“The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, they’re really saying I love you…”
The lyrics gently streamed from Fusner’s small radio, the last song of the day, according to Brother John, before the Armed Forces network signed off. Louis Armstrong sang the words, in his strangely awful and broken voice, the tone so warbled and deep that it sent shivers of reality straight into my heart. I felt the emotion and was surprised. I wasn’t used to feeling much of anything except fear. Macho Man knelt in front of me, deep inside the protections offered by the cleft, an expression of sadness having replaced his usual fearsome tough expression.
Jurgen’s flashlight reflected off the jagged roof edges of my darkened stifling cleft. The rain outside had returned with a vengeance, saturating the hot fetid air of the monsoon season with water, insects and tiny spots of flittering mud. The smell was sweet, with decaying vegetation and the aroma emitted by the bodies of past animal life buried under the shifting sands that formed the floor of the cave.
“They left me, Junior,” Macho Man said, the words coming out like the man’s life was exiting his body with them.
“Yes, they did, and we both know they had little choice in the matter,” I replied, sitting with my back to the curve of the wall, bent forward toward the man.
I wondered about the necessity of leaving the three men for a few seconds. The gross lift-off weight of the CH-46 helicopter had to be tremendous. What difference would three or four hundred pounds make? And then I thought about just how great most of the chopper pilots were. The men had most probably been left because the pilot had serious reservations about ever making it back to the base, or likely going down terminally hard somewhere in between.
“They’ll be coming tomorrow?” Macho Man asked, his tone turning to hopeful.
“Not likely,” I replied, not wanting to raise the expectations of the staff sergeant too high. “You can hear the rain outside. The intensity has gone way up, which means the visibility has gone way down. Your crew might want to come back but they’ll first have to repair their bird, and then get the permission of higher command.”
“What do I do here?” he asked.
“You’re now my scout sergeant, and these are your men, or your team, so to speak until your own people return to fly you out.”
“I’ve never fought on the ground, ever, sir,” Macho Man replied, finally easing from his knees to a sitting position.
“Oh, you’ll catch on,” I assured him while finding it vaguely comforting that Macho Man called me sir, from time to time. “Nguyen, the Montagnard here, doesn’t speak Engish but he’s vital to the team and he’ll guide you along unbelievably well with Fusner to help to the best of his ability.”
I looked at Macho man, who had changed his entire orientation in only a matter of minutes. I was watching him go through that metamorphosis and I felt like the Gunny. I’d been in-country for something under a month, but I felt I’d somehow gained twenty or more years of age. I knew the Staff Sergeant in front of me was older than I was, although there were no records available out in a combat zone, and I wasn’t going to ask him, but I felt more like his grandfather rather than just his father or his commanding officer.
Carruthers crawled into the opening of the cleft, soaked through, wearing no poncho cover, a trail of water preceding him down the packed sandy slope to where Macho Man and I sat facing one another.
“Who’s he, and where did he get that?” Carruthers asked, sliding down on his belly, his helmet rolling off and his eyes going straight to the Thompson submachine gun held by Macho Man across his lap.
I explained the situation as succinctly as I could to the captain, but for some reason, his main interest was in the Thompson.
“What good is that thing in combat here?” Carruthers asked, but then went right on without waiting for an answer. It and its ammunition weigh twice as much as an M-16, and there’s no real resupply of the pistol ammo. What do you carry, a couple of twenty round magazines?”
“The Staff Sergeant’s taking over as my new scout team leader,” I replied since Macho Man didn’t seem like he was going to say anything.
The Gunny appeared at the upper edge of the dim glow put out by Jurgen’s flashlight, and I briefly wondered how many more members of the company would show up before I could curl up and catch some more sleep.
“We have two platoons being commanded by Buck Sergeants, Junior,” the Gunny said but didn’t go on.
What he was intimating, I knew, was that the proper place for the Staff Sergeant was in command of one of those platoons. I thought that until I looked closely at the Gunny’s facial expression. There was the faintest hint of a smile on the man’s grizzled facial features. He knew Macho Man was straight from the rear area and would almost certainly be going back at some time during the following day.
“What’s his name?” Carruthers asked as if the staff sergeant wasn’t sitting right in our midst.
“Waldo,” Macho Man replied, probably intending to add his last name, but never getting the chance.
“Waldo, now that’s a fascinating name, indeed,” Carruthers said.
“Fusner,” I said, projecting my voice to reach up toward the cleft opening, “get the Staff Sergeant properly equipped.”
“Go with Fusner,” I instructed Macho Man, wondering if I should at least mention his last name of Vanilli to everyone inside the cleft, but then thought better of it.
Accommodating the field forces, when you were dropped in to visit for a very short period of time wasn’t necessarily a good thing I instinctively felt, and giving everyone more information wasn’t going to change that. Waldo was an uncommon dweeb name and it was likely, for as long as he was in the field, he’d be known by that.
Macho Man got the hint and scrambled up the incline to follow Fusner out into the heavy rain. Fusner pushed a poncho cover back toward the man. No matter what lay ahead for Sergeant Waldo, part of it was certainly going to see the end of his starched and pressed utilities.
Macho Man turned, as he reached the outer edges of the light. I saw his eyes gleam, looking back at me, unblinking. I read the question in them that he couldn’t ask.
The man had delivered plenty of Marines down into the A Shau. He knew what happened to most of them. I knew he was waiting for me. Nobody said anything, Carruthers, the Gunny, Nguyen, and Fusner; all-knowing the question that Macho Man couldn’t ask.
“You’re going to make it,” I said, my voice almost too low to hear over the mild drumming sound of the rain hitting the jungle mud just outside the cleft, and then the deeper more distant sound of the Bong Song slithering by. “All the way, up the hill,” I continued and then stopped. Macho Man blinked.
I blinked once back, and the man was gone, following Fusner outside the cleft to find what was needed to get the man at least through the night and next day. I sat back against my sharply curving cleft wall. I hadn’t been able to get my letter home aboard the chopper, which made me feel worse than the lie I’d told to Staff Sergeant Waldo Vanilli. Because the ‘airdales’ would eventually come for him, the sergeant had a much better chance than the rest of us, marooned down inside the A Shau wasteland, but I was no magician, and, in fact, couldn’t even spend much of my time assuring the sergeant he would live if he followed my advice. I advised the company, the artillery, the Ontos crew, and even the enemy, in my way. I had no time to do what the Gunny had done for me, and the kind of core twisting fear Macho Man was hiding inside himself wasn’t something that any outside force or advice was going to minimize. You lived with that kind of fear and, in the A Shau, you generally died with it.
“Nguyen,” I whispered to the Montagnard.
Nguyen stared into me.
I nodded off in the direction Macho Man had gone.
Nguyen disappeared out into the rain, moving away low and silently under his own poncho like it was a second skin. I’d done the best I could for Waldo, in return for his having taken the time and trouble to get me a decent pair of boots and giving me his own care package from home. And, I had to admit to myself, because he was now one of my Marines, no matter how short his time at that might be.
The Gunny had brought a bag full of C-Rations, care packages from home and some six-packs of beer. The beer was Schlitz and rationed, according to the Gunny, at one can per Marine. I gave my can to Carruthers. The captain drank down two cans in two long swigs, and then promptly arranged himself and quickly fell into a deep sleep. The man was amazing in many ways, I realized, not for the first time. If he could last long enough to learn more about what we were all faced with in the A Shau then he might be the kind of company commander I could follow.
The Gunny moved closer, avoiding the captain’s stretched out body. The air was thick with moisture but the heat was strangely bearable. I wondered if it was the cooling of the stone composition of the cleft that made it so. With so many humans in the space, the rock tips along the roof of it dripped small drops of water incessantly, although the sound wasn’t as annoying as the sound of the rain beating in from the outside.
“They’re going to come at us again tonight, probably well before dawn,” the Gunny said, his voice low and conversational. With Carruthers down and Nguyen gone the only ears close enough to hear belonged to Piper and his charge.
I knew the Gunny was right, although I hadn’t known it until he said it. It made all the sense in the world, or at least the valley. The NVA had been taking it on the nose for many days and nights and they wanted to strike back. What better time to strike back than after we were resupplied with food, beer, ammo and everything else we needed. Plus, we’d pulled off the resupply without taking a single casualty. The Marines in both companies would all feel the same way I did. Finally, a night’s sleep could be had. But the A Shau wasn’t going to be that accommodating and that made sense too.
“How do you know,” I asked, needlessly.
The Gunny’s logic and life experience were enough, but I wanted more evidence if I could get it. Another night of waiting in the rain when the safety of the cleft drew me so strongly I needed more proof.
“They’re visible over across the river, with flashlights,” the Gunny replied.
I thought about that. The NVA was using flashlights so we’d notice their movements. That meant that they were either developing an attack force and centralizing it or setting up a base of fire. Since there was no way they could attack across the swollen Bong Song that meant they were setting up a base of fire. The base of fire would open up to confuse us and also to pin us down and redirect our attention from wherever the attack might be coming from.
“Where are they going to come from?” I asked, dreading the answer.
The company was, once again, in exactly the same position it had been in two nights before. The inspection team from battalion had died across the mud flats directly out from where the opening to my cleft faced and the Ontos pointed. Only the adroit capability of the CH-46 had permitted the resupply to come in further upriver where there was no room for it to land on the bank and no other open area. The 46, thanks to brilliant piloting, had dropped its rear end on the bank and then hung the remainder of its 84-foot long body out over the river. The craft had been unloaded from the rear ramp. The NVA had been taken completely by surprise again. That trick would not work again, but that left only the jungle across the flats for the NVA to attack from. That was until the Gunny filled me in.
“The holes they dug earlier,” the Gunny began. “They filled them in. They dug deeper. They connected them. They’re probably sitting only a few meters from our own forces right now. We’ve got the Ontos, but it’s severely disabled in the night and rainy weather. The Starlight Scope can handle the night, but the heavy rain kills its night vision ability.”
I wanted to ask the Gunny what we should do, but the silence that fell over our conversation at that point said something else to me. The Gunny was waiting for me to tell him what to do. I didn’t know what to do but I had to respond somehow, I knew.
“Get me Fusner back here with the air radio,” I ordered. “I want Piper and the Starlight Scope and somebody from the Ontos. I need a count of ammunition. How many flechette rounds and how many high explosives. And you better get Sugar Daddy and Jurgens too.”
“Got it, Junior,” the Gunny replied, his voice giving away the fact that he’d received what he had come to me for.
I had no idea what to do. I was gathering everyone together with the hope that I’d come up with something before they assembled or after. I regretted that the Marines had all had a beer or more since I had no control over what had come in or how it had been distributed. Carruthers was a perfect example of what the company didn’t need in the night, and I’d been partially responsible for that. The Gunny disappeared from my cleft and sight.
My brain kicked into high gear. I pulled out my map and directed Jurgens flashlight to hover over it. Our position was secure as it could be, as long as we could weather a frontal assault from the edge of the jungle, or even up from the holes that had no doubt been dug to act as fighting holes. Only the A-6 Intruder could give us the kind of air cover that might totally wipe out the NVA advantage it might have from the holes and light tunnel structure in the mud. Since our visibility was reduced, the Ontos might serve much better as a counter-firebase element, using high explosive fuses, rather than blowing our limited supply of flechettes across uninhabited mud flats.
I stopped thinking about the plan forming inside my head. I pulled the letter I’d written to my wife back out and wrote the last page. It was a page devoted to the Marines around me. I wrote of Macho Man and how much he liked and admired me. I wrote of the Gunny’s loyalty and trust and how Fusner treated me exactly as if I was his Dad. I made it all up but smiled at how good a job I’d done when I was finally done. If air was able to make it in again, and that would only be possible if other heavy-duty air cover came with it, then my letter would get aboard the chopper and most probably make it home. For some reason, I felt it was important that my wife believes that the men really thought highly of me. That the reality of my life and relationships in combat was a broken twisted licorice kind of thing didn’t need to be revealed, at least not to her.
It only took moments for the Gunny to gather everyone and jam them down inside the cleft. It was night and my worry was increasing because the NVA could attack at any time. Commonly, they came at us just before dawn, but there was no reason they might not come sooner since they themselves had been caught off guard so many times. The Gunny’s prediction seemed totally valid, but how were we to respond to it?
I realized, from the last plan that had no name that it was important that I give meaning to the new plan by naming it. The cleft I was in, along with the others up and down the lower cliff edge, was grounded in hard rock. There would be no chance that sappers might work their way up into where we were staying, but the company was also occupying a whole lot of jungle and river mud positions out from the clefts. We’d attacked right through the jungle to reach Kilo Company, and we’d done so without taking almost any casualties. But the circumstances had changed. There would be no tying up with the force attacking down the valley because that had been a disaster, as I knew it had to be. We had no orders from the battalion, except to hold our current position. That order turned our companies from attacking Marine companies into statically placed targets of opportunity.
I reached out for Fusner, who extended the radio handset. I didn’t need the handset, however.
“The Planet Mars Defense,” I said. “We’re going to call it that. I want everyone to dig in on the outside to make sure nothing’s been dug out from under them. Our objective is to get to dawn and air support. Get the Gunny back.”
I waited, Jurgen’s flashlight beginning to grow dimmer. I switched it off to wait in the dark for the Gunny’s return.
In moments the silence, broken only by the rain and the rushing sound of water going by in the distant river, was interrupted by the Gunny’s entrance. Carruthers had nodded off sometime earlier but was awakened by the sound of the Gunny sliding down toward us in the dry but slippery sand.
“Who goes there?” Carruthers asked as if we were in some old war movie standing guard.
The Gunny ignored Carruthers and lay waiting in the near dark.
“Have everyone dig in outside their clefts,” I ordered. “I want a couple of Kilo platoons to head back down the path toward the jungle and set up a base of fire from there.”
“What?” Carruthers said, fully waking from his stupor.
“What’s the point?” The Gunny asked.
“They are moving against us with a plan of attack,” I said to both men. “I want to have a counter-plan in action against them. It doesn’t have to be something that works.
They just have to be observing something they don’t understand. We’ll take some heat from being so close to their lines but the result is that they won’t just be able to move around at will without regard for what we might do.”
“Why my Marines?” Carruthers asked.
“We came to rescue you, remember?” I said, forcefully. “It’s time to earn your keep. We went for the supplies and got them. Now you guys go down there and interdict the enemy.”
“You can’t order that, Junior,” Carruthers said, his voice tone flat and angry, and placing an emphasis on the word ‘Junior.’
“No, I can’t,” I replied.
“The Planet Mars Defense?” the Gunny asked, as the silence in the cleft drew out.
“The Clay People, from the Valley of Desolation, come out of the walls of the canyon, if you recall,” I replied.
“Flash Gordon?” Carruthers asked. “What in hell does Flash Gordon have anything to do with this? And what Clay people?”
“Got it, the Clay people, of course,” the Gunny replied. “I’ll need two platoons from Kilo to head down that path. “We’ll give you reinforced machine gun fire to establish and support the position.”
I knew the Gunny was playing with Carruthers. The Gunny probably had never seen Flash Gordon and knew nothing about the Clay People. It didn’t matter. Drawing the attention of the NVA by establishing our own base of fire was sound tactics and the Gunny got that, The best defense was a powerful offense, and the base of fire positioning was a startling offensive move.
“This is crazy,” Captain Carruthers breathed out. “There is no Flash Gordon and probably no Clay People. I don’t understand any of this but I guess I have no choice. We’ll use the first and second platoons. I better get out there and let them know.”
Carruthers got his gear together and crawled past the Gunny, exiting up and over the lip that led down into the cleft.
“At least that went well,” I said to the Gunny when he was gone.
“Did you pay attention to what he said?” the Gunny asked me, lighting up a cigarette with his special Zippo lighter.
I thought about his question, playing back Carruther’s comments in my mind. The cigarette smoke blew across me and I liked the smell. Cigarette smoke, the heat, and the moisture-laden air were becoming home to me, and that wasn’t making me comfortable. I knew I would never get used to the fetid smell of jungle decay all around me, however, and leeches would never find any popularity in my psychology, no matter what.
“What did he say?” I finally asked, not being able to recall Carruthers exact words.
“He said ‘probably no Clay People.’”
“And that means what?” I asked.
“That means he’s as nutty as we are,” the Gunny replied, putting out his cigarette and clawing his way back out of the cleft.
Lt do not forget to refuel the ONTOS…
Well, some things do go unmentioned in the rending of the story. There is only so much detail
that I can put it without boring everyone to death!
Semper fi, and thanks for the comment…
Much appreciated, thx
You are most welcome.
I have not commented for quite a while but I have a real hard time that no one seems to remember how bad the Islands in the South Pacific were with the Japanese tunnels and caves.Yes I was discharged when we were being sent there as advisors but when I was on Okinawa going to the radio code school [ 3rd Marines] we found the 16MM movies uncut and actually taken in the island hopping [ WWII ] and saw the caves and tunnels that they used so well. Watched many of these along with others that I was in school with. In reading your books I question did we not learn anything about this as I’m sure that your outfit was not the only ones who came up with tunnels and caves, worked with a person who I found out was a tunnel rat over there but by the time I found out we were both retired form our PD jobs. Thanks again for spelling it out on how bad it was really on the front lines.
The tunnels and caves were nearly impossible to deal with, partially because of the cover provided by heavy jungle above.
Explosives planted inside openings worked the best. Tunnel rats not so much because the tunnels were so narrow
in diameter and it was almost certainly a suicide mission to go head first down and into one that was occupied.
I had no tunnel rats because I would never allow tunnel rats, although I heard plenty of stories about them.
All in all, we had very marginal defense or response to the really effectively tunneled areas…like down in the A Shau.
THanks for the great comment, and your own thanks to me.
I can almost see, hear and smell what you were seeing, hearing and smelling. Your writing, sir, is masterful! And judging from the comments, I’m not alone in my belief!
Thank you for the compliment, Andy.
The memories do not go away.
They are shoved back many times.
Yes JAMES we wait as always !! For each episode . Thank you for letting your feelings out.
Jim (LT) I wasn’t there but the smell the taste the emotions have me right there with Y’all. We waited them out in FSB Blue My chest is tight God Bless You and the Work of Your Hands. Thank You Salute George
Thank you, George, for the input.
I am glad you were not there.
Once again a great installment Lieutenant. While I haven’t commented for a while, I have been fervently reading each chapter. Some of which I had to read alone in the privacy of my study because of the emotions that came flooding back after all these years. I haven’t read an account of “our war” that meant so much since reading Col Hal Moore’s “ We were soldiers”. This is an excellent, powerful work and your ability to put it all into words is amazing. I think that one of the most important things for me is your writing brings new meaning to the term “all gave some, some gave all. Congratulations on a great piece of work. Glad you made it out of that hell hole. Welcome home brother. Semper Fidelis.
I still can’t believe I am really here sometimes. Thanks for the reminder! And thanks for the terrific compliments and
James, I have that same feeling wondering why I made it back & others didn’t.But I know in my heart that the Good Lord was the reason! Semper Fi !!
Most importantly, you are “back”, Pete.
Appreciate your comment.
Well James…another excellent read…and thanks for the quick turnaround. The tension builds as you prepare for the inevitable NVA attack…you have us there with you again…nervous and waiting. Macho Man is completely out of his element but at least he realizes his situation and Carruthers is smart enough to know you have the experience…and as you know, Charlie owns the night…I anxiously await your next instalment.
Yes, Charlie owned the night…as long as he could hold us pinned down.
thanks for the great compliments and the really apropos details…
The tension and anticipation is palpable. I see another long brutal night ahead. Another great chapter! Thanks for the fast postings.
Glad to see that things are working through for you and others. There IS a “Ghost Platoon” cheering you on.
THanks a lot Monty. Yes, I am, indeed, working away and thanks for the help and motivation here…
Jim, thanks again for another well written segment, and certainly most timely. Carruthers showed promise from your comments, but he obviously wasn’t ready to be the commander. You demonstrated excellent maturity and growth in your taking charge of the plans for the night, and particularly with your assignment of Kilo units for the offensive position. He sounds like he was a pretty smart guy, understanding and accepting his “position”, notwithstanding his senior rank. Not only are you doing an excellent job writing of your experiences there, but you are giving extremely good insight into the interpersonal relationships and workings of a combat unit. Once again, I sit anxiously awaiting your next installment. And rooting for the safe return of the players in this drama, knowing that fate, that most wicked witch, will most certainly not allow it for many of them.
So much was automatic. In truth, I can’t remember even thinking about violating Carruther’s orders or opinions.
It was like he was on a wild adventure and didn’t think of himself as a captain at all. A most uncommon officer.
And there weren’t a lot of options. Most of what we did was pretty simple, except for execution…and the Marines
themselves were just great at that. They didn’t need that much leadership at all…
Semper fi, and thanks for the compliments…
You sure adapted quickly, Lt Strauss. Reading each chapter as you gain more knowledge on how things worked over there, you sound like a seasoned veteran instead of a newbie. Less than 30 days in country and you had a pretty good idea what made the enemy tick.
One last question, were there a lot of Thompsons available? Was it a coveted weapon? I’m sure the M-16 had better range.
Really enjoying your story. Thank you.
The Thompson was totally coveted. Macho Man’s weapon was the only one I ever saw although I heard of
others. For some reason they gravitated toward chopper crew guys. I don’t know why.
Thanks for the comment and thanks for the compliment.
All kinds of old weapons in the rear and aircrews live in the rear and fly all over the place. plus they didn’t have to carry the weapons and ammo any significant distance from hootch to aircraft. MACV compound had a dozen BARs spread around at windows and stairwells. Nobody wanted to carry them off😁. I recall selling my CAR and a refrigerator to a OCS classmate pilot shortly before DEROS.
Yes, the BAR was another weapon like the Thompson. Heavy and really dependable but hard to keep supplied with ammo
and very limited in magazine size, but you could not help but love it once you used one.
Thanks for the personal opinion and experience here.
My RVN bodyguard carried a Thompson. I was impressed until the company went for fire training
He stood facing the paddy dike and squeezed off a burst.
He landed flat on his back in the mud
Yes, the Thompson had a heavy kick but it was a pushing mechanical thing that could be fairly easily mastered.
the weight of it also absorbed a lot, but that damned open swimming bolt was something else. Thanks for putting the weapon into a
clear and personal perspective.
Lt. JFYI, speaking from my experience in 1970, at that time I arrived Liam Son 719 was in full invasion mode of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Each downed Helicopter, effort was made to recover Chinook CH-47, teams of recovery rigging units very actively, as to looking up in Phu Bai Airport Sky’s and see nothing but returning Helicopters with a downed Helicopter slung underneath. As I understand, long before my Tour, crews on Chinook Ch-47 found the .45 caliber pistols not enough to defend a downed Helicopter, even though they had M-60 Machine Guns their orientation was not well placed in a defensive posture. Many Crew members grabbed what they felt gave them the firepower to defend the parameter of the crash site. Heads up this was a time before the development of the SAW M249 using 5.56mm, the Thompson .45 was a good fall back defensive Weapon…
I can’t disagree with you about the Thompson. In action close in it is an instrument of death, no lie.
I carried the .45 because I did not have the hands free to carry something else and the Thompson was too heavy to
drag all over the jungle all the time. Thanks for the great explanation. Makes sense.
Morning Jim, One of the reasons that Thompson ended up with chopper crews was we backhauled the weapons catches that were discovered by search and destroy, and operations like the Cambodia Incursion, Yes we backhauled tons of this stuff, and generally had first pick of what was being hauled, I had a BAR from one of the backhauls I flew back, Loved that weapon, It was in a weapons case, The markings on the case showed markings from WWII Korea (South Korean Issue) Chinese capture, shipped to N.Vietnam, and then captured during the Cambodia Incursion….. Some trip, So anyway, Have a great day.
Semper Fi/This We Defend………………. Bob.
I wondered where the Thompson came from and now I know. Thank you for that Robert!
Much appreciate that kind of boots on the ground information.
I’ve not posted any comments for awhile, not because i’ve Been absent, but because I’ve nothing to really say except “wow” , and I know you respond to all comments, thus, taking time from your writing seems somehow selfish on my part, but….WOW. I’m on the edge awaiting the next segment.
Yes, Joel, I do respond to all comments. They are that important to me and the telling of the story. I don’t look at them as taking time
from telling the story. They are part of the story because without them I could not go on.
Thanks for being one of those comments!
I have been following this since the first night you were thrown out of that helicopter. Amazing writing. I was a Corpsman in a Combined Unit Pacification Program ( CUPP ), 1st Marine Division 1970. Our A O was Hill 55 and surrounding villages. We had our own excitement, but so glad I never ventured into your valley. I can identify with much of what you describe. I also understand the guilt of not completing a tour. A well placed B-40 ended my tour just short of three months. Hospitalized in Japan, then San Diego and discharged after back surgeries. No complaints though. Glad I made it back, and very glad you did as well.
I check every morning for your next chapter. Please keep up the excellent writing.
Thanks William and thanks for putting your heartfelt comment on here for everyone to read. Means a lot to me.
You went from getting sleep, to the gunny saying NVA would probably attack and you instantly go into defense mode in your mind and wonder what to do….. and your mind takes you Flash Gordon and the clay people? ?
Can’t make this shit up!
What a mindfuck that valley proves itself to be in every moment, like a crescendo of oneupmanship it plays upon itself.
We were all crazy as hell, and I guess not a whole lot of that left me when I came home.
Crazy does not see crazy. It was a wild time and I reacted with whatever I could bring to the table…or the valley.
Lt. I note you pivoted quickly from Defense Only Mode to a Forward Leaning Two Platoon Probe, which no doubt the NVA would have to think / respond too. You have them second guessing their plans from the last several engagements, Great Option Call, leaves your Parameter not purely Defensive !!! Quickly can go Offensive if circumstances open to you…
George, you are a tactician, as I become. I could not survive holed up or I would have and I could not get down in the holes, caves and tunnels they built so adroitly.
The only way to survive was to move, stop and then move again never giving clues as the moves. Supporting fires in daytime were awesome when we were in the right spot but
at night and in the rain and mud it was really tough…and they were really good at fighting in that shit…
Maybe crazy is not crazy. Who gets to decide? Someone who never personally had to test the limits, I bet a dollar… Thank you again sir for your gift…
Thanks James, much appreciate your support and you succinct but oh so meaningful and caring words.
Semper fi, My friend…
Agree with Ron: Awesome. Poppa
Thanks Poppa, as always…
Such vivid descriptions of powerful emotions. I can not imagine how difficult it is for you to let these events pour from your very soul.
Well, the vivid nature of the combat burned itself in deep, which I thought would
diminish over time. Never did, obviously, but sharing it here and in the books sure has helped.
The fact that you keep dry paper and envelopes and regularly write your wife among all this fear, death, and destruction is amazement in and of itself. That is the thread that keeps you human, in a place and time doing everything to take that from you. You embody Semper fi, in the most dire circumstances.
Thanks for picking up on that John, as I lay down what took place. The letters, all of which I have to this day, meant so much to me and I wasn’t sure why.
Thanks for pointing that out.
While understandable, a little tortured…Maybe recast it –
Only the A-6 Intruder could give us the kind of air cover that might totally wipe out the possible NVA advantage from the holes and light tunnel structure they had in the mud.
“The Planet mars Defense,” I said. Capitalize Mars.
Great gallows humor – “That means he’s as nutty as we are,” How could it be any other way!
Another good ‘un Jim. The tension is building, alertness ratchetting up, all hell is getting ready to cut loose…and there is a plan, the Planet Mars Defense against the clay people out in the mud. Apt description. I have a knot in my stomach, let’s do this!
Thanks Michael for the motivation you give me here.
The Planet Mars Defense was really the Planet Mongo Defense but Chuck looked it up and
I had to change the name! I thought it was Mongo back then…
Dang LT, I’m getting the idea of how a boxer feels in the ring with these last 3 chapters. A boxer that’s getting pummeled, with a left, then a right and now one to the gut. Just gonna try to stay on my feet and make it to the bell. Semper Fi Sir.
It was certainly a topsy turvy kind of situation in that damned valley. And it was pretty tough to try to figure out what the NVA was going to do next.
They outnumbered us so badly but lacked our equipment and supporting fires but many times if things had gone the wrong way they’d have totally annihilated us.
Great chapter as always. Can’t comment much was training for a fantasy hockey camp with the Chicago Blackhawks when I either caught an edge or nicked a rut broken right hip. Surgery yesterday 14” rod in my right femur.
So sorry Chuck. Broken hips are a bitch but they do wonders today. My left hip was
broken from one of the bullets but came back 100% over the years. Took a while though.
Thanks for letting us know on here. You rock, Chuck!
Thanks James Thanks James I appreciate your words of encouragement.
Can’t not respond on here. Your own words keep me moving ever onward….
The Gunny’s logic and life experience were enough, but I wanted more evidence if I could get it. Another night of waiting in the rain when the safety of the cleft drew me so strongly needed more proof.
The last line after strongly…maybe a period or ….I needed more proof.
The Starlight Scope can handle the night, but the heavy rain kills its night vision ability dead.” kills its night vision ability. ..might be better without the dead
Great writing ability..once again the scene comes alive with your word picture account. To Macho man you were a man to be admired…you had his respect 100%. The 46 crews held the ground forces they carried in the very highest esteem…we didn’t know how to do what you did and we respected you for what you did.
Thanks for the help John, with the editing I mean. And thanks for the compliments too.
Marine Airedale here. Think Waldo will do just fine. My tour easy way. Only shot at once and that was friendly fire. Had buddy that was at Marble Mt, a sgt, killed 5 guys one night while base was being attacked. His one and only firefight, VC were on base. He told me he just did not have time to think, just survive . And he did just that. Hope Waldo does also. Simper fi
The airdates were so much ‘cooler’ like Macho Man, than we were on the ground. Muddy, dirty and infested with leeches and other
bad shit. I did love the guys in those birds and how they made it work so brilliantly when they had to.
I’m glad to see Carruthers is allowing rank to defer to experience.
I wish Macho Man well. He should have useful knowledge and skills – if he survives in his new environment.
It is interesting to see you and the Gunny working more closely together.
I once had an chance to heft a Thompson and was surprised by its weight. Book says 11 pounds with a 20 round magazine vs 6 pounds for an M-16.
Some minor editing suggestions follow:
I knew the staff sergeant in front of me was older than I was…
Suggest capitalize “Staff” and “Sergeant”
“What’s his name?” Carruthers asked as if the staff sergeant wasn’t sitting right in our midst.
Suggest capitalize “Staff” and “Sergeant”
“Go with the Fusner,” I instructed Macho Man,
Suggest drop “the” in front of Fusher.
I realized, from the last plan that had no name, and that it was important that I give meaning to the new plan by naming it.
Suggest drop the “and” between “name” & “that.”
I realized, from the last plan that had no name, that it was important that I give meaning to the new plan by naming it.
“The Planet mars Defense,” I said. “We’re going to call it that.
Suggest capitalize “Mars”
I appreciate that you posted another chapter so quickly. Always at your own pace.
Blessings & Be Well
The Thompson was beautifully made and machined. What a weapon, It was not made for that jungle war though. The weight was way up there
and the ammo weight too. The M-16 was much maligned but it did one hell of a job overall. I had no respect for the AK of the time, as it was
so cheaply made and misfired all the time. Easy to clear a misfire, however, unlike the 16.
thanks for all the editing help.
I had a WO that carried an M3. Where he got it I have not idea. As light weight as it was, firing full auto with the .45 cartridge made you appreciate the ll pounds of the Thompson. In a short range firefight, both awesome and deadly. I, too, preferred the M-16 for weight, and rounds of ammo I could carry per pound.
Exactly correct about the Thompson.
A wonderful instrument of close in death-dealing but heavy as hell.
And loud too.
I don’t know why those pistol rounds were louder than a 16 but they were.
Thanks for adding your own experience.
Morning Jim, The drought is over, and now the deluge.
The reason the Thompson was so loud was the Cutts compensator that helped control the muzzle rise, It directed the blast pressure up and back at you. The reason it was such a meat chopper was the same reason that the 1911 was so good as a defensive pistol, Big bullet, 230 grain, with an added 300 fps of muzzle velocity, Inside 50 meters it hit like a brick dropped off the Empire State Building.
Now some intell from the other side of the rank structure, You have made it, You may not have realized it but from what you describe, Your Troops have decided that you have the MOJO and that you have the knowledge and guts to keep as many of them alive as Murphy and Luck will allow, Yes that exchange with Gunny tells it all ;
“I wanted to ask the Gunny what we should do, but the silence that fell over our conversation at that point said something else to me. The Gunny was waiting for me to tell him what to do. I didn’t know what to do but I had to respond somehow, I knew”.——- ““Got it, Junior,” the Gunny replied, his voice giving away the fact that he’d received what he had come to me for.”
Yes, You have made the transition, The Gunny is now looking to you as much as you are looking to him for advise and consent, Not the only thing to fear is Murphy, and as we all know Murphy is a Mother F_cker, Now forward, Into the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred! Charge!
Yes my friend, As a Brother, Welcome Home, The Brotherhood of the Survivors, We survived and WE LEARNED>
Semper Fi/This We Defend Bob.
This coming chapter will have some of that realization you write of in it.
The first time I thought I had any real acceptance, although there were earlier clues.
Thanks, Brother for the great comment…as always…
The M3 probably came from SF. While I was in-country they were not permitted to carry their M-16s on operations (or so I am told). SF CIDG camps were armed with WWII/Korean War vintage weapons. I had an opportunity to test fire a M3. My teenage war comic book infatuation with the weapon immediately ended.
Yes, it was a rather difficult gun to control on full auto.
Thanks for commenting on it. The drums were damned near useless because of the weight and the fact that they jammed all the time.
LT I loved this segment, the plan should be another great one. Can’t wait to read the next one.
Thanks Mike, the compliment is well received, especially coming from you.