77 days, 18 Aug. ’67 Friday
They captured some VC documents last night. (Not us, someone else). One was a list of people with prices on their heads. Capt. Barkman, LT. Cito, and the new ARVN lieutenant, were among the top ten most wanted men. There was also a list of people or groups to be destroyed or killed. Two individuals were at the top two places – both VN civilians. Number 3 was to “inflict heavy casualties on the Rat Platoon”. The “Rat Platoon” was written in English – the rest Vietnamese. They must’ve picked the name up for our radio call sign, which begins with “Rat” then a number of the person called. Cito is Rat 5. It’s nice to know you’re wanted, but that’s the kind of information you wish you hadn’t heard. Lt. Cito was thrilled; “at least this means we’re hurting them!”
We relaxed today. I got the pictures back I took with the borrowed camera, only these four were worth anything. The rest were ruined when the film got wet. So now I have no pictures of Sugar Mill. Okay, we were only there 4 days. And we’ll never see the place again. At least not the bunkers we were in; we tore it all apart when we left. The town is still there, though. Maybe someday I’ll get back there.
The first one is at the “Pits” where we pulled security guard for the engineers all day. While they played in the dirt, we sat and watched the woods across the road, and the rice paddies on the other side of the Pits. The kids are just a couple of the hundreds who sold us Cokes and souvenirs, and bothered us all day long. (2) One of our favorite little girls, Shai was her name, a little brat; reminded me of Ann Addington. (3) Bruce Horwerter, form Illinois. He’ll extend his tour a whole year to be a gunner on a chopper. The background is the mess tent at Gladys. Someday I’ll get some good pictures of Gladys, too. (4) Branch – toothless. Same background. He’s the one I borrowed the camera from. He’s also the one that left it out in the rain and ruined the film.
We went out at 4:30 today, and after today we must be number one on the VC hate list. We went to the same area as the other day, only this time we went fast by chopper instead of advertising our coming by walking in. last time, we got there in time to see two of them running across the swamp. This time we hadn’t been on the ground two minutes till the ARVNs got a body count (kill) of one VC. All afternoon (2 ½ hours) we had the support of choppers and the element of surprise. Choppers spitting machine gun fire, rockets and M-79s. The 2 hours ended with the score 22 to nothing in favor of C.R.I.P. Recon got 4 confirmed kills, the S-2 ARVNs got 4 confirmed kills, and the choppers accounted for the other 14. At least that’s the story tonight. The choppers also got a water buffalo when one of the rockets hit a hutch, completely destroying it. Burned to the ground, with the buffalo inside. Smelled like the ox roast.
Esterline, Wallace, and I were on flank security in case some VC ran our way. They never got that far; and we didn’t see any of the action. They said it was like a shooting gallery – sitting in the hedgerows, watch the gooks run and get mowed down by choppers. When the choppers missed or didn’t see one either Recon or the ARVNs got him. Only two VC had weapons; one had a wallet full of North Vietnamese money, and pictures of Ho Chi Minh, Mousey Tongue, and all the Red boys, no doubt about that one. I’d heard rumors, but I didn’t believe it till today, but all the VC kills Recon got received a Wolfhound crest in the middle of his forehead with the blessing of rifle butt. The choppers really tear the VC up. One had an arm torn off form M-16 rounds! Cito had more fun that a 5 year old at Disneyland. He’s really gung-ho!
Yep, we really brought smoke on Charlie today. This is good enough to get in the news. After a 22 body count, it’s better than the 2nd battalion has some for a long while. One of our guys did get hit; one of the advisors to the ARVNs got a little singe on his thumb. Big deal! He’ll get a Purple Heart.
I got 2 pictures of nearly all the Rat Pack standing around a very bloody VC trophy, but that’s all I had. I shot 8 form up in the choppers on the way out to the area, and 10 was all I had left on the roll. Too bad; I could have had a couple more of the burned out hutch, etc. The ones I did get might be a little grotesque, but it’s all a part of the war, so I took them.
78 days, Aug 19 ‘67 Saturday
We went back to the same place we were at yesterday, this morning, to look for any weapons, etc. the VC might have hidden there. All the bodies had been removed (even the buffalo’s) and no weapons were found. We came across one group burying one of the VC killed yesterday and took them in as VC suspects. A little later, we saw six running across the field, but they got away before we could catch them. The ARVNs got one man who was a VC platoon leader. They marched him out on a berm, made him kneel down, and executed him.
The ARVN lieutenant fond another house where they were preparing another one of yesterday’s victims for burial. He beat one man with a stick until the man could hardly stand up – he still wouldn’t talk, so the Lt. Threatened to shoot his family; he talked. All the VC that were in the area yesterday were there to visit their families; this one man lost a brother and a son yesterday. I guess we spoiled their family reunion.
This afternoon we were supposed to be getting ready to do out all night, but they called it off and for the first time in quite a while, I got to go into Cu Chie. Wish I hadn’t, now. I was riding in Cito’s jeep (he was driving). We passed Clark’s Corner all right, but at the next one, the wheels got caught in a rut, and the jeep went sideways, tucked its rear wheels a la Corvair, and dove into the rice paddy about 2 feet below the road level. I saw it coming, and could picture the thing rolling over on me, so as soon as he left the road, I left the jeep; so did Wallace. As it turned out, the jeep didn’t roll, but rather stuck in the mud nose first like someone had dropped it from a chopper – it was nearly straight up and down – with Cito still sitting in it, holding on to the wheel. It took us a half an hour to pull it out and recover all the gear from the water (it was deep enough to swim in – I went clear under when I dove off).
The worst injury I had was my camera. Nothing broke, but it did get wet and sandy/muddy. The shutter is stuck on the down position; the shutter speed dial and cranking lever don’t work right. The delay switch doesn’t work. The viewfinder is fogged, as is the lens. I can see sand in the light meter, but it still works. I’m not sure how accurate it would be.
At least I had a new roll in it with no shots on it. It was ruined but at least I didn’t ruin any slides. There’s a camera and watch repaid shop at the PX. I hope they can fix it at a low cost. I know that your camera, Dad, cost quite a bit to have fixed for something similar. Just think – that could have been the big Petri, it I hadn’t sent it home (shudder).
No more slides for a while. If I have to, I’ll buy another one, but if something happens to it, forget it. So far, I’m buying cameras at the rate of one a month. Pretty soon I’ll have more than Walt Disney ever had. From Disneyland, Asia Branch,
79 days, 20 Aug. ’67 Sunday
Peace. While they had the ’67 USRRC at Mid-Ohio, we had a meeting. Seems as though some three-star general has heard about CRIP, and is pleased by what we’ve done, especially two days ago (body count finally was 26 – 5 Recon, 4 ARVN, and the other 17 victims of the gun-ship choppers). He ordered M-16s for all the S-2 platoon – before they nearly all had .30 cal. Carbines, with the power of a B-B gun. Only they were dependable. This is the first time an ARVN unit has been issued M-16s. Another first for us and this area – we’re getting some special .30 cal. Carbines with silencers for use at night! Also, two .22 cal. sniper rifles.
We were out in the boonies for awhile today, doing mostly nothing. We did come to a house where lived an actual midget. Large head, small body (about 3’ high) and large, stocky legs. He looked stocky enough o pull a plow, but he was so short.
Later on, one of the ARVNs spotted a man running across the fields ahead of us. In this game, anyone who runs away is a VC. Our gook began shooting at him, and immediately both platoons opened up with everything. One problem was that the man was about 800 meters away. Our max effective range of our longest-range weapon is 750 meters. We did scare him pretty bad, though. He stopped and let us catch up to him.
That was all night, though. All day I’d been hoping to see someone running like that so I could fire my gun to see if it would still jam. Even though he was out of range, I fired a magazine at him – didn’t really want to hit him. Beautiful! I guess it only jams when we test-fire. Every time I’ve had to shoot it, it has worked. I guess as long as that stays true, it’s all right.
We did capture a couple VC suspects, and one confirmed VC – he was sorry he’d ever heard of HO Chi by the time we got him back to Bao Trai. He was tied, then thrown on the floor of the truck. All the way back, the ARVNs beat him with fists, feet, rifle butts; one tried to shoot him in the foot. He was next to unconscious by the time we got back.
Here’s something interesting. Remember yesterday, when the ARVNs executed that VC platoon leader? I found out today that in the rules of war, if the S-2 lieutenant had ordered a U.S. to kill the man and the U.S. had done it – he could be court martialed for murder. The ARVNs can do it, and get away with it. When out in the field, ARVNs do not necessarily have to follow orders of a U.S. officer, and the same with U.S. and ARVN officers. If we think that an order by the ARVN officer is not right, all we have to do is say so, as in the case of the execution. In other words, if the order is something that we could get burned for, we don’t, in fact can’t, do it. The only one we’re responsible to, and in turn he’s responsible for orders he gives to us, is Lt. Cito. If he’d told us to kill the man, we’d have to do it, but Lt. Cito would be responsible if anyone ever found out. All we did was carry out a direct order – if anyone would be charged, it would be Cito. Sounds silly in a way, yet that’s the way it is. Hope no one ever orders me to shoot a helpless unarmed bound and tied person; I might get a court martial for disobeying a direct order.
80 days, 21 Aug. ’67 Monday
Went to the Duc Hoa PX today and saw some laundry ink. I got it, planning to mark my clothes (even though the girls mark it themselves now). I found that it, along with the pen it came with, works fine for drawing. So I guess I’ll use it for that instead of laundry. You said once that things would be easier to copy if I could use a pen. I can get a lot more detail with the pen, too. First time I’ve done anything with a drawing pen and ink – I liked it.
Another box of 36 slides came today and were on their way to the world shortly after I had looked at them. One more to come yet, then I have to get the camera cleaned before I can take anymore.
We went out today for the “fun of it”. The same area where we had the booby trap incident (2 more died, making three killed – some bomb!). As always, we brought in a couple of suspects, or draft-dodgers, to make it look like we did something. These guys might as well hang it up, either they’re VC or, if not, they are automatically drafted! I thought I got a raw deal – these people are drafted at gunpoint!
Learned some statistics today. In less than a month, CRIP, the S-2 platoon, and the Rat Pack, have accounted for 36 VC killed, not counting 5 killed the night Pee Wee was killed, and we weren’t with them. Also, not counting that night we had taken one US and 3 ARVN sounded and 3 ARVN killed (kill ratio 12:1). I’d much rather be keeping lap times and race points, but that’s the way it is.
Mother mentioned the ARVNs and their refusal to help any of the wounded that one night. Said it was maybe something to do with superstition or fear of the dead and dying. That’s interesting. Actually, the Vietnamese don’t value life as much as we do. For example, executing that one VC. No American would have done that – legally, anyway. The ARVNs would just as soon kill a VC rather than bring him in. when they question people, if they don’t get cooperation, they sometimes beat a person to make him talk. I don’t mean slap him a couple of times – they use rifle butts, knives, anything.
I imagine that when the 5 were hit by the mine, that the others simply figures xin loi, they’ll probably die, so let’s leave them – their tough luck. But we couldn’t leave them because we’ve been taught to value life. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the fact that we’re supposed to be Christians – so are they; Catholic, mostly. It’s just that in our world and society, life is one of the most valued things here, where live doesn’t really mean that much. It’s not valued as highly. At times, death is probably looked at as a relief, a way out. I don’t meant to say they’re suicidal or anything; they want to live too, but the thought of them, or especially someone else, dying, isn’t as terrible to tem as it might be to us. It’s something they’ve lived with all their lives. They think nothing of it. Am I rambling?
Speaking of people that aren’t concerned with people’s welfare, Johnson was on the news tonight, making one of his take-a-nap-between-each-sentence speeches about why we’re in VN. (same old hash re-hashed). Everybody in the club gathered around the set and booed and called names, etc. not just PFCs and Spec. 4s, but some sergeants, lieutenants, captains, a major, and a full-bird colonel! Wonder what his chances are in the ’68 election? Every man in the service, especially over here, must be against him. And it’s all his doing (or undoing). He sent them here.
Dan Gurney for President,
81 days, 22 Aug. ’67 Tuesday
I thought for a while we’d make it through the day without going out, but . . . at 4:30 we left by chopper and got back about 7:30. I got a birthday present today – I’m now the machine gunner for the scout section. They gave me a 23-pound M-60 today, and their best wishes. The guy who had it before also gave me his .45 pistol, and I gave him by M-16 (hope it works for him). He told me the .45 wasn’t necessary, but I feel that if something jumps out of a tunnel at me, I want something I can shoot fast at close range. With the ’60, it has to be cocked, taken off safety – a 5-minute operation practically – and set down. Some people fire it from the hip at times, but it still takes about 30 seconds to get it ready. By that time, it could be too late. No matter what happens, I’ll keep my pistol; no one will take it away. Think I’ll practice my quick draw. .45s don’t jam, either.
Little Joe almost got it today. He stepped on a booby trap – heard it click, and Capt. Barkman pulled him away fractions of a second before it finally went off – no one hurt. That’s pretty quick action on the part of ;the Captain, and pretty close shaving for Little Joe.
We’ll probably be out all day tomorrow. Bet my shoulder’s awful tired by this time tomorrow night, after humping the ’60 all day. Better get more ammo for the .45, too. Horwerter only has two rounds in the magazine. Guess he wasn’t kidding when he said he never uses it.
23 Aug. Happy Birthday! 82 days, Wednesday.
Twenty years old today, no longer a teenager, but still a minor. Minor or not, I think I’m getting too old for war.
At least we spent the day right – did absolutely nothing. Only got one card actually on the right day – several others earlier. Patti’s came right on time. Also got an application for membership in the Key Club (Playboy-type) from my parents, of all people. I don’t understand that at all. Anyway, the age limit is 23, so I’ll have to wait.
Branch got his upper and lower front teeth. Now he looks like a squirrel, instead of an eel.
Saw another freedom-bird today, they go over quite often at about 20,000 feet; headed for Tokyo and then the world! Today’s was about the fifth I’ve seen, but I think one must go over just about every day. I cry every time I see one.
Oh, another thing. I played some basketball today. Vietnam is simply too hot to play basketball.
83 days, 24 Aug ’67
Thursday – 6 months and I’ll be 100 days “short”.
Got a birthday package today form C. Ogg. A jar of peanut butter, and a far of Tang. The peanut butter had melted quite a bit in the heat, so we mixed the Tang with it and had a new breakfast drink/sandwich spread.
Lately, we’ve been taking Cheui Hois out with us to aid in finding hiding places, etc. I trust the ARVN S-2 people who were Cheui Hois – they’ve proven themselves. But these guys aren’t even ARVNs that we take with us now. There’s only 1 – now 2 – that goes out, but he’s not even given a weapon, which is probably a good thing. He’ll show us a few things – ammo or something, but I know that there are a lot of things he doesn’t show us – weapons, for example. Sometimes when we start to search a house, he’ll stop us and say, “No VC here,” hiding something maybe. We found a lid from an ammo box today and he tried to tell us that it fell from a helicopter. The worst part of it is that both of them live in our compound. They use our club, hear our plans, etc. Wonderful opportunity to spy.
Apparently, the higher-ups trust them, and I guess I do to some extent. They do help at times, and they seem all right. But if I ever see one try to slip off into the woods when no one’s looking, I’ll make sure he doesn’t get too far – one way or another. I’ll trust them, but I’ll also keep my eye on them. I’d hate to find one missing and then find him a half-hour later with about 50 or his friends.
We had a terrible time tonight. Every night the projector goes bad – picture flips – but tonight it did it all night. We did fix it finally about ½ way through the film, but just as we did, the generator got drowned out. Now power for an hour. It took 4 hours to show a 90-minute show. Longer that Ben-Hur. It was of so much I forget what is was about.
84 days, 25 August ’67, Friday (already?!)
Not that there’s anything special about the 25th, it’s just that is seems like Tuesday instead of Friday. Went into Cu Chi today, to take my camera to the repair shop. We spent the whole morning cleaning all the junk out of the ammo bunker – I never did make it to the PX. I never got a chance to even eat lunch. Guess I’ll wait some more.
Didn’t go out today and apparently we’ll be in tonight, so chalk up another day off. The brass has a meeting tonight in the movie room, so no movie.
We got a new guy yesterday, but today we got word that two of our boys are being transferred to the 199th Infantry-line Company. They’re going to have it rough now. Wallace has been wanting out of Recon for some reason, but Harris is worried, and I don’t blame him.
I’ve only carried my machinegun on two short operations, but each morning afterward, I’ve awakened with a very stiff and sore back. I either need one less machine gun, or replace my dot and air mattress with a Sealy Posturpedic. I don’t know, I’m 20 now. That’s about the age to develop a weak back. I’m just glad it goes away after I’ve been up for about a half an hour, and it wasn’t as bad today as it was yesterday. Send me a cane, Bob