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My Veteran's Day story
Posted by: Detector Man
Date: November 09, 2018 04:32PM
I havent posted in quite a while. I wrote this Veteran's Day story many years ago. I did it because i knew at some point the facts would be forgotten. Its a bit long but it is the real deal. I am a Vietnam Vet spent 8 months beating the bushes, fighting insects and dodging green tracers.
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Assuming nothing too exciting happened during the previous day or night.....here is a typical day out there...

Wake up at daylight or earlier.

Breakfast ....usually instant coffee heated with Heating Tablets...and something out of the C rats.. or C-4 (we were ahead of the microwave back then).i forget what it was...maybe canned fruits. After that "breakfast" someone comes around (maybe the medic or squad leader) and passes the malaria pill around if its the right time...we had a DAILY pill and a WEEKLY pill...in our case someone had to watch us take it...isnt that nice???

Gather up the gear and hang out until the higher echelon get the word of our next objective...that means pick up the trip flares laid out the previous night, roll up the claymore mine wires and the claymore mine and store them ...make sure no gear is are left behind...everyone is moving to get ready..

I never heard when the officers got the "word" of our next objective. I m sure the squad leaders have a meeting with the 16 26 36 (radio codes) platoon leaders and find out where we are going...and it’s probably the night before ....while waiting for the famous two words, we put on our jungle juice...maybe even rolled down our sleeves to avoid dive bombing mosquitoes..I’ve wrapped my face with the infantryman's towel to where only my eyes would show..no other part of my face or neck would be exposed for the mosquitoes to munch on. As far as to how far we went before reaching our destination? I’ve heard various numbers...from 3 clicks(KM) all the way up to 20-25 clicks....i'm not certain but i would say that the terrain dictated the distance to our objective for the day and possibly (doubtful, the danger level)..and i would estimate that in mosssssssst cases it varied from 5 to 15 clicks...possibly a little further but this would not be a daily situation..

"SADDLE UP" ahhhh those words from our Sgt Roy Payne...I will find that man yet...if the "word" is given after our "circus day" aka resupply day....there is a LOT of moaning and groaning and guys pulling their buddies up...the pointman gets instructions on which way to go...usually its something like "GO THAT WAY" or we follow the trail nearby...there is no GPS device ...if we come near a creek, we refill our canteens...i carried 4 quarts of water (always)...I never pill-ed my water....that iodine table in the water tasted NASTY...I got lucky and didn't got sick...our water usually came from mountain creeks...some men carried a lot less water - like 2 canteens....some carried those new canteens (bladder?) by now most of us are familiar with them...i didn't like them because of the danger of puncturing it by accident and thereby making it useless. On occasion, due to shortage of drinking water, we have drunk nasty rice paddy water which we pill-ed and on very few occasion, our battalion shipped water by chopper...I saw that happen maybe 3 times over there....so we have already gone through the bush about an hour or so. We have replenished our water supply...fought off the leaches and dive bombing mosquitoes.....just another average day...nothing too dramatic or exciting and typically it was that way most of the time I was in the field.

Around noon, the powers to be decide it's lunch time...so we stop and set up a wagon train type of defensive position and depending on the weather we break out the poncho liners for shade (we tie the corner to the brush or branches. If it is raining, the ponchos come out ...then a squad is selected (by rotation) to go out further and patrol the area...so offfff they go...not sure how far, perhaps about 100M(?) from the main group of the Company. Their purpose is to be an early warning system of sorts for the company....of course there is NO competition to volunteer to go out there...the troops only go when required to do so.....so the famous words of "SADDLE UP" is given and everyone gathers their gear and awaits for the word to move out...usually this is a single file and depending on the terrain and vegetation men would be as far apart from each other as they could but not more than about 15ft... this was done to avoid injuries in case someone walks on an explosive device/booby trap...sometimes, at night, it was more like 2-3feet due to the visibility. I had a situation (daytime) where we were towards the end of the single file and the guy in front of me was a new guy and we got to a fork on the trail...so i asked the new guy...."HEY NOW WHAT????"" so he looooooked and looooooked at both forks and picked one.....BAD choice...so i told him..."You go THAT way and you'll be in Laos by dinner"..off we went and shortly after we caught up with the platoon...
I knew where we were since this was a trail we had used in the past and yes i was being a smart ass that day.....better me being a smart ass than the NVA on the trail. Being last in the single file was not the best place to be...the challenge was keeping up with the rest and it was not always easy...there was what I call the accordion effect....on flat clear ground, the front picks up the pace and then the rear has to catch up when they reach that spot on the trail. On occasion we found base camps...I would guess during my time there we probably found 3-4 base camps. Most of the time no one was there but on occasion there would be a welcoming committee awaiting us.

Next Enemy Base Camps located.
The first enemy base camp found when i was with Company C....actually - this is the 2nd base camp I saw was located across LZ West in the Nui Chom mountain range near Hill 944...we had been there a day or two and I can't recall who was up front (2nd Platoon was not point that day) but I do recall quickly how the word came down that an enemy base camp had been discovered. It was surreal...our pace was reasonable..we were huffing and puffing..the trail was well worn... the sky could hardly be seen due to the triple canopy above us..it was nice and cool which we enjoyed very much. As we got up to the top we noticed all the hootches along the way with no one in sight...there were hand carved chi-com grenades..they roughly looked like WWII German grenades (think potato masher) but smaller...their reputation was not great...we had learned they did not always worked. The whole area seemed to be a training site with classrooms style hootches...the word went to start burning them and the Zippo lighter guys went around lighting them up..it got smoky...i recall seeing a 122MM rocket...looked kinda of old tho...just the one ...no weapons were located, no supplies either..i do recall also seeing unattended fires still smoking with aluminum cooking utensils laying about.

After reaching our night laager
We finally reach our night laager !!! Hooray....sometimes this night laager was at a location where we had been already in past weeks. When that was the case we usually occupied the same fighting positions. We all knew where to go. The fighting positions are always laid out in a wagon train style....round/oval shape depending on the contour of the hill...When this was a new night laager it was MORE work....the first thing we did was dig a foxhole. I am sure there will be different opinions as to the size of it.
They seem to be like the size of fish in fishing stories....the older we get the larger the foxhole gets .. As I get older myself, i tend to tell others how HUGE the hole was....usually the fighting position was dug for 3 men...i would guesstimate the hole to be about 2-3ft wide, maybe 5-6ft long and about 3-4 ft deep...it usually was not very hard digging since most of the ground was made of decomposed leaves, shrubs, bushes, limbs etc....this size is my best recollection...it could easily have been smaller or bigger that hole was THE priority once we got on top of the hill..it didn't take much motivation to have the guys dig the foxhole...for obvious reasons. The last thing any of us wanted to see happen was to dig under fire...

Once the foxhole is dug, the claymore mines were laid out in front of the foxholes that would be about 30Ft (i cant recall how long the wire was). The trip flares were also put out somewhere out there.....now when I put my trip flares out, I know this was dangerous but i wanted MAXIMUM benefit from it, I put the pin through one hole only...rather than the two holes so
that ANY pressure on the wire would activate the trip flare...so now the foxholes are dug, the perimeter is secure, we laid out the claymore mines and trip flares... and hope they don’t knock on our door tonight....Now its dinner time and more of that fine army cuisine...we break out the CRats and/or LRRP rations...most prefer the LRRP rations since they are freeze dried and lighter to carry...towards the mid 68 ..it was not uncommon for the army to chopper out meals...yes...they choppered out the warm meals on occasion...I would say probably more than 4 times a month..and it was decent...

Guard Duty and/or night patrol/ambush

Night time activities
After things have settled down some...there are new activities after dinner is done. After dark, there is very little if any movement. No flashlights, no loud noises...Nightly a squad goes out for either ambush patrol or listening post (LP) duty outside the perimeter or good old fashion guard duty within the company perimeter. This guard duty assignment is within their platoon and is part of the daily routine no matter what else happens...unless one is part of the officer cadre or the non-commissioned cadre. Its not a matter of "IF" there is guard duty, its a matter of how LONG and how many TIMES there will be guard duty per person that night....the listening post/ambush patrol is typically a reasonable distance from the rest of the company. I would say about a couple hundred yards or less depending on various factors...and it lasts all night long...as i recall, not everyone is up all night...this is especially so for the listening post guys...they do report to the platoon leader every hour as to their status (after reaching their destination). I believe the ambush guys did the same thing... The guard duty (within the company) was as follows in most cases...
Most of the time, each squad member had guard duty. The duty was as follows: two 1 hour shift per person for guard duty...if the squad was lucky it meant only 1 hour per night per person...this was based on how many were available in the squad that day. While on guard duty, I personally never saw anything and barely heard a peep at night (I liked that!!!) Whenever new men joined the company, they would hear EVERYTHING and then some...which was fine
with me.....While on guard duty I listened, watch the ground, the sky etc etc...rain or shine...

We had a man in our squad who was a sleepwalker...so when it was time to wake him up we had to make CERTAIN he was awake and alert. We got to actually learn if he was truly awake or not...the guy talked and
acted as if he was awake but actually there was something different about him and he really was asleep .. so this guard duty for everyone went on day after day and night after night for a year rain or shine, day or
night... Everyone took guard duty seriously. When they did not, bad things happened.
I do want to add that these are my experiences...everyones experience in other areas were not the same.

Yes we all had some nickname ... mine was Frenchie. At the unit reunions i ask for a name tag that says Frenchie.....no one knows the other guy (now they do after a few reunions...LoL)
Co C 4/31 196th LIB (1968-1969)

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Re: My Veteran's Day story
Posted by: Elton
Date: November 09, 2018 06:26PM
Thank you for serving...and thank you for the story.. I truly love this 20th century story forum and wish more people made posts of their life experiences..



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I too wish that it was more active Elton.. The numbers of folks who have come to this forum..
Posted by: Mikie
Date: November 12, 2018 09:54AM
Have dropped of late.. but the spirit... the soul... the camaraderie... it still exists..

Calm seas

Micheal.

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Thank you for the wonderful story... and thank you for your service
Posted by: Mikie
Date: November 12, 2018 09:55AM
I am a Canuck.. but that in no way lessens my appreciation for all that you have done

Fair winds

Micheal



"There's no present like the time"

"A dog is better than me, for she has love and does not judge"

"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most; That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love... true love never dies. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in"


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Thank You Frenchie!
Posted by: Ron J
Date: November 12, 2018 11:54AM
Thanks for sharing your experience. :thumbup::usaflag:
Rj



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/12/2018 11:58AM by Ron J.

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Re: Thank you for the wonderful story... and thank you for your service
Posted by: Detector Man
Date: November 12, 2018 04:45PM
Thanks you very much, unlike some of my comrades in arms ....i survived , came home standing and proud

PS next year (if i rememeber that is) i plan on posting a list of my gear i carried on my back for 8 months.....backpacking it....you might ask why 8 months? my friend got me out of the jungle. He could have gotten out his buddies who were there longer. I owe him forever a debt of gratitude....i see him often....20 minutes from my home.....never knew him until we met there. Thats another post.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/12/2018 04:48PM by Detector Man.

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Re: Thank You Frenchie!
Posted by: Detector Man
Date: November 12, 2018 04:52PM
when my wife and i first married she had no idea about Frenchie (im of Armenian descent)
All my army buddies call me Frenchie (yes i was born and raised there) used to occasionally call me and ask for Frenchie. The first time it happened it was hilarious. The phone rang...she answered and looked at me funny and asked if i knew a "Frenchie" ..i had some explaining to do....:rofl:

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