May 15, 1967 - Dinh Tuong Province

4th/47th's First Battle in the Mekong Delta. . .

May 15th Battle | Newspaper Articles | After Action Report | "The Ultimate Game" by Gene Harvey

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       Still, I must say that some of my better nights in the jungle were when we would set up a perimeter along side of tanks. This was not as stealthy as when we were alone for the obvious fact that you couldn't hide the tanks.  Thus, the VC always knew where we were. We knew where they were too as we would watch them through our starlight (night vision) scopes.  At the time, this was new technology. This amazing gadget would magnify the light of the moon and stars and allow us to see like a cat at night, that is if cats see everything in a greenish ghoulish glow.  However, they were very expensive and seemed that we only had a couple supplied to each company. Even though we could see the VC  running around outside of our perimeter, we never fired at Charlie at night, not wanting to give up our individual positions with the muzzle flash from our weapons.  I especially did not wish to fire my M60 machine gun as I knew that, at night, a machine gun was the VC's first target of choice. During the day, however, officers were the VC's first target of choice (head of the snake) and I and my machine gun then became relegated to just the second target of choice.  Nevertheless, somehow my daytime reduction in VC target priority did not make for a very comforting thought.  What was somewhat comforting was it seemed the tanks provided both the VC and us with a type of uneasy unofficial ceasefire of sorts as we avoided firing at the VC at night with our small arms and VC never assaulted nor even harassed us because they might have thought that the tanks would let loose with their mighty canister rounds. A canister round was essentially a very, very, very large shotgun style shell. Think of this: a typical 12-gauge shotgun shell, filled with 'buckshot", might contain a dozen pellets, more or less. Whereas the M48 Tank canister round contained 5600 flechettes. A flechette (a particularly nasty sounding name, I thought) was a little metal dart with fins that stabilized its flight. 5600 of these things, let loose at once, would not only kill VC, it would do it through the underbrush of the jungle.  In fact, it would probably just remove the jungle foliage (and the VC) from existence altogether. Who needed Agent Orange?

       Actually, the tanks were not about to unleash their main gun on one or two individuals. It just wasn't cost justified. I remember thinking at the time that if it were up to me to decide, I would have authorized the spending of Uncle Sam's money. Nevertheless, it was also comforting to know that the US M48 tank carried, above the main gun, a one million candle-power Xenon searchlight. This light was a "white light" and could be seen (and targeted) by the VC at night. Accordingly, it was rarely used.   However, it also had an infrared mode that could be used to illuminate targets at night.  Infrared was invisible to the VC ….but not to the tank's gun sight.  Best of all, the infrared searchlight was boresighted with the main gun.  I don't know if the VC ever knew that any overt action on their part would have then made their deaths cost-justified but I knew the VC never bothered or harassed us when there were tanks with us.

At some point, an anti-personal canister round was developed for the "90" hand-carried recoilless rifle too. A 90mm recoilless canister round was a little smaller than the tank canister round, nevertheless it still contained 2400 little flechettes. However, for some reason, these neat canister rounds were not made available to us during the time I was in combat. Canister rounds would have been nice to have for the "90" and would have made it worth humping it's heavy weight into battle.

But we did have that backblast thing: You could fire the 90 backwards using the backblast as an anti-personal weapon if you were ever being rushed by enemy infantry.  But, and this was a big 'but', you always had to be aware of your surroundings when firing a weapon that could kill in both directions at once. Even the loader himself, was in peril from the backblast, although the gunner and loader were supposed to lay prone perpendicular to the gun at its side, across from and facing one another. There had been stories about loaders having their hand cooked by the backblast (later to be amputated). To a lesser extent, I had heard of pant legs being ripped off a loader who got his legs in the way of the backblast. In addition, if there were bushes too close behind you, the damn 'thing' could also easily set the bushes on fire - and this was certainly not good to have happen in combat. While I called it "The Thing", others nicknamed the 90mm Recoilless Rifle the "Reckless Rifle" for a few very good reasons.

THE SMOKE BRINGER:
 

Gene Harvey - Pg 2A

       The M60 Machine Gun, like the 90mm recoilless rifle, is also a crew served weapon.  The Assistant Gunner (A-gunner) and Ammo Bearer are the other two who make up the machine gun crew besides the gunner.  Naturally, these three must endeavor to stick fairly close to each other so as to maximize the effectiveness of the machine gun.  To put this another way, the other two must always go where the machine gunner goes.

       The gun first appeared in the Army weapons inventory in 1957, and wasn't replaced until the mid 1990's and there are some that are still in use today. This is how good this gun was. In Vietnam, this gun was called 'the pig'. I expect that since the gun was gas operated, it was supposed by some to sound a little like a pig grunting when it fired. Others said the name 'pig' was derived because this gun would get very dirty from heavy carbon fouling after firing, again stemming from the gun being gas operated. I held the second view because I had trouble hearing the gun 'grunt' sound but the gun sure did seem to need a lot of cleaning. I know because I had to clean it often.  Although, on the plus side, the gun was easy to clean.

       The M60 could be set up in a semi-permanent position and fired from a very stable tri-pod with the full 3-man crew in attendance. However, the main improvement over previous machine guns was that it could be fired by only one man from the shoulder or from the hip while on the move. It also could be quickly laid down on the ground and fired with the help of a built in bi-pod at the front of the barrel. To fire on the move, the gun could carry a canvas/cloth assault pack, which held up to 100 rounds.  This allowed the gunner to have a bit of 'starting' ammo ready to go until the A-gunner brought in and linked up more ammo.  Mostly though, its main purpose was to allow the gunner to fire on the move.  Often however, the gunner would want to fire from ground level. His decision as to when he would bring the gun to the ground could be based on one or more of the following strategic reasons: One – was when Charlie's bullets came in hard and fast. Two – was because firing the gun while running was not true suppressive fire, but was more "spray and pray". Three – could be when he would come upon some sort of buttress or fortification (or even a hole), anything that would serve as decent protection from enemy fire …or Four – perhaps the most compelling reason of all, was when the number of shells remaining in the assault pack were nearing their end.

       Whenever the gunner decided to lay the M60 down and fire from the ground, he could then depend on the bi-pod system to steady the gun. At that time, he would also depend on the A-gunner to be at the left side of the gun "linking-up" another full bandoleer (some called it an ammo belt). Of course, this new bandoleer was to be ideally linked up or connected before the original assault pack ammo belt was used up. In my experience, the A-gunner had to be quick though, because the assault pack cartridges would go very fast.  And there were a couple of possible reasons for this; -firstly, the gunner didn't always carry the full 100 rounds, maybe only 50 or so or less (fewer rounds simply made for a lighter carry).  -Secondly, combine this with the fact that if the machine gunner had a sudden need to fire his weapon, well things were probably pretty serious - and the gunner may be very excited about being shot at - so then he might be firing 10-15 round bursts (or possibly much more), instead of the recommended 3 to maybe 9 round short bursts as was needed so as to not overheat the barrel. Naturally, it became only mere seconds before the gun would get close to running out of ammo.

       One reason why a machine gunner could get especially excited whenever a firefight erupted, was his knowledge that Charlie knew what devastation the M60 could bring to them. As I already mentioned, we knew that Charlie would always first target our officers in battle (head of the snake) and then the machine gunner, in that order. I always thought this to be a miscalculation on the part of the Viet Cong as I was confident that our well-trained sergeants could easily take over for the platoon lieutenant (and, at times, did). Regarding the M60 machine gunner: well, the gun had the assistant gunner and/or the ammo bearer to take over the trigger, and additionally, each man in the platoon had training on the M60 and anyone could easily take over machine gun crew duties.

       The M60 Machine Gun was a fabulous weapon.  In Vietnam, I don't recall ever using a tri-pod myself. To me, tri-pod/stationary firing was reserved for the mighty 50 Caliber Machine Gun, an even more fabulous weapon (except for the 125+ some odd pounds of weight for gun and tri-pod).  For comparison to the mighty "50 cal", the M60's 7.62mm cartridge equated to one used in a 30 caliber deer rifle …except the M60 was no deer rifle …especially when it was pumping out over 500 rounds per minute. In the jargon of the time, we called this "bringing smoke" to the enemy.

       During the battle of May 15th 1967, I was to find irony in the phrase "bringing smoke" when it referred to the M60 machine gun.  The expression: "Bringing Smoke", I would discover, would turn out to have a double meaning. I will explain this later.

       The first day that we stepped onto the soil of South Vietnam in mid January in 1967,  I was told that the brass was undecided whether to issue the 90mm Recoilless Rifles just yet and "for the meantime", 90mm crews were reassigned to other duties. I was assigned to a Machine Gun crew as an assistant gunner. However, in due course, throughout the many different patrol assignments, I eventually found myself often carrying and operating the gun as gunner. 

       I supposed that I was a good candidate to hump the weights required as part of the machine gun crew since I had been used to the 37 pounds of weight of the 90mm (plus the 90's cartridges weighed around 10 lbs apiece themselves, each about the same as a loaded M16 Rifle). The M60 machine gun was 'only' 23 lbs, plus ammo. The assistant gunner and ammo bearer carried extra ammo; the assistant gunner was also to carry an extra barrel and an asbestos glove, which was carried in a waterproof carrying bag. As to the asbestos glove, remember, this was well before asbestos was phased out sometime in the 1990's. But, in 1967, GI's needed an asbestos glove to be able to handle a hot machine gun barrel when it needed to be removed and replaced after becoming overheated from overuse in a firefight.
 

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

       On the night of May 14th, before our May 15th mission, one of the NCOs told me that he wanted others to get more practice with operating the machine gun and he was assigning me as assistant machine gunner for tomorrows mission. My first thought, of course, was that this came from the lieutenant who thought that I might actually apply for that transfer to Saigon and appropriately wanted others to get the practice and feel of the M60. Although I understood his motives, I was bothered by this because, in a fire fight with Charlie, I liked having that machine gun in my hands along with all of its attendant firepower. And secondly, I had not made any actual decision to leave or stay. But, as I thought further, I found that I was essentially glad for this move for I could look forward to a lighter load to carry the next day. I considered the opportunity this gave me to perhaps carry an extra canteen of water. This was to be a small luxury, but a luxury nonetheless. This little tiny thought of being better able to afford to carry extra water actually balanced things out and made me very pleased with this turn of event.

       Of course, I knew I then had to depend on my old trusty M16 as my main weapon, although I held onto my 45 pistol.  The M1911 45 caliber semi-automatic pistol was a famous weapon; first designed in 1911 by John Browning, a legendary weapons designer. The "45" was used extensively beginning with WWI. It was so well regarded, it then went on to be used in WWII and the Korean War and it was still being used by the Army 56 years later in Vietnam. Not everyone was issued a pistol though. Pistols were issued to machine gunners, as the gunner might need a back-up weapon for close in fighting ..or if and when the gunner ran out of MG ammo.  It held a 7-round magazine, but with the safety on, I also could trust an 8th round in the chamber. I think this practice of carrying a round in the chamber was not condoned, but I determined that if I ever did need to use this pistol, I did not want to take time to have to chamber the first round.  I also considered that one generally needed two hands to accomplish the task of cocking this pistol in order to chamber the first round …and it occurred to me that there could be a possibility that I could find myself with only the use of one hand, and I wanted to be prepared for all contingencies.

I knew that I was overthinking this. I did this a lot. I had a hard time turning my mind off and I would often give future events a level of scrutiny they possibly may not have deserved. I didn't know if this was an exercise in negativity, or, was it simply my Boy Scout training to "be prepared"?  I did believe that there may have also been some positive energy in this 'power of negative thinking' when used in this manner. I supposed it was a type of constructive worry.  Nevertheless, I felt that I had to keep overthinking in check as it might someday over-ripen and then be added to the list of my other bad habits. But at present, I thought I could control this yearning that I had to know everything about everything before making a decision.  I thought that I had also learned that intuition was a powerful force. Snap decisions were oftentimes required as well. The trick, I concluded, was balance.

       I guess I thought carrying a 45 may prove to give me some sort of edge should the need arise. The need never arose; I never had to use it.  Well, so much for overthinking as a tool to optimize intended results.  Apparently, the only thing I had achieved was additional weight to lug around the jungle.  In hindsight, I now realize that I could have been carrying yet another canteen of water in lieu of that pistol. And, I am sure that with all of the physical effort it took to be a Vietnam Army Grunt, at least the water would have gotten use. Hindsight aside though, I still must consider that even if I never needed to fire my 45, I still must give some value to the peace-of-mind it brought me throughout all of the patrols when it was along.

       I also had a very sharp Buck knife. A lot of soldiers carried personal weapons, mostly knives of various types and a few even had their own personal pistols, usually revolvers.  The knives came in all sizes and shapes.  I spotted one very nice knife once when one soldier displayed a very large bowie knife that he carried. My knife was much smaller but it was a high quality knife and I concluded that my knife, while smaller, was probably sharper than his anyway (knife envy?).  I had paid nearly $20 for it and its sheath back in California while on leave from training. Note that $20 in 1966 equates to around $130 today.  I wanted one that would hold up to abuse, stay sharp and not break. I got what I paid for. At the time, I laughingly supposed this knife was the last resort in combat, but I choose to avoid thinking further on that possibility. Still, it felt good to have it, and I did find a lot of use for it, mostly as a tool for everything from cutting rope to feeding myself. I still carry a knife to this day; a nice pocketable folding 3-inch lock-back. It's been a friend assisting me to accomplish all sorts of everyday tasks.  I suppose that it also serves to provide me with some small level of comfort as well, should some mugger ever make the mistake of assaulting this old man but, unknown to him, a Vietnam Combat Vet (although I would hope I only had the need to display the knife... I suppose somewhat like Crocodile Dundee, but of course with a much smaller blade).

       Despite these extra weapons, I appropriately saw myself first as part of the machine gun crew and only secondarily as an M16 rifleman.  I was an infantry expert, doing my assigned job.  I knew that my first job, as an assistant gunner, was to make sure I got to the side of the M60 gunner to link up an extra ammo belt to what was left of the assault ammo belt that was feeding the machine gun. After linking up, my next task was to assist the smooth and straight movement of the ammo into the guns side loading port. This ammo feeding task was managed with a kind of a handoff from one hand to the other in sort of a conveyor movement assuring that the ammo belt was kept high, straight and level with the loading port. Any ammo entering the loading port twisted or at too low of an approach angle increased the opportunity for a loading jam. A loading jam while in a firefight with the enemy was a bad thing. Also, while assisting the feed, I was to also help keep an eye forward for targets that the gunner may have not noticed and thus keep the gunner informed of such 'opportunities'.  Of course, these A-gunner responsibilities mostly made my M16 redundant and generally unnecessary while the M60 was in action …unless there was a jam.

       Additionally, it must be remembered that the ammo-bearer had a duty.  His job was ensuring that he was close at hand so that he could divest himself of his ammo load.  Of course, the ammo-bearer was then free to use his rifle, as he had no additional duties …except to be ready to take over should the gunner or a-gunner be incapacitated.  The value of the ammo-bearer should not be diminished.  It's true that he generally did not have the glory of operating the machine gun but he was generally tasked with carrying the largest bulk of the crew's ammo. To my mind that made him the most valuable member of the team.

       We had been told to have plenty of ammo with us on this next mission. Despite this bit of instruction, it was something I had always thought to be a good idea. The M60 crew was expected to carry a basic load of at least 600 rounds. As a crew of three, I always thought 900 rounds might be a better number of rounds to carry. My view was, if there was a trade-off with the fatigue of carrying extra ammo and not having enough, I would opt for the former.

       Normally, when I was the gunner, I would personally carry two extra bandoleers (besides the clip-on ammo assault pack), but these bandoleers I carried openly, crisscrossed around my body and over my shoulders, Mexican Bandito style.
 

Gene Harvey - Pg 2B

       In theory, we should have always carried the extra ammo in the ammo can, as the can would assure that the ammo would be kept dry and clean. The truth was that we preferred to keep the ammo ready for a fast link-up.  Making a fast link-up wasn't an issue on night ambushes on Charlie because we linked up when we set-up, but it proved to be an accurate assessment of reward over risk when it saved extra seconds when on those times that Charlie pulled a surprise ambush on us.

       As gunner, my decision to carry my own spare ammo (beyond the assault rounds) was in the possible case that the A-gunner was not able to get to my side with the needed extra ammo during the heat of battle.  Sure, I might have to have a pause in the firing of the gun to personally link-up the extra bandoleer myself, but at least I wouldn't be out of ammo, which might necessitate that I would have to resort to my 45; not a good thought. In fact, on some of my first patrols while carrying the M60, I would still carry "ol' trusty" (my M16), slung across my back, instead of a 45.  It really wasn't much heavier, I thought. However, weight was an issue...I later decided to compromise and stick with the 45. I would always be considering the trade off between fatigue and need.  When the battle came to you it wasn't a good thing if you had to start fighting already worn out, drained and exhausted.
 

       But, on May 15th, now assigned as an assistant gunner, I needed to plan on bringing along and also depending on "ol' trusty", my M16. To this end, I planned to also carry several extra magazines of M16 ammo per the same kind of thinking I applied to carrying extra machine gun ammo (I still chose to not carry any extra 45 rounds. In training, I had qualified as "Expert" with the machine gun, only sharpshooter with the
M16, but I had done poorly with the 45 pistol).

       While gathering up my supplies on the night before, I wanted to make sure to do more than my share of carrying extra M60 ammo. My plan was to carry four bandoleers for my personal total carry of 400 rounds. I wanted us to have plenty of ammo since we had been told that on this mission we might encounter a very large force of VC. I had seen the WWII movies; I did not want to run out of ammo early, ever! However, four loose bandoleers would have gotten a bit sloppy with all of them swinging around from my shoulders so I planned to carry two loose, in my usual fashion, and then strap on an ammo can with the additional MG ammo.  So on that day, besides my regular two 100 round bandoleer ammo load, I also saddled myself with a full ammunition can, which was a  metal box containing two more bandoleers for an additional supply another 200 rounds. This was my first time carrying an ammo can. The bandoleers in the ammo can were tightly packed. This made the ammo seem to be much heavier than it really was, or perhaps it was just the added weight of the can itself.  When lifting, it seemed that the full M60 ammo can, with its tightly packed ammo, was heavier than the machine gun itself ever was (it wasn't).  As badly as I wanted to have extra ammo I still paused to consider the disadvantages of having to hump this extra weight.  However, the ammo can was carried backpack style which placed the ammo can directly in the middle of my back and I was pleased to discover that with the ammo can in that position, it seemed to have the perfect balance and leverage and it turned out to not be such a burden as I had expected. Additionally, I also considered that this additional weight of ammo was offset somewhat as I was not able to find a spare machine gun barrel to bring along.  At that time though, I didn't see the need of the extra barrel as we never needed it before.  This proved to be a mistake in my thinking.

       I had also decided to wear my Flak Jacket (flak vest) on this mission. On most of the earlier swamp patrols, I generally avoided wearing this 'body armor' due to the oppressive heat. Besides, we had been of the impression that with the state of the art in 1967, the Flak Jacket wasn't capable of stopping bullets; maybe it would stop the shrapnel from some of the booby traps the VC made up with those little grenades of theirs, but not a direct bullet hit. But, even our steel pot (helmet) would not stop a direct, straight-on bullet strike.  Nevertheless, I wore my steel pot religiously on all patrols because I had heard that it might be helpful should a bullet make an indirect hit.  I had even heard one story (or perhaps it was just some sort of military folklore) where the bullet hit a steel pot at a glancing blow, penetrated in to the plastic helmet liner and spun around the soldier's head staying between the outer steel pot and the inner helmet liner. Tomorrow, I thought, I will give myself what added edge the Flak Jacket may provide.
 

THE VIEW OF THE BATTLE, FROM MY HEAD:

       With only a couple of exceptions, I can only really recount my own memories of that day of May 15th 1967, now over 40+ years ago.  In recalling all of those images that were filed away so long ago somewhere in the back of my brain, I discovered that my memory was not made of a full running video of the entire day, but it also was not simply boiled down to a series of memorable still life snapshots either. Rather, the memories I hold of that day are like a series of individual movie scenes, but none running any longer than perhaps a few minutes. I found that events do move in my memories of Vietnam, but more in slow motion than in real time.

So, onto the slow motion movie scenes that play in my head from May 15, 1967:
 

Gene Harvey - Pg 2C

THE GAME BEGINS:

       The 9th Infantry Division had two battalions, the 3rd and 4th, out that day. The 3rd Battalion was the first to go off the Tangos on to the river's edge. At about 0800 hours (8:00am), ramps down, they were deposited near the mouth of a stream and proceeded to search up along its banks. Shortly after, Charlie Company (my company) and Bravo Company from the 4th Battalion left their Tangos about three 'klicks' east of where the '3rd' was dropped off. A 'klick' was jargon used to connote one kilometer, or one thousand meters, three klicks equated to approximately two miles (the US Army had converted to the metric system long before the 1975 Metric Conversion Act had asked US citizens to make the voluntary conversion. Unlike the attempt to make a full metric conversion for the rest of the USA, the conversion to metric worked well in the Army.  Just as we soldiers easily became comfortable using the 24 hour clock (for example: knowing that '1700 hours' really meant 5:00 pm in 'civilian time') we easily got used to using meters instead of yards).

       The Tangos, emptied of their infantry load, then took up stations at various points along the river system in order to block any enemy moves to escape. As soon as the Tango boats thrust us onto the shore of the Song My Tho River and into the foliage at river's edge, we started by fighting through an army of red ants, which were highly pissed off at being so rudely disturbed. We had red ants back in Southern California; everyone knew to avoid them because they were aggressive and had a bite that felt like a bee sting.  They made their nests in the ground in typical ant mound fashion. However, in the wetlands of Vietnam, red ants made their nests above ground, in the foliage, and so it was easy to walk right into them (the Vietnamese red ants were bigger, too). We had point men do just that, cutting a path through the bushes with machetes and become instantly covered with hundreds of red ants. Red ants could take a man out of action as though he had been wounded in combat.

       Red ants, snakes and mosquitoes were routine stuff in the Mekong Delta. However, what was not routine was the large US force we had that day. I had gotten used to smaller patrols in the Rung Sat tidewaters.  I liked the smaller ambush patrols; we were stealthier when there were fewer of us. The tactics seemed better; we were more in charge of our own selves, our own actions. And, I must admit that a small group also had the advantage of being better able to hide, especially at night.  Operating as a large force made me uncomfortable. But, according to South Vietnamese Army Intelligence, we were expecting to possibly encounter a much larger VC force than we had back in the swamps, so the extra Grunts that day mitigated any feelings of uncomfortable-ness.

       After the red ant war, it soon seemed to be like just a walk in the park. This was much nicer territory than the tidewater swamps we were usually in.  It's strange, but of lot of that new territory was quite beautiful, a tropical paradise as it were. They even had coconut trees in this part of the Cam Son Secret Zone. I even wondered if I might, at sometime, be able to get a coconut. I loved coconuts. My mind wandered back to my childhood when I especially enjoyed the times my dad and I would make a special trip to the grocery market solely to purchase a lone coconut.  We would make a ritual of poking a hole in it to get to the tasty 'milk' inside, and then used a hammer to crack it open to get to the scrumptious coconut meat within.

       Thinking back to my time in Vietnam, I am sure a lot of us would often daydream of things back "in the world" (as we called the good ol' US of A).  I know I certainly did. I generally tried to daydream of only pleasant things: My new pretty wife, the new 1968 red Mustang convertible that I was planning to purchase with my combat pay, etc. Daydreaming was perhaps not always the best thing to be doing in a combat zone where being alert was the order of the day.  Still, it was necessary to keep from going crackers.

       We searched through the area for most of the early morning finding nothing in our part of this 'secret zone'. At that time, we were about one 'klick' inland, north of the river. Of course, we were not traveling through this terrain 'as the crow flies'... there was a lot of moving in one direction and then in another direction, but generally we seemed to be trending in a northeast direction overall. Between Charlie Company and Bravo Company, Charlie Company had taken the lead, with the first platoon (my platoon) as the vanguard out front.

       At one point, the 4th Battalion then brought in Alpha Company by helicopter airlift.  They landed about five klicks northwest of us and started to move, more or less, southeast.  The idea was to make a sort of pincer move between them and us in Bravo/Charlie Company located to their southeast.

       By late morning, we found ourselves momentarily moving east while crossing a rice paddy field, at the time neither planted nor flooded.  Normally, we could expect to find these rice fields flooded as that what was needed for rice growing. A large quantity of water is needed both for irrigation as well as keeping down the growth of weeds. To hold the water in, rice paddy fields consisted of small berms or dikes, which divided a large area into smaller squares, which would contain the deep levels of water needed.  The rice farmers used tamed water buffalo, which as their name implies, were well adapted to wetlands, to assist in the cultivation. Accordingly, the bottom of these normally flooded lands had deep indentations or pockmarks of dried mud caused by man and animal when walking through the fields when flooded and muddy bottomed.  With the water now gone, you can perhaps imagine crusty dirt potholes, perhaps anywhere from two to five inches in diameter and a few inches deep covering every square foot of the land that lie between the dikes.  This is to say that there was virtually no area of level ground on which to plant your foot.  In other words, this was ankle-breaking territory if I ever saw it.

       At one pivotal point, we were ordered to move left/north toward a tree line. At that time, all of my daydreaming stopped cold.  From my view, at first, this spot seemed to be two tree lines shaped what looked like a "7", but as we got closer, the angle, where the two separate tree lines met together, looked to be forming an exact 90 degree angle: ┐, and the two tree lines seemed to be more or less of equal length. I had guessed that this was not a tree line formed by nature but rather one that some Vietnamese farmer had engineered so as to outline his square rice paddy dikes, which matched up precisely parallel to the tree lines.  If Vietnamese peasants could manage this in this remote spot, what else could they manage to engineer? We were soon to find out.
 

- Continued on Page 3 -
 

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