The red river was a rivulet of bloody water that happened to be running down the valley, back from the direction the company had to head up into. The major problem, as the Gunny pointed out, was not our movement, air support or even hauling Zippo and the bodies that had come falling down from the cliff. It was the Ontos. There was no way the company could tramp back through the same stretch of jungle again, and counter-attack on through, without taking near total casualties. The NVA might have fallen for the first frontal attack but there was no way they would be taken by surprise like that again.
“We can run the Ontos along the edge of the jungle,” the Gunny noted, “although it’ll be a close fit with the wall hugging the solid debris in some places, but the turret can’t be rotated more than about thirty degrees if that.”
“Traversed,” Hultzer said, surprising both the Gunny and me.
I looked at the boy in question, with a frown. Usually enlisted ranks serving under a seasoned Gunnery Sergeant like our own spoke when spoken to and only answered questions they were asked to answer.
“Traversed,” Hultzer repeated. “Turrets on tanks don’t rotate, they traverse, and that Ontos turret can only traverse fifteen degrees each way.”
The Gunny squatted down, took out a cigarette and cupped one hand over it in order to shield it from as much of the mist as he could, ignoring my temporary scout sergeant’s comment. The rain had stopped earlier, but the mist continued, seemingly falling from wispy clouds that, back in the real world, wouldn’t have had any moisture in them at all.
“And the damn thing won’t have the room to use its tracks to turn either,” the Gunny got out, between his first and second puffs.
Hultzer and Piper, like twins that don’t look anything alike, crouched near the Gunny, as if it was he that they were the scout team for and not me. Their looks, as they watched the man smoke were the same. I realized that they were looks of adoration. I wondered how they looked when they viewed me, and I was unaware they were doing so.
“I helped operate an Ontos for a bit while at Infantry Training School in Pendleton,” Hultzer offered.
I squatted down to join the Gunny, not knowing what to say about Hultzer’s comments. Carruthers was trying to get Kilo organized and ready to move. My company didn’t need any organization and I knew it. The Marines in my company would simply move when they had to and do whatever they had to do to support it. Somehow, they were able to get ready and move without my orders. I’d never understood how they did that and it wasn’t likely, I knew, that I ever would.
After a few more puffs of his cigarette, the Gunny turned to face Hultzer, and looked at him silently, as if measuring the capability of the young Marine.
“Okay, corporal,” the Gunny said, his voice low and sort of threatening. “What would you do here, since you’re an Ontos driver? We’ve got to get the Ontos up along the base of this cliff about fifteen clicks, and we can’t direct its turret in toward the jungle to protect it or us with the flechette rounds.”
Hultzer leaned aside to put his lips closer to his constant partner, Piper. He tipped his helmet back to get close enough to whisper whatever he said. Piper jumped up and disappeared at a run back toward where the Ontos sat idling away behind us.
“I didn’t drive, Gunny,” Hultzer replied. “I was just a mechanic. There’s a cotter pin for the main gear because the turret needs to be able to turn fully around in order to lubricate the ring it traverses.”
“So?” the Gunny asked, his voice growing impatient.
“We pull the cotter pin, extract the gear, move the turret around left to face the jungle, and then have thirty degrees traverse sideways while the Ontos moves along right next to the brush.”
Piper ran back and plopped down next to Hutzler. He moved his right hand to put something in front of Hultzer’s chest.
Hultzer picked it up and showed both the Gunny and I what it held. “It’s like I thought. The Ontos vehicles are all the same. I wasn’t sure.”
The corporal dangled a large cotter pin from his fingers.
“I’ll be damned,” the Gunny whispered, snapping the remains of his cigarette over toward the stone wall.
The butt struck the surface, flared and then extinguished itself down in what I’d termed the ‘Red River’ of a slowly moving trail of water just below it.
Moments later, under the Gunny’s command and control, the Ontos was backed down from its position facing into the full body of the jungle. With Hultzer’s help the turret was modified and turned, and then the Ontos began moving along the edge of the cliff face, the sides of its tracks so close that occasionally they made jarring metal rasping sounds when encountering the rock itself. With the turret manually adjusted to face into the density of the full jungle, there was room on both ends of the Ontos to carry body bags. I counted six, as the tracked vehicle made its way slowly past me. I knew Zippo was still inside, and I wondered if his dead presence bothered the driver and the machine’s commander, but I said nothing to anyone about it. Fusner, Nguyen, Hultzer, and Piper moved with me, very close in proximity because the path between the canyon wall and the nearly impassible jungle body was narrow, and also because of the known fact that the Ontos could be used to dive under for cover in case of incoming fire.
Mortar rounds, small arms, and even RPG fire couldn’t easily reach through the Ontos armor and kill or wound those Marines who got under it for protection. The Russian .50 caliber the NVA had used before was a different matter entirely, however. I was afraid of the .50 more than any weapon the enemy possessed. I never spoke of that fear, however, and neither did anybody else, although they had to have it.
The Skyraiders worked overhead, diving down and firing a few twenty-millimeter rounds here and there. They positioned themselves on either side of the A-6, which flew marginally lower, it’s down-angled jet engines roaring over the normally jarring thunder of the Skyraiders powerful propellers. There was no incoming small arms fire, as we moved back up the valley. There was only one place of any security we might be headed unless it might be to recross the still monsoon flooded river, and that thought was ever on my mind. Would the NVA have mined the clefts? My other worry was regarding the ability of the NVA to relocate a .50 caliber close and well-positioned enough to attempt to take out the Ontos. The downside of following the Ontos closely was the simple fact that, although it might be protective offensively and defensively, it attracted fire of the heaviest kind.
Captain Carruthers appeared out of the grayness of the morning drizzle, as the air support began making turns to orbit the area for our move. His new jungle boots squished in the mud.
“I met one of your platoon sergeants,” Carruthers said, the moisture condensing on his helmet cover and dripping slightly down over his face. “I don’t think much of him. What’s his real name, as Sugar Daddy doesn’t quite fit into any table of organization I ever heard of in the Corps?”
“He’s all of that,” I replied, ignoring any attempt to straighten out the vagaries of Marine Corps rigidity and structure inside a battered unit inside a hot combat zone.
“Your Gunny sent part of his platoon forward to make sure the way isn’t mined or anything,” the captain went on. “I believe this Sugar Daddy threatened me like it was my idea to risk his men that way, but it wasn’t. In truth, I didn’t think of it, until the Gunny said you had encamped in that exact area twice before. Makes sense. I’ve got to write this sergeant up, for that and his lack of discipline, poor attire, and disrespect to an officer.”
“Let me look into it,” I said, trying not to sigh, as the words came out.
“I should hope so,” Carruthers replied, turning in the mud with a swishing sound and making his way back to his company assembling for the move.
Sugar Daddy was angry that his men were being risked for those of Kilo, I knew. Carruthers was way too new to see or understand that the price for his and his unit’s security might be considered too high a price to pay by Marines not only seasoned in combat but carrying a deep-felt knowledge that they were never going to live to go home themselves.
The Gunny came out of the brush to approach the moving Ontos in front of my small team. I sent Hultzer forward to get the Gunny’s attention, and Piper ran along staying only a few feet from his caretaker. The saddest part of watching them cross the short distance was the obvious and apparent fact that Piper knew how damaged he was, and was depending on Hultzer and the rest of us to get him through. He seemed unaware that all the rest of us around him were struggling mightily just to get ourselves through the day, and then another night.
The Gunny trotted toward me, a look of question on his face. He turned upon reaching my position and walked next to me. With the mist, faint wind, the sound of the Ontos and distant roaring of the air support flying above us it was hard to hear.
“What is it?” The Gunny asked, with his tone making no secret of the fact that he had other more important things to do.
“Sugar Daddy threatened Carruthers and I want to talk to him, now.”
“Can’t it wait?” the Gunny asked.
“You sent Sugar Daddy’s men forward to check out the cleft?” I asked.
“Seemed like a good idea,” the Gunny replied. “Little chance Jurgen’s Marines would really do the job.”
“Good move, but Carruthers can blow this whole thing apart from the inside if we end up with Kilo company as another enemy,” I said. “Like we aren’t in enough trouble as it is.”
“Yeah,” the Gunny breathed out, after a few seconds of saying nothing.
“Send your Bobbsey Twins to get him, Junior,” the Gunny said. “He’s with the other half of his platoon bringing up the rear. Can’t count on Kilo for nothing just yet.”
Hultzer didn’t need an order. He was gone with Piper before the Gunny stopped talking. We walked on in silence for a few minutes. The smell of the Ontos’ puffing little General Motors engine reminded me of automobile exhaust back home, although there was no home feeling in the hunching fear I felt. I fought to remain somewhat distant from the back of the protective armored vehicle. The danger of the nearby jungle to my left was like an invisible giant spider web pressing out toward me. I knew in my bones that the first sign of incoming fire would drive me right under the rear of the Ontos, where I’d stay crawling along with it all the way to the protection of the cleft near the river.
I heard Sugar Daddy behind me before I saw him. His big heavy body, moving as fast as it could to catch up with us, didn’t allow his boots to ease into and out of the muck with each step. The sound of his boots splashing down and then pulling back out couldn’t have been reproduced on a movie set. I kept walking. There would be no stopping until we reached the safety of the cleft.
“What’s the problem now, Junior?” Sugar Daddy said, fitting himself squarely between the Gunny and me.
“Captain Carruthers,” I replied, getting right to the point. “He’s in command of Kilo and we don’t know Kilo. I don’t need any trouble between our units while we’re together. I think the captain’s a good shit, so knock off the threats and obvious disrespect.”
“Don’t treat him no different than I treat you, Junior,” Sugar Daddy replied, mildly stressing the word Junior.
I breathed deeply in and out and decided to try one more time.
“I’m not quite right, somebody said a few days back, so the comparison doesn’t fit. So, I’m asking you to make an exception.”
“This is the A Shau,” Sugar Daddy shot back. “Ain’t no rules down here.”
“Gunny?” I asked. “What’s the relative position of the point element headed for the cleft, do you think?”
“Probably approaching the edge of the open field of fire by now,” the Gunny replied.
“Fusner,” I began, but the radio microphone was already being pressed into my left hand.
“Arty net is up, with the Army 175 firebase on the line,” he said.
I glanced over at the old young boy, wondering how he had guessed what I was going to want. The 175 battery was the only one that could reach out far enough to impact rounds near the river and jungle area we’d occupied before, but still, how could the young corporal have known I might need to call them?
“Fire mission,” I said into the handset. “Grid one niner six eight five five six two,” I read from my mind’s memory. I was no longer surprised that I could not only recall all my former night defensive fire coordinates but I could not forget them either.
“Battery of four,” I said into the complete silence around me, as we walked. “No spotting round and wait for my command to fire.”
“What are you doing, Junior?” the Gunny asked.
“Sure you want to play it this way, Sugar Daddy?” I asked the sergeant, my voice soft and velvety, surprised that I was in a place of complete calm and control.
“He’s calling in artillery on my men?” Sugar Daddy asked the Gunny, his voice breaking halfway through.
“Don’t do it,” the Gunny said to me. “Those Marines are assholes but they’re our assholes.
“You certain you understand these will be red bag rounds,” the tinny little speaker on the side of Fusner’s Prick 25 radio played out. “These are plus or minus four hundred meters or more in range at this distance.”
“You wouldn’t,” Sugar Daddy finally said, recovering himself.
I pushed the button down on the handset, raised it to my cheek and spoke.
“Fire for effect,” I ordered.
“No,” Sugar Daddy screamed, grabbing my left hand with the mike in it.
“I’ll do it, whatever you want.”
“Check fire, check fire, check fire,” I said hurriedly into the microphone, and then waited nervously while trying not to look like I was nervous at all.
“Check fire confirmed,” came through the speaker. “No rounds expended. Standing by.”
The march along the edge of the jungle went without incident and Sugar Daddy’s Marines welcomed the remainder of the two companies as if they were to be honored for their bravery in taking the point. The Gunny moved to compliment and reward the men while my scout team helped me to get inside the same cleft I’d left in a time that seemed so long ago.
Carruthers was battered, beaten and wet to the bone when he brushed aside the poncho-cover Piper had carefully and uselessly draped over the opening to my slice of cleft dug under the edge of the stone face. The valley wall went straight up, and it made no sense that the cleft should even exist except for the strange nature of the soft but long-wearing stone it was composed of. Bullets and explosives were absorbed when they struck, as opposed to the cliff face Carruthers and Kilo company had come down. The poncho cover gave me a degree of privacy but privacy wasn’t something I prized at all with the Marines I was supposed to be commanding. There were no secrets to be revealed, and no place to run away from the awful and brutal life and death struggle we all faced all the time together.
The big man bent down to move closer but upon getting closer collapsed to the hard and rough surface of the stone floor.
I made no move from my prone position to help him. The Gunny had been right, although his timing had been off. I was going to write a letter home to my wife, but I hadn’t started it out in the open. I had waited until I could be under cover. The incessant rain, drip, and mist a few meters away were almost impossible to write anything in or on unless using a grease pencil on plastic. The black government-issue pens would lay ink down under almost any circumstance, even running water, but the paper to be written on wasn’t nearly so tough or flexible. I made no move because I knew what the captain was going through. It was written all over his shaking shoulders and the expression that had to be on his face I couldn’t see because he kept his head bowed down.
“How did you know?” he asked, finally, his voice small and lost.
“I told you, sir,” I replied, keeping all sympathy from my voice, “I’ve been hit by that same battery in that same place before.” I looked away from Carruthers to avoid eye contact. He was going to have to patch himself together and I couldn’t be his therapist to provide some form of motherly or fatherly advice and assistance. There was no time, and the things I might tell him would only potentially risk my own position or even my credibility. I commanded my company or was supposed to, and he commanded Kilo. We were not companies commanded together. He was an officer FNG and I was not, and I could not maintain his company close in and personal as the Gunny had done with me. The captain had his own Gunny, although I knew nothing of the man.
“No, I mean the Montagnard you sent up the wall,” Carruthers got out, surprising me.
I remained silent, but the captain had my full attention. My relationship with Nguyen was special and I knew it. It was also based upon secrecy and I wanted to maintain that.
When I didn’t say anything for more than a full minute, the captain went on.
“He came up that face like a spider, freed one of my sergeants from his climbing rope, and then got everybody off that nightmare cliff without losing a soul. And he never said a word. The man’s a genius. How did you know to send him?”
I didn’t want to admit that Nguyen had been the Gunny’s idea, and that idea had come to him because he knew I was contemplating going up the glacis myself to try to rescue what Marines I could.
“Did you call in a medivac, sir?” I asked but didn’t wait for Carruthers to respond. “What about a list for re-supply? Replacements? And do you have a company clerk in your outfit that can handle some of the load?”
I peppered the captain with questions. Mission orientation, awareness and then working the objectives to accomplish that mission, I knew, was better than any kind of sympathetic counseling I could provide about the fact that the captain was in the A Shau Valley to live and most probably die, and as long as he stayed alive as a company commander, was going to bleed dead Marines like blood pumping from a major artery.
“We’re supposed to move back north toward the Rock Pile, eventually,” the captain said, raising his head to look me in the eyes for the first time.
I noted that although he’d answered none of my questions, he wasn’t giving the appearance of being a helpless wounded dog anymore. I would like to have told him to ‘be a Marine and suck it up”, but I’d already realized that I didn’t really know what it was like to be a real Marine and there was no sucking it up in the A Shau. There was only remaining low, moving as much and as fast as possible, and finally, avoiding being killed by the enemy or my own men. Avoiding that required a bit of avoiding the enemy and my own men on a regular basis.
I got to my feet, carefully folding my unfinished letter into the Iwo Jima envelope I’d send it in later. I carefully removed my utility top, pulling it over my head rather than unbuttoning all the front buttons.
“Would you mind, sir?” I asked Carruthers, turning to show him my back, while at the same time bending slightly so I could disengage my mosquito repellant from the rubber band holding it to the side of my helmet.
A direct shot of gasoline (not ignited) worked the best to instantly dislodge the leeches stuck to my torso in the places I couldn’t reach. A hot match head was second best, but the repellant, if applied liberally, and sometimes more than once, also worked, and we didn’t have the two other fixes, anyway.
“Oh, the leeches,” Carruthers commented, his voice filled with revulsion.
Then he took the plastic bottle and went to work. “I haven’t had any of the painful things get on me yet.”
I said nothing. The captain had come through the same mud and jungle I’d traversed to get from the bottom of the glacis to the cover of the cleft we were in now. He had leeches, but he didn’t know it. The leeches emitted a deadening solution as they bit into human skin. The captain was accurate in expressing his belief that he had no pain from the leeches. You had to feel for the effect of their weight tugging at the skin. There was no pain. It was a subtle thing that took a while to catch on to. I knew that if Carruthers lived long enough he’d come to be very aware of the symptoms, but there was no point in letting him know that in our current position and situation. The first leeches caused an emotional upset in anyone who dealt with them. I didn’t need the captain winging out, just yet, anyway.
“We’re going to get hit, probably tonight some time, sir,” I said. “They’ll probably have their .50 caliber back, along with a load of B-40s. The resupply and medivac are going to come in a couple of hours from now and the 46 is going to play hell getting in and out of here unless we have suppressing fire and air support orbiting all over the place. Get some sleep and let the Gunny organize the defensive fires.”
“How come we have so many dead,” Carruthers asked. “I’ve heard the wounded far outnumber the dead in this war.”
“This is the A Shau, and it’s not in this war, sir,” I replied. “This is a whole different war down here.”
“Where do I go now?” the captain asked, and I caught a note of ‘little boy lost’ in his tone.
“Right here, with me, captain,” I said. “This is officer country as long as we’re here. Fusner and my scout team are right outside. Where’s your RTO?”
“My RTO is in a bag on that Ontos out there. What about that black sergeant?” Carruthers said, settling down into a sitting position on the edge of my poncho liner.
I realized the captain wasn’t lost, he was in shock. He’d led his unit down a dangerous cliff and then gone back up to save survivors. He’d lost his radio operator and some others in the effort, and he’d done it all without running or showing any fear at all. He was a real Marine officer and I knew that from that moment I would never call him anything but sir.
“Sugar Daddy has rethought his comments and attitude, sir,” I replied. “I think you’ll be very pleased.”
Could you check and see if my email is on the list to notify us when the new chapters come out? I didn’t get a notice for the last 2.
Tim, I checked and the email TR2129@Comcast.net is not on the list.
Use this link to re-optin and be sure to look for Verify email and click on the link.
Opt-IN to Strauss List
Will do, thanks. I have been on it for a long time. Not sure what happened. Your story is excellent. I was there in 1966. You bring me back there on a regular basis. Sometimes good, sometimes not but thank you for the chance.
Hope your taking care of yourself,James—-Speaking for the here and now,I’d like to thank you for your back-to-back—–I view it as a gift during the season—-Hope this finds you well in all respects.
Thanks Mark, for the kind caring comment. Zippo was tougher to get through than I thought. I don’t normally have dreams from those old days but the writing
about that brought him back, which is okay, as I love the kid, but it also made me feel like I was violating his memory a bit, yet without anything to really
back that up. Best I can do at explaining my period of the doldrums.
Semper fi, and Happy New Year.
James I have to disagree with you on violating Zippos memory. I believe you honor it with what you’ve written about him. There has been a few heroes that have died along this terrible journey. Several I can remember there names and picture them because of your writing but Zippo sticks out the most so far. Because of your writing about him his memory will live forever.
Thanks Frank, that means a lot to me…a lot…
Well James…another great read…and a much faster turn around with this segment. It has become my habit to read and re-read both your story and the comments. You gave statistics on war casualties…my friend that was the first Airborne Jumpmaster from WWII that I have mentioned before told me that of his battalion that went across the water only 212 were alive at the war’s end and of those 212 only 21 had not been wounded…bears out that real combat is a horrible thing no matter which era you are from…again, I anxiously await your next segment…and Happy New Year.
I wrote about Jimmy Stewart, the actor, and how he fought to get into bomber command to bomb the Germans. Later he could not continue because of PTSD and they transferred him
out (which they did not do for regular vets at the time…hence the movie Catch 22). There were 125,000 crew. Fully 80,000 were shot down, captured, wounded or killed. The killed
were just at 56,000. That’s out of 125,000!!! Just like the A Shau so many years later and God knows how many combat theaters in between. The public really does not understand.
John Wayne made it up Mount Suribachi to plant the flag…and so on….
Thanks for the meaningful comment and supporting what I’ve been writing about here.
Semper fi, and Happy New Year.
The .50 is a fearsome thing, I have had 4 pointed at me several times, but only tracking to force us to stop, if they had fired, I wouldn’t be writing this. The gun that shoots through trees…..
The .50 with armor piercing could penetrate one inch of solid steel at any distance under 500 meters. The Russian weapon (51 caliber) wasn’t quite as powerful.
Thanks for coming in on this one…
Since your scout team modified the Ontos where would the blowback from the 106’s go? Not against the canyon wall I presume.
Thanks for the wise observation. I believe the issue was discussed but never became an issue.
Appreciate the analytical accuracy here…
with your help.
I had never seen those figures before, 375000/362000. Eye opening. Great writing.
Yes, those statistics are from the government and available if you hunt online. It was shocking when I first read them.
I had no idea. I’d studied SLA Marshall and Sociology about war. I thought about one in four or five were in actual combat.
Not so, at all. Not in any of the modern wars. I don’t know about the old ones. Explains of lot about post war commentary and conduct too.
When I sit in the VA hallway waiting for something I am pretty much alone in my background. And nobody knows. Or might even believe if I told them.
I don’t wear the ‘VA Uniform.’ I have a Purple Heart license plate, but that’s about it. I don’t go to vets events, Memorial Day, Veterans Day or any of that
and I will never ever march in one of those things. I will not go to schools and be ‘honored.’ I am proud to have served and I have no hope that the general public
will ever have a real clue about that service unless they read my books and believe them…which isn’t likely.
I wasi was in high school from 70-74. This certainly coincides with the bits & peices vets have shared with me. I always intended to join the war during my high school years, Vets would always tell me once I got there I would change my mind. After reading thirty days has September I can for the time see & understand why they would say such a thing. Thank you for being there & thank for sharing it.
Much appreciate the sharing of part of your own life and the compliment you gave me on here.
Welcome back Jim. This comment sure hit home with me. “I don’t wear the ‘VA Uniform.’” I set up my appointments for the first one of the day so I don’t have to talk with anyone and I find the other men there are doing the same thing. As always looking for the next segment. Mike
I did not mean to say shit about the guys who do go to the VA and wear the ‘uniform.’ Damage from the wars comes in all types and maybe that’s what they need
as a palliative or curative. I don’t know. I just know me…and now you…
I bet heltzer just got respect from gunny after his knowledge about the ontos. Also seems he and piper make a good team. You never know who will have the solution to a challenge.
Yes, Project 100,000 was a disaster in general, but not necessarily in specific.
I’m not sure every other unit that had members from that project were teamed up like we did in our company.
Some were probably simply left to die. Hard times.
The day, 53 years ago when I enlisted. Then in the shit. Years later 4 months in the hospital and sent home. I have done and still do a great job of forgetting but once in a while at night, but I keep that to myself. I would not if I could recall and do what you are doing. I have never read any of the books about Nam except this. Never saw the Hollywood version of it either. I will be purchasing the 1st 2 today and look forward to #3. I want my grandsons to read them, not sure when as I don’t want any questions, I want to stay in ‘forget mode’. At times it is hard as a 100% DAV as when a person at the VA asks if I saw combat instead of ‘yes’, it would be easier to say ‘how the fuck you think I got this shit’.
Keep them coming as I know how hard it must be!
May 2019 be your best year yet!
I was with Dr. Bair from the VA last night for dinner. Coincidentally to this comment. He has about the best take on real combat, as opposed to being close to it or not in it at all, of any
VA counselor I’ve ever met. He never served and never saw combat but he’s been through about ten thousand for PTSD counseling. A great man and one of those few.
My first counselor prescribed seven drugs. My second wanted to go through ‘intake’ and when I refused called the authorities. My third thought that I wanted the money and he was going
to make sure I didn’t get it. If you get a Dr.Bair gift then the Lord has blessed you. You are one of those rare ones JRW and to be that is also to be pretty lonely and not understood.
Hence the books. Thanks for the cogent heartfelt comment, and the depth of the compliment to me in your writing it here.
Wish we could forget. I try also, but occasionally, something surfaces. Proud to have served. Lived thru the seige of RIPCORD, by Gods grace alone.69-70. 2/501, 101. And folks wonder, why we don’t want to talk about it. Smh.
I heard all about Ripcord and that siege was not covered in the media but it was a costly bastard.
Thanks for being one of us J.S.
And so glad you are here writing these comments!
Lost my Uncle Donald Ragsdale call sign Ragbag on 4/1/1970 on Ripcord. He was a Pathfinder 101st. Miss this man everyday. Recently connected with a man who served with him and was WIA right alongside Don and 3 others. It was a privilege and an honor to meet him and his family and find out what really happened that day. We have made new friends and are enjoying getting to know his family. From the bottom of hearts we thank you for your service and pray that the more people learn of Vietnam as stories are shared that their eyes will be opened and they will figure out who the real heroes are. Welcome home and may you continue to heal.
Thanks for that part of your own life and Ragbag’s too. Means a lot for those of us who came through.
There are really not that many.
The response you made to Monty this morning means a lot to ease the guilt. Thanks Sir! Shpuld we ever meet the first few rounds are on me. Your choice of beverage.
“Thanks so much Monty. I am glad that you did not go. I am glad that you are here writing what you wrote. I am so happy to meet guys that feel like
they missed something in their manly development by not going. The only ones I don’t like are the blustering ones who believe that those of us who went
were stupid to go. Those with regret are my kind of men and women. The others not. To have gone means there were those of us who cared enough to risk it
all. That you wanted to go but life came at you differently is nothing to be ashamed of at all. And the result is that you are alive and well and that’s what a lot of men died to make sure that this benefit is your very own. Live it with a smile.
Thanks Tomas, and I meant every word of it, of course. I recently met a learned man who did not go. We have been friends for some time. He’s a noted historian known for his work on the study of our war.
He stopped me after coffee and took me aside to ask me this question: “Don’t you really believe, as the intelligent man I know you to be, that those who actually went to fight in that war were the more ignorant
and dumber of those available to go?” He knows I am a wounded Vietnam Veteran with a pretty distinguished track record. I know because he also checked with the authorities to make sure. What did I respond to
my friend? I told him that he was right, that those of us who went were indeed the dumber and the less intelligent. he left the coffee shop smiling. I smiled at his departing car. This learned professor has no
clue but needs to constantly be reinforced that his ruse to avoid service back in the day was the correct decision. He left feeling better, not knowing that I answered to make him feel so. Was there a price for me in
answering the question in that way? Maybe a bit. But paying the price for others is something that becomes a habit, if you are real Marine. Since that first day of OCS, then reinforced when my gold bars were pinned on, and then even when I came
home finally from that war I have been and will always be a United States Marine, and I will try to conduct myself the way I think best befits that. That professor got a small example he will never know about of how a real
Marine conducts himself. I took care of him, as he needed caring for. I can handle it. All the way up the hill….
And my deep thanks for the comment and your compliment
By all that is Holy, James… how on earth does a brother react and respond to such a brilliant and heart-felt response about such a small piece of our reality? I sincerely hope that you totally reap the rewards and satisfaction of your monumental efforts and associations here in a way that lifts your meaning and enjoyment of life to the highest possible expression. May we share the remainder of our lives knowing we did our very best and We know it! Semper Fi, Marine! May God be with you and your family always… Hero on deck!
I can only respond to that comment with great thanks Herb. Yes, I am laying it down and paying money and taking the time and pain to do it. But there are a lot of guys who needed it I think,
or came to think because of what people like you have written on here. Without words like your own I don’t think I could go on. Thanks for that…
Only got to fly my CH-46 into the valley twice early in 1970 carrying recon…I really respect all those Marines who had to battle in that beautiful hellhole…your writing skill is amazing…eagerly awaiting future chapters and the full book…Semper Fidelis….
Those recon missions were quite something. Once again, recon missions where the guys going in had no clue about what they were about
to embark on. Or in. Thanks for commenting and supporting this effort.
Thanks for coming back on the net with two in a row, Jim. We missed you.
Yes, and I thank you for that comment. I had a tough time for a bit. This is a lot more emotional, especially near the end, than I thought it would be or
it started out to be…I appreciate everyone’s patience…
Regardless of those people pointing out errors in your narrative. I don’t notice any, I’m focused on the story. It’s hard enough to write about your journey through the valley of death, than to be correct in your spelling. Keep on keepin on Lt. and thank you👍🇺🇸👏
The analytical part is important as the ‘truth’ is in the details. I added an extra number to the grid coordinates in the last segment and I can’t believe I got that wrong,
even after all these years. So glad I have you guys to help me get it just right…
Jim, check your information.
Maybe one too many digits in your fire mission coordinates.
Yes, there were, should have been single six. You are right on top of things.
Semper fi, and many thanks…
Eight digits were often used to tighten up the coordinates of a target
Agreed on that Plc.
Semepr fi, and thanks for chiming in….
…didn’t need the captain (wigging) out, just yet, anyway.
Well, our wants and needs seldom got together in the valley back then. I have to write it as it believe it went down.
Some areas are a little gray but Carruthers is not one of them. Zippo either. I just wish I had better tools to see if some of the
guys, who made it at least as far as me, are still alive.
Again, LT, very well written. You have a talent for drawing the reader into your work that is simply marvelous.
I think most of feel as though we are there with you, in the mind’s eye. We are dreading the contact that we know is coming.
USNA instills some really good smarts for most of their graduates. My Dad graduated there in 1944.
Can’t thank you enough for the compliment. Keeps me going on cold nights.
The academy guys I knew were mostly great guys, although they had the same disconnect from
reality all of us had when entering the valley for the first (and last, according to the Gunny) time.
I wrote before about how much I liked this work. And that I was too young to go, only old enough to see it on TV and think that was normal and my fate. Anyway, I write myself and know the right answer is “I loved every fucking word.” But you seem to appreciate typo suggestions. . .so, in “Piper knew how damaged he was, and was depending on the Hultzer and the rest of us to get him through” isn’t the “the” before Hultzer superfluous? Or did I miss a point?
Thanks for the help, which I badly need and much appreciate! The compliment and time in commenting too.
I noticed that is corrected. You are busy Lt.
Unable to really fathom.
Heartfelt support for you as you move toward completion.
Hard to believe some of this writing, I know. Hard to believe it all really happened. Movies can’t or won’t do this kind of combat justice.
I just read about Jimmy Stewart and it was a grand flowing description of his heroism in combat and his willingness to go into the thick of it.
And then the small detail at the end where ehe had to be pulled out of the bomber flights because of PTSD. That he could be pulled out lat all
before serving his required tour says something too and that must have eaten at him following the war too. That part is not well illustrated.
Most don’t get to be pulled out. You serve it and you die on the outside or the on the inside. Just the way it was and probably remains.
PS Loved Jimmy Stewart then and to this day, though….and saw PTSD written all over him in Its a Wonderful Life…
Don’t know who I despise more- the gooks or the brass.
That was easy back then. It was the brass. Now, I am not so sure I despise either one.
War is an absolute disorganized mess that is portrayed as anything but.
LT, I’m sure this is getting tough for you, thank you for each line, as I’m sure they are not easy to write.
Tough patches and then easier…for reasons as hard to understand as they are to discuss…
Thanks for the observation and making it on here.
I have read “30 Days Has September” up to here and really enjoy it. I was in the Navy working on airplanes while many of you were dragging rifles in the jungle. I was over here training the fleet and enjoying the good life. I know that it was a different world over there. Thanks to you and all your brothers that lived through all this. I know many that were there and very few talk about it.
Without you guys doing what you were doing we could not have been doing what we were doing.
Whether it was all worth it can be argued forever, and certainly will be. Thanks for coming on here to comment.
“I think you will be very pleased,” says it all………..
Thanks for that, and making it public…
Does one “wing-out” or “wig-out”? I’d say the latter when I’m going all looney tunes but not sure about the vernacular herein.
Thanks for consideration as well as the 1st rate writing.
Thanks for the help and the compliment and making it a public thing…
Riveting as always. I cannot begin to fathom the discipline and focus exhibited by you, Gunny and your Marines with a very terminal learning curve if you are wrong. Gravid,glacis?Thanks for helping me improve my vocabulary
Quite possibly the use of the word ‘gravid’ was a little misplaced there! Thanks for the compliment and the
Your use of the word “gravid” was perfect in this context.
Thanks Floyd, much appreciate the compliment…
check fire, check fire, check fire. After reading this interaction between you and junior I just shook my head and thought, now that’s one crazy S.O B. yea, crazy like a fox. thanks LT, loving what you’re writing.
I wish back then I had had better rational capability, but I’d lost it at that point. The fact that I would not have
ordered a check fire if Sugar Daddy had not radically come around bothers me to this day. I was not a racist back then and am
not now, but I was certainly mad as hell that the blacks in my unit had banded together for their own survival. I understand
better today. We were all trying anything we could to get through and not all of it was right, ethical or even human.
Such a great follow up to the last and very quickly. Happy “The Cat” project is helping. Superlatives escape me at the moment, but they are there and deserved. Your new Captn does seem to be a distracting event in your long lonely slog through the loss of your Marines. Hope the letter is finished soon. Poppa J