Chapter 2 - First day under fire
Arrived at Company C location late in the morning located somewhere between Chu Lai and Da Nang. I was assigned to a squad and we were told we would move out at nightfall....gee how keen that was going to be. The mosquitos are out in force once the sun goes down, and the VC love the darkness...
So, off we went trudging through the rice paddy's, stumbling over dikes and jungle junk. After about an hour there was hollering and guys running to the right to get away from something. Lord, it was a Water Buffalo charging the point team! They shot the beast with their M-16s, but that was like a bb gun against a grizzly bear. The M-60 machine gun crew came up and shot the buffalo down for the count. Hello, good morning Larry... welcome to life in the infantry. The VC trained the buffalo to come after the American GI.
We climbed a low hill side as the sun came up. While we were setting up a perimeter around the hill, a large explosion went off at the summit. It was a booby trap. A Medivac came within minutes and took away the poor soul that stepped on it. He survived only because the helicopter got him to an aid station within five minutes. He was in seriously bad shape. He was sent back to the USA for rehabilitation. We left that location soon after continuing our hunt for Charley (the Viet Cong). We climbed up rivers, mountains and across open rice fields. We stopped for the night on a mountain top. The helicopters brought in hot chow for us. When a second helicopter came in to drop off supplies, it had just lifted off when there was a double explosion. It was a "Bouncing Betty" land mine. There is an initial explosion to bring the charge up to chest level and then there is a second explosion with much shrapnel. Twenty-two guys went down, one KIA. I watched a Medic hold this guy in his arms while he bled to death from a gash in his throat. Jesus, I had to walk away and get sick. The CO sent out a recon-patrol to see if there was any enemy activity around the base of the mountain. Lord God, there was another explosion! A trip wire. I saw the explosion with the smoke and fire. I saw the point man disappear in the smoke. He lost his leg and a hand but survived because the Medivac was there for him in minutes. Well, I told the Squad Leader I wanted to volunteer to be the Radio Telephone Operator (RTO). The RTO never walks point. Walking point, the first guy ahead of the company, is a death sentence. I saw that with my own eyes.
While we were trying to get our **** together, the Squad Leader grabs the telephone hand set from me (I was given the radio right away. It was heavy and the guy with the antenna was a target. Oh, well…) He called into the Company Commander to report enemy activity down in the valley, in the tree line. I looked, but did not see anything at first. As I focused on the tree line, I could see VC walking in the trees. They did not know we spotted them as we were pretty busy at the time. The CO called in Fire Cracker Artillery Rounds ASAP. Wow, what a sight! The sky filled up with explosions over the valley and the tree line. The artillery rounds explode in the air and shower the ground with all kinds of shrapnel. No escape. We were not attacked that night. I had grabbed my ankles and was ready to kiss myself good bye, but apparently we scared the **** out of the remaining VC and they vamoosed quick time. Because we lost so many GI's from the company, we were ordered to return to base, LZ (landing zone) Hawk.