The third time, I thought. The third time in so few days that our company had been called in to be saved from an attacking enemy, but in every case having to save Kilo Company, while they were being sent to do the same for us. The helicopters had flown an unlikely resupply mission at night and dropped in observers who quickly became dead bodies, but the intent had been to try to do something about the terrible mess we were in. I could not fault the attempts on the part of the powers in the rear back at battalion, and maybe above that level. But the results were proving to be similar in every case. Our Marines and those of Kilo, and anybody else they sent into the A Shau Valley, were being decimated by an enemy force nobody would believe was really there.

I moved through the waist-high jungle debris. The rain had come back with a vengeance. Our attack, or push south through the enemy, since the occasionally smattering contacts on both sides could hardly be considered classically conducted attacks, continued. I moved slowly but determinedly in the path left by the still advancing Ontos. The flechette rounds found on the mud flats had been delivered to the guns and the Ontos was loaded to fire on anything while it moved.

That it moved along the jungle floor at all was a function of its lightness and how well the tracks gained purchase to climb over instead of plowing through the jungle. I carried my .45 Colt in my right hand. I’d changed magazines, even though I hadn’t used up the first one completely in shooting the surprising, and surprised, NVA soldier. But it was dark, wet and a mess of leaves mud and my itching-irritation-under-the-blouse leeches kept me from counting how many bullets I’d used. It was easier just to change magazines than to try to count what was left in the used one. I didn’t know for sure how many men I’d killed with the .45, but I was willing to bet nobody back in training, where the automatic sidearm was considered more a decorative sidearm rather than an effective weapon, would have believed it was more than six.