11-4-1970

Discussion in 'Military' started by Oldguy, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Oldguy
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    Oldguy Senior Member

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    Today was my third day in the bush in Vietnam. I don't know why I remember it, but my first CA (Combat Assault) to where the war was still going on was on December 2, 1970 (December 3 in Vietnam time).

    On the first day, Dec. 3 (Dec. 2 American time) we flew out of LZ Baldy, just off Hwy 1 about half way between Danang and Chu Lai, to Antenna Valley, a place that was still "hot", in spite of troop withdrawals which had already begun by the time I got there.

    We landed un-opposed, but the LZ (Landing Zone) was littered with old bamboo spikes set up to impale helicopters, so our "bird" hovered about 6 feet off the ground and we were obliged to jump, rucksack and all. Nobody broke a leg or got hurt otherwise, as I recall. I vividly remember looking at the door gunner for a sign about what I should do, and he jerked his thumb downward, as if to say, "Get OFF my fuckin' bird!"

    So....I jumped. Everyone else followed.

    After a period of milling around, we moved out, heading west into the higher mountains. Our mission was to secure a certain hilltop and hold it. Engineers would follow us and build a new battalion firebase.

    We got lost and couldn't find it.

    That first day, we moved higher and higher up into the terraced rice paddies. Just before dark, we picked a good NDP (Night Defensive Position) and set up our tents. Nobody had told me who I would hootch with, so I ended up with Sgt. Tom Price and SP/4 Gary "Slim" Stravens as a sort of "addition" to their regular routine. The next night, and for each night thereafter on this operation, I was paired with Harold Brown. I don't know who he hootched with that first night, but I think it was no one. Harold had only been with the company about a week more than me.

    Just before dark, we went outside the perimeter to set up an "MA." I didn't even know what it was.

    It turned out that an "MA" was a Mechanical Ambush, a Claymore mine attached to a trip wire. Booby traps were illegal under the terms of the Geneva Conventions, so we used "MA's" instead.......no comment on that. :D We set them up each night upon likely avenues of approach, or in places where we might catch dinks walking around at night. We used them every night as long as I was in Vietnam.

    That afternoon, we moved out across an old unused and unworked rice paddy, pretty high up into the hills on the west side of the valley. We eventually set up the MA on a paddy dike.

    As we moved out, SGT Price suddenly croaked, "DINKS! Get down!" Everyone else dove into the paddy water to the right side of the dike, so I did too, even though I had no idea what they'd seen. Price and the rest of the squad aimed their weapons into the bush on the other side of the dike, so I did too. What the hell did they see that I did not?

    It turned out that a guy from the 3rd platoon, the "Other" Tiny (We had two) was just standing there watching us. Price finally told us to move on, and we did. I still hadn't seen him! We finally set up our MA, returned to the NDP and went to bed.

    After what seemed like an extra long night (I just KNEW a VC was about to crawl up in the darkness and slit my throat!), we spent the next day totally lost in heavy brush. Our Commanding Officer (CO), CPT Francis Downey, couldn't read a map any better than the most inexperienced trainee and we couldn't find the right hill top to secure. We floundered around all day, going from one paddy to the next and from one hill top to the next.

    Just before dusk, the CO requested that artillery pop off a Willie Pete (white phosphorous round) above the hill we were supposed to be looking for. They complied and it went off above the highest mountain in sight !

    Good God! We have to climb THAT?

    It looked to be about 5000 feet in elevation, but it turned out not to be but about 300 feet above sea level. From our vantage point, it looked a helluva lot higher than that!

    We spent that night on a ridge line overlooking that mountain and the lowlands leading up to it. It was not an encouraging sight.

    The next morning (today US time, the 4th of December) we got up and got ready to hump. I started to have a C-ration Ham and Eggs for breakfast, but changed my mind. H&E's was really the worst C-rat meal we had (though I later learned to love them), so I just tossed the can into the bush without first puncturing the can to make in inedible. That was our SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). Don't leave anything the Dinks can use. I tossed it un-opened, figuring that it could give the VC the shits as well as it could me. "Serves 'em right," I thought.

    We spent that day (today US) hacking our way through heavy brush in the lowlands, but finally followed a rocky stream bed up into the first real, triple-canopy jungle I'd ever seen. The canopy was improbably tall, maybe 300 feet above our heads, but the ground was virtually free of vegetation, so we moved pretty easily. Underneath the canopy, the ground was almost desert-like. Very little grew that far from the sun.

    Somewhere along the way, we stopped to take a break. An old flattened and abandoned C ration box lay there on the ground and I started to sit on it to keep my ass dry. Just as I was about to fall upon it, our Tiger Scout (former VC who had rallied to our side) named Vinh, yelled at me.

    "Don't sit on that!"

    He explained that the VC knew us better than we knew them, and they knew that GI's didn't like to sit in the mud. "That might be booby trapped," he explained.

    I eyed the cardboard box for a moment and sat in the mud beside it.

    For the rest of that day, we moved higher and higher up the side of that hill/mountain. Our objective was to meet the rest of the company at the summit, but the higher we got, the more that seemed unlikely. It just got steeper and steeper. We climbed up and over a moss-covered waterfall underneath the canopy which had to have been 20-25 meters tall. Nobody fell (though I did on the way back down the next day.)

    We struggled, forcing our way forward, and were finally reduced to making our way upward on our bellies, inching up from tree to tree, only to confront....

    .....an absolutely vertical cliff for the last 100 meters or so the top. We couldn't do it.

    Our leaders, 1LT Terry Haines, SSG Ronald Stailey, and SGT Tom Price dropped their ruck sacks and climbed on ahead of the rest of us. When they reached the very top, after a very hazardous trip, they radioed back to us that we were ON THE WRONG MOUNTAIN!

    Artillery and our Captain's map reading skills had led us to the wrong place! Finally, battalion gave the job of securing the RIGHT hilltop to Bravo Company, and were to assume their patrol area. That meant that we would have to go back DOWN the mountain and find our new AO (Area of Operations.) On their way back down, Haines, Stailey and Price got lost. They didn't show up until the next morning. We all thought they'd been killed or captured.

    So...tonight, in fact right now, 42 years ago, I was draped around a jungle tree trying to sleep. I positioned myself around that tree so I wouldn't roll downhill and kill myself. I slept that night in a "U" position, hanging off a tree high upon a nearly vertical mountainside in Antenna Valley, Quant Nam Province, in the former country of South Vietnam.

    The Dink's did not bother us that night and it was a couple of days before I got shot at for the first time. And, THAT was by a US Army Cobra helicopter gunship who mistook us for Dinks.

    It all sorta went downhill from there. :D
     
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    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012
  2. Mad Scientist
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    Mad Scientist Deplorable Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Thanks for sharing old guy, sorry you had to go there.
     
  3. whitehall
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    whitehall Gold Member

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    It might seem nostalgic old guy but it doesn't give us much confidence in (Army?) training. You didn't know the signal to exit the chopper and you didn't have the leadership (NCO or Officer) to keep y'all from milling around at the L.Z. Not good.
     
  4. Wry Catcher
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    Wry Catcher Platinum Member

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    I suggest you put this post in a letter and send it to several publishers. Your writing style is fast paced, your descriptions are first rate and I've read plenty of bestselling books that didn't start out as well as this post. Of course you'll need to expand this into a journal for your entire tour. If your recall is as good as it seems you would have not only a best seller but a journal of great historical value.
     
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  5. whitehall
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    whitehall Gold Member

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    Why do Army draftees feel the need to tell us how poorly trained they were? My Marines taught us how to get off a chopper and NCO's damn sure told us to get under cover.
     
  6. Oldguy
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    Oldguy Senior Member

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    Nuthin' personal but..fuck you.
     
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  7. Oldguy
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    Oldguy Senior Member

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    Sorry? Why?

    I'm not. It made me who I am today, for better or for worse.
     
  8. Oldguy
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    Oldguy Senior Member

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    That's really a special comment.

    Thank you, very much
     
  9. The Infidel
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    The Infidel EVIL CONSERVATIVE

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    Thanks for sharing... And thanks for your Service.


    I was like, 3 yrs old.... Prolly on the night of December 4 1970 I had a dirty diaper sleeping like.....well, a baby. :D
     
  10. Oldguy
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    Oldguy Senior Member

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    :D:D:D:D:D:D

    DAMMIT! Your post makes me feel so......OLD!


    :D:D:D:D:D:D
     

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