Wednesday, October 24, 2007


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 Vietnam.
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 Monkey Mountain. 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!]
[Photo at left is looking across the Da Nang runways toward Hill 327 where the Army “firebase” was located.]
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!

To hear what an actual rocket attack on DaNang sounded like, go here:


pat houseworth said...

I remember a couple of "Career" desk sargents at Tan Son Nhut....putting each other in for "Bronze Stars"{and I know for sure they never saw any action, except maybe at the NCO Clubs or a whore house in downtown Saigon}....and some of brass actually signed for them...don't know if they ever got them, I was gone back to the states....but I hate the fact that some would cheapen the awards that guys like my cousin, Jack Poling paid for, with their lives.

Mushy said...

A Flying Tiger commercial plane once crashed off the south end of Da Nang. It hit a village killing several and throwing wounded people into the road. A work detail of Air Force personnel who were actually in the stockade, were trapped beyond the wreckage and it was getting dark. In order to make their way back to base along this road they tossed some people onto the hood of their jeep. They got bronze stars for saving lives, when, in fact, they were just trying to get back to base before dark!

Hammer said...

The way you describe it makes the scene vivid in my mind. Great story telling. Do you have a book in the works?

~Fathairybastard~ said...

yep, another great story, vividly told. I've also heard of people getting medals for nothing, and wonder what folks really did when I see the bumper stickers and plates on cars here around the base. Something tells me that a real hero doesn't need a bumper sticker to let everyone know about it.

And that's called Couter Battery Fire by the way. never forget watching the news once when Israel invaded Lebanon in the early 1980s, and they were getting hit by PLO katyushas. the PLO would have the batteries of rockets mounted on puckup trucks so they could shoot and scoot, but it was to no evail. As soon as the rockets started to go up the IDF artillery shells would rain in and the whole place would go up in flames. Cool as hell. Yea, I bet the sound of those guns and the chain guns on those planes was like sweet music.

Great stuff man.

Jose said...

Damn Mooshy (not his real name) you are just too cool in my book. Your stories are the best, but even better they are not fiction. I really enjoy reading them.

BRUNO said...

I knew those mini-guns covered either a square FOOT, or a square INCH, of a football-field(according to "the figures-on-paper"!), I just couldn't remember which.

I agree with you 110% on your opinion of losing a bit of respect, for the "medal-mill", I guess you could call it. As far as I was concerned, they could keep it---I was glad to be rewarded with my life. PAT, above, said it best---it's all in the paperwork!

Not "gung-ho" enough? That's right---I played the ultimate game of "Survivor", broke even, and came home---alive. That's all the reward I needed...!

Mushy said...


Chuck said...

You know I've wondered about the same thing when I see those plates. But then I remember I've never been in a war situation and they have and it's a good chance they deserved the heart.

Do they give out purple hearts for dealing with crazy ex wives?

GUYK said...

Yep, the rules of engagement were screwy..

Good stuff Mushy

Mushy said...

They should Chuck...and in that case I'd have at least two!

The rules were that if you received an injury, or any kind, while under fire, you are eligible for the Purple Heart. You could run into a door jam on the way to hide in a bunker and get a medal. Like I said, one guy stepped on a hot piece of shrapnel and got one. My scrapped knees would have qualified!

*Goddess* said...

Geez, my mother used to sing that same song.