Jesse james Part VI

I know you are getting tired of reading this part, but this is a work of fiction and not intended to report facts.  If you think you are mentioned in it, get a life and just be glad you weren't there.

The  night before, the NVA left us alone and we rested as much as we could.  With a mandatory 50% on alert, it was only a half ration of sleep and the mortar fire told us that tonight 's sleep was over.  When the mortar rounds stopped, the darkness was almost complete.  Then flash, a trip flare on their perimeter went off.  That was the start of a mad minute of firing and more excitement that there was adrenalin to handle. There was a combination of AK-47 and M-16 fire that a no shit attack was in progress.  The platoons had put out Claymore mines and many of them were set off.  They sprayed a wide path of small steel ball bearings about the size of 00 Buckshot.  That helped the unit stave off a ground attack that was at least a company sized unit.  They also fired their rifles and machine guns while the Forward Observer fired the defensive Concentrations just beyond their perimeter.  The Mortar FO's had the Battalion Mortars working over the perimeter and it was almost like a concert for the Infantry.  No one knew how the lead man in the lead element tripped that flare, but it put everybody on alert and the NVA unit paid a dear price for that attack.  Normally a sapper would lead the way in and they were good at not tripping flares or booby traps. 

In every other attack Jessie had read about, the NVA had almost the same size unit to carry off the dead and wounded at the end of an attack.  You would normally find blood trails and discarded equipment but no dead enemy soldiers.   The attacking unit had been mostly wiped out by the Company and the backup unit was wiped out by the Artillery and Mortars.    The estimate was that Jessie's unit had killed about 200 of the enemy and had lost only 10.  Damn fine work.  Jesse was just also made aware that his Company Commander was one of the Dead.  He found himself in command of the Company.   he also found that he was told in that in the morning they were continue the attack. On his visit to the Platoons NCO's,  his men told him that they were about out of rations.  A helicopter hovered above his unit long enough to drop in cases of ammo and a few cases of C-Rations.  Just enough to keep them fed for about 24 hours.  The Battalion had moved their forward resupply position a little forward and it took them a few hours that morning to carry the dead back to an area where the choppers could land long enough to hook up a sling load of the dead.  I was just damn glad that my guys could not see that.  It just doesn't feel right that the dead soldiers should have to ride underneath a helicopter instead of in it. Back at base camp, I had seen the mortuary services unloading sling loads of dead soldiers but they hadn't been my soldiers. 

I did what every Gung Ho Infantry Officer would do and I ordered my men to continue the attack.  They did and during that day made enough forward progress to not have to be with the rotting carcasses of  200 dead enemy soldiers.  I was also glad that there was no helicopter landing zone there or he would have been up to his butt cheeks in VIP's wanting to see what 200 dead enemy looked like. There is also kind of an unwritten rule that Majors, Light Colonels and Colonels could be written up for going to such places to pad their awards and decorations.  I had no use for such antics. We lost another 10 men that day and by that evening we were down to about 50% of the size of a normal unit.  I begged the Battalion Commander to let us stop where we were  and for some chow to be sent up.  We got to spend the night there on the side of that damned mountain even though we like the hill was chopped up like hamburger.  The hill was just a bare mound of earth that had the green stripped off it.  There were smoldering fires everywhere and dead enemy strewn about like the Civil war Battlefields I had read about .  The ground was slick with mud and blood and for every step forward, you might slide back two or three.  It was strange that the rifle fire would almost stop at night and after getting their clock cleaned, the NVA didn't try to overrun us again.   Our sister Company didn't have the same luck.  They were hit about mid night and the only thing that saved them was a C-130 with cannons mounted in the side that worked the perimeter over for at least an hour.  The stream of red tracers drawing a circle around their perimeter was pretty in a strange and perverse way.  Somewhere in one of my briefings, I had been told that the sound of the mini guns and 40mm cannons sounded like the wail of a banshee and the NVA were terrified of the sound.  I was just glad it was on our side and to me it sounded sweet.

I had read a report that for every casualty they caused, the US troops fired at least 1,000 rounds of ammunition.  This attack had to be at least that wasteful.  The sad part of his situation was that there was just no way to really know how many soldiers for the North Vietnamese would be buried in the tunnels or carried off to be buried in the jungle.   To die there without anyone knowing where you were was just something the US Troops did their best to keep from happening.  In the fog of battle, there just had to be one or two bodies blown apart and not recovered.  At least here there were no tigers marauding through the positions to find something to eat.  No self respecting tiger would be within miles of our gunfire
On the morning of the fifth day, I was moving around shaking the guys out  of their holes for an attack on that damned hill when a grenade rolled into his position.  According to the official report, it was an NVA grenade but to me, it looked a lot like a US fragmentation Grenade or a Frag.  It wouldn't have been the first combat units had tried to take out their commander.  I had tried  to jump out of that hole but my hindmost part didn't quite get out of the hole.  When I hit the ground on the downhill side, my buttocks were full of many very small pieces of metal and the big pieces had missed anything important.   The medic came over to help me and decided that a shot of morphine would be needed to dig out the small stuff and bandage the rest. One shot of morphine and I just went to sleep and dreamed of my R&R to Australia.



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