The second time I was under hostile fire was on 3/15/67, as I have stated before, just days before I was to leave for the home. Only 10 rockets hit the base this time, but these came in slowly, walking ever closer to my position, giving me too much time to anticipate the consequences.
They came slowly because they were being guided by a spotter who hung on the fence somewhere, directing the fire closer and closer to the desired target. Someone finally spotted the black-pajamaed guy/gal and requested that they be allowed to fire. The reply was, “Can you see a weapon?” The spotter replied, “No.” So, the return comment was, “Then do not fire!” Thus were the rules of engagement in
Like I wrote before, I dove, headlong, under the first bunk I came to, and lay there shaking. My eyes focused on a large rat shaking and hiding in the far corner under the same bunk! We watched each other cautiously, as the rounds exploded singularly, the “kachunk” “walking” ever closer to where we took shelter. Neither of us dared move until the impacts passed us.
What I did not tell you was what woke me up prior to the incoming rounds - a barrel-chested black staff sergeant singing:
Can't you hear the whistle blowing
Rise up so early in the morn
Can't you hear the captain shouting
Dinah, blow your horn
Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow your …
I do not remember his name, but he was a fun loving guy who was always singing or cracking a joke around the hooch. This particular time he was returning to the hooch, rather wasted, after a late night of card playing and beer drinking. Just as he sang the last “won’t you blow” the first round hit somewhere about a quarter of a mile from our position.
The drunken sergeant literally fell in the hooch, causing the screen door to slam loudly against the first wall locker on the left as he entered.
“Damn,” he breathed out, as he was falling to the concrete floor, “somebody don’t like my singin’!”
Had the situation not been so serious, the entire hooch would probably have erupted in laughter. As it was, the second round hit as everyone dove beneath their bunks and waited for the next concussion.
Previous to the attack on 2/27/67, the Air Force decided to remove a small unit of men that manned a “small projectile” radar system that sat near the south end of the two runways. Since it had been over a year since the last mortar attack on the base, some “wisenheimer” decided the base no longer needed defending!
However, with the first rocket attack in the books, the Air Force decided that maybe the radar installation needed to remain in service.
Therefore, by the time the forth or fifth round hit Da Nang, the location the projectiles were originating from was radioed to Hill 327 where the Army had a battery of 105 MM guns. Return fire was almost immediate and the sounds were so comforting to us.
Everyone in the hooches began yelling their approval and screaming “Kill’em! Kill the bastards!”
There were a total of 10 rockets that hit the base that night, but once the position came under fire from Hill 327, it ended. Soon “Puff” (the magic dragon – a C-47 equipped with mini-guns and aerial flares was over the area where the VC had staged their attack. The aircraft was equipped with three rotating six barreled mini-guns, reminiscent of the Civil War Gatling guns. These 7.62 mm guns were capable of covering every square foot of a football field with one round, in one minute. Red streams of hot lead rained down on the area as the flares lit the area with their phosphorescent yellow glow.
[Photo at right is of
Da Nang Airbase taken from . The arrows are pointing to tracer lines coming down from “Puff.” Tracer rounds are placed every 7th round in the mini-gun belts. However, the rate of fire is so fast that there appears to be a solid line coming down from the sky – a long finger of death. You do not want to be on the receiving end!] Monkey Mountain
[Photo at left is looking across the
runways toward Hill 327 where the Army “firebase” was located.] Da Nang
We were going wild with the adrenalin that rushed through our veins and we so desperately wanted revenge for our fallen comrades.
As I sat on the side of my bunk and dabbed at my bleeding knees, I contemplated the realization that I too could kill, given the opportunity. Men do not fight wars for governments. They fight wars for each other, for revenge, to protect those around them. They fight to live and to get back home. They could care less about the politics involved.
Someone began hollering about bleeding from his heel, after stepping on a hot piece of shrapnel, and another had cut his head diving under the bunk, and the sergeant that fell in to the hooch had scraped his elbows. Soon, there were several who headed off to the dispensary.
When these guys returned, they where talking about being put in for Purple Hearts! “Why didn’t you go man? You could have gotten one for those knees!”
Somehow, it just did not seem right. I mean, in the war movies they actually got shot or hit with shrapnel, but for scrapping my knees? I lost a little respect for medals that day. Now, when I see a Purple Heart license plate, I wonder if they actually earned it. Well, yes, I suppose they did…they went and served and got shot at, so I suppose that is enough. However, I do not regret not getting a Purple Heart for spending a little quality time with a rat!