Where'd they go?
I don't know
sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they've gone
And sometimes late at night
When I'm bathed in the firelight
The moon comes callin' a ghostly white
And I recall
When I think back over all that has happened since then, I start to realize, at least a little of where the time has gone. There sure has been a lot of water over the proverbial dam, but damn how quickly it flowed.
I am preparing to leave
So, before my last post on the subject, I am attempting to sweep out the corners of my mind where something might be hidden, something yet untold, but do not get your hopes up that you will find something written within this post that is awe inspiring, or that a secret will finally be revealed – I am afraid that will not happen. However, let us continue to walk down this path and see what happens.
The very first time I came “under fire” was not from Viet Cong or from North Vietnamese Regulars. Nope, it was from the South Vietnamese Army!
On March 10, 1966, South Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky removed LtGen. Nguyen Chanh Thi from his position as ARVN I Corps commander. As a result, there were a series of strikes and much political unrest especially within I Corps which saw a succession of I Corps commanders well into June of 1966. Much of the heaviest unrest was in the
Ky saw himself as a hotshot air force pilot and this unrest pitted him against Colonel Dam Quang Yeu who lead a large army contingent near
Things almost escalated out of hand, as evidenced by this article in the April 22, 1966 issue of Time Magazine.
What the history books do not tell is that shots were actually fired!
I remember standing post in the Alpha Area, south end of the airbase, and watched A-1A Skyraiders rollover, dive, and strafe army positions between the base and the city of
The Vietnamese Army returned fire with either tank or cannon fire (it was never clear to me), which meant they were firing straight up into the air with the airbase as the unintentional target!
I watched as one of the Area Patrols high-tailed it past my post and on down past the last revetments at the extreme south end of the base. I got word through the field phone, again from Boyce, who was working the switchboard that particular shift, that a tank or artillery shell had landed just feet from one of our post. The shell was a “dud” (unexploded), but when the Security Policeman turned and saw the shell sticking in the ground just feet from him, he passed out cold! Hell, who could blame him?
Then there were the two nights I pulled Area Patrol in the “bomb dump” and had to deploy on what was reported by the South Vietnamese as “intruders!”
In the first deployment I was designated as the “high eyes” for the mission into the area suspected of being infiltrated. I pulled myself up through the tall grass to the top of one of the dirt berms, which covered an explosive vault, and hunched over trying to sneak along unseen, and watching ahead of the route being traveled by the six-man team below. Without prior warning, someone popped a hand flare that lit the area and exposing my position on top. One of the Security Policeman and two of the South Vietnamese guards quickly swung their “locked and loaded” weapons on me. There was no doubt in my mind that they were going to fire on me!
I hit the grass and before I could stop myself rolled all the way down the berm and lay at their feet. There were a few seconds of fright that crossed their face, as they realized they had almost shot a “friendly,” before everyone broke down laughing. Damn it, I was so pissed! In the beginning, my mind had seen this whole operation as my “John Wayne” moment – something to tell the grandkids. Instead, here I lay the object of a joke! I wanted to kill them all! “How could they be so damn stupid,” I thought?
I do not think it was more than a week later that I understood. This time, someone else, unbeknownst to me, was deployed to the high line, while I inched along in the dark, safety off, selector on full-auto, finger along the trigger guard, waiting to encounter my worst nightmare. When suddenly someone near me popped off a flare, I caught the figure of a man, a Vietnamese troop at that, out of the corner of my eye. I came up, finger on the trigger, and aimed square in the middle of his chest! Damn! It was close, but I suddenly realized the real stupid one was the NCO who had failed to let everyone know his plan of action.
These were the things that I thought about as I sat in the hooch, or outside in the fresh air, before reporting to Guard Mount. What would the shift bring? What would the night bring? How many days remaining?
It begins to weigh heavily on you as the days, nights, and shifts go by. The closer you get to that “short” date, the more you worry, become paranoid, and begin to analyze everything. The first days are long and hard on you because it is new and scary, but as you become experience they drop off one by one until one day you realize you only have a hundred days left.
As you visit Ms. FIGMO and begin marking off the days, they again slow down. Every minute is an hour, every day a month, and every month a year – or so it seems.
So that was what was in one corner – no, it was not much, but something is still hiding, something wants to be found.
I think it is just that it was so long ago, so deep into my youth, so entwined in my conscious and subconscious that the experience will never let me go. It will always be there. It will be in that next hot humid day, in the next mortar shots for the next Fourth of July fireworks show, in the slamming of a trunk, or in that next sixties song. It will always be with me, and I don’t really care.
The lump leaps to my throat when least expected - the playing of the National Anthem, watching war footage or movies, hearing the brave words of heroes about losing friends, when visiting The Wall, in my grand babies’ eyes, a lyric from a country song, and hell yes, even when I read my own posts. There it is again.