The attack never came. We’d rushed back to our positions in the expectation that the NVA would understand that we’d left our rear area totally unprotected, but either the enemy had not figured that out, or there was another mystery that might never be explained. Even with the knowledge that we’d made a mistake and were rushing back to fix it, we should have paid a heavy price in casualties. But, that had not been the case. There’d been no opening of fire from either the heavy jungle we knew to be filled with enemy troops nor by anyone in our own combined Marine companies. The Ontos sat still, its idle brought to a halt for the first time in days. I had no idea of how the thing was resupplied with gasoline all the time, or why it was currently shut off, but assumed the Gunny had intimate knowledge, as well as the means to support it.
The Gunny came sliding down my little incline, shedding his soaked poncho cover as he came. Captain Carruthers entered right behind him. I looked up at the opening, to see the very muted light of early day beginning to radiate through the hanging cover Fusner had erected. Fusner was there inside the cave but pushed into the side of the wall above me. I realized that he, and Nguyen across from him, had been there all the time, but I hadn’t paid much attention, trying to curl into a ball and find some solace in any sleep I could get. The relief I’d felt when the attack to our rear had not occurred had somehow sucked some energy from my very core.
“We can’t stay here,” I said to Carruthers and the Gunny, knowing I didn’t have to say the words but saying them anyway. “Our position’s registered, and there’s only a matter of time until they overwhelm us from all sides, no matter what firepower we can bring down on them during the daylight hours.”
I felt more relief when I finished, but not from saying what we all knew. The thrum of the Skyraider, multiplied several times, came up through the sand on the bottom of my cave ‘floor.’ Cowboy was back, and he’d brought friends. There would be no enemy attack in daylight hours, as long as he and his accompanying friends could remain on station, orbiting the bottom of the valley and looking to ‘get some.’ That phrase, used to describe killing the enemy, or even civilians, rankled me, but I never said anything to anyone who used it. I had come to know that my nature was anything but timid, but I had also learned that being reserved and accepting of bizarre differences of behavior in combat was a good way to stay alive as a commander. I wasn’t going to fight any battles or take any chances with my own Marines over whatever use of language might be in vogue.
“Staying here isn’t the issue,” the Gunny replied, surprising me. His tone was just a touch acidic. My comments about not staying where we were had obviously bitten into some emotion I didn’t fully understand.
“Where do we head out to?” Carruthers asked. “Battalion has a whole lot to do with that kind of decision, and there’s nothing on the command net so far about us going anywhere. How long until we get to go to the rear to get a break from all this, by the way?”
I looked into the Gunny’s eyes, as he lit a cigarette. I saw the minor irritation he’d displayed toward my earlier comments disappear, and a slight bit of humor appear in his eyes. He made no attempt to answer Carruthers, instead concentrating on lighting his cigarette.
“They do rotate units back, or so I’ve heard,” I replied, trying not to laugh out loud, at how silly my answer seemed to me.
In a Marine Corps unit, particularly one in combat, such things should be a given, or so it had seemed back in training. To discover that nothing was a ‘given’ out in the field of combat had been another galvanic shock to my core of existence, but no more. I had no expectation of going to the rear alive, and I knew the Gunny felt exactly the same. It wasn’t something we talked about. It wasn’t something anyone talked about. But there was no sense in telling Carruthers any of that, not under the circumstances.
“We’ll tell battalion we’re moving out when we move out,” I said.
“You can’t just tell command what we’re doing,” Carruthers replied, his tone one of some surprise, and displaying a bit of irritated anger. “It’s not like you’ve done so well out here so far, lieutenant.”
I had no answer to that. In my estimation, it was one of the most truthful things I’d heard anybody say since I’d arrived in country. The Gunny handed me his lit cigarette. I took one long drag, trying not to cough, and then handing it back. Almost a minute went by without anyone saying anything.
“Since the lieutenant took over there’s been almost no killing between the black and white platoons,” Fusner said, his voice almost a whisper, “and they used to kill each other all the time.”
“There’s that,” the Gunny chimed in. “The tracers he dreamed up were a good move, and I think they help suppress the NVA fire too.”
“What killing?” Carruthers asked, but nobody paid attention to him or his question.
I hadn’t thought much about Jurgens or Sugar Daddy and the extreme problems they had posed in my first days with the company. They were right, and I almost felt a sense of pride, but that feeling was fleeting. It reminded me of a Titanic joke. I was doing a great job of putting together really good musical arrangements for the band playing on the fantail of the ship, as it slowly slipped bow first beneath the cold killing waters of the Atlantic.
“Up,” I said, after a few seconds.
“Up?” Carruthers and the Gunny asked at exactly the same time.
“If we can’t stay here, then we either head upriver or up to the top of the highlands,” I explained. “There’s no place else to go.”
Downriver was a nightmare of closed in valley walls, flooded and rushing river water, and jungle bracken so thick it was not passable by the Ontos, or quite possibly even Marine infantrymen. And the Ontos was the main problem. We could not take it up to the highlands, as the cliffs were so steep that it was nearly impassable for Marines wearing any kind of gear, much less full packs weighing nearly sixty pounds, or more. Even if we went north there was the problem of getting the vehicle across the river. The crossing, coming south, that we’d executed before had depended upon the way the partial bridge extended itself out across the water. There was no way to ‘jump’ the Ontos back up onto that extended lip of the hanging end of the bridge, and the body of the river was way too deep to permit the thing to ford it without some kind of engineering assistance we didn’t have. If the Ontos could not make it to the other side of the river then it would have to be destroyed, and its hulk abandoned. The thought of that made me cringe, as the machine had been so instrumental in the company’s survival so many times.
I looked at the Gunny and, for the hundredth time, wondered what he was really thinking. His conduct in letting the scout team walk right into death was something I could not talk to him about. I knew I’d never know what happened. Macho Man was dead, like so many before him. How he died didn’t really matter, unless his death impacted on my own survival or that of the company. I also knew that Macho Man had somehow occupied a special place in my mind, and that was not likely shared by the Gunny. The man seemed to demonstrate no feelings whatsoever unless they were those of irritation or anger.
“They know we’re not going up the face to the top of the highlands,” I said, listening intently to the faint sounds penetrating through the occasional explosions caused by Cowboy and the other Skyraiders.
I nodded upward, so they would stop and listen. Very faintly the sound of the drums came through, distant and muffled, but very much there. I was not nearly so unsettled as when I’d first heard them playing deep into a dark foreboding night. Although it was overcast with monsoon rains coming down, the beating of the drums sounded more like frustrating percussive expression than much of a real threat.
“They have those drums up on the lip of the valley again, probably a good distance from where we destroyed them last time. But, it means they don’t expect us up there because it also means that if they are up there in force then climbing directly into them would be certain disaster.”
“Those drums sound awful,” Carruthers said, “What do they mean and why do they do it?”
“Find out if there’s another resupply coming in to pick up the rest of our men,” I instructed Fusner, before answering the captain. “They do it because they know how it makes you feel, and you are feeling the fear they want you to right now.”
“Yes, sir,” Fusner shot back, crawling up toward the opening in order to talk on the radio without interrupting our communications inside the cave.
“Resupply?” the Gunny asked, after slowly grinding out his cigarette stub against the rock wall next to him.
“We have to go back up north, past Hill 975, to get into the clear, where the valley spreads out and our supporting fires can reach us,” I said. “The Ontos is vital. We need some equipment and an engineer from resupply to get it back across the river.”
Fusner returned, slipping his radio off and sliding into the cave before he went to work carefully setting it up against the craggy stone wall. He’d somehow remained under the cave opening poncho he’d hung in order to avoid getting sopping wet. The rain outside, even from my distance from it, seemed so heavy that I wondered how Cowboy and his guys could see any targets at all below them. The good news was that we’d been in our current position so many times that the supporting pilots had to all know exactly where we were…just like the NVA did.
I let the drums beat away into the back of my brain, amazed that I could hear them so clearly way down inside my cave hideaway. Finally, Fusner turned his little transistor radio on and Brother John introduced a song I’d never heard of and didn’t quite get the name to. But the lyrics burned into me, the drums up on the crater rim seeming to play right along in harmony: “Now it’s the same old song, but with a different meaning, since you been gone It’s the same old song, but with a different meaning since you been gone”
“We don’t know that they don’t know,” I said, getting ready to answer the Gunny’s question I knew had to be coming before he asked it.
What were we going to do next? What was the plan?
“They may not have rushed back to attack our unprotected rear area because they didn’t have time to get set up for it and also, they may have figured out that we have no place else to go but back up to the crossing point at the river’s edge. They took a lot of casualties but they can afford a lot of casualties. They’re getting into much more fortified positions right now.”
“We’re going back to that killing field of fire, and somehow hold them off while we get the Ontos across that nightmare stretch of moving water?” Carruthers asked.
“That’s the plan, Junior, even if they think we’re coming and they’re getting ready?” the Gunny asked.
“Yes, the ‘Same Old Song’ plan,” I replied. “I can use the firebase to light up the top of the cliff where they’ve got the drums, and probably a base of fire to shoot down on us, but only if we’ve got choppers coming. We need gas for the Ontos, more flechette rounds, about twenty Marston Mats with some four by four timber and rope.”
“What’s a Marston Mat?” Carruthers asked.
“Aluminum runway mat, sir,” the Gunny replied, staring intently into my eyes. “they’re metal slats about two feet by twelve feet filled with holes. Very light. Very tough.”
“Will they have them at An Hoa?” Carruthers asked.
“They have them everywhere, especially at that muddy field, captain,” I replied. “We use them to bridge the gap out to the broken bridge that’s already there. We need a few pieces of wood and some rope to hold it all together. The Ontos is light for an armored vehicle, but not that light when trying to get it up onto that bridge.”
“Fusner,” I said, looking up at him in the near dark of the cave’s interior.
“They can come this afternoon, lieutenant, but I didn’t tell them about the engineer or the Marston stuff. I’ll get right on it.”
He went to work packing his radio up and moving toward the entrance of the cave. The music went with him. The song playing was San Francisco, the city where my wife waited for me to come back. “Be sure to wear a flower in your hair…” floated back at me, not making me think about wearing one at all, but thinking of her doing so, until the draft of Fusner’s departure allowed the subtle sweet smell of death to come creeping back in behind him.
“Have him come back and tell me if we can make this work, Gunny,” I said after he was gone. “If we’re still here tonight we’ll get hit with everything they have unless they’re fully concentrated and waiting by the river. They have their own dead to deal with from last night.”
“How can we know?” Carruther’s asked.
“We can’t, sir,” I shot back. “We guess. They’re not great at reacting quickly because so much of their stuff and people are underground, and they’re undersupplied in ammunition and pyrotechnical supporting weaponry. They can’t move much above ground because of our air, which you can hear from time to time right now. Not in the daylight hours, anyway, even in bad weather. And they don’t have an Ontos, beehive rounds or nearly constant resupply.”
“Same Old Song,” Carruthers said. “I’m not sure I much like the feeling of those words for your plan.”
“It’s not my plan, sir,” I said right back. “It’s our plan.”
Fusner crouched at the top of the cleft, pushing the poncho cover aside.
“No engineer, sir,” he said. “But the rest will be on the chopper at fifteen hundred hours drop in. They’ll give us one 46 with four Cobra gunships to cover and a couple of runs with Puff before they hit the landing zone. They want to know how many bodies are left to be lifted out.”
I had no idea how many men we’d lost, whose bodies might be there, what with Macho Man, the team battalion had sent and more, not to mention how many had gone out on the previous medivac.
“Eight,” I replied, making up a number.
What did it matter? If there were more they’d take them, and if there were less it didn’t matter. Only someone fighting the war from a rear area could come up with such a question, I thought, in disgust.
I checked my watch. It was morning, halfway through and Cowboy was covering our six in the air.
“Start the Ontos, since we’ll have more gas later. I don’t want the NVA to have any idea that anything is different. Let them think we expect them to attack, but I don’t think they will. Not in the daytime, and not with the fact that it’s so damned likely they’ve figured out we can’t stay here and north is the only way we can get the hell out.”
“They might even let us go, and be happy to be rid of us if we hadn’t killed so many of them,” the Gunny commented.
“But that’s our mission,” Carruthers replied, in a tone of surprise.
“It’s not, really, sir, but we can discuss that later,” the Gunny replied. “Let’s get some rest if we can until fourteen hundred hours?
I knew, from the previous attack, that we were from twenty to twenty-five minutes from the area of the river we’d have to take, and I was also starting to believe that it was going to a more contested attack than the last one, even with heavy support from the air.
Everyone crawled up the incline and then out through the hanging poncho cover, except for Nguyen and Fusner. Fusner came back to retake his position just above me. The comfort his presence gave me, a teenager’s loyalty, protection, and approval, was way out of proportion in importance to anything I could ever have imagined.
“Get air up and make sure Cowboy will be on station for this,” I said to Fusner. “Puff would be terrific and the Cobras too, but Cowboy we can count on. He knows us and he’ll have a complete understanding of what we’re up to.”
Fusner pulled the AN-323 air radio from his pack and began to work at getting it up.
“I’ve got to go outside for a minute, sir, because the frequency is higher and it won’t penetrate these rocks,” Fusner said.
I nodded at him, and he was gone. Nguyen moved to sit closer to me, an arm’s length away. He leaned forward bringing up one hand. When he opened that hand, I saw the sparkle of metal. Dog tags. I knew without saying a word that he had brought me Macho Man’s dog tags. I didn’t know why. Dog tags stayed with the body to give positive reinforcement to identity, which led to the notification of survivors as well as the application of religious services.
I accepted the tags, noting a hole in one of them. Nguyen pointed at the hole, his eyes looking into mine and not at the dog tag, however.
I frowned. Nguyen’s behavior wasn’t quite right. He knew better than to take the tags, and now he was handing them over to me in some ceremony he had to know didn’t exist in either of our cultures. Nguyen pulled his hand back and reached behind him for his M-16. Quickly he ejected one round from the right side when the bolt was pulled back. He let the bolt slide home, feeding another round from the magazine into the chamber. He handed me the cartridge he’d ejected.
I took it in my free hand but looked back at my Montagnard scout with a question written on my face. Nguyen slowly took the cartridge from my right hand, pulled the dog tags from the other, and inserted the bullet portion of the cartridge into the hole in the dog tag. It was a perfect fit.
I was stunned. The bullet was a perfect fit. The 5.56 millimeter round the M-16 fired was much smaller than the 7.62 round the AK-47 fired. I breathed in and out deeply, but silently. I took the bullet and the dog tags back into my own hands, and then carefully tucked them into the pocket on my thigh where I kept the letters to my wife. Macho Man had been a victim of friendly fire.
Nguyen moved back to his position against the far wall, his face showing no expression at all. I wondered what he knew of Macho Man’s death, and he had to know something because I’d charged him to keep the Marine safe. But we were not in the place, and it was not the right time to try to find out more.
Fusner came back in to announce that Cowboy would indeed be on station for the coming attack. My shoulders slumped in relief. I needed rest, but first I had to write home. Resupply was coming in which meant that I could get a letter out.
The letters to my wife had become, once again, after survival, my only means of coping with getting through another day and on into the coming night. For the first time, I decided to make up a completely fictional letter home. There was nothing I could come up with to write about except what was happening, and I could not write that. I lay in my lair, safe, but knowing I would be leaving soon to go back out into the jungle of unpredictable flying metal pieces. Bullets, shrapnel, fragments, it didn’t matter much, outside of my cave. If something hit, then the war was over with God deciding whether I would still be in it, in it with missing parts or in it with an injury that might be a ticket home and still allow for full recovery. That last one would be like winning a lottery, even if it included a lot of surgery and unending pain.
I wrote about making a trip to the rear area to buy stuff I didn’t have down where I was. Another K-Bar to replace the one I’d somehow lost. I still had the scabbard but no knife. I wrote that I found one, better than the one I’d lost. Of course, I knew my wife would not know that some commissary in the rear was not going to carry K-Bar Marine knives. Those were the issue out of the rear area armories, but impossible to get. Macho Man might have found one if he was still alive. But he’d had the misfortune to land with a ground-pounder unit in combat, and he’d paid the usual price. For me, that meant no K-Bar. Selfish is for the living. I’d never seen Macho Man smile, but I was willing to bet he’d smile in the hereafter if he could read my letter home. Because I’d thought of him, I also wrote about him but changed history to have him still alive, and also into being my friend, as much as an enlisted man can be an officer’s friend back in the world.
I wrote on about how neat the rear area of Da Nang was. I’d never been to Da Nang, the town, and in fact, didn’t know if there was a town. Maybe it was only a military presence. But my wife would not know, and if she did, probably not care. I also needed stationery and clear Scotch Tape, as well as any kind of snacks that weren’t found in a C-Rations box. I had all the Ham and Mothers I wanted but a Snicker Bar would have been nice every once in a while, to take a bite of when the bitter taste of adrenalin filled my mouth. In my make-believe trip to the rear, I was able to purchase ten candy bars, to bring back to the A Shau and ration out over time.
The cave was a safe place from the rain, my letter-writing enemy. I sealed the single Marine Iwo Jima stationery sheet into the envelope using too much tape, as I was about out. The regular lick seal wasn’t effective in my environment but Scotch Tape held everything together. I carefully taped over the delivery address so it wouldn’t get washed out and then the “Free” word that had to be in the upper right corner in order for the letter to be delivered without postage. I knew I was getting quite a benefit by writing home every day. First Class postage was five cents, but the real difficulty wouldn’t have been financial if I could not use the ‘free’ benefit. Stamps could not be taped to an envelope and still be valid if they washed away. That meant, with the monsoons in full display, the stamp would be long gone before the letter even got out of country.
I only made one exception to my fictional construct of a story. I could not stop myself from writing about the smell. The aroma of dead bodies had come to permeate the southern tip of the A Shau where we had been fighting in for some time. Some of the bodies of our Marines were stacked just north, and there were never enough body bags, and then the satchel charges we’d used on the enemy caves and tunnels in our attack had added hidden bodies to the mess. The sickening sweetish smell permeated everything, including the food. Only the smoke of cigarettes seemed to push it back. I wasn’t really smoking, except with the Gunny, but every once and a while I’d light a Camel (I chose that brand from the many we got because I liked the picture on the pack) and then hold the lit tip not far from my nose. The smoke would take me away, to back home, to anywhere not where I was, and it would also completely replace the horrid smell of something worse than death. Decaying sadness and the outrageous injustice of death in combat. It wasn’t the bad luck of dying in combat, that was just luck. No, it was the terrible luck of having come to arrive in combat at all. There were thousands and thousands of men in the rear areas but only rare small groups of us out on patrol and being ordered from place to place without the ability to come back. That injustice never left any of us who were out where I was.
I quickly field stripped my .45 Colt, taking it down to its eight main pieces in seconds. The .45, although tight from accurizing, was not so tight that any tools were needed. When I’d learned to field strip the automatic as a kid, from my Dad, I’d only remember that there were seven pieces. I’d always forget, to his disdain, the eighth piece sitting still held in my hand; the receiver. I had no Hoppes and no oil in the cave. I was sure that somebody in the company did, but I wasn’t going to bother to try to find some. I swabbed the parts of the automatic with water from my canteen, and then wiped everything dry with a pair of socks I’d saved. I re-folded the socks and put them back in my pack when I was done. The .45 hadn’t taken much water to clean, so the socks would be usable in a few days, although nothing really ever dried down in the A Shau, at least not in the monsoon period I was in.
I lay down to try to sleep, curling up against the rough rock wall. The sand felt soft and good beneath me, but my left hand would not stay away from the pocket. I massaged the dog tags, the M-16 cartridge and the letter to my wife as if they were somehow bizarrely connected. My right hand clutched my cleaned .45 Colt, and somehow there was a balance. I drifted off, the dark thoughts swirling inside of me finally fading into oblivion.
Hello James, What is the artillery piece doing in the photo for this chapter? It looks pretty lonesome and vulnerable. Was it just air lifted in? New firebase? Ex FDC guy, 1st cav. 155 outfit out of phouc vinh.
Just an image that reflects the content of the segment.
Thanks for your input,
I ran into a video that you might be interested in.
When I first got into the SeaBees the 106 recoilless rifle was in out TOA as an antitank weapon. It could be mounted to a vehicle or used on it’s base. I remember that the .50 cal on it would have the ballistic trajectory as the main round. Six of them bad boys firing “WOW”.
Now that was a terrific video. The Ontos was every bit the combat useful beast it was designed to be,
but used ‘off label’ more effectively than anyone ever planned.
Dam friendly fire but a cost of war it is.
The costs of war are huge and almost all lied about all the time…or maybe whom would go?
Semper fi, and thanks for the penetrating comment.
The poem bought tears to my eyes
Appreciate your comment and support, Richard.
Wow, great read. Heard about the Ontos but never saw one. Here’s an article on this awesome machine: (http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-armour/allied/ontos.htm) Semper Fi, 0351, 106mm Recoilless Rifle Qualified.
Thanks for that article Larry. I have never seen it before, but impressive. Takes me back. Took things so in passing and for granted back then in that circumstance.
Thanks again James ! I too look forward to each reading you post ! I drop what I’am doing and go to a quiet place where I can concentrate on what I’m reading . Thank you for your service and good bless you all !
Wonderful compliment Tim and writing stuff like you just wrote on here helps me to keep on going.
Another segment today, as I go off to speak in D.C. to the gathered Honor Flight guys and gals.
The calm before the storm LT??
Unfortunately, it is heading that way.
Thank you for your support.
Remember to share with friends
James . you sure know how to keep a person on his toes . I really enjoy reading about your combat experiences . it is good to get the history of that war out for all to see. yours Jim
Thank you for the compliment, James.
My story is not uniques as you can see from reading the comments.
It is important for the reality of that time to be shared,
before the participants disappear.
Another great read, especially about the decision making process, up or down the river, night or day, with or without support from the air and the Ontos.
Your BS letter writing to your wife reminded me of doing the same, hoping the reality would never be know by those we loved for fear they would no longer want to even see us when and if we ever returned to the land of flushing toilets.
Always great to hear from you, Sgt. Bob.
Writing home was a great diversion for a “troubled time and mind”
enjoyed your writing and memory. mine not so good. followed you into the valleyin 70 and71: 101st.
101st. Great outfit. Thanks for coming in on the comments and l liking what you’ve read
Again, telling it like it is or like it was is a Powerful story going forward as this is real and you do what you have to do!!!
Dying is alway an option but living is what we all wanted to go back to the World and you fought like hell to make it happen 👍
Thanks Chris, means a lot, as you must know. Thanks for the support…
Another great read. Thank you.
Thanks Frank, and I presume that the Boilermakers are a team.
Appreciate the comment…
Fantastic chapter again James!
I check several times per day and am always happy when I find a new posting, everything stops and I read it. I’ve also read most of the books I ordered via your special awhile back, and especially enjoyed the one of children’s stories. Very deep and meaningful work there.
In this chapter I’m wondering if you have an accidental repeat of the drum question from Carruthers or if he forgot and repeated himself?
26th Day – just below the drums audio link:
“Why are they doing this?” Carruthers asked”… ensuing conversation
26th Day, Second Part – approx. 25th paragraph:
“Those drums sound awful,” Carruthers said, “What do they mean and why do they do it?”
Maybe Capt. Carruthers repeated himself?
Thanks Chris. Going back to check that out. Much appreciate the help and also the great compliments inherent in the remainder of your
Hard to wait for the third book
Thanks Dan, slowly but surely it is coming….and thanks for the waiting…
Another great chapter, in different ways it brings back memories! Thank you and appreciate it.
Appreciate your support, Ben
And all the while in the FDC we monitored the Com-net for tactical info, powder ready rounds, we knew of several targets and waiting for fire for effect. You 0300’s tough grunts all around.
Many thanks form all of us for you and the FDC’s, Cpl. Blair.
Wasn’t sure if I should send this or not. It is a poem written about you from what I derived reading your book. Please excuse grammatical errors.
The Young Lieutenant
He was just a young Lieutenant
Who found himself deep in it
At a far away jungle land
A conflict known as Vietnam
And the AShau held no meaning
Just the Bong Song River’s beating
And the mud & blood & leeches there
And the smell of death was in the air
But he knew he could not waver
Cause his men would find disfavor
If he showed them any weakness
In the danger of this wilderness
So when he needed a second boost
He discovered the power of red juice
Would give him strength & courage
And it left him without worries
Of the danger he would perish
Leave the wife & life he cherished
Like a true Marine he could muster
Coordinate air strikes & busters
And lead them on the missions
With the Gunny’s kind permission
While all the time they’re dissing
The Command’s ordered positions
As he named each counter attack
The memories came flooding back
Of all the things he had learned
Until his men’s respect returned
And they marveled at his willingness
To help them survive each mess
And to keep the body count as low
As deeper in the AShau they go
But each & every man they lost
The L. T. found he paid the cost
For the Zippo, Macho, Semper Fi’s
Some died before his very eyes
But the heavy load he had to carry
He couldn’t stop nor could he tarry
No time to think of things back home
His biggest battle was to be alone
To be a leader big & tough
To plan the missions good enough
To prevent the filling of body bags.
He must perfect the Longs & Lats
For every strike that he must order
For every call to guide the mortar
For every forward & fall back
Must be precise & nothing lack
And though Junior was his nickname
He knew he would not be the same
If he made it out of the Valley whole
His youth was lost & he’d become old
But he made it out & took with him
The hearts & minds of all his men
Back to the place from which he came
The land of the free & the home of the brave
But he would see things differently
And sometimes escape in secrecy
Back in his mind a strange place to go
Back to his time in the Valley below
Where the Bong Song River still winds & flows
And back to the memories that he alone knows
Of the battles he fought where there was no rest
But he must remember that he did his best.
So rest tonight, give God your fears
For he has counted all your tears
For he will restore, all to forego
All that was lost in the Valley below.
“Carry on oh wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more”
Last four lines from Carry On Oh Wayward Son by Kansas 1976
I don’t think it is possible to get a greater compliment than to have a poem written about you
by someone who you do not know and have never met.
I am blown away by this poetry effort and the fact that it was made at all.
I do not see myself as others think I may see myself following that war,
but also understand that the books and telling of the story portray things in a way that remains difficult for me to see and understand.
I write the words, one after another, but don’t really see the story for what it was.
It’s unlike any other writing I do or have ever done.
I cannot think Cathy enough.
Wonderful compliment and a great poem too!!!
Your friend, and Semper fi,
Like a typical retired nurse, I am an empath. However, I have had demons of my own to deal with which is why I could identify with some of the feelings you expressed. I started unexpectedly writing poetry about a year ago. It seems cathartic & I am never sure where the lines are taking me. So when God puts an idea in my head, I grab my pen. Most of my poems reveal something about me that I never realized. I think that is what this book is doing for you. Keep up the good work & remember that your writing is a healing work for both you & your readers.
Thank you again, Cathy.
Your poetry should be shared.
are you publishing it?
Semper fi, Jim
No, am not sure about publishing. Have put a few on FB that friends thought should be. The most popular one was a sarcastic political jab called “Tolerance”. 🙂 The others were more touchy feely. I read somewhere that memories are an older persons heroin. Although there are some good ones, I am trying not to get addicted to the sad or bad ones.
Reaching a larger audience, as I presume you are thinking about, is a huge undertaking, and expensive. ‘Turf’ is hard fought territory out here on the Internet.
Facebook is about the only place available to build an audience and using their ads is expensive but not nearly as much as using a firm or company…not to mention
most of the firms will lie like hell to get your money and then not deliver squat. I am available if you need to discuss how to go about this…
Marston mat is made of steel
Yes, Joe, some Marston Mats were of steel, but The M9 mat, made from aluminum,
was produced to allow easier transportation by aircraft, since it weighed about two-thirds as much.
A lot of radio operators used the term frec as in freak rather than frequency. A thought.
James another great read. Had me worried until the next chapter of the Cat showed up. Looking forward to last chapters. I have already re-read from the beginning 5 times. Wishing you great success and good health.
Thanks again, Mike.
Have you been sharing with friends?
Let them know about the current Two Book special,
with a coupon for a discount on Third Ten Days
Yes I have and will continue to do so. But evidently I also need a proof reader. I couldn’t even get my name right. Milt T. dang auto correct.
Thank you, Milt
I can only think that what you are sharing with us in this chapter is best described as the calm before the storm LT. I for one await with great trepidation. Semper Fi Sir.
It seemed to be the calm before a storm every minute.
Thanks for your input and support, Mike.
DShare with your friends.
Thank you Sir!
Awesome as always!
Now I can understand the longer time between postings this time. Tactics, supporting fires and plans always the meaty framework of these storypieces has a heart tormented and battered by unrelenting rain and sad loss. Peace Sir, in abundance, is the prayer of us all for you and your Marines. Pops J
re-reading the original manuscript and setting it down is a challenge as we close in on the final days.
Your support throughout this journey has been so appreciated, Poppa J.
BTW, Read this chapter twice already.
Wow, thank you Chuck.
Your support and loyalty humble me,
James, Your memory and attention to the most minute detail is amazing. So sorry to read that Macho Man was a victim of friendly fire.
Sir, I use the free version of Grammarly and it helps me correct a lot of mistakes. I did try running stationary and stationery in a sentence but it didn’t correct me. So it may or not help 100%.
Grammarly helps a bit, but the sharp eyes of our readers are best.
Is aluminum Landing mat the same as steel PSP? When I was a kid in the 70’s there was plenty of surplus PSP around. We used to use it for making decks on swamp buggy trailers.
Aluminum was used to transport by air for the obvious reason of weight.
Marston Mat, properly pierced (or perforated) steel planking (PSP), is standardized, perforated steel matting material
developed by the United States at the Waterways Experiment Station shortly before World War II.
So both materials were used by Marston.
My father used to tell me about all of the matting that they (45th SeaBees) laid in the Aleutians during WW2. They not only used it for runways, but over the unstable tundra for temporary roads. A great invention.
Your Dad was correct.
Thanks or your input, Ralph
Keep em coming LT, awesome as usual
Another heart stopper. Nguyen is aware of what is happening to those around you. Eyes and ears without speaking.
He was a unique individual and very skilled
Your remark about the lottery took me back to the Sand Box. We were sitting in a D-Fac in an F.O.B. I cannot remember and my grunt riggers from 10th Mtn. were talking and laughing.
Shasteen and Freddy (Fredrickson) Both farm kids from South Dakota, found something funny about everything.
One of them spoke of it being nice in the D-Fac because you knew you were out of the Mortar lottery. The roofs were covered in sand bags. We always crawled under my crane. Lots of steel in that baby and the tires would stop an A.K. round.
One P.F.C. new in country (Nubee) asked How do you win in a mortar lottery.
Shasteen and Freddy started laughing hard
One of them stopped laughing enough to say. “You don’t, your wife does..
Same ol shit. Different war.
I don’t miss war any but God, how I miss being with those kids.
Yes those guys under duress and the worst of circumstance were all about the very best of humanity.
Gripping account Sir. Same Old Song and Ontos plan is bold indeed.
Thank you, Mike.
Another fine piece of writing about a very, very difficult time. I look forward to purchasing Book #3.
In addition, I have to tell you that I was delighted when a good friend of mine (Army, non-Vietnam, vet) wanted to tell me about this absolutely outstanding series he is reading, “Thirty Days Has September”! We spent an hour over red wine discussing excerpts from the series. I wish more would read it to come to a better understanding of warfare and the effects on those we send.
Thanks for your support and Loyalty, Rick.
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Thanks, James – great chapter. I needed to read that probably almost as much as you needed to write it – wrestling with the VA over disability issues, it is hard to find the words needed.
Always great to hear from you, Craig.
I am praying your current battles will soon be won.
Marston Mat, that’s a new one for me .. we always called it PSP (perforated steel planking) in the Cav. .. used it mostly for bunker roofs .. another great chapter Lt. ….
“That phrase, used to describe killing the enemy, or even civilians, chaffed with me”
TRH suggestion: “chaffed” – do you really mean ‘chafed’ ?
“But my wife would not know, and if she did, probably not care. I also needed stationary and clear Scotch Tape”
“I sealed the single Marine Iwo Jima stationary sheet into the envelope…”
TRH suggestion: “stationary” – both places…”stationary” with an “a” means “not moving”…”stationery” with an “e” means “writing paper”…I think that you want the one spelled with the “e”.
Alway on target, Tom
Thank you and now corrected
Your writing of memories stirs up much thought and memories.
Thank you I guess. Appreciate your service and skillful presentation of LIFE in Nam.
Thank you, Butch.
Trying to inform about the reality of War.
Appreciate if you would share with friends.
I awoken last night about 3am wondering if they had gotten the 50 set up. Timely!
Down time waiting for the next move. Excellent . Can’t wait for the next chapter.
Very very good as usual JAMES
While reading, it was actually raining here. Together, brought back some memories of my time in Germany, with water dripping through the the tank hatches, whether open or not. Why do I feel like “the calm before the storm”?
Another great read Jim…and the knowledge that Macho Man was killed by friendly fire raises all kinds of questions in my mind….and did in yours too I’m sure…I am surprised that the NVA did not attack unless they are fortifying the river crossing area and waiting….I anxiously await the next instalment.
Trying to figure those guys out was a full time job. I was sometimes spot on but never got to know why…
Now I know how badly they were supplied and little they had in supporting fires. That they were able to fight like they did was astounding.
Awesome read Thank you..
Thanks for your support, Edwin.
Thanks again, for another great chapter. I don’t think I will ever come to appreciate your personal when you come to terms with your memories and feelings during the writing process.
It is difficult to bring some memories back to the fore.
These final days are a bit of a challenge, but will be presented.
Appreciate your loyalty, Dan
Thanks for the latest chapter. Waiting for the next one.
Wow, the tension just continues to build. Another fine piece of writing. Your description of the damn monsoons is spot on. What misery. Trench foot, ring worm, jungle rot, and the ever present leeches. Flashback city. Who could ask for anything more?