Nguyen was gone into the night with the 106 round. I hadn’t given any thought at all as to whether the ammo box was marked with a flechette designation for its contents or not. There was no way to tell by feel, and there was no way I was going to use the flashlight with a .50 caliber firing on us. I’d counted four rounds to the box which left three of whatever kinds of rounds they were. I lay behind the box, the thing useless as cover but sufficient for concealment, since it was sitting up perpendicular to the enemy occupied jungle to our front. The .50 had stopped firing which was good news for Nguyen, and myself. I heard only a few single rounds coming from a gun I couldn’t recognize right away by the sound. Then it came to me, Zippo was trying to suppress the .50 caliber gun crew by giving the snipers locating data from the night vision scope. The guns the snipers used were 7.62 millimeters, like the M-14 I’d trained with, and also the M-60 machine guns, but the sound was just a bit different. I’d loved the heavier M-14 but the 16 had already been issued to combat troops and Marines by the time I was shipped out.

I realized that I could lay where I was or slip and slide my body back toward the spider hole.

The spider hole was safer by far, and the trip to get there would become increasingly more risky with the coming of the light. The .50 opened up again, the sound of its nearby frontal discharge almost enough to make my ears ring. I had no time to make earplugs or do anything else except getting as far down as I could. The .50 was shooting back at the location where the sniper fire was coming from, however, and not sweeping my position. I moved back from the ammo box, pushing directly away, taking my helmet off when I was far enough to angle toward where I thought the spider hole was. I left my helmet behind. It was no protection against anything except the smallest fragments from artillery or grenades anyway. Against the power of a .50 caliber, it would be about as effective as tissue paper in stopping a bullet.