I was wrong and I knew it by the time the company had proceeded less than an hour into its rain-flushed mud-slogging move into an impossibly dark night of trying to break through abusive jungle bracken while attempting to be careful not to set off any booby-traps. The move was not going to be a night move because there wasn’t going to be enough hours left in the night to make it. I moved with the company in slow syncopated motion, surging ahead and together, one Marine after another, in each other’s footsteps, while stopping frequently because the men in front stopped. There were no reasons given for stopping because nobody talked during the move, but it was apparent that getting to the abandoned landing zone was going to take a whole lot longer than I’d predicted, and that meant we’d lose the cover of darkness at some point before we made it.
The rain drowned out everything when it came to sound, and whatever very limited visibility that had been available up on the side of the hill was completely lost inside our jungle, paralleling the river. I moved into a near trance, and then stopped patiently and frequently to await advancing a few more yards. Running to daylight wasn’t going to have any running, or even moving quickly, as part of the plan I realized, and that obvious fact meant trouble. The enemy would be figuring out what we were up to, and then moving to parallel us across the river. The smaller force we’d hit earlier, now behind us, would serve as the ‘stopper’ in our metaphorical rear end, slowly moving with us but staying far enough back to prevent us from retreating, or evacuating, or whatever we might try in that direction.
Since it had become unlikely that the company would reach the objective before daylight there was, however, at least some hope of air support coming in to complement what Cunningham could offer in the way of fire support. Firebase Cunningham was off at a western angle from the northerly direction we were following up the valley. If we needed fire, along the length of almost our entire exposure, we’d be right near the gun target line, if not on it. Range was the most inaccurate measurement in artillery, so I would have to be fully aware of exactly where we were at all times, and that might prove difficult with a company on line in near single file stretched out and winding its way through a jumbled jungle for the entire distance.