The Ambushing of Third Platoon
(6/27/01 9:03:53 am)
| Del All The Ambushing of Third Platoon
Here is another!......Jack
The Ambushing of Third Platoon!
It was just another patrol! A patrol to get us out and away from Con Thien. The constant pounding every day could make even the most hardened Marine go nuts. It was September and the Monsoon rains had started early this year and they were in full force. We humped about a click (1000 meters) outside of the wire and set up a hasty perimeter. We dug holes and left a Marine in each hole. The rest of us built a hooch. We snapped our ponchos together to resemble a primitive Teepee. We built a fire right in the middle of the hooch so that most of the smoke would exit through the hole in the top.
We were all sitting around half nude drying out our wet feet and bodies. Hell, in the state of mind we were all in the Commandant of the Marine Corps could have showed up and no one would have moved. You cannot really appreciate how nice it is to be warm and dry until you are wet all of the time! The smoke from the fire could have drawn the NVA to our position. We didn’t give a ****! We had been wet for so long all we cared about was getting warm and dry and having some hot food and escaping the pounding we were getting at Con Thien. Well, you really can’t call “C- Rat’s” food but it was all we had and it was something warm to put in our bellies. We were pretty lucky this time out, we were able to stay inside and dry out for an hour or so. We had been inside our hooch for about an hour and some of the guys traded places with the guys that were wet and still in the holes. We all knew it wouldn’t last long. They would find us and blast the **** out of us It Never Failed!
Not this time, we got a radio message to saddle-up. Third Platoon had been ambushed and we had to go and help them, Fast! We all jumped up grumbling; saying we knew it wouldn’t last. In 5 minutes flat we were on the trail and heading towards where Third Platoon had made contact. While we were walking down the trail I gave my gun a quick check to make sure everything was in working order. I wouldn’t want it to malfunction now! We walked for about two clicks (2000 meters) and then slowed our pace as we closed on the area where Third Platoon had been ambushed. We moved very slowly and quietly now. Everyone was very intense. We knew that in a split second all hell could break loose. I spotted movement off to our left flank. It was an NVA soldier with a pith helmet on and in full battle dress and carrying an AK-47. He started to run down a footpath, as I was running towards him I yelled “Gook on the Left”. I raised up my Gun to fire at him but he vanished in a flash and no one else saw him but me. So off I went with an M-60 machine gun chasing a gook down a trail and down into a Rain Forest. Lucky for me my A-gunner had more sense then I did. He ran after me and caught me and said in a southern drawl, “Jack, Gunners don’t walk Point.” He moved me back and motioned to an FNG(New Guy) to take point. He was a young boot and had only been in country for a couple of weeks. He hesitatly took over point and hadn’t walked more than 20 meters down into that Rain Forest and he was killed by a burst from an AK-47. All hell broke loose! I opened up with my Machinegun and my A-gunner with his M-16 rifle. The NVA soldier was still firing at us he must have been well dug-in.The terrain was thick lush foliage, and it was hard to see more than about 10 meters ahead of you. I was running low on ammo because I only had a 75-round burst in my gun. So my A-gunner linked up another 300-round belt. Just then, there was another burst from an AK-47 and my A-gunner was knocked to the ground with a stomach wound. Somebody came up and carried him out of there. A rifleman came up along side of me on my left. To this day I can’t remember his name but if I close my eyes I can see his face plain as day. He opened up with a burst from his M-16 and the hot brass being ejected from his weapon Stuck on my neck. I screamed all kinds of Mfer’s at him and told him to get the hell away from me. We heard a thump on the ground and quickly looked down and saw that the gook had thrown a Chi-Com grenade at us. We both hit the deck and literally watched in slow motion as this homemade grenade fizzled out and didn’t go off. It was a Dud! We continued firing! The rifleman decided to throw a grenade. He pull the pin and let the spoon fly and threw it dead into a tree! It bounced back and nearly killed us both! I yelled at him and said, “You stupid Mfer, you could have killed us both, You have to Lob It Up and Over The Trees!” I lobbed one over the trees with no results. The NVA was still firing! Just then my gun stopped firing! It was “Cook Off”; standard procedure states that you should wait 10 seconds before opening the cover. Bullshit, 10 seconds is too long in a firefight! I opened the cover and there was a loud boom. My ears began to ring from the round going off in the chamber. I ejected the spent cartridge and put the belt back in and closed the cover. I let the bolt go home and put another round in the chamber and resumed firing. Just then we heard another thump on the ground in front of us. It was another grenade and there was a loud explosion! This time the grenade worked and we were both hit with shrapnel! I was hit below the right eye and it looked worse than it was. The rifleman was hit in the arm, also a flesh wound. We resumed firing! In about 5 minutes or so we stopped firing because the NVA had ceased firing. We decided to crawl out of there while we had a chance. We immeadiatly reported back to our Lieutenant and filled him in on what had transpired. We guessed the NVA and his pals had beat-feet!
Our Lieutenant decided we would immediately sweep the area. This turned out to be a good idea. We found the NVA soldier lying dead not far from his hole! He must have been covering his pals retreat. When he threw that last grenade at us he must’ve jumped up to run and that must have been when we cut him down. We had hit him so many times, it was hard to tell which round killed him! He had been in a French foxhole, shoulder width wide and up to your neck deep. Vietnamese shoulder width and height anyway! It was almost impossible to hit a man in a hole like that.
I was really excited now, we realized that the gook was covering his pals retreat and there was an added surprise. There was an NVA Battalion CP encampment behind him. There were tents and pots and pans still on the fire and hot! We had shot holes in every pot, pan, tent and rice bag in the entire CP! I was very proud that we had messed up their dinner party! I guess the NVA thought there was a lot Marines than just the two of us! You could see the bloody trails through the elephant grass where they had dragged the dead. We got credit for 1 confirmed kill and 5 probable kills due to the blood trails in the grass.
Once I calmed down, all I wanted to do was make sure my A-gunner was ok and have a smoke. I had heard thru “Scuttle Butt” (rumors) that I had shot a Marine in the helmet with a stray bullet. I’m glad I didn’t kill him; they said I only knocked him out. I guess he went home with a souvenir, not to mention a headache. I checked with Doc, he said my A-gunner’s wound wasn’t life-threating. He was going to be OK! He had just been Medevacd out. I must have looked pretty salty walking out of that Rain Forrest. My face had blood running down it. I had a Lucky Strike ciggarette hanging out of my mouth. My helmet cover was tattered and looked like a rooster tail from the grenade blast and I had a Smoking M-60 Machinegun on my shoulder!
I went back to my platoon and started to clean my weapons as I had done a hundred of times before. When I finished cleaning my .45 pistol, normally I would pull back the slide, let it go home, then squeeze the trigger. Then I would put the magazine in. My mind wasn’t on cleaning my weapons, it was on the contact we had just made! I had done everything Ass backwards and put a round in the chamber. I aimed at a tree limb about eight feet above my ammo-humpers head, and squeezed the trigger. Fully expecting it Not to go off! I blew the tree limb off and it fell on my ammo-humpers head. We both almost **** ourselves! I took the magazine out and cleared the weapon and just sat there in a daze! My lieutenant came over and asked us who had fired a round. I said it was me and that it was an accident. He said that I would probably get an Article 15 for having an Accidental Discharge. I didn’t give a ****, as long as I didn’t hurt anyone.
Later on that day the Captain and his cronies set up a little table and a stool in the Rain Forrest. I never ever thought that they would have “office hours” right here in the “Bush.” Boy was I mistaken! I remember my Lieutenant was very nervous and let me wear his Jungle utility shirt, because that was the Captain’s dress code. I never wore a shirt most of the time, it was too damn hot! I don’t remember much about what my Captain said but I do remember what my Lieutenant said. He said, “Sir, L/Cpl. Hartzel is my gunner and he does his job with Zeal and Professionalism. He has credit for the only Kill of the day in the battalion!” That made me proud! I wasn’t worried about the 90-day suspended bust I had just received, or the $100 fine either! I was in the bush, what could they do to me. Hell, Jail would be a vacation compared to this place!
When my “office hours” were done I went back to my platoon. I now had time to reflect on what had taken place and how lucky I was to still be alive! Number One, I was glad my A-gunner was OK! Secondly, I was very thankful that my A-gunner hadn’t let me walk down into that Rain Forest as a Pointman! I would be dead instead of the Boot! Then I felt bad about the Young Marine getting killed. To this day, I can still see his face! The only thing I remember about him is he had red hair and freckles. He had only been in-country about two weeks! I was still very sorry he died.
Today, “Charlie” kicked the **** out of Third Platoon! Nine Marines died, and three were wounded. We only had One Confirmed Kill and Five Probables! That’s not the way its supposed to work! As we were leaving the area of the contact, a black Marine turned and said, “We’ll Be Back Mr.Charles, We’ll Be Back!”
(6/27/01 9:28:01 am)
| Del Re: The Ambushing of Third Platoon
Good one Jack. Kept me on the edge of my seat.
Senior Chief Moderator III
(6/27/01 12:24:29 pm)
| Del Re: The Ambushing of Third Platoon
A memory with sadness and humor...good one!
(6/27/01 7:36:47 pm)
| Del Re: The Ambushing of Third Platoon
Had me riveted Jack. From doldrums to insanity...what a nut house!
...and two hard boiled eggs.