Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dec 22 - Dec 31, 1967

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?

Some anniversary.
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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dec 14 - Dec 21, 1967

171 days, 14 Dec/67, Thurs.

I lost both the screws out of my glasses yesterday, and went into Cu Chi today to get them replaced. I got a bottle of 100 – shouldn’t run out any more! Maybe I can go into business?

I saw Broton. In two days he goes to Japan for recuperation, and there’s a chance he might be sent to the States; maybe in time for Christmas.

It should be a good night to sleep. The moon’s out and it’s cool. You ought to see the moon here. It makes so much light when full on a clear night that you can distinguish colors or read a newspaper without straining your eyes – it’s amazingly bright (not unlike myself).

It’s been so “cold” here at night, I’ve had to wear a T-shirt to bed and use a wool blanket. By morning we’re freezing. Temperature? About 64 degrees, but in the morning we have our sleeves rolled sown and sit together wrapped in a blanket till 9:00, when it gets warmer.

They say it’s like this in the hot season – blistering in the day and cold at night. When it rained all the time the temperature varied from night to day, but not by very much. At least I can freeze at night and it seems like December instead of August, but the illusion is gone by 12:00 noon, as it becomes worse than August. Christmas in “August”; can’t use artificial trees – the plastic melts and the aluminum foil rusts! Ho, Ho, Bob

170 days, 15 Dec/67, Fri., 169 days, 16 Dec/67, Sat.

The President of S. Vietnam visited Bao Trai today (16th). To provide maximum security during his short visit, (about 2 hrs, from 8 a.m. to 10) we have been out since 10:00 yesterday morning, all night last night, and didn’t return to B.T. until 1:30 this afternoon, except for 45 minutes yesterday for dinner.

Yesterday morning and afternoon we mostly walked and rested every other hour (missed lunch). They let us come in for dinner – generous of them – but we were right back out again for an all-night ambush.

The ambush was unique in that we actually stayed in the same place all night; no walking around like we usually do. Nearly everyone went to sleep – I couldn’t see any wisdom in that, so I forced myself to stay awake all night. Didn’t see anything – should have slept.

In the morning they brought out some egg sandwiches and coffee for breakfast, and we spent the rest of the morning lying around waiting for word on then we could come in. it was a long, sleepless, 27-hour mission.

I don’t know why it is but it seems every time a VIP comes to town, CRIP has to leave. I thought we were pretty important and people (VIPs) who come to BT want to see us; Gen. Westmoreland came especially to see us, and they went us out anyway on a nothing. I guess it makes them – the higher brass – look good.

“Where’s CRIP, Major?”

“They’re out on another dangerous mission in defense of their country (and my coming promotion – Eh, eh?) Gen. Westmoreland, Sir.”

168 days, 17 Dec/67, Sun.

Today, for the most part, has been a day of cancellations. Everything began at 5:30 in the morning when we got up for breakfast, and the hurried to the airstrip. After a 4 hour wait our mission was called off, and we went back to BT on a standby basis. Another ARVN unit was in heavy contact near the river, and our choppers had been released to support them.

Back in Bao Trai, we were called twice only to have the mission cancelled before we got outside the gate.

During the day, the ARVNs had been pretty well shot up by the 269th VC battalion. There were 5 US gunship helicopters lost (all personnel rescued – some with wounds). All the ships involved – 12 troop carriers and 7 gunships (including the lost 5) received hits from ground fire. I haven’t heard any word on how the ARVNs or VC got along.

Anyway, just before evening chow, we were called again out to the airstrip. There were 8 shot-up airworthy choppers waiting to take us, according to the original plan, out to where two of the gunships ware still down. The ground fire had been too intense for the big Chinooks to pull them out as they did the other three.

We, without the S-2 who flat refused to go (Colonel Nanh refused for them) were to gout and set up an all night ambush to secure the 4 mini-guns on the chopper.

Can you imagine 35 men in the swamps; in an area where gunships couldn’t even get by; in the middle of a VC battalion on an all-bight A.P.?! One of the basic rules of an A.P. is “don’t let the enemy see you move into your AP site”, and we were going in on choppers! It was like a bad dream which is more important: 35 men or two helicopters?

While we waited for the go-ahead at the chopper pad, Colonel Cassidy – our head man, the one who sets up CRIP operations, got into the act and said that he didn’t want us committed unless lives were directly at stake - not just machinery. Hooray for Colonel Cassidy!

The plans changed. For a half hour, gunships, jets, and artillery pounded the surrounding area with everything available. Then two shoppers went out with two mechanics on board. With gunships overhead, the mechanics were dropped in. they removed the mini-guns and radios in record time and again were lifted out and back to the strip where we were waiting.

If they had been pinned down by fire, we would have had to go and get them out.

Our night isn’t over yet. We have to go out again in 20 minutes; hope it’s cancelled, too. So far, we’ve been scheduled for four missions today, and haven’t gotten any farther than the airstrip.
167 days, 18 Dec/67, Mon.

For all this month, it has been known that the VC are planning a large mortar and ground attack on the 18th – today. I want to believe that the attack on the 12th was this planned for the 18th. At any rate, we’ve got to be ready. Last night was more or less a practice for tonight. We set up defensive positions at each end of town. At one end were 2 106 jeeps – one borrowed from another unit – a gun-jeep and our ¾ truck with .50 caliber mounted on. That was the end where the attacks on BT usually come from. At my end, we had a 106 and one gun-jeep, plus an ARVN outpost with an armored car and two .30 caliber machine guns.

All as practice as well as security in case they hit on the 11th. The plan on both ends was if we received any fire, the machine guns and individual M-16s and M-79s were to provide strong covering fire, while the 106s shot 2 or 3 beehive rounds at the suspected area, and then we all were to head back into town (only 100 meters away in our case).

A beehive round from the 106 can be set for an air burst at any given range, up to 1700 meters. When it explodes, 2000 steel darts are sprayed in all directions. VC have been found with their arms pinned to their bodies or their bodies pinned to trees, after being hit with a beehive.

We set up regular guard shifts, and had a, thankfully, uneventful night. Today we’re resting. Tonight is the night – pray for peace. If the attack comes, it’s supposed to be a bad one – I’d hate to see any worse than the night of the 12th.

Oh. Yes, I got a letter from Marlynn today. She says she doesn’t read my letters anymore, because they scare her (scare myself once in a while). I’ll write directly to her and try to be gentle.
Gently, Bob

166 days, 19 Dec/67, Tues. (200 days in-country)

Last night we spent securing Gladys. Two 105 batteries (12 guns) and one 155 mm batter (6 guns) moved in yesterday to support the 1/27, which was in contact all day with the 269th VC battery. It was another long, cold night, pulling two hours of guard around the artillery’s perimeter and then trying to sleep the rest of the time. I felt pretty safe, however. We were sharing a bunker with 4 artillery people at our position.
There was one minor problem with the whole arrangement. The battery commander came by and said that we either had to seep with some overhead cove or stay awake all night. We couldn’t very well make the artillery people leave their bunkers, so we had to find someplace else nearby to sleep. The bunker was only big enough for 4 people to sleep comfortably; of course, if rounds began coming inc we could have squeezed 3 more it.

They were only there on a temporary basis, so there were no large bunkers or tents. The only thing nearby was a large armored vehicle, which looked like a truck, but ran on tracks. Their Lt. said we could sleep in the back of it. Fine idea, but . . .  We opened the door and found the thing was nearly full of 155 Howitzer rounds. The clown wanted us to sleep in a track full of live artillery shells – when the possibility of a mortar attack was very high!

“No Smoking Within 50 Ft.” signs all over it, in big red letters, and the man says go ahead and sleep in this! One mortar, one bullet, could hit that thing and . . .  You guessed it; we had not overhead cover so we stayed up until about 1:00, when we decided the man was asleep and went to sleep under the stars – near the bunker, though.

Nothing happened all night to us or to Bao Trai. It was supposed to have been a bad night, but I guess Charlie figured he’d be better off in bed.

We slept and loafed all day today, and the artillery moved out. At the present time, the VC are having a large fire-fight between themselves (we can actually hear it here in Bao Trai). We’re helping out, however. One side of the VC is being “supported” by gunships and the other is receiving direct “support” form US artillery. It’s the least we could do.

We’ve got a new Lieutenant. He’ll be here for a couple of weeks working with Straub. Straub leaves the first part of January, and this guy takes over. He’s fresh from the States, but was an instructor in the Ranger school at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He must know something at least. I hope he’ll be better than Straub. I really haven’t tried to form an opinion of him yet – I even forget his name.

165 days, 20 Dec/67, Wed.

We had a lazy morning, but in the afternoon, we all grabbed shovels and filled sandbags for a wall around our tent and green hutch. We had the whole thing done in 3 ½ hours; quite a job. I guess those mortars landing in the compound made somebody realize the need for protection.

I was very pleased to get your letter. I’m sorry my letters scare you and Marlynn, but things are what they are. My R&R will be in Hong Kong (I’ll probably get bombed by the Red Chinese). I had these choices: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Australia, Tai Pei, Bangkok, Singapore, Penang (Malaysia), The Philippines, and Kuala Lampur. Also there are 3-day leaves in Vang Tao – Vietnam.

I picked Hong Kong because it’s inexpensive and also a large well-known place. All the others, Tokyo, Hawaii, Australia, are expensive and the rest are cheap but hardly heard of (bet you can’t guess where Kuala Lampur or Penang are).

Really enjoyed the news about Marlynn and Jere. I guess I’m not the only bad shot – I messed a gook and Jere missed a deer. I hope he continues to out maneuver the Army. Dating Jan and Suzie – outstanding; who’s Suzie?

Jere might do well to hang on to the ‘Beam. I wouldn’t want the car – rather have a brand new one – but if I end up getting a Tiger, maybe I could buy or trade some parts.

I’m hoping for a quiet Christmas, although it’s terribly difficult to believe that it is Christmas. There are Christmas songs on the radio, but they don’t seem to mean much in the 90 degree weather. There is none of that Christmas feeling – and it’s not just the temperature. No parking lots filled with pine trees, no house decorations, no crowded stores, no snow; somehow it’s just not the same. It’s like the song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas; if only in my dreams”.

164 days, 21 Dec/67, Thurs.

Sandbagged all day today, nearly have the hutch and tent completely surrounded. I sleep better now.

It’s a fact, if they learn when Bob Hope will be in Cu Chi, ever effort will be made to get us in to see him! Oh, how I wish I had a telephoto lens. He’s in Vietnam now (first stop, Da Nang, up north) and plans on coming to Cu Chi, but never says when.

News on the radio says entire 25th infantry division leaving Vietnam! That’s all I heard I asked around and someone said that they (we?) were going to Hawaii to “re-group” and then . . .? It’s the first and only time I’ve heard of this. It’s supposed to take place the 18th of Jan. So I guess I’ll just sit and wait. Wonder how long it takes to re-group? Wouldn’t it be loverly if it took 4 ½ months (time left as of 18 Jan.)? I’m sure the time would cont o the Vietnam tour. Hmmmm . . .  Shorter than I think? Bob

Dec 10 - Dec 13, 1967

 (Nothing for the 10th)

174 days, 11 Dec/67, Mon.

I started feeling sick last night, so this morning I missed my first mission since we started in July, and went to Cu Chi. They were only out two hours, but they got one VC. I got a bottle of pills and a blood test. No worms, just a stomach upset. I guess I deserve a rest. I’ve been on every CRIP mission since July. I did miss two others, but they were affairs where only one squad went out.

Let’s see . . .  I guess that’s it for today. It seems that the longer I’m here, the more routine things get to be. It seems the letters are getting shorter and shorter (like yesterday’s). Somehow most things that happen don’t seem worth mentioning.

Try writing something about everyday of your life. It would be hard to make it interesting after a while. In short, I’m trying to say that I don’t believe my letters have the interest they used to, and I certainly am finding it more difficult to come up with anything clever. I don’t really know why, other than the reason I just mentioned.

173 days, 12 Dec/67, Tues.

I literally slept all day today. Slept through breakfast, woke up at 8:00, and went to sleep at 9:00. Slept till 12:30 (lunch – someone woke me up). Back to bed at 1:0 till 4:00. Usually it’s too hot to do that, but today it was “cool” (80).

The Christmas decorations are going up. There’s an artificial tree in the club and mess hall, and every MACV hutch. Even the tent has a tree. Out hutch has only a small musical tree my parents sent. One guy has a stocking hanging from his bed. They have lights around the roof of the little guardhouse on the main street wall. Merry Christmas. They’re playing Christmas songs on the radio. I wish it would snow.

172 days, 13 Dec/67, Wed (night of the 12th)

Last night (12th) an ambush patrol of the 1/27 Infantry made contact with an unknown size force of North Vietnamese Regulars – the king they’re fighting on the DMZ – steel pots, green uniforms, and all. They – the 1/27th – were forced to retreat but not before they killed 54 of the NVAs. Like a bad habit, they sent us out on an intel report, on mortar positions near BaoTrai. There we were again, after a battalion, possibly, we had no way of knowing.

All went well. We searched our three objectives – all within sight of the lights of Bao Trai. We were set up in a temporary position, while the Lt. called in his report, when – and I hate to sound this dramatic – all Hell broke loose.

Mortar rounds and light weapons fire began to hit Bao Trai. We could see the muzzle flashes of the mortars way off in the distance and every now and they a rocket would streak across the sky toward B.T. I have never seen such a heavy volume of fire come – or go into – B.T. from where we were it seemed the town was being overrun. The fire grew more intense, and soon we were pinned down by friendly or VC (who knows?) fire. My guess would be stray rounds from B.T. 3000 meters away. We even received some mortar or artillery fire dangerously close.
Those had to be the longest 20 minutes in my life – it seemed like hours. When the firing ceased, we moved quickly to a small village, and set up an ambush on the read for any VC possible retreating from the action, trying to find safety in the swamps.

An ARVN outpost not too far away began firing almost as heavy as B.T. after we had been set up only a few minutes. Every 5 minutes or so they would open up with everything they had: 50s, carbines, B.A.R., the works. And all in the direction of the swamps. A few rounds, however, came whizzing by us, so we had to move to a different location, which turned out to be the main road about 2 clicks away. During the move we were forced down several times by fire from the compound. They weren’t shooting at us specifically. We were too far away to be seen. They were simply firing for security and we happened to be in the way.

At 4:30 we made it to the road and on into Bao Trai, after the longest night I’ve spent in VN so far. Shaking, Bob

172 days, 13 Dec/67, Wed.

After getting to bed at about 5:00 this morning, we got up at 7:30 for another mission (another bad habit of theirs). The mission was simple enough and on our second LZ the gunships spotted a VC bunker hidden just on the edge of the swamps. They pulverized it pretty thoroughly, and then we moved in with the gunships hovering about 10 feet overhead. It was pretty heavy brush.

In the bunker, we found a dud 105 mm artillery round, five 82mm mortar rounds, 2 grenades, and 2 Chicom carbines – no VC. So now I sit, after an afternoon of rest – a small outpost has been mortared tonight, and everybody here is extra cautions after last night.

I said once before that no one really knows fear until he’s been on a night patrol in Vietnam. Last night just made me believe that more. There we were, for all we knew a battalion-size force was hitting Bao Trai harder than ever, and we were out in the middle of it all. The ARVN outpost was firing later – it seemed we had bullets flying around us all night. A few more night like last night and I’ll be a nervous wreck.

Even now when I sleep at night, they can fire the artillery and I’ll sleep through it. But let one round fall on an outpost anywhere within hearing range, and I wake up, sitting straight up in bed, heart going double-time. A couple of times I’ve awakened to distant small arms fire. I guess it’s good to have quick reactions, but it’s a terrible feeling.

Someone walked out of the hutch this afternoon, clapping his hands to the radio. The first “clap” sounded just like a carbine being fired at me, and I instinctively crouched. I jump at nearly every loud noise. When I get home, I’ll be walking down the street and hear a car backfire and drop to the prone on the sidewalk – everybody’ll think I’m nuts!

It’s gotten to the point where just by the sound of the weapon – any weapon – I can tell whether it’s aimed in my direction or not. I don’t need to wait to see a tracer or hear the round whiz by – can’t afford to wait, must kiss Mother Earth after six months, I can tell the difference between an M-16 or B.A.R. (or M-16 and AK-47 on auto). In 6 more months, I’ll be a bundle of nerves.

I guess I should say a little about the damage to Bao Trai. Several mortar rounds hit just outside the bunker line, and several others in the buildings surrounding the compound. Four rounds hit in the field sued for the chopper pad – no real damage. One hit in the courtyard just about 10 feet from the patio. This is the one that caused all the damage, although very slight.

All those bushes with the pretty red flowers are broken and without a large portion of their color. The chairs in the patio have several small holes in the plastic, as well as a few of the ashtrays made from artillery casings, which had holes clear through them. Every building except our green hutch which was protected by a line of jeeps (three of which had flat tires from shrapnel) is peppered with shrapnel holes.

The brick/masonite buildings only have chips out of them, but the two wooden buildings had metal go clear through the walls. In one hutch the man in the top bunk was startled awake by the impact (only 10 feet away) and found his mosquito net ripped ;by shrapnel and a few pieces lying on his pillow. None hit him! Polk and I picked 15 pieces out of the trees this afternoon. All this from one round, which left a hole 2 feet across and a foot deep – like a cone.

If we’d been in BT at the time, I might have been on my way across the patio to my position on the main street wall when the mortar hit. There was no safe place in the whole province last night.

Two of the guards on the bunkers received minor cuts from the shrapnel, which hit out there and the mess Sgt. was hit on the hand, but not seriously. The town itself all total received nearly 50 rounds of mortar and rocket fire. Two ARVNs were wounded and one was killed (not S-2).

In the attack on Duc Tap tonight (see last letter) a US captain giving a going away part for himself (would have left tomorrow) was hit, but not killed.

Now I guess I’ll get some needed sleep after I shower and shave. I have a 2 ½ day growth. It did keep the mosquitoes away last night. Sort of a punji pit for mosquitoes.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dec 1 - 9, 1967

182 days 1 Dec/67, Fri.

We went to bed early (9:30) and this morning, I feel a lot better. Some big reporter from the New York Times or Newsweek, I forget which, wanted to do a story on CRIP. He wanted to see us in the field, so they sent us out today. We acted like we were searching the area then we sat for nearly 4 hours, waiting. Finally the guy came along with 3 chopper loads of generals and colonels. They stayed about 5 minutes, talking to the Lieutenant, then flew away. We walked 8 clicks back to the road.

It’s all right, though. It’s interest like this from the high ranking people that keeps us together as CRIP, instead of becoming part of the battalion again.

There was a little excitement on the way in. we met up with the 49th Recon (ARVN) a group who often is on joint operations with us, as we came in to Duc Hanh “B”. Most of our guys were up on the road with the trucks, but a few of us along with the 49th were bringing up the rear, when a sniper opened up with some nasty old automatic weapon; zing zing zing!

Everybody hit the dirt, but after the first burst, I saw the bunkers outside of town only about 100 yards away. The first few rounds were quite high, and I couldn’t see saying out there in the open in case the next few rounds were lower. I must’ve run that hundred yard dash in 9.1, ‘cause after I took the second step, the fool began shooting again – still at tree tops level (if there had been any trees). I’ll take on Bob Hayes if some one’s shooting at me. Think what I could do in track shoes!!

After he fired for the second time, his muzzle flash was spotted (it was just at sunset) and everybody in CRIP and the 49th returned fire – all directly at the spot where the flash came form we went out to search the wood line and found one VC, looking like a chuck of Swiss cheese, and one B.A.R., also with a few bullet holes. The guy had guts, but what chance could he have against the equivalent of a company (100 men approx.)?

For a pacified area, there have been a lot of foreign objects whizzing at and past us in the last week or so.

Hope they finally decide to pay us tomorrow.

With love and empty pockets,
183 days, 2 Dec.67, Sat.

Guess what, You know what that means? I’m one-half of the way home, 183 days in country, 183 days yet to go. I’m going down the hill, counting down, I’m what they call a “short-timer”. I’m short!!! Today is a national holiday!

We celebrated the holiday by getting paid and having the rest of the day off. They ruined it by giving us shots – I got two – plague and cholera. My arms are so sore, I’m dictating this letter to a friend. [Not]

More good news. We’re not going to Trang Bang; in the near future, at least. I guess after the attack a couple of nights ago, they figured they needed us.

A wise decision, too. They test fired their two .57 cal. Machine guns, and two .30 cal., plus our 4 M-60s. these are the 8 principal weapons other than M-16s that are on the bunkers during an attack. Our M-60s were the only ones that fired. If they ever had a ground attack here, they’d be in bad shape without our guns!

182 days (left), 3 Dec/67, Sunday

We had another party this afternoon. This time the S-2 platoon all came over and had – probably for the first time – barbequed steaks and chicken our style. They loved it. They also loved our American beer. Ever see a bunch of drunken ARVNs try to play volleyball?

It’s been quite an afternoon. We’ve eaten since 2:00 and the fire is still hot enough to cook on, although I think everybody is fully stuffed. It doesn’t seem possible that you could spend an afternoon like this in Vietnam, but hen where else could you find ARVNs?

My parents tell me Jere has his new Cougar. Make me think, it’s been  a long time since I’ve heard anything about any of you. I haven’t even seen Marlynn’s picture in the paper lately. What about her and school? What about Jere? Working where? Living where? Has a Cougar, what about the ‘Beam? Still in school? Still 1-A? Dating anyone special? Still alive?

Have him write me himself. Please, someone, write and tell me what’s happening.

181 days, 4 Dec/67, Mon.

We’re here by an act of God. It had to be. The plan was to walk out to the same area we were in the morning we had contact (the 15th) and called gunships, etc. the 49th Recon went with us to the area at 4:00. we stayed till 6:30, when the 49th pulled out to make the VC think everyone left. We hid in the three different hedgerows in ambush for what the intel. report said would be “an unknown size enemy force” passing through the area at about 7:30.

We began spotting figures moving in the distance in groups of 3 and 4, some to the east, some west, and some south. It was getting dark, and it seemed as though they knew we were there, and trying to surround us (although they were nearly 2,500 meters or more from us and barely visible in the shadows).

We were seating a little, then they spotted 30 moving toward us from the north also, 2-3 clicks away. Shortly afterward, it seemed like instantly, it got dark. Then there were small groups of VC in three directions, and 30 moving toward us from the north and no Starlights.

We were to wait till 7:30 then if no contact we were to start back to the road, 2000 meters east. We sweat and worried and looked till 8:30.

They called in a few artillery flares which revealed nothing so we began to walk back. The 49th Recon was set up parallel to us as we walked back they had their positions (ready to support u sin case they were needed) in the hedge line to the south, for about 1000 meters along our route back. They knew we had to walk in front of them to get back.

Well, after about 300 meters, we received carbine fire from the south. Nobody hit, but all down in the water. Thinking it had to be the 49th getting trigger happy and being so used to these stupid ARVNs shooting at us before, we didn’t return fire.

There were only a few high rounds, and we got up and continued on. Again, this time after another 300 meters, and much closer overhead. Lying in the water we heard them zinging through the 3 foot high rice, we got fire from the south, but more to our rear than before. Probably the same position as before. Again the 49th , again no return fire by us. What can we do, they’re friendly (who needs enemies?)

The machine gunner and I were the last two men in our column with Sgt. Mahoe, the 3rd man. The second time we were fired upon, we had to lie flat on the ground behind a berm, only 3 inches high. With rounds coming so close, it had to be the lowest berm in VN. I had my rifle up to protect the top of my head and when we finally got up, I had mud caked on the inside of my glasses, I had been buried so low. Sgt. Mahoe told the machine gunner that if they fired again, he was to fire back.

It never happed and we made it to the road after some very fast walking, cursing the 49th ARVN Recon and their American advisor all the way. We got to the road and our trucks and speak of the devil, guess who else was there, and had been since 7:30? The 49th Recon!!!

Yes friends, they left at 7:30 as planned, figuring we would too. When they left at 6:30, they only moved to the positions nearby to fool VC. They wanted to know what all the shooting had been about out there!! There was only one explanation – it had been VC doing the shooting at our silhouettes in the dark and not the 49th!

Here’s the thriller later report came in all night and this morning (5 Dec). We hear that in that immediate area at the time we were walking back and the 49th was safe on the road, there had been an estimated 150 to 200 VC with weapons. Somehow we had slipped through nearly a battalion of Charlies!!

If we had returned fire and given ourselves away as “unfriendlies” and not just shadows (VC can’t see very well at night either, but they can tell when they hear M-16s fire at them that GIs are around). Everything would have broken loose and they surely would have walked all over us. If we hadn’t thought it was the 49th over there, mistaking our file for a VC movement in the dark . . .  I hate to think about it.

You can see what I say about being here by an act of God. There is no other explanation. We came so close. Amen, Bob

180 days, 5 Dec/67, Tues.

Spent the whole day in the swamps and got very wet and tired, but that’s all. We had a little excitement on each of our two LZs. Both were in some petty thick stuff, and so the door gunners and then new Cobra gunships really poured the dead into the woods. One stray round from somewhere – maybe even a VC sniper – caught an ARVN in the leg and we had to pause for the dust-off chopper.

The second LZ was the same story, only no one got hit this time. When we picked up the second time, they once again put out “security fire” as we went up. We spotted a large water bird over the river and pointed him out to the door gunner. The guy did some fancy aiming at 1000 feet, doing 60 knots, and picked the bird off in one short 10 round burst. Re-established my faith in chopper gunners.

The gunships – old Hueys and new Huey Cobras – were busy al afternoon in the area, doing LZ security for other units, and in the meantime destroying suspicious bunkers, etc. in the swamp. Quite a sight. The mini-guns put out so much fire, it looks like the ship’s on fire – a constant flame from the nose turret (Cobras) and side guns (Hueys). They would get up at above the target, about 1000 feet or more, and dive nearly straight down firing two rockets at a time, about 4 times, then follow up with about 5-10 second –mini-gun rounds. All this, moving at about 200 knots in the case of the Cobra – slower for the Hueys. Security is two Hues-Cobras. Happiness is knowing they’re on our side.

One rocket, by the way, would, on a direct hit, completely level a house our size. Eight or more would quite easily wipe out the entire Illinois Ave. neighborhood. Nasty thought, but it gives you some idea of the destructive power.

Did I tell you the mini-gun will completely cover a football field in 3 seconds, with the rounds only a foot apart?!

179 days, 6 Dec/67, Wed.

The day began with a planned 10 click walk through the swamp, during which we crossed 5 rivers or canals, two of which were over our heads. You know, it’s hard to swim with your weapon and ammo, and everything. the ’16 got several good baths. We had gone about 7 clicks when they called in a new mission in a different area.

The choppers dropped us in an area about 3 clicks from BT, at the edge of the swamp. It was supposed to be a split LZ, with one half landing at the edge of the swamp, and the other half (mine) on the dry side of the objective. As soon as we hit the ground, we were supposed to move toward the center, towards each other, and trapping any VC hidden in the hedges.

I’ll tell you what happened on the other LZ first. As soon as they touched down, they received fire and took cover. The gunships spotted 3 VC in a rice paddy, hidden in the tall rice and dropped a smoke grenade to mark the spot. The paddy was only about 30 meters square, so all the guys did was line up on one side and spray the rice with everything they had. When it was all over they searched through the field and found the 3 dead VC and 3 Chicom AK-47s. The VC were not just farmers with stolen guns, but hard-core Viet Cong. The AK-47s were brand new – beautiful weapons. Each had full filed gear, pistol belt, suspenders, six 40 round ammo clips, canteens, and first aid packs.

While all this was going on, on the other side, I was having an experience I’ll remember all my life. Somehow, our choppers got split up at our LZ, so in effect, we had a triple LZ, one without a ranking man higher than E-4, and no radio. It wasn’t, however, this group that had the problem.

The group I landed with had the lieutenant, his 2 RTOs, Sgt Howerter, Groton (the guy who loves boats) and me, plus about 8 ARVNs. We didn’t see the rest of the group till after the shooting was over. As soon as we landed, Howerter, Broton, Anh (ARVN) and I saw a man running from us, about 400 meters away, so we gave chase.

We lost sight of him, but kept searching. We came to a little road and at the end of it, the VC was running into a hedge line, about 100 meters away. We all opened fire and thought we had hit him – we saw him fall – he had no weapon at the time.

Howerter, Broton, and Anh ran down the road to check him out. I started to follow, but I was the only one who heard the Lt. yell from behind to wait for him. I stopped about 50 meters from the hedge line, but the others went all the way to where the road met the bamboo.

It happened suddenly; I saw smoke and a muzzle flash from the hedge line – a burst of automatic fire about 50 feet from Howerter. I saw Broton and Howerter had taken cover, and figured Anh was also safe. Within milliseconds, I put a 20-round magazine, one round at a time, at the cloud of smoke in the hedge line with tracers. I know that every round went to that exact spot, one at a time. If the VC had even been lying flat on the ground, I would have hit him. I thought for a moment I was him begin to rise, then fall, but I kept shooting to be sure.

As soon as my clip emptied, and I quit shooting, I stood there – helpless – and watched him jump from his hole wearing full field gear, and carrying an AK-47 (all hidden in the hole into which he had “fallen”, when we first fired at him. He was only 75 meters from me, as I saw him run around the corner of the hedgerow and disappear – what could I do?

 Out of the hole, three long, frightened steps, and he was gone. No time to reload; I felt like yelling for him to stop. My hand instinctively went for a grenade, but there was no time and too great a distance. I have never felt so helpless in my life. Everyone else was too far behind to fire, without endangering Howerter and me. Howerter could have shot, but it all happened too fast.

It wasn’t until now that I heard Broton screaming for a medic. He couldn’t have fired back; his right arm had been broken by a bullet and was spurting a steady stream of blood, six inches into the air. He was also hit in the stomach. It nearly made me sick. Anh was lying on his back in the rice paddy, with about 5 rounds in his lower abdomen, groin and thigh. Howerter was not hit. All I could see was that VC getting away while I sat there doing nothing. There was no way I could have kept them from getting hit, but at least I could have shot the one who did it.

The St. had arrived along with the RTOs and the rest of the ARVNs. I had my first aid pack on Broton’s arm wound. He was losing a lot of blood. It was a hard decision to make, which man to help first, but Broton was American and I honestly thought Anh was dead. The RTO took over on Broton, and the ARVNs did what they could for Anh. Both medics had been assigned to the LZ by the swamp!!. The rest of us went out in futile search of the vanished VC. The dust-off came in just as the rest of our group was finding their way to our location.

We made a quick search of the area and found nothing more and started back to BT. Broton was all right, but Anh was dead when they put him on the chopper. Somehow I keep blaming myself for letting the VC get away, but actually I guess it wasn’t my fault. I did the only natural thing to do; put as much lead his way as I could to keep him down, if nothing else, so he couldn’t shoot anything else.

In this I did a good job. The hole he had been in was pretty well chewed up around the edges, and all the leaves and twigs were shot off the bamboo. If he’d stuck a finger up, I would have shot it off.

When I quit firing, he got up and ran, instead of firing again at me, or anybody. He definitely was scared. I don’t believe he knew I was out of ammo in that magazine. His only thought was to get out before I fired again.

I will always feel that if I had kept my cool a little more, and either fired slower, giving the others time to catch up – or, better yet, fired about 15 rounds then paused! When I would have paused, he would have run then; the only difference being I would have had five rounds left. At 75 meters and five tracers, I know I couldn’t have missed.

No one has ever said anything to me about him getting away, but I know I could  have gotten him.

I don’t know what happened to our LZ. If we’d had full strength, it might not have happened. Why there were two medics at the LZ and none at ours . . .? (Doc Brooks is breaking in his replacement).

I’ve my own opinions about Lt. Straub. I think he proved some of them today. Judge for yourself – I think he really botched up a good plan by giving unclear instructions and not distributing the men properly. The other LZ had 3 M-60s, while we only had one. The squads were split up, leaving some people without squad leaders. Howerter, or squad leader, Broton, and I were the only scouts at our LZ. The rest were on the other with no leader or radio. On one of the men, including squad leaders, even knew of the planned two LZs – only  Straub and Sgt. Mahoe knew.

Broton is one of the better guys in the platoon, and a real good friend; it’s like a nightmare, seeing him hit. The way he was bleeding, I thought he would bleed to death. Anh, likewise, had become a good friend, not only with me, but everyone in the platoon. He was one of the best and most dedicated of the S-2. They followed him almost more than their Trung Wi. He’d been around a long time, and knew his business – he was a great guide to the ways of the VC.

Not only was he a good soldier, but he was also a very friendly, likeable type of guy. He spoke just enough English words to be understood. He and I were pretty close friends. I have been to his house twice, visiting with him, his wife, and 3 kids. Lovely family, now without husband/father. Tragic.

It’s a great sadness, I found, when you lose a close friend; especially in such a way as this. Broton’s wound was hard to take, but when they said Anh died, I felt like crying. Needless to say, I felt 10 times as bad about letting the killer get sway after I heard.

The whole experience will stick with me as long as I live. I wish I could forget the whole thing, but I know I never will entirely. I can see the VC running, and Broton and Anh lying there, just as plain as when it happened.

It hardly seems fair that such a fine person as Anh should have to die (what about his family?) and the Viet Cong got away clean. I guess that must be what they call “God’s will”. In mourning, Bob

178 days, 7 Dec/67, Thurs.

We’ve had the day off today. I imagine due to what happened yesterday. One of the officers in the signal platoon here saw me in the mess hall this afternoon, and said, “Had a pretty good day yesterday, I hear.” I was shocked for a minute, but then I realized that although we had a man wounded and lost a man, we did kill three Viet Cong hard-cores, and captured all their gear, including 3 AK-47s. I guess it was in truth a good day, but it was just overshadowed by our own losses.

Broton has a broken right forearm, and was hit in the gall bladder. He has two souvenir bullets and about 2 months rest. There’s a chance that the whole platoon might got o Anh’s funeral in Saigon tomorrow. It’ll be a military funeral.

The atmosphere was a little happier today; I feel a little better. Mostly, I guess, knowing Broton will be all right, and also the shock of the thing has worn off some. We’ve been getting shot at too much, and the leadership has been much poorer than ever before. The only competent leader we have now is Sgt. Mahoe, but he can’t do everything. the Lt. isn’t quite all put together.

We have three squad leaders, infantry’s is an E-6, but scared of his shadow. The 106’s is an E-5, recently promoted form Spec 4. He knows his business, but has let E-5 go to his head. Jones is one of the original Recon. Howerter, also an E-5 with swelled head problems, is the “scout master”. He’s immature and has the mentality of a 3 year old (a general problem with all except St. and Mahoe). The Lt. is intelligent but defiantly not too sure of what’s happening with his platoon.

Add to this, we have about 15 or so people with only 60 days or less in country, who have never been told what to do and how to do it. Cito used to give us regular classes on procedure and tactics. We always had a critique after every mission in which we had contact or made mistakes in any way. Straub has never done this.

All this, plus the fact that the VC activity gets heavier during the dry season, adds to the fact that we’ve been getting shot at too much and doing nothing about it. In two days we’ve had 2 wounded and one killed. That doesn’t sound like the CRIP I used to know. Nothing is as frustrating as being shot at and not getting the guy who did the shooting, especially if he hits one of your guys – how well I know.

I figure I’ll stay on till after my R&R. then I’ll try to get into the combat artist’s program in Cu Chi, if I can get in. I’ll spend my last 3 months drawing pictures.

177 days, 8 Dec/67, Fri.

Day off again. I got my R&R application in and accepted, now all I need is orders and passport. It’ll come February 25th, give or take a day or two. I also got a chance to see Broton in the hospital. He looks bad, but I guess he’s all right. His arm is in a cast and still bleeding at times. He has a big patch on his side and a 12 inch incision down the middle of his stomach where they cut it to get at the bullet. The whole affair is held together with about 30 stitches.

There is a tube entering his nose, going to his lungs to clear out some bad congestion (I don’t know what caused that). He has another tube into his arm for plasma and another for his meals. Despite all this, he’s in great spirits and didn’t seem to be in much pain. He’s still a little pale. The doctor told us that he got up and walked a little this morning.

The hospital was full of GIs and Vietnamese – military and civilian – and I’d say Broton was in better shape than any of them. It was a gruesome sight, seeing so many people all shot up, or blown up. Some were nothing but a pair of eyes and red-stained bandages. They all seemed to be conscious and not really suffering too much, but I’m sure they had been at one time.

It made me wonder if it was all worth it – the war and everything. I began to see visions of me in those beds, so I excused myself and left. I want to see Broton again, but I’ll wait till he’s moved to a “healthier” ward.

176 days, 9 Dec/67, Sat.

Froze this morning when I got up – must’ve been 65 degrees and I had to roll down my sleeves to go to breakfast! I’m glad I don’t go home in December in a way. I’d freeze after 6 months of summer. Had a third day off, which enabled me to watch the Thanksgiving Day game between Oklahoma and Nebraska. I didn’t stay for the whole game, but I think O.U. won (Dad’s last letter was in black ink).

This month’s promotion lists came down today. Three guys made Spec. 4, one had been here since August, the other two since September. All three made PFC as soon as they got here, and are now Spec. 4. I got here in June and made PFC the same time; I’m still PFC – I think someone forgot about me. Maybe next month, Bob