I stayed in my clustered hooch into the dark hours, whiling away the time it would take for the NVA to begin their own H&I fires. The concept of H&I (harassing and interdicting fire) created back at Fort Sill, had been used in Vietnam for years without any proven success. Another questionable strategy involved making totally random artillery drops. Since friendly units set up in supposedly known locations every night, the idea was that artillery could be dropped on paths, roads and intersections, limiting the enemy’s night operations and keeping them off balance, or from moving comfortably anywhere. But there had never been any results of such fire doing anything other than making sure no allied forces moved very far in the dark at all.

I also wanted to see if, even given the fear of snakes everyone seemed to share, Jurgens would send out a team to finally eliminate the lone officer problem standing in the unit’s way. I thought about the snakes, of which I’d seen none. It defied logic to believe that a specialized band of Vietnamese troops caught, and then strategically released, violently poisonous snakes, but rumors in combat raged everywhere about everything. The Bamboo Vipers that struck the two men earlier in the day were called “two-step” snakes. Anyone struck would supposedly get only two steps before falling over dead. The fact that both Marines bitten had been loaded onto a medevac Huey seemed to have blown right by the gossiping members of my scout team.  After reviewing all the body bags that had been flown out during my short stay in country, I figured the snake dangers might be a bit overblown compared to other, more deadly threats. But I was still left to wonder what other poisonous snakes inhabited the hills or the dreaded valley ahead.

Two letters to send home. I clutched my pocket. What if the resupply chopper in the morning didn’t come in? How many letters would I get backed up? I hadn’t thought to date them. I pulled the envelopes out and then turned on my one-eyed flashlight. Using my black government (cheap) ballpoint pen, I carefully put dates on the back of the envelopes so my wife would know which order they’d been written. I wondered if they went on the same chopper whether that meant they’d arrive on the same day at her door.