Final Episode of LT Jesse james.
This is a fictional Story - The People herein do not exist except in my fertile mind. I know it is fertile because it has been fertilized by the passage of time and distance.
Under normal circumstances, I would have been MEDIVACED out of the jungle and taken back to one of the clearing stations. I probably would have from there been taken to Pleiku and the hospital there. I doubt that I would have been taken out of country. Japan sounded good but really not in my lifetime. I just stayed there in the mud the blood and the beer with the boys. For some reason I did not understand, a patrol from Headquarters had made it to our position and leading that patrol was a Captain in brand new jungle fatigues. His gear was so new that it looked almost fake. To add insult to injury (mostly mine) he had one of those new CAR-15's that really did look like it was made by Mattel. It was shorter than our M-16's and had some kind of collapsible stock that would shorten the whole rifle up to about 12 to 18 inches. The Captain was my replacement and the first thing he asked me was what we should do next. Ain't that like any organization, hire a new boss and you have to train him.
We called what was left of the NCO's over to our position and held a short briefing. The NCO's came with a bunch of gripes about the shortages of ammo, food, water and men. By the time I broke up the bitch session, we had spent almost an hour trying to figure out where to go and how to get there. The guys in the Battalion Tactical Operations Center(TOC) were real antsy for us to start pushing on up that damned hill. They didn't want us to lose contact with the flank of our sister Company. We had been leading the push up that hill and if we really were worried about them, we would have had to stop several times to keep out lines even. The only advantage we had at all was the new guys had all of the ammo they needed and brought some water cans.
The rest of the morning, we pushed forward with the same results as the day before. We would shoot either Artillery or mortars until the enemy had their heads down and move up a little before they popped back up and started shooting back. There had been one instance where an errant gunship had shot up one of the units in the area of the headquarters but we had been lucky. I told out FO that he was to make sure that every mission he sent back was danger close. That meant that the guns were extra careful and used their gunners quadrants on every round. We were so close to where the rounds hit that every once in a while some one of the guys would pick up a piece of shrapnel and you could hear them shout, "Damn That's Hot!" The sounds of the AK47 rounds passing overhead had a strange popping noise if they were real close. I imagine it was the round breaking the sound barrier. For the most part, the NVA had used up most of their mortar rounds and hand grenades and we were facing mostly Automatic Rifle fire from those AK-47's.
As the day progressed, the lack of trees on the hill just made our positions brutally hot. It was like a sauna under the canopy and without the green cover you couldn't drink enough water. We had a few of the guys starting to show signs of heat stroke. The Medic would come into a new position and pinch the back of our hands. If the skin went back to normal, you were OK. If the skin stayed kind of pinched up, he would tell you to drink more water. The Medic stayed pretty close to the front of our position by late afternoon and was busy putting dressing on wounds and directing evacuation of the wounded to a collection point. Battalion had some of the Medics from the support battalion carrying the wounded to the Battalion aide station and from there the seriously wounded would be evacuated by helicopter. One of the medics told me that there was a mini graves registration point there by the aide station and they were doing their best to identify the bodies. They were having trouble getting a Chinook to come in to sling load out the bodies. The Dust Off Huey's were all going out fully loaded with wounded. I was pretty sure that many of those were the men in our company and i didn't want to think about how many were dead.
As we pushed up our side of the mountain, the enemy almost stopped shooting at us. In my mind, there wasn't any way they wanted that damned hill as bad as we did and I thought they were just slipping away in the jungle. I found out that an ARVN unit was approaching the top of the hill from the far side and unless the NVA had good escape tunnels, we were just killing them faster than they were killing us.
For some reason I will never understand, we were ordered to move up the hill as fast as we could and be "King of the Mountain" ahead of the Vietnamese unit. We closed on the top and those silly bastards were shooting at us until we threatened to start shooting artillery back at them.
As soon as we were in a fairly secure position, I was told by the Medic that I needed to get my wounded butt back down the hill to the Battalion evacuation point. He was concerned that the smell of my wound was starting to get pretty bad and that's not a good sign. Personally I couldn't tell if it was the fact that my butt was hanging out our the start of a bad infection. I was soon in the hospital in Pleiku and spent the next couple of weeks getting more antibiotics than I could stand. It killed all the bacteria and I soon had the GI's so bad that I could not get out of bed and I would just have to have my bed linen changed every hour or so. They would let me go down to the shower and bathe with antibacterial soap and I got all the ice cream I could eat. One curious thing was that my teeth were in terrible shape out in the jungle and as soon as that medicine kicked in, my teeth stopped feeling fuzzy. All of the sores and ring worm cleared up in that short two weeks.
When I got back to my Company, I was met by a new Captain. Most of the NCO's were gone and there were two new Platoon leaders. What do you think the Army did when they captured Hamburger Hill? Two weeks after the battle, we just left it there all blown to hell and we went elsewhere. The final report was that we traded over 200 soldiers for 600 of the NVA dead. I have no idea how many wounded were sent out of the country. For weeks after the battle, we were back to small unit maneuvers and the wounded soldiers started showing back up healed of their wounds.
Most of us could tell you how many days they had left on our tours and when you got under 100 days, you were a double digit midget. When you got within 10 days you were so short that you would have to repel down out of your boots. By the time my departure date arrived, I had no thought of getting anything out of the Army except ME! The Army paid me travel all the way back to Wichita but I had no plans on doing anything but finding a fast car and driving anywhere else.
End Of Story