer,” the Gunny said. “We can’t use the damned bridge. They laid it too short.”
“Call command,” I replied, thinking about the bridge problem while I talked. “Get those Army brats to come in and drop ammo, grenades, and anything else you can think of. We need C-rats and 106 rounds too.”
“Great,” the Gunny said, his voice evidencing disgust. “How’s that supposed to help us get across the damned river to get to it?”
“We’ve got a fully stocked Ontos over here,” I lied.
“The Sandys have plenty of light and time to get re-armed and fly cover. I’ll have Jurgens bring the rope from this side, get out on the bridge, and then throw the end over. Everyone comes across one by one, using air and the Ontos for fire suppression.”
The radio went silent for a bit. I waited. I hadn’t had time to call Cowboy and Hobo so the ‘air’ part of my plan was all conjecture. The Ontos had an unknown supply of rounds inside its turret, but I had no idea how many, or if there were any more than the six in the tubes, and I hadn’t even checked those. It didn’t seem to make logical sense to drive one of those lethal looking little monsters all the way down Highway 548 with rounds in all the chambers. The Ontos might not have any ammunition for its guns at all.
“We saw the truck go up,” the Gunny finally said. “You got anybody left that can operate that Ontos? It’s not like firing a 106 on a tripod. Have you talked to anybody about air support? What’s this new plan going to be called? How about ‘On a Wing and a Prayer,’ since your Moses Plan didn’t seem to work out to well, except for Moses himself, that is.”
“You can sit over there, right where you are for as long as you want, Gunny,” I replied, in anger.
The man was infuriating. His implication that I’d gotten myself across the river and left the company behind went through me like a red hot poker. I’d been in country for two weeks and wasn’t even an officer in name, much less role, yet I was being required to come up with one solution after another for problems that could not have been conceived of in training or anywhere else in my background. On top of that, the Gunny took credit for any successful result and I was enthusiastically blamed for each and every failure.
“I’ll call in the Army,” the Gunny replied, no friendliness in his tone, either. “Command is gonna be pissed. Fuck ‘em. It’s on you, anyway. This plan better work or there’s going to be a whole lot of your dead Marines dotting the landscape.”
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t miss the ‘your’ in his comment. I looked out of the cave entrance. Suddenly the dull sunlight shining through the murky monsoon clouds looked more attractive than where I was. But I had to try to get through on the AN 323 first.
“Cowboy?” I transmitted, not knowing the codes Fusner used to initiate contact with them.
“Roger that, Flash,” Jacko replied immediately, like he’d been waiting for the transmission. “How’s things down there on Planet Mongo? Doctor Zarkoff seems to have made a slight error in laying that bridge.”
I couldn’t help but smile. The references Jacko liked to make, using the Flash Gordon series as a model, weren’t as inaccurate as I’d originally thought.
“We’re about to be all in the open down here Jacko,” I began, trying to be careful, because I knew transmitting in the clear, and that had the likely potential of being overheard and understood. “Going to cross the big brown ribbon, insane Army Huey drop to follow, and one Ontos holding off the mud people. What can you do?”
“When’s the party set to begin?” Cowboy himself transmitted. “We packed a lunch and can set the table with a Colt automatic. Three hour loiter, gone for an hour, and then back to serve dinner. What time is it, by the way? Forgot my watch.”
The code was childish but effective. I knew Cowboy was telling me to give him the time I wanted the clock to start ticking. Forty-five minutes later the Sandys would make their first strafing run, and drop God knew what else as they went by. Then they’d stay on station, needing only an hour to leave and get back with more ordnance. We had air.
I held up my left wrist and checked out my Gus Grissom watch. I spit on the crystal and rubbed the mud off its face with the cuff of my right sleeve. It was two-thirty.
“A single trey,” I said into the headset microphone.
Three o’clock. That would give me half an hour to get my scout team back and then forty-five minutes to recover the rope and get ready to get it out to the end of the bridge, and also try to figure out how to use the Ontos for direct fire. I knew we’d need all the fire we could bring to bear. The NVA knew our company was across the river trying to cross, and the bridge failure had no doubt given them hope that they could wipe out everyone if they did it right.
“Roger that, Flash, we’ll be lookin’ at you kid before you know it.”
I reached for the Prick 25 handset, tossing the AN 323 rig aside.
Instead of trying to figure out some other way to communicate the information to the Gunny I simply repeated the conversation to him I’d had with Jacko and Cowboy.
“So, you got air, anyway,” the Gunny replied, letting me know, in his way, that he’d figured out the details buried in the message. It would have been more comforting to hear him use the word ‘we’ instead of ‘you,’ but for whatever reasons, our relationship was frayed and strained.
Three forty-five was the real kickoff, and I’d have loved to confirm that with him, but knew I didn’t dare. The dice were being thrown down across the bottom of the valley and I couldn’t increase the risk adding anything more to the huge risks already present.
“Check out the Ontos,” the Gunny said as if I hadn’t thought of that. “We’re watching to cover your team but, well, you understand.”
The company was all but out of ammo, and then there was also the likelihood that the Marines with the Gunny would save what they had for covering fire during their own crossing. Giving Marines orders in combat was no way comparable to ordering them around in training or peacetime, as I’d so bitterly discovered, and was constantly being reminded.
I put my damaged helmet on my head, checked my .45 again, grabbed the binoculars and exited the cave into the mist that didn’t seem thick enough to be a real mist at all. It was more like vague rolling ground clouds sticky thick with water. At a distance, the faint fog-like quality of the hot dense air would provide some concealment when my scout team started its run I knew. There also seemed to be more light than the clouds overhead should have allowed through. I squinted my eyes, against the glaring brightness, and then crawled up the steep bank. It took only seconds to cover the distance and crouch behind the heavy steel body of the Ontos. I peered around the southern side of the armored vehicle and checked out the smoking pyre that had to have been the Army truck. It was still burning. The jungle growth was too thick and high for me to see the body of the vehicle itself. I didn’t see any movement anywhere around the area where the smoke tendrils rose up. Tex was obviously waiting for something. I checked the entire expanse of the heat-waving air, the heated concrete below causing the mist to roil and move atop it. Tex’s body was nowhere to be found on any of its surface. I hoped he’d made it. Our company didn’t survive officers very well, and I’d made him XO.
The big iron doors at the back of the Ontos were heavy, but well balanced and not difficult to pull open. I climbed up and into the small crew capsule.
“Shit,” I breathed. There were switches and buttons everywhere. I knew immediately that there was no hope I could operate the Ontos in combat, and I also knew the Gunny had known that when we’d talked on the radio. It would probably take me half an hour just to figure out how to start it up. But I also hadn’t missed the Browning .30 Caliber machine gun mounted on the top of the turret.
Instead of storing 106 rounds, the crew must have chosen to store those in the bed of the truck. They’d stored the machine gun ammo in the Ontos instead of the truck. All around me were boxes of .30 Caliber ball ammunition for the Browning. I counted. There were twelve of them. Three thousand rounds. At five hundred rounds a minute, if fired continuously, that gave me about six minutes of cover. More if I was able to fire in short bursts, to avoid overheating the barrel. I’d never fired a Browning machine gun before but I’d been able to spend time with it in training, where specialists had done the actual firing. It was a very simple gun. A cloth belt held the ammo together in discrete little open pockets. The lever top of the receiver opened up and was laid down with the end of the belt across the flat surface, feeding from left to right. The lid was closed, and the bolt handle pulled back with the palm of one hand, and that was it. That I could do. I carefully moved the twenty-five-pound boxes through the big doors at the back of the Ontos, and stacked them next to one another on either side of the Browning. I stood on the platform below, left by the open doors, and loaded the first belt. I then worked my old sock pieces out of my left thigh pocket and stuck them in my ears. The thirty caliber bullets were about twenty percent more powerful than the NATO rounds used in the M-60, and they were louder when they went off. I was ready. I wondered if Tex and the guys were ready, or if they’d understand. I had no way of knowing.
I pulled back on the operating lever, advancing the belt and getting the first round ready to enter the chamber. I pulled back again and the first cartridge was set into the barrel. The Browning, unlike the M-60, fired from a closed bolt. If the gun got hot there was always the possibility of the thing ‘cooking off’ rounds from a red-hot chamber, which is why the operating handle was always pulled back with the palm of the hand facing up. A cook-off would break the operators thumb if it was in the way. I aimed the big rough sights of the Browning so the tip of the barrel was pointing out and up, toward the far hill the NVA had used as its base of fire previously. I looked down at my Speedmaster. It was a quarter to three.
“On a Wing and a Prayer,” I whispered, and pulled the trigger.
<<<<<< Beginning | Next >>>>>>
You have lost the link to this page at
Maybe introduced a typo? The page is there, but the link is gone
Thanks for the update.
I think it is corrected.
I think Harvey might have tripped a wire.
THE FINAL INSPECTION
The Soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
‘Step forward now, Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?’
The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
‘no, Lord, I guess I ain’t.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.
I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn’t mine to keep.
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.
I know I don’t deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
‘Step forward now, you Soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.’
Thanks so much for taking us back Jim!
Semper fi, and thanks for your willingness and support in putting it up here too.
There is a mansion waiting for each of us in Heaven, the Savior said so.
Well, J, I sure hope so but lack the fire of conviction on that one…still working on it…
Semper fi, my friend,
We have a couple of MIA’s.
I have been holding this question back hoping these two would surface but since tidbits are being resolved it’s time for a buddy check.
Sgt. Stevens… thought he made it across with your scout team.
Cpl Abraham Lincoln Jones… thought he was last seen running up the east side of the river with the other rope.
See I built this scale model of your run through the jungle trying to keep up with you.
I am standing here holding these two Marines and I don’t know where to place them.
In this coming segment you will see the rejoining of characters.
In this story, as in a combat zone, everything becomes focused down and characters are either
on hand but ignored or if only a bit distant from one’s own attention then not truly noticed.
Please send me a photo of what you built Steve because I am astounded that you would not
only make the effort but then be able to use it as a illustrative guide for the development of the story.
I cannot thank you enough for the thought, and then the action.
I feel like I am living a bit of Close Encounters of the Third Kind!
That and this is special.
Another great episode as usual. I just read over the error’s and move on. I know what you mean and I figure it is proof read anyway. Just received your book on the first ten days. I have been following all along but I have a young nephew who was in the Army but never saw any combat. He is always interested in Vietnam so I gave it to him. I told him this is the real shit that happened over there. He has never really ask me that much about it and I’m kinda glad.So here it is so read it and you will see. I think he will enjoy your book. I guess I will have to order another copy for myself to keep. Keep up the great work Jim and we old vets appreciate what you are doing. Oh and I see us Army boys might have to bail your ass out.Lol.Some of those young chopper pilots had brass balls.
Thank you Gordon. There were some really good men in that valley in those days but sometimes,
like back here, it was hard to tell the difference…
Writing is fantastic.Here are a few technical observations:Early on, you mentioned adjusting height of burst on VT rounds. I think you meant mechanical time. You also had a paragraph about “low angle direct fire” and “high angle fire”.Low angle and high angle are both indirect fire, where as direct fire is line-of-sight. I never worked with 175s, but I think there were a few errors in regard to 175s. Round weighed 150 lb and fired powder zones. Also, did not have nukes.You probably had 8 inch in mind when you wrote of 200 lb projos, firing high charges and nukes.
Looking forward to the next installment.
Correct on all counts Randy. Thanks for paying such close attention. You are right, I did not have the proper data about
175mm nukes, or the lack of them. thanks for the help and following the story so closely…
Hey LT I just noticed this in reading the story again. When you call gunny and told him to call the Army brats for resupply and he responded about getting across the river, you both were communicating in the clear. Tells the mud people you low on supplies and the company is still on the other side of the river. Yet you were very discreet in communicating with Jacko about upcoming plan. Just wondering if the first communication was that open. Great story as always. Thank You
We needed supplies all the time and that was no mystery. And communications were always hard until they brought in
the frequency shifting technology later on. Thanks for watching things so closely and holding my feet to the fire JT.
No intent to hold your feet to the fire sir.
Just a figure of speech JT. No offense taken…
I was Ontos crewman mos.0353, served with Mike 3/5, 1st. Tank Bn. & 2nd. AT Bn. A co. 1967- 70. Can’t wait to read your Book, Semper Fi.
You were in the thick of it for sure, with that outfit at that time. Thank you for wanting to read the published book.
I much appreciate that.
Great read I was waiting for the next one and boom here it is filled to the max with excitement and more.
Thanks for another great chapter to read it’s been an amazing story and I’m looking forward to the next one to come.
Thank you for putting this great story out here for us to read and to try and understand what life was like for you guys over there, thank you for sharing this part of your life with this great read
Boom, you should have another installment tomorrow Tom. Thanks for the compliment and coming on here to write it.
I much appreciate the sincerity of guys like you writing in to put your stamp of approval on it.
James I guess it must be nice to have all the proofreaders correcting typos. It just means you got a lot of readers!!! Hell I read it and go right through them and never even notice them!!! That’s how good a story your writing. I’m just a retired oilfield hand and never served like you did but I recognize good leadership when I see it. I would have been proud to have served with you in the Marines or on the floor of a drilling rig.
Thanks Russell, that’s quite a compliment and I thank you for that.
The ‘editors’ on here are indeed a big help. It took me half an hour to find
the Fusner error in the last segment after being told about it (I had to change the name of the respondent to Tex).
I read and reread and I kept seeing it wrong until one of you
guys pushed my nose into the exact line.
Thanks for being so expansive and such a supporter.
Made me smile this morning…thank you.
I’m sure you don’t remember my name but we correspond back and forth awhile back. I told you I grew up in Lawton and still reside here. Remember? Anyway, on a lighter note, if your book were a movie I could see Sam Elliot as gunny. I know he already played the part before. Who would play you? I know you will respond because you respond to everyone. STOP and keep writing!!! We are constantly impatiently waiting for the next chapter. Keep up the good work and God bless you sir.
I cannot stop. I am driven, not just by writing the sequences but by writing here, as well. The segments are the past and you guys are the present. I knew about the past but I did not know about the present, the way it is, of your existence. I liked Lawton with its sort of country attitude but not. Military, but not. Seedy, but not…and so on. Thanks for writing on here. I don’t have a clue as to who would be me. But then, I don’t know that many young actors. Thanks for the blessing and for taking the time to write to me on here…
Not so sure about Jurgens having your 6 just yet . I hope he does , we will see . Gunny, o my I haven’t figured him out . I think he maybe. ……….well lets just say he wants a big feather in his hat but wants someone else to shoot the damn bird! !
Good point Ryan. It is damned hard to count on other people in a combat situation.
The men around you are special to themselves in particular and then to those who can
enhance their survival. Of such things true bonding is not only possible but very
likely…but the trouble comes in the evaluation of data. Who’s enhancing and who’s risking that survival?
thanks for your comment and for writing on here…
I loved the Army Chopper support. We were up just a half click from the DMZ and Loas border. We were socked in no chow or water. Mary Hueies brought them to us. Payment was 25 Chinese SKSs. We found 269 of them still packed in cosmoline We were extremely grateful.
Those warrant officers, those kids, they were something of wonder and expressive bravery and honor.
They came, no matter what. U.S. Army warrant officers. Never a better air power group has existed but they’re
unloaded and nearly unknown in the annals of combat. I sure remember them and revere what I considered those kids,
although most were as old as I was…
Jim, you got sand for sure. Reading so fast now I wonder how you managed to think as clearly as you did. Great writing sir.
I am not certain, James, that I did think that clearly, as you put it. I just went for
it time after time after time. There was little in the way of evaluation for effect. There was try it and if
it worked great and if it didn’t then try something else right away.
Thanks for the writing on here and your support…
One of the rare times that I just happened to click on the newest chapter before any comments had come in here on the blogsite. As I’ve said before, the comments here have become part of the story for me, and I like to read them for at least the first half day before jumping on with mine. The comments/likes/reactions come in like that air-cooled 30 as soon as the page hits Facebook though. That’s amazing “pull” you’ve got going there Strauss! You haven’t mentioned book sales, and I presume that’s by design, but I can’t help but think they must be very satisfactory. I plug it unabashedly 🙂 You really caught me by surprise with the Tex debacle. Being a 1300 MOS, I wasn’t surprised by the bridging fiasco. We (USMC) didn’t even have these in the TO, as they were designed for use in secure areas. Nothing about the A Shau would indicate “secure”. More good writing, glad to have you back in the groove.
Yes came out of nowhere, like so many came down from the air from nowhere….or so it seemed.
The dovetailing of units and fire and differential military services and elements in the Nam was something
to behold if experienced. There was a whole load of small teams working apart but working together.
Amazing coordination not seeming like much of anything was coordinated.
Semper fi, John, my friend….and thanks for welcoming me back.
James try as I might to remember, I have never seen one troop who was not concerned about saving their own ass on the field of battle and that includes officers as well as enlisted. When one thinks about it, no one fights alone, unless all others are already dead. Therefore scared or not, it behoves anyone in battle, to save every friendly troop possible. One would be willing to bet that even Audie Murphy came to that conclusion, when he was behind that tank turret on the day he became famous.
Your constant fear was you best alley, so quit knocking it!
Well, J, I don’t really knock it. I admit to it, which is not common these days.
It’s a huge part of combat and it drives, motivates, teaches and forces all sorts of actions
not normal anywhere else, and it leaves a bitter taste of bile all through the years when it’s over
and those night memories we have all tried to block with substances, lies and avoidance at night.
Thanks for the usual pithy commentary, my friend.
O…M…G….; Deep Doo-doo, back to bad news on top of bad news. What a roller coaster of events.
So many questions…need the next episode even faster than you and your Marines need resupplied and reinforced.
May God be with you…back in the next episode–AND while you are writing and reliving these horrid moments. I am sure it isn’t easy, but it is a story you are telling that needs told. Praying for you for strength…
Walt, my friend. Thanks for coming on here to write again. I am not sure I am telling what needs to be told but some
guys find it satisfying to be reading something that is founded down deep in that muck with those animals, man and otherwise.
Thanks for your usual erudite commentary…
Very familiar with the A Shau Valley!! Was there in 67/68 with c/co/501st/101st Abn. Hell on earth is what it was, as you have written. Wonder sometimes how the hell we ever got out of that place. Great writing,James, definitely has my attention. Keep it up. Airborne all the way, brother.
I hope my descriptions of the valley measure up to your experienced eye. Sometimes I’m not sure that I remember it exactly right.
The colors, the river, the fauna and flora and the painfulness and then deadliness of the entire place. Thanks for the compliment and
the writing of it here…
Man, the shit just keeps getting deeper! Looking forward to the next chapters to see how things play out.
The Browning, unlike the M-60, fired from a closed bolt. If the gun got hot (they) there was always the possibility of the thing ‘cooking off’ rounds from a red hot chamber, which is why the operating handle was always pulled back with the palm of the hand facing up. Delete they.
Got it Richard. Thanks for the edit. I loved that Browning. Some say that a few Ontos had fifties on top but not the one I was standing on that day.
The downside of the fifty is that it has heavy ammunition and, although that is wonderful for some things it means that you cannot keep up a constant rate of fire for very long without a lot of ammo. And for some reason the Browning did not heat up as fast as a fifty.
Thanks for the comment and the compliment…
For some odd reason the commo section of A/5/2 (dusters) was assigned the only 50 in the unit. One of my fellow radiomen fell in love with the thing and could take it apart and clean it with his eyes closed. The only time it was fired was at a firing range. The duster guys were taking bets that it wouldn’t fire, but it did and we were really proud of our man for taking such good care of it. It was good to know that we could kick some ass with it if ever needed.