TeT – the next day….

Discussion in 'Vietnam Memories Forum' started by Guest, Mar 12, 2003.

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    Mithrandir
    V.I.P. Member
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    (4/6/02 10:25:44 pm)
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    Everyone knows what TeT is… or was….and how it effects those of us that were there…. even after all these years…every February hurts my mind…..but some stories need to be told. The story of my TeT experience is not terribly relevant nor even noteworthy as the world turns. But sometimes… just sometimes… minor events that are done in support of major events help to “fill in the gaps” so to speak….and sooth the old wounds of the mind….this is such a story…..one meant to express absolute admiration for those who “did the deed” and those who sacrificed it all….. unknowingly… for me… and you….

    this is a long one.... so if you don't like it ....tell me and I will shut up.....


    And its all SixTgunr’s fault for posting those damn pictures…. They drug this memory out of me by force…..


    It begins……..

    TeT has come…. and like bile in the throat it is a hard thing to swallow again…I had never been in combat before….. If you can call sitting in a bunker and taking a few hundred rockets and mortars “in combat”…..they shelled us only for about an hour…. But it was the longest hour we had ever endured…. Up to the point that is….. later…

    Well… later is another story….this one is about the few days right after…..

    The sun rises…. the smoke is still thick….the sound of Arty is constant…. a huge plume of smoke rises slowly like a giant snake over the city of Hue to my north …..good God… Hue is twenty or so miles away from here…. maybe more...What is going on???

    We are told nothing…. but we just know, by the smoke that something is not right…..

    During the night… we watched the marines move to the north and west from us…..they are going out to secure the farthest perimeters of this sprawling camp…..and they took fire all night without a let-up.

    We take stock of ourselves…..

    The MACV compound is in ruins and burning…

    The air-port has ten dead C130’s and five dead Caribou’s… but no humans dead……

    The road junction to our northeast is a sea of dead enemy…. the storm gutters on both sides of the highway….normally empty….. are filled to overflow with the dead…… understand that these “rain gutters” are fifteen feet deep and twenty feet wide……the two MACV dudes who commandeered a Duster (a tracked twin-forty) had kept them off of our ass during the night and denied them access to highway one, the airport and the railroad south (and that is another story) …..so now, as the light gets better we see that the Sea-Bees are using dozers to push the dead into the gutters so that the road is clear for re-enforcements…..

    Truck after truck after truck is barreling north… filled to the brim with Marines….

    Our hosts are nowhere to be seen……I believe that they are engaged way out to the west….

    The local Marine commanders office has one mortar in it…. right into the middle of his desk…. but did not explode….. couldn’t have planned it better……and BOY IS HE PISSED……

    Our officers billets are burnt to the ground….one officer is slowly searching the rubble for something to salvage…. the officers lost everything to the fire……

    The NCO club has holes in it….(no loss really…served really lousy food and crappy beer anyway)

    My ¾ ton is dead…. took a rocket right under the transmission….. which now resembles Swiss cheese…

    Tom Rundles room is a wreck…. the mortar shell went right through the roof, his bunk, the floor and erupted deep in the ground…. no one was hurt as the shrapnel couldn’t quite come back up that far…

    Two other billets had been hit….. Davidson’s window has a hole in it from shrapnel and his window curtain is slightly burnt…..he was not in his bunk…. if he had been…. his head would have exploded… just like his pillow…..

    I have a sprained ankle from being blown down by a way to *&^%*($ close mortar….

    Well…at least I didn’t soil myself…. (Now that I think of it…. Maybe I SHOULD have soiled myself….. I was too stupid to realize what had happened…..)

    Only one casualty on this mornings roster…. the fat idiot who was trying to takes close-up pictures of the officers billets while they were burning and a fire bottle exploded and knocked him off of the blast wall……there is a rumor the he may be given a purple heart for his “injuries”….

    Go frikkin’ figure……

    Word comes to us….. report to normal stations and the second trick is to report for pay….

    OH YEAH!!!! Today IS payday….. thanks a frikkin lot NVA……

    OK…OK….OK…. so I go stand in line for pay……….CRUMP….CRUMP…. they keep tossing a couples shells every hour or so just to keep us off balance..

    WELL IT DAMN WELL WORKS FOR ME BATMAN!!!!!!

    Later in the day… we tire of running to battle stations every time a shell hits…. we get to the point were it doesn’t work anymore…..

    Then it hits me….. somewhere between 10AM and 4PM one the first day, our fear turns to boredom….

    WE ARE NOT FIGHTING ANYBODY!!!!… the Marines are gitting all the frikkin fun!!!!!

    People are lining up at the HQ to bitch about not being in on it!!! and damn if I didn’t suddenly find my body standing in that same line….where my mind was… I have no idea…probably out in the trench line playing with my stupidity… but there I was… asking to for permission to DO SOMETHING…

    Several days of this boredom merge into one blur….. we now know that the Marines are having a little trouble getting into the Citadel…. they seem to have cleaned up all the rest of the area… but that damn ancient fortress just seems to laugh at them….

    And they are not going to take that lying down… they are PISSED….

    There are still sporadic firefights all around us…. for two or three days….. small arms are heard everywhere…..the Arty is still pumping out steel…..

    Word come downs that they need a little support…..

    In formation (if you want to call two hundred guys sitting around smoking and generally ignoring life, the officers, and the fact that the First Shirts fly is open….) names are called out….

    HEY…that’s me!!…..I think…..

    I go report… and YUP…. I can be used….

    It seems that those twenty or so of us have all have MG experience……lets see…. I know .30’s both air and water cooled

    (NOTE : DAMN that dates my ass doesn’t it!!)…

    I leaned them and actually qualified with it in high school ROTC (Army Infantry)…. others know the 60’s better than I do and about five are .50’s dudes…..and two really old farts know Madsens & Vickers’s…..

    (NOTE: ………………….now…. THAT’s ANOTHER STORY)……


    We are turned over to three really old looking Marine Gunnies…… but they are not older them me… they have been on-line for five or six days now… with no sleep … or at least… very little sleep….

    Rundles and I go with one Gunny…. he grunts and points to a jeep standing close by and says nothing else…. we mount up and start a long quite ride up highway one…..

    Dirt…..dust…. stink…. smoke….. bodies….. crying south viet’s all around… holes in the road… buildings… vehicles…people….dogs….aircraft…..sporadic firefights all around…. the driver winds his way into around and away from the various firefights….the Gunny takes no notice……

    PING!!!! A chunk of the windshield disappears… the Gunny take no notice… the driver …well… we decided that the driver is a very brave dude….. or dead…. take your pick…..

    After a fair time….we jerk to a sudden stop… and the gunny is gone in a shot…. STAY!! he barks…. and like obedient little puppies… we do…

    The driver smiles….

    HEY …HE ISN’T DEAD AFTER ALL……

    Long minutes pass…. we smoke…. check our gear again…. clean out our ammo pouches to free them from the dust of the trip… (we are still using 14’s at this point.. if we had 16’s …I think that we would have used them for tent pegs)….

    The gunny comes back and motions for us to follow him….and we wind in and out between tents, medical tents brimming with Marines who may not fight again soon … if at all….past sleeping areas laying where they can..… past ammo boxes stacked high almost to teetering…. Past vehicles of all sorts and then come to a small wooden shack….. inside are three others there…. one Navy guy and two Air Force boys….

    “You boys have been picked because you have training on air cooled thirty’s…. we have a bunch of them we got from our hosts.… they can’t use them now and we need them….. you are going to be shown to a position…. you are to fortify that position… then when told… you are going to fire those Mg’s until told to stop or the barrels melt or you melt …whichever comes first….Long… you are senior and the gunner here and the new team leader…..Arlen (the Navy guy) is the sighter, Johnson (the AF dude) is a bearer, Rundles and Benson(the other AF guy) are left and right security”

    Somehow…. I get the impression that that is the most he has said in weeks……

    A firefight breaks out somewhere close by…..can’t tell which direction….

    We stay there that day… we don’t talk much…..and when the darkness begins… the five of us are lead back through the maze and down to a rather shoddy looking bunker… if you could call it that…. we stumble around a bit… find the stack of sand bags someone has carelessly tossed about, Rundles and I break out our e-tools and begin filling them.

    A five minute discussion breaks out with the AF boys as to just what the hell an e-tool is… the Navy guy tries to convince them that it another word for his Penis…

    Do Navy guys ever think of anything else?????

    Oh well….



    Continued.................out...........

    high2fly
    *Senior Chief Of Staff*
    Posts: 852
    (4/7/02 7:04:25 am)
    Reply | Edit | Del Re: TeT ? the next day?.
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    Frankly Sir, I am delighted that Gunner posted his pictures---it seemed to have served as a explosive fuse and you armed the device with the beginning of your stories. You cannot stop now!!! No matter how those arming sequences are pictured in ones mind, be it a piece of det-cord ignited with a match, or a sophisicated MARK IV
    20 KT(ny) warhead lighted off with a complex computer, you are on a roll!!!! I could not help but picture the 'old Gunnies'---that 'ten thousand klick stare' making them appear older than their years. And that discussion on your closing about the e-tool---made me grin about your Navy remarks---YES SIR, RE-SIR---you are on a roll. wilborn

    Edited by: high2fly at: 4/7/02 8:33:43 am

    Mithrandir
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 229
    (4/7/02 8:58:27 am)
    Reply | Edit | Del Re: TeT – the next day….
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    continuing..................



    We can’t see shit at the moment but we continue to work well into the night….the ground slopes down in front of us so we assume that we command some sort of “Height” or are on a hill overlooking the target…..

    Something looks odd!?…. OH yeah… the firing stakes are already out!!…..but....but... they are ten feet high!!! Oh well.... they must know something I don't.....

    We get a fair job done on the bunker…. the firing port is re-enforced with sheets of PCP that were laying close by… the front bunker wall is now six feet thick.. and the overhead is now four or five feet thick….. we dug new grenade sumps and cut into the left back wall a new exit hole… just in case…..

    We did every bit of that bunker work in complete darkness… and in silence….no one smoked, joked or otherwise got distracted….. One of the Marines in the darkness made a dispairaging remark about the Navy guys E-tool comment....we keep working....

    The thirty we are given looks like it just came out of a storage crate… NEW…… the park job on it is beautiful…even in this darkness under a red flashlight... the whole gun is greased just right…..the feed ramp pawl is in like new shape and the barrel looks unused… there are six more barrels over in the corner in nice, new, clean cases…. There are twenty seven cans of .30-06 linked Ball just behind the rear blast wall we dug out. …. 250 rounds per can gives us 6750 rounds to play with… lets see…. If we are cautious with it…. small bursts will last us about…. three hours or so….

    Just before we are told to get some sleep… the Gunny returns with the range card…. It is already filled in and we go over it together…..target range is a little under 350 meters…. the target height is thirty-five meters….. and the target itself is one meter by one meter …..

    UUUUUHHHHHHHHHhhh I don’t think I understand……..

    “Just get some sleep… you will see it in the morning…..none of you will be on guard… my Marines are doing that…. your job is tomorrow…..” and with that … he is gone……

    We gratefully slump down were we are and fall into a fitful sleep.

    Six hours till dawn….. my mind is running at two hundred miles per hour… what if this happens… what if that happens… what if …what if… what if…. I go numb….. and sleep surrounds me…..

    I get a light tap on the shoulder and startle awake…. The Gunny is back…… he motions for me to follow… the others are still asleep…..

    The sun is evident now…. a small delicate light just behind me…..

    “We have brought up 25 cases of ammo…. four cans per case, 250 rounds per can…..when we are ready to wake the others… have them break open every can you have and break the seals on the cases so that you can get to them quickly….”

    “Hey Gunny… I noticed that our range card doesn’t note the rate of fire….what is my rate of fire going to be”

    He looks at me like I have six heads or I am just one big penis……

    “ Shit specialist….pull the trigger and burn out the barrel!!… that’s why you have six more….. fire until the gun melts… or until you see us on the other side of that!!…and he points now….. and as the sun illuminates our backs…. I can see our target….

    The citadel…

    THE FRIKKIN CITIDEL…….across the Perfume river…..

    Or at least… this wall of it….. overlooking the junction of the river and some canal farther up from us….

    Ooh Shit… THAT’S were all the gunfire has been coming from….smoke is rising everywhere I look…. the fog that was in front of us is dissipating…. and like a veil…. reveals our target…….

    Yup… my teams job is one…. small….. one meter by one meter window…….

    “Other positions have been given the other windows and breaches in the wall on this side…. just pump fire into that window…THAT window… until either we are one the other side and in the fortress or we have to withdraw… which AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN”…..

    I see now that the others have been wakened…. no breakfast this morning….. but the Marines are bringing in coffee…




    continued....

    (NOTE to administraters....the EDIT does not work.....)
    out...


    Mithrandir
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 230
    (4/7/02 12:01:36 pm)
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    HOT DAMN….. HOT COFFEE… the food of the Gods……the lubricant of the Armed forces and nectar of Mars… or … at least of his second cousin Jupiter… you know…”Jumpin’ Jupiter”… yeah… that’s right .. that guy….

    Hot …sweet… black…..just like a good ….well…. I will leave the rest up to your imagination….

    I go back into the bunker… the others are opening cans and Rundles reports that the Marines have taken up their positions in the trees behind us on both sides…. Arlen says that he has make the adjustments to the tripod wheels so that we are dead center of the target…. I get down and check his work…. This Navy guy is good… he has the elevation and traverse set just right….. he has also reinforced the pods legs with more sand bags and was smart enough to secure to more steaming canteen cups of hot nectar……

    “Gotta stay lubed yall know”……

    I think that he is from the south somewhere… I will ask later…..not that it matters…..

    The gun is set….. loaded….. primed……Johnson has brought up nine cans with the lids removed…..”I’ve got ten more ready and the seals have all been broken on the cases…..

    We are ready……..or maybe not…..

    Did you ever have a time when whatever you are doing slips into slow motion…. freeze frame…. One picture at a time??????

    The order comes to fire….. I trip the trigger and let go a long burst…. When I let up I am deaf…. the concussion inside the bunker is horrendous

    I can see the cordite and powder smoke rising from the other positions to my left and right…. Everyone is dumping on target now….

    Arlen taps me on the shoulder….. and points at the belt…. It is gone…. We struggle to get another into the gun…. THERE… that did it…. I open up again….

    I yell and Arlen over the noise.. AM I ON IT????…. I can’t see the target for all the smoke…YES…KEEP AT IT….

    The next can loads quicker…. and smoother…. we can see hundreds of Marines running passed us and heading for the water with rubber boats….

    I mind sort of…. hiccups a mental picture… these guys are going across the river in rubber boats,….. six or so in each boat…. MAN that’s got to be stupid……and no wonder that the aiming stakes are so high....

    By the time we see them half way across… several boats have been hit…. Marines in the water…. Some not making any attempt to swim….. Oh…… I see red on the water now…… Arlen smacks my shoulder and points at my window… there are two people shooting out of it and I dump into it..

    We can see the rock chipping away… our shells have made the window larger…. we must be getting at least 50% of the bullets into and through the window the rest are chip-chip-chipping away at it…. smoke and rock chips rain down…..

    The Marines have reached the other side…… in some places…. But not enough to force their way in….we keep firing…UUUHHH no we don’t…..

    WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG….. the barrel is firing into the water….. damn thing has melted….Arlen and I struggle to change barrels….. we get the new on in and I burn my hand on the upper cooling jacket…..then we start in again….

    DAMN the head spacing of off…… Arlen takes his gloves and turns it one more time… I try again…

    THERE…. THAT WORKED….. FIRE…FIRE…FIRE God DAMNIT……I AM………..SHUT UP……………..

    Neither of us can hear any more…. dust from the bunker is beginning or obscure our firing port so bad that we can’t see the window…..

    Time slows down….smoke drifts…..the bunker shudders…….then shudders again…..

    Small rubber boats float past us……some with Marines who won’t be going home….one seems to be eerily pointing at the damn window.

    Small figures hunkering down on the other shore…..all of them shooting…..

    Tracers everywhere…. smoke…smoke…smoke…smoke…and more smoke……your lungs begin to burn… your hearing is shot…. Arlens right sleeve bursts into flame!!!…. he leaned again the cooling jacket for just the right amount of time…. I keep firing… Johnson helps him get it out and out of his blouse……Johnson helps me with the next can…..

    Arlen moves more cans closer to the gun….. Johnson move to my right and starts to shovel the expended brass and empty cans way from us…. the pile is a foot deep now ….

    Something is wrong……. where are the guys on the other shore???… we can’t see them… too much powder smoke..



    wait......

    high2fly
    *Senior Chief Of Staff*
    Posts: 854
    (4/7/02 1:05:26 pm)
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    Just like the Old Fisherman---you've got us snagged---got that hook set and we're just threshing around--waiting for more!!!!! Wilborn

    Mithrandir
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 232
    (4/7/02 1:13:49 pm)
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    (last page)


    I get slapped hard on the back!!!

    DAMNIT WADDIA WANT???

    Oh… it’s the Gunny… CEASE FIRE……CEASE FIRE….!!!!

    WHAT???

    He gives the “cut throat” sign… you know… you slash your hand across your throat as a sign to stop… cut it out or whatever…

    I do……..

    He opens his hands up …palms down and signals for us to “stay put”…….

    He leaves……

    We watch…… in slow motion…..the barrel melt toward the ground…..just like a cartoon…..

    We change it as fast as we can and reset the gun…….

    My ears pop….. I can hear out of my right ear again……..firefights still rage in the distance…..

    The wind shifts…. blowing the smoke away from us… cleaning the air…….

    The Gunny returns….. OK… stand down….someone will be here soon to take you to debriefing.. in the meantime.. stay here and I will have food brought up…

    The strangest feeling…… to sit in a bunker… up to your waist in brass and all you can think… is…. “I hope that its Ham slices this time”…….

    Rundles and the other guy comes in…. they sit down and break out the smokes…. funny….. you light up a smoke and inhale deeply…. and it feels and tastes good…. But the other smoke burns your lungs….go figure…..

    A Lance Corporal comes by…HEY GUYS…. IT’S SAFE TO COME OUT NOW… AND WE GOT C’S UP HERE….

    We slowly unfold ourselves and go outside….. the day has turned off HOT…sticky…nasty….normal….we don’t seem to notice it… to us the air smells clean… the wind picks up again….. …….and HOT DAMN… HAM SLICES…..we climb up on top of the bunker and open the cans and eat everything cold… except the nice hot coffee ….

    A Marine walks by and says… I guess to no one special…. “Hey…. Nice hole you got there” and points to the front of our bunker…..

    Rundles climbs down and walks around to the front…. the look on his face is… well…. something else….

    “Hey Long… come look at this……”

    I climb down…. and he points to one really neat hole in the side of the bunker………we never even knew…… we took an RPG straight in the PCP … right up front…….it was bent almost in half with a really big hole in the middle…..

    Arlen says… “well…. I guess that accounts for all the damn dust”….and we all break out laughing…..

    The day wears on… we rest…… Arlen and Johnson take stock of the ammo…..

    One Barrel and six cans left….

    OH you HAVE to be kidding me!!!!!

    No… he was correct….. one barrel and six cans left……

    Never seemed like we did that….. time compression I guess…..

    The window we were shooting at… was now three meters by four meters…… we made quite a dent in it…. the others had done the same…..

    The Marines were still fighting somewhere in the city…. but they HAD taken the citadel…..just like they said they would….and the damned NVA flags had all been removed and replaced with American flags...

    We turned to view the other shore…….and promptly threw up……somehow… the enemy dead in the gutters at Phu Bai didn’t bother me… but this did…I wanted to go home….Rundles puked too…..I couldn’t bring myself to look back….

    A Duce-and-a-half pulls up… the Gunny is in it… “Saddle up soldiers… you are done here”… we gather our gear…. and climb up in back……the ride back was quite…. no one had anything to say……

    Back at the camp, Rundles and I got down and just raised our hands to the others… no words were spoken… but we did make a good team……the truck rumbles off..

    The de-briefing was uneventful… our at least we thought so…. seems that Rundles nailed six enemy with his 14….at a distance the Marines said was about 500 meters.. right through the smoke… The Capt. said that the Gunny wanted to know if Rundles wanted to transfer to the Marines…. everyone kinda laughed a bit…. except Rundles…. “no thank you..and don’t ask again!! once is too much”…

    The other guy…Benson… was credited with nailing three as they tried to toss stick grenades at the boats trying to come ashore…..I think the AF gave him a medal for that……

    Well…. we are back at camp…… there are still major battles raging in various parts of the country…. but the Citadel is ours…..and we go back to our mundane work…..it is now about twenty days since we were attached to the Marines……..

    Rundles and I seem to be going through withdrawals ……..like …. We felt we needed a fix………

    I promptly apply to transfer to a line unit…. I am still young…. young and stupid….

    And that’s …….another story…………….

    Out……..

    SixTGunr
    V.I.P. Member
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    (4/7/02 2:12:35 pm)
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    Thanks Mith .....
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    SixTGunr
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 153
    (4/7/02 2:16:16 pm)
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    Glad to have you home with us Brother .....

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    Mithrandir
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 234
    (4/7/02 3:56:53 pm)
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    as you guys have noticed... the title should have been "TeT, the next day and beyond"

    I have this thing written out in several "installments".... I just never put them together until now....

    The "Next day" part, I shortend as it was just about our compound and not the whole picture.

    My reason is, because of your pictures SixTgunr.....

    I think that I have said that before.....

    Many of them are images that I saw but never captured on film.

    I am glad you did......


    out....