Monthly Archives: November 2015


“…There were eighteen of us, four days earlier, when we arrived in Laos.  We were assembled as a raiding team to help the spooks with a job that was a big secret.  Unfortunately, it never got off the ground, because from day one, there was an attack and it turned into a huge firefight that lasted for three days.  The only way to get the wounded out was to stuff them into the transport planes that brought us, and fly them out.  Then come back and pick up the rest of us.  We ended up at one end of the airstrip, and the bulk of the men at the other.  Three to four hours was all it would take to get back and pick us up.  As we waited for the air transport to return, a large body of enemy infantry cut right through us and effectively isolated us at one end of the airstrip.  We could hear the firefight raging at the other end, as the group of Americans sold their lives at the highest price possible.  By four in the afternoon, it was over.  An ominous silence replaced the sounds of battle….”

“….Gentlemen, grab your gear and let’s go.  We have a long walk ahead of us.” Our CO said this, as he strapped down his equipment.  “Get ready on the double, because we’re next.”  He glanced at us; walking past the dent in the ground we called a foxhole. There were three of us following him at a jog, on an east-south east heading, in the general direction of South Vietnam.  There was two hundred miles between us, and the border, and we were not supplied with enough rations and water to travel that distance, on foot.  There was always the occasional mud hole and stream for water, even succulent plants; and in a pinch, the blood of a water buffalo would provide fluid.  We didn’t dare radio for help because the radio broadcast would announce our presence, and notify the NVA that there were survivors from the air strip.  We were in violation of International law, and all kinds of diplomatic agreements.  After all, we were not at war with Laos, and our government would only deny our existence.  There was no help coming….”



“…Seven months earlier, when Captain Wilson offered us entry into his ‘on the job’ training program, we had no idea what to expect, but were so flattered by the offer, we would have agreed to anything.  In truth, we were blinded by the honor.  There were conditions we agreed to, and either one could have washed us out of the program if we were State side.  The worst of them was the requirement we give up our diet and eat strictly Vietnamese Cuisine; and the second was extending our tour for training by an extra six months.  But that first provision of his program was so difficult, it almost washed us out within the first couple of weeks….”

“….He did allow us to go and get our gear, after the competition.  We returned the next day, and then he told us about his rules for us, for the entire time we were with him.  We were not the only ones who found it the most common objection to life in the Special Forces camps.  The food served was not satisfying and we were required to eat it, no matter what we thought of it.  We were placed on a strict diet of native cuisine that consisted of grey rice and fish heads, and we hated it.  We called it “gook food”.  The idea was, if we ate the same as our enemy, we’d smell the same.  Naturally, we thought that was bullshit; but after two weeks of being starved for Democracy, and heaping every curse imaginable on Vietnamese everything, we shut up.  It took our bodies time to change.  Then we realized the horrible smell we kept picking up was the regular American troops in the jungle.  One whiff and our litany of complaints ceased.  Despite feeling dissatisfied after a hearty meal of gray rice and fish heads, we accepted the diet, believing it would make us less detectable in the bush, and that above all, was what we most desired.  The regulars stunk like zoo carnivores.  We had experienced the smell of western men, first hand, and we were now convinced the army might be right in changing our diet.  It was also a bit embarrassing, every time we encountered it, because we knew a couple of weeks back, we smelled just like them….”



“…Later, when we got back to camp, Hogan came up to me.  He told me that it was becoming a common tactic for civilians to walk up on American soldiers and shoot them.  This was commonplace in 1967.  They would use small handguns, easy to conceal in their clothing, and behave as if they were just farmers from the local village.  They were farmers; but those farmers usually turned out to be VC, or supporting VC.  It was not uncommon for us to enter a village and be told that women were living with two or three husbands.  In that Asian puritanical world, it was more than likely that village was feeding and supporting VC.  That information usually gave us a lot less difficulty with our conscience and allowed us to go into a village and burn it to the ground….”

“….Hog relayed an incident of five or six American soldiers walking up on a group of farmers, thinking they were farmers and not feeling threatened, so their guard was down.  The farmers walked close to the soldiers, pulled guns and shot them in the head.  All weapons, clothing, shoes, and equipment were stripped from the soldiers.  Their bodies may be found, or they all just go ‘missing’.  A lot of teams just went ‘missing…..”


“…That morning, we were headed down to the nearest LZ, in single file.  The sun had come up, but we could not feel its warmth, being wet from the heavy dew of last night.  Most of us were in a pretty good mood, knowing we would soon be in a dry, warm chopper, so it was not easy to keep our voices down.  We had moved down the hill, far enough to get into the routine of moving as a group.  John was directly in front of me.  I heard someone grunt, as if punched in the stomach.  John turned back to look at me, with a surprised look on his face, so I paused.  Then I noticed the blood.  It was all over his chest and flowing in a quantity that was spreading around his waist.  He looked down at himself, and I knew he was going to fall, so I rushed forward and caught him.  He smiled at me, and said “Oh, oh”….”

“….I dragged him under the branches of the nearest tree, looking for a place to lay him down.  His eyelids were fluttering, and had rolled back into his head, showing only white.  He was deathly pale, and I swear, growing lighter in my arms.  I had no idea one person had so much blood.  He was drenched from waist to neck, and it was now running down his thighs.  I was struggling to hide my tears from him, as I noticed I was also coated in red.  He convulsed a couple of times.  Then his eyes opened and looked into mine.  He whispered softly, “Good night, Mom.”  With those words, he was gone.  I had no idea what to do, so I was happy to move out of the sergeant’s way and did not hesitate to jump up, before he pushed me aside….”

“….John’s death was never explained; there was no fire fight that followed, no troops chasing us back the way we came, no troops charging down the path after us.  Not one of us even heard a shot.  It was a stray round, coming our way from another place, and John stepped in front of it.  His death bothered me and most of the others.  After it happened, our patrol stopped making noise, as we quietly carried our dead down to the LZ…”



“…Sniper school was intense for the first two weeks; non-stop shooting, advice on how to hide and move through the jungle, and tips on what to look for in the enemy.  After the first couple of weeks, the trainers began farming us out to practice some of the things we’d been taught.  There was some regulation that required trainees had to go out with a LRRP unit, twice, before permanent sniper classification was awarded.   LRRP stands for LONG RANGE RECONNAISSANCE PATROL, and they had a reputation for being big time combat troops.  LRRP teams had specialized in small unit warfare and they were admired by most because they were very effective and seemingly fearless in the field, always willing to start a firefight, no matter how out-numbered they were.  Their ferocious attitudes and contempt for the enemy also made them appear a bit crazy.  It was dreaded by large units to learn a team of LRRPS was coming toward them, because that usually meant a large body of enemy troops was in pursuit of the those LRRPS.  Every unit became nervous and cautious when they were around.  It was normal to admire them and fear them, at the same time….”