By Heckle and Jeckle
Corporal Thomas Nolan
Hotel Company, 2nd. BN. 1st. Marines
Weapons Platoon 0351 Squad Leader
Vietnam, The Republic of: 1967-68
Usually in the Marine Corps, when things are going along too smoothly…….be nervous. Nolan and Decker had just stepped into the ambush site when word came back ….. “ambush!” Nolan slowed to tell Decker and whispered back to James “ambush,” There is no drug on earth that can give you a rush like the thought that death is all around you. Nolan and Decker were so aptly named “Heckle and Jeckle” by Cpl. Hughes. At this moment they were not arguing for a change. They were seasoned Marines and they knew they were in deep shit. When it started they would know what to do. Your learned or you died. They weren’t dead yet. They were almost out of the kill zone when it started. Decker’s aka “Jeckle nerves were tight as a drum. Quick as a cat, Decker hit the deck. He then started firing short bursts of fire to cover Heckle’s butt. For some reason, Nolan seeing a huge tree with 10 ft. high roots decided to run up the roots. Later, Decker and Tom Holloran would speculate Nolan’s people had just come down out of the trees. Heckle was now 10 ft. above the trail and could see the gooks coming thru the jungle. And they didn’t look up to see him. Why would anybody be up in the tree??
He then chucked a couple of frags right in front of them. Things for these two jar heads were going pretty good right now. This always scared the hell out of Nolan. That prick Heckle was never happy unless he was bitching at Decker or his side kick Tom Holloran. Nolan never let anyone know what his real feelings about the guys were. This is when things went back to normal for heckle and Jeckle. Nolan had jumped down to the trail and a limb off a thick vine lodged under his helmet strap and hung him three feet off the ground. Unable to break the vine or free the strap as people were shooting at him. He turned to Jeckle. Decker looked to see Nolan hanging and Nolan yelled “get off your lazy ass and help me!” As Jeckle jumped up Heckle yelled “unhook the latch on my helmet.” Jeckle who could hear the ak.47’s, explosions and Marines screaming had no intention to stop and unhook Cpl. Nolan’s helmet. Heckle dove helmet first into Nolan’s stomach, Nolan had become a tackling dummy and Decker thought he was Lawrence Taylor. This caused Nolan’s helmet buckle to break. The strap and buckle burned and gauged Nolan’s neck like he had survived a lynching. Seconds later, Heckle slammed on the back on the ground with Decker on top of him. Nolan hit the ground so hard snot flew out of his nose and he bit his tongue. Heckle had a second to think the pain was over when his helmet came falling out of the air and landed on the bridge of his nose. Anyone who knows Nolan knows that nose is a pretty big target.
L’Cpl. Decker could never remember being complimented for any reason by Cpl. Nolan. He knew now he had just saved Nolan’s ass and looked fro a heartfelt “thanks.” But what Decker got from that maniac prick was this…..you “f__king idiot are you trying to kill me?!, I’m on your side, stupid.” As this point, in a moment of rebellion, told Nolan “I should have left you hanging!” When he saw the nasty smile on Decker’s face Nolan was at a loss for words for the first time that Decker could remember. It was about this time the “pineapple” came running up to find Decker laying on Nolan with his head in his crotch. They quickly got out of that position. As Cpl. Nolan looked back down the trail, he knew that had to go back into that hell. There was simply no other choice….those were their friends back there. Decker saw Nolan look back and hearing the screams knew what Nolan was going to ask him to do. Decker had lived so long with Heckle and been so close they didn’t have to talk. Decker was scared shitless but like always, he did what he had to do. This wasn’t the first time “that prick Nolan” put him on one of these fixes. If Heckle puts the epitaph on Jeckle’s grave it will read “HE ALWAYS CAME WHEN OTHERS DIDN’T DARE.”
Some Days Are Forgotten But Never Medina
Elmer Berndt – Machine Gunner – Hotel 2/1
I was the tail end Charley on Medina when hell came to visit. I was carrying an M-60 machine gun and six hundred belted rounds that day. A single word passed back down the line “ambush”. My guts fell like mashed potatoes. It’s long odds to survive one if you are the last man. My poker playing buddy Maples could give the odds. I wish he was here now. He’s not only older but pretty savvy. There’s a burst of fire in front of me. I hit the ground and I face to the rear. I almost shit – there coming down the trail is a squad of NVA. I’m just off the trail and completely hidden by hanging vines. I opened up at the first gook and shot him about 10 times before he fell. “What the hell is going on?” The trail is about 2 feet wide and they are lined up like ducks in a row. The ones in the rear are unable to see anything until they get up front. Then it is too late for them. I am amazed how much they take before dropping.
There’s no one coming now and I can hear the sounds of our guys. It doesn’t sound good or likely any help coming soon. I now know I am back here on my own. It’s scary when you are given time to think. Occasionally I see gooks moving thru the jungle and the firing up front tells me where they are headed. I see an NVA carrying something at about 15 yds. I drop him. About 15 secs. later there’s a big explosion. That’s what he was carrying - satchel charges. Theses guys are serious. I now know I am in deep shit.
There’s still heavy fire upfront and I am down to 200 rounds. Short bursts only and at sure killing distance.
I’m pretty much scared shitless now. I now look for anything hopeful. I’m still alive and there’s some tough god damn Marines up there fighting back. SauSau, Miller, Decker, Maples, Martines and Nolie are tough seasoned Marines. I know they will come back for me. SauSau because he was probally the greatest Marine I ever knew. Nolan will come because I owe him $50 and he wouldn’t let me off the hook for any reason. Don’t ever play poker with Nolan and Maples.
Nolie and I go back a ways. Last May, a land mine got him and me. There were 10 of us to start that day. We split into 2 groups to trap some slant eyes we saw. The other five moved off to get on the other side of them. As we moved to set up, a new guy stepped on a land mine. The blast blew off half his leg and killed our M-79 man. I was blown into Nolie and he bounced off a tree and was standing up shaking with most of his pants blown off. He’s got 15-20 holes in his leg and my smashed M-60 bounced off his nose. Bet that hurt. I look down and realize my legs are worse than Nolan’s’. I have huge wounds with dirt blasted into them so there’s little bleeding. Nolie’s only bleeding from a hole in his groin. He stuck a piece of his t-shirt in the hole and is tending to the kid with half a leg.
I think Nolan was probally the most sarcastic guy I ever knew. The 5th. kid had been posted to guard our rear and came running up and says “Cpl. should I go get help?”. Nolie’s reply goes something like this “no you should stand there and watch us bleed to death you stupid idiot.” As the kid stands there looking sort of dumbfounded, Nolie says “ I think I will shoot this moron just for laughs”. That kid reached speeds close to forty. My legs won’t support me yet so Nolie drags us all close together for safety. His weapon is the only working weapon we have. The green horn met D’Angelo coming back. He had heard the explosion. He was a great squad leader and took charge and called a med-vac. When the chopper arrived two guys took security and Mike and three others carried out our two fallen comrades. Nolie carries most of my weight. I out weigh him by 30 pounds. I am getting some of the feeling back and am able to carry my own. About 50 yds. from the chopper Nolie drops from loss of blood. I’m not sure what happened but I somehow picked him up and carried him in my arms. He pushes his shirt in the hole and off we went. I dropped him on his head in the chopper and after he helped drag me in he chewed me out. Our blood mingled that day and we are bound to be friends for life.
Back at Medina - I can now hear explosions and heavy firing coming my way. God I hope it is us. It’s not soon after that someone touches my foot. My heart raced, my lungs stopped working and I almost screamed. At first I didn’t know if I should kiss him or shoot him. I’m sure he snuck up on me because – “ that’s his sense of humor. It was that no good asshole Nolan. He then tells me how bad it is. I’m shocked by the losses. I pull back closer to the guys and I can now see what had taken place, It was the worst scene of horror and violence I have ever seen. “Nuff said.” Nolie sends a guy back to sit with me. Just when I was pissed at him.
I watch a captain come up to Nolan and Decker. His radio man is in shock and sobbing. No one seems to notice. I never heard that incident mentioned again. The captain called in the choppers. Nolan and Decker take charge of the dead. They gently placed them on poncho liners for others to carry out. One of our dead comrades wounds are so serious Henry Decker can’t touch him. He looks at Nolie and makes a strange noise. They were close enough Nolie knew without words. He gently picked up this poor soul by himself and lays him on a poncho. Blood brothers one all. I got the other guy watching the trail so I can see the other guys. As I watch they all slowly carry out the dead. The last two I see are Decker and Maples. I am just about to get our two butts out when I see Nolie coming back. The three of us guard the trail while the engineers blow up unexploded satchel charges. Finally we got our asses out of that jungle.
Later I would find out why the gooks were so hard to kill. Nolan and Decker found needles in their packs and Maples says they were juiced up on something. We didn’t need to be juiced. Semper Fi - Do or Die!
That was one of the days I can remember from my past. I know without my Marine training I could not have made my stand. I also know that the knowledge Sau, Maples, Decker, Miller, Nolie and the rest would come for me gave me hope.
In Nam that was all you had – friends and hope.
Medina Memories By Heckle and Jeckle