107 days, 17 Sept. ’67, Sunday
Beautiful day! No one bothers us all day, and there were no operations. For today, at least, everything was back to normal, no colonels trying to get their name connected with CRIP to impress their superiors, just relaxing at the club, shooting pool, watching the football game. I even wrote some letters; imagine that! Oh, yes, there’s a catch – we have to go out tonight.
It’s now the morning of the 18th, now I can tell what happened last night – you’d better sit down. After our semi-weekly barbeque steak dinner, we left for our ambush night – a house near the swamp, where 25 VC were supposed to eat at about 12:00 that night before moving on to Bao Trai to hit one of the AVN outposts.
We got our information from a double agent. The VC think he’s a VC (he actually goes on operations with them and shoots at our people, but actually he’s on our side). He was supposed to be with the group of 25 tonight, but instead led us to the house. I guess they trust the guy, after all, he is a good source of information and that’s where most of CRIP’s info comes from; guys like him.
We set up positions all around the house, and were supposed to wait there till 1:00 (got there at 10:00). Our position was in the water behind a berm. We were to wait till the VC got to within 10 meters of us before we fired. All we saw while we were set up was mosquitoes. Millions! I got 12 body count in the first half hour, and that was pretty good for being in the dark. They were buzzing around so much it sounded like a model airplane contest. If we’d stayed there another hour, they would have got me for a body count.
As we began to leave, we spotted 5 running across the field about 800 meters away (Starlights are great on a moonlit night). The guys in the position on that side of the house saw them earlier, as they entered another house across the field, but we waited for them to come to us, as we were supposed to do. They never came and an ARVN squad went out and flushed them out of the house they were in; that’s when we saw them running.
Our infantry squad ran out after them with 16s and 60s blazing with tracers. Fire fight at night frightening yet fantastic. The VC returned a couple rounds of fire, but then ran away. Through the Starlight, we saw two fall, but they never found the bodies. The two m-79s stayed on the road and acted as artillery, being directed by Mahoe with the Starlight; first good thing he’s done since he’s been here.
The VC that got away stopped again to return fire, but they shot into an area where they thought we were and were off by 200 meters. Nevertheless, we decided to leave before they got closer (2:00 a.m.).
All this was close enough for me, but it got closer. After an hour, we were on the road again, headed for Bao Trai, in file, 10 meters apart. As we approached a little village, a sniper with a carbine opened up on the rear of the column. Thank God his first 4 or 5 rounds were way high, and by the time he brought them down, everyone was off the road, literally buried in the rice paddy – my head was high enough to breath, but that was it. The rest was under the mud and water. Good thing, too, in no time the rounds were hitting in the road and whizzing, what seemed like inches, about my head. No one could fire back because we were all in a line with the sniper, directly to our rear – the only ones with a chance to fire were the people at the very rear. I don’t know why they didn’t do it sooner than they did.
As it turned out, the sniper quit to reload probably and I began to crawl out onto the road to put some fire down his way with my ’60, but as I started, someone with a ’16 opened up behind me – tracers everywhere around me – like a turtle, I was back in the water. At this time, the rear opened up and the sniper either was shot or di di mao(ed). When the bullets start kicking dirt up in your face, it’s about as close as I want to get! Your boy was a little scared for a while.
Wee, my time came the town was protected by a 3 foot berm, which intersected the road – like a dirt fort. Cito had spotted 3 more VC out in the field, so he set the scout section (7 ‘16s and my ’60) on the berm, and took the rest to the other end of town, and opened fire on nothing hoping the VC out in the field would try to come through the town – past our berm – to investigate and maybe ambush whoever it was that was doing the firing.
The tree in the field never appeared, but three others who had been in the town tried to run out away from the firing – right past our berm. We got low and they walked right past us. We couldn’t fire the other direction for fear of hitting our own men at the other end of the village. Once they had cleared the town past the berm, we opened up.
I swear we hit two of them (I saw one fall then get up again and crawl into some bushes). They had weapons, but simply ran into a tree line and disappeared without firing themselves. We investigated the bushes, but found nothing.
These were not a part of the VC we saw at the ambush – we were too far away from the site for that. They had to be a different group on the move to somewhere and were completely surprised by us coming down the road.
Bed felt good at 4:00 a.m. and we slept till 11:00 this morning. We came out of the whole affair smelling like a rose – we were lucky, hope we never have a night like that again. We might not be so lucky – Charlie might be more prepared next time. I hate night operations.
One good thing – my machine gun works like a charm. 150 rounds in about a minute, or less, of firing.
108 days, 18 Sept ’67, Monday
Our day started at 11:00, so it was rather short. We had a briefing after lunch about what happened last night and then later on we went to the compound next door (the S-2) for a ceremony for some kind. We stood in formation for an hour or so, with the S-2, while several ARVN captains and majors made speeches, which we couldn’t understand I think it was something in honor of CRIP, but it’s just a guess. We never understood a word the whole time. Even Cito could tell us nothing except that it was “a ceremony” and they wanted us there. The whole thing made no sense – to us anyway. The ARVNs were pleased with it thought, so it must’ve been all right.
Xin loi; short day, short letter. Still shaking from last night, Bob
109 days, 19 Sept, /67, Tuesday
We went out on an operation with battalion (2/27 & 1/27) which is like saying we went out all morning and did nothing but get tired. One of our new fellows stepped on a mine – heard the fuse click and dove into a ditch – which luckily had a 10-second delay on it.
We were a search force. The two battalions stayed outside the area, and we went in to search it. It could have taken an hour but they made us go through it about 5 times. The whole area was full of mines (we saw two others, which we destroyed) and punji pits. No one fell in a pit, but I found 4 that were still covered. Plus 17 zillion that had caved in.
All battalion did was sit down all morning and wait for anything that might run out of the woods trying to get away from us.
This afternoon was uneventful. I got the $50 M.O. from home, so now I have some money. My dad is going to buy my $90 camera for $60, plus his camera. I figure that’s a pretty good deal, so get ready for some more pictures some day.
110 days, 20 Sept./67, Wednesday
Went to Cu Chi this morning (finally got to drive my jeep) and cashed my $50 and bought out the PX, and paid a few debts. We rand a convoy back to Duc Hoa before returning to Bao Trai. I stopped there in Duc Hoa and bought a $3.30 beret. The ones everyone wears now are only $1.00 ones, and real flimsy, and cheap. Mine is heavier and of much finer quality, and it has a better shape – looks like beret instead of a high school graduate’s mortar board. As an extra touch, it has a silk label inside, written in Vietnamese. I think it was “made in Saigon” and some other stuff. I wear a size 54 Vietnamese hat.
“A yellow streak runs down their back;
on their heads, their berets are black.
One hundred men came here today;
And not one wants the black beret.”
Got a night mission again tonight. Hope it’s better than the one two nights ago. Get this: we’re going after some VC grave diggers! I’m training one of our new ‘cruits to carry the M-60. I’m a jeep driver now and can’t do both machine gun and drive. Besides, the ’60 is too heavy; heavier for example than an M-16 at any rate. Why should a 4-month vet carry it, when there’s a new guy to unload it onto? That’s what they did to me, now, finally it’s my turn. I’ll give it to him for good on the 23rd, making it one month I carried it. One day was too much.
111 days, 21 Sept/67, Thursday
Night mission wasn’t bad. We set up an ambush along one of the main roads out near some little village; only had to walk 200 meters to get there. It was dark – when we went through a hedgerow, we had to hold onto each other to keep from getting lost –for a while, then it rained for about half an hour, to cool us off. After the, the moon came out and there we were, sitting on a berm in the middle of a rice paddy in full moonlight. I felt like I was on stage in a spotlight. The road was only 75 meters away. We could be seen from it easily – great ambush!
We only stayed there until 11:00 and then went back to the village and set up positions in the roads leading into it and went to sleep – except for one man, one hour, guard shifts – till 6:30, when the truck came to get us.
I never really slept too well. What can you expect, using a machine gun for a pillow? I could have used it to shoot mosquitoes. I don’t see how the gooks sleep with all those mosquitoes. I think they burn some kind of incense (opposite of nonsense).
The trucks came at 6:30. it was just our ¾ for all of us, and the S-2. We usually can get our 30-some people on it, but the S-2 was too much (with our 30 on, it looks like something from the Keystone Kops). Trung Hie (ARVN Sgt.) jumped in front of one of these buses that run up and down the roads loaded with people hanging out the windows, on the roof, hood, anywhere they can hold on; and made everyone get off so we could pile on. I don’t see how these things run; they’re so beat up. I bet we were quite a sight – a bus load of fully armed CRIPs followed by the Keystone Krips (another good time for my camera).
We slept till noon today, despite several interruptions when a chopped flew over the tent and covered us with dust. It was too hot to put down the sides. The rest of today was just relaxing, etc. I went in to Bao Trai and bought a new foot locker – by other one has both hinges broken and was a little too small.
Right now, we’re in the middle of a flood. It rained hard all during the movie and when we walked out of the club, what a surprise – the whole compound was under water. It was half way up to my knees in the patio area. The chopper area is a lake. There is water all around the tent six inches or deeper. If it rises another inch, it’ll run over the floor and flood the tent. You can look between the cracks in the floor and see water. There are frogs hopping around on the floor. One side – the windward side – is soaked. Water standing in pools on the cots – they left the side up and it rained right in. my side is high and dry. There’s some nut out by the chopper pad building a boat and loading animals on it. Holy Noah’s Ark, Batman! What a rain!
I’m glad we weren’t on an ambush patrol tonight. The water pump’s been broken all day so no water in the shower; there were guys taking showers in the rain. I haven’t seen anything flood so much, so fast, since Riley Park in Indiana (ask M & D about that).
Even the bats that fly around the compound every night must have been rained out – radar might have gotten wet – they’re not out tonight. What a night; the belfry’s flooded, the bats are drowned, and the bell won’t ring. What’re ya goin’ to do? Sometimes things get so dab, all you can do is sit back and laugh at it all. I can say one thing – my bunk’s dry. Water, water, everywhere; One more drop and we’ll sink, Bob
112 days, 22 Sept/67, Friday
I thought I’d just start numbering letters (fine time)! I figure an average of one letter every 2 days should make this #56. How close is that?
More colonel trouble that could have been avoided had someone taken the time to get the whole story. The colonel came down this morning and saw how wet everything was from last night. He asked why everyone’s clothes, etc., were so wet, and some dud told him that the tent leaked. Colonel jumps on lieutenant about not providing for his men, and lieutenant orders tent torn down so we could get a new one.
We moved everything out and tore down the tent and loaded it in a big pile on a jeep. Of course, no one bothered to find out if there was a new tent in Cu Chi. After a morning of running around Cu Chi we found out there wasn’t.
This is when Cito asked me if all that water came from a leak. I told him that it came from the sides being up. Since the tent looks ratty, and does drip in a couple of places, but the reason they tore it down was because some fool told the colonel that all that water last night came from a leak.
We brought the same one back and set it up again, tearing it a couple of times in the process. Not it will leak. The liner got ripped so bad we tore it out. Now there’s no mosquito net, plus the fact that the liner helped keep the few leaks we had out of the tent and held most of the hot air in the space between the roof and the liner. Now we have leaks, bugs, and it’s twice as hot as it was. All because someone didn’t stop to think. At least we didn’t have a mission today.
113 days, 23 Sept/67, Saturday
This morning I spent washing jeeps in the river in Bao Trai. Well, I paid w kids 50c each for every jeep they washed. It’s a big business for the kids. Just drive to the car wash landing and there they are, all over you. Just pick the first two then go over to one of the girls selling Coke and sit in the shade (another good camera morning – sigh)!
Today they sold peanuts in cone shaped sacks made from un-used election ballots. I guess that speaks for the excellent election security. Also there was an old man with a bicycle equipped with insulated coolers, selling a kind of popsicle made from coconut milk. They were all different colors, but all tasted the same – frozen nothing! At least it was cold.
This afternoon I watched the ball game. They came in from Cu Chi with a new tent! Why couldn’t they have gotten this yesterday? Now we have to tear down and put up again. Glad they brought it though; it rained today and the one we have now leaks like a sieve since yesterday and it’s hotter than (as N. Carolina Jones would say) a fox in a forest fire in August with a southern wind. I guess we’ll put the new one up tomorrow.
114 days, 24 Sept/67, Sunday
Put up the new tent today so now we have no leaks, but we are still without a liner, and so no mosquito net in the tent (just our own on our bunks) and it’s hot. Watched Buffalo beat New York this afternoon 20-1. new York led 17-0 after ¾, but Buffalo came backing the 4th and tied the score with a 51 yard field goal and then won in the final 24 seconds. With another (44 yard) field goal. Great game!
An ARVN captain and three others were killed tonight when their jeep hit a mine on the Cu Chi-Bao Trai road. The jeep was thrown about 25 meters and looked like a crushed beer can. The hole in the road could have held a 2 ½ ton truck. The men were all literally ripped apart; legs, etc. blown off – really a bad sight.
They called us out to help or something. All we did was stand around and stare, like the crowd that gathers at a fire, then went back. Think I’ll take a shower and go to bed. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ, Bob