The Ontos moved forward, with the Gunny swinging both armored back doors of the tracked vehicle closed behind him. I followed, slowly dropping back as the vehicle picked up speed, to stay clear of any back blast. I’d wanted to ask the Gunny if I could use a spare M-16 left over from one of our casualties but hadn’t pursued that request. I felt naked on the mud flats with only my holstered .45, even if its leather hold-down thong was unsnapped. There was no enemy fire as the attack began. I watched the dawn bring evermore light through the misting rain, with all the Marines in the company moving forward. There was no crawling and no zig-zagging back and forth to attempt to take advantage of available cover, because there really was no cover. A six-inch high clump of bamboo or other assorted jungle plant growth, would not hide a sizeable raccoon, much less a Marine with helmet, weaponry and carrying a full kit on his back.

The company was properly spaced, each Marine just about equidistant from those around him. Not like in training at all. Trying to get Marines in training to stay out of clumps, or naturally congregate together, had proven impossible for training officers. But down in the A Shau, with the chips all on the table, where winning meant getting to stay alive to see light dim and pass into full dark, the Marines acted like the kind of Marines I’d never known back home. They weren’t organized in any kind of orderly fashion and they were so tattered and dirty they were almost unrecognizable for what they were, but they were quietly effective in almost every way, from movement, to fire control, distribution of supplies and more. And the fire they delivered was amazingly accurate since I seldom saw anyone actually stare through the fixed metal sights set on top of the barrels.