27 December 2008


I will not apologize for the mild profanity that follows. It uses a word without which a rifle company in combat could not function. Ordinarily, I have referred to it as the "universal adjective." In the instance noted below, however, you just have to use the word to catch the emotion the Gunny was expressing for all of us. Read on. And if you won't, well, go.....ah, you get my drift.

My first night in the bush started with a brand new personal habit, and then added a couple of Charlie Company traditions.

I stayed awake until 0400, listening to the occasional chatter on the company tactical net and checking lines. I finally stretched out at 0400, and slept until the Gunny held reveille. With the exception of two nights that I can remember, that was my routine until I left the bush in mid-June 1969. My theory was that no one was going to attack after 0400, because as soon as it was light, the attackers would be exposed to our air cover.

The Skipper had several standing orders, including (1) no personal radios and (2) no dogs. More about the second one later. The Gunny carried the only transistor radio, so that we could get news from AFVN Radio.

The station signed on at 0600 with a wake-up call. [Listen, if you can—the printed page doesn’t do it justice. This was not Adrian Cronauer; rather it was one of his successors, (one of whom was Pat Sajak, starting in March or April 1969.)]

The Charlie Company tradition was that the Gunny would fire up the transistor, volume set at max, as soon as the morning DJ opened with
“Gooooooooooood morning, Vietnam.”

The Gunny responded, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you, Vietnam.”

Charlie 3 was in the habit of replying with, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you, Gunny.” And the day began.

For the next four months, that was reveille. (During one firefight, we suddenly heard the Gunny’s call. Charlie 3 responded. The VC/NVA stopped firing and left. Go figure!)

Next, we were buzzed by a flight of OV-10 observation planes confirming our position. That, too, was a morning routine.

Back to AFVN for a minute. At some point in the day, Chris Noel (oh, that voice) hosted her music show Chris was as close to being "the Vietnam War pin up," as could be, along with Ann Margaret.

She was just another up and coming "B" film actress, along with Annette, Sharon Tate, and others until 1965, when she toured a VA hospital. As a result, she auditioned for the Armed Forces Network (AFN) and started hosting A Date With Chris. She was revered for frequently flying to remote areas to put on USO shows in areas considered too risky for Bob Hope and the other big stars.

Vietnam veterans would become her mission in life after the war. Her first husband, a Green Beret captain (they married in Vietnam) was a PTSD sufferer and killed himself during the Christmas holiday season of 1969. In the 1970s she, too, began to suffer from PTSD. In the 1990's, she began working on the issue of shelters for homeless veterans in Florida.

Ask any Vietnam vet, "Have you ever heard of Chris Noel?" Watch his face. She is one of us, and we are proud to have her in our company.

Same for Ann Margaret. She still refers to Vietnam vets, many of whom she entertained via the USO and VA and military hospital visits, as "my gentlemen." She's our lady, too, God bless her.

Second platoon was assigned to conduct the morning local security patrol, which gave me an opportunity to get a feel for the terrain and the local area. The heat and humidity was oppressive. (I was coming from Illinois where the temperatures were in the 20’s.)

We were about a click (1 km) south of the Song Thu Bon. My patrol moved to the river, up the river for another click or so, into a series of villages or "villes" (Phu Nhuan (1), (2), (8) and (3)), back east into My Loc (2) at the base of the hill, and up to the top.

[The numbering system came from our maps. The Phu Nhuans, for instance, constituted a hamlet that covered about 10 to 12 square kilometers, most of which was rice paddy and tree line. There were about 10 distinguishable groupings of hooches which were numbered for reference. If anyone has access to maps, look at the Dai Loc Map sheet Vietnam 1:50,000, Sheet 6640IV, Series L7014. The Alamo is the hill at 914514.]

All during my patrol, I heard the explosions of 81mm mortar rounds near the company position. I learned later that our 81 mm mortar forward observer was registering preplanned fires for the night.

We returned at about 1500 and I briefed the Skipper. He informed me that the rest of the Company was going to move west about a click to Phu Nhuan (2), leaving Charlie 2 at the Alamo for one more night. At about 1800, the company saddled up and moved out. I immediately tightened our perimeter and had the troops dig in deeper. All stayed quiet.

And then it started. Incoming grenades and reports of people moving about to our front. I told Staff Sergeant Beyer to get on the horn to Charlie 6 just a second or two after he got on the horn to the 6. He called for 81mm mortar fire from Phu Loc(6). We got a battery-3, meaning each of the 8 tubes fired three rounds. The first 24 rounds came crashing in and sounded pretty close to me.

“Too close, Sergeant Beyer, too close,” came the cry from our lines.

I looked at Beyer. “What do you think?” I asked.

“Aw, hell, sir. If they can talk, it can’t be too damn close. [Into the radio handset] Repeat.” Within seconds another 24 rounds rained in. He then adjusted the impact area about 100 meters south, and called for a “Repeat.”

We had no casualties and the rest of the night was quiet.

No comments: