Arriving in Vietnam in January 1968 was a surreal experience. There was a sense of urgency for sure. Landing at Cam Ranh Bay, then on to Qui Nhon. Only to be put on a deuce & a half ton truck packed with replacements going to An Khe all in two days. Commotion on the An Khe pass, something about a sniper and me with NO WEAPON! The SFC with an M60 on the passenger seat opened up on the hillside> Damn, all the good spots in the truck bed were taken. I noticed I was sitting on M60 ammo cans and the SFC on the M60 was screaming something about “AMMO, AMMO” Aaahh, said I, being able to decipher a connection between his slowing rate of fire and the cans my butt was parked on. Pulling out a belt of ammo I handed it to the crazy eyed maniac. I was preparing a second can when I noticed there were no more cans. I handed the last belt to him and yelled that there was no more. He immediately slowed his fire, but by now we were well beyond where he had first opened up. And geez, that tired, lack of sleep feeling sure disappeared fast. A jeep pulled up with a Lt aboard and he and the SFC discussed the firing. Now here is the thread of a continuing story for me that concerns the differences between NCO’s and Officers. The Lt looked over at me and advised “Good Job” and he left. The SFC began with, “Private most people would have had the smarts to at least duck! You’ll need to get your knuckles looked at also, as you apparently don’t know how to open an ammo can correctly”. It was only then I realized my right hand was an ugly bruised color. “get lucky son, and get a good duty assignment”. He hit me in the chest and I almost fainted. If that was a love tap, I’d hate to see him really hit someone.
As it turned out I got a good assignment, The 359th Transportation Company. Good People, good NCO’s and Officers. People who shaped my life thru the years and saved it more than once.
Back to my story! The Sarge looked at my papers and remarked that I was in luck, as they were going right by the company area. I was dropped off, and immediately approached bay a Captain. “You lost soldier”??? “No sir” I replied, showing him my papers. “No you’re supposed to report to (some processing unit) first”. “see the 1st Sgt inside”!!! Stepping in side a man behind a desk growls at me, wanting to know what I’m doing there. Offering him my papers, he scoffs, wanting to know why I wasn’t at (some processing unit). As I started to explain he cuts me off, advising that he’ll take care of it. Then he rattles off a series of orders and I’m on my way to my new home, supply room and finally a rifle. My very own M16, BUT NO BULLETS YET!!! Back in the hooch I see it’s a work in progress, and nearly deserted. But I can finally stretch out on my bunk. Then there’s another Sgt rousing me out of my slumber. “You Huskey”???? What the hell, I’ve only been asleep for an hour. “yeah” says I. “get your gear and fall out for guard duty inspection in 30 minutes”…. Wow, this is serious stuff, not like fire guard in AIT. “God Huskey if you were any newer you’d stiil have shrink wrap on”!!! “You might want to stop by the armory for ammo, it comes in useful at times” My platoon Sgt as I come to find out is full of useful information and witty remarks.
So we loaded up and headed out to the “Green Line” and I notice the seasoned vets seem to be prepared for a longer stay then a single two hour guard shift. I inquire as to the exact parameter of our assignment and learn this is not a two hour shift, but an all night adventure. We’re dropped off at a bunker (three of us) and I’m left to rue my decision to save the world. We’re downwind from something in the village just across the boundary wire. Ton say it was unpleasant is a gross understatement. In my opinion there needed to be a few thousand more strands of barbed wire between me and that village.
As we settle in, my bunker buddies begin to pull out food, snacks, and sandwiches. I realize I haven’t eaten since the day before. They offer me C Rations and I learn that even starving lima beans and ham suck! They ask me about my hand as it stands out a bit. I mention I bruised it opening an ammo can and get laughed at. Next time I tell that story I’ll include it was during a firefight. As it starts to get dark. I do an exploratory walk around our post. I mark a couple of spots I don’t want to step into or on in the dark. I lose a game of rock paper scissors and pull the third shift, but I wind up staying awake thru the first shift.
As I begin my first solo shift, I go thru a range of scenarios in the event of some kind of attack. I never did come to a successful outcome of the one where a thousand VC come charging thru the wire (not enough bullets). I check the pins in the hand grenades a dozen times to make sure they don’t slip out. I wake my replacement and just roll over on the top of the bunker and fall asleep. (fewer snakes on top) I’m roused for my last shift and have a hard time adjusting to the dark. As day light breaks I see a kid across the wire just staring at me. He stands there for nearly an hour until an old women yells at him for something.
359th TRANSPORTATION COMPANY
1968 TO 1969