Written by USMC Lance
**WARNING: THIS FANFIC CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE, CRUDE HUMOR, AND BLOOD & GORE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED**
This story is a Military/War story about U.S. Marines in Vietnam during 1967 and 1968, also during the Battle of Hue City. The times in the story (ex.1200 hours) is when the main event or action begins. This story is also a prequel to The War: Operation Phantom Fury.
Please comment and enjoy! :)
Chapter one - Arriving in 'Nam Edit
0800 Hours (8:00 AM)
September 22, 1967
Hue City, South Vietnam
I was a little bit nervous getting ready to arrive in Vietnam. I had completed boot camp (basic training) at Parris Island only two months ago and now I was getting deployed to 'Nam so soon.
I was nervous but I was also fucking excited too.
I had been assigned a squad leader to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines. My original unit transferred to Germany earlier but I got a severe stomach virus and I got transferred to 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in California, who were getting deployed to Vietnam in a month.
Some of my instructors told me I was a very good rifleman, so I decided to try machine gun school and got promoted to Sergeant during the month before 'Nam.
Currently, we were on a C-130 from Alaska. We first left from Camp Pendleton and then it refueled in Alaska. There were a lot of GIs and Marines on the plane.
Some guy came over to me and sat with me.
"Yo Perrier, what you think about them congs?" The guy said. His name tag read Everson.
"I don't know bro, they're just trying to get us." I replied.
"Well I'm gonna take a shit, so later. Make sure the Congs don't get me." He said, with a grin.
"What do you think about that guy?" A sweet faced girl who looked very pretty and was in the seat in front of me. She was tall for a girl; about five-eleven, had rather large feminine features (buttocks, breast), caucasian and had the most prettiest eyes. Everything was clean and straight about her: her uniform which was neatly creased, her hair, and even her teeth which were nice.
"Probably just a clown. When we were getting on the plane, he told a Corporal to prepare him for Cong city. " I said.
She giggled and then introduced her self and we shook hands. "Lisa Charlesworth, 32nd U.S. Army Medical Brigade." she said.
"Glad to meet ya. I'm a 'sarge in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. You could just call me Rob or Robby."
"Okay Rob." She laughed. "What's your story?"
"I joined the Marine Corps because I didn't have the money to go to college. So I completed training at Parris Island and I got assigned as a squad leader."
"I was suppose to go to Germany with my original unit, but I got sick really bad and got assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in California, who were getting deployed to 'Nam in a month. So during that month, I took machine gun training and got promoted to Sergeant. And now here I am, ready to get to 'Nam." I said.
"That's cool." She answered, with a convincing smile.
God, she was so beautiful.
"I joined the U.S. Army for a way to become a doctor. I had always wanted to become a doctor since I was a kid. I joined medical school here and got assigned to a medical battalion who is getting deployed to Chu Lai. Might be an interesting experience." She finished.
We continued to talk and got hot food, and some guys told me to kiss her. It didn't seem right considering the fact I had just met her.
We then finally arrived at Hue City at 0800. It had a lot of buildings and roads, which was a rather different experience than the usual jungles and forests of Vietnam.
Well at least the DIs told me it would be like that in the 'States.
"Wish ya luck." Lisa said, with her pretty smile.
"Hey thanks. Stay safe" I said. We said our goodbyes and I hugged her.
She went to a group of medics, who were getting ready to load a bus, going to Chu Lai.
Hundreds of GIs and Marines where there. All of the Marines including me went to our company commander, Captain Howard, who had a clipboard in his hand.
He was in his late twenties, had light brown hair, spoke clean and smoothly, and he was about six-two, an inch shorter than me.
He looked way younger than he actually was, ironically. Experience wise.
Me and a few other guys were standing beside Captain Hownard, looking tough and authoritive.
"Okay listen up you faggots! You can't even line up straight!" He said, trying to be encouraging and then he continued on.
"So here's the deal. You'll be doing daily patrols around Da Nang and you'll be at the air base Phu Bai in Hue. At times, you will go north around the DMZ to patrol around the Kontum Province. We got a lot of air cavalry units over there, who's probably gonna need your help."
"Intelligence has reported some brigade sized NVA units coming from the left of the DMZ, from Laos, who are willing to do whatever It takes to kill Americans."
"Your platoon commander is Lieutenant Riggs, and your platoon sergeant is Staff Sergeant Morrison. Listen to these two Marines and your squad leaders, and you'll survive. I can't withstand dumbasses within this platoon. Riggs and Morrison will take it from here. Is that clear?"
"Yes sir!" was the usual chorus.
"I can't hear you marines!" he said."YES SIR!"
"Alright then." He smiled and then left. Then Lieutenant Riggs began talking. The guy looked tired as hell and I could see the experience in his eyes. I thought he had to be in at least his late thirties and I thought he could have served in Korea.
"I'm Lieutenant Riggs and I'm your platoon commander. I'll make this brief and simple." He said, with a smile.
"Staff Sergeant Morrison is here to help me take care of you Marines and to take care of in-squad duties. That's all he's here for till further notice."
Riggs paused for a bit and then looked up at us.
"Marines, I'm fair. That's just the way I go with things. I'm fair with everything and everyone."
"If any of you ever feel that I'm not being fair during our time here, you can just tell me and I'll change that. Because that's not my life, I've got to where I am because I'm a fair and good marine."
"I expect you all to be the same."
Something about what he said sort of struck something into me, a positive thing.
That maybe I was gonna make it out of here alive, and with no scars.
Just maybe. I felt like I had a chance when he said that and I appreciated it.
He continued on.
"Okay, so right now I'll be listing your squad leaders. So here we go,"
"First Squad, Sergeant Robinson Perrier."
"Second Squad, Sergeant Ricky Brunsman."
"Third Squad, Sergeant Steve Tyree."
"And Fourth Squad, Sergeant Mike Brewer."
"Captain Howard has assigned bunks for all of you. He told me when I finish my lecture, to tell you marines what's going to happen. I ain't got nothing else to say except stay alive, stay sharp, and don't make mistakes. Semper Fi."
"Semper Fi, sir." We all answered back.
We went and I was assigned the same bunk with Everson. The dude was brown skinned and had curly hair. He was wearing sunglasses when he came in.
"So you squad leader, huh?" He asked, with his signature grin.
"Yeah Everson. You guys just let me do my job, and we'll be alright." I said.
"Yo Sergeant! You got to call meh' Larry, MAN!"
"Okay, Larry." We laughed and I knew we were gonna be good friends.
Then four other guys came in.
Three caucasians, and one black guy. Before I got deployed, I needed to do a mandatory role call for my squad once I reached Vietnam. So I got up with a clipboard and introduced my self and then asked for the roles.
"Hello guys. I am Sergeant Perrier but you can call me Rob or Robby. As you can see, I'm black and I take care of shit, you already know the fuckin' deal."
Once I said that, everyone starting cracking up and I was chuckling.
I was just trying to put some humor into the squad.
Then I continued. "But seriously, we're here to kick some Charlie ass!" I said.
Everyone replied with, "OORAH!"
"Now everyone, I have to do a mandatory role call. You're not trying out for a talent show, so nothing hard and make it brief." I said.
"Yes Sergeant!" Was the chorus from the squad.
I looked at the clipboard and there were five names.
"Lucas!" "Lance Corporal Matt Lucas, Grenadier from San Francisco, California!"
"Everson!" "Corporal Larold Everson, Rifleman from Seattle, Washington. You already know mah name man, no need to say it again!"
"Shut up! Don't be a nigger!" Some white dude from the back yelled and Everson went over and took out a pocket knife and put it to his throat.
"You call me a nigger ever again and I'll get one of them Congs to get yo ass!" Evers said.
It appeared to me Larry could have been crazy, but I quickly ended the confrontation.
"Ay ay ay, calm down and watch your mouth---" I read the dude's name tag. It read Walowski.
"We're not trying to have fucking race riots over here, so shut the fuck up marine. One more time, and I'll report your ass to Captain Howard and you're gonna be in the next shitty platoon coming in. Is that understood?" I said.
"Yes Sergeant." Walowski said. I knew there was racial tension back home, especially in the south of the 'States but I didn't think I'd see it in the Corps.
There was a little in basic but It didn't mean much to me.
In Brooklyn, where I was, there weren't necessarily racist people, just crime. I wasn't used to the racial tension, although there are some questionable stories.
I read the other two names in the same fashion as before.
"Benson!" "Lance Corporal Franklin Benson, Rifleman from Reno, Nevada."
"Johnson!" "Petty Officer Third Class Martin Johnson, Navy Corpsman (medic) from Portland, Oregon." (The other black dude.)
"Alright people, rest your things here and relax for a bit."
"We're going to get breakfast in about twenty minutes or so, so we can get to learn a bit about each other."
I told them one more thing,
"By the way, I'm your machine gunner. You feed me the ammo, I feed you the victory. So that's all there is to it."
I finished and we talked till breakfast about where we were from and we voted on who would be the first person to have sex with a Vietnamese woman.
Larry won because Benson came up with this retarded ass thing called The bigger hair, the bigger your dick.
And I guess that means black guys like me have large dicks, I don't know. They're kinda right though. Haha.
Walowski called him a faggot for saying that and a fight almost started again. It seemed Walowski had a big mouth considering the fact he was a little short guy who looked liked he couldn't hurt a fly.
I gave him one more chance and I said I would definitely report him for misconduct if he did it again.
I also told him not to mess with anybody in the squad because Larry wasn't afraid to slit his throat and Benson was six foot-seven, and could pratically kill Walowski.
We then had breakfast after that. It was good.
Chapter two - BoredomEdit
1300 Hours (1:00 PM)
September 29, 1967
Hue City, South Vietnam, Phu Bai air base
Man the boredom is killing our company! I was excited for combat in 'Nam but then again kinda scared. I still haven't seen anything since I came here a week ago.
I guess the regular army have been handling things.
Larry said that he was happy that he didn't see any Congs yet.
"Fuck, when the hell is Captain Howard gonna let us do something over here? I didn't join the Marine Corps to sweep floors and do nothing all day!" Benson said.
He was getting too anxious, and that wasn't a good thing.
"Yo man; I'm happy I ain't going on no patrols. I don't wanna get my ass killed by no Victor Charlie who got my name on his bullet. I got a girlfriend at home, I'm too young to die." Larry answered. He was cleaning his rifle.
Then Lieutenant Riggs joined the conversation.
"What I think, is that the VC is too scared for us and we got them in the gutter. We don't need no patrols when they're scared already. This ain't like Korea." He finished.
The smoke that was coming from his pipe engulfed the atmosphere and made our hooch smell funny.
"Sir, what are you talking about?" Lucas asked.
"You tell me marine, you tell me." He left the hooch and went to the latrine.
A thing we did this week was go to the armory. Because I received machine gun training, I got the big and bulky M60 machine gun or as we called it The Pig which was one of the heaviest killing machines I ever held.
Everson said it went well with me. I don't know what that meant.
Everyone else got the usual M16A1 rifles and Lucas got a M79 because he was our grenadier.
There was some talk about a new grenade launcher called the M203 which could replace the old M79s and even be attached to our M16s.
Another thing is, is that Johnson got a medical kit with stuff like scissors, pills, bandages, and more. He was giving out malaria pills to all the squads and the malaria pills could give side-effects in the long-term.
Sergeant Brunsman from second squad was pissed off because he didn't want any health condition in the future.
"Hey bro! Why the hell should I take these pills when I could have god-damn heart disease in ten years? I don't need that shit!" He complained.
"Just take the damn pills, man." Johnson answered.
Then he muttered something about white boys being bitchy.
Brunsman raised his voice, "Hey watch your tongue, boy. Your not a damn marine, you haven't earned the title. So shut the fuck up."
"Oh yeah? Well I don't give a fuck and what you gonna do about it??" Johnson said, protestingly.
Brunsman was about to handle Johnson before I came up in front of Johnson and Brunsman changed his mind.
When a brother's safety was gonna be endangered, another brother had to step up to the plate and that was me. Johnson thanked me and Larry said I told him who not to mess with.
We also had the same breakfast for the whole week: Sausage patties, scrambled eggs, buttered grits, and orange juice.
An investigation was gonna be made about the cooks and Lucas said that he loved having the same breakfast because he could send some to the poor Vietnamese kids who would then "Rub it on their tiny toes, because they never seen American food!"
We cracked up after that and Walowski even considered sending the kids some M16s to "loosen up the VC", which was also really funny.
Interesting news today. We're going on our first patrol in a few days and our battalion commander got intel that a platoon of VC were patrolling in a dense area around Da Nang, which already suffered heavy fighting in the beginning of the year.
After he said this, guys got excited around our platoon and some scared. Even Larry who didn't wanna get killed was kinda excited for it.
Chapter three - First patrolEdit
0730 Hours (7:30 AM)
October 1, 1967
Near Da Nang, South Vietnam.
We got up at 0600 and had a hour and a half to get ready. We quickly showered for literally ten minutes and went to the mess hall.
It reminded me of boot camp, when the DI gave you two minutes to shower and you had to fill up your canteen with bathroom water.
Larry also looked different because he had shaven his curly hair yesterday.
Afterwards, we stayed for sometime and then started cleaning our weapons. After that we got our gear on and boarded up on the Hueys. There were four Hueys, for each of the squads.
Our pilot, 1st Lieutenant Brooks Foxworth, was smoking a cigarette. He was a gung-ho guy who always had a smile and a cigarette in his mouth, ready to kill.
That's what I liked about him.
Lucas asked him if he was afraid of getting lung cancer because of smoking. He glanced at him quickly (because he was controllng the chopper) and he started laughing hysterically.
Everyone started laughing, until he announced we were landing in the area in thirty seconds.
That's when Lieutenant Riggs told us what to do: "Ok listen up! Perrier you go down with your squad first and you take point. Everyone else after you! Let's do it!" He finished and gave hand signals.
We stopped about ten-twenty feet from the ground and he pulled the rope down.
"GO GO GO GO!" He said.
I went down first followed by Lucas, Everson, Walowski, and then Benson. The rest of the Hueys did the same and by that time, we were all on the ground.
Then Lieutenant Riggs told us to split up. My squad was on point with 2nd Squad on our rear flank and 3rd and 4th Squads on the left and right flanks, respectively.
I could see mountains in the distance, and the sun was shining on our faces. We walked up a dirt road for what seemed like an hour, until we stopped in a ditch to hydrate and eat.
We had our c-rations and plenty of water to hydrate. The food was ok but not great.
I had crackers, and peanut butter, as my "bread" unit, roast beef and mash potatoes as my "meat" unit, and pound cake as my "dessert" unit. Everything was packed in cans and the crackers were crushed because of the tight packaging.
In the Marine Corps, you didn't get to choose what food you got; you just get what you get and don't get upset.
I traded my potatoes and beef to Benson for some spaghetti & meatballs because the potatoes looked odd. We had little pots and we started a fire with some wood.
We cooked the food and ate and relaxed for around twenty minutes before the Lieutenant told us we were going back to base.
No combat yet. The VC were probably doing nightly patrols, that's why we didn't encounter any.
Captain Howard said that we were gonna begin doing "search and destroy" missions, which meant that we would go out, find, and kill the enemy.
Lieutenant Riggs did not agree at all because he said, "We're looking for trouble and ready to show them we're ready to die for this cause. How can you justify that Captain?"
We heard them argue in the Captain's office before Riggs gave up and came back angry. Riggs then told us that we were beginning the missions in the following weeks and told us to get rest. I tried to speak to him about what happened because everyone said "You're squad leader, you can get through him!"
He didn't wanna talk about it though, so I left him alone. Then we went back to bed after that.
Chapter four - COMBATEdit
1900 Hours (7:00 PM)
October 9, 1967
Phu Boi Valley, South Vietnam
YEP. We're going on another patrol today after a week or so of doing nothing.
It's one of those evening patrols, unfortunately.
We got on the Hueys, at least twenty - fourty of them because all the companies were going out as well. Basically, the whole damn battalion!
It was us, 'Mistress' Company (Its really Mike Company but we decided to give it a nickname because Benson talked about his 'mistress'), November company, and Oscar company.
Tyree from 3rd Squad was what we called a "double-digit midget" because he had less than one hundred days in 'Nam.
Our company landed in a different area called Phu Boi Valley and the other companies went to Da Nang and Khe Sanh to bring supplies.
A lot of marines were taking heavy fire and casualties a month before around Phu Boi. Estimates say around one hundred marines killed and two hundred and fifty wounded.
Captain Howard said that we were going to Phu Boi to clear some villages that had some VC activity over the past few days. Luckily, no NVA regulars because those guys were highly trained and had much better equipment, unlike the VC.
So we landed at Phu Boi and my platoon started walking up a hill, about one hundred meters long.
Our platoons were split up about a half a km apart, patrolling all across the perimeter.
Lieutenant Riggs directed us to go left and we walked another kilometer until we reached a village, filled with huts. We came and opened the hut doors and the villagers put their hands up.
Our interpretor, some ARVN soldier, told them to put their hands down and that the situation was ok at the moment. We asked the adults if they had seen any 'Congs and all they did was shake their heads, and also turning their faces away so we could only see the side of their face.
Sergeant Brewer got fed up and he slammed one of the Vietnamese guy's head against the wall. I was screaming at him to calm down and we pulled him back against the wall.
I think Lieutenant Riggs slapped him for doing that.
The children and the old women were crying and the guy had a gaping wound, seeping with blood on the side of his head.
As Johnson began to treat the guys wounds, all of a sudden a cong popped out behind us with an AK-47.
It was jammed and he was trying to fix it and shoot at me before Lucas fired a short burst into him.
God I was so scared at that split moment. I almost cried.
The Cong's head jerked back and he flopped around in the air like a ragdoll. Then everyone else was screaming cease fire.
It was chaotic.
We ran outside and I could see Walowski tape the villagers hands. Amazingly, the cong was still alive!
He had took a bullet to the chest and you could see the red flesh. Blood was dripping out of his mouth and his eyes were blinking uncontrollably. He squeezed out a few english words surprisingly.
"Fuck--" *pause followed by more choking on blood* "--you America...."
His voice trailed off and then Riggs finished him off. We didn't even decide what to do with him; we just knew he was finished anyways.
We took the rest of the villagers as prisoners and burned the huts. We called in a Huey and immediately got out of there. We didn't want to fight any more VC.
We said nothing on our way to base and as well in chow. I guess we didn't want it to become part of us.
Chapter five - Third Patrol.Edit
1200 Hours (12:00 PM)
October 13, 1967
Phu Boi Valley, South Vietnam
Today, we went back to Phu Boi Valley, after a few days of no combat.
We did the usual when we encountered no action; talk about our life in the states, play pool in the wreck room, watch TV coverage of the war, sleep & eat, and joke around. We weren't happy that we were going back to Phu Boi, but in the Marine Corps, you do what you're told.
We got our gear on and loaded up on the Hueys. I was nervous. I wiped the sweat on my hand with my pants leg. We flew for another thirty minutes before we finally landed at Phu Boi and this time, It was only our platoon, Third Platoon, and Fourth Platoon.
Second and First Platoon had went on a patrol and encountered nothing yesterday, so It was our turn.
Fourth Platoon walked through the streams of the valley, while we stayed more on land. It had not even been ten minutes before someone got hit by a sniper shot to the hand.
It was Johnson!
The enemy had ambushed us. We were taking fire everywhere and I started shooting my M60 and requested the squad to feed me ammo.
Lieutenant Riggs was screaming for air support on the radio, and the pilots said the area was too hot. We were on our own: About fifty NVA regulars (Riggs confirmed this), no air support, and Fourth Platoon was about a kilo away. Those guys couldn't risk their asses for us.
Thankfully, we fired back harshly, killing at least half of them until they started retreating. I don't know if I killed anything, I just fired everywhere.
Then Lieutenant Riggs took a shot to the ass, so Sergeant Brewer from 4th Squad grabbed the radio and requested air support and we finally got we wanted: NAPALM.
The area basically lit up, you could smell the burning trees and flesh. I wanted to puke but Walowski beat me to it. We only had three medics in our whole platoon, so there were two more left taking care of Riggs and Johnson. Johnson was fine but Riggs was bleeding profusely, so we called in a medevac.
Everyone else went into the Hueys, while Me and Staff Sergeant Morrison were trying to encourage Lt. Riggs.
"Hang on, man!" I said.
"You can do it Lieutenant, you can do it!" Said Morrison.
I was squeezing his right hand, while Morrison was squeezing his left hand. Riggs was screaming. It didn't last long before the medical officer who was taking care of Riggs put a shot in his ass, which made him black-out. The officer gave us a thumbs up and a smile, so we knew Riggs was gonna be okay.
We flew with him until he got to Chu Lai. Then we flew back to base.
And so we finally got back to base after about fourty-five minutes. The battle had only lasted around ten minutes, but It was intense.
So then another question was raised: Why the hell did we encounter combat when Captain Howard said the area was clear? We were all pissed when we got back to base, even Staff Sergeant Morrison, who usually sucked up to his superiors.
It got even worse when we learned Fourth Platoon had gotten it BIG TIME: five killed in action, six wounded, a quarter of their platoon wiped out by a separate ambush.
Later that day, Howard said Brewer and I were gonna get recommended for the Bronze Star, "for our bravery, and repelling the enemy attack" We were not proud of it either, because we had almost gotten killed and two guys including our platoon commander and medic, had gotten it even though they were gonna be fine.
Our squad talked about the ambush, before we had lunch.
We all agreed it was a stupid operation and that now we had to look out for each other even more.
That was that.
Chapter six - Another month begunEdit
1600 Hours (4:00 PM)
November 2, 1967
Hue City, South Vietnam
Well yesterday was the beginning of November.
In the closing weeks of October, our company only did a few patrols and have been on humanitarian missions (giving out supplies, food & water, etc to the Vietnamese).
It's what the Marine Corps called, "Winning hearts and minds."
This is mainly because some Marine Recon units have been deployed and have been patrolling around the Phu Boi Valley. They are expected to be moved to Khe Sanh in a week or so, which means we're gonna begin some patrols again, mainly search and destroy missions.
Lieutenant Riggs also came back a week ago. We all clapped for him and stuff.
"Welcome back sir. How you've been?" I said.
"Good, Sergeant. They transferred me to a field hospital at Chu Lai where they found out the bullet got stuck in my ass, that's why I was bleeding so bad." We laughed and then he began lighting a cigarette.
"Anyways, you have been taking care of the squad real good?" He asked.
"Yes Lieutenant. We haven't been going on many patrols lately because some Recon Marines came and took over the role at Phu Boi. We expect that they will be going to Khe Sanh in a week or two." I finished. We continued to talk and then we started drinking beer, our squad.
Johnson came back later that day, and It was cool too.
We had a good time, I got drunk and I started listening to The Ride of the Valkyries, on one of our radios. My squad said they were laughing hysterically at me, and that I puked on the floor.
Apparently after that, I fell asleep or something.
Another thing that happened in October was that we met Tyree's replacement. Basically, Tyree was a double-digit midget and he left Vietnam on the 24th of October. We met his replacement, on the 26th of that month.
His name was Sergeant Bronklin "Bronk" Patterson. The kid was young; he was bi-racial, had hair like Everson, and wore sunglasses.
He looked very familar.
Bronk reminded me of a dude I knew in high school. The guy was popular, talented at sports, and was a good friend of mine. He was in a lower grade than me and wanted to join the Corps, just like me.
And then at that moment it came to me: Bronk was the guy from high school!
When I first saw him, we didn't really talk or say anything, because he was talking to Lt. Riggs. It wasn't until I introduced myself later that day that he recognized me.
"What's up brother. My squad and I are glad to have you in our platoon. We expect that you'll be a great team leader to your squad and be beneficial to the other marines. Any questions?" I finished.
Then he started taking off his sunglasses and he said, "Rob, is that you?" I looked at him and It all came back to me.
"HOLY SHIT, Bronk what's up man!" I said.
We hugged and exchanged fives. "Good man, how you've been doing?!" he said. "Been good, been good!" I said.
We talked for a little while and then I introduced him to my squad. They all shook his hand.
"So, you're Perrier's friend huh?" said Everson, while brushing his hair. "Yeah man, ever since high school." Bronk said.
Larry put his brush down, grabbed a beer and handed it to Bronk.
"Welcome to The Shithole Sergeant, where you can slack off and not get in-trouble for it. Have fun." Larry grinned and then continued. "Also, if that boy Walowski bad mouth you, make sure to slap him for me?" Larry grinned again, his biggest grin yet.
"No promises, Corporal." Bronk said.
Walowski rolled his eyes at Everson and said, "Yeah, you really have a big mouth Evershit! You think you're such a hotshot, bad-mouthing everyone."
Everson laughed and said "Fucking A Right!" He then got up and walked to the HQ hooch where he wanted to hustle some other NCO's in card games.
"Guy's a moron." Walowski, after Everson left.
"He may be a moron bro, but he sure is funny." I answered.
"Whatever man." He grabbed a can of Budweiser, and started reading a trivia book.
Bronk and I then went to the mess hall, where they were preparing supper. The rest of our squad was there, munching on beef stew and carrot cake.
Sergeant Brewer came over and sat with us at our table.
"So, what do you dudes think about Vietnam so far?" He asked.
"Not too bad, the only thing you got to worry about is the jungle rot and Mr. Cong. Those two are the shit that keep you up at night." I said.
"Yeah, you have a point there, man. So why you join this fine Corps?" Sergeant Brewer said, with a sarcastic smile.
I just told him how it was for me.
"To get the fuck off the streets, man. Life in Brooklyn was tough. Almost everyday there would be shootings somewhere. Parents would have a hard time getting food on the table. And then you would see the brothers selling drugs and hustling down Flatbush Avenue. Just made me wanna get out more. Bronk knows what I'm talkin' about." I finished.
"Yeah, Rob and I have been good friends since high school. Stuff would be tough, a lot of gangs in Brooklyn. Luckily I was in the 'burbs, so it wasn't so hard." Bronk said.
He had a cup of coffee that smelled so fucking good. I thought I was gonna be high and he starting laughing at me, haha.
Then I asked Brewer why he joined the Marine Corps.
"Eh, I got bored. I dropped out of Duke University and enlisted in the marines. My folks wanted me to own their real estate business, but it seemed uninteresting to me." He said, with a straight face.
Bronk and I widened our eyes on him. I couldn't believe he was serious.
"So you drop out of Duke University, one of the best in the country, to do this crap?" Bronk asked.
"Yeah pretty much."
"Man, you're either one of biggest dumb fucks I've ever known or one of the bravest I've known." Bronk said.
We laughed together, but I thought about it harder than I should have. It confused me; he dropped out of Duke, could have possibly made millions as a real estate agent, to serve in Vietnam. It just sounded weird in my mind.
The food was actually good this time by the way, certainly better than the c-rations. I guess this was one of those rare occassions where we got good food. We finished up, and then returned to our beds to rest.
Chapter seven - Change of planEdit
1400 Hours (2:00 PM)
November 10, 1967
Tam Ky, Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam
Change of plans. We're gonna go to Tam Ky, the capital of the Quang Nam Province. Apparently some air cavalry units finally secured the area a few days ago, after sustaining twenty dead and fifty-two wounded casualties in heavy fighting. We were informed by Staff Sergeant Morrison a few hours ago, which didn't go too well.
"Alright ladies. We're going to Tam Ky at 1400 hours. Shower and get your gear on. Perrier, I expect you to have your squad ready by 1300 hours. Is that clear?" He finished and clicked his tongue.
I don't know why, but I felt like this guy was abusing his power and we were getting half-assed.
So I told him who the hell gave the order, as we were getting ready to go to Phu Boi and he presents us with that bullshit news.
"Just get your friggin' gear on." He said. He began to leave the tent until I yelled, "Not until your ass come back and tell me who the hell gave you the orders!"
By this point, everyone in the squad was looking at me, like they knew something was about to go down.
I was sitting on a chair reading an issue of Stars & Stripes, then Morrison walked back in and stood up in front of me.
"What the fuck did you just say to me?" He said, angrily.
He was getting me angry too.
"You heard me, 'SIR'. Who the hell gave you the orders? If you wanna fight, I'll kick your fucking ass." I said.
Everyone was just observing.
"You wanna know where those orders came from? You wanna kick my ass? Well check this out!"
He screamed and pulled out a M1911. Surprisingly, I didn't even hesitate, because It appeared to me that he could have been crazy, kinda like Evers.
He was really mad, crying, and pointing the gun at me. I held my hands up, had a grin and I dared him to shoot me.
After that, It was a moment of silence, between the whole squad. It seemed like forever.
Finally, the rest of the squad SLOWLY walked over to him and pulled the gun out of his hand. He began to weep into Lucas's arms. Everyone was looking at me, trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
I shaked my head, and continued reading the Stars & Stripes issue.
He stopped crying after like five minutes and stormed out of the hooch. Definitely bizarre. Then none of the squad talked after that.
We then ate some quick lunch at 1200 hours at the mess hall. Nothing special; tuna sandwiches, curly fries, pound cake, and chocalate-powdered milk.
We went to the makeshift showers at 1230 hours, and then began cleaning our weapons for some time. Here in 'Nam, It's very essential to clean your weapons because these things will absolutely fail on you in this climate.
We moved out at 1300 hours in the UH-1's, our platoon and 2nd Platoon. SSgt. Morrison talked to me about why he had lost his temper.
"I found out my wife had cancer yesterday. Doctors said she has a fifty percent chance of survival. She had been complaining of a bad back and feeling really weak over the past few weeks, and got diagnosed with spinal cancer. I am really scared man." He said.
"When we were arguing, I just broke down and lost my cool. I'm sorry."
I pitied him.
"I am sorry man. Let's just pray to god she is okay." I put my hand on his shoulder and apologized. He then showed me a picture of her; she was a pretty woman, with blue eyes, light-brown hair and cute cheeks. He also showed me a pic of him and her at a carnival, smiling and kissing. They looked like they were really in love. I felt really bad for him after he showed me those pics.
We finally got to the LZ at 1330 hours. Just a field of rice paddies. From far away on the horizon, you could see some of the urban areas at Tam Ky. Mortarmen from Second Platoon began setting up mortars about fifty meters in front of our unit. It was the beginning of the S&D mission.
We ran up some more rice paddies, me directing the squad, splitting away from the rest of the platoon. It was Lucas on point, followed by Benson, Walowski, Johnson, and me on the rear flank. We stopped after about thirty minutes in a small ditch that we surrounded with sandbags, and then Brewer and his squad came to us, with Morrison with them.
I began hearing Vietnamese chatter about fourty meters away, and everyone started looking at each other for a bit. Then we could see these fuckers moving from about ten o'clock!
"Let's light 'em up Sarge!" Benson said.
"Shut the fuck up, I think there's too many!" I whispered. Benson looked frightened but alert.
Morrison asked me what the fuck was going on and I shrugged. Afterwards, we got radioed by Lieutenant Riggs.
"Whiskey One, Whiskey One.... This is Lieutenant Riggs, how's the situation, over?" I passed the radio to Morrison and he responded.
"Precarious, Lieutenant. Our two units have been hearing Vietnamese chatter and I see enemy movement fourty meters away. Looked to be armed with Kalashnikov rifles (AKs), permission requested to fire, out?" Morrison asked. Riggs replied with yes, and then I began to set-up the '60. Morrison told us to prepare and flick off the safety switch on our M16s.
"What the fuck is going on?" Johnson asked.
"We're about to ambush these NVA regulars. They're about fourty meters away, moving slowly at the second." Brewer answered.
Everyone got their game faces on and then Morrison radioed the rest of our platoon to come over.
Then mortar and artillery fire began to lit up the NVA regulars from the mortarmen in 2nd Platoon. We had to run back ten to twenty meters because the fire was dangerously close to us, and we could not afford friendly fire casualties. I was shooting the '60, while Lucas and Everson were feeding me ammo. There had to be at least fifty NVA, we were outmatched, but we had better firepower.
The sound was insane. I thought I was gonna be deaf from the mortar and artillery fire. The Pig was spitting 7.62 rounds directly at the enemy, and I thought I shot at least ten of them. They were all running towards me in a line formation with their AKs and the M60 spat rounds directly all over their bodies. I had actually killed the enemy with my own eyes! But If I hadn't, they woulda got me. Better them than me.
Ambush was only five minutes. Mortar fire rained all over those bastards, but for some reason I wasn't proud, I felt sick to my stomach.
"Gooks didn't stand a chance.' Walowski said after the ambush.
Everson and Johnson narrowed their eyes towards him, with Everson saying "How come when you say gooks, It sound like the Asian version of nigger to me?"
"You hear what you wanna hear man." Walowski replied. Then we got the on the Hueys and the platoons raced to see who would get to base camp first. We won. I almost fell outta the chopper because of how fast they were traveling but Lucas pulled me back in.
When we got to base camp, Captain Howard told us how good of a job we did. Bronk didn't look too happy and I wasn't neither. I was shaking my head in disgust, mainly because the NVA we killed only look liked kids. It hurt me. Everyone went to the makeshift showers and Lucas came over and put his hand on my shoulder.
"Those dead gooks mess you up?" He asked.
"Yeah man, they were just fucking kids!" I screamed.
"What the VC and NVA do is threaten the kids' families and force the kids to fight. Kids even eight year old and stuff might seem nicey-nicey, but when you come into their village, the damn kid is mined and blows your arms apart." Lucas finished. He then patted me on the shoulder and went to the showers.
It didn't make sense to me, we were fighting a war where the women and children were also the enemy. Why does It have to be this way? I thought. I stayed in our hooch for ten more minutes, listening to The Rolling Stones on our stereo, songs like Paint It Black and also The Beatles', All You Need Is Love. Then I took my towel and went to the showers, where the rest of the squad were.
Part two - Holiday Season, 1967Edit
Chapter eight - Battle at Dak HaEdit
1500 Hours (3:00 PM)
November 19, 1967
Dak Ha, Kontum Province, South Vietnam
We did a patrol on the 19th around Dak Ha, in the Kontum Province. There was a lot of bitter fighting going around Dak To, a few miles from Dak Ha, with guys from the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division & 173rd Airborne Brigade, 503rd Infantry Regiment, engaging with large NVA units and some small VC units coming from Cambodia and Laos. I remember when Captain Howard had said we were gonna be patrolling with air cavalry units but it never happened.
However, these guys were airborne infantry and had been fighting since the beginning of November and we were close to it; meaning our outfit was in for a gamble.
Our whole company, Company M, Mistress, and two sniper platoons from November Company did the patrol. Our company was somewhat understrength with nothing more than one hundred and twenty marines. I could tell everyone in the squad was as nervous as I was.
Before the patrol, Benson had gave me a letter to give to his girlfriend, Jennifer, in Reno that was not his mistress though, if he didn't make it. He told me he wanted to marry her but he wanted to live while doing it.
"Sergeant Perrier, um uhhhhh..... Can you please send this to my woman? Please, I'm not sure if I am gonna make it sir." He had said. He said it soft and gently, but also with a urge to cry.
"Don't worry man, you're gonna be fine. You're not dying on my watch." I patted him on the shoulder and tried to comfort him in a way. He tried to give me a smile but he still looked worried.
"Rob, I got a bad feeling about this man. We've been through enough shit already dude, we don't need no more. You see this man,"
He showed me a pic of his daughter; a cute baby who looked to be only a few months old. A dark haired woman, with green eyes and a nice smile, was holding her. A few tears came from his eyes.
"I just wanna be there for my daughter man. If I don't make it and I die in this god-damn war, who is gonna be there for her? How is my girlfriend gonna tell her that her father died in an almost, pointless, meaningless war?" He finished.
"C'mon man," I told him. "We're the best of the best in this military. We are United States Marines, the few, the proud. You got to trust and count on me. You're not gonna die on my watch, nor is anyone else in the squad."
He smiled, this time with a little more light, and then we got our gear on.
What ended up happening was that the patrol was a disaster. We were patrolling around a valley, when we were ambushed by some NVA on the nearby highlands. It was the first time I experienced legit, long-ranged combat in Vietnam. "Check the highlands, check the highlands!" Lieutenant Riggs, had said.
"Fall back, fall back!" I screamed.
The '60 felt heavy as hell as I ordered the squad to fall back. To top it off, I was swearing a flak jacket, and two bandoliers of 7.62 full metal jacket ammo were criss-crossed on my chest. I felt like a fat man on a weight losing program. The sound was chaotic. Tracers were going left and right everywhere.
Our platoon began setting up a defensive position with sandbags. Then I told the squad to look for wounded in the platoon and we had at least five so far.
And then there was an awful scream for a medic, that just made you feel horrible and sent chills through out your whole body.
It was Sergeant Brunsman who had gotten it. He had two bullet wounds in his chest, his right leg was blown off, and he had a shrapnel wound on his face. One of our other Navy Corpsman, Hospital Corpsman Baines, was taking care of him. He was placing square bandages on the bullet wounds, and wrapping tape on his face and leg.
Brunsman began choking up blood, then began having self pity for himself, and then started vomiting. All of it stopped after a minute. Baines had tried the best he could but It was worthless.
"You got a poncho?" The medic had asked after Brunsman stopped breathing.
"Yeah." I handed it to him and he placed the blown off leg on Brunsman's chest and two other marines came over to help Baines wrap Brunsman's body in the poncho. The fighting had stopped for a mere five minutes.
Staff Sergeant Morrison came over and saw the wrapped poncho. He threw his helmet down and slowly began to weep.
We were all silent.
After the moment of silence, Lieutenant Riggs told us to set up the MG positions on the sandbags, in a very calm voice. He then looked at the wrapped up poncho, then sighed and shaked his head.
It began to rain heavily.
Chapter nine - Battle at Dak Ha (continued)Edit
1700 Hours (5:00 PM)
November 19, 1967
Dak Ha, Kontum Province, South Vietnam
Sergeant Brewer came over to me. "You remember when we went to that hamlet and there were the Vietnamese who refused to comply, and a VC almost got you?"
"Yeah what about it?"
"I feel like I was personally responsible for what happened that day. I had smashed the guy's head against the bamboo wall, and then Riggs finished off the gook who almost got you and Lucas. Then we burned the hamlet down and tooked all the villagers. I remember there was a lot of grief and pain. You guys had kept me calm and sane that day, especially the LT when he hit me."
"But I still feel just as responsible as to what has just happened right now too. Just feel like I could have done things differently on both situations, you know?"
He was feeling guilt; That It was sort of his fault those villagers lost their homes and were crying and feeling pain, and also that It was his fault that Brunsman was dead.
"Don't sweat it. That day in the hamlet we were all in just confusion man. And today, not your fault either. We just got randomly ambushed by NVA nearly a mile away." That ended that conversation.
But after I said that to him, I had a second thought in my head, that maybe if he did do things differently in the hamlet; that the villagers would still be there living happily. Or maybe today, if some guys had shot more or if Brewer himself had shot more, that maybe we could have gotten the NVA soldier who had gotten Brunsman. But all of that didn't matter much now, we had to move on.
After that, the rain was getting worse and one of the sniper platoons set up some M40s. That's when the ambush started again; a NVA sniper shot one of our snipers in the head. He was dead before he hit the ground; a side of his head exploded and a small part of his brain was spewed on the ground. A Lance Corporal saw this and vomited. He called for a medic and then Johnson quickly wrapped the sniper's body in a poncho.
I turned away.
I continued shooting the M60 and I gave Lucas the two bandoliers of 7.62 ammo, which were criss-crossed on my flak jacket, and he began to feed me. There were only four machine gunners in the whole platoon: Me, Cpl. Palmer from 2nd Squad, LCpl. Hernandez from 3rd Squad, and an Italian Corporal from 4th Squad called Michael "Mikey" Stigliani, and we were running out of ammo. So a few guys from the rest of the company who had M14s, were kind enough to give us there ammo, because the M14 shot 7.62x51mm NATO rounds just like the M60.
Meanwhile, Captain Howard was angry on the phone because he couldn't get air support.
"Bravo Two-Niner, we are in heavy shit up here! We have battalion sized units of NVA moving towards our position! We need the air support right now! Get whatever you can get, F-4s, F-100s, Hueys, WHATEVER!" He said. A Huey pilot replied, "Negative, Captain. The area is too hot, we are at risked of getting shot down. Sorry Captain."
Howard screamed in anger.
The number of wounded were climbing up. By then we had fifty wounded, and three dead guys.
We were getting over-runned and the NVA were running down the hills and mountains getting closer and closer every second, while we were trying our best to push them back.
"Oh shit," Lucas noticed the bandolier of ammo was done, even the extra that the guys had giving us from the M14s. "Fuck Sergeant, we're outta ammo!" So I threw the '60 in the mud and Benson tossed me a M16, plus Walowski gave me a little ammo for the M16.
Everson was shooting a M1911 pistol, and was looking calm, popping his head up and down.
"Yo Larry, you looking okay man!" I said. He laughed and said "Fuckin' A I am," His smile then turned into a worried look. "But lemme tell you something. If we don't get some fucking supplies and air support out here, we gonna get killed!"
Finally, we got some air support, and a damn lot of it. F-4s, F-100s, Hueys, everything. The area lit up like an atomic bomb: at least ninety-five percent of the vegetation where the VC were was destroyed.
The battle was finally over and we had a lost of twenty four wounded, and seven killed. We were marines and even though we lost guys, we got the job done.
I went over and saw Benson crying, tears coming from his eyes. "I can't believe I made it, I can't believe I didn't get hit. I can't believe those guys got it but I didn't. I just can't..." His hands were shaking, and Lucas and I put our hands on his to stop it.
Then Everson and Walowski picked him up and held him by his waist.
"Come on man, they got some hot tea at base," Everson said. They went onto the Hueys. There were marines evacuating the wounded and throwing dead NVA in a huge ditch, with Johnson also assisting helping evacuate the marines. I went over and saw the ditch. I just shook my head in anger and sadness.
And then there was a neat line of seven wrapped ponchos. It was our own who were dead, and our own who were suffering. Some of the ponchos were not zipped up already and so you could see the dead marines, faces twisted in anguish and fear. I cried for our dead, for the pain and suffering we were experiencing.
Captain Howard said "Retreat, Hell" which was our motto, looked at the destruction, and gave a salute.
Then I went over and saw Bronk who was sitting against a tree with his eyes closed. His helmet had shrapnel and mud all over it, as well as his pants. He also had mud all over his boots with a blood stain on his arm. He opened his eyes, put on a boonie hat, and began smoking a cigarette. He saw me crying and he put his arms around me. Then we got up and walked together to one of the Hueys.
Staff Sergeant Morrison was helping load the body bags (ponchos) onto the Hueys and Riggs was slowly eating a canned ration, sitting against a tree.
When we were on the Hueys, Bronk then began to cry. No one said anything, just complete silence through out the whole flight back to base. There was nothing to be said.
Our whole squad had formed a brotherhood. Even Walowski, who did not get along with the squad and was at times, prejudiced, was one of us now. Race or culture didn't matter anymore, we were all in the same place trying to get out alive. We were family, we were marines.
Chapter ten - HAPPY TURKEY DAYEdit
2000 Hours (8:00 PM)
November 23, 1967
Hue City, South Vietnam; Phu Bai airbase
Today is Thanksgiving. Ironically, a few days ago we had just had a mortar attack in the middle of night by some NVA units, but now we were enjoying ourselves.
"LOOK FOR SAPPERS, LOOK FOR SAPPERS!" Riggs had said. Sappers were the NVA suicide bombers, who would run into huge U.S. military bases and set off huge bombs, causing many casualties. We jumped out of our bunks and grabbed our rifles. I ran to a MG Nest and placed the M60 and started firing again.
The bombardment was only a mere two minutes. Thankfully no one was killed, with only a couple wounded. The most serious wound was a guy from Fourth Platoon who had taken big pieces of shrapnel all over his leg, but he was gonna live.
We haven't done any real shit since we had the battle at Dak Ha. Been pouring with rain and we have only been listening to music and playing checkers. Benson still felt bad about the battle but he was okay.
Meanwhile, Lucas and I were looking for a good tune to play on the radio. We found a song called "The End" by The Doors. It was a great song and we were listening to it all day, until we had Thanksgiving dinner at 2000 hours.
It was a nice dinner: mash potatoes and gravy, roasted honey-glazed turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mac & cheese, and fruit cocktail. Everson described it as the "first good food he ever got in the Marine Corps" But it was indeed a very nice dinner. For dessert, we had pumpkin pies which were brought from Saigon.
It was the first time we were actually enjoying ourselves in awhile and it felt good.
I don't know when we're going back to patrols. All I know at this moment is that we will be getting some new marines to replace the seriously wounded or dead in our company. Then I thought about what would my father think if I got killed: he was killed in a car crash in 1956 around Eastern Manhattan.
I was only eight years old and mama has been taking care of me since. I remember back home when me and mom used to have arguments as to why dad had to die. She would cry and then I would cry, but then she would begin drinking and such.
The day before I went to 'Nam, I had told her I loved her and kissed her on the cheek. "You don't have to go," she had said. The smell of mint and liquor was under her breath.
"It's my duty, mama. My country needs me." We hugged tight and then I left. I was going to Vietnam and my future laid ahead.
Chapter Eleven - Mission BriefingEdit
1245 Hours (12:45 PM)
December 16, 1967
Hue City, Phu Bai airbase, South Vietnam
Patrol. We have only been in small skirmishes so far this month and this is our second major operation since our whole time in 'Nam. Captain Howard gave our company the briefing in this huge room with hundreds of marines.
"Okay marines. You will be assaulting a hamlet with Oscar Company down south in Pleiku. Intel reports have said that there has been a lot North Vietnamese activity picking up around the area and NVA soldiers harassing villagers." He said.
While he was speaking, he was pointing to the Vietnam region map.
"First, our company will be inserted into LZ 'Wolfpack' from Huey choppers at 1330 hours to the left of the hamlet. Then Oscar will insert on the far right of the hamlet, at LZ 'California', at about 1345 hours. The companies will then secure the perimeter and infiltrate the hamlet. But let me make this clear right now: DO NOT SHOOT UNLESS FIRED UPON. That is our RoE."
The 'RoE' was the rules of engagement you had follow to complete a mission smoothly.
"Lastly, I have a clipboard over here that states all of our casualties since arriving in Vietnam. This is optional and look if you wish."
"Any questions?" He finished.
A guy from Second Platoon asked a question, "Sir what if any villagers or civilians get caught in the cross fire?"
"Well most have already left the area and are in different hamlets. Unfortunately, if they are caught in the cross-fire that is their mistake because they refused to follow orders and leave the hamlet, and frankly, that's not our responsibility. Any more questions?"
No one asked anything else.
"Okay then. Prepare and stay alert. You may now leave." Only a few marines actually left. My squad went up to Howard and then we looked at the clipboard. Johnson read it.
" 'CASUALTIES AND OPERATIONS OF COMPANY M, 2/5' "
WOUNDED: 46 KILLED: 21 ARRIVAL: 9/22/67 WITHDRAW: 7/22/68 MAJOR BATTLES & OPERATIONS: BATTLE AT DAK HA
"Okay. Hopefully shit don't get worse man." Johnson said.
"At least we know what the fuck is happening to our company. And shit is worse already, the 1st Cav' reported fucking hogs coming from Cambodia." Walowski replied.
"Tanks man." I said.
"OH SHIT! What about them peace treaties? What the fuck is President Johnson doing?" Everson said. We had heard about the peace treaties President LBJ had tried to sign in Paris, France but it kept getting stalled. The North Vietnamese just didn't wanna stop.
"I don't know man. Anyways, go get prepped. We need to get ready by 1330 hours. Let's go." I said.
We all walked back to our hooch. We were preparing to kill.
Chapter Twelve - Back in the JungleEdit
1330 Hours (1:30 PM)
December 16, 1967
Pleiku, South Vietnam
We packed up on extra ammo and for the first time, actually put ruck sacks on because we had a lot if gear. The downside was it made everything way an extra ton, because the flak jackets we wore were already heavy as hell.
I took four grenades, ten boxes of ammo for my M60 (five in my ruck sack), two smoke grenades, and another thing for the first time, a M1911 with five clips. I had to had at least one hundred and twenty pounds of gear. Everson was complaining about it.
"Yo Sergeant, I got a question."
"Why the fuck do we have to carry all this shit man? Imma' get a fucking broken back man, I'm tellin' you."
"What did you expect? We're going on a major operation. We have to be prepared for any of these Charlie. That's why we need all this crap." Lucas said. He was eating a canned ration, while talking.
Then Benson began talking. "Exactly man. So Everson quit bitching and moaning about how heavy It is, I can handle it, geez..."
"WELL MAYBE YOU CAN HANDLE IT BECAUSE YOUR TALL ASS IS FUCKING SIX-FOOT SEVEN AND TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY POUNDS!" Everson proclaimed. That ended that conversation.
Afterwards, we got onto the Hueys. While on the choppers we were already taking heavy fire from NVA. Lt. Brooks Foxworth, our pilot who I liked, was swerving the thing around trying to get control. Our door gunner, "Beanie" was raking the wood line where the NVA were, about thirty meters from the hamlet.
Walowski almost fell out but Lucas and Everson pulled him back in. Beanie cleared the landing zone and we finally landed. I saw Lieutenant Riggs yelling for a medic. Johnson ran over to him and they began dragging a wounded marine.
Meanwhile, we were taking heavy fire all around us. I couldn't run for shit with the ruck and flak jacket so I took both off and I felt one thousand pounds lighter.
I was shooting the M60 and suddenly...
POW POW POW!!!!
I felt a massive explosion on my wrist and looked at moderately deep hole with blood gurgling out. Then I felt another explosion (a grenade probably) and felt pieces of shrapnel go right inside my leg.
This time, I went down and then Lucas saw me. He began to panic and said "MEDIC! SERGEANT PERRIER IS HIT, SERGEANT PERRIER IS HIT!" He said.
Then Lucas and Benson helped me up and moved me to a ditch where Hospital Corpsman Baines was wrapping a bandage on my leg and wrist. Then I saw Walowski and Everson run over and hold my hands tight.
"You're a bad motherfucker man! You gonna be okay!" Said Everson.
"It ain't nothin' man, It ain't nothin." Walowski told me.
We were still taking heavy fire with the squad firing back while trying to put me on a stretcher. I kind of tilted my head up on the stretcher and saw Lucas firing my M60.
I also saw Bronk giving me a thumbs up and fighting hard against the enemy.
I was on the MEDEVAC chopper (not Brook's chopper) and it lifted off. I looked to my right; and saw Captain Howard next to me. He had a bullet wound in the neck and shrapnel on the back of his head.
"You're gonna be okay Sergeant Perrier. Just a bullet wound in the wrist and some small shrapnel in the leg. Grenade exploded next to you, your buddy Lucas just told me that while he was helping me load you on. You're lucky to be alive, Sergeant."
The crew chief was working on Captain Howard. He was performing an emergency tracheotomy (throat or neck surgery) to save him.
"How's he doing?" The medical officer asked.
"HE AIN'T BREATHIN!" Said the crew chief.
The door gunner (not Beanie) was spitting rounds all over the hamlet. Then the medical officer began giving Captain Howard mouth-to-mouth and he finally awoke. Howard's eyes were frantic and he screamed, "WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?"
They calmed him down and told him what happened and began treating him again. Then the medical officer put a IV shot in my leg and I blacked out.
Chapter Thirteen - HospitalEdit
0800 Hours (8:00 AM)
December 17, 1967
Chu Lai, South Vietnam
I have just regained consciousness and woke up at 0800 hours. My right wrist where I had taken the round was bandaged, and both my legs were lightly bandaged. I saw Captain Howard next to me.
He had gotten surgery and was sleeping, snoring. Bronk, who I hadn't expected to be there, was talking to a doctor and I called over to him.
"Bronk? Dude Is that you?" I said.
"Holy shit man! You're awake!" He was smiling and went up to me. We exchanged fives with my left hand.
"So I heard ya got hit buddy?" He said.
"Yeah man. Why the fuck are you here anyways?"
"Well the company was taking heavy shit and then we retreated. I took some shrapnel to the back and they sent me here. Going back to the company later today. Anyways, where you got hit?" Bronk asked.
"Shrapnel in both legs and bullet wound in right wrist."
"Well your wounds are not that bad but you'll be staying here longer than me. So I got good news and bad news, man."
"What's the good news?" I asked.
"The good news is that you're alive and Captain Howard will live and be sent home."
"And the bad news?" I asked. He looked at me hard and sighed.
"The bad news.... Well, the doctor expects you to be going back to combat in two weeks."
"Awww, fuck! This is bullshit, I served my time and I'm a good marine! What the hell is that?" I pounded my left hand against the wall and sighed really hard.
"I don't wanna go back man. See how I got fucking wounded??!! What if the next time It's one step higher? Then I'm freaking dead and my mom's gonna be weeping over me!"
"Look I'm real sorry, Rob. I really want you to get back to The World. Besides man, It hasn't even been confirmed yet, so you never know!" He said, hopeful.
It did little to make me feel better and there was a pause for a moment. Then we started talking about high school.
"Man you were the captain of the football team. The fresh cheerleader pussy cheering on the football field, mmmmmmm." I said, enthusiastically.
We laughed together, just like old times.
"Haha, Rob. You played soccer and hung out with that girl Jennifer." He said, and I began to think a bit.
Jennifer Altimeyer, that was her name. She was real nice. She wasn't the foxy type nor was she crazy hot or anything, but she still looked pretty fine and we would hang out a lot. I could have started a serious relationship with her but we went our separate ways.
I joined the USMC and I'm here in Vietnam, and she went to college to play volleyball.
Then I answered Bronk. "Yeah man. She was cool and played volleyball. I think she was one of the best in the school because she got that ten thousand dollar scholarship to go play volleyball at Arkansas University. And what I loved about her was that she never bragged about it or anything, she always helped people who were into volleyball too."
"I remember I played volleyball with her and she whipped my ass, haha." I chuckled.
"Man I remember that," He said. "Remember that time when she served the ball in the air real-real high and you jumped up for it but fell straight back down right on your ankle, haha. You sprained that shit and you were bitching and moaning." He laughed.
"It was funny how Jennifer was sorry and felt bad for you because you sucked at volleyball. Me and Higgins were there too, some good times." He said.
By that point, Bronk and I were smiling and reflecting on those times. But the Higgins guy Bronk was talking about was a good friend of ours who we hanged out with in our freshman and sophomore years. We played basketball with him, and always used to do pranks and stuff.
Unfortunately, he was a drug dealer and sold crack/cocaine. He was killed in a drive by apparently for not paying some drug money. The murderers were a small gang from the eastern part of the Bronx who came straight to Brooklyn just to kill Higgins.
I always remember how that affected me, because Higgins was really close to me, maybe even more than Bronk at the time. But more importantly, I loved him, he was like a brother to me.
I was crying at his funeral and his mother was weeping hysterically. That was very painful for me, and that's another reason why I joined the military, just to get away from the streets and the violence.
Bronk and I continued talking and then orders came for Bronk to return to Mistress Company. I was sad and we both wanted each other to return home. I hugged him tight and we exchanged fives.
"I hope you make it back to The World man!" He had said.
"I'm pushin' for it bro!" I said, encouragingly.
Then he grabbed his rucksack and fitted on his flak jacket and left the hospital. I fell asleep after that.
Chapter Fourteen - Going back to combat and New Year's EveEdit
2300 Hours (11:00 PM)
December 31, 1967
Chu Lai, South Vietnam
I didn't believe Brock when he told me I was going back to combat, but my orders were received today to be sent to the shit tomorrow.
One of my doctors informed me.
"Okay let's see Sergeant. You've been recommended for a Bronze Star on two occasions, been in country since September 22, and this is your first Purple Heart?
"Yes this is my first time being wounded and a receiving a purple heart, sir."
"Well it better be your last Sergeant Perrier." He threw a clipboard on my bedside and began leaving before I called him back.
I looked back at the clipboard.
"Sir, what is this clipboard for?" For some reason my eyes were frantic.
He sighed and said, "That clipboard contains your orders. You're going back to combat, son."
He left the room and went to speak to another nurse. Then I grabbed the clipboard and read the list of names going back to combat:
1. CPL. Dimitri Jones, USMC 1/9, Khe Sanh
2. SPC. John McDonald, U.S. ARMY 101st Airborne Div, A Shau Valley
3. SSG. Reed Cooper, U.S. ARMY 25th Infantry Div, Saigon
4. LT. Donald Erikkson, U.S. ARMY 25th Infantry Div, Saigon
5. SGT. Robinson Perrier, USMC 2/5, Hue City
6. SPC. Evan Turner, U.S. ARMY 1st Infantry Div, Tan Son Nhut Air Base
7. PFC. Allen Stevenson, U.S. ARMY 1st Air Cavalry Div, Camp Evans
8. SGT. Devin Hickman, USMC 1/9, Khe Sanh
9. PFC. Lenny Johnson, U.S. ARMY 173rd Airborne Brigade, An Khe
10. SPC. Cameron Brady, U.S. ARMY 173rd Airborne Brigade, An Khe
Then I threw it down. I almost began having a panic attack until surprisingly, the girl I had met on the plane to 'Nam came in.
She still looked pretty but she looked much more tired, signifying her long experience in Vietnam. She had a Lieutenant insignia on her right arm, so I figured she was an officer.
"Hi good looking!" Lisa said. She bent over and we hugged.
"How's It goin'?"
"Nothing much. I heard you were wounded so I went to check on how you were doing. And so here I am!" She smiled and she just looked so cute.
"Thanks Lisa. You're very kind." I don't know but to myself, I sounded like an idiot saying it Maybe I was a little slow or something.
"Appreciate it Rob. Anyways how you got wounded?"
"Well two companies in our battalion were going on a major operation down south in Pleiku,"
"Why were you guys going to Pleiku? Isn't most of the area secured already?" She asked.
"Well most of the place was secure but there was one particular hamlet that was housing NVA. So we went with our choppers to two LZs and we were taking heavy fire. I got shot in my right wrist and a grenade exploded next to me. I got sent here and hanged out with my buddy before he got sent back to our company."
"I'm just glad you're okay. Always liked you Rob, you're good-looking and got a sense of humor. I got to go treat some other wounded guys, though. Hope I see you around, bye!" She smiled and waved at me.
Then I got up on my crutches and lightly grabbed her by the arm. I just wanted to tell her I appreciated what she was doing for me.
"I appreciate this Lisa. Glad to se--"
Then she kissed me passionately, the kind of kiss you will never forget.
"I hope you make it out of here Rob. I really like you, and care about you a lot." Then she went to her patient.
One guy saw this and told me to sleep with her but I shrugged him off. Then he muttered something about how the marines were weird but I didn't care.
We were doing most of the fighting and if he calls me weird for not sleeping with a girl that I just kissed for the first time, then the hell with him, he could kiss my marine ass, OORAH.
During the time I spent in the hospital, I befriended a few wounded guys. One guy, who was a regular infantryman, had some really bad wounds. He had a bloody cast on his arm, his head and part of his face was wrapped in bloody bandage, and his right leg was amputated. The other leg was burned.
His name was Ryan Campbell.
"What happened?" I asked.
"I was with the 173rd at Dak To in November, man."
"OH SHIT! My company was at Dak Ha man! We heard you dudes were taking a lot of shit up in Dak To. How were you wounded?"
"Well we had been at Dak To for a week and had already suffered heavy casualties. Our brigade had twenty killed, one hundred and fifty-four wounded, and even two guys who were missing. The NVA had gotten us straight in our asses and we were fighting for our lives. My squad leader and platoon sergeant were dead, and six out of the nine guys in our squad were either dead or wounded."
"The only dudes left who weren't wounded or dead were me, Specialist Tomlin, and PFC. Lee. I was the leader of the squad since I was Corporal and everyone else like I said, were either dead or wounded besides Tomlin and Lee who were lower rank than me, so I took command. All we would do during our time at Dak To is sing songs to boost our morale, play checkers on this little board Lee made out of wood and leaves, and play hide and go-seek with our fucking M16s, haha. Our company commander would get mad at us, hahahaha, and said we were luring NVA."
Campbell and I were laughing by then.
"Then on the 13th of November, we got an artillery barage from the NVA. We were already under-strength and our beliguered brigade were still taking casualties."
"We were firing back harshly and Lee was on his best as he was the last machine gunner not wounded or dead in the platoon, plus there were only five MGs that were alive and not wounded or dead, in the entire company. I was panicking and then I ran over to a tree. A minute or two later, It was hit by an artillery round and I blacked out. I don't remember anything after that. So here I am."
We stopped talking briefly and then he asked me to read the book Old Yeller.
As I read some of the book, Campbell would begin to cry. He couldn't wipe the tears and snot in his nose off because his arms hurted so bad, and had little to no movement. So every once and awhile, I would grab some tissue and wipe them for him and he would thank me. I never felt so much pity for one person in my life, other than my mother.
On Christmas Eve, he got transferred to Saigon and we said our goodbyes. But during that day, the whole hospital had a Christmas party.
My wrist and legs had healed really good and we had some beer being passed around. We had fun and we were partying. The nurses got all hot and shit and were hanging out in tight clothes, even wearing bikinis that said:
"SUPPORT THE TROOPS. ARMYSTRONG!!!" On one nurse's bra. This boosted many of the guys' morales.
I was drinking beer and hanging out with a few other guys. I got a present from the hospital which was a new barrel for my M60; it made me laugh, haha.
So we're having a New Year's celebration because it is December 31, and obviously, I'm going back to the shit straight in the morning, so I can't party.
I had heard of guys deserting and escaping to Sweden because they didn't wanna fight in 'Nam. How the hell do you get to Sweden from Vietnam? And there were people like Muhammed Ali who refused to go because of religion and personal views.
I just didn't wanna go back and possibly get killed. And things weren't getting better, they were getting worse. Like Walowski said, tanks were coming from Cambodia into the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and last week, two hundred and thirteen servicemen were killed in Vietnam and seven hundred and fifty-six were wounded. Every week casualties would increase.
But there is no other option. Either I go back or I'm court-martialed.
Fuck this shit.
Part Three - Tet OffensiveEdit
Chapter Fifteen - "Welcome Back To The Shithole"Edit
1100 Hours (11:00 AM)
January 1, 1968
Hue City, South Vietnam, Phu Bai Airbase
Back in country. I had woke up at 0900 hours, got breakfast and said my good-byes to Lisa and a few other guys.
"I love you Rob, you better promise me I will see you back in Brooklyn, you got that? You can't die in this shit, and neither can I."
She began to quiver and her eyes began to water.
"I'm freaking twenty three years old and we don't deserve to see this stuff. You know what I thought?"
"That this would be fucking easy and I mean FUCKING easy. Just giving out lollipops to GIs who had freaking neat little cuts and bruises, plus the occasional joking around and stuff. But not this. Certainly not this, certainly not the horrible stuff I've seen. I just can't take it anymore..."
She began silently weeping and I comforted her. She put her head on my shoulder, then I put my arms around her and we softly kissed.
"But please, I mean please, promise me you're gonna make it out of this, okay?"
"You got it. I know I can't let you down." Then my chopper pilot came in the hospital and told me we were moving out to Hue City.
"That's your girl?" The pilot had asked me on the way to the Huey.
"Yeah I guess. She really likes me and I really like her. I just hope we can both make it out of here alive."
"That's real good," He said and then started smoking a pack of Marlboro cigarettes.
"I remember when I was your age which was like twelve years ago. All I did was I would have sex with the chick and then forget about her, and move on to the next one," He pointed to his cigarettes. "I used the chicks like cigarettes: Enjoy one, disposed of one, and then move on to the next. I regret that now because I have a lovely wife and two kids."
"Um what is your point, sir?"
"My point is, is that you should not use women like that, but I see you're not following my path as I was watching you talk and comfort her. Glad to see you are doing that."
"Thanks sir." At least someone cared.
We got to Hue at 1100 hours. I was walking through the boonies looking for Mistress Company. I had asked a tired looking Staff Sergeant where the company was. "They're in the hooches north to the far left. Where HQ is." He said.
I kept walking and then I saw the squad playing card games. Staff Sergeant Morrison was there and he was drinking beer. Everson saw me.
"Whoa, yo you sneaking up on me like a damn 'cong Sarge. How the fuck you been?"
"Been fine. How the squad been?"
"We been alright, Morrison been squad leader and he was alright. He shiftin' back to Platoon Sergeant now that you back. Anyways you want some barbecue, man? Lucas shot a water buffalo and we been eating real good since. Been feeding the whole platoon."
"HOLY SHIT. Look who's back!" Lucas said. He was grinning with a piece of the meat in his mouth. He had barbecue sauce all over his mouth too. We knuckle-touched because his hands were caked in the sauce and I didn't want it on my hands,
"How ya been man," He said.
I answered enthusiastically.
"Okay first things first man. First off how the fuck you doing, two, let's get the god-damn food already and number three, where the fuck did you get the sauce?" We laughed.
"Well I'm fine and I got the sauce from my grandmother in San Francisco. She's into making ribs and all that type of stuff, so she gave me her favorite sauce. Anyways, let's get the fucking food!" We walked to this grill where Benson and this other guy were grilling the food.
Benson saw me and fucking bear-hugged me. I was struggling to speak, "Okay....man...but please----let--go of me before I freaking choke."
"Haha Sarge. Welcome back to The Shithole!" We exchanged fives.
I tapped the other guy cooking with him on the shoulder. "Hey uh, who are you?"
"He's the new guy in the squad. Him and a few other guys from November Company were sent to this platoon. He's a fucking cherry." Lucas said, sort of annoyed.
The new guy didn't say anything, just stood there flipping the buffalo ribs. He was very tall, taller than me and almost Benson's height but other than that, he looked pretty ordinary except he had an Italian flag tattooed on his arm.
I was getting annoyed and fed up with him.
"Hey look man, I'm fucking talking to you. You deaf or something?" I said.
"Like Lucas here said, he's a fucking cherry. Cherries don't know nothing." Everson said.
"Hey do you speak? Where you from man? When were you born? What's your name?" I said.
He just simply ignored me and kept grilling the ribs.
"Okay so that's how It is huh? You wanna play games, so be it. Just know I am the leader of this squad and I don't take bullshit, you got that?"
Then he looked at me and frowned, sarcastically,
"Don't be frowning at me buddy, because I would kick your sorry ass in a heartbeat," I said with authortity. Then all hell broke loose.
That's when he threw me against the wall and held me by the collar. I punched him in the face multiple times and his lip started bleeding. But he started getting the upper hand and got me in a headlock. Everyone in the hooch was chanting my name to kick his ass.
I regained the upper hand and threw him into the mud. Next, I went and kicked him right in the ass but he pulled my leg shortly after and I fell straight on my ass, and that shit actually hurted.
Then he went up and was attempting to choke me but again, I gained the upper hand because I slapped him in the eye.
The fight finally ended when two whole squads finally broke it up. Then Lieutenant Riggs sent us to HQ hooch, where our new CO was, Captain Greenburg. He was twenty six, and he didn't look too shabby. He wanted to serve his country but he wasn't too gung-ho either. He also had a Force Recon patch on his right arm.
"I see you have just came back from Chu Lai, so if I can introduce myself Sergeant Perrier, my name is Captain Daniel Greenburg. I hope to command this company very well and we can complete our goal over here." He went over and we shaked hands.
"Glad to meet you sir."
"So what is the problem here Sergeant?" He asked.
I told him the whole story and then he asked the other guy who's name I found out was Joseph Naylor. He was an Irish/Italian-American and he spoke with a heavy accent. He reminded me of the guys in the Mafia during the 1930s.
"Sir I was intimidated." He looked up at Naylor with a raised eyebrow.
"You are intimidated of Sergeant Perrier, Mr. Naylor?"
"No sir, the squad was intimidating. I didn't really appreciate Lance Corporal Lucas calling me a so called 'cherry', and Sergeant Perrier screaming at me to answer." He said.
"That's fucking bullshit sir. He's lying. I only got mad at him in the first place because he refused to answer the FIRST fucking question. I'm not sure if he's retarded or something.."
And then the fight started again because I was implying he was a retard and then he punched me in the stomach but I kicked him in the back. This time we actually listened to orders and stopped fighting.
"You two just better stay away from each other. Naylor, listen to orders! And for you Mr. Perrier, learn how to freaking handle the situation because the marines isn't made for the weak. Is that clear?"
"Sir yes SIR!" We said. Then we went back to our hooch. I was tired so I drunk a beer and fell asleep.
Chapter Sixteen - Getting WorseEdit
1730 (5:30 PM)
January 22, 1968
Hue City, South Vietnam, Phu Bai airbase
Because the Tet holiday is coming up on the 31st, we haven't done shit this month. But things are still getting worse. Yesterday at the Khe Sanh Combat Base around the Quang Tri Province, Hill 861 was attacked by a three hundred man NVA battalion but the Marines were prepared. 1/9 is taking heavy shit up there and things aren't looking good. I remember the two guys on the clipboard who were in 1/9, getting sent back to Khe Sanh: Dimitri Jones and Devin Hickman, I wonder if they were even alive and what were they doing.
"What we got to do," Evers was saying. He was drinking Coca Cola and he started laughing for whatever reason. The soda went up his nose and he started laughing sugary snot.
"What the hell? Why you laughing?" Johnson said.
"I don't know man. I just got to pee and It's just so damn funny because the latrine smell like freaking monkey shit, hahaha. I wonder if I pee in that latrine, and magically, Mr and Mrs. Cong pop out speaking some 'CHING - CHONG' to me and then I pee right on 'em."
We didn't know what the fuck he was talking about but by then, we were all laughing, even Naylor.
"Man where the hell did you get that from bro?" Naylor said.
"I dunno cherry!" Everson said.
Naylor didn't take it offensive for the first time and then we were laughing like retards. Lucas fell off his chair but Walowski helped him up.
"Woo, that was hilarious. Anyways, what were you gonna--" Then Benson began the laughing again and then we were laughing all over again. I swear, I think we were all stoned.
"Okay okay, shut the fuck up man, hahaha." We were giggling a little and it finally stopped.
"So Larry, what were you gonna say, man?" I said.
"Well what Everson was gonna say Rob, is that what we got to do, is nuke the place. First get the marines out and then nuke all them slant-eyed motherfuckers. Exterminate them, like fucking pests. 'Ol Larold Everson thinks he makes the best decisions and fight the war himself. Ain't that right Sarge?" Walowski said.
He was kicking Everson's bunk, and instigating.
"Mind your own business and shut the fuck up peckerwood. Plus, stop kicking my bed you damn hippy before I smack you silly." That ended that conversation.
Even though It wasn't his fault this time, it was as if It was like a sport for him; Disrespect any marine he wanted to and take his chances.
Get into a fight and probably get his ass kicked, or shut that marine down. I didn't get it, he was looking for trouble.
We were getting to know a little bit more about the 'cherry', Naylor, after Walowski and Everson finished talking.
He was apparently from the Bronx and was drafted into the Marine Corps.
"I got my draft notice in November 1966. I reported to the army recruiter's office in December and then there was a USMC recruiter who was looking to recruit some Marines. So I said, 'Hey why the hell not??!! They're the toughest out of the whole military and I like a challenge.' So I spoke to him, yada yada, and said I was gonna go to boot camp on January 9, 1967. So I did boot camp, graduated in April and stayed in Camp Lejeune. Shit was picking up around here so I came with you guys in September of last year. Last week, they transferred me to this company and so here I am."
"So you been through all the bullshit we've been through huh?" Everson said.
"Not Dak Ha but November Company which I was in at that time sent two sniper platoons to Dak Ha with you guys. Besides that, I been through everything else."
"Da Nang, Phu Boi and when we did the major operation on the hamlet down in Pleiku. That's why I was wonderin' why you fellas were calling me a god-damn cherry when I've been here just as long as you gentlemen. Sergeant Perrier fought with me for no reason." Naylor said.
"Don't matter anymore. It happened we didn't know, we just thought you was some young fucker from November Company looking to make a name for himself. It is what it is." I said.
"Whatever man. Are you fellas gonna get chow? I heard they got chicken teriyaki with biscuits. At least It's better than the same freaking cold ass beef stew we get." He said.
"Alright, fuck it let's go," I said. The food was meh, but It was better than the ham & motherfuckers we got as rations, those were terrible.
Chapter Seventeen - ATTACKED.Edit
0200 - 0400 Hours (2:00 - 4:00 AM)
January 31, 1968
Hue City, South Vietnam
Guard Duty (GD). We had been warned on the 29th by Intelligence in Tam Ky that the NVA were planning major operations but no one took It seriously, as Tet was coming up.
This guard duty was like a routine for us even though It was our first. It was me, Lucas, Naylor, Everson, Bronk and Gunnery Sergeant Hamilton for guard duty.
Hamilton was a company advisor from November Company who had missed a routine patrol yesterday for feeling sick, so he was stuck with us for GD.
The dude was thirty two, from New Orleans, Louisana, and sounded goofy when he gave out orders.
Plus he was the shortest out of all of us; I was six-three, and Bronk was the same height; Naylor was six-five, Everson was five-eleven, Lucas was six-one, but Hamilton was five-eight.
We were in these small, shallow fighting holes (They weren't as deep as foxholes or trenches) which had two rows of sandbags neatly stacked together in-front of us, with wooden pallets nailed on the ground, inside of the holes, for us to stand on.
It wasn't safe at all, half your body was exposed when you looked up to shoot, the sandbags weren't even fully filled and the wooden pallets on the ground were shaky as hell. I thought for sure we would give away our positions.
Hamilton was complaining about it. "This is bullshit. Looks like these sandbags were set up by an eight year old. How you guys doing?" He said, in his distinctive goofy voice.
This had Naylor and Everson cracking up, while I had a smirk on my face.
Lucas was giggling while eating some powdered donuts he had gotten from his grandma back in San Francisco. He seemed to be eating a lot whenever the squad would be having conversations, although he was not fat, he was slim.
Meanwhile, Bronk was reading this book about getting females, so he paid no attention as to what was going on. Lucas had powder all over his mouth and It looked like he was doing crack.
Hamilton was getting annoyed and aggravated. He looked at me.
"What the fuck are they laughin' about, Perrier?" They started laughing more and Lucas almost choked on a donut.
"Just ignore them Hamilton, they on drugs or something," I replied.
Then we stopped laughing for a little bit after we got radioed by Captain Greenburg that General Westmoreland's HQ had been attacked at Tan Son Nhut.
It was 2:00 AM or 0200 hours.
"Be on high watch marines," Westmoreland had said.
"Eh, nothin' is gonna happen." Hamilton.
"We'll see," Bronk said, "We'll just fucking see."
We stayed there for thirty minutes until at 2:30 AM, somebody lit up a signal flare. The only guys awake were Greenburg and us, so we were the only marines who saw it.
"What the hell... We never got informed of a flare. What the fuck is going on?" Lucas said.
"I don't know man. Let's just sit and wait." Hamilton replied.
"Yep, we just sitting ducks huh? These bastuds' are waitin' to grease us outta of existence." Naylor said, joining the convo. He said it with his strong accent and I almost laughed.
"Shut the fuck up!" Hamilton again. Then Naylor muttered something under his breathe.
Once the flare went down, simultaneously, we started to hear the sounds of sporadic gun fire, mortars, artillery, all that shit.
"Holy shit," Everson said.
Then we got radioed by Greenburg that the citadel on the northern part of the city was being attacked by the NVA's 6th Regiment. The NVA's 4th Regiment also attacked the MACV compound south of the city.
The ARVN (South Vietnamese soldiers who we controlled the city with) that were there were getting intense fire and were getting their asses kicked, while we were at Phu Bai, close to the MACV compound. Guys in our battalions (2/5, 1/5, & 3/5) were waking up to see what was going on.
"Stand your ground!" Greenburg said. "Don't fire anything, we don't want these gooks to know our position!"
So we just sat there and listened.
Then at 0330 hours, we received heavy mortar and rocket fire. By this point, our battalion commander Ernest C. Cheatham, had told us that all major cities and villages in South Vietnam were getting hit!
"Incoming! Mortar round, twelve o'clock!" Lucas said.
There was this mortar round hurtling right towards our hole. We ran out as fast as we could, barely escaping in time.
But Hamilton didn't make it out in time.
He was unconscious, his face was severely burned, his right leg had a huge gaping wound, plus he had shrapnel all over his chest. "MEDIC!!!! WE NEED A FUCKING MEDIC! HAMILTON IS HIT!" Bronk had said.
Me and him were dragging Hamilton to provide aid while the rest of the squad were looking for a medic. We stopped and began giving him CPR.
"He ain't breathing!" Bronk said.
"You got to keep trying man, keep trying man!" I said
We started to give him mouth-to-mouth one at a time, but nothing was working. He regained consciousness for a quick sec but a mortar round landing nearby and he took more shrapnel to his face and his stomach, however, he was still breathing slowly.
We picked him up by both legs and just carried him in our arms. I had blood on my arms and helmet, and Bronk's hands were caked in Hamilton's blood. We finally regrouped with our battalion and the ARVN who were at the Truoi River fighting off a whole fucking division of NVA. By the time we were at the river, Hamilton was dead.
"Where the fuck is Sgt Hamilton?" a Captain asked. He had a bloody nose and was wiping it with tissue.
"He's dead. He got mortally wounded by a mortar." Bronk.
"SHIT! Where is his body?"
Bronk dragged his corpse to the Captain and then the Cap' got two other marines to place him in a body bag.
For some reason, even though It was tragic that Hamilton died, I didn't feel emotion. Maybe I didn't feel anything because I barely knew anything about him and he was sort of a 'new guy' to me. It was always better the new guy rather than the seasoned veterans who everyone liked to be killed. We didn't want it to happen but It was just the way it was.
Then, we had our game faces on and we were gonna kill as much as these NVA as we possibly could.
Chapter Eighteen - Raging on....Edit
1000 Hours (10:00 AM)
January 31, 1968
Hue City, South Vietnam
Been six and a half hours since we were attacked. We retreated to the MACV compound after the intial battle, which was bombarded by U.S. air support, and the NVA had retreated to buildings around the compound.
It was chaos, as once we got there there were already guys in 1st Battalion, 1st Marines firing off of balconies and on the street, but they got a lot of NVA, at a few killed and ten wounded.
We've only had Hamilton killed and a few wounded in our battalion, because the NVA retreated a few minutes after the first attack at Phu Bai. During battle, we were fighting with the ARVN, who were leading the operation.
They were the South Vietnamese troops who we were supporting in Vietnam and were 'meh', as far as I'm concerned.
From what Lieutenant Riggs had told us, the ARVN had some of the best units that had to offer and were willing to do anything to complete a mission, but some units were completely made out of pussies and would bug out on you once the mission started.
I think we had some crap units with us because those idiots already have fifteen killed and sixty-five wounded in there division already. But maybe I shouldn't say that, because we sustained much less casualties with them.
Meanwhile during the battle, we also actually had our M48 Patton tanks reinforcing the enemy, which was a first for me. I don't think they killed any NVA, they just destroyed buidlings and apartments, fucking up the whole city.
It was sad to see the collateral damage but there was nothing we could do about it. The NVA would just shoot and run off, and that was the worst part because you had no idea if they would return. You just wanted to stay alive, day to day and hopefully get home.
On top of that, we're getting exhausted because of a lack of supplies and the hot weather, so I took off my long sleeve uniform shirt and only wore a green tank top with my flak jacket on.
I had wrapped four bandoliers of ammo, all over my flak jacket, and put two Hershey bars on my helmet strap to eat for later.
Later in the morning, our battalions established a defensive position in the MACV compund with some of our tanks and infantry with sandbags surrounding us on each side. The tanks would be on our left and right flanks, plus we had a sniper platoon scounting on top of a four-story building.
It was decent but not great enough to withstand a well placed RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) round.
I was speaking with Bronk when we just got word from Captain Greenburg that we would be doing house-to-house, door-to-door fighting in some of the apartments about two blocks away from our defensive positions.
He presented the orders from the overall commander in Hue, Colonel Stanley S. Hughes.
"Get your shit ready. You guys fuck up and It's the end of your life." He didn't seem too happy about it.
"Captain, can you please elaborate, sir?" A guy from 4th Platoon asked.
"Look, basically we go into these houses a few blocks away, and clear them. Shoot any of these zipperheads or whatever you see. Is that clear enough?"
No one asked more questions. The Captain went to go talk to our battalion commander.
Then 1st Platoon's Leader, 2nd Lieutenant Johansen, was pissed off.
He was a Norwegian-American kid who was only twenty three with big dimples and fuzzy blonde hair that was cut short for military requirements. His arms were paraded with tattoos and he had his sleeves rolled up. He seemed cool.
"Fucking Captain already has his head up his own ass. That cherry only been here since December and already thinks he is fucking god, giving out stern orders." Johansen said.
"If we're killed because of him, somebody oughta' frag his ass." A guy from 2nd Platoon said.
Lieutenant Riggs interrupted.
"Don't be talking no crazy shit like that. Orders are orders, okay? This is the Marine Corps where we're disciplined, not the National Guard. Let's just get this shit over with."
The 2nd Platoon guy reluctantly agreed, as well as Johansen, somewhat.
"Since when you giving out orders Lieutenant? Just because we're the same rank don't mean you bossing me around, old man." Lieutenant Johansen smirked and clicked his tongue at him.
Then Riggs went off.
"Since when we didn't have a FUCKING PLAN to retake this block, now let's go clear those buildings. Also, last time I checked I was a First Lieutenant and you're a fucking junior LT. And yeah I'm a old man! I'm thirty five years old and I've been fighting for sixteen years. When I was in Korea kicking ass, you were still in your pampers shitting on yourself, kid! So just shut the fuck up and follow orders!"
He shut Johansen down and you could see it all over Johansen's face. I could tell Johansen took it personal but he didn't say nothing more, neither did the guy from 2nd Platoon.
So we had our battalion to clear out the two blocks, which were in between a long line of apartments. Our company would handle the apartments on the far left which was the first block, and November Company would handle the others.
Oscar Company had sent a weapons platoon with the 106mm recoiless rifle, tanks, and even some artillery as support. The other battalions would help scout around the area.
We moved out in gun trucks and stopped. We got out and moved behind some walls.
Someone threw a purple smoke grenade on the road and our platoon crossed the street, while the others would check out the other buildings on our block.
My squad came across this small apartment and we prepared to kick the front door in. Benson, Walowski and Johnson were backed with us, and we were ready to kick some ass. Lucas had this Ithaca 37 Shotgun and he would go in first.
I gave the squad some hand signals and I then I screamed "GO GO GO!" Lucas kicked the door in, and Everson went it, followed by Benson, Walowski, Johnson, and Me.
The only thing there was just a bed and a picture of a Vietnamese dude smoking a cigarette. Then we left the house and that's when we started taking fire from a building all the way down the street.
"Shit! GET DOWN, FUCKING SNIPER!" I screamed. We ran back behind the walls and the bullets were richocheting all around.
"Get some suppressive fire down there!" Lieutenant Riggs.
I was peeking and shooting with the M60. Benson and Everson were apparently shooting these M14s they had gotten from the MACV compound, and then firing their regular M16s in-between.
Walowski was feeding me ammo, while Lucas and Johnson were shooting these M79s.
Shit got worse when we started getting suppressed like crazy from this machine gun bunker.
Then someone decided to get off the building wall and proceed forward to the next row of walls where they got wounded. It was some kid in 3rd Squad from Houston, Texas. He got shot in the jaw and we couldn't leave him there, so we all proceeded forward. The wound was catastrophic with flesh poking out and blood spewing all over the ground. He couldn't speak and pools of blood were getting into his mouth.
Then Lieutenant Riggs called in a MEDEVAC.
"Tango Niner, this is Bravo-Zulu 1-5, can we get a MEDEVAC at this moment, over?"
"Bravo-Zulu 1-5, what is your condition, out?"
"Look I have one severely wounded marine who is suffering from a direct hit to the jaw. The round is stuck in his jaw and he is getting worse every minute. I can't take any more marines dying out here, so just get a MEDEVAC over here, ASAP!" He said it with a real serious tone and expression.
"No problem, expect MEDEVAC in five minutes, 1-5."
"Copy, out!" On a quick note, Riggs call sign was "Bravo-Zulu 1-5" and the MEDEVAC callsign was "Tango Niner."
Then an AT man from 2nd Platoon took out a M72 LAW and shot a direct round at the building we were taking fire from. A cloud of dust went in our faces, as the building collapsed onto the MG bunker and the firefight was over.
Two guys were already killed and eighteen guys in the company were wounded. Riggs and Staff Segeant Morrison were dragging the kid who got shot in the jaw. They layed him down next to this market, where we stopped.
But it was too late, the kid was dead. He had drowned in his own blood, horrible. Those were the type of things you didn't wanna see, and just wanted to shut out of your mind.
I swear, I thought I saw Lieutenant Riggs shed a tear when a Lance Corporal told him that the kid was only nineteen and had a daughter who was ten months old. He was gonna get married when he returned home.
The MEDEVAC came and escorted the dead and wounded. Our squad didn't say anything; after all, marines don't ask questions, just do. We just didn't want the pain and suffering to get to us.
"It is what it is man, it is what it is..." Everson had said. He didn't cry, he just stood there eating these crackers Benson had given him. He was looking hard into the distance and I could tell he was thinking about it, but he still didn't show emotion, neither did anyone else.
We started taking fire again a few minutes after the MEDEVAC left. There were these villagers who were standing on the sidewalk, watching us: two little children, five men, and four women.
Our ARVN translator was yelling at them to get out of the way but they just stood there. Three of the male villagers popped out AK-47s and started firing recklessly, before one of our squads gunned them down.
The kids got caught in the crossfire and they were killed too. Horrible.
Riggs directed SSgt. Morrison to call in artillery on the NVA positions, but Captain Greenburg who was at HQ, was saying we were way too close and that we needed to back up at least one hundred meters for all of our men to be safe.
No one wanted to take the risk.
So we were on our own. Then the Oscar Company guys took out the 106mm recoiless rifle about fifty meters away, the big anti-tank weapon that we were gonna use to neutralize the NVA. We all plugged our ears with our fingers and then some yelled "FIRE!"
The round went spiraling in the air and hit a coffee shop, destroying it into pieces. The building was on fire for sometime, and then we ran over to it and we saw what was left of the NVA attackers.
One body was a mangled mess with a humungous piece of shrapnel in the thigh with the flesh dangling from the leg, and burns all over the face and back.
Another body was completely charred, with the face disfigured and the arm blown off. At least five guys had to have vomited, including Naylor and Walowski.
Lucas, I don't know what happened to him, kept shooting rounds into the dead bodies. And we were all screaming cease fire.
Staff Sergeant Morrison ran over to him. "Whoa whoa, calm down man. Just hand me the M16 man. Let's get outta here."
Then Morrison went over and looked at the even more mutilated bodies of the NVA and gagged.
"Well, that gook is done."
A few guys started wrapping the NVA corpses in body bags and then Lieutenant Riggs called in a Huey to escort them. At least we didn't leave the bodies there to rot. There was no crying, just confusion.
The Huey recovered the bodies, and I noticed Lt. Foxworth was the pilot. He saw the bodies and already pinched his nose, then dropped the cigarette out of his mouth.
"What the hell happened to you guys?"
"You don't wanna know," Lieutenant Riggs said.
We then ran to this six-story apartment where we were gonna stay there for the rest of the day. I finally ate those two Hershey bars I had.
This had to be some of the most bloodiest and filthiest fighting I've ever been in.
Chapter Nineteen - TV crewEdit
1500 Hours (3:00 PM)
February 4, 1968
Hue City, South Vietnam
Been almost a week since the beginning of the operation. We already killed like 500 NVA and countless numbers we have captured. But shit hasn't been going good for us either; every single day, since January 30th, we've been in heavy firefights. Just yesterday, a M48 Patton got destroyed when It was hit by 2 RPGs. The gunner and loader were killed, but the driver and commander were severely wounded. We already got 25 killed and 105 wounded in our whole battalion, and at least everyone in our squad has been wounded in some way; Everson and Lucas have taken shrapnel, Naylor took a shot to the hand, Benson fell on his back after he attempted to jump over a tall wall, and Johnson & Walowski have gotten their fatigues slightly burned. I've taken shrapnel to the neck.
Everyday, we've retake more and more of the city. Right now, we're in a hospital complex where there were a few meds found but everything else was destroyed. The city is in ruins, most of the buidlings and apartments have been detroyed by recoiless rifle fire, tanks, and heavy bombardments.
Then at 1500 Hours today, a TV crew came over from CBS. They talked to guys in our battalion, including our platoon and our battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ernest C. Cheatham. They asked us how we felt about the War in Vietnam and this is what we said:
Lucas said he thought we were fighting to "protect the United States against communist aggression and assets." and to "let the Vietnamese people live free."
Walowski said he was fighting and joined the military "to make a name for himself" and said "he just wanted to get home and be a racecar driver." He said "he was gonna be in the Indy 500" and not he was not even kidding too. That sounded cool to me, he seemed dedicated to it.
Johnson said something about "the domino theory" and how if South Vietnam fell to communism, all of East Asia would fall to "these commie gooks as well". I don't think they would allow the word "gook" on TV, so It's most likely that the word is gonna be censored.
Everson joked around and made the TV crew laugh. He didn't even answer the actual question, he first said "Vietnam? Shit, I thought this was Florida!" and was joking on about how he wanted to work at McDonald's and be the "Negro Ronald McDonald" but "they didn't allow niggers to fill that position". He was doing these gestures to appear he was flipping burgers. I'm pretty sure the dude who edits the film is gonna block that out so It can appear "educational on TV" but the crew still had a laugh.
Naylor said he thought we were fighting to "support our South Vietnamese allies" and "everyday we didn't fight, communism got worse". I could tell he was being sarcastic and didn't know what to say.
I was straight up and said I didn't know what we were fighting for. I said that "they sent us over here and tell us we trying to get all the commies and stuff, but what are we really fighting for? I sure as heck don't know! We get Marines killed everyday, for what purpose? WHO KNOWS? You just wanna get home, that's all that matters." Everyone in the squad seemed to liked it.
"Well said," Naylor had said.
Another thing that happened which was hilarious, was that a Vietnamese prostitute came with her pimp in a motorcycle when we were at the hospital during the evening at around 1800 Hours two days ago. The pimp looked like an ARVN soldier and the prostitute looked pretty fine: She had long legs, great teeth, and some big tits and ass.
He rode over and asked "My girl, fuckey-fuckey for 20 dolla each. She suckey-suckey too."
We were laughing and I played along with his lingo "NO, I no give no buku money, 5 dolla each." I said. He was trying to hustle us.
"No, she do whateva you wan' faw 10 dolla. She suckey-suckey and get fawk en poosy. 10 dolla."
Then the whole squad said "Oooooooooo".
"Sergeant, It's a good deal?" Walowski said.
"Okai fine, we giv you da 10 dolla each mudafucka." I said
The pimp agreed. We paid and Everson went in first. He banged that chick in the hospital for like an hour. We were dying with laughter. Definitely boosted morale.
Anyways, I just hope we make it out of here. As I said, we have 25 killed so far and more than 100 wounded. Lieutenant Johansen got killed on February 1st when he got hit by a mortar, about 5-10 meters beside him. It blew both his arms apart and he was amazingly still alive. He still had shrapnel all over his body and you could even see the fragments stuck in his head. He was finally killed when he took a sniper bullet to the chest a few moments after.
I've noticed there wasn't much crying and grief for his death. It appeared to me that we were getting used to the killing and all that shit, being in 'Nam really did keep a permanent mark on you, that you just wanted to forget. You didn't want it to happen but the killing eventually became part of you.
It was either kill or be-killed. And It was just sad things had to be that way.
Chapter Twenty - Escalation.Edit
1730 Hours (5:30 PM)
February 5, 1968
Hue City, South Vietnam
Assault. Our companies were proceeding around the city today, to capture Hue University. We had some support from one company that were assigned to the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry Regiment but the tanks weren't with us because they had gotten orders to report to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. Little did we know Hue University was housing the VC.
Our platoon was running down a block, when we started taking fire, once again. We got hit by an RPG about 10-20 meters in-front of us, but thankfully our flak jackets absorbed the rocket fragments. The first time the damn things even worked for us.
We kept taking fire, over and over again. These guys weren't NVA, they were Congs we could tell. They were doing guerrilla war tactics, as during the assault, they would just hit and run, then return a few minutes later. Though our main enemy was the NVA, the Viet Cong still had something in mind for us.
The amount of fire we were taking was tremendous. Major Greenburg actually went on a patrol with us, instead of staying at the MACV compound. Big deal.
"Push forward, push forward! These bastards are just some Congs, we can't get our asses handed to us!" He had said
"You wish! Marines, stay over here! We're gonna call in some tanks to stop these fuckers, stay sharp!" Lieutenant Riggs was disobeying orders for the first time. Well, the hell with Greenburg, we were staying alive.
Greenburg grappled Riggs by the collar and made some stupid remark about how he was leading the company and Riggs was a washed out old man who didn't need to be in Vietnam. Then Riggs said "Oh really you cherry?" and slapped Greenburg with the butt of his M16, which knocked him out cold. Some Marines stood there in shock and confusion but Riggs eventually told them to get their selves together. All the other platoon leaders were either dead or wounded: Johansen was killed, and 4th and 2nd Platoon leaders were in Tam Ky after they got hit on February 3rd. So everyone was gonna follow Riggs, simply because he was the last officer in charge.
I was firing the '60 when I finally ran out of ammo. The gun was pratically worthless as I had jammed it countless number of times, the new barrel I had gotten was already bended, and It had overheated as well. The whole main part of the gun was hot as hell and some of the shells from the rounds I had fired were steaming. That's what happens when you don't clean your weapon as much as you needed to. I definitely regretted it when Lieutenant Riggs had told us to clean our weapons but I was so lazy, and told the squad not worry about it.
I told him and he said, grinning even this dangerous situation, "I told you so."
I threw it down and hid behind a wall. Meanwhile, Staff Sergeant Morrison was talking to Lieutenant Riggs about what would the plan be and what would we do with Greenburg. Almost simultaneously,
POW POW!!! WHOOSH WHOOSH!
Four rounds which the first two hit the wall we were hiding behind, with the other two going through Morrison's eye and throat. He was dead before he hit the ground. I didn't notice but my eyes started getting teary. Even though I knew he was dead, I was screaming frantically for a medic.
"Where the medic at?!! WHERE THE MEDIC AT??!!! Morrison is fucking hit!" I said. I held his head in my arms and looked into his face. One round had gone straight through his windpipe, exiting out the back. The blood was pouring on my arms. Then I saw his left eye which was in little fragments around his cheeks and his eye socket only contained blood. The round literally teared his eye right out of his skull ripping away all the arteries and veins holding it in place. It was a grim scene.
Then I just went completely biserk, grabbed Morrison's M16 and started crying while shooting all over the place, screaming "GET SOME MOTHERFUCKERS! GET SOME!"
Then Riggs and Bronk who I hadn't notice was shooting this M79, jumped on me and wrestled me to the ground. They had kept me calm, kept me sane.
"It's okay bro, It's okay." Bronk said.
Then a tank arrived and shot a round at an apartment. The whole damn thing collapsed and a gigantic cloud of dust went in our faces.
We continued on and finally captured the university. Shit was heated in there. Greenburg regained consciousness and immediately went up to Riggs and punched him straight in the jaw. He fell straight on the floor, and one side of the company was chanting on Greenburg, while the other half was chanting Riggs name. I didn't chant neither, I was just trying to break it up.
Greenburg repeatedly punched him in the face while he was on the floor until Riggs grabbed an M16 and put it right to Greenburg's face. Riggs was bleeding from his nose and lips, plus one side of his face was swollen.
"Now what you gonna do boy!" Riggs said. Then there was silence and the fighting stopped.
He continued to point the M16 and then they both stood up. Riggs grabbed him by the collar with one hand, and pointing the M16 at him in the other.
"Now you might be a Major but that don't mean you are making decisions that's gonna kill my marines! These motherfucking zipperheads are as bad as the Koreans but you ain't taking this seriously. You better understand this ain't no fucking three day war," He shoved him against wall, still holding Greenburg by the collar.
"And you better fucking understand I'm not dying in this shit either." Riggs let go of him and that was that. Greenburg didn't say anything else. He just sat there thinking real hard.
Riggs was used to everything but he still, deep inside, had a breaking point just like everyone else. He was 35 years old and was a decorated veteran. He had gotten the bronze star and a purple heart in Korea and this was his second tour of duty in Vietnam. He had served as an enlisted man for 13 years (1952 - 1965) reaching the rank of Master Sergeant in the Marine Corps, serving as a Platoon Sergeant in Vietnam, when the first Marines arrived in Da Nang in 1965. Then he became an officer in 1966 and now he is a 1st Lieutenant. He knew how to kill, he knew how to command an Infantry Platoon. He know how to survive and keep his men alive.
And nothing was gonna get his way, like Major Greenburg was trying to do. Greenburg just didn't understand enough to know where Riggs was coming from.
Later, Riggs talked to me about Morrison's death and said he was sorry.
"He meant a lot to us. I'm sorry Rob." He patted my shoulder and then began turning on the radio. They were playing House of the Rising Sun by The Animals. It was a nice song and comforted us in a way. We eventually started singing to it, our whole platoon.
We then did a goodbye for Morrison. We circled around his body and this is what we said:
"So long bro," Lucas
"Take it easy man." Walowski
"Fuck this war." Naylor
"Hope you're in heaven." Benson
"Sad, sad sad..." Johnson, while shaking his head.
"Better you than me." Bronk looked at him with a face with just plain confusion.
"I'm sorry." Lieutenant Riggs. He put his bronze star on Morrison's chest.
"You died for something, something that we don't even know we're fighting for. Semper Fi." Me.
Everson didn't even bother to say anything. We asked him why
"Yo why didn't you say your goodbyes for Morrison?" Johnson asked
"I just didn't."
"Look man, don't feel ashamed about what's going on over here," Naylor said. He was cleaning his feet.
"Ashamed?" Everson raised his eyebrow, "Yeah, right." He got up and walked away.
They then wrapped Morrison in a poncho and we called in a MEDEVAC to escort him out. His dead hurted me. How would his wife feel??? His wife had spinal cancer and how would she take a death letter stating her husband died "in honor"?
Yes, and I'm sorry. We're all sorry.
God have mercy on her soul. I just wanted to pray for her. She was already suffering and she didn't need anymore.
This was Vietnam.
Chapter Twenty-One (Part I) - Attacked againEdit
1500 Hours (3:00 PM)
February 18, 1968
Hue City, South Vietnam
We've been capturing every few blocks, day-to-day. Back when we first deployed to 'Nam in September 1967, our company had 145 men. We only have 85 now that are not wounded or dead. Our company hasn't been kept up to par because replacements were being sent to Khe Sanh instead of Hue where the Marines there were facing 6,000 NVA who had tanks. Plus, all the other months in 1967 where we've taken casualties, so that's another contribution to our under-strength company.
The streets over here in Hue are littered with dead NVA and civilians. Just yesterday, our battalion saw a mass grave on a road filled with dead children and women. Their bodies were badly decomposing and we even saw a dog run up to a corspe and tried to drag it to an alleyway. We shot the dog. The Vietnamese were dead and they didn't need to be mutilated. A Sergeant thought that we should bury them.
"Let them rest in peace," he had said.
But Lt Col. Cheatham figured that the NVA and VC would just un-bury them back up and mutilate the bodies.
Out of options, we decided to escort the bodies to Tam Ky. But that was quickly ruled out once we got attacked by NVA. It was a sneak attack which didn't last long and after that, we had no other choice except to burn the bodies. A corporal took out a flamethrower he had gotten from a dead NVA and infernalized the bodies. We walked away from the corpses. The smell of burning flesh quickly filled our noses. Nothing was said.
We are in this office complex where we've set up tents to stay in for a couple of days. We're getting closer to The Citadel everyday, which is the main objective and will we mean we've captured the city.
From the 11th to the 17th, was the most deadliest week for us in the entire war. 543 GIs got killed and and 2,547 wounded. It was not a shock, honestly. We were getting casualties everyday in Hue, so It was no present surprise. Plus we would watch the news on this small portable TV we had. Thankfully, most of the channels were in color including all the news channels.
They aired the footage of us on CBS today. They showed footage of us patrolling and some of the interviews. In the footage, we all looked much more sloppy, and much more exhausted.
"There I am!" Everson was pointing to himself as he appeared on the TV set. "Looking like a mean Marine, OORAH!"
"There's Staff Sergeant Morrison," Lucas then said. Morrison was there telling us to stay on path and stay sharp. He was speaking to Lieutenant Riggs. Everson saw Morrison on the screen and simply walked away.
"What the hell is the matter with him?" I asked
"He's just not accepting the fact Morrison is dead."
"What's that suppose to mean?"
"It means he's getting tired of this shit, just like us." He got up and threw me a Coke. Then he went outside of the building to smoke a cigarette. Bronk came in and asked me how was I doing.
"I'm not too good." I said
"Me neither. I am getting tired of this god-damn killing ma---"
Then that's when the sniper shot was heard. We all dove for cover and Walowski and Johnson ran down stairs to check on Lucas. Lucas was fine, he just shaken up a bit.
"Holy fucking shit, I was smoking this cigarette... then the bullet just grazed by me." He said. He was dazed and confused.
Though I had pratically broken my 60, I didn't get a new one because we were short on supplies so some guy from 1st Platoon gave me an M14. We were shooting all over the place.
The company ran outside and the last and only Machine Gunner in our platoon, LCpl. Hernandez, was firing this M60 and then got hit by the sniper, right in the left knee. Benson who I had not notice had our radio the PRC - 25 which we called the "Prick - 25", grabbed Hernandez's M60 and started firing for him, supporting the platoon.
"AAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!" Hernandez screamed
Lieutenant Riggs and Major Greenburg both picked him up by both arms and dragged him to safety. I grabbed the radio and started calling in coordinates for artillery, after I spotted the sniper hiding behind some walls in a house down the street.
"Bravo Two Actual, this is Sergeant Perrier from Whiskey One callsign 'Rottweiler 1-6', can I get some 'Willie Peter' on a North Vietnamese sniper at grids 7624, over!"
Yep, I was calling 'Willie Peter' also known as white phosphorus. It was a type of incendiary artillery round which burned the shit out of anything It touched.
An artillery lieutenant from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines replied
"Rottweiler 1-6, danger close, out!"
Then I was screaming at everybody to get back in the building because I had called in Willie Peter.
We got back in and ran to the top floor in the office complex. We kept shooting and shooting, then finally the white phosphorus came in.
You could see the round slam right through the house where there was an explosion and you could smell the Willie Peter.
I saw a Cong run out the house on fire with the cloud of Willie Peter. It was a woman. She had this Dragunov SVD sniper rifle, she was screaming for help in English, and she was just burning by the second. These other men ran out of the house with their hands on their heads, signifying that they were surrending but they already started getting cooked up by the Willie Peter. They didn't stand a chance.
"HELP!!!! I can't breathe!" The woman had said.
Lieutenant Riggs saw this and his eyes widen. But there was nothing we could do, we didn't wanna get burned by the Willie Peter.
Then Sergeant Brewer, the last Sergeant in the platoon besides me, informed me Bronk had been hit by a sniper round.
"WHAT? No you're fucking kidding me right?" I said
"WHERE THE HELL IS HE?"
"With the medic who's in your squad, Johnson. He's downstairs" Brewer said.
I ran out of the house where the cloud of Willie Peter was gone. The only thing left were 3 burning bodies down the street, the Congs.
I ran and saw Bronk. I started crying,
"Holy shit man! I never thought you would get hit!" I said
"Me neither," He was shivering and he started choking up some blood on my hand. I wiped his face.
"Hang in there man, hang in there!" Johnson was saying. The wound was on Bronk's chest. Johnson removed the round and started putting some bandages on it. Bronk was struggling to breathe.
"Rob, tell my parents I love them. I want you to have this," It was this gold watch and It was beautiful.
"You're my best bud, if I die, I want you to remember me by this." Bronk said.
"YOU GOT IT MAN!" I said
Then we got attacked again. Johnson dragged Bronk into the building and then I saw Benson run down the stairs with the M60.
All of a sudden, a bullet went straight through my calf muscle, another one in my foot. Everson and Lucas, who had ran down the stairs saw I got hit and immediately ran.
"Fuck man, you alright??!!" Everson
"WHAT THE FUCK DOES IT LOOK LIKE? I'm shot!" I replied.
Lucas got some meds from Johnson and began wrapping bandages around my legs. Moments later, Lucas and Everson were shot as well. Lucas in the arm and another wound in the shoulder, which the shoulder wound, was thankfully a flesh wound. Everson took 5 shots to his legs. 4 of them were flesh wounds, 1 hit his ankle and it got stuck.
"AW SHIT! I'M HIT!" Everson screamed in agony and Lucas' face was in shock, nothing said just shock.
All of a sudden, the whole fucking platoon was over us and I saw F-104 Starfighter bombing where the NVA and Congs were. Hueys had arrived and were escorting us.
They put all over 4 of us on the same Huey. A medic was tending to me.
"How ya doing buddy? Those other three guys your friends?" He asked
"Yeah, my leg feels like crap."
"You're gonna be fine, this your first time?"
"Well you're a lucky son of a gun, man! You're going home now for sure." He said. Big deal.
"Yo how are the other dudes doing, specifically the blonde haired one? His name is Bronk. He's my best friend" I asked.
"I don't know how to tell you this...."
Then It felt like my stomach was jellified when I heard that. My best bud since 1963, was not gonna make it. The medic saw me crying and he wiped my tears with a tissue.
"I'm sorry Sergeant, I'm real sorry."
A minute later, they covered him in a body bag. He was dead. Lucas and Everson were beside me and saw me weeping.
"I don't know what to say man....." Everson said.
"Me neither," Lucas
I looked out and saw Walowski firing this M16 and Riggs was calling in artillery. Greenburg was screaming at Naylor who was looking scared to death, to get up.
"Wake the fuck up Marine!" He spat the words in his face.
Then the Huey lifted off and we were out of Hue. We said nothing on the ride. I closed my eyes and begin to rest.
The war was over for me.
Chapter Twenty-One (Part II) - Final DaysEdit
2000 Hours (8:00 PM)
March 5, 1968
Tam Ky, South Vietnam
It's been two weeks since we were wounded. We're going home today.
Once we came in to the hospital, we were immediately rushed in to surgery. The doctor said I would be on crutches and would be walking freely after a few more months or so.
Lucas and Everson have been fine. Lucas was real lucky, the doctor said the bullet that entered his shoulder was a few inches from striking a major artery, which would have killed him in a matter of minutes.
"Yeah, I guess I'm lucky. I'm going home, I'm gonna see my grandma and you guys are alive. So I guess I am lucky." He smiled.
Everson on other hand, almost bled out on his way to the hospital. 4 gunshots to his thighs and 2 of them almost reached femoral artery, and he too, would have died in a matter of minutes. His extreme bleeding also contributed to the extra gunshot wound that was stuck in his ankle. The blood loss had made him a little frail and weak, but he hit the weight rooms, he would be fine.
The Marines finally captured The Citadel in Hue two days ago. The whole operation cost about 215 Marines killed and 1,600 wounded, but the NVA and VC got completely wiped out, 2,400 killed and more than 3,000 wounded. ARVN got about 450 killed and 2,100 wounded.
Walowski and Benson sent us letters. They said that they were okay and Lieutenant Riggs had gotten promoted to Captain. Apparently, everyone in the company voted on it and deemed he was controlling the mission, meaning Greenburg was not CO anymore. He was still higher ranked than Riggs but It was pretty obvious who was making the better choices for the company. It was cool, I just hope Riggs didn't become a gloryhound but he knew better.
They also said that they're going to Saigon and no more operations in Hue. Thank god. We didn't need no more dead Marines.
There was this red haired Army Private who said he searched up the status of war buddies who you didn't know what happen to for 5 bucks, in paper files and stuff. I told him about Lisa Charlesworth.
"She your girlfriend?" He asked
"Yeah, I guess. We kissed and she loves me, and I kinda love her too." I said
"Cool, I will search her up for you okay?"
We exchanged fives and I handed him the $5. An hour later he came back.
"She got sent home after she was wounded when her base at Chu Lai was attacked. She's from Staten Island, New York so that's probably where she is at."
"Great! I'm from Brooklyn, so it will be easy" I was excited. First time in awhile I was truly excited for something worthy, and that Vietnamese hooker wasn't something worthy. I didn't even have sex with the hooker because I thought about Lisa.
"Good luck Marine." He gave me a salute and smiled. I saluted back. I couldn't wait to see her.
Today, there was a lot of crying and drinking. Lucas was talking about how he grew up without his parents who got killed on an airline crash and I kinda connected because my father wasn't there for me either. Everson connected too, because he grew up without a father when he was born.
"My mama told me my dad left us when I was two months old," He was drinking this whiskey from Jack Daniels and the tears were streaming down his eyes. "That piece of shit was never there for me man."
"Well my father died in a car accident when I was 8." I said
"Yep. Some guy crossed him on the interstate when he was in Manhattan and he collided into a tree. Doctors said the tree impaled him in his throat and left a huge gaping hole, no way he could have survived." I said
"Wow. I never had a father either, nor a mom. I just always lived with my grandma, man. She's the one that I love the most in my life." He was crying just like the rest of us. We were sharing the pain.
"In San Francisco, we would always go see the Golden Gate Bridge man. She was like the parents I never had."
Then a nurse came in and saw us. She looked embaressed.
"Oh.... I see you men were in a middle of something... wow I'm sorry."
"It's okay don't be." Everson said.
"I don't mean to interrupt, I just wanted to inform you gentlemen that you're going home. Sergeant Perrier, Lance Corporal Lucas and Corporal Everson, the C-130 is waiting outside. You guys stay well and get back home safe."
"So here It is guys, we made it out of country. Congratulations." We all high-fived and hugged, smiling and laughing.
I was on crutches and Everson was even on a wheelchair so Lucas who only had an arm cast helped us with our rucks onto the plane. We weren't in our fatigues, we were in civilian clothing. I was wearing these nice high-topped Nike sneakers that Mom had sent me from home. They were $70, pretty expensive.
We walked out of the hospital and sunset was just ending. The scenery looked absolutely beautiful: Mountains over the horizon, beautiful sunset, and the stars were coming up. It 2000 Hours.
The plane was scheduled to first go to Da Nang where they were gonna deliver some Marines fresh out of boot camp from Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton. Then It would land in Ramstein, Germany and then go to Alaska to refuel, finally landing in New Jersey.
We got on the plane and Everson sat next me with Lucas in the back seat directly behind me. There were men loading caskets onto the plane, at least 50 caskets.
A female steward came over with some dinner and I took some. She was pretty and had these gorgeous blue eyes, but she looked tired.
"Here you go Sergeant. Enjoy." She smiled and mussed my hair.
"Thanks." I nodded.
Meanwhile, Lucas was writing a letter
"Who you writing to man?" I asked
"My granny. I just wanna tell her I love her." He smiled.
The engines started up and pilot checked all the engines and parts. The thing roared on the runway and began to ascend. Seconds later we were in the air. I thought about the platoon and a scenario where we were on patrol; Lucas on point, followed by Everson, Walowski, Benson and me on the rear. Lieutenant Riggs would be leading the squads. Then I thought about Staff Sergeant Morrison, Bronk, and Lieutenant Johansen.
The Marines on the plane were asking us how Vietnam was, all excited and thrilled just like us when we first arrived in 'Nam in September 1967. But I didn't answer, neither did Everson or Lucas. Someone mumbled how we were Boonie Rats but we didn't care.
Then Everson fell asleep with his head on my shoulder. I didn't mind and started listening to the radio with some headphones on. They were playing Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix and It was a great song. The plane started gaining more altitude.
We were going back to The World.
1600 Hours (4:00 PM)
March 19, 2003
Brooklyn, New York
It's been 35 years since I have been in 'Nam. I remember how crappy we were treated when we returned, especially because we all lived in big cities (Everson: Seattle Washington, Me: New York City, and Lucas: San Francisco California). We regret putting on our uniforms when the C-130 stopped at Da Nang.
We had gotten off the plane in New Jersey and we were immediately met by a crowd of hippies and protesters. Some police riot units were trying to fend them off. There were college kids calling us "Baby killers" and "cold-blooded murders". There was one instance these three pretty college girls came up to us, and spat right in each of our faces.
"You deserve it you fucking baby killers." They had said. They smirked and walked away. Every where we went, there were people looking right at us with faces of shame. I don't remember how many people gave me the finger. The only person who gave us a warm welcome home was this bartender who had lost his son in Operation Hastings in 1966. He was angry that the people were treating us like crap, we were too. He even told us people called him at night and said they were happy is son was dead to the "heroic" North Vietnamese Army. When he told us this, he was in tears.
Once I got home, I immediately took off my uniform and bursted into tears. I felt like a failure to my country. Mama was trying to comfort me and we both fell asleep.
So much has happened since then in 1968. Today, I have a son named Lance who is 18 years old. He wants to be a Marine just like me. He's in High School and hangs out with his friend Steve, and his friend wants to be a Marine too. I'm 54 years old now, I'm a old man haha.
Me and Everson still stay in touch. He moved to NYC in 1969 with his girlfriend Regina in which they got married in 1971, and we still hang out a lot. At times, we still cry and drink about the war. I swore once, my son saw us at night but I quickly told him to go back to bed. We stayed hanging out with Lucas until he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1993 and so we only talk 2-5 times a month. He's still doing good, he has a wife and three kids, plus he works as an accountant.
Benson, died last year from kidney disease, caused by years of alcohol drinking which weakened his kidneys. Apparently after the war, he fell into an emotional mess and started suffering from PTSD. He started doing a lot of drugs and was drinking a lot. He also gained a lot of weight, from 230 lbs to 300 lbs. He lost 30 pounds but It was too late. Another contribution was that his girlfriend passed away in 1975 over a drug overdose, which also deeply hurted him. All these factors led to his death.
Me, Lucas, Everson, Walowski, and Lieutenant Riggs attended his funeral. His daughter Joanna who is now 38, attended. She looked pretty and looked 10 years younger than she really was. She had a husband and two children.
Joanna was crying and we all comforted her. We all placed some of our military decorations on his casket.
Today, Walowski is living in his native Poland with his new girlfriend, who is quite young for his age; she is 39 and he is 53. He is doing okay and works as a train operator.
Naylor sent us a letter two weeks ago stating he is living in Milan, Italy with his girlfriend and two kids he fathered from his ex-wife. He said they were gonna get married on April 21st and told us to come. We're definitely going.
Lieutenant Riggs is living in Cleveland, Ohio with his five kids and his wife. He is 70 years old now and his kids are all grown. He comes to NYC from time-to-time and we watch the Knicks games at Madison Square Garden too. He's retired and doesn't work anymore.
Major Greenburg lives in Chicago and his 24 year old son is on a tour in Afghanistan. Captain Howard is living in Michigan with his family. His head and neck injuries have permanently given him some minor medical obstacles: He can't lift his neck all the way back or he might fracture it, he has permanent shrapnel scars on his head which are only visible when he shaves his hair, and he also has permanent pain on his spine (Specifically if he attempts to bend down) caused by a motorcycle incident in 1972. He's told all me this in a letter 5 months ago.
Johnson, well no one really knows what happened to him. Apparently he went to 'Nam again in 1970 and got killed there his name was never listed and he is currently MIA.(A corporal 20 years ago told me he got blown up by a mine but his dog tags were never found and no one knew who where he was). Other guys have told me he was killed in a POW camp. Another guy told me he saw him in Brazil speaking with a pretty woman but no one is sure. Till this day, is parents are still grieving over his loss and still have little hope that he will come back.
As far as Lisa, I visited her in Staten Island in 1971. Me not visiting her for 3 years because I was in a bad financial situation kinda changed things up. She got married with a husband she is still with till this day and a son named Jimmie. We still always stay in touch; she is my best female friend.
I got married in 1987 after we had our son in 1985 to this girl I met on a cruise in 1978 called, Myrtha but everyone called her "Martha". We divorce a couple of years ago, but we too, still stay in touch.
What's going on in the world today, is that our country is in Afghanistan and about to be in Iraq because of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks from a Muslim Terrorist group called "Al-Qaeda". President Bush invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and he is about to invade Iraq in a week or so. My son says he wants to be in the Marine Corps, so I wonder if he is gonna be in Iraq, I'm not sure.
But if he does, I'll send him letters and make sure to text message him all the time to see how he is doing. He's a funny kid, always making me laugh. I just hope he does something good in his life.
I'm glad I made it out alive in 'Nam but really sad that those other guys did not. Johansen, Morrison, Bronk and so on. But you had to move on, no matter what. We were Marines, we were trained to forget about that stuff and move on, but sometimes It just wasn't so easy. Sometimes It just stayed in your mind for the rest of your days. In every war it is that way but there was nothing you could do about it. You were just glad to be alive.
Just glad to be home, glad to be home.....