|From the base of the hill - looking up|
Jesse James Part II
This is a work of Faction - Parts of it are facts and the rest is just made up from my memories, war stories and stuff I read. -
When the briefing was over, I called my Platoon together and told them basically the same story we had been told with slightly less detail as the guys really didn't care about the order of the insertion. they knew they would be first. That afternoon, I paid particular attention to what the men were doing. The Army had developed the M-16 for the infantry to replace the M-14. The M-16 ammo was subject to not work well if the rifle or the ammo was dirty. My guys will spread out their ponchos and take every bullet out of their magazines and make sure they were dry and clean. We do have the new M-16 A-1 with the extra charging handle on the side to help close the bolt, but we cleaned those damn rifles a lot better than we did our own selves. We were all given one of those funny toothbrushes and a package of pipe cleaners. One of the NCO's said it looked like his kids in a kindergarten art class but It took only once for your rifle to jam in a fire fight and you too became a cleanliness addict. Your butt could grow mold in the jungle but your ammo was clean and shiny if you wanted to live. The Army had also developed an oil that was a cleaner, a lubricant and a preservative. Guess what we called it? CLP, was one of those acronyms that became the name kind of like the word jeep. Over time, as men came and went from the Platoon, extra ammo magazines were collected up. Almost to a man they had two bandoleers of magazines each and many had three. That was 20 rounds per magazine and 10 mags per bandoleer. Many of the magazines had those plastic bags on them and they were clean and dry. In the rainy season you had to be careful that the bags didn't sweat and get the ammo wet. Another thing I will have NCO's check is the unit's basic load of ammunition other than just bullets. They had somewhere around 15 Claymore mines and everyone had a smoke grenades and probably three or four fragmentation grenades. There was at least two guys designated as ammo bearers for the M60 Machine guns and contrary to what you saw in the movies, I made them carry all the ammo in ammo cans. Carry the rounds on the outside of your uniform and it would get dirty and sometimes not work in the heat of a fire fight. It was also a whole hell of a lot easier to carry a can than have to stop and unhook an ammo belt from a body.
The normal resupply for units out in the jungle was to have a resupply every third day. If you were likely to use it, you had to carry it with you. The part we hated was normally we would have to stop and cut down an area so a Helicopter could land. They could fly over and put a sling load of stuff on the ground and sometimes if the shit was deep they would just fly over and throw stuff out. That meant that every guy would be given 9 C-Ration boxes and they would have to sort it down to what they wanted and that was offset by what they could carry. I was told that the real reason the Army put the ring on the end of the barrel on the M-16A1 was to keep guys from using that little forked end to open C- ration cases. Twist that puny little barrel and the accuracy went right out of the window. There was a lot of crap in those little boxes and no one wanted to carry 9 plastic spoons. I found that he could survive on the beef Steak and Potatoes if I didn't run out of Tabasco and pepper. They were heavy but few of the guys wanted to carry the extra weight A soldier could trade his pound cake of a can of potatoes and fruit was almost two for. the only exception to the fruit trade was the fruit cocktail. Someone had started a rumor that fruit cocktail was bad luck and almost no one carried any of it. There was also a meal that was Ham and Lima beans that were just good for the ham and everyone poured out the Lima beans. They were hard and seldom cooked soft enough. Eat them on Monday, the day we took our big malaria Pill and the beans would create gas and that was no nice thing when the diarrhea from the pill set in. At least once a week you could almost guarantee a good crap from the pill alone.
Let me not forget to mention water. In the heat and humidity of the jungle, you could drink a couple of gallons of water and still be thirsty. Each squad had at least one poor guy that would carry a five gallon can of water. Sometimes there were two of the poor bastards. I found 2, two quart canteens and carried them on the outside of my pack. Each platoon had a radio man and because he carried the radio, there were at least two other guys that had to carry a spare battery. As Platoon leader, I always carried a battery and the last one used right before re-supply was mine. I have no clue what it all weighed. I carried a poncho liner and a poncho along with a couple of pairs of dry socks but little else. OK, I carried all the pipe tobacco i could get out of those SP Packs they sent us. No one else could smoke pipe tobacco in their dope pipes that were ubiquitous. Don't feel bad, I had to look that word up and I wanted to use it at least once before I died.
Early the next morning, we were down near the helipad waiting for a signal that it was their turn to get on the helicopters. By the third lift, it was our turn. the door gunner on the chopper me told me that things were quiet and they were going to be inserted in a big area near the base of a big hill. I remembered that it was called Dung Ap Bia mountain and called hill 937 after the elevation in meters marked on the top of the mountain on the map. Jesse knew that his men would probably get a part of the mission to clear that damned hill if there were any enemy forces up there. It was the only hill in that damned valley and was just a natural place for at least a Command and Control team to watch the valley. Did I mention that I was from Kansas and hated mountains? Crawl up two or three of those bastards and you too would hate them. The doors on the slicks were pushed back and many of the soldiers sat with their legs out of the door. On an LZ where there were enemy, being able to jump directly off the helicopter was worth its weight in gold. On our ride out today, I just thought the cool air was a treat. and my mind traveled back to my childhood...