163 days, 22 Dec/67, Fri.
Finished the sandbag walls today. We’re pretty secure now behind our wall of China. The 269th is building up again out in the swamps, so once again we are on the alert. Let’s hope the air strikes, etc., ruin their plans as they did those few days ago, before the 18th of Dec.
We see Bob Hope on the 25th or 26th, which ever day he comes. We’re going in very early that day, to try to get a seat close-up. The S-2 boys aren’t going – they wouldn’t understand anything anyway (well, Raquel Welch won’t need too much of an explanation). So, instead of Christmas, in Vietnam it’s Bob Hope Day.
We took an evening stroll after dinner – got back a few minutes ago at 9:00. I carried the Starlite scope tonight, the first time I’ve use it on a bright night – it’s wild! The moon was full, the stars were out, and not a cloud in the sky, the kind of moonlight I described about a week ago. Through the Starlite, it was like daylight.
I wonder if the astronomers have anything like the Starlite? I looked up at the sky with it and saw more stars than I ever knew existed! The familiar stars were bright, like flashlights – but the millions of din and invisible stars stood out as plain as the familiar ones normally do. I looked at the moon, and it was like a sun through the scope.
162 days, 23 Dec/67, Sat.
We had a little false alarm last night about 1:30. the artillery behind us thought they saw something out in the dark, and began firing with machine guns and mortars. Their mortars were hitting about 500 meters out, and it sounded like Bao Trai was getting attacked. We lost about 2 hours sleep before everyone realized there was nothing there.
The platoon had a short mission early this morning, but I got to stay back to paint some “Merry Christmas” signs for our party this afternoon. Ain’t I awful?
What a party! Chicken, steaks, drinks, live rock & roll VN band, a choir from the high school (7 & 8th grades) and nearby everybody in Recon, S-2, MACV, and a few people from who knows where. Even General Mearns (**) walked through and had some chicken. He gave another flattering speech on CRIP and left.
Polk sang some songs and I took about 30 pictures. It was really nice but what a mess to clean up afterwards.
161 days, 24 Dec/67, Sun.
(Santa Claus comes tonight – hope he’s got plenty of ammo). ‘Tis the night before Christmas.
For the day before Christmas, it sure has been a normal day. I learned about something I had been wondering about; there is a truce this year! I just heard about it today. They blew a whistle at 6:00 this evening and another round starts again at 6:00 tomorrow night.
I guess Bob Hope comes the 26th or 27th, and as far as I know, we’re still going. Santa did come today; I got a package from my grandparents and another one from Western Electric. Wonder if I’ll get any on Christmas Day?
There’s a party at the S-2 compound tonight; hope no one gets bomber tonight – literally. Oh, I forgot; the truce. I’ll bet there’ll be VC there. They’ll walk in, hang their AK-47s on the rack and say “don’t touch me. Remember; the truce.” And we’ll have to feed them. At 6:00 tomorrow night, they’ll mortar us with mortars they stole from the ARVNs while they were left unguarded by party-going soldiers.
The VC at the party were just a diversion. I don’t know, maybe not. They might not wait till 6:01! They might even use their own tubes.
Merry Christmas all, And to all, a good night, Bob
23 Dec. ‘67
Hi Carole, I must confess, I opened your package before Christmas – figured things might get stale if I waited. Everything was like the first package you sent – heavenly. We discovered that if you smoke that spaghetti, you can have the wildest dreams.
It’s nearly Christmas now, but you wouldn’t know it if it wasn’t printed on the calendar. We are going in to see the Bob Hope show on Christmas Day, so that’ll help things some. I just hope I can be home for the holidays next year.
Sorry I can’t be there to help you put together any bicycles or road race sets this year. I hope Santa gets them together alright without me.
Oh, well, have a Merry Christmas for me, and I’ll say “Hello” to Bob Hope for you. Ho, ho, ho, Bob
160 days, 25 Dec/67, Mon
We had a very nice Christmas Eve, considering. Colonel Nanh had a late night party at the “palace”. Live band, singers, Christmas Carols in Vietnamese, some very delicious VN pastry, fireworks and all sort of interesting brews, which, after seeing the conditions of a few of the early arrivals, I decided to leave alone.
The nice thing was we “knew” that we were safe during the truce. for the first time since I’ve been here, there was no artillery fire all night, not even any flares off in the distance. Complete “peace”. It was really nice. I’m glad it wasn’t longer than 24 hrs. thought. The truce gave the VC 24 hours of free movement; any more time could have been bad.
Christmas Day was really a day of rest. There was a large, very good meal at 2:00 (turkey, etc.) and a Punch Party at 7:00, which we messed. When we woke up in the morning, there was a package under each of our beds. Some had stationery; others had a can of potato chips – just little things, but I guess Santa didn’t forget us.
Sergeant Mahoe and the Lieutenant both denied any knowledge of the packages, but the cards all had the symbol of the Red Cross. Santa must have been a volunteer worker. I guess I’d better tell you why we missed the 7:00 party. It’s simple, the truce was over at 6:00, so we had to go back to work. At 5:55, we were waiting at the gate. At 6 sharp we went out. Not exactly my idea of the perfect Christmas (my very first away from home, by the way).
We started out just to check a couple of holes and then come back in – in time for the tail end of the party.
We were only about 1500 meters from Bao Trai and 400 meters from the Gladys road. We saw about 5 groups of 10 VC each, off in the distance about 800 meters, as they oozed from the swamps. This was a little more than we could handle, so we ducked inside a hedgerow and watched. They began moving along the swamp line, towards BT. At the same time, on the other side of our hedgerow, one of our squads spotted at least 25 more coming toward us. Eight VC passed their position by only 25 meters, but with the large force nearby, the order was out not to fire. Wise decision, since the VC had no idea we were there. But if we had fired . . .
Just as it began to get dark, Straub called for the artillery at Gladys. After 2 rounds, they were on target – the second round hit in the middle of one of the groups, and through the Starlight, we saw 10 VC fall. Straub called for “batter, 10 rounds, repeat range”. Which is a whole 105 battery (6 guns) shooting 10 rounds each as fast as they could, reloaded and fired at the same range as that round that hit the VC.
It was the first time CRIP has needed artillery, other than for aerial flares, and it was fantastic! They literally tore the place apart! As the artillery was firing, Straub called gunships, which arrived nicely just after the last round hit, and the flares began dropping in from the artillery what the artillery didn’t get, the gunships took care of. Both of them, an old one and one new Cobra, emptied all their ammo they carried for 2 M-60s, 3 mini-guns, 64 rockets, and two automatic grenade launchers, between the two ships. It took about ½ hour or so for all of this to happen.
After the fireworks ended (it all happened probably about the same time you all opened your packages) we went backing. We were almost ambushed by the security posts outside of Gladys as we came up to the road – no one told them we were coming and after all that shooting they see a large group coming out of the trees – what would you do? They kept their cool and didn’t fire right away. They called us to halt first and gave us a chance to identify.
Again we were plenty scared and plenty lucky. There were VC only 25 meters away! That one side of the hedgerow could have spit on them. There was another group of 25 or so out farther on that side, and at least a company on the other side of us – a squad followed us for about 15 minutes as we walked back, then disappeared.
Later, intelligence told us that there was a re-enforced heavy weapons (mortars, recoilless rifles, etc.) company – about 80-100 VC. Glad we saw them before they saw us! I don’t know how many we or the artillery killed, but here had to be several.
Bao Trai didn’t get hit that night. I figure we and the big guns foiled a large attack. They were definitely going t do something nasty. They just don’t walk around in large groups with weapons for fun. The people in Bao Trai ( and even as far as Cu Chi) saw the action form the rooftops. Said it made them feel good to see it – I should hope so; we definitely save Bao Trai from something bad, although it was rather scary for a while for us.
What a way to spend Christmas night! Christmas morning where you are.
159 days, 26 Dec/67, Tues.
We went out to the same area as last night to see if we could find any bodies, etc. Of course the VC had all night to clean up the area, so we found nothing but a couple of did 105 rounds, which we blew.
The area was really full of holes and craters. In one hedge clump there were no leaves on the trees – mini-gun damage. I don’t see how anybody in that area could have survived.
I slept this afternoon and probably will again tonight. Bob Hope will be the 28th. It’s beginning to sound like the whole 25th division will be in for the show; that’s about 30,000. Maybe they’ll build stands – what they need is an Astrodome. Hope for Hope, Bob
158 days, 27 Dec/67, Wed.
Sob, We’ve got an operation tomorrow, so . . . No Bob Hope after all. I knew it was too good to be true, but it’s still a tremendous let down. He should have come today – we did absolutely nothing. Maybe he’ll come to Bao Trai and visit us. They’ll probably send us out even then.
I don’t know; our mission is by helicopter, so maybe we’ll have our LZ in the Lightning Bowl – it sure would clear the crowd and assure us a seat. If we have to stop in Cu Chi to refuel, as we have done twice in the past, I think I’ll excuse myself to the restroom and just get lost near the show.
Well anyway, don’t look for me on TV.
157 days, 28 Dec/67, Thurs.
Today was one of the longest waits we’ve ever had at the airstrip. We got up at 6:00, hit the strip at 7:30; the choppers came at 8:00 and sat there until 2:30 in the afternoon. To ease the hunger around 12:00, they brought some hot food out to us, but we no sooner got it on our plates when a chopper full of VIPs came in and blew dust all over everything. I knew then that today would be a bad day.
We went out to the swamps for an afternoon of water, leeches (I had two) and heat. I don’t know when we’ve crossed more rivers, or any deeper rivers, that today. One guy almost drowned when he stepped off in one of the holes in a canal bottom. His ammo, etc. dragged him under and our new lieutenant-to-be went in and pulled him out, but hot caught in some weeds and began to splash around and another guy had to go in and pull him out.
We lifted out about 4:00 and went back to B.T. After we left the 49th Recon, which had been operating near us, made contact with not too large a force, but two choppers were shot down while trying to pull the 49th out.
After dinner, we were called out to go secure the two downed ships all night – just like the other time. Fortunately, just like the other time, it was called off at the last moment. Someone up there likes us.
Right now the 49th is loading up on the chopper pad here and going out to secure the choppers along with two ARVN battalions, which went out this afternoon. I just hope nothing happens that we have to go out later tonight for (I think Someone up there likes us).
Yes, by the way, I’ve heard the Bob Hope show was pretty great. While we were trying to drown our own troops in the river, the folks in Cu Chi were being entertained in a better way. I’m disappointed in missing it, of course; especially after counting on it for so long. However, I’m not about to extend just to see him next year! I’ll catch it on the tube next time, in our living room. I’ll be a civilian then, you know!
156 days, 29 Dec/67
I know I didn’t tell you this, but Youngblood was stricken with appendicitis a couple of weeks ago and flown by helicopter to Cu Chi. He’s back now, and is the only one who saw Bob Hope. And he got a better view than 95% of the people at the show. Hope came through the hospital with his whole troupe, visiting the wounded. He and Raquel Welch, Miss World, and the rest, went through each ward in the hospital, and shook hands and passed out pictures of everybody.
In one ward where they keep all the really bad cases, Miss World broke down crying and had to be taken out.
I sure wish I could have been sick then. You should have seen the picture Raquel Welch gave out!
Another one of those days! The food gets worse. I cut my mouth on the bread crust this noon. Yesterday we had filet of sole. Boot! Why filet? They were kind enough to remove the cobbler’s nails.
154 days, 31 Dec/67, Sun.
Pay day! On time! $7 raise, retroactive to Oct 1st. Total $21 extra this month - $102.14, and $60 on the way home. It wasn’t a bad day. They’ll be card games tonight, but it’s okay; it’s New Year’s Eve. A year ago today, I came home from a joy ride and found a letter from Uncle Sam in the mailbox. “Greetings,” it said. “You have been selected by your friends and neighbors to fight for your country and defend your freedom (whose freedom?). Failure to appear will bring a 5 year jail sentence”. Ain’t it wonderful to be free?
New Year’s resolutions:
·Stop worrying about sheikh car I’m going to buy and get a lifetime supply of CTC tickets instead.
·Not to spend any more than 5 more months over here unless I get another raise.
My fingers are crossed, Bob