Memories of 1968
It's the little things in my life that come flooding back to me as I sit down here to write about my War years in 1968. Here are just a few of them.
Today on the Military channel I heard General Colin Powell talk about his leadership. he said that an NCO at the Infantry School once told him that in many cases your troops will follow you out of curiosity. I guess he thinks of that as a positive thing. In my world, that means that my men could not believe some of the things I did and they followed out of sheer boredom and the relief I provided. When I was a Forward Observer, I was one of the best and worked hard to know where I was and to never shoot artillery where one of the men in the company I supported was. To the best of my knowledge, I did that in pretty good shape.
I served with a fine Captain from Joplin, Mo and he was also called preacher because he had been a preacher back home. I was in my early 20's and he had to be nearing 40. One day, his jeep stopped running. It was not getting fuel for some reason. The mechanic in the motor pool was checking out the gas tank and he saw something in the tank. He reached in and came out with a piece of black plastic electrician's tape. He reached back in there and said everyone get the hell out of here because there is a grenade in this tank. It had settled to one side and the spoon on the grenade was down against a side of the tank. He said he was going to try to remove it but if the grenade ignited he wanted everyone to be way the hell back because he was going to run like hell if it did. For the next 10 minutes he stood there working that grenade in such a way so he could get it out without it going off. When he got it out, only then did I wonder who the hell would do such a thing to such a nice guy. It had to be one of our soldiers and not a Vietnamese because that jeep hardly never got off post and then it wasn't left unguarded.
The point man for one of the Infantry Companies I was attached to for a few weeks was a stoner. He got high and stayed that way. His excuse was that he could see things that were not natural because they glowed. He never walked us into an ambush, or a booby trap. One day we were ditty bopping down a trail when all hell broke loose up front of the unit. Boom, followed by hail of M-16 fire broke out. All you had to do was hear an AK-47 open up just once and you never forgot that sound. The platoon leader who's platoon was on point called back and said no problem, it was just a snake. What? One of the biggest cobra's I had ever seen just stood up in the middle of the trail and the point man just blew it away with a grenade launcher with a canister round in it. Imagine a shot gun of about 40MM loaded with double aught buck shot. It removed the head of that cobra just below the hood. The rest of the platoon charged up firing to back the point man up in case it was an ambush. When we passed the body of that snake a few minutes later, it was bigger around than my arm and about 8 feet long (Minus the head or about 6 inches) Sometime during that week, the point man came up to the Company Commander and said that he needed to go to the rear. The next day was resupply day and he went back to base camp. He reappeared much later that day carrying a duffel bag. I knew he didn't carry anything when walking point and I asked the Sergeant on the Recon team what that was all about. "Shit LT, he was out of pot and had to make a resupply run. " That evening it smelled like fall back home when everyone would burn leaves.
I know that many people think having dogs in a combat zone is a good idea. Not in my experience it wasn't. The first time we had a dog out with our company, that damn dog would bark like all holy hell when it was time to wake the dog handler up for his radio watch. No imagine you are out in the middle of nowhere in the jungle and you hear a damn dog barking. Yep only those crazy Americans would be out there with a barking dog. On the second day after a resupply, the dog got too hot and we had to Medevac him out. It took us about half a damn day to cut a clearing so the helicopter could land. I am pretty sure that we were glad to have him gone. At least I was.
Being a big guy, I could not imagine how little guys could crawl in holes in the ground. Those tunnel rats were just way too crazy for my taste. Someone once asked me if i wanted to go to Air born School or Jump School as it was known. I told them that they would have to cut orders on a couple of great big guys to go with me. Why? To throw my ass of that plane because there was just no way I would willingly exit a perfectly good aircraft. "same same" with the tunnel rat business.
On my last assignment as a Forward Observer, I went out with a Mountagnard unit that had Vietnamese officers leading it. I had been told that it was a three day operation and it turned out to be a three week operation. When we all gathered at a Special Forces Camp, the rest of the Americans all were in the same boat as I was. We brought enough food to get out and back for three days but not enough for three weeks. There was to be no resupply like with American units. We were issued the Indigenous Rations and man was there not enough calories to fuel a big guy like me. It turned out to be freeze dried pouches of rice with a small protein portion. That was either shrimp or a sausage portion that looked like dog turds. I saved a can of boned turkey and right in the middle of the operation I savored that can of turkey. It was several years after I got home from Vietnam before I could eat rice. I am over that now and enjoy a good side of rice.
That's all for today, miles to go before I sleep.