I knew that our real registered position was known to the two Army batteries we’d used for fire, and Cowboy and Hobo had to have our position fairly well marked, but the jets coming in would not be quite so accurately informed. I was also concerned about the company’s position up across the drying river bed, as the fast airplanes would carry a lot of ordnance and probably drop it all on one run.
I reached for the AN 343 headset and called Cowboy’s A-1 Skyraider.
“Have you got an ETA?” I asked.
“Ten out, over,” Jacko shot back.
Their response was coming fast. Ten minutes out meant that the planes had been in the air for just under half an hour already, which was fast response for any air support, no matter what.
“What have you got to mark us with, over?” I sent. “I don’t trust the map readers on those planes.”
“Well, Flash,” Cowboy said, coming on the radio himself, “We’re gonna make a pass across the river from you, and do a little suppression fire there. Hobo’s got a couple of napes but you shouldn’t have to worry. You’ve got an upside-down tank sticking up out of the river and those kinds of water features are kind of hard to miss in this part of the valley.”
I moved, staying low, working my way back toward where Zippo lay, still prone on his stomach. Fusner moved with me, holding the radio. I was thinking of Zippo’s unmoving when he was steadying the Starlight the last time I looked through it. We were still under sporadic fire from the enemy across the river, although nothing much was coming from the company any longer. It was like they were out across the open area just beyond the water, and hiding out in the jungle to await whatever pain it was the Skyraiders were going to administer. There was enough light to see the two dead Marines halfway back to the company perimeter, both laying face-down with their LAW tubes nearby. I stuck a finger into Zippo’s side and he jerked back.
“What?” he whispered, scrunching back defensively.
I looked at his eyes. No wonder he’d been so still. He’d nodded off into sleep, I realized. Impossible as it seemed, in combat and under fire with the threat of a tank attack only yards away, he’d gone to sleep.
“Pack up the scope,” I ordered. “We need to get ready to get the hell out of here. Our only chance is to run for it when real air support arrives.”
A wave of my own fatigue swept over me, which wasn’t there only because of having no time to rest. Some of it was relief that Zippo hadn’t been hit, as I’d feared. I was so beaten down I wondered if, when I finally got some opportunity to rest or sleep, it would work to bring me back to a feeling of real life. I handed Casey’s helmet to Fusner without saying anything. I could tell by the look he gave me that he felt the same way I did, like we’d both lost a friend we hadn’t really known we had. I realized that Casey, so far, had been the best company commander I’d experienced in the Corps. He sure as hell wasn’t Major Kramer back at the Basic School.
We were finishing getting our stuff ready for the move, when Cowboy and Hobo came roaring in, less than fifty feet above the river. Their pass was incredibly fast at that low altitude, but their strafing and bomb-dropping so devastating and close that the attack seemed to go on for minutes. Nguyen, Fusner, Zippo and I huddled together, peering over and through the berm foliage to see what we could of the other side of the river.
The tank lay upside down in the very middle of the river. The passing current heaped up one side and then broke in half to slice around it before reforming as if the big chunk of dead metal was anything more or less than some misplaced glacial boulder. I wondered if any of the crew had gotten out of the thing. Maybe it had one of those trap doors on its bottom like I’d seen in war movies when I was a kid, but even using my binoculars I couldn’t see any evidence of that. Maybe the crew was still in there, trapped to await a slow death by suffocation. I shuddered physically at the thought of being trapped to die like a rat in a sealed can. But there was nothing to be done by either the NVA, being scattered and battered by the Sandys, or by us to save them without heavy equipment, not likely ever to see its presence made in the lower part of the valley we were in.
Hobo dropped his two napalm tanks in passing. The twenty-millimeter strafing run had been loud enough, but the concussion of the nape going off was deafening. It wasn’t the loudness that caused all four of us to clutch our hands to our ears. It was the force of the giant thump. I shook my head, trying to clear my ears. My fingers were too filthy to stick them in the canals.
The Sandys pulled up further down the valley and swept off toward the east. I tried to spot them coming back around with my binoculars but it was useless. The glasses were too powerful, which meant they had a very limited view area. I was just bringing the lenses back down when the fast movers made their pass. The jets, four very distinctive Phantoms with funny markings all over their tails, came straight down the river, just like the Skyraiders had, except they were side by side, their wingtips nearly touching. I didn’t see how many bombs they dropped because I quickly buried my face in the bracken and plugged my ears. I couldn’t afford to be deaf on the battlefield again or we’d have no radio contact at all. The four of us clustered like four frightened little kids. The bombs went off in a rapid string of huge explosions, jarring us inches apart from one another and then slamming us back together. The roar of the plane’s huge turbines whined in octaves above the sharp rumbling shocks of their bombs, and then they were gone.
I breathed out in relief. The bombs from the Sandy and the Phantoms were falling no more than five hundred meters from our position, which was closer than even ‘in contact’ and ‘danger close’ rules of engagement allowed, unless our position was uncertain, which I hoped was not the case.
I put my hands down and pulled up the binoculars to review the damage they’d inflicted across the river, but never got them all the way to my eyes. Four more Phantoms came in hard and fast. I saw the snake-eye’d bomb fins spinning as their ordnance was released. Before I could get my face back in the mud and my hands back over my ears I’d also caught sight of more planes. The new planes were weird ungainly things that seemed to be floating along slowly compared to the Phantoms they followed in. I scrunched back down, weathering more penetrating concussions. I wanted to see the planes. I’d never seen the A-6 Intruders in the air before, only once in a static display at Travis Air Force Base the day I flew out from the states. The things flew half-pancaked in the air, working their way down the river and loaded to the wingtips with bomb after bomb on their many pylons. I was in too much pain and fear, rocked by all the explosions to rise up and watch them slowly sweep over, causing more explosions. When their strange ‘whistling’ jet engines were gone I finally surfaced to view the carnage. The whole jungle on the other side of the river, more than a mile of it that I could see, was a mass of fire and flattened bracken. There was no longer a triple canopy or single, for that matter, covering the churned up mess of what used to be a jungle.
“Sir,” Fusner said, his voice tense, pushing the air headset next to my head.
“Tango Tango Charlie,” a tinny voice said just outside my deafened left ear. I pressed the small round plastic piece into the side of my head as hard as I could.
“Buff run begins in four point two minutes, south running north, fifteen hundred west of your registration. Flight of twelve, glad we could help.” The line went dead. I pulled the headset off, stared at it, and then looked at Fusner’s concerned face, only inches from my own.
“Buff? I whispered.
“Arc light,” he replied softly. “They sent B-52s. 84 five hundred pound bombs each, maybe more. Twelve times 84 in four minutes. How many is that? What do we do, sir?”
My mind raced. More than a thousand five hundred pound bombs were about to come down. Over 250 tons. Cowboy had not been kidding about the world coming. The 52s had to have been flown from Thailand because Guam, their only other base, was five hours away. There was nothing to be done, except for our ears.
“Get something in your ears,” I ordered all three men, as I grabbed my pack and searched for the tattered sock rag I’d used days before. I found it and ripped pieces from it; licking , twisting and then inserting them into my ear canals. “Lay flat on your stomachs,” I said, noting that Nguyen, for not speaking or understanding English, was following along with the same speed as Zippo and Fusner. “Cover the radios with your poncho.”
We lay face down, hands covering our ears, as if we were doing one of those atomic attack drills from my childhood. I tried to listen through my hands and the rags but I could hear nothing. I could feel the vibrations of the close-by river water swishing but nothing else. I’d heard that the B52s flew too high to hear and too high to see from the ground, anyway. Waiting for something I knew was coming, and with the most minor of course mistakes, could blow us all to eternity, was more scary than awaiting the arrival of ‘who knows where’ artillery rounds from the 175s.
I didn’t have to check my watch, because I’d started counting my breaths as soon as the air radio guy had told me how much time we had. Four point two minutes was four minutes and twelve seconds. About sixty-seven and a half breaths. It took ninety-three. I didn’t have any more time to think about the fact that I was breathing too fast, because the rolling carpet of the concussion waves started coming through the ground. They didn’t come from across the river where I knew the bombs had to be hitting. The waves came from the center of the earth, or so it seemed. They struck upward into my chest, stomach and legs, tossing me a foot into the air before I slammed back down. The waves came in waves. After the fourth set of waves I suddenly knew I had eight more I had to get through. The planes were lined up and dropping in succession, not all at once like I thought they would.
Finally, after what seemed to be about five minutes, but had to be much less, it was over. I checked out my scout team. I realized my offhand comment to cover the radios had been a good order. Our backs were all covered in water, mud and jungle debris, like someone had mixed a very fine mess of a salad and dumped it from the sky. Fusner pulled the debris covered poncho off the radios. All of us had to find our helmets and get re-oriented mentally. I could see the shock in Zippo’s eyes, and I knew he had to be able to see the same thing in mine. I pushed forward to view the other side of the river, only to discover that it had moved. The strike had changed the course of the mighty river. Low whitish smoke covered the entirety of the distance from the river to the far canyon wall, which had to be at least a mile away. The water no longer flowed heavily around the sides of the tank. The bombs had come a lot closer than fifteen hundred meters to our position. The tank now lay in about two feet of barely moving water. The river had somehow gone right into the mess of churned and battered foliage the bombs had fallen on, jutting in just before the tank’s unlikely bulk, as if the tank had something to do with or served as a marker for the course change.
“Sir,” Fusner said, again, handing me the headset I’d discarded to hide from the bombs.
“Shit,” I replied, pulling the rag from my left ear and pressing the handset to it.
“How about that shit show, Flash?” Cowboy said, laughing. “Man you better ‘đi đi mau’ your asses out of there right now cause the planet Mongo is going to be taking a few more hard hits.”
“Man, I can’t thank you, Jacko and Hobo, enough,” I said, wanting to get off the radio and back to the company’s more distant location just as quickly as I could.
“How many?” Cowboy asked.
“Five, including the six,” I answered.
“Shit,” Cowboy replied, “we got more guys orbiting, just waiting their turn so those guys won’t be standing at that gate alone.”
I felt bad for our losses and wanted to thank Cowboy some more for saving us but my fear overrode all of that.
“Where are you?” I asked. “We’re about to make a run for it and we’ve got like two hundred meters of open ground to cover.”
I didn’t want to make the run back to the company. I’d thought of calling the Gunny on the combat net and telling him to bring the company down to our position. I knew in my heart of hearts, however, that it was the wrong move, and the Gunny would find a way not to do it, anyway. I also knew that I’d not been exposed to the naked open-field position of being a defenseless target for Jurgens and Sugar Daddy. One M-16 bullet or M-79 round, and I was done. But I had nowhere to go. I could not go forward or back and the flanks were covered. I could not remain where I was. I breathed in and out a few times to gain control and get ready. I wished I was sitting in the mud up along the broken path by the Gunny, with him taking a puff of his cigarette, and then handing it to me. The enemy wanted to kill me, but could not. My Marines could kill me, but did they still want to?
I tried to put my pack on, but Zippo grabbed it from me, with a smile. “Gotcha covered, sir,” he said, climbing to his feet, the rags still sticking out his ears and Casey’s helmet under his left arm.
I waited in a crouch. I was ready. I’d channeled Captain Casey and gotten his take on what I had to do. “High ho Silver,” I felt him whisper into my ear. I smiled to myself. The Sandys came screaming back in, then pulled up abruptly, like they’d hit a giant air wall, before bending back to curve around and cover the open area we had to cross.
Springing to my feet, I straightened. I could do it. “We’re going to run balls out,” I announced. “High yo Silver,” I said to the team, my smile gone, wondering if the secret of having Casey on my side was noticeable by them.
I ran. I would lead from the front, not the back, just like Casey would have.
There was no fire from either the enemy or our company. I stared intently at the line of jungle we were headed for, my eyes sweeping from south to north, and then quickly back again. I wasn’t afraid of enemy fire. I was afraid of Jurgens and Sugar Daddy and how much of a needful presence I’d made on the company. In Basic School, I’d failed to be popular. If the other officers in my class had had their choice, I’d never have stayed on as an officer in the Corps. Now, I was running a gauntlet which was nothing more or less than the most important peer evaluation I’d ever experienced, or would likely experience, in my life. The Basic School had been a game. Not real. The southern small section of the A Shau Valley I was trapped in wasn’t a game, and the reality it dished out was in measured doses of death. It had taken five members of my patrol and, even though those members had not been fans of mine, they’d been Marines of mine.
I felt a growing ember of anger that was beginning to burn inside my belly as I ran. “High yo Silver,” I shouted, pulling ahead of my three younger and tougher scout team members. If I died I’d die at the hands of Marines and not some hiding, underfed and under-armed mess of local militia. I realized that I hadn’t even checked my .45 before we’d taken off. It didn’t matter, I knew. The Colt wasn’t going to save me if one of my Marines fired.
The Sandys flew in sharp arcs around us as we went, pulling such tight turns that I would have sworn I could see the entirety of their cockpits, like I was looking down inside them. The Skyraider’s wingtips seemed little more than a few feet off the broken rough sandy mud of the old river bottom. There were no shots fired from any weapon I could hear, and I realized that my own Marines might be just as intimidated by the giant outrageously-noisy aircraft as the enemy had to be.
I reached the big berm our patrol had come down from the night before. I was up and over it in seconds, literally jumping down on the other side between two perimeter guards, and then crossing the few meters to where the path ran north and south.
I went straight down to the jungle floor, falling into a crouch to begin catching my breath and getting my bearings. The relief at making it alive to be where I was made me giddy with some kind of strange fractured joy. I tried to settle down, as first Zippo, then Nguyen and finally Fusner settled beside me. I knew I wasn’t quite right. I knew that I’d been very serious with myself in wanting to be killed by my own men rather than the enemy, which wasn’t a sane way to think. I took off my damaged helmet, now precious to me because it had been Casey’s, and placed it gently between my ankles. I rubbed my face and bowed my shoulders to inwardly stretch. I needed to be clean again. I needed rest.
The Gunny came trotting up the path, followed by Sugar Daddy and Jurgens, with members of their usual entourages in trace. The Gunny crouched down next to me, as my scout team automatically withdrew a few meters. I noted that Stevens was back with us, like he’d never been gone. I hadn’t noticed his approach. I waited for the Gunny to say something, absently thinking about how Stevens might have the best survival strategy going of any of us. He was visible and then invisible. Available but not around. Right in the middle of things but not there at all.
“I spoke with command,” the Gunny said, “and we have to get across the river, somehow by the end of the day. Where’s Casey?”
I watched him go through his ornate process of cigarette tamping and lighting. I motioned toward Zippo. I pointed at Casey’s helmet, which sat by his side. Zippo stuck it out toward the Gunny.
The Gunny took the helmet in one hand, holding it out gingerly before pulling it closer to look inside. He jerked his head back, but then caught himself and slowly lowered it to the ground next to his left thigh.
“Casey’s dead?” the Gunny asked, holding his lit cigarette out over his knees in his right hand, without taking a second puff.
“Casey and the four LAW operators,” I replied, looking over to see Jurgens reaction. He stared back for a few seconds, and then looked away.
“Casey blew the tank,” I said, matter-of-factly, “The fifty took out two and the other two were hoofing it back to the company when they went down. We ran by their bodies. Hard to miss, really.”
I knew all of them had to have seen the bodies, because they were visible from the company perimeter and the Marines manning the perimeter would not miss anything out on their open killing field of fire.
We paused in our discussion when another squadron of jets flew into to make of a mess of the jungle across from our former position down by the river. The extra five hundred meters from the explosions made all the difference in the world. The explosions still thundered and reverberated, making conversation impossible, but they didn’t induce terror or cause any of us to burrow as deep into the jungle floor as we could get. Both Sandys still flew in huge circles, looking for more stray victims, but apparently not finding them, at least not finding them, at least not by firing their 20mm cannons.
“So you lost Casey,” the Gunny said, glancing behind me at Jurgens and Sugar Daddy.
“You sent him out with me,” I replied.
“You led the patrol, Junior,” Jurgens whispered, his voice barely audible.
I didn’t like having my back to Jurgens and Sugar Daddy, so I stood up and stretched. I moved in front of the Gunny until I was between where Fusner and Zippo sat. I turned and squatted down, facing the Gunny to my left and Sugar Daddy and Jurgens to my right. Only members of my own scout team were behind me. I presumed Nguyen was there but wasn’t certain. If he wasn’t there I knew that he was back in the jungle watching from afar.
“We’re going to cross the river in broad daylight,” I said to the men in front of me. “Air has softened things up nicely but everyone here knows what we’re really dealing with. There’s no quit in this enemy and no end to his resourcefulness. How did that tank get there?” I pointed down toward the river.
“First platoon and fourth are to move down to the patrol’s former position, secure it and form a perimeter to await the rest of the company.”
“I don’t think my men will go down there,” Sugar Daddy replied, as soon as I was done.
I watched Jurgens shake his head while Sugar Daddy talked.
I thought about Captain Casey and what he might have done in the same situation. I wasn’t an FNG anymore. I was seasoning into becoming a gruesome entity stuck inside a horrid Dante’s Inferno version of a guerrilla war, and the ‘entity’ was learning fast.
“I don’t have any problem with those Marines,” I replied softly, trying not to rest my hand on the butt of my .45. I wasn’t ready to shoot Jurgens and Sugar Daddy just yet, and I’d learned that when I was ready to shoot them it had to be in a place and time where and when they didn’t expect it. “If they don’t want to go, or you can’t make them go, then let me know. But you’re both going down there, with or without your platoons.”
“What’s he talking about?” Jurgens responded to the Gunny.
The Gunny used his cigarette to delay his response. He stared at the ground in front of him, taking two full inhalations, and then blowing the smoke out.
“Take your platoons down there and do what he says,” the Gunny finally said. “Our orders are pretty clear and we can’t do anything from where we are, except become sitting ducks again when the enemy recovers…which won’t be long. Junior’s company commander until further notice. Check out the inside of Casey’s helmet if you want to know why.”
“Pick up the dead along the way,” I said, “two down by the brush and two up on the bared river bed.”
Jurgens and Sugar Daddy got to their feet.
“What’s to keep Junior from calling in artillery on us once we’re down there?” Jurgens asked the Gunny.
“Nothing,” the Gunny replied, before getting to his own feet, and walking over to me. He dropped his cigarette and stepped it into the mud. I stared up at him, but got no reading back from him at all. Was he still in my corner? Had he ever really been in my corner? Was I some commodity he used to his own advantage and then might cast aside for something of more value at any instant?
“That leaves the river in flood, a tank strewn in the middle of things and damned mess of mangled bodies and jungle on the other side,” he said, holding out one hand when I tried to interrupt. “You may be God’s own personal gift in getting supporting fires to rain down from the heavens, but those aren’t going to get us across that river by nightfall. Whatever you figure out, let me know before we move out with Second and Third Platoons. Whatever it is we’ll call it the “Moses Plan.”
<<<<<< Beginning | Next Chapter >>>>>>
Thanks for all the “work” you’ve done sharing part of your life with us, there are times when I’m overwhelmed.
I started in Jun 64 and retired the day before my 57th birthday in 2004 to explain any part of my journey to anyone would be impossible, but you make it look like a “cake walk.”
I intend to be at the KS event, my family is Chickasaw and my Great Great Grandmother was the Clan Medicine Woman, I have a lot of her intuitive healing gifts so I intend to spend some time out in KS with the Natives. Many have lost their “Medicine People” so I’m almost always welcomed. Speaking of Medicine, for you the Bear Medicine would have much to help you to sleep, as does Bear who sleeps when the Winter comes upon the land. During the Winter sleep Bear reflects back on the past year and then goes forward in it’s dreams into upcoming Spring walk. This is to understand the things that has or will happen to it. It is why Bear Medicine is so strong with the Native.
Tonight I intend to buy this Warrior book from Amazon. Does this book come from your Lodge and does it have your mark or autograph?
Remember to keep your visions clear and your heart strong … there are many of us who sit by our fires listening to your Warrior stories. Of a Warrior who has gone out and come back with many horses and coups.
In these times the Warrior is not honored, as they always have been in the past, they are “taught to be silent and strong” We are taught no one wants to hear our stores.
Thank you for taking us into your Lodge and lifting our hearts and clearing the vision of many who eyes have become darken with fears and anger. You are a “Medicine Man” to many.
Well, thank you for that doesn’t quiet get it Randy. What a really neat paragraph to read.
I waited to respond to it because I wasn’t sure as to what to say. It would seem to me that we will be meeting on the 4th of July
and that’s going to be a special occasion indeed. I kind of expect to put up a folding card table and have six other guys show upon up
in a corn field but I guess it’ll be a little bigger than that…especially with guys like you coming.
What an honor.
Semper fi, brother,
Hi Jim, Here is my review anything else that I should add? I’d love for as many of your books to be sold as possible. This last week while at Fort Riley I had breakfast with a Sergeant MAJOR who said the Army was becoming a Millennial Army where people question HIM. OMG are you serious? Yes, it’s bad was his response.
This is what I intend to leave about your book:
Having retired from the Army (entered active duty 1964 retired 2004) I can tell you this is about as real as it gets from a young Second Lieutenants first hand combat experience. A true Warrior in his conduct of leadership, determination, and vision. Like a Sioux campaigning against an enemy that seemed everywhere and determined to destroy you and just getting through that day was a big deal. Unlike the Sioux this Warrior had to face the reality of the racial divide, support or “rear” personnel who were never in touch with the field, officer fratricide, and last but not least the unpredictable events of daily conflict (coffee as a bright part of your day) to leeches or soldiers throwing away equipment to make a forced march doable, or refusal to obey orders in combat.
This book will leave you in ranges from lifted or ready to weep …. or any other ranges of emotion in between. There is NEVER a dull moment in this book… the horrors, stupidity of superior rear officers, exhaustion (emotional or physical), the simple pleasure of a hot cup of coffee with the authors NCOIC (who was infantryman in WW2 and Korea), and the last but not least of what lie to write in this daily letter to his wife to make her life bearable. If you are in the “almost joined” or the “been there and done that Vet” crowd this will bring insight and some relief to you. One of my favorite experiences is in an email to the author from a Vet who said..”I get the question often, when were you in Vietnam? My answer.. last night, I’ve never left there.” Today on Memorial Day weekend … it’s a good time to take the time to read the book about the guys who were never met at the airport or never acknowledged for their service or sacrifice and see the daily trials our Vietnam Soldiers faced.
Best book you’ll read this year, period is how I’d summon it up.
I don’t know what to say about a critique that is so wonderful.
I am working on the next segment of book II and reading something like what you wrote Randy gives me a big lift.
The books are not always the most uplifting write for the writer himself.
Last night. Last night. What an answer of revelation and accuracy.
Thanks your for the great writing here Randy and thank you for making my day.
I put this up on my Facebook site and nothing could serve better on this Memorial Day…
My wife and I are attending the Rendezvous also Randy.
It will be an honor to meet you
” Attention all aircraft, this is Ramrod on guard…..avoid WR2168 by 5nm, for the next 05 Mike’s…..Ramrod out “
Fucking “A” Bill!!!
My husband Richard just read your thirty days has September, the first ten days and liked it very much, as he was in Vietnam late 60’s. He would like the next ten days. I wanted to get it for him for his birthday in June. Is it for sale yet?
Sorry Christina, I am writing the second ten days right now but am only on
the 14th days third part. I expect it will be August or so before that one is done and ready to go.
Maybe a bit sooner.
Thanks for asking! And for buying the first book…
The only drawback to one chapter every 5-7 days is I re-read each several times while waiting for the next. In the chapter about the Buff, I’m not sure if it’s me or if the wording here that I can’t seem to get to flow right.
Is it supposed to be the ‘waves came in waves’? Kinda of a cool emphasis but required me to stop and sort out what was being said. If that was the intent then it was just me.
Hey, SSgt, it takes a lot of time to properly research. It’s not like I don’t have to
go back and forth to the maps, and I make mistakes even then. Plus I have my shitty little diaries and
the letters home to my parents and then to my wife to reread and annotate and then finally the
script I wrote in 1970. Whew. I want to get it as right as I can.
Thanks for caring enough to complain!!!
I like the conveyance of the sensation of multiple 500lb impacts. Like even the waves had waves. My goosebumps even had goosebumps
Thanks a lot for that comment Ssgt. Sometimes I am reminded to reread what I wrote and then
chuckle at the description I didn’t remember I wrote!
On 28 April 1973, 2000 250 pound bombs destined for Southeast Asia lit off at the Roseville railyards in Northern California. I don’t recall how close I was but close enough to knock a skinny 13 year old kid to the ground and then some. Those explosions went on for 32 hours. I can only imagine the absolute terrifying hell that air strike must have been – 500 pound bombs at a much much closer distance. And that’s after surviving the artillery barrage up on the ridge! Eagerly waiting for the next chapter. On another note – I went on Amazon to write a review and order the first ten days. I got a bit frustrated when it wouldn’t let me write the review. By reading the comments I realized that I need to order the book first. Getting on that. Very much looking forward to reading it straight through.
Thanks so much Monty for ordering the book and leaving a comment.
Means everything in these early days. It was an intensively dangerous time
even for a series of combat situations and it’s a long way from over.
Thanks for writing on here and your continued support…
I can sill hear the arc light’s. Being on the Cambodian border made them easy to hear. When you could see what they did, as it happened, could take your breath away. The captain turned out to quite the man. Good for him. Keep up the good work, and as always…WRITE FASTER!!
Never seen or heard of any pyrotechnical display like it Mike. Something so stunning and shocking to behold
that the fear was minimized somehow. Thanks for the comment and for being here to write it.
Hope you have the book by now and left a comment.
In reference to the Arc light strikes, I was with 3/3/3 in late summer of ’67 and operating out of Payable, near the Rockpile, and I believe we were in the valley that led to Khe Sanh, but really can’t remember for sure. But we had just gotten an arc light strike and we were scouting around the huge holes looking for evidence of casualties, and in the bottom of one hole, a good 15′ deep was a hand, still clutching a ChiCom potato masher grenade. Fifty years later, I can still see that hand and marvel at the fact it was laying there at the bottom of the hole, still clutching that grenade, and everything else about that man was simply gone!
Thanks Chris. The power of modern weaponry is staggering to experience first hand.
Few really do and even fewer come through to even discuss it…to an audience that has no
clue and no ability to believe. In the movies and on television small underpowered revolvers
almost always are at least equal to or greater in effect than machine guns and assault rifles.
That’s the mythology laid on us. The reality is totally different, as you know. Try telling someone
back here that if you stand up a full quarter mile away from a 750 lb bomb going off on flat ground that
the shock wave will likely kill you on the spot. Not the movies.
Semper fi, and thanks for the comment,
Salina,Ks sits immediately on the sout side of I-70 and is close to midway ‘tween Denver and KC. Not far east is Junction City (Home of the Big Reed One) and Junction City, being a military town (as in Salina is highly supportive of military. Salina was once home to Schilling AFB. The KKOA at Salina is one of the best you’ll see, Many anniversary yearly drag races held there. MANY nearby hotels there as well. I am attempting to get local press and TV to be present. Hope this helps? Semper Fi
Junction City has an outstanding Viet NAm Veteran Memorial there right close to I-70 Worth a look see.
I think the final decision is Winfield, Kansas. They have a small version of the wall and
great accommodations for everyone and would be really happy to have us. At least that is what Chuck Bartok, putting
the whole things together, is putting up on the Internet right now.
I don’t know how far Whitfield is from Salina but I don’t think it’s that far.
James, Winfield and Whitfield are 2 different places. Winfield is in southeast Ks, along ways from Salina. Good luck finding your way.
Greatly enjoying you writing. Although not being infantry but Army Combat Engr attached 3rd MarineAmphib Field Force in 68 at Hai Van Pass with a. cLear view of the A Shau
Yes, Dan, but this thing seems to have a life of its own.
I’ll go where the hell they figure out I should go and be proud to
have helped form the gathering. I don’t think there is a gathering of
combat Vietnam guys anywhere…and so it will be…anywhere.
Thanks for the comment and for the support and hope to meet you on the 4th…
Winfield, Kansas is southeast of Wichita. When I was active duty I pulled alert at the old Titan II Missile Silo that was close by. It’s been awhile since I was there, but it is convenient enough to larger towns for eats, and lodging, too.
PS Got my book in the mail today. Thanks for the autograph. For others that don’t have an aotographed copy: Nyah, nayh, nayh, nayh! 🙂
thank you Ed and I am glad you like your autographed edition.
Yes, Winfield works simply because it’s an adventure. Is the cause
good enough to hit the road over? I doubt it, but the adventure itself
I cannot help but look forward to…
I know what you mean about fucked up sleep. (It’s 0330 as I write this.) All this time later, I’m awake from dusk to dawn, checking the perimeter. I postponed a lot of my PTSD by staying in the Corps. I went on to do some stuff in the Middle East as an intel officer, then Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Provide Comfort in Turkey and Northern Iraq, Somalia, the Middle East again, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and two tours in Afghanistan. I hit mandatory retirement at 40 years (10 enlisted and WO, 30 commissioned service) and realized that my mandatory retirement date and my body’s expiration date coincided. My new duty station is Bethesda, where I get parts replaced. It’s all caught up with me now, but I can’t tell what is from Vietnam and what is from the other shitholes. I’ve given up on a normal sleep schedule. No matter, I’ve got a good dog and a house with clear fields of fire. Keep up the good work. As I noted in my Amazon review, if the reader wasn’t there, your book is the closest they can ever get.
I read your comment and then reread it and started laughing. I much enjoyed the way you put things here.
Your duty station is Bethesda for parts replacement. Yes! Retirement and expiration dates. Thanks for the morning smile.
Thanks also for reviewing the book after buying it in the first place. And the compliment means a lot too.
Ordinance about 15 paragraphs from the beginning should be ordnance. Thanks for all you are doing and all you have done.
So noted and corrected.
Wow…Another gripping installment. Thank you again for sharing. A few thoughts come to mind:1) My friend Mark Shiels (1st Cav 2nd & 7th Pleiku 68′-’69) always credited his DI at Fort Benning for keeping him alive in Viet Nam. He said the DI drilled into him that if you equate Viet Nam with a herd of 100 cows, you want to be cow number 52. Not too far in the front, not too far in the back…reminds me of Stevens. Able to adjust (visible and invisible) as the situation dictates. 2) Mark always said, “I was hired to do a job by the US Army, good or bad, that’s my job. That’s the work ethic I was brought up with and I am happy to have a job, maybe not happy with the job, but at least I have one”. 3) My brother was a SSgt in the Air Force (’67-70), stationed for about 9 months in Thailand. About 6′ 4″, 225 lbs., tough guy from a blue collar neighborhood in Queens, had nothing but praise for you guys on the ground.
Thanks Al for that neat comment. I was not angry with Stevens for the way
he conducted himself. I was more amazed at his ability to pull it off, even with me being
on to him! But then, survival strengths come in all kinds. I was as different from Stevens as night to day
but I respected what he was and how he was going about cleverly thinking his way through…
In my day with the 101st we called Stevens a “ghost”. The procedure was called “ghostin”. It was a survival technique. Always available, never visible.
Interesting comment here Vern. I, like with most of the rest of my story, never thought that any of this stuff might be
experienced by other men in combat. Here you guys not only knew of conduct like Stevens pulled buy you had a name for it!
Astounding. Thank you for that and for the other comments you have made.
I asked a coworker who is a Amazon Prime member to help me leave you a review since I hadn’t spent money there myself. He bought me the book instead, you’ll see it in the near future when I send for the autograph. I already asked them to get that review in. #oneveryhappycamper
SSGT. You are the man! Thank you, and that was a cool thing for that person to do.
Thanks so very much. It seems small at this point but we are small at this point. Growing but small.
Hopefully, we will be like the Corps, small but oh so effective…
James – Possibly the most intense chapter yet. So many unknowns – the NVA and your own troops pale small in comparison as to where the hell is all that high altitude ordinance REALLY going to land? I’m still having a very hard time thinking that you actually had Marines who may still want to kill you after all you’ve brought them through. Total shitbirds of the lowest form in my eyes!
Here’s something else I’d like your input on. I have a daughter who is very close to signing the papers for OCS in Quantico (May 2018 class). Are the instructors that ignorant AND that shitty to the “candidates” as you describe Major Kramer in Basic School? Has their own feeling of self importance overshadowed their professionalism that REQUIRES them to train and mold these highly motivated, very bright future leaders of our beloved Corps and country into lean, mean fighting machines? It disturbs me that someone as qualified and obviously successful as you were in OCS would be ostracized by fellow candidates (and commanding officers) who were jealous of your accomplishments rather than being proud to have served with you.
They weren’t that jealous. I was a bit of an asshole to many of them.
Kramer was a bad C.O. but those can be worked around as time goes by and through the combined efforts of everyone in the command.
The Corps is a definitive life-changing thing in anyone’s life who joins it at any rank or level. It is, in my opinion, the finest training
operation in the world and leaves its positive can-do attitude stamp on all who enter its portals. Also, OCS is tough and when you do tough successfully
it leaves its mark. I whole-heartedly support her going to OCS and coming out as a great officer. I have not written much about the great ones I met because they came after…and hopefully I’ll make it to write that book after the other three are done….
I love the Marine Corps, all the way…up the hill…oooooorahhhhh!
Just read first 10 Days. Great job.
I am a specialist in sleep disorders.
You mention in several places loosing time but not really sleeping.
Stage I Sleep is hard to tell from being awake. You can still hear things and maybe think scattered thoughts. Of the 4 stages of sleep, it is where anxious people mostly sleep. It is not very refreshing. It can be easily interrupted by brief arousals.Some people will drift from being awake to in Stage I sleep and out again. Very sleep deprived people can lapse into it unknowingly, even while standing up.
I really appreciate your writing down your experiences.
Now that’s some neat shit your talking about Frank.
I did not know there were sleep specialists around.
I guess I’ve never considered my strange state at night a ‘disorder’ before.
It must be, however. I am very alert through all the days of my life. All day long,
from around six until around one a.m. the following morning.
I sleep but not sleep during most nights. I get up and then get back down.
I go in and out all night long but I am not discomforted by the process.
It’s become okay as long as I don’t bother anyone else in the house.
I hunt with my cat through the house, from window to window to cover all the fields of fire.
But I do not do so armed anymore.
If periods of actually being out of it come then the loss of some decent hours
of being down does not seem to bother me at all during the next day. I do not nap and I do not nod off.
I could not be more alert or on top of everything mentally.
I do not multi-task well but I task really, really well.
I probably have a disorder though, as I can’t see where my night life is at all normal.
I don’t drink or take any drugs at all.
Thanks for caring enough to ask.
Hypervigilance , insomnia and poor quality sleep is seen in some veterans. I think my Grandad had some of this left over from WWI.
There has been quite a lot of research in this field. You might google American Society of Sleep Medicine for more info.
A good review.
Morning “LT”….sitting here and smiliing at the small coincidences that just can’t be explained…This segment arriving for us to read on Easter Morning..as you leave us waiting…for the “Moses Plan”…..just doesn’t get any better…. In order to have received all that air support, Cowboy had to have declared a “Broken Arrow” for your situation….and everything that could fly was given to him to use for your support..Those B52’s would have been diverted in flight from another predestined target area…and that never happened unless it was of the utmost importance…Somebody had your back… The closest we ever got to an Arc Light drop was about two clicks..and I can still feel the earth shaking today..we would stop and stare at each other..and speak quietly, almost in reverance for the hell that was being delivered upon those under the rain of steel….the phrase “Get Some” could be heard up and down the line and we were just grateful that Buff was on our side….. As for Casey….he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way…he had enough wits left to know that he was finished…but by God, he was stll an Officer of Marines….to the end…”Hi Ho Silver… Away”….. will raise a quiet cold one to Him…and all the “Sandy’s” Semper Fi…
Wow Larry. Just wow! You write your own form of poetry in this last entry.
Your story braided so neatly into my own, like we were both there together
and now old Marines sitting around the camp fire and talking about it.
The Vietnam Combat Rendezvous is going down outside Salina, Kansas on over the 4th of July.
You just have to be there…along with the organized wisdom
you so adroitly express in your writing.
Thanks for that. A quiet cold one…
Jim another intense segment. Loved the fast movers (F4s) they were there then we needed them. Sometimes to close for me. Your descriptions of the explosions bring it all back for (to) me, the radios asking for our positions to the sounds are spot on. We had some big bombs (don’t remember how big) dropped in Cambodia that turned the triple canopy to tooth picks, we stayed around them at night for field of fire if we could.
Keep them coming Jim.
Thanks Mike, and I mean that from the depths. It’s hard to associate sometimes with the far journey from there to here,
and bridging that huge gulf, a gulf I wanted to make wider as quickly as I could. But here I am, on the far side of that
valley of life, wondering if that distant height and edge near the far horizon of time really happened at all.
Am I really here? And if I am then what exactly is here? Thanks for the depth of your comments, all of them, and this is just
another fine example…
Remember shrapnel swoosh swooshing and then the thud as it hit close by every time we called in HE…some way to close…those times I found that I could get everything but the end of my toes under my helmet 😁