There was nothing to be done but to sit with Keating’s body. I’d wanted to carry it myself but the guys would have none of it. Surprising me, Stevens said it all with a strange statement, coming from a noncom in a unit that hadn’t tolerated officers well, to say the least.
“He was our lieutenant, too,” Stevens said, as if the dead officer, so new he hadn’t had time to experience one resupply, had been shared by all.
That Keating hadn’t even been allowed to assume command of Fourth Platoon was, apparently, no longer a part of the company’s history. I sat among the smoldering ruins of the jungle I’d brought about by dropping tons of white phosphorus down from one end to the other. The Gunny hadn’t said how many men we’d lost in the NVA attack, but I knew the number was not good and I also guessed that a lot of the men had died because all artillery was indiscriminate when it came to killing, with its large flying chunks of twisted metal. The 105 rounds could generate shrapnel as small as the head of a needle and as large as grapefruit. The grapefruit-sized tumbling nightmares could travel more than a mile from the impact area.
I walked back to the command post behind my team that was carrying Keating’s body. There’d be bags aplenty when dawn came, I knew, but in the meantime, Keating would spend the rest of his last night in his hooch.
The night was quiet for the first time, I realized. The smell was of burned vegetation. Pungent and smoky but not acrid. Whatever wind there’d been had gone away in the night, so the smell hung down like a layer of invisibly annoying fog.
I moved to Captain Casey’s hooch, and knelt down on the poncho cover sticking out from under his closed shelter-half. I didn’t understand why he was still inside, if he was. The death of Keating had to have reached him.
“Skipper?” I whispered my lips almost against the rough canvas.
As before, the canvas was immediately brushed aside, and Casey sprang forth. I fell on my back, before recovering into a sitting position. Casey turned on his flashlight and shined the beam down on me.
“What the hell’s wrong with your face?” he asked.
My left hand went to my chin where I felt the beginning of the big cucumber-like lump that was my leech. I put the captain’s .45, that I’d been clutching since before Keating’s death, down on the poncho next to the shelter-half’s opening.
“Turn off the light,” I said, slowly getting to my feet. “Keating’s body is in his hooch until the choppers roll in at dawn. Your Colt is at your feet.”
The light went off with a click, but not before I saw Billings come out of the hooch behind the captain. I wondered what kind of parlay they’d been having, while the world above them volleyed and thundered, or if they’d simply needed one another’s company to get through it.
“Body?” Casey asked.
I knew then that the captain didn’t know that Keating had gone down. The Gunny came in behind me, put his right hand on my right shoulder, and then gently pulled me back.
“Fusner’s going to heat up a cigarette and take care of that leech,” he said, easing me away from the stunned company commander.
“Keating’s dead?” the captain said, his voice going hoarse with emotion.
“Yes, sir,” the Gunny said, now standing between me and the two officers.
“He was on the perimeter with me and caught an AK round in the chest. Heart shot. He was gone in an instant.”
Fusner lit a cigarette, puffed on it for a few seconds, and then motioned me down to one knee. He put the burning end against the tough carapace of the thing’s head, and held it there.
“Keating’s dead,” the captain restated in a quieter voice, before going on, “just how many other Marines died in this Kamehameha plan?” he asked, his tone growing softer as the question ended.
“Ten KIA on our side, mostly from Third and Fourth Platoons,” the Gunny answered. “About the same number wounded. We won’t know for sure until it gets light. Might be a few more, and there’s probably NVA out there in the bush still so there could be more before the night’s done.”
“Ten percent casualties in one short action?” Lieutenant Billings asked.
“How in the hell did that happen, and how many of the enemy did we get?”
“The artillery drifted a bit to the south,” the Gunny reported, keeping his tone low and flat as if delivering a boring lecture to a bunch of college students. “The rounds strayed across our perimeter there,” he pointed toward where Marines, invisible from our position but probably still gathered, were no doubt getting their stuff together and getting ready for the next move. “It’s either that or the enemy 122’s bit too far beyond the open area at the cliff face and moved upslope toward our own positions.”
“Why didn’t our men retreat down the avenues guarded and left open for that purpose?” Casey asked, his voice going up in tone and sound for the first time.
“What avenues are you talking about, sir?” the Gunny said.
The leech fell from under my chin and struck the mud in front of my knees with a faint thud. I turned my head from the position I’d been holding it for Fusner, took the still-burning cigarette, and put it between my lips. I sucked in some smoke, my lungs not making their usual protest. I breathed out and then back in, waiting for what I knew had to be coming.
“These avenues,” the captain stated, dragging the rough plan I’d drawn on the back of one of my old maps from behind his back. “These avenues here in Junior’s Kamehameha Plan.” He thumped his forefinger down at the two arrows I’d drawn, indicating the areas the company could retreat into if my plan failed.
The Gunny looked down at the map, barely visible in the low pre-dawn light, and then turned his head so he could look back at me.
“Your thoughts about that, Junior?” he asked me. I watched his normally shiny but opaque eyes and saw life in them. The Gunny not only didn’t know what to say, I thought, but he was giving me some reason to think he thought he’d be entertained by whatever I came up with.
“The boots,” I said. “Did you bring their boots back?”
The Gunny’s eyes went big for just a brief second, before he recovered himself, and then he smiled a very brief fleeting smile, as he turned back to the captain.
“Your boots are dry and next to your shelters,” he informed the captain, who received the information with a questioning frown. “The men got them dried out and oiled up so you don’t have to take them off for a while.”
I waited for the captain and Billings to pursue the subject of the avenues I’d made up that didn’t really exist, but neither man did. Both went toward their boots, while I wondered what kind of oil the Gunny was talking about. The company’s small arms required lubricant, small arms, or LSA, as we all called it. But LSA was for metal lubrication and never used on or in boots. The boots, particularly the new cloth jungle boots both the captain and Billing wore, were not supposed to be exposed to any oil at all, that I could think of.
I backed away from the scene and went to work getting my things together before laying down on my poncho. It was getting light enough to write, so I took out my pen and went to work writing a third letter to my wife. I would not miss sending my stuff out when the choppers came in this time. After the letter, I got out my clogged up Colt and took it down to clean it as best I could. When it was done, having used my government pen as a cleaning rod, I knew it would work, although it was a long way from passing a Basic School inspection.
“How many guys can a Huey hold?” I asked Fusner, while writing about the new officers relieving me as the leader of the company. We had a lot of wounded and dead and I wondered if command had been notified that we’d need some rugged carrying capacity. Fusner didn’t answer. I hadn’t mentioned Keating’s death in my letter, or just how new the new guys were. It was almost as if both the captain and Billings had been more harmed by their time back in the rear with the gear than if they’d come to the company directly from one of the flights to Da Nang as I’d been on.
I folded my letter, jammed it into one of my crumpled envelopes and put it into my pocket before looking up to see Nguyen squatting nearby. Nguyen never squatted nearby. I looked at Stevens, who stood next to the Kit Carson Scout. I shrugged my shoulders and nodded toward the scout. Stevens approached me, and then leaned down so he could speak quietly into my left ear.
“There was nobody in the listening post,” he said, before standing back up.
I looked him in the eyes, my mind trying to take in the information.
The Marines manning the listening post, and responsible for warning the company as to the enemy’s approach, had left their posts. Without Nguyen’s warning of the NVA coming I would not have brought the artillery on line soon enough, and we might have been overrun and killed to a man.
I stared at the side of Nguyen’s head. I knew that he knew I was looking at him. The man was a human and cultural enigma. He’d lost his family to the revolutionary cause, whether it was VC or NVA that had killed them I didn’t know. I felt that he was somehow in contact with other Montagnards who worked for the enemy. But he’d clearly saved our lives, and probably not for the first time.
I didn’t know what to do about him or with him, but I knew I needed him as much as I could not understand him. I pulled out my wallet, which had almost nothing but some worthless military pay currency, my military identification card and a few photos of my wife and new daughter. I took out one of the pictures, looked at it closely to make sure it wasn’t my best, and then held it out to Stevens.
“Ask him if he will carry this photo in case something happens to me,” I said, not really understanding what I was doing, but knowing I had to identify with the man on a tribal level, as well as one where we were both warriors of equal stature.
Stevens leaned down, spoke a few words to Nguyen, and then handed him the small photo. Nguyen held the photo and stared at it for a full minute before finally turning his head to look at me. I used the fingers on my left hand to tap the elephant hair bracelet on my right wrist. Nguyen made no move, nor gave me any indication he understood. Finally, he took out his tattered version of a billfold from his back pocket and tucked the photo into it before turning to stare blankly out into the jungle again.
Captain Casey and Billings went back into their hooches to get ready for the dawn. Either both men were in total shock over being in such close proximity of the night battle and Keating’s death, or they were much tougher Marines than I gave them credit for. I went over to Keating’s hooch and opened the flap. He lay just as the guys had left him. The Gunny was as good as his word. Keating’s boots were right near the opening. I went to work to strip the bloody socks from the lieutenant’s feet and then carefully and laboriously put the Marine’s boots back on.
“Size ten,” I said to Keating. “I’m an eight or I’d put mine on you and steal these neat new ones. I know you wouldn’t mind. You’re going home and you aren’t afraid anymore. That’s something,” I said, not really knowing what I was talking about but the words seeming, to me, to be important. I backed out of the shelter-half and got to my feet.
“You were doing fine,” I said. “You were going to do great.” I looked around. Only Fusner was close by, and he was making believe he was finishing the final adjustments to his pack with the extra Prick 25 batteries strapped to the outside, and not listening to me. There was no chaplain in the unit and nobody to say any words, nor even a gathering of Marines to send off one of their own. That was only in the movies. I was it. I made the sign of the cross.
I knew the scout team would take care of packing the lieutenant out and getting his body into one of the gray-black body bags that would come in on the chopper. There was no way that the company had enough for the awful butcher’s bill from the results of the Kamehameha Plan. That plan had worked, but the price had been high. I could only hope that my anger in bringing down the white phosphorous had not caused some of that price. I somehow had to control myself better. There was no place for real, or any, emotion in combat.
When my gear was ready, and the scout team assembled and prepared, I headed for the kill zone to see what havoc the combined fires and enemy interaction had caused. The scene was a scene like nothing I’d ever experienced or thought about. There was a carpet of destroyed jungle that lay like a thick mottled blanket over the entire area. Atop the mass of jumbled and torn vegetation was a mess of blackened and burned bracken, leaves and ferns, smoking in places and all of it smelling like some sweetened can of stale artichokes mixed with mushrooms way too old. My nose turned up, and I began to breathe through my mouth. My ears popped from time to time as the sounds of the night fires were finally worked out through my Eustachian tubes and ear canals.
And there were bodies. Plenty of them strewn about.
The enemy bodies were the first I’d seen. The NVA was expert at dragging their own wounded or dead away with them into the night, and that included their ammunition and equipment. I bent down to examine a Vietnamese soldier laying on his back. A slick brightness attracted my attention. It was like the man’s chest and stomach area were made of chrome plate. I knelt down and looked closer.
“What the hell?” I exclaimed, in surprise.
“Saran wrap,” Stevens said, softly from off to one side.
“Saran wrap?” I asked, my surprise not fading.
“I saw it before, down on Gonoi Island,” replied. “They hard wrap their bodies with the tableware wrap to contain the pressure and keep going.”
“What pressure are you talking about?” I said, not understanding.
“The M-16’s and M-60’s have such high velocity and unstable projectiles that they tumble when they hit something soft. That tears an attacking soldier apart.
The Saran Wrap put on real tight, makes the bullets go straight on through so the NVA can keep right on coming.”
I marveled down at the dead NVA soldier. The man’s dedication and courage could not be faulted, but he hadn’t died from small arms fire. He’d been run through with shrapnel from the exploding artillery rounds. Big chunks had gone through the soldier’s body, with no need to expand or tumble. They’d been the size of golf balls.
“Where in the hell do these guys get Saran Wrap from back home when we can’t get new boots or jungle utilities from our own rear area?” I said, knowing the question was rhetorical.
I walked around what had been the kill zone, which had gone from being that to a dead zone. There was nothing living anywhere in the still smoking area. Even mosquitos were giving it a wide berth. The soldiers killed by artillery shrapnel had all been penetrated from the back, fleeing from the flying debris and angry hot metal. The ones who’d remained were burned beyond recognition by the white phosphorus. Every once and awhile a blackened lump could be spotted like a small island protruding up from a sea of brown and black burned jungle. No tree had withstood the onslaught except one giant located closer to the edge of the cliff. That tree would not live, every bit of bark and branch burned to a crisp, but the trunk too tough to have been knocked down or shattered to the point of collapse.
The Gunny came over to where I was gently making my way among the bodies and the bracken. Billings was at his side, with Rittenhouse next to him taking notes on his clipboard. Rittenhouse’s presence reminded me of the daily report. I knew the after-action report, about what had happened, would be meaningless because it was never in writing unless they put it in writing back at battalion, but I was determined to see and influence the daily no matter what else happened when the choppers came in.
“The daily report,” I breathed across the distance to the Gunny. He nodded. I knew the daily was not something he was going to let get past him again either.
“Twenty-nine KIA in this area alone,” Billing’s announced proudly as if there was a satisfactory score none of the rest of us knew about. “By the time we’re done and out of here there ought to be forty. I’ll bet that’s some kind of battalion record, I mean for having real bodies to count, rather than an estimate.”
Neither I nor the Gunny said anything in reply. I thought, just from the small bit of knowledge I’d learned so far, that the death toll for the enemy would run in the hundreds eventually, although we’d never know it. Torso wounds and deep limb injury wounds were invariably fatal without rapid helicopter evacuation and then very fast and efficient emergency surgery performed by trained trauma surgeons with the right equipment and medications. The NVA had attacked, or been attacked, three times in less than three days. Each time they’d taken serious casualties, these last being near-catastrophic in number for almost any sized unit.
Sugar Daddy came striding out of the jungle, his flat bush hat back in place, and his purple sunglasses once again balanced across his nose, making his eyes invisible. His transition back to platoon leader was apparent from his appearance and his stride, making his previous appearance only a few hours earlier seem like it hadn’t happened at all.
I squatted down, and Fusner squatted with me. My old habit of dropping my right hand to the comforting Colt returned. The Gunny stood back. Stevens and Zippo were nowhere to be seen but Nguyen, as usual, hung around the edge of the jungle that had not been tortured and destroyed. I did not make eye contact with him.
“You lost a lot of my men,” Sugar Daddy said, standing over me, his two large ‘minion’ Marines back on duty, one just back from each of his shoulders. “Your Kamkam Plan was a disaster and what did we gain? Nothing. Today we have to go down into that stinking valley of death anyway.”
I waited, my face expressionless, for him to run down. Finally, he did.
I expected the Gunny to step forward and make the meeting into a group powwow like he’d done last time, but he didn’t. He hung slightly back as if only there for witnessing or being available for advice or questions.
Sugar Daddy squatted down, finally, although his Marines did not. In spite of the threatening presence of the three men, I did not feel much of any fear or even trepidation. Keating had taken some of that out of me. The expression on his face when I’d gentled him back onto his poncho had been relaxed as if he had been trying to tell me that it wasn’t so bad.
“Your men left their posts and the company was defenseless,” I said, my voice low and soft.
“Nobody wanted to be out there,” Sugar Daddy bellowed. “My Marines are not nuts and I can’t be responsible for putting their lives at risk just because you think the enemy might be doing this or that.”
“The sentence for abandoning a post in combat is death, in this man’s Marine Corps, and it’s not a court martial decision,” I said, staring into the purple sunglasses.
“Now, wait a minute here,” Sugar Daddy said, fidgeting back and forth from one big boot to the other.
“The sentence for ordering your men to abandon their posts or allowing them to do so is death,” I added.
“You’re not the company commander,” Sugar Daddy said, but his voice cracking and became unsteady, as he said the last two words.
“You’re as much a platoon commander as I am a company commander,” I said, my voice held as flat as it had been since we started our dialogue. “If I ever see or hear of conduct like that again then I will come for those two men and for you. I’m also fully aware of why we don’t threaten each other out here in this nightmare world where none of us want to be and that’s why the Gunny’s here.
Sugar Daddy and his two men looked at the Gunny, as did Fusner and I.
“What he said?” Sugar Daddy asked.
A full ten seconds passed.
“What he said,” the Gunny murmured.
Sugar Daddy and his men left without saying another word, and so did the Gunny. I walked over to the edge of the cliff and stared down into the A Shau Valley, thinking about the problems of getting a fully equipped Marine Company down the side of a cliff that only possessed one narrow path, and that path run right below a fully known and measured enemy registration point for calling in deadly accurate artillery fire. I knew it was going to be a hell of a day.
Jim, a couple typos. Sorry it takes so many reads to find these. Welcome Home. Glad you are doing this for us. Glad to help. Dave.
I’m also fully aware of why we don’t threaten each other out here in this nightmare world where none of us want to be and that’s why the Gunny’s here.(“)
Sugar Daddy and his two men looked at the Gunny, as did Fusner and I. => needs trailing double quote after Gunny’s here.
… thinking about the problems of getting a fully equipped Marine Company down the side of a cliff that only possessed one narrow path, and that path (run) right below a fully known and measured enemy registration point … => perhaps (run) should be either (ran) or (runs) or maybe replace (and that path run) with (with that path running).
Thanks for the help in being part of the editing team on here…my only editing team!
Semper fi, and sincerest thanks…
I noted on the book, before I started reading that it said “fiction”. After reading it while baby sitting with my oldest son(47 yrs old) in the hospital, and I was explaining to him, and said “Maybe a little fiction, but not much. He knew too much for it to be fiction”. Anyone who was there could see right through the “fiction” crap. As an old Corpsman who did about 8 yrs with the Corps and my own time in the Nam, I have to say thanks–not only to you, but to all the Marines who tried their damndest to take care of me, even when I could be so damned stupid at times.
It is my hope that vets like you, the real deal, get it. Writing some of this stuff is hard enough
without a full time worry that my conduct back then will come into review by some authorities somewhere.
Thanks for the compliment and the support…
The saying of it don’t mean nuthing and better him than me got most of us through at that time. But like everything else over there those words will always haunt us. Can’t quit reading,thanks James. John
Please go to Amazon and write a review of Thirty Days Has September, as it means a whole lot to have
a significant number to be noticed at all…
Thanks John, for the comment on Amazon in advance.
It’s hard to get comments on there. Jeez!
Anyway, obviously you are one of us…those that were out there.
Yes, it is haunting.
Semper fi, and thank you,
I have been reading each segment with great anticipation. I keep wondering if I would have had your patience at the opposition from my fellow officers. In the peacetime post Vietnam era we had noncombat leadership challenges with our soldiers, which thanks to a core of very experienced NCO’s allowed us to overcome some of the more dicey situations. I did have the advantage of being prior enlisted and knew to listen to my NCO’s and men, although in doing so, one had to tread a very fine line and it did not always endear me to my peers. I have always and will always wonder how I would have reacted in actual combat, having never been tested like you were. You Sir, are an outstanding writer. Semper Fi.
There were extreme problems for the guys coming home.
They were forced back into a system they had passed by and knew
better. Thank you for waiting for the coming segments and liking the story, and
also for caring enough to write about those experiences on here.
Corrections for Tenth Night Third Part:
Paragraph: “Turn off the light,”…Correction:…choppers roll in at dawn.
Paragraph and Correction: Stevens leaned down
Paragraph: Captain Casey and Billing went back Correction: …put the Marine’s boots back on.
Paragraph: I walked around what had been the kill zone. Correction: The ones who’s
Paragraph: Twenty-nine KIA in this…” Correction: …Satisfactory score none of the rest of us…
Paragraph: “You’re as much a platoon commander…Correction: Gunny’s here.”
Got it! Thanks so much for the help.
I am wondering why earlier you were calling the radio man “Fessner” and now you are calling him “Fusner”?
The difficulties of putting things up on the Internet and then getting to final print in print
and the areas in between. It is awful hard to publish books all on your own out here and therefore
the editing gets damned infernally difficult. My apologies.
Prick 25 batteries were a bitch to carry! Not to mention the radio itself. Easy to “fix” if the bullet holes were in the right place…or wrong place. Thanks for the stories…I think. Brings back things better not relived.
Carried a few of those myself and yes, they were ungainly and heavy.
The batteries, I mean. Fusner had a way with that damned radio and it seemed
like a feather the way he treated it. He also knew what side of the hill it worked
best on and how to put up a temporary aerial if we could not get commo.
thanks for writing in about this and carrying one of those rigs.
I was at con tien dec. 67 with 1/1 the nva had 190’s they would hit us with from north of the z, you never really get use to heavy incoming, no matter how long you take it.
No, Tony, artillery is horrid to receive. In movies it’s kind of cool or even awful but only in combat when
it is coming in is it driven right into your core that those rounds are huge and
they can land absolutely anywhere and there is no safe hiding place.
Terrifying does not quite describe it.
Thanks for that knowledgable note.
You almost have to have been through it at least once to really know.
I served in an Army artillery unit in the Central Highlands that provided 105mm support for an infantry battalion…We were always ready to provide timely and accurate fire for these units especially in close contact missions…We were highly successful in accomplishing our mission because of the professionalism of the F.O team,(forward observer), FDC,(fire direction control) and the guns…I am proud to say that we never had a “friendly fire” incident during my time in country and hopefully we helped save a few American lives…Thanks for the stories Jim
There is no question that one of the silently amazing things about
the Vietnam war was the performance of the artillery. Astounding is
the only word that comes to mind. With these new wars all being fought on
wide ranging desert sands the supporting fires of air power have been lauded
above all. Good luck in a jungle in bad weather!
Thanks for the support and for writing about it here,
I was a forward observer for an infantry co. I never hit any friendly troops even though I called rounds in close at times. Being in artillery, I am not 100% sure I ever killed anyone, but I am 99% certain that I did. That one percent has kept me alive
Well, Terry, there was hitting friendlies and then being told you’d hit friendlies. The ‘reports’ from the field
were notoriously filled with deliberate holes. But thanks for that arty. Saved a lot of men and myself included.
So afraid to say I am reading this unable to look away. I was having babies and no tv or outside communication to know of the horror.
At 63, I met a grumpy vet who talked as if his memories must be spilled from his mind. I listened for hours feeling guilty for not knowing or understanding what young men had faced.
I got this link from one of those Ft.Sill grads.He never talked.
I now thank every military person for giving service to their country but I can never give enough honor and thanks for all of you who came back.
Hi there, and welcome to this site. You are in pretty rare company here. Not many women read, or at least comment, on the site.
A whole lot of vets who served in combat though. So, your words will reach many ears and those ears will find pleasure in what you have
to say. Thank you from myself and all those guys reading out there…
The oiled boots, and not having to take them off for awhile. I see where that is going. Get them out of there alive, at least!
The advantage of having old salts around like you is the verification of authenticity the work carries.
You guys can spot bull shit a mile away. The bad part is that you can also spot developments in the story coming
before they happen! You’ve seen this shit before! Damn! Thanks for you comment. I’ll just be quiet about
it so those not so astute will enjoy some element of surprise.
I’m hangin’ on every word,Lieutenant! Can you write any faster?God bless, and I’m so glad you made it home, however, to see that wife and baby daughter!
I did indeed Bill. The surgeries and hospitals were another adventure but I got through
with help, and with a ton of work on the part of the Navy Medical Corps I might add.
I should not have made it a couple of times but they would not quit.
thanks for the comment and reminding me…
Evening Jim, I was reading the last installment of your story, Having been in aviation I transported more than my share of FNG to the bush, and carried out more than my fair share of FNG nagged and tagged, It was my experience that the first 2 weeks were the most deadly, The learning curve was like a atlas missile launch, and from what I see you were ahead of the curve, Yes, If you made the first 2 weeks you had a good chance of making it out, Unless Murphy the Mother Fucker decided to intervene, From some of the other post you have made, sound like you had it going forward until Murphy stuck his ugly hand into the deal, But then Murphy was always a mother fucker…..Lost friend when because of Murphy and HUAS …. Bob.
Hey Robert! Thank your for that rather accurate assessment. Yes, you had to learn very quickly indeed, and also have some luck.
Maybe a bit better if not in a command position but not necessarily because of the point.
Anyway, thanks for the experience and application of true intellect.
N. Koreans and Chinese would tightly wrap their torsos with silk.
I had never heard about the silk thing. Was it for the same effect because
I don’t know much about the ballistics of the weapons of that day.
Thanks for bringing that up though. And making a comment here…
I have read stories from writers of the Mongols of the Khan dynasty telling of warriors wrapping their torso with silk. It said the tightly woven silk was strong enough to prevent many arrows from penetrating deeply into the body.If true, it made removal of the arrow much easier since all they had to do was to pull the embedded silk, along with the arrow, out of the wound.
That sounds interesting. I’ve never read to it but it also sounds somehow
rational, although I’m not sure about the properties of silk used for that purpose.
Some of those old records are quite something.
Thanks for bringing it to everyone’s attention here, including my own.
Just a comment about silk. Many layers of silk were known to stop a bullet sometimes back in the old cap and ball days and a bit later, black powder era. There have been some rumors and speculation that Wyatt Earp wore a crude bulletproof vest of the many layers of silk, some others definitely did.
I have heard comments over time about the use of silk for stopping bullets.
Of course, the old black powder balls were big and much much slower than high velocity bullets.
A 16 bullet will go through a telephone pole at close range!
Thanks for the comment and the interesting nature and material of it.
The Captain had a flashlight? Never saw one in the Bush my entire tour. To cut one on in the jungle at night would have caused people to die.
A lot of my people had flashlights in combat. And, if security was
a measure of being careful, then the stupid transistor radio would never
been out there, much less in total proliferation. The enemy had flashlights
too and used them around our positions at night. I loved the enemy lights because
I could call in artillery on them, although always having to adjust too close because
the enemy was never far. I don’t understand your experience but then there were a lot of wars
fought in that theater. Thanks for your own insight in commenting and the reading of the story.
Was a member of bravo co 3rd recon team 2b2
in 68 our six man team carried a flashlight with an infrared lens it was great at night
Yes, I heard about those flashlights but never saw one.
You guys in Force Recon were something and so many paid the ultimate
price. Thanks for reading the stuff here and liking it enough to comment.
“Run Through The Jungle”.
Did Fusner’s transistor survive? Don’t think this one was on Brother John’s playlist yet.
Never had to run through the jungle. Always rode atop a tractor on the bed of a ten ton low boy. Stupid, I thought. But that’s the way we did it. They all waved and smiled as you approached and saluted with their middle finger as you passed.
My deepest respect to those that did.
I think that song came through later. But then, there were a lot of songs I don’t remember.
Some stuck in my mind and others just faded away. Thanks for the usual deep-thinking comment Steve…
I was up to be drafted in 71. In the lotto for the draft my birthday was one number shy of making me go, which I would have done if drafted. I thank All Mighty God that I was not sent to that green hell that must have been Viet Nam!!! I admire anyone who was brave enough to go and thank God that there are those that carried the load. God Bless you Sir!!!!
Well, J.E., a lot of us went without really having a clue about what was therefor we
would find there. Unless you had a vet in the family who’d already been there was little
reality dribbling back home. Thanks for writing here.
I have read every one of your chapters and it scares me to death! Man you put me in the mud and leeches right there with you and your men! You Sir are a natural born writer of much talent! I hear the small arms fire, I hear the Artillery Rounds coming in and exploding. How did you keep your shit so tight and hold on to your sanity? I know that being young you can take a lot of punishment, but that constant fear eating at your guts must have been hell!!! I thank God all the time for not putting me in that awful place!
You carry me with you into every chapter and I read and re read every line! Peace to your soul is my prayer for you. … Jim
Well, thank you most kindly James. Fun to read a critique like that one!
And motivating, of course. I am not sure I’d have gone on so far without the comments here.
Some wonder at my answering them at all, but actually that’s my favorite break when not
working on the story. No matter what kind of comment it is. Most have been pretty fantastic, like
your own but some are more analytical, like missing some analytical part or describing something
not quite correctly. But great, nevertheless.
Thank you James for making my morning.
I read every comment. One above mentioned Ben Het. In 69 I was at the B-24 SF team in Kontum, I was supposed to fly up to Ben Het to deliver an intel report to the team. Another Sergeant who had never been there took my place on the bird. As it was landing, it took a mortar round, my replacement on the flight ended up evacuated to Japan.
Thank you T.L. for commenting and liking the story. Sounds like
you had a good day when that chopper got hit. Funny, how the vagaries of
life and death played out over there. So much less our own action or thought.
It just was.
Was in the highlands with 173rd Airborne in 69 to 70. Remember being terrified when first arrived. Reading these stories really brings back how it was, so thankful to have gotten home mostly in one piece. Hope all of our young in this country can read your stories and learn to be grateful for our warriors.
Not just grateful Bill, but wary of they themselves going on some wild adventure
spun from the lips of a recruiter or taken from the reels of some old war movie.
If you are going to war then you need to read work like this to get a good idea
of what you are likely walking into…or not…
Thanks L T. Always a treat to see a trainer from Vallejo arrive in country for PBR duty. Same “deer in the headlights” look we had months before. can read each chapter a dozen times and get something different each time. Too much to absorb in one read. Respect to you.
Thank you Bill for that comment. The real world over there was so difficult to grasp
because of just how imbued we were with the one we’d just left. That is where I faulted
training the most. Those guys who came back from the Nam at the Basic School and didn’t tell
Thanks for the support, too.
I was in the 4th ID from 67-68. The 173rd was involved in quite a few heavyweight fights during that time, hill 875 is forever burned in my brain. I understand it was well before your time but my hats off to all you 173rd guys.
You know then Al. There were some very stunning and hard fought battles in that
war, especially back in the hills and mountains at night. The A Shau was particularly
bad because of the resupply the NVA could pack into the end of it up near the DMZ.
Thanks for your comments.
I really enjoy your writing and look forward to the next chapter. I was there the whole yr of 1968 and then again in 69-70 in the army but had served under some good officers but saw a lot of stupid ones also.I would have liked serving under you sir because you listened and learned and that is how good combat officers are made. I salute you you and keep up the good work.looking forward to the continuing story.