23 May 2009

TIME AT THE BRIDGE

We continued our stay at the bridge for another couple of uneventful weeks. Mike Koch went back to An Hoa as Executive Officer of Bravo Company and Dick Woods took over as Charlie 2. The bridge was our home. There were no more casualties, although we did medevac two Marines for head injuries.

There was always a close air support flight in the air, ready to respond to calls for CAS. Combat aircraft do not land with ordnance (bombs and rockets) attached to the plane. Therefore, if a flight was not called upon to attack during its two hour flight, it would be directed to a “free fire zone” to dump its ordnance. The Arizona was a free fire zone.

The A-4 had a 20 mm internal gun. After they dropped their bombs, they would shoot up the area. The easiest way for them to do that was to follow the river. The problem was that the spent brass still had to come to earth. Despite our repeated request that they fly along one side of the river or the other, they continued to fly right down the middle of the river. As they would fire, we could hear the spent brass splashing into the water.

The troops were terrified that they would be hit by falling brass. We would tell them to stand still, but there was always someone who would run. One night, two Marines ran into each other, forehead to forehead. They each then fell back and hit the asphalt. Each man was unconscious and had goose eggs on both the forehead and the back of the head. Within two days, they were back.

On May 13, my birthday, I got to the mess for a late breakfast. As I was eating alone, the Gunny came in for a cup of coffee. He brought me my mail, which included a number of cards. I explained that it was my birthday. He turned on his heel and walked off.

A couple of minutes later, he returned with a C-ration pecan nut roll into which he had stuck piece of lit time fuse. “Happy birthday, Lieutenant.” It was my most memorable birthday cake.

A few days later, we were alerted that the battalion would relieve 2/5 in the Arizona. That weekend, the Skipper’s jeep unexpectedly came down to the bridge. He, Neal, Woody and the Gunny were already aboard. He told me to wedge myself in, and we headed for the battalion CP. The new battalion commander, LtCol William E. Riley, Jr., USMC, had arranged for the officers and Staff NCOs to make MARS calls home. This was an an ominous sign, but typical of the Old Man'sleadership.

Fortunately, I remembered that Maryann was visiting my Mom that weekend.

The Military Affiliate Radio System was made up of ham radio operators in the States. The phone call would be patched into a shortwave station at An Hoa. The operator would then contact a ham operator in the States who would place a collect call to, e.g., my Mom’s house. I was able to speak to both Mom and Maryann.

We began to prepare mentally and logistically for our return to the bush.

1 comment:

Quotidian Grace said...

On this Memorial Day weekend, Mac, I want to thank you and all those who have faithfully served our country in the armed services.

Have a good holiday!