I lay prone on the jungle mat of fallen leaves, fronds and smaller branches. I couldn’t tell how deep the mass under me was, although back at the hole we’d blown earlier, the jungle floor mat seemed like it was almost a foot thick. It was better than the mud. We had to be ready to retreat back over the lip of the cliff at the right time so I’d placed my full pack between my head and the likely direction of the enemy, not that the pack would stop anything more powerful than a Daisy air rifle BB. I realized it might also give away my position, even though it was green. It was the wrong green. There was no right green in the jungle of Vietnam. Everything that was supposed to be there blended in. The Bamboo Vipers were yellow but they blended invisibly. The only thing that didn’t blend in was Marines. I wondered if our faulty ability to blend in was responsible for the high casualties we took. There was no way to tell how we really stacked up against the NVA. We made up their casualties to please a demanding command structure. Our own casualties were evident every day by counting the wounded going out on medevac and the body bags, but then the friendly fire dead weren’t listed as being from friendly fire. Were those Marine dead from such friendly fire really the result of that, or was Vietnam simply killing them in a different way?

My plan became more questionable the longer we waited. If we’d simply run down along the cliff we might have avoided detection, and be sitting at the A Shau Landing Zone by nightfall. Instead, we weren’t going anywhere for the rest of the light, and on into the dark. There had been no contact from Kilo when we’d failed to show up. The Gunny said, before he moved up and down the line to make sure everyone was attentive and waiting instead of asleep at the switch, that Kilo wouldn’t really care whether we showed up or not as long as they got our resupply and added it to their own.