Whole Man and his A-6 Intruder were gone, and the jungle below was silent, as well as the drums mounted on what was left of the upper lip of the cliff. The lack of the mind-numbing drumbeats was balanced by the emptiness I felt over losing what air support we’d had until the Intruder might, or might not, return later in the night. How many had been lost of Sugar Daddy’s platoon to accomplish the resupply, and getting McInerney’s body back to the rear? The enemy fifty caliber machine gun had to have taken an awful toll in being able to penetrate both sides of the bridge’s metal structure. The river’s depth and flow almost assured that some Marines likely hit had been lost in its waters. The firing had been very extensive, and directed only at the crossing Marines and not the resupply chopper at all. Whether the NVA leaders had determined they wanted to avoid the withering fire of the Cobra Commander Turk, and his squadron of Cobras, to preserve the gun, or whether their reasoning was about something else I couldn’t know. There was also no way, particularly in the dark, the enemy could have known about the addition of the 81 mm mortars to our inventory. They had to know the Ontos was pinned down, and the dangers we ourselves faced in calling in another 175 mission. The accuracy and murderous effect of the mortar fire had to have taken them completely by surprise.
Had the fifty caliber been neutralized, and if it had then why was there no RPG rocket fire that might have accompanied the machine gun attack, or even come blasting in after? Another unanswered and unanswerable question.
The moon was gone. The clouds were gathering and a pre-misting wind was blowing across the river from the other side. It was only a matter of time until the monsoon rains began to fall again. There was no point in my moving to the stern, or rear, of the bridge, as the bodies would come over, those that were recoverable, the wounded and the dead. I was not needed for that operation, as Jurgens would remain where he was. Another medivac chopper would have to be called in for those survivors who were still alive and could survive into the next day. I instinctively felt the small bulge in the right thigh pocket where my morphine supply was located. It was then that I realized that I hadn’t thought to get my letter home to the chopper I’d been able to rough out earlier. Two days earlier. I felt bad that the actions at the bottom of the A Shau had taken all of my attention away from any thoughts about home and my wife and daughter. I’d been able to write home almost every day of my stay in Vietnam and wanted my track record to be perfect. It was possible that she, after twenty-eight days, was only now receiving the first letters I’d written. There was no way to predict what happened to the mail any of us put on the chopper. Was it delayed in delivery at some point of departure from Vietnam, or somewhere else along the way? Was the normal damaged envelope and soggy paper available used as an excuse by the military, or even the U.S. Postal Service to toss the letters, or what remained of them?