There was no question that I needed a plan. The company had no equipment for crossing any stretch of water that I knew of, and since the NVA had gotten a full blown battle tank down the river, or some road paralleling it, the likelihood of a U.S. Navy Seabee unit getting a bridge-laying vehicle on site was pretty grim. Unless I could somehow figure out a way, using daylight and available air power, to secure a beachhead on the other side of the river, the company was tied to the dead end wedge at the bottom of the A Shau Valley like a staked goat. Technically, I knew resupply Hueys could fly down onto the rough, but navigable, surface our patrol had crossed the night before on our way back to the company position. That muddy ground, made pretty solid by a healthy content of river sand, would handle the choppers’ weight, but the gentle slope of it, and its exposure to the hills on the other side, would make the helicopters sitting targets. No, the solution was to occupy and establish a decent perimeter around the old airstrip where the valley walls rose up while coming closer together, and have resupply and medevac come in there. The tops of the cliffs on both sides would be perfect places for the NVA to have positions to shoot down, but if they opened up from there then those positions would be nothing but deadly charnel plains strewn with the results of air power’s scathing attacks. We could hold the low ground with air and artillery, and low ground was all we were going to get.

“Get Pilson,” I said to Fusner. “I need the company clerk. The key to this problem is rope. Do we have anything that resembles climbing line in the company?”

“I don’t know,” Fusner replied, taking his helmet off and scratching his head.