Monthly Archives: July 2015



“…..We had no idea of how many men were in the trees.  The enemy was there and strong enough, as we found out over the radio, to drive off our infantry.  Artillery and air strikes were called in all along the jungle front, in the lower valley.  The entire jungle for miles down into the valley had become an inferno.  Big shells and napalm thudded in, doing their murderous best to uproot the NVA residents.  From our position, it was a monumental fireworks display, but the only effect was to cover us with ash.  Mortars kept falling, and bullets continued to rip into us every time someone stuck out a nose.  We sweated through the long afternoon hours, hiding in the mud, and praying the assault wouldn’t come before we were able to get out.  Our isolation was a death sentence…”

“….Just before sunset, word came over the radio, “Fall back, at any cost!”  The scratchy radio voice took on an urgency that was almost a scream.  “Take your chances, or die there!….”

“….I realized the mortars had stopped hitting our position.  Looking out over the open ground, I glimpsed the most spectacular military sight of my two tours.  It was something I’d been expecting since enlisting, and here it was, at last.  It was not at all what I expected.  There was a terrifying beauty charging at us, and it was filled with deadly intent.  Explosions were hitting the field, adding death to the panorama.  A huge, fast moving infantry assault was streaming out of the jungle toward us.  The mortars that had been showering us all day were now dropping into the camp above.  Our shells fell among the charging troops in reply.  The effect was negligible.  The assault kept rushing our way, and we had to run, or be killed….”


“…It soon became evident the gooks were using us to zero their mortars.  We’d hear the ‘bonk-gong’ sound of a mortar, and a shell would come whistling down on us.  Someone would yell “Incoming!” and we’d flatten to the ground, terrified.  The shell would explode nearby; then we’d sit up to wait for the next one.  Sometimes, their mortar would land among us and at other times they’d miss us badly, but by the second or third shell, they’d be working the explosions toward us.  Whenever the mortar’s next shell was going to be a direct hit and they knew we knew it, they would delay.  Then a different mortar would start in with ‘bonk-gong’.  This went on throughout the day.  They were daring us to make a run for the camp above.  We were trapped.  Our number of wounded inevitably grew, so did our tension.  After ten hours, we were all grimly shooting at shadows.  There was little talk, except for the constant chatter of the radiomen, the almost predictable warning of ‘incoming’, and the mumbled moans of our euphoric wounded.  Morphine kept them quiet, and their pain manageable.  Anything was better than their screams; even their unnerving dream chatter was preferable….”

“….Our position was a death trap.  We were helpless.  The gooks had us, and there was nothing we could do about it.  We were their target.  We were pinned on that small rise, in full view of the camp above.  They could do nothing, but take bets as to how many of us would live.  We begged them to come and get us, and cursed them for cowards when they refused.  Our only hope was to survive until dark, then make a run for it.  A huge clearing separated us from the camp above, and that open space was a no man’s land.  Three panic-stricken guys died trying to run up the hill to safety.  We were content to sit and wait for dark, hoping not to get our asses blown up before then….”


“…By 0630, we were about half way to the tree line.  Our patrol left the road, and we walked over the exact same piece of open ground we’d covered the day before.  About a quarter of the way into the open area, we reached the same shallow wash and began walking it.  It was no deeper than two feet, as it crossed the clearing to the tree line.  The point of its’ greatest depth was where it skirted the base of the small hill, just down from our camp…”

“….The distant popping of small arms fire became audible.  It was at least a mile off, and seemed to come from the main valley.  It grew louder and louder, fanfare foretelling the day’s entertainments.  No shells were coming our way, but we didn’t mind keeping our bellies on the ground, while trying to figure out who was shooting at whom.  A deeper, more powerful firing began, after ten minutes of listening in prone.  Judging by the volume, we knew it was more than a recon team was up to handling.  We could identify three big machine guns, along with the cracking of hundreds of individual weapons.  The roar grew louder and seemed to run the length of the tree line, as it came toward us….”


“…He was my Commanding Officer for close to twenty months.  Those of us, who served with him, were hand-picked by him.  Each and every one of us had a skill he refined.  The impact of being selected by an officer of such stature sent our young egos soaring, beyond insufferable, but he was tolerant of our foibles.  We, the members of Captain Wilson’s Echo team were the chosen ones, and we were proud.  Serving with Wilson assured us of an advanced education in the tactics of small unit warfare.  All we had to do was shut up and listen, and stay alive long enough to apply what we were taught….”

“….Wilson’s first nickname was ‘Turf’, which was an appellation of admiration he received from Paul, because he so frequently repeated ideas about terrain.  He enjoyed an argument about one of his ideas, and on a few occasions, abandoned an idea completely if someone pointed out a flaw in it.  His aim was to turn all of us into highly effective guerillas, capable of thinking for ourselves in the most adverse conditions.  He improved every man he worked with by driving home lesson, after lesson, on every conceivable topic pertaining to our enemy; how to trap him, how to evade him, how to ambush him, how to scare him, and where to make a stand against him.  Which basically means; how to sell our lives so high when cornered the enemy wasn’t willing to pay the price.  We members of Echo team had learned from our CO certain things that welcomed us into other teams, and frequently got us bombarded with questions, whenever we found ourselves with them.  Captain Wilson was one of the most respected officers in the highland camps.  No enlisted man ever declined the invitation to join his team.  Our egos were unavoidably stroked when he requested us, by name.  Knowing he saw something in us that he wanted to refine was one hell of an honor.  We couldn’t refuse a man we wished to emulate.  He was the best and everyone knew it.  He didn’t think of war an obligatory tour of duty, because it looked good in his jacket.  He was in for the duration.  When I was assigned to him, he’d been in Nam for three years.  Professional military to his toes, and the only man I consider a genuine hero.  He was brilliant, and more than willing to share it with every man he led.  I can say with unintended and unavoidable melodrama, but in all honesty, if he had led the way to hell, I would have followed, and so would have Hogan, Paul and Jim….”



“…Our reconnaissance was over.  The enemy was in the jungle, in force.  Before we could scramble inside the perimeter, the road and hillside exploded in fireballs.  Enemy mortars hit a supply truck, as it lumbered by the camp gate.  It blazed bright on the road, and kept exploding in a long series of smaller eruptions.  Then the wash we were in was hit with exploding shells.  Our dash for the gate came to a standstill.  The entire area was being shelled.  The explosions began working toward us, five to ten yards at a time.  All of us ran in the opposite direction, abandoning the plan of going in through the main gate.  Dust swirled from the shelling and mixed with smoke.  Unable to see, we scrambled down the wash, running for cover…”

“…We had gone a very short distance, and bumped into a second recon team running up the wash, the same explosive footsteps herding them.  Cover was not available in either direction.  A quick huddle and we decided to run for the trees and shattered logs on the small hill, at the foot of our camp.  We had no choice.  It was the only cover available.  Not all of us made it and those of us who did, were not certain we had done the right thing….”