My chest and face hit the mud at the same time, the impact so hard that water was pressed out of my uniform blouse and sprayed up into a fine mist around me. My helmet and liner landed a good five feet away, but I didn’t care, as I fought to take any air at all into my blown-out lungs. If I had been hit then the bullet might well be a terminal blow. A double lung shot with a high velocity bullet was an almost instantly fatal. I’d witnessed the awful damage personally several times. A bullet passing through both lungs left no chance that one of them would ever be re-inflated or repaired in time.
Air sucked back into my lungs in one long inhalation. I breathed again before I could think to do anything. Nguyen’s face appeared out of the dim light and through the misting mess of my water-filled muddy impact.
“Nguyen,” I squeaked out, looking around for the Gunny. I knew it had to have been the Gunny who took me down. How he’d figured out I was about to make a run for it across the open flats I had no idea, as I hadn’t even taken my first step before he hit me.
“The Gunny,” I worked to get out, before breathing in deeply again and going on. “My helmet,” I croaked, trying to scrabble forward.
Fusner slithered across the mud and retrieved my helmet and liner.
“He’s gone, sir,” Fusner said, matter-of-factly, “he came in at a run, put a shoulder into your back, and then ran on out across the flats like you tried to do.”
“He put me down, and then ran himself?” I asked incredulously.
Fusner worked with his bare hands to clean off as much mud as he could from the helmet, before going to work on the liner. He handed both to me, one at a time, the liner first, before answering.
“Looks like he intended to draw whatever fire you were about to get hit with,” he replied.
I looked out over the almost bare clearing, leading up to the front of the canyon wall. There was really nothing to see. I hadn’t heard any AK fire from the enemy or even anything from our own M-60s and M-16s. The Ontos was right where the team had left it, with a few of the company Marines, unidentifiable in the light, looking like they were bent over and working on Rio and Panda. I felt a ray of hope, and then the turret on the Ontos moved to bring the six barrels down a few degrees. The barrels were pointed at the jungle where the damaging small arms fire had come from, but I knew the chambers of the guns were empty.
“The Gunny,” I hissed out. “He’s in the Ontos. We’ve got to get there and load.”
Two more RPG rounds screamed across the flat of mud, their rockets sounding more like jet engines than rockets. One struck just short of the Ontos, throwing up giant chunks of mud, while the other went a bit high, exploding against the face of the cliff wall, tossing out rocks and debris that rained down all around and upon the machine. I started to crawl forward, getting my helmet shakily back on my head.
“We can’t make it without cover, sir,” Zippo said, pulling me back easily, with one hand tightly grasped around my ankle.
“Hell, we’re no better off without cover here than we are crossing to try to get there,” I replied, trying to pull away from his strong securing grip.
“Here, sir,” whispered Fusner, thrusting the radio microphone out to my face.
I frowned and then got it. I wasn’t thinking straight. We had to have covering fire, and the Ontos wasn’t going to provide that in time, not with the disorganized mess of the dead crew, the Marines working on them, and the Gunny inside it and trying to figure out how its controls worked. He hadn’t gotten back out of the Ontos to load himself, and none of the Marines nearby had moved to get rounds and do that either. All we had was the Army 175s.
I called Firebase Ripcord, pulling the map from my right thigh pocket and quickly opening it up. I found the grid coordinate number I wanted still penciled on the surface map. The number I had used before but needed again. I calculated our position. There could be no games played, as to letting the battery know where we were, not with the inherent ‘out beyond maximum range’ inaccuracy of the big gun’s rounds. We were on the gun target line and down in the valley. Any rounds that came in might strike the top of the edge of the valley wall and then bounce down if they didn’t explode from the impact. And we were right where they’d land. Even if they came in ‘red bag’ accurate, the plus or minus circular error of probability was more than likely to be about half a kilometer or more. Missing by half a kilometer within the narrow confines of the southern A Shau Valley wasn’t something to be taken lightly. But the front glacis facing the jungle on the Ontos was only two inches thick. The armor could handle anything up to, and including, .50 caliber machine gun rounds, but it couldn’t handle a direct hit from an RPG. And the Gunny was inside the Ontos. I quickly sent the grid numbers in the clear. The NVA knew where we were and where they were. Using codes no longer mattered. They were going to get plastered by artillery fire and it was best if they knew it was coming, for your needs. Killing them wasn’t nearly as important as keeping them down and from hitting us mid-crossing with even a single RPG round.
Instead of continuing the fire mission using the normal formal command structure I spoke in the clear to the fire control officer.
“We’ve got a tough situation here, Bob,” I started. “We’re down in the valley near maximum range. Your battery is angled off a bit to the west so you can put some stuff down here, but we’re on the ‘GT’ line at max range. We’ve got to take the risk. Can you fire three spaced ranging rounds at maximum elevation? If we get the range we need then I can creep back onto the target.”
“Roger that, Junior,” Bob replied.
I’d called myself Junior at the start of the transmission. Instead of sticking to rank he’d said his name was Bob. From that little bit I knew, he was going to try his heart out to help us if he could.
“We’ve got a ton of ordnance here, Junior,” he said. “Just been waiting for the call. Don’t hold back.”
“Roger that,” I replied, smiling ever so slightly at the Army I’d only heard terrible things about in training but discovered, so far, only wonderful things about.
“Shot over,” came over the radio.
I waited the seconds out, counting on my Omega. The time was too great to bother counting the seconds away in my mind. The 175 had a muzzle velocity of about three thousand feet per second, I knew. Three thousand divided into the twenty-five miles we were distanced from those muzzles. I watched the 40 seconds sweep by before the radio came back with “splash over.” I pushed the front of my body back into the mud. I didn’t have to say a word of warning to my scout team. They’d gone down at the first announcement from the battery. One hundred and seventy-five-pound rounds coming in from distant one hundred and seventy-five-millimeter artillery barrels was frightening.
The four impacts came five seconds later, as if they were one explosion, with three more echoes. I’d asked for three rounds, forgetting the 175s were organized with four guns to a battery instead of six, like the 105s. The fire direction center had fired a battery of one instead of trying to break my request up among the guns.
“Far enough,” I breathed out in relief, pulling my muddy face up and hitting the radio transmit button. The rounds had come in much more than a thousand meters down the valley. “Battery of six,” I ordered.
“Shot over,” came back from Bob. “R.O.T.?” he asked.
“Right on target,” I replied, knowing he already knew that his previous shots had hit with accuracy, but wanting to hear it over the net.
“Drop five zero on the GT line and repeat fire for effect,” I ordered, even before the ‘shot over’ command from the first salvo had been sent back to us.
I knew the FDC knew we were on the gun target line but I didn’t want anyone to forget.
I waited and watched the skyline over the jungle where smoke and debris still settled well to the south in the jungle where the initial rounds had impacted. There were more than a thousand meters separating our company from the impact area. We had to move under what fire we could call. There was only one way to do it.
The six rounds came in, like explosive layers of cake being laid down. Four, and four and then four more. A battery of six took about six minutes, normally, to load and fire that many layers of a ‘cake.’ Ripcord was doing it in three minutes. The Army artillery grunts were extending their personal care right down into the A Shau with us. I could feel it through the radio, and from the effect of their work.
“We’re going to move under your fire, Bob,” I said into the microphone. “You can safely drop five zero ten more times and still give us about 700 meters left over by the time we get to cover.
The ground shook as the second series of salvos came in. The white coronas of condensed moist air and shock-advancing sound blew up from the back of the jungle like giant Chinese lanterns. They were brilliant white in their instantly created and near instantly gone existence. Whatever was under those ‘lanterns’ was living in a deafened and miserable wet hell.
“You’re crossing open ground, over?” Bob asked, but then didn’t wait for my response, “so how about a battery of two continuous, dropping five hundred first, and then working south fifty meters at a time. On my map, it looks like danger close won’t be from our stuff, but from that deep foliage further south of your position.?”
“Roger that,” I replied, using his own radio jargon again.
Bob and his battery support team were smart, and they were removed enough to be objectively logical. We had to cross an open area and needed cover since concealment was out of the question. Bringing the fire closer initially would do a better job of immediately getting the enemy down before creeping the big rounds slowly into their most vulnerable positions.
The rain increased, as if attempting to foil our plan, but the 175 rounds wouldn’t be much affected if at all, I knew.
We waited for the “shot, over” message. We were the remnant. Half a platoon of Marines and our scout team. It was obvious that everyone else had already crossed using the benefit of the lower pre-dawn light. The light level wasn’t low anymore, however, even though the rain might provide some misty concealment. A tiny line of leeches danced before me, their little thin bodies sticking up about an inch from the wet mud, seeming to wave at me.
The ‘shot over’ message came through the radio speaker Fusner had unaccountably turned on. We waited the length of time for the rounds to leave the cannon muzzles and get to our position. I watched the leeches in front of me, knowing I didn’t have to stay attentive for 175 rounds that would be impacting less than a click away.
“One of these days I’m going to leave these clowns,” I whispered, paraphrasing some famous movie line or song lyric I’d heard.
I didn’t crush myself face down again into the mud, although I wanted to. I had to be ready to jump up and run for the cover of the berm three hundred very exposed meters distant.
I held up my right fist, gripping the radio handset firmly with my left, in order to yell “check fire” if the 175 rounds came in among us, not that I would probably be around to make the call if that happened.
“On five,” I ordered, quietly, more to myself than those around me.
“Splash, over,” came from the speaker.
I held up my thumb and then counted off the seconds, putting up additional fingers as I silently thought of the numbers. Upon raising my last finger, I jumped up, and then went immediately back down, dropping the radio handset while cringing into the mud, crushing the little dancing leeches in front of me. Then I was back up, Zippo and Nguyen pushing and pulling at me. I realized I was deaf. The aftermath of the first 175 rounds plummeted from the sky all around me. I knew we’d been at least two hundred meters from the initial hits because we were still alive. I found my balance and ran for all I was worth toward where the Ontos sat, ominously not moving, with several Marines lying face down along the unexposed northern flank of its right track.
I felt the following 175s come down, swearing as I ran, that I would never call such heavy stuff in so close to my own position again. I’d received fire from the NVA by small arms, heavy machine guns and even the Russian provided 106 guns up on the ridge, but I’d never had to endure heavy artillery fire what the U.S. military could provide in the massiveness of explosive killing size or overwhelming delivery in volume.
The bodies of Rio and Panda lay side by side, as I passed by, headed for the cover only the armored body of the Ontos could provide. Both bodies looked like they’d been worked over by the corpsmen, and both lay back down with their permanent stares directed up into the falling rain that had effectively taken away the bloody signs of their mortal small arms injuries.
“Junior,” I heard, as if from a distance, but it wasn’t. Sugar Daddy grabbed my left arm and pulled me behind the Ontos, and then down onto the surface of the mud.
“How long we got? The artillery’s pounding the hell out of them.”
I tried to clear my head and think. The Gunny. Reloading the Ontos. My scout team. The disjointed mess of where I was and what we were trying to do came cascading back.
The double doors at the back of the Ontos opened fully, and the Gunny stepped out, carrying one tubular boxed round of 106 ammunition. From behind me Sentry appeared and took the tube from the Gunny’s hands. He pressed his back into the door, held in place by its hold-open latch, and pulled the long 106 round from its black tubular box. I knew from his facial expression, or rather the lack of it, that he’d passed by the dead bodies of his teammates right after I had.
We began to work like a silent machine, the sound of the distant rushing river, the pounding of every more distant artillery rounds and the constant pattering of misty rain on our helmets the background ‘music’ for what we were doing. We all worked back and forth across the sloppy mud; reaching in, pulling out, and then stripping the recoilless rounds out of their cardboard sleeves, before moving to feed them to Sentry for loading. Only Sentry was familiar with the guns themselves. The Marines working around me made no move to touch the guns unless at Sentry’s instructions.
I eased up onto the whitish floor of the Ontos, it’s interior stained with splashes of reddish-brown mud. There was no seat, and the extra rounds Rio had substituted for it had been pulled out the back, so I squatted down, my knees bent just enough so I could press my right eye into the soft rubber grommet of the gunsight. I stared out through the brilliant scene of wet green and yellow jungle to the front of the vehicle. The mud was a hazy out-of-focus brown rug. The motor was still running I noted, with the return of most of my hearing capability. I hit the turret handle and rotated the guns a few degrees each way before adjusting up and down. The range increments were painted into the inside of the sight reticle. Each one I presumed to be indicative of one hundred meters, but I wasn’t sure.
I waited, once I’d adjusted the little white sighting lines for three hundred and fifty meters, or so. I thought about the Gunny, and why he’d holed up in the Ontos for so long without moving, not that he could have done much to load or fire the guns by himself. The inside of the Ontos was a complexity of buttons, knobs, and handles, with only the tall white track-braking handles being self-evident for what they did. I couldn’t drive the Ontos, or service it anyway, but I’d figure out how to operate the turret and aim and fire the guns. If the Gunny had stayed inside to hide out from the enemy like I had a time or two in holes, caves or under nearby brush, then why had he chosen the Ontos to hide out in, what with the more protective frontal cliff berm just to its rear? It made no sense. The Ontos was total protection against the small arms fire that had killed Rio and Panda, but it was a magnet for much more dangerously terminal hits from the RPG B40 rockets.
I waited until Zippo slapped me on the back. I turned to see him holding up two hands with six fingers showing. The guns were loaded, but I could not fire with any Marines directly behind the machine within fifty meters. Sentry pumped his clenched fist up and down twice from his position behind Zippo. I instinctively knew I was cleared to fire.
I waited. I stared into the large single lens sight, the jungle across the relatively short stretch of open flat mud fully visible in spite of the misting rain. The company’s Marines were getting set into the shallow natural cave crease that ran along the crack at the cliff’s bottom. We’d made it across the river, and then across the mud flats and, following the end of the artillery barrage, there wasn’t much the NVA could do. Except to attack. If I was the leader of the NVA forces, deafened, hurt and angry inside the seemingly decimated jungle density beyond, then I’d be preparing to attack at the earliest opportunity, before enemy machine guns were properly emplaced, field mortars set up, and the Marines focused and ready to receive an attack.
There’d been no fire attempted or delivered onto us when we were reloading the Ontos guns, and we’d been as visible as the earlier crew.
I presumed we’d not been fired upon because the NVA was readying its attack in force. I pulled from the sight briefly to look out the back, through the two open doors of the Ontos. I saw four heads sticking up over the berm, off to the northern side. Zippo and Fusner stared out, with the Gunny set between them and Sentry. Sentry saw my look and held up first six fingers and then two thumbs. I got his message. He was ready with two loads of six more rounds, when needed, for the 106 guns.
I returned to staring through the sight, seeing the jungle and the mud before it, and thinking about the two bodies of the Ontos crew, now staring forever up into a raining sky they’d never see again. They’d accepted the danger and gone anyway, across the bridge, over the mud and then out into it to fearlessly load more rounds. For the first time, I wondered how a company commander wrote up Marines for decorations. The two men deserved big ones.
And then they came. Three broken lines of brown and black-clad bodies, hunched low but moving fast. They moved directly at the position where I sat and then began veering to one side before coming back and to the other. They looked like giant centipedes.
I eased the turret down to hold the range steady at two hundred meters, the stock setting for the flechette rounds to explode. The fuses were adjustable, but I hoped and presumed nobody, in the haste to reload, had changed any of the fuse settings. The enemy maneuvered. No Marines fired. Everyone along the bottom of our cliff was immobile and ready.
I waited, my right eye sealed into the rubber grommet of the gunsight, my left hand poised over the six big firing buttons.
Order Signed Paperback Copies Book One and Two Here
You readers should know the NVA took Firebase Ripcord.
Well, they do now from your entry here Jim. Ripcord fell later in the war, however, and it did not so much fall as it was
strategically abandoned because the NVA put such an emphasis on getting rid of it that casualties were constant. No artillery
field unit in Vietnam, or since, has been over run following the introduction of flechette rounds.
Semper fi, and thanks for the data…
Another chapter that ended too soon. I so wanted to pull the trigger on that Ontos. Thank you for you kind comments on the Army, my alma mater. I once flew commercial seated next to a Marine Colonel. We were both in uniform and of course couldn’t resist conversation. He totally surprised me with his comment about how tough the Army was an his respect for us. Now for a ranking Marine it was a complete shock. I expected the usual “friendly” banter. He explained that he was in the Pacific during WWII hoping islands. He said that the Marines hit the beaches and went through the island like “shit through a goose”, and out the other side. Then the Army had to come in and secure it. That was the hard part routing the Japs out of their strongholds and tunnels. It was a conversation that this old sergeant never forgot. We love to one up and put each other down but its done from a position of great respect. Semper Fi Marine!
Isn’t that the truth, although I don’t think the Marines of WWII went through the islands quite so easily as shit through a goose! At Iwo 70,000 went in and only
44,000 came out uninjured and about ten percent of everyone who stepped on that island died, not including Japanese. But the true feelings of those Marines and Army who’ve
served together is much more positive than the mythology or the peacetime rumor mill presents. Thanks for the comment.
I am glad I started reading the accounts of your time in country. For many years I tried to bury my time there (still do). As Marines we were trained to move by instinct. Don’t stop to think just move.
PTSD is a serious problem for many. I have been told to stop living in the past. How do they know what you have seen and had to do.
I have started getting counseling thru the V/A.
Your stories led me to seek help. I THANK YOU! I will be buying your book, not to live it over, but to aid in my recovery.
Keep them coming! Semper Fi. Al
Some guys are making “T” shirts with ‘Strauss’s Army’ on them. I can’t believe it.
I don’t know whether to laugh or what.
I am writing this in regards to your
comment about my helping you and your seeking some therapeutic treatment with respect to PTSD.
Thank you for that humbling compliment. I am so happy that I might be of
help. I’m unsure how most things I write in the story will be taken so I try not to let that affect me.
Your story effects me. In a good way. I will keep on keeping on because of guys like you.
Thanks so much for sharing this with us all…
PS. they are making some ‘T’ shirts in pink for women!!!!
Another great chapter LT. Met a guy who was doing those 175s at the Rockpile (I think) in 70-71. Thought of you and your guys. So glad my Army came through. Note…did not have time to read all the comments but you mention the Soviet supplied 106 MM guns on the cliff…
did you not mean 122 MM? That was the standard light artillery piece as I recall (along with the 122 Katuska rockets) and I know some were located along the DMZ and were even captured by Marines. Guess I could look it up but it looks like a mistake to me. I am awed that you are able to write like this and do such long convoluted answers to our convoluted posts.
Yes, I did mean 122. My mind was stuck in the 106 groove because of the Ontos weaponry. Thanks for that and I will edit that most haste.
Without you guys and your ‘convoluted’ posts this story would probably have ground to an agonizing halt sometime back….
I cannot thank you enough…and the Army was a wonderful to us at ever turn…
And I forgot to mention the 122 mm heavy Soviet mortar rounds. Sorry, old EOD guy, who still has pictures of that stuff in my cored out old head. Can’t remember what the ol’ lady told me to do 5 minutes ago, but remember the internal diagram of a 524A1 fuse for an 81 mm mortar round. (Warning, watch out for and impinged striker working loose and ruining your day, like a buddy I know that was cleaning up an ammo dump after Tet 69.
I heard of the 122 howitzer they had from the Russians but I never heard of or experienced the 122mm mortar. But there was a lot of stuff sent to that
war that nobody seemed to know much about unless they were using it. I still get vets here who insist that the Army never had the Ontos, and I cannot prove
anything anymore except I know our Ontos was from the Army and not the other way around. I don’t know how that came to be or what happened to it.
Thanks for the information and sorry about your friend.
I tried to enlist in the USN on 9/1/63 as I had been working for a newspaper in NYC and my union went on strike. After 3 months my money was gone and I was bored out of my skull. I failed my medical, something involving albumin in my urine and consequently my draft status changed from 1 A to 1 Y. I never got into the service. On 10/2/64 I was sworn into the Police Department of the City of New York as a Patrolman. For the next 20 years I would be working a crazy schedule around the clock and with few days off. I rose through the ranks to Lieutenant and I finally retired with 20 years service on 10/2/84. I had many situations over the years which involved the use of physical force and the use of deadly physical force. All I can say is that when you get into the serious shit you will revert to your training automatically and time will slow down to a crawl. Another thing; people do not generally fall right down when shot with a handgun. They might flinch, slow down or stagger some but most continue in their chosen behaviour for a time. There was real fear in policing a city like NY and we faced it every day. However when the situation goes South we performed our duty without fear and saved our shakes and sweating over the fear when the incident is over.
My wife who lived in our home in Massapequa, did not have a clue about my job than as a Sergeant in the 9th Precinct on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. One Christmas season we threw a party for the kids of the precinct and I invited my wife and daughter to come. After the party she and my daughter were sitting in the back seat of my cruiser and we are tooling along AVE B when a Molotov Cocktail smashes into the hood of the car and we endure the flames and smoke and heat. At least it was winter and the windows were closed so no danger to the occupants although the rear tires did burn out about 7 blocks later and the car was totally destroyed along with my attache case. My wife went ballistic and screamed at me for putting her and our daughter in such danger. I explained that we usually lost one cruiser a month to firebombing and we are used to it. She could not leave Manhattan fast enough. When I got home that night she came at me again and again about the experience. I explained to her that this was my job and that I worked in this crappy precinct so I could have a nice home and family away from this. She from that moment on thought I was crazy but that she now had a better understanding of me but that I was still crazy. Maybe I was? From that time on I stopped talking about my police experiences except to other cops who could understand.
It is difficult to bring those experiences home.
Wives are by and large totally built from the ground up to worry, work and think about the family.
They guard and protect, us as well as the rest of the family members.
This kind of experience has been happening to men ever since we went out to hunt and the women
stayed back at the fire to gather, tend and care for the family. There is no solution, as the problem is called life.
Thanks a lot for the portrayal of your life and experiences on here.
Your writing is very touching yet clear.
As usual I got dust or something in both eyes thinking about the waste of life and limb, and the heroism of these guys; many of the comments from others add to my internal agony. No,I was not in direct combat like you guys, but I tried my level best to help protect you by turning aircraft as rapidly as possible, loaded with appropriate ordinance. I also saw the results of some of of the battles while a patient in a medivac hospital. Some of those kids visit me in the middle of the night to this day! I will never forget them! Semper fi Jim
Thanks Joe, for you and the guys and gals like you who did the unsung and often boring and hard-working jobs of
trying to take care of the rest of us out there in the shit. Most of us knew and those of us who survive understand that to this day.
Semper fi, my friend,
As a former Infantry guy in the Air Force, I spent a bit of time in’68/69 with the Marines and Army guys helping with communications. Saw just enough combat to appreciate your writing. I still sweat some of the stuff and am glad it was only a bit. Thanks LT.
I’m glad for you too Norm. I don’t begrudge the guy who missed most of the ‘action’ because the guys who did are mostly not among us anymore.
Thanks for laying it out straight and true and for writing it on here…
My first read, a friend sent me the link. VN 68-69 Big Red One Quarter Cav. I had my first contact with the 175’s within days of arrival. Was fueling an ACAV. Heard fire mission, didn’t think much about it until I found myself spread eagle on the ground. Asked the short timer track commander weather it was incoming or out going. He and the tail gunner got a good laugh out of that. Thought it had rearranged my internal organs. Will be waiting for the next chapter. Great accounting, keep up the good work!
that is funny, about the outgoing or incoming thing.
First days in country could be filled with weird experiences for sure.
Thanks for that and thanks for the compliment of reading and then writing about that on here.
James, Sir, have waited to comment. Wanted to see what the effect of powerful words would be on the hearts and minds of your true brothers. They are still responding to the chance to download more of that shitty baggage their service left them holding. Your selfless service to them continues. Thank you. I am little apprehensive about the next chapter. My friend, Buck once tried to explain what he saw when some of the gun crews were sent on patrol to see what might be beyond the wire after a full on rush by the enemy while they were in the middle of multiple fire support missions. Words like max depressed elevations and flechettes have stayed with me a lot since his passing. God bless you and all your brothers. Poppa J
Thank you Poppa J. You words are usually very well crafted and thought out. As they are here. Yes, the mess of the battlefield was so present all the time
out in the field, and when returning to the rear area it was amazing how ‘dirty’ everyone spick and span back there considered the real deal guys.
Semper fi, my friend,
Awesome writing Lt.
As a USNR SeaBee I attended many USMC schools for training over the years(M-60, FO/FSC, Desert Warfare, etc.), but never had to use the knowledge in combat. Your writing brings to life what it must of been like for those of any branch who did. I had a friend in my unit who had an NEC as a gunner on the 16″ battleship guns from the Korean War. He accepted a recall to help off the coast of Lebanon. Ended up with a fire mission to suppress the Syrian artillery that was harassing the US “Peace Keepers”. He had before and after photos. Before was a valley packed with guns, trucks, etc. After was a moonscape of craters. CEC R.G. McDonald USNR-Ret
The effect of artillery must almost be witnessed to be understood.
Anyone who is not afraid of artillery in the field is either not in the field or is dead from the effect of it.
Terrifying to be under fire like that. Instantly, out there, you realize
through your whole being that you are only living because of total luck.
each chapter is the highlight of my week—-my thoughts and prayers go out to the men who shared this experience with you—bravo Zulu from an OLD Navy 0-3 minesweeper veteran–1963–1969
Thanks a load for your well wishes Stanley. And the compliment did not just blow by me either.
It’s really much easier to work through this with guys like you at my back….
Only question I have is: How in God’s name did you and your Marines make that crossing pushin’ wheel-barrows, Jim? “Cause y’all had to have some to carry Cojones that size…
I don’t think any of us, at the time, thought about in those terms.
We were mostly wet, tired and scared kids laboring under circumstances that caused as much shock
and unexpected decisions as it did any kind of bravery.
We were not ‘lean mean killing machines’, so often portrayed,
although there were a lethal killing nature and effect
to our work that cannot and could not be denied.
I was asked once by a publisher “how many men have you killed?”
How could I possibly answer such a question, given what you’ve read in this series?
“I have no clue?” sounds like a smart aleck or stupid answer, but it would have been the truth.
My real answer assured that I didn’t get published.
“Who in the hell do you think you are to sit there and ask such a question?”
I’m sure y’all didn’t think about it at the time; you were/are United States Marines, but brother, that was impressive! Keep up the good work, You’re giving me a lot of insight into what it must have been like. Semper Fi!
You are right. We didn’t think much of it at the time, about being Marines and all. Every once and awhile, when life would let us or demanded it.
Thanks fo the comment Lance…
Another outstanding, gripping chapter James!