A cacophony of open combat fire sent me as deep into the jungle floor as I could get. The sound was pure small arms fire, which at close range, with the Marines around me firing outward, didn’t sound so small. I crawled forward, eventually running into the feet, legs, and backs of the Marines laying down the fire upon the exposed enemy. The only explanation for the spiderweb crawling of the enemy across the surface of the roiling water, extending out from the end of the abbreviated bridge ending to the near riverbank, was a knitted mix of rope lengths and knots. The NVA had put together landing nets of rope, effective but nearly impossible to control balanced movement across. The enemy soldiers crawled across the length of cargo nets and were easily picked off by Marine fire. There was no enemy base of fire to suppress the Marine M-16 and M-60 fire.

The Ontos ground its way to the top edge of the forest, the sound of its metallic geared tracks almost fully muted by the rain. It fired as it appeared, driving everyone nearby down into the jungle floor or the sticky mud. The rounds impacted short of the river, but the effect was just as great as if they had approached any moving enemy figure and taken him down individually. For one bright moment there were standing, climbing and running figures and the next instant, with the explosion of another round, they were gone.

I was deafened again, being too close to the muzzles of the 106 guns not to be seriously affected. I waited for my hearing to come back. The guns fired some more but I’d had the time to jam my muddy hands over my ears, the fetid smell of the sticky stuff making my headache. The guns fired some more. I could see the effect down at the river’s edge. The NVA was taking tens of casualties, but most of the troops that had been ready to leap onto the cargo nets they’d painstakingly tied and then tossed from the end of the damaged bridge to the shore were running back into the deeper jungle on the other side.