I didn't even know some the real names of some guys that I served with for six months who were in my own fire team of four guys. Maverick was a nick name that the sp00n, gave this French, Pollock, because no one could pronounce his real name. Even though we were all so close, but in a way we were still very far apart as friends. We were almost like strangers, in a way, as it was better that way, no one wanted too lose a good friend. Also, no one ever got too say good luck, or good by ,whoever left or got transferred were just gone, as if they just vanished into thin air. No one was around too say anything.
If you were out on Patrol and you had too leave for any reason, there was no time too go down the line of guys, most of them, you never even knew that were spread out for a quarter of a mile or more, so they just got on that Chopper and were gone as if they were never even been there, as it all didn't mean a thing, nothing. I was starting my last thirty days and the word from the top was 2/1 was going up to Dong Ha, for an Operation called, Medina. I was not liking what I was hearing as a short timer who just miraculously survived 12 Months of Patrols, Ambushes, Search an destroy-missions.
In my last month in Vietnam, that 30 day rule of anyone who had less than 30 days left too serve on their tour, that they would be removed from the Combat Zone, was no longer the case. That was the rule that I was told when I first arrived in Vietnam as it was for many of you in 1966 and the first half of 1967. This was said at orientation, and now six months later, this is no longer true. It seem too me that that the way this war was being conducted, that much of that information given to the troops, either wasn't true or would just changed like the personal who took over the command. Taking over the command is one thing but making policy changes just because you just arrived and didn't like that 30 day rule? Why?
I wasn't sure if that was done intentionally because of some scuttlebutt that said," the sp00n was coming back too Duty," lets change that rule because, its one of the only rules in this War, that made any sense, thats the way that I felt. I couldn't understand who would want too change a rule that protected those who were lucky enough too have made it thru those twelve months. Most guys didn't make it six months as the first 90 days were the worst. I started not too care, which isn't a good attitude for survival, as I had too contain myself just for another thirty days, and bite my tongue, as it was already bleeding as a on going battle against ignorant policy's and those who were implementing them, as if were all stupid fools, that most of us were.
I asked my Guardian Angel and Spiritual advisor for more strength, so I could get thru this last month, as I had a bad feeling, that this last month wasn't going to be easy, and I was right. It was a good thing that I made that request because the group of short timers that were sent too hills 25 and 34 for security for A + B artillery batteries was less than one hundred men in an area that was further up north than we've ever been before. Unfamiliar territory was asking for more trouble as Intelligent reports came from where, and from whom, was something that we were never told.
We were very under manned and very vulnerable as a small security force for such high value targets of six 105 Howitzers and crews, as this plan looked worst than some of my worst plans or one of my no plans, I should say. Looking back, the reason that those thousands of NVA soldiers were not here in those numbers, is probably because they started heading south for Tet, while we were headed north. They had a good plan they had too follow rather waste there time over running such a small group of Marines and the sp00n, thank God.
We were told that, we caught a break, having this assignment, away from the main body led by Golf and Hotel company which seemed too be a good thing at that time, but like I said many times, its all about timing, as its either being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the right time. Its fate, only God knows, not those Generals in the Pentagon.
While many of you might have read about what happened on that Operation Medina, horrible as it was, no one read anything or knew about us until now. We were on a top secret mission in support of those Marines in the main force. No one told any of us anything, except, you'll find out when you get there, as this was classified information that even security was left in the dark. We could have disappeared off the face of this Planet, as no one would have known anything about us as all listed missing in action. This whole fiasco was a last minute decision, because their plan was risking our lives with a skeleton crew, without any back up plan, similar too that no plan , as how too get out, in that main force, who got ambushed. Stay tuned for my criticism about this story of Operation, Medina.
After taking a flight on a C-130 to the airport at Dong Ha, after we arrived, we boarded trucks called "6 X 6s" or "6 bys" as we headed west, we were told, where there seemed too be very little of anything, that I could see, just small trails and dirt roads, as the trip to this hill was uneventful, until we got close. The date was October 18th, if I'm not mistaken, I had two weeks left on my tour just like the rest of these short timers, who should never have been there in the first place, 30 days or less, like the rule was, when we all got to Vietnam. Those Marines got pulled out of the field of combat which made sense. But no one was responsible for that blunder, I don't know, do you?
Who was responsible for making that change? What good reason was there for making that change? Was it because Recruiters didn't meet their quotas? Was that change in the rules so strategic or top secret that no one has ever been accountable for those KIA's and WIA's who died, for nothing, after completing 98 percent of their tour, sounds sinister, how stupid was this?
How bad was this, how many rule changes favored the Expendables? None In fact, that rule should have been changed too, anyone who has 60 days left in their tour, should work in the Rear Command Post with those officers who are assigned too Intelligence so they might learn something. I had another idea, let those who served at China Beach do that last 30 days for those short timers, so they could experience what the real war was all about. Getting a feel of what it was like out there, in never, never land, as that would have been more than very interesting?
I don't remember the exact order of those trucks as I was in the back of the second truck is my guess, laying there right at the rear end on some ammo boxes and other supplies.The trucks were spread out about 30 yards, maybe 40 yards apart, when all of a sudden Boom, an Explosion that shook me as I felt a shock wave with flying da Bree, hitting the truck that I was in. The cab in the truck behind me just blew up on its left front side and I'm pretty sure, that truck was loaded with artillery shells and other related goodies if that load would have blown, the sp00n new nick name could have been either, toast or charcoal.
I just took a break and got some Meds and a shot of Rum because what happened next, I re-live everyday of my life. I have a long list that I re-live that varies for day too day. There's no reasoning behind these unorganized incidence as I never know what was coming up next as it just happens, at random. After the explosion everyone was expecting the worst at any moment as every enemy soldier within miles knew that we had arrived and were there, on their Turf, in one of those mine locations, that was recently installed? SGT Alan Firth was in charge as the Senior Grunt who was with Hotel Company. He told me take four guys,and cover the left side of the hill as He was going too cover the Right Side as anything could have happened next.
No sooner than he spoke those words too me, Boom, another loud explosion as I was half way around that hill, when I looked in that direction that SGT. was over ten feet in the air and coming down, he had two weeks left on his tour of duty, this didn't look good, but we weren't getting fired on, so my thought was, is this a mine field? if it was we were screwed. I've seen this a few times before but this guy was short, and should have been pulled out of the field tow weeks ago and I was pissed. I was reluctant to go over there as I knew what I was going too see, so I ran over there as fast as I could hoping I wouldn't its off another mine, its a good thing that was all that went off, as I was anticipating something more like an Ambush.
When I got there He was laying there face up minus his right arm and he knew it, he was still alive but I knew that he wasn't going too make it, and I think that he also knew it, He was in shock and dying fast, there was nothing that I could do too save him. His injuries were very bad and even A good Corpsman wouldn't have been able too save Him, Alan was looking right at Me and told Me that He was glad that He was left handed, and would still be abled to write letters, as I started crying looking at this Guy was like looking down at Myself as that could just as well been Me or anyone else, instead of Him.
This wasn't right doing 12 months of a 13 month tour too have suffered all this past year just too have it end this way just made me Sick. Marines started too show up as I had too leave and cover the other side of the Hill as all of us were vulnerable, as no one was in charge , we had a big problem, and I knew it. We had no defense at that point, an ambush would have killed us all, without any doubt, so we were more than fortunate no one was waiting for us. We were more than fortunate with only two casualties instead of fifty I wasn't feeling well at all, like I was in the fog of the Twilight Zone. We were all relieved that no one fired at us and no other mines went off. I had pictured those Matte Mattel's jamming, and taking out cleaning kits?
So the guns were finally in position an the four Ontos were with us but stayed back somewhat just in case, as it was fifty percent security for two weeks, day and night. Which means one guy sleeps a hour or two while another guy stays awake. Everyone was dug in deep but the problem was, the rain was filling those holes as fast as we dug them, we needed boat pumps, and M-14's. That was a bad problem as cool damp weather was bad enough but not much protection from Mortars, artillery or from Our own air strikes. So we stayed close too or holes but never got in them, unless we wanted a bath, that is. I didn't like this place as we had the low ground with enough cover for the enemy too hide a Battalion with just brush moving in as close as possible before the surprise attack, bad weather was the time too do in this place.
Many people never understood why we dug in, if we were about too get over run the one thing that might save our asses is call for an air strike around our positions with Napalm and the Enemy would either withdraw or come closer. Those holes full of rain water were the best choice too survive if the Shit hitting the fan, got hot, I'd rather be wet and cold, than be deep fried too a crisp. The week went by fairly quickly as we started having some other unrelated problems. This had too do with food, old sea rations left over from WW2. Those who were in charge in Artillery and those crews started hoarding the best Units for themselves while giving us whatever they didn't want from an open case, rather than giving us a case and let us divide it equally amongst our own, which is the only fare way too do it.
Now, when your life depends on those Ontos crews and the Grunts who made sure all those high value targets were protected, one would think that someone better make sure all those boys who are outside watching their backs out in that wind swept rain are as happy as a pig in shit. It wasn't that way at all, I couldn't believe this was happening. Besides that every night they wanted 100 percent on the perimeters which I can understand that, so we'd sleep most of the day. The word came down of a possible large force in the area, wether they were lying so they could get some sleep while all of us stayed awake for an attack. I thought that I seen most of the stupid shit, but this was very puzzling, beyond stupid shit, as these guys were not short timers and would soon find out who is really in charge, when it comes too security..
We could have move further away from them and created another perimeter that would more in our interest, watching our backs rather than worrying about those other guys who are not sharing the food evenly, you know what I Mean? Well this went on for not quite a week, as cases were opened and the good stuff was missing as if we were the Rats getting the let overs. It was a good thing that very few guys knew one another, as everyone were from four different companies and some guys didn't care, while some guys wanted too take all those rations and hoard it, just for spite. So here we were ready too fight amongst ourselves, over freak'en boxes of WWII C-Rations, Everyone was on the Edge, as some guys needed their fix of fruits and hot chocolate.
Anyway someone brought up an idea that everyone liked, I don't remember who came up with this idea but it wasn't the sp00n. As if it was, I wouldn't have wrote this. Since every night they predicted an attack, and when the weather got so bad that no one could see very well, that would be the best time too attack. I had a feeling we were on the verge of a full scale attack, and in this weather, they could have ran a battalion right by us and it was possible that no one would have noticed, including the Enemy..
Re-con by fire could stop such an attack if the enemy were encroaching in on our.perimeter and thought, we were ready, and expecting them. Hey, its a shot in the dark, better than doing nothing, on their information. So one night it started raining cats and dogs, just about as miserable conditions where as a poncho was a life saver, I couldn't imagine going anywhere without one and if my choice between an AR-15 or a Poncho, the sp00n would take that Poncho all day long without any doubt whatsoever, you could die without that poncho, and you could die with a jammed AR-15.
Well it was around one or two in the morning when someone seen some movement and shots were fired, then more shots were fired which started the biggest baddest fire fight that these guys in Artillery ever witnessed. Recon by fire one could say, as no one knows how many enemy troops were there? But I did see a few bodies retreating, after firing some illumination flairs, I think we stopped an attack that was planed for early morning. I don't know but we were not taking any chances firing at retreating moving brush that the enemy used for camouflage as we did use it to.
But what a sight, seeing these guys come running out of their tents in skivvies jumping into their flooded holes in panic yelling and crying in panic as some guys even mimicked the Gooks yelling Die Marines, as it sounded very authentic. When the firing stopped, just as fast as it started, it took a while but those in charged started to question us about this reason for so much fire power. You need too overwhelmed them, as too push them back, to stop their forward motion is more than a good reason. By morning they acted as if they suspected something wasn't right as everyone swore they seen movement, I know I did for sure as the Enemy ran back up the hills after being being so over whelmed with that superior fire power from all those M-16, what else could do a better job. Ha Ha.
The next day the word was, everyone was going to get a Court Marshal, supposedly, as no one gave a shit, as It was time too go home. While full cases of sea rations were distributed equally. the moral of this story is, if you don't share the food after a firefight, the next time theres a firefight we won't stay for dinner. They were pissed because they thought we pulled a fast one on them for hogging the grub. They were relieved knowing that they were all still alive.
As laughter in Vietnam was rare and this was probably some kind of World Record for Laughing in that Country, that I'll never forget. Everything is timing, some guys still swear they seen movement. Two days later My orders came in and I was gone back to 2/1 and one week later on November 7th 1967 I rotated back too the World.
This was the only good memory I had in Vietnam, where we had the last laugh...No Sorry.
Edgar A. Goulet (sp00n)