24 March 2010


In early November, the Battalion once again returned to the Arizona. The reinforcements we had received really helped, and there was no need this time for the provisional rifle company.

We also received word that as Vietnamization got moving, areas of responsibility for those units left would be changing. In December, 1/5 was to move its forward CP to Hill 65, located north of the Song Vu Gia.

But first, there was the Birthday.

The Marine Corps Birthday is the Day, and it matters not where you are, you mark it. Along with every other S-4 in the Marine Corps, I arranged for the companies to get a hot meal (steak, baked potatoes, vegetables) and a Birthday Cake. After I was sure that they had been sent out, I caught a chopper to Hill 65. Delta Battery was there and Dick Rollins was Battery XO. I got a look at the place and then Dick and I had our Birthday dinner. After dark, he found a couple of bottles of wine and we sat on a bunker on the east side of the hill, looking down into a rice paddy where an ARVN unit was engaged in a firefight that lasted for about an hour.

I was also monitoring the battalion tactical net. At about 2100, Jim Webb called the Old Man on the radio. Delta was the palace guard at the time. “Hey, Sir,” Webb said. “Look up.”

Almost immediately, a ring of 12 60mm flares popped around their position. “Happy Birthday, Sir. We just lit the candles on the cake.”

I returned to An Hoa the next day. A couple of days passed. At about 0200, one morning, I was called across the road to the Regimental S-4 shop.

“OK, Lad,” said a grim-faced Major Castagnetti. “I knew this was going to bite you in the ass. We just got word from Division that they need to send excess rifles to the South Vietnamese. This comes from the White House. We need those rifles back, and we need them within the next 24 hours.”

Damn! (Pronounced "die-yum!")

I went straight to the battalion comm shack and called the Old Man. He was not pleased, but after talking to the Regimental Commander, he cooled off—a little. By then, I had the armorer on the job and the Supply Section was busy confirming just how many of our rifles were “excess.”

In the next 24 hours, we exchanged a number of rifles for .45 pistols, and Regiment was mollified, but it was exciting. Major Castagnetti, bless his heart, never actually said the words “I told you so,” but I got the message loud and clear.

© 2010 Michael R. McCarty. All rights reserved.

No comments: