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.