I waited, my body spread face down and flat on the jungle floor. It would have been a time of rest and relaxation if an attack by unknown numbers of wily, capable and well-armed opponents weren’t also waiting somewhere out in the night. Counting breaths and numbers to hold back the terror of the night wouldn’t come. Staring ahead into the dark, a useless task, could not be avoided.
Every U.S. Marine is trained for guard duty, even officers. Guard duty is conducted continuously by the Corps all over the world. All U.S. Embassies and consulates are guarded by Marines, as well as many military bases and commands of military services, not Marine related. Marines guard the White House. The applied science and art of guarding involves two conflicting actions. Total vigilance and total boredom. Total vigilance is impossible to accomplish while total boredom is impossible to avoid, at times. Waiting for an attack that might not come should not have been boring but it was, like guard duty, although with an element of terrifying fear that was indescribable. And there was nothing to do in a darkness that had to be maintained as near to being complete as possible, in spite of a blooming full moon behind us. No flashlights or lighting of cigarettes.
The company wasn’t a total loss or mess, I realized because there was almost no sound coming from anyone or anything, as the massed company was one. That silent exhibition took training and experience. There was no clearing of weapon actions, clicks of lighters, flashes of light or anything else to give away our position, even though everyone knew the enemy had to know exactly where we were and the fact that we were stationary out ahead of them in the night. It was unlikely the NVA knew we were low on ammunition, however, because American units were so vastly over-supplied compared to Vietnamese forces.
I’d mentioned semi-auto to the Gunny, but I didn’t know if he’d carried the idea down the line. M16 rifles could be fired on full auto or semi-auto, depending upon where a small selector on the lower left of the firearm’s receiver was placed. All combat troops and Marines were known to favor full auto, but ammunition was low. Semi-auto was more controllable and wasted a whole lot less ammunition.
I didn’t know the actual state of our ammunition supply but I knew the Gunny would not be worried unless that amount was critical. I figured that my plan was probably acceptable to him because it involved the most sparing use of small arms fire if everything went according to the way I hoped it would. Since I didn’t have any idea of what the ammunition situation really was and no effective way to find out, there was no point in going on about fire control any further. Either there was enough to hold the enemy back when they attacked or there wasn’t. I’d also learned that individual Marines don’t necessarily do what you want them to do when they are alone in the night.
It was too dark to see my map unless I turned on the tiny-holed lens of my taped up flashlight, so I did the best I could to recall our ridge position in my mind. The registration grid for my initial ranging round could be worked back and forth across the ridge, as I planned, with a full battery fire. I hadn’t planned for the other option, however. If we ran out of small arms ammo and were overrun, then bringing the VT fire down along the cliff position we ourselves occupied would be required. I decided that that suicidal plan was really no solution at all, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Finally, I went through the process of designing that alternate plan as well, since I had nothing else to do with the slow-moving time. Would I have a better chance of living if the place was swept by shrapnel up and down the cliff, or if at night I might be missed by an enemy working from downed Marine to downed Marine, shooting everyone they found in the head? The artillery ‘ultimate solution’ began to seem more and more like it was the best course of action if we could not stop the NVA long enough to blow the hell out of them. If the artillery fired at all. My worry made me physically uneasy. I crouched to rub my thighs and try to get rid of the shaking. I’d need my hands to call the battery with the handset. No matter what I thought or tried, however, I couldn’t stop fidgeting and moving around on the jungle floor.
“Sir, you’re making too much noise,” Zippo whispered over to me, his right eye glued to the rubber grommet of the Starlight Scope.
“Too much noise to see by?” I whispered back.
Zippo sighed loudly and I was immediately sorry for commenting. But I couldn’t stop moving around a bit either. I wasn’t built for combat and I knew it. I was a mess, mentally and physically, but all I could do was hide that fact as best I could. Whatever narrow chance I had for survival was dependent upon not becoming more prey-like than I already was.
The Gunny came in out of the night, climbing up and over the edge of the cliff rather than working through the jungle along its upper lip.
“Anything out there?” he asked, keeping his voice almost too low for me to hear. I leaned close to his prone figure. I sensed Pilson nearby but couldn’t see him. I realized that my shakes were gone again. I wondered if it was the Gunny’s presence or the fact that exercising my hands had been effective again. I hoped it was the exercise.
“Not yet,” I murmured back. If the movement had been spotted there would have been no need for the Gunny’s question or my answer, I knew. The Gunny was nervous too.
“What’s the ammo situation?” I asked, more to make conversation than because my knowledge might make any difference. The die was just about cast, as far as I saw it, and making slight changes wasn’t going to affect the outcome. The Gunny remained silent, so I changed the subject.
“If we moved quietly down the ridge in the dark that might just work,” I said.
“They fight at night, not us,” the Gunny replied, his voice having more timber but still remaining low. “And then there’s the moon.”
I looked over my shoulder. I saw Pilson’s head sticking up over the edge of the cliff, illuminated from behind by the full moon. I felt like a complete idiot. The Gunny could not be more correct. We were hunkered down at night, and even though we had the Starlight Scope the night belonged to the Vietnamese. If the company moved through the moonlit night through the NVA controlled jungle it would probably not last long.
“Maybe it would be best if you climbed down over the edge and waited there,” the Gunny said.
“I’ve got to see the first round in order to adjust fire,” I replied, “and I’ve got to be up here to be able to tell when it’s the best time to call fire for effect.” I looked over at him and waited for a few seconds for him to answer. When he didn’t, I added, “If they’re out there.”
“They’re out there, but they know how to wait for just the right time to strike,” the Gunny said, cupping one hand over his mouth to light a cigarette which he shouldn’t have been lighting. “They know we have to be beaten to shit, and we are. Some of the guys are probably asleep right now. They would know that too. When they hit you call in the artillery and then get over the edge as fast as you can. The only way out of here, if the arty doesn’t stop them, is straight down, going from ledge to ledge, but that’s presuming one of the ledges isn’t a forty footer, or so.”
I thought about trying to go down that side of the mountain into whatever unknown valley was below and I cringed. There were no good options if Cunningham and the Army didn’t come through according to my plan. I’d gambled everything for everyone on a plan that had been created out of nothing at all. There was little evidence for anything I’d based it on, except the deadly enemy was very real and probably more deadly than I even wanted to think about. They’d taken heavy casualties from our company, and that of Kilo. They’d be in no mood to spare anyone.
I turned to look over the moonlit valley behind me. The fact that it was a gentle valley at all was barely visible, thanks to the limited light the full moon radiated down. The moon was high in the sky and would not set until near dawn. I examined the orb closely and discovered that it was not full at all. It was close to being full, but instead was something I knew to be called a gibbous moon. I wasn’t sure exactly what that term meant but I was comforted in knowing the word.
The shelf of outcrop just below where I lay was filling with Marines. There was no doubt that when the NVA attacked the shelf would be a safer place to be, protected by the abrupt cliff of solid volcanic rock. I couldn’t make out the features of any individuals. The light was too low and diffuse.
“Zippo, take a scan up and down the shelf behind us,” I whispered, nudging the big man.
Zippo shifted about, making barely audible complaining sounds, but finally complied. “What we looking for?” he asked, examining the area up and down the line. I moved to position myself next to him.
“Let me have a look,” I said, gently assuming control of the bulky black cylinder. It took me less than ten seconds to identify Jurgens among the Marines setting up along the shelf behind us. I pushed the instrument back toward Zippo.
“Go back to checking out the open areas,” I ordered, keeping my voice from breaking with an effort.
I tried to relax as best I could. I had the enemy in front of me and First Platoon directly to my rear. I’d managed somehow to be put right between two forces that had every reason to kill me at the earliest convenience. I knew Jurgens had to know about the plan. He had to know that the artillery was the key to making the plan, and thereby his own survival, the key. That meant he and his men would not shoot me in the back prior to calling the artillery barrage. It would be afterward, if I lived through the NVA attack. I grew more frightened. How had I trapped myself into such a position so easily? The Gunny was next to me in the same position, but not likely any kind of target for Jurgens and his men. Did the Gunny know?
I motioned toward Fusner. He immediately held out the artillery handset but I waved it away. “Stevens,” I whispered. In seconds Stevens plopped himself down between Fusner and me. He said nothing.
“The NVA are in front of us and Jurgens has set up behind us with First Platoon,” I whispered low, my lips close to his right ear. I knew the situation placed the whole scout team right in the middle of a crossfire, not just me. If the enemy opened up on us, and then First Platoon did the same, there was no way any of us would survive the exchange. The company being low on ammunition was not going to save us.
“What am I supposed to do?” Stevens asked, his voice rising a bit as he began to realize the precariousness of his own position.
“Leave the Starlight scope and the radio,” I ordered, after a few seconds to complete a Plan B. “Take Fusner, Zippo and Nguyen down the line fifty meters, or so. I can use the scope and radio myself.”
“What are you going to do, sir?” Stevens asked.
I felt the first tiny warmth inside myself that I’d felt in days. Stevens had surprisingly referred to me as ‘sir.’ I thought furiously about my options. I had nowhere to go. I didn’t even know where Sugar Daddy’s platoon was, but it certainly wouldn’t be any better to be in front of them. The topography I’d so carefully chosen to survive the company was being turned into a death trap for me personally. I thought of telling the Gunny about my fears but decided that was out of the question. If he knew already, then it didn’t matter. If he didn’t know, what was he supposed to do, go beg Jurgens to get behind somebody else? That solution could not be made to fly either.
“All I’ve got is the artillery,” I said to myself, and then realized I was answering Stevens’ question. I didn’t go on to mention that I might well have nothing at all, because I had not called to see if I could get the artillery support I now had to have whether the enemy attacked or not.
There was no time to lose, as Stevens gathered the scout team together to fill them in. I pulled loose the straps holding my rolled up poncho cover to my pack. I pulled the cover up over my head, took the map from my morphine pocket and turned on my flashlight. To pull off Plan B I was going to need precision. I could not use my original registration point for the first ranging round. And I needed nearby grid targets for subsequent fire. My brain, operating at flank speed and cold panicked efficiency, committed the grid coordinates and code words to memory automatically, and so accurately that I knew I did not have to check my data. If I was wrong about our position, or what I was about to call in, then I was dead, and my calculating brain knew it.
I clicked the flashlight off and came out from under the poncho.
“They’re not coming,” Stevens said, confronting me in the moonlight.
“Who’s not coming?” I replied stupidly, my mind still on the numbers.
“They refuse to leave you.”
“Ah, that wasn’t a request Sergeant Stevens, that was an order,” I replied flatly while rerolling my poncho and getting it back onto my pack.
“They’re not going,” Stevens replied as if he hadn’t heard me.
Fusner was down next to Stevens and he still had the radio on. Zippo was staring through the Starlight scope, just like before. Nguyen had slithered in close like he was waiting for some news in a language he didn’t comprehend.
My shoulders slumped again. Why in hell had the Basic School trainers neglected to tell new officers, about to go into combat, what to do if their men would not obey orders? The Marine Corps was not supposed to be organized that way.
“Problem, Junior?” the Gunny asked, having moved a bit closer, probably because of all the conversation.
“No Gunny,” I said, determined not to share any weakness at such a critical time.
The Gunny retreated to light another cigarette, the glow each time he pulled on it lighting up his face like a small red lantern, and quite possibly visible to a lurking enemy.
“Why?” I hissed, turning back to Stevens.
“Fusner says you can’t operate the radio alone because the frequency is different and it’s too dark to see the knobs. Zippo says you can’t look through the scope and do the radio thing at the same time. Nguyen won’t say why he’s staying. He just is.”
“What about you?” I asked.
“I’m not crazy,” he replied. “I’m going.”
I sensed a tightness in the boy’s voice. I knew he didn’t want to go but was being driven by the same forces fighting to keep me alive.
“That’s the smart move,” I told him. “But get maybe a hundred meters down there if you can. This could turn very ugly, and very bloody back here.”
Stevens pulled on his pack, and then strapped his M16 to his right shoulder.
“What are you going to do, sir?” he said, calling me sir for the second time.
“Chicken,” I said, rather absently, turning slowly to look out over the silvery valley behind me. “I’m going to play a game of chicken.”
Stevens was gone in seconds. I turned to the remaining members of my team, knowing Nguyen could not understand me because his interpreter was gone. I didn’t know whether to thank the remaining team members or be furious with them. I wondered how many more days I’d have to spend in Vietnam before anyone would obey an order from me simply because I gave it.
We waited, and then waited some more. The Starlight scope should have been called the Moonlight scope I realized, after a few hours. The light of the gibbous moon made the machine perform so well that it was like looking through the lens at the brightness of day, except the day was all green. Zippo spotted the first anomaly on his own.
“The bushes are moving, sir,” he said softly.
“Bushes don’t move on their own,” I replied, moving to look into the grommet.
“These are,” he replied, before backing up a foot or two to wait.
I stared through the scope until my eye fully focused. Zippo was right, I realized. Many of the bushes in the open area were moving. Some would move and stop, and then others would do so.
“Fire and maneuver, without the fire part,” I whispered. “They’re coming,” I said, a bit louder.
“You sure?” the Gunny asked, moving over to look through the scope.
I backed up and then held my hand out toward Fusner. I pushed the transmit button, said a brief prayer in my head, and then gave my pre-established radio code. The battery came right back.,
“Fire Mission, over,” I said, feeling deep relief.
The Army officer on the other end repeated the words and then reported that the battery had four tubes active. I let out another sigh of relief. Although Cunningham Firebase had two guns down they could give me a battery of four without difficulty. I could live with that. We might all live with that.
I called in the first round of Willie Peter, to explode a hundred meters in the air, but I didn’t register it at the pre-established position I’d chosen earlier. I knew I wasn’t going to have any trouble seeing where it would go off. I simply turned around and looked out over the valley behind me, when the words “shot, over,” came through the Prick 25 speaker. The Gunny looked over at me strangely, after pulling himself away from the Starlight Scope.
“What?” he began but was interrupted with “splash, over,” coming from the radio.
The round went off about three hundred meters from our position, but over the valley behind us, instead of over the enemy position to our front. The light show it provided glowed down on the Marines strewn behind us along the shelf below the cliff. I could see the Marines below all looking at one another, and out at the showering phosphorus.
“Left two hundred, Hotel Echo, repeat,” I ordered into the microphone, asking for a high explosive round.
Seconds later the next round came in, but it was anything other than a load of white phosphorus burning up in the atmosphere high in the distant night. It was forty-seven pounds of a high explosive going off at a position against the slope of the mountain only a hundred yards away. The shock wave shook the trees around and blew debris blasted from the mountainside undergrowth all around us.
I flinched and ducked, along with everyone else.
I raised my voice, holding the handset firm, I yelled out, “Left one hundred,” and then I stopped. I didn’t push the handset transmit button this time. I waited.
The line of Marines below wasn’t a line anymore. It was a bunch of clumps of departing Marines, running up and down the shelf for all they were worth.
“What the hell?” the Gunny said, but staying low, as small arms fire was beginning to come from where the enemy was attacking.
“Withdraw everyone Gunny, and get them over the edge,” I said. “In thirty seconds I’m calling in full battery fire and it’ll take about a minute more of adjusting and flight travel time. Anybody up top is going to be full of holes.
I brought in the first round of white phosphorus, as planned, adjusting from the last high explosive round I’d called in nearby instead of starting anew. The round came in perfect, and also initiated a full-scale attack by the NVA. It took only a few seconds to get the first battery of four of VT rounds on target. I rolled off the cliff and onto the shelf with the Gunny and my scout team. There was nobody else there. The first four rounds came in as ordered, off to my left. I began walking more battery fire across and down the ridge. The rounds were so close that, even down below the lip of the cliff, my ears were starting to ring. I had forgotten to put the tissue in my ears. I did six batteries of four and then swept six more across the plateau above. I heard screaming from above before my hearing went almost entirely.
The Gunny came to my side minutes later.
“That was something,” he said, almost yelling into my face to be heard. “Screw the night, let’s get the hell out of here now. They had to take one hell of a bashing. Let’s not wait for them to regroup.”
He didn’t wait for my confirmation. I strapped on my pack. Stevens rejoined us from below, as we prepared to leave.
“That went pretty well, sir,” he said, his tone one of sheepishness.
Nguyen leaned close as if to check on me.
“Thank God for the United States Army,” I said to him.
Nguyen nodded as if he understood.
We followed the Gunny down the shelf of rock and wild grass, moving into the night I feared so badly, but behind First and Fourth Platoons, and with a deadly enemy torn and tattered apart on our left flank. The moon was going down and at some point, I knew the sun would have to be coming up. The A Shau awaited us in the morning as if placed out there as a bleak macabre gift, given in return by a heartless god, for the carnage I’d strewn across the top of the ridge.
Just a KILLER read. I cannot wait for the rest. The story has me on the edge of my seat! I was in the Corps from 1977 to 1984. I’m the only son of a Marine. My dad’s dad was a Marine as well. I joined because Judge Malone told me if he saw me in his courtroom one more time he would send me to the state pen for no less than one year. I guess I also joined to finally make my old man proud of me for once. I was just a dipshit kid when I went in and they kicked me in to shape. Eventually became an NCO and always tried to be a good cat. Had some great officers and a few complete assholes who thought they walked on water. But the good ones ALWAYS looked out for their Marines and that was always appreciated by their men. I was a peacetime Marine trained by Vietnam combat vets—glad for that and proud of that. They had MUCH to teach. Good shit, too. Not just all that by the book bullshit. I will shut up and just say that I am SO happy you made it back. And I am so proud of the way you handled yourself. Those grunts ought to thank the GODS that they had you and your magical ways with 105’s and 155’s. I am ashamed that the Corps let you down in so many ways. I hope the rest of your life is one SOLID HOLIDAY. You deserve PEACE.
Thanks a lot Curt for your lengthy and meaningful comment. Most guys don’t comment, and if they do it’s pretty short.
The compliments keep me going more than most would think…
Outstanding read, Jim. I’m a retired Marine combat veteran myself. I did 2 tours in Iraq. The invasion in March of 2003 and a 2nd in 04-05. Both with Weapons Co 1st bn 2 Marines. I was medically retired as a SSgt after only 10 yrs from all the damn roadside bombs I got to damn close to. There’s no link to continue that I can see. Perhaps there isn’t anymore to read yet and I just missed that somehow. Where can I find a link if the next ten days are there to be read? Also I’d like to thank you for having the courage to be so candid about your experiences. I was told about your book by a friend of mine who was a Marine and tunnel rat in Vietnam yesterday afternoon. I started reading after my sons were done for bed and haven’t stopped until now. The way you’ve described your experiences and the emotions that you felt bring me back to my own private hells of the past. Keep doing what your doing. My Father was a Marine and a vet of 3 tours in Vietnam. Unfortunately he passed in January. He would have loved to read this. From him and I’d like to thank you for your service and sacrifice. Semper Fi, brother.
Send my your address and I will send you the first two books.
thanks for the time shared over there, so to speak.
214 Sheffield Road
Jacksonville, North Carolina
On the way, Vince.
Wow! Great portrayal of a horrible nightmare that should not have happened. It is insane that good men were running around in such conditions trying to stay alive and/or kill other good men. Even worse that Americans were trying to kill their own. I have always had great respect and appreciation for those who served, especially in VM.
Your talents were absolutely necessary at the time you were thrown into that hell. My hat is off to you for enduring and thriving, and saving the lives of your fellow Marines. I have wondered at times how a “new” soldier would have any idea of what to do when thrown into battle the first few days of their entry into war. Your account gives me some insight into the answer to that question.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, and for your service. May God bless you.
Thanks Karen, for taking the time to write. Sorry it took a few days to respond.
Your opinion as a woman is very important and the question being answered about what it’s really like to be thrown into
that mess and try to make it is very important. I had not thought of that, although I’ve never read or seen much
about how that could be done. It generally ends in death, of course, as you read…
Wait! What? NO! This is the end of the first book ALREADY? Jesus that went fast! OK Jim. I’ll go back through again and read for edits. I missed Nam, I graduated HS in 74. I was and always have been and always will be, a huge supporter of those who chose to serve US! I have gained a HUGE education reading this. None of us at home, had any idea of the racial strife. It wouldn’t be until the 70’s that we’d start figuring that out. We never considered that any of you were fighting a civil war among yourselves! It’s a great read! It moves fast. I like that! You give enough detail that this should be a great read for anybody, military or not. Thanks for your hard work!!
Thanks for the great compliment Mark. Yes, it does move fast, although all three books together, when they are done,
will be over a thousand pages! Thanks for caring and writing about your interest on here…
Damn good read, Jim. I can only hope for more, and soon
Are you following Chapter to Chapter?
There should be a link at the bottom of each chapter.
Jim – First, I, too am missing a link at the bottom of this chapter. More importantly, God this is good. Your experiences/story remind me of a personal hero in our small town of 2,000, Larry Walton, the catcher for the local Little League team that made it to Williamsport, Pa. and the semi-finals of the Little League World Series. A helluva good guy. His dad & mine were both mailmen. Marine Lcpl Lawrence Walton was lost in the Tet offensive. Much respect & thanks for you all. USAF Ground Radio 72-76 stateside.
So sorry that Larry was one of the ones who went down in Tet. To be in the wrong place
at almost any time in the Nam was bad and unpredictable. But bad for certain.
Luck played such a larger role than training or execution of orders.
My friend Pat Kenny recommended your writing to me and it did not disappoint. I was not tested like you as a young Sergeant during the Vietnam era although we had a few close calls (non-combat) over in Turkey of all places. Later I went the college route and received my commission as a Signal 2Lt and went on to serve a career in the Cold War Army and retired after Desert Shield/Storm in November 91. Much respect to you Sir, for your service to our Country and for your superb writing ablity. I like Pat look forward to reading your forthcoming works.
Semper Fi brother
Sincerely, George Stotz, Captain AUS Retired.
Had the Stotz brothers in the dorm room with me at Quantico.
Tough solid guys. I wonder how they did in the Nam. Anyway,
loved mustangs. Never met an officer who came up form the ranks who
was not a class act. We’d have been good together.
PS Thanks for liking the work.
James, I was in Corps from 68-74. I was a 7562, CH 46 Aviator type. I sincerely hope that some lessons were learned from those who served in Vietnam and put to use at Quantico. It would be a damn shame if the nuts of it were lost for future NCO’s and Officers. You write brilliantly, and I can say I was disturbed to say the least at the mis-function of this Marine Company. While I had my share of suck the seat cushion up my ass events, we did not encounter the brutality of the ground fight for the most part. We came in, with gun ship escort, and left as fast as we could. Thank you for your service to our country and thanks for writing. I look forward to reading more of your books and the rest of this great story.
Thank you Pat. I remain totally in the dark what was learned and what was applied
from Vietnam. I have a feeling it’s very little. Just the way it is. The training staff in Quantico
was very rigidly precise and disciplined but it was not well experienced or gifted. And I am presuming that was
by design. Thanks for the comment and for liking my work.
James, Eyes only, please? This link is to -in essence- my birth certificate. In trying to come to grips with the “who I became” ( it and all that was done while in S E A is classified and I apologize I cannot be more forthcoming. This Thesis was used by the V A Central office to set up new treatment programs nationwide and contains a Grief manual in the latter part that speaks more directly to “Anniversary Grief” which you might enjoy? I was part of a National Training Team for the V A in training and teaching other treators for Chronic, Severe, Combat Related PTSD. I do not wish to be found as the sun is setting. As you well know! But I find your writing and replies as deep and necessary and they parallel, IMHO The writing of my friend Steve Maso, Capt, US Army (ret) and deceased. You provide the kind of reality that returns us to our days that never end nor will be again. Sorely needed! Thank you -again for what you do,!!? I am on Face Book if you wish. But trying to keep a low profile. Here is the link… Difficul, existential first section ,but necessary…
Here is a quote by Albert Camus… It is THE “left overs”…
Albert Camus, in his book, “The Rebel” The triumph of the man who kills or tortures is marred only by one shadow: he is unable to feel that he is innocent. Thus, he MUST create guilt in his virtue so that, in a world that has no direction, universal guilt will authorize no other course of action than the use of force and give its blessing to nothing but success. When the concept of innocence disappears from the innocent victim himself, the value of power establishes a definitive rule over a world in despair. …. That is why an unworthy and cruel penitence reigns over this world where ONLY the stones are innocent.
What an exhibition of off-the-cuff intellect Robert! I clicked on the document and read the entire paper, written back in 1980.
What a wonderful grip you had on PTSD and how you went on to delineate the treatment providers is new ground, at least for me.
That feeling of innocence you discuss with respect to Camus. No shit. That is one of the key things lost. An innocence that I wanted
back so badly I could not really define what it was that I had lost that I wanted back. Your dividing off of combat PTSD from regular one event
stuff is also brilliant. The ongoing non-stop day after day, night after night shit wore us down. And God did not die for us he simply somehow got lost
down there along the river at the bottom of the A Shau.
Thank you ever so much.
2625815300 Dial it.
Your friend and brother,
I did dial it… I needed to tell you that the path you are on is….IS, the best healer and to not seek total peace. The drive you express to complete this manuscript, is Mighty. Mity pure and a gift! Schweitzer opines “The gifts we give others dies with us…the gifts we give others lives on in history. This amnuscript is-as I take deep note of the replys from other seekers and fellow travelors, James is …IS a gift for the many seeking some surease of bound slavery to taht fucjing time space continuum and your sharing, as honestly as you are, IS a gift and others realize it. It fits into their lives and times the lived and continue to live. It can be done no better than the brother to brother you do as you release the events inside you. One thing I deeply learned in treating so many and needing to hold MY story back that assisted so many was the knowledge that it’s like the tea bag when left far too long in the hot water, I mat well end up so strong the tea is unpalatable -just like the canteen water -hot- that had those damned iodine pills in it. Your work here is strong and true and keeps my addicted soul living again those days when I was like Bob Seegers; song :Like A Rock… when I crawled out of my SOG extraction bird on a fire base somewhere and looked arounf into the valleys and rivers stretching below. I was THE rock. I was strong and proud of what I was able to do until the truth of it all smacked me into the realities of the moral pain of what I was doing. It’s late, and I;ll be visiting old places in Savannakhet Province shortly. AGAIN! Nite my good friend? Semper FI.
Deep water here in this comment. The tea bag when left in too long. I love that.
The manuscript continues unabated. I write really fast, being able to type about 110 words
a minute (many classes early on by the Maryknoll nuns and then a lot of years of pouring scripts and
other stuff out). My comments do not take as long as you might think.
The manuscript only takes longer because I wrestle with each part to try to get it right.
Thanks for the care and concern.
I really really appreciate that.
I was there in ’68-’69.. I was also a Project 100,000 troop. Your “visitation” to us Moron Corps folks was a tad painful. I knew I was in trouble when I got back.. spent over 7 months in a mil Ortho hosp in a body cast getting put back together. Too much time to think and recall. Started college as soon as I ETS’d Went into psychology only to try to figure out how I got so morally bankrupt. While completing my Masters’ Degree I was asked by the VA to help start a new in -pt PTSD tx program. HAted to work in the V A but someone had to. Ended up supervising and training PhD candidates from across the nation as well as training and supervising IDF psychologists and psychiatrists from Israel and 4th year residents in Menninger School of psychiatry in treating chronic severe PTSD. Never took myself seriously just doing what I loved and learned about the inner workings. It was an avocation. Retired in ’97 due to leftovers of Ortho injuries and “The Secret Agent” four sonds w/ A/O left overs. Lived by the mantra “I’m already dead, just waiting on God to get the freaking telegram. Your rendition of how it was is like a whirlpool, sucking the self down to memories that are-mostly at night-too real, and the “Anniversary Reaction” to certain times of the year when the shit was deepest, are stirred. WILL buy the book, ’cause it is REAL and it demands to be seen and heard! Can relate to it almost too well. You spell out what needs illuminated and I cherish that. We did the best we could with what we had. I KNOW you did and I trust your efforts here will reward you internally as well as financially! You SO well deserve it. I leave this with you as I await next issue? I have seen things I cannot unsee; done things I cannot undo, heard the screams of dying and wounded; heard the silence of the dead after the battle is done; felt the tremors of weak kneed response to the crash of the adrenaline; buried too many who fought for idealism and what ever reason they gave themselves for fighting and dying; seen the indegenous villagers watch their hooches, children and livestock killed and burned. ; smelled the White Phosphorous and Napalm…. Seen the eyes of the enemy when the lights go out after my weapon spoke before his did; Decided who lived and who died in a split second simply to survive..
There are comments and then there are comments on here.
Yes, someone who remembers, as I remember.
The “seen but cannot unsee,” and the “done things I cannot undo.”
Such poignant descriptive phrases so well put one after another.
Thank you, brother, for laying it down like I do here.
And you shall have another chapter tomorrow or whenever I finish the last two days
I have wrestling with what happened on the edge of that A Shau ridge.
Thank you for introducing me to the idea of “Anniversary Reaction.”
Could not be better described, and could not be further from civilian understanding..
The ‘indigenous.’ Yes, them.
We left them behind us all, strewn like the peeled fruit of many eaten oranges.
Thank you for replying and make me sit here thinking about what I am doing and what you have done.
My friend, I guess I would describe you, although I don’t know you except in spirit
and having traveled down the same road as I to get here….where we are now.
..we lived life and death in a few short years; eighteen,give or take a year or so.Having done such non-God like things====the utter abhorrance, unfathomable fatigue, and self rejection concerning acts and deeds done.
He never comes home again and his house knows him no more(Job 6;0)
“since I have lost all taste for life,I will give free reign to my complaints ;I shall let my embittered soul speak out ( Job 10:13).
Am I worthy to deserve life? the very question of existentialism is raised. From “Jesus loves me” to “Kill cause they deserve it and its fun”. Am I not worth less than an animal? At least an animal eats most of it’s kill.I stood and laughed. I was invincible. Immortality touched me.I was God! I decided who lived and died;how fast or slow they died; how easy or hard they died…..
Coming home,no one,leastwise ourselves,knew us.We wore our pain in silence. Killed ourselves in silence.Begged in silence for others to kill us. As time wore on,it became more and more necessary to scream my pain,like Job. It’s not my fault God put that load on me…. I was just doing my job. I was a nice kid,’till they told me to kill women,children and babies—then paid me to do it.
You forgot, or left out, the part about how if you didn’t do it they would kill YOU. Another example
of purely driven logic attempting to explain life experience that came from no logical construct whatever except naked survival.
That time of utter reduction to a feral beast-like state and then the ‘bounce’ back to a phenomenal world where survival itself
isn’t really discussed at all, and when it is it is done so in an ethereal distant way. Think of all the guys coming back that
did not take this wondrous phenomenal world (to which they are forever denied full entry back into) and apply the naked violence
they learned in the real world to destroy what they came home to. In truth, they could not and have hope, which once you’ve lost
everything else, is created within you by associating in this ‘other’ world returned to. We can’t get back into it fully but we will always hope that we can. Thanks for the clarity and brilliance of your comments that I am becoming addicted to.
Maybe its time to create a “new way” to peddle books. You have a large audience checking for a new chapter of your book daily. As soon as I seen the EMAIL I have to go read the new installment. You have created a following. If you could find a way to capitalize on that format you would have an all new Web form of publishing. Sadly I’ve not read much in my later years but read voraciously in the younger days. You’ve managed to wake up that reader in me with these postings. Semper Fi MSG, US Army retired
Well, the following is indeed, bigger than I ever expected. About ten thousand readers a day.
I guess that’s a lot. Other than publish on Amazon and try to get it all edited and in print,
I don’t how to maximize things on the Internet. It is all so damned complicated. And I also don’t want to
upset the veterans who are reading this for free. Some of them can’t pay and advertising might drive them away or piss them off.
So I will continue to plug away, writing the segments while I work to get book I out there.
Thanks for caring and saying something about it.
As a Spec 4 Army platoon medic who served in Iraq, I feel pretty damn humble right now, to you and many of the others whom have posted here. Im on the edge of my seat with this story, and cant get enough. I will spread the word!
Thank you most sincerely Robert. I was over in that Iraq thing when it was called Desert Shield
and then later for the Storm but I was in Jeddah and Riyadh. It was so much different than the Nam.
Like the men were so much tighter and homogeneous. Better Marines, I think.
Anyway, thanks for putting the word out there. Hope this story helps some guys. It’s helping me a bit to
Hello James. Sorry for the shortness of my comment earlier about a left out letter I. I needed to be at the lab for blood work that my cancer doctor wants and I was about to be late because I couldn’t stop reading what you wrote. The missing letter I is in paragraph 13 that starts “What’s the ammo situation? It’s in the sentence that says “….making slight changes wasn’t “gong” to affect the outcome.”
Spell check is funny. It reads both going and gong as real words so it will
not interrupt the flow to recommend changes. Too bad. Yes, of course the word was
going and I have to fix that and some others before this goes off to Amazon next week!
A lot of work. Thanks for picking that up and writing about it here.
WHAT YEAR DID ALL THIS HAPPEN???
As you have no doubt figured out, this is some sensitive stuff being written here and
I would rather not go into exactly whom I was with or when this happened. I am writing
this as fictional novel for a damned good reason. I would like to live out my years!
Thanks for asking and hope you keep reading.
Alright Mr. Spooky… I used to think the same way. Now, I don’t care. Time has a way of making willing or unwilling participants….just fade away…
No it does not. The only solace of time passing is in the passing, unless
accommodation and a drive for redemption can be initiated and maintained. Of course,
that’s just what I believe and try to practice. Maybe demential or alzheimers in old age
offer strange solace. I don’t know.
Thanks for saying it as you think it is and for reading the story.
Somewhere about half the way down you left out the letter I from the word going. It’s just written gong.
Thanks Tom. I hope to catch that and others in edit this coming weekend.
Then it’s off to Amazon.
Appreciate the help, and the reading.
You have a good comment stream. Feed upon that to keep you motivated to write. I had a conversation a while back with a buddy. Seems the National Library opened a section for war memories and stories. Don’t know how that all came about but I thought I would mention it. The real deals usually don’t know much about what not the real deals do to support the real deals. We’re the remf’s remfs. Well, anyways, as it works out you’re memories can be archived free of charge, minus a postage stamp, of course.
Thank you Mr. Nobody. I reply to the comments because the commenters on here are so heartfelt and
meaningful that I can’t not comment.
And their comments do motivate me to continue during blue periods.
I don’t care about archiving at some dead museum of the dead.
My work will either ‘archieve’ on the Internet and
in my books or it won’t. I’m not writing it for that purpose.
But thank you most sincerely for everything
you write and the care that’s obviously in your heart…
I love HE it was the only thing that would keep them off of us for three days and nights
Sort of like that proverbial smell of napalm in the morning? In reality
HE was the staple of the artillery and those new fuses were killer for working
the canopy jungle. Better than VT really. thanks for the comment and the reading…
I read a lot. This is the best account of the realities of combat that I have ever come across. You are a gifted writer.
Thank you Richard. Sort of a litany, I guess. Laying it down in writing seems so different
than through the years thinking about things. Never put it all together like this in running form, of course.
Wonder where the whole thing is going…not the story. I know where that is going. I’m talking about all the guys like you who are
coming along and especially all the guys who are here because there’s no place else to go where understanding might be found.
thanks for those words of support, short as they were.
Another riveting segment. You have a gift and thank you for using it to our benefit. You take us right in beside you.
Thank you Peter. I’m not sure what my own intent is as I write.
More to get it down and make sure it makes sense and is accurate as I can
make it. I remember a lot of my conversations with the Gunny to this day but
not all of them, for example. Anyway, thanks for the compliment and the reading.
Fantastic. I was lucky enough to have not gone to VN. You make it sound realistic. Not sure I could have handled it. Looking forward to next posting. Thanks 🙏 And thanks to all the VFW.
Hell, Richard, I couldn’t handle it either. And the after shit was something, is something, too.
Anyway, thanks for the comment and the support.
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around sending a boot 2nd LT whos Artillery into combat as an Infantry Company Commander. The leadership failed badly here he valued fucking you over more than he cared about the safety of his men. That’s sad, your very fortunate your map reading skills were superb to be able to navigate the company.
A 5% daily loss is unacceptable, should of fragged his ass if you ever got the chance.
I don’t think that some field grade officers gave much of a damn about the
company grades and below out there in the bush. They did not want to go
and they proved that time after time. Fragging anyone back in the rear with the gear was
a certain trip to Leavenworth for a long long stay. Of those of us who made it nobody
wanted to go home to that.
thanks for the comment.
Lt. just a few words about e-books. I have two out there somewhere in La La Land floating along and receiving a nibble once in a while. I went the free route through Book Tango and wish now I had chosen a package where they present your book to different entities. Those who have read my books, say they couldn’t put them down, but without the right package, they seem to end up in the rear somewhere near ignore ?? You’re a damn good suspense writer and I follow your additions everyday, just hope yours makes the top shelf. Hardback would be your best way to go if you can afford it. Do a few book signings and appearances and go from there. Good luck, you deserve it !! Nam 68-69
Thanks a million for your advice. Yes, I am learning about that too.
If is all about the audience. I don’t care how good a writer you are it does not
matter if nobody reads the material. So I am planning on hardcover and using raw right ‘package.’
thanks for your comment and caring…
What are your book titles, Raymond? Those of us reading LT Strauss’ stories would probably enjoy reading yours, too.
Yes, Raymond, please get some of your stuff on here so the guys can read it.
Dang, I was there. Well, not really. I was there as I read your words. I became so engrossed, I was back to February 1970 somewhere across Liberty Bridge near Dodge City. Our deuce and a half broke down while in a convoy. Long story short, we had to dig in for the night. Only four of us. Scared shitless. Anyway, that ole feeling creep back in. Your story has had me reliving my time in ‘Nam even though I only spent less than 30 days outside An Hoa Combat Base during my tour. Some feelings never leave us, we just wait out the night and pray for daylight.
Hey, thanks Bill. I mean for ‘being there’ in that way, which is a compliment of the highest sort.
Thirty days out in the bush is an eternity and in fact will span three books here.
I just finished the Tenth Day this night and onward.
Thanks for the support and the comment.
Thanks again Lt. Jim as the others say. I have read all your installments from the beginning, I am not a book reader so this is good for me. My next donation to the DAV will be in your honor. And I might get a book for someone I know. I hope you do well with it. So good of you to do this for all that might need it or for those that just don’t understand what combat over there was like, I was in combat for a while but nothing like what you just laid out. or maybe I just did not comprehend what was happening. because I was not in charge of the company. Just a squad leader. 11b40 or as they say another FNG grunt. Don
11b40. God, but that brings back memories. I’ll bet you were not an FNG for very long.
Thank you for the plaudits and the kind words. Doing my best to tell the story as it
went down. Thanks for the help that you are providing. I much much appreciate….
Courage is being scared shitless just a few minutes longer.
Leadership may be taught at Quantico and West Point but it’s learned OJT.
You’ve acquired both.
I was proud to serve on the delivery end of the artillery and I thank you for providing the receiving end perspective. Don’t recall hearing much at the time.
*The point detonating (PD) or “quick” fuses were sensitive but required 13 pounds of pressure to activate. They would go through quite a bit of loose stuff before they’d pop. Good call.
Thank you Don, for the artillery support…then and now!
Yes, the super quick fuses had to be worked with to really be
understood and I came to well understand what would set them off
or not over time. That was not at Sill. In the Nam, for the most
part I was ‘leading from the rear’ or in secret because others
either had the power or the need to be known as the leader. I found, in
coming home, that it was and remains the same here. You may get the money
but to get the credit you better be related in some fashion. But I’m kinda
past that now so I simply write on into my own sunset.
thanks for the comment and the reading,
Absolutely outstanding Lt. I personally have grown to respect your scout team. You and I both know their was no intended disrespect in the order not followed. By the way Sir, if you didn’t get the shakes and wasn’t scared you would have frightened me. I knew when I was scared shitless and shaking, my oh my I was still alive. Please keep writing your story.
It was a motley collection, that scout team, and through circumstance
has a tough time remaining that at all. The fractured mess of Vietnam
combat units because of transition and 100,000 and idiotic rear area
command was everywhere at that time. Thanks for supporting the work.
Yes, my reactions to fear back then are much more explainable and understandable
now, but not back then. We were, of course, taught nothing about how to deal
with fear either.
This segment got me again Jim, memories…. Jan. 2, 1970, FB Devon. First night on a ambush for me. We were hit as we prepared to move from our staging site. I had M60 and was next to the platoon leader holding his M16, all hell broke out as I hit the ground. I didn’t have a clear line of fire at the VC position, Sargent yelled at me to fire. The other M60 had been firing, so as I shot into the trees, that stopped the attack.
We had 2 wounded that needed a medivac. After they were picked up we moved into the paddies, they were dry. I didn’t know much, it being my first ambush. We had arty all night for rear security, it came from 3 different FBs, 105, 155, and some 8″. Laid as close to the dike as we could, it was a long night. Keep it coming Jim!!!
I am glad that I am taking you back and forth. I go back and forth every
day and night, but in a better way in writing this than living it through the years.
Thanks for telling some of your frustrating frightened existence.
And thanks for writing on here.