We had reached the end of the wood line and saw an opening ahead. The cherry recruit hurried forward trying to free himself of the thick undergrowth. Everyone else knew to not be so anxious, but we were glad we didn’t have to be walking through the undergrowth too. Just as he cleared about twenty feet into the opening he disappeared. We all looked at each other, befuddled, and moved forward swiftly. Once we got to his location we found that he had fallen into a Punji trap. We looked inside the hole and saw sharpened bamboo sticking up through his mangled body. For a short moment before his death, the cherry’s hand was extended and his eyes were cold and as morbidly focused as a crow, perched over prey. I was horrified and nearly regurgitated.
Just then a thunderously quick zip went past my ear and my radio guy fell. Then another hit my demolitions guy.
“Ambush! Fall back!” I yelled.
In the process of getting back to the wood line two more men were hit. My language expert had only a flesh wound to the arm…he would be ok. That was a lot more than I could say for my friend Tex. He had almost made it back to the wood line with us, but as he was ducking down his head just exploded under his headgear. This disturbing display sent bloody bone fragments all over us. We started to return fire but didn’t know who to shoot at. We concentrated our fire North, in the silent sniper’s general direction. This exchange of fire obviously gave away our position and we were falling deeper and deeper into trouble.
My heart was racing and for a moment I didn’t know what to do. We pulled what was left of Tex, and the others, back with us into the dense vegetation. The onslaught of silent enemy fire ceased for the moment. I could hear them talking that gibberish loudly. They weren’t finished yet.
“I want a detailed report on personnel and equipment, and I want it yesterday!” I shouted.
“Sir, Tex and Kato are dead. DJ’s hurt bad…he took one in the stomach. Franco took one in the arm but he’ll be OK. As far as equipment…the radio is broken and we exhausted a lot of ammo. We can pick up what’s left of Tex and Kato’s ammo and supplies, but that won’t get us very far.”
After we were in a defensive position I took a closer look through my binoculars. As I scanned the landscape I saw several Vietcong soldiers gathered around what seemed to be a tunnel entrance. They were holding a perimeter around the entry while more oddly dressed soldiers arose from the tunnel.
“Shoot, they’re assembling backup. We need to move, before we have a buttload of Charlie crawling all over us. Sergeant, do you think you can fix that radio?”
“Don’t know sir. The antenna is broke completely off the prick. I can try to rig something up so we can get on the waves.” He whispered calmly.
“Well do it, we need to relay some coordinates for an air-strike and a lift out of here. And make it fast.”
Sgt. Cole was my ace in the hole. He was the type that knew everything that a good soldier should know. He lifted his hand and, with two fingers erected, waved this way. Immediately, one man left his defensive position and high crawled to our location.
“How’s the arm Franco?
“Fine Sir. Nothing a good lap dance wouldn’t cure.” Franco quipped
“What is the status on DJ?”
“DJ…well, he’s singing Dixie. We field dressed his wound and have him on an IV. We have the bleeding under control but he’s slipping in and out of consciousness. We need to get him out of here as soon as possible or he might not make it.”
“Bring the radio up, and the broken antenna.”
“On it Sir.” He replied before hurriedly high crawling back to his position.
I watched as the Vietcong soldiers gathered to platoon size. Corporal Franco reemerged from his position with the Prick 77 radio. He had managed to tape the antenna on.
I grabbed the radio viciously and with trembling hands proceeded with my call for backup. “This is Sheepdog requesting air support on the coordinates that follow.” I continued, “Whiskey-Tango-fife-niner-fife-tree. I say again, Whiskey-Tango-fife-niner-fife-tree.”
“That is affirmative sheepdog we copy…Delta One’s ETA is four minutes.” The voice responded.
“Now all we have to do is hold Charlie off for a little while until air support arrives.”
I moved from my forward position and proceeded to brief my squad. The situation was slowly getting undesirable and we didn’t have much of a chance to survive.
“I’m going to be honest with you guys…we are in for a fight. But you are only defeated when you give up. Charlie is around platoon size now, and it is a matter of time before they start to advance to our position. It is imperative that we maintain until we get some help. Are you guys up to it?” I questioned.
“We’ll do our best.” Sgt. Cole responded
“Here’s the plan. Chicago and Flintstone are going to move to the flank and safely position your selves accordingly. We are going to try and ambush Charlie when they try to advance. Hopefully this will keep them at bay long enough for air support to come and rescue us. I’m going to move ahead and set up a few claymore mines along the wood line, this way we can cripple as many as possible. Franco, I want you on the sixty along with the dead and wounded. Donny you and Kyle stay here with Franco and help. Sgt. Cole and I will be setting up two sniper positions on your left and right. Inside our firing positions will be your field of fire. Chicago and Flintstone will be on the flank crossing our fire. On my mark bury those bastards. Only shoot what you can see. One shot one kill. Huuah?
“Huuah!” They all responded enthusiastically
As Chicago and Flintstone motioned that they were in place I took another look into my binoculars. The Vietcong were all surrounding one man and he was pointing in our direction. I finished setting up the four claymore mines at the edge of the wood-line. I then took the opportunity to put that puny man, squatting in the middle of the Vietcong soldiers, into my sights. I signaled to the squad that I was about to fire; they all nodded and zeroed in to the North. I put my eye against the scope on my M16, and steadied myself. I thought of my friend Tex and with a controlled rage, slowly squeezed the trigger toward who seemed to be the Vietcong leader. As I squeezed harder and harder, I felt a sharp jerk to my shoulder and watched as the Vietcong leader fell to the ground. Immediately afterward the rest of the enemy troops scattered and began to fire on us.
We were dug in pretty good by now and weren’t firing back. We waited, as discussed, on the whites of their eyes before depleting our ammo. Charlie was moving forward swiftly and in great numbers. They came in two waves and only half of the platoon was coming this way. The half that came was more than enough to end our measly little lives. Just as they crossed the opening in front of us I heard my sixty gunner going at it. He was laying hot rounds down range. The smell of burnt gunpowder and the loud sounds of battle engulfed me. I breathed harder and faster as I squinted to see through the smoke. The Vietcong soldiers were advancing, franticly, toward our position. When they crossed my flankers’ path, I saw them dropping like flies, but not nearly enough. They were closing fast on our position. I had fired the last rounds in my second to last magazine when I faintly heard the Helicopters in the distance. We only needed to hold them off for a few more minutes.
I loaded my last magazine into my weapon and began to fire sharply at Charlie.
“Last magazine!” I yelled back to my squad but I heard nothing.
The sixty-gunner had suddenly stopped his barrage of fire. I looked to my flank and saw no signs of my two flankers. I looked around me and saw no one in the prone position. I yelled to them, “Is anyone alive out there?” I could only hear the jungle and the sounds of my lonely rifle. I was forced to stop my firing and depend solely on the four claymore mines. I waited until several of the Vietcong soldiers got close enough to reap my rewards. When I squeezed the detonator, the earth jumped from underneath a horde of Charlie and several of them, literally, flew apart. The rest of them saw the demise of their colleagues and started to retreat.
When Charlie realized that we ceased fire, they started to rejoice and continued to advance on our position slowly. The helicopters were getting closer and closer and I was running out of time. They finally realized that air support was on the way and started back across the opening toward their tunnel entrance. It was too late. Our boys wiped them all out with an array of aerial bombardment that left nothing but craters in the ground.
Before the smoke cleared I radioed the helicopters to land in the opening to evacuate my squad, except I was the only one left. My celebration of Charlie’s defeat was brief when I realized I had no one to share my victory with. My shock left me dazed and confused. I awoke from my trance to find the helicopter pilot yelling in my face. He talked me back to reality and told me that my job then was to help carry out what was left of my squad to the helicopter. Dead and bleeding was the way I remember my squad.
I guess I should be happy I made it through that ordeal, but I am not. The memories that I carry around with me haunt me constantly. We did, although with what happened to the rest of them, achieve our goal, “You are only defeated when you give up.” I think of those soldiers everyday, and I think of the dense jungles with mud on our boots. I think about the cold nights and the many battles that we fought through together. Sometimes the mental anguish that I experience makes me wish that I had died with my troops. I wake sometimes in a cold sweat, horrified about a dream that I suffered through. But the truth is that…it wasn’t a dream I envisioned. I had actually been there and experienced those terrors, many moons ago. I try to clear my head and for the most part I do. But when I least expect it I am ambushed by my memories.
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