Copyright 2002. Ed Yates & Roger F. O’Brien. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be copied, faxed, electronically transmitted, or in any other manner duplicated without express written permission of the authors. firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
by Ed Yates
For several weeks during the month of Jan 68, we had it made. Charlie Company was operating somewhere along a river, I’m not really sure where except it was up north. We mainly, during the day hung out at an old French Fort, in a Ville that was alongside the river. The Ville was on a dirt road that followed the river. With another dirt road connected to it in the middle of the Ville, and made a “T” junction. It was easy duty, in the daytime we would run Plt size patrols from the old French Fort, along the river and inland. Usually 2 Plt’s on patrol, while the other Plt was security for the Company CP, of which I was the Company Radioman (Company Net). Easy duty, very little contact, mostly snipers now and then. The people in the Ville were old men, children, and women. So we knew we were in Indian Country. However daytime patrols after awhile became boring, and in the Ville giving unwanted C-rations to the Villagers, and watching as the Corpsmen ministered to their various ills became boring also. At night it was a different matter, an hour or so before sundown, the whole Company would saddle-up, and take off. We would walk around for awhile, then one by one individual Plt’s would drop off the column, and go set-up for the night somewhere else. Until just one Plt and the CP group were left, which set-up in a separate location from the others. Some nights, the whole Company would stay and set up together, this was all done to keep the NVA/VC confused as to what we were going to do. No matter how the Company set-up, either by Plt’s or the whole Company, “Night Ambushes” were sent out, and what we called “Hunter Killer Teams”, and of course, the always fun and recreational “LP’s”. Every now and then one of the Ambushes or Hunter Killer teams would make contact, and then things would get interesting. All an all, it was easy duty compared to what we had been doing, I guess it was because we were operating in one area, and we covered it pretty well. Just before daybreak, (depending on how we had been dispersed during the night) the Company would move back to the Ville and the French Fort, or somewhere near it. We had a Sniper Team attached to us, and on the way back to the Ville, they would drop off to do their thing, we would pick them up the following evening.
One lazy afternoon, while at the French Fort, I was half asleep, monitoring the Company net, when one of the Patrols that had been sent down river radioed, and said that they had Gooks with weapons walking across the river. The thing is though, the river was deep, and there wasn’t any bridge. At least one we knew about. I told the Skipper, and he told the patrol to hold their position, let the Gooks cross, mark on a map the location of the hidden bridge, and that he would be there shortly. So the Skipper gets four guys, including me with my radio, and we head off down the river on the road. We went, God, I don’t remember how far, some distance, and we went at a fast walk. Then just as we came abreast of the patrol hunkered along the riverbank, they radioed that some of the Gooks had already crossed, but one or two were still crossing the river. I no sooner told the Skipper this, when a Gook stepped out onto the road, no more than 200 yards from us, when he saw us he started running in the opposite direction. The Skipper yells out “Come On”, and starts running after him. I don’t know if he wanted to capture the Gook, or what his intentions were at that time, but we started following the Skipper at a dead run. Now have you ever ran as fast as you could with a PRC-25 on your back, Helmet, Flak Jacket, and the rest of your 782 gear, in high temperature? Trying to keep up with a Capt who ran like a deer. Several times during the run, the Skipper looked back and yelled “God Damn it…Come On”. I’ve got to say this about the Gook, the little shit could run, it didn’t look like to me that we were closing the distance between us, other than the Skipper. At some point I guess the Skipper said to himself, “fuck-it” because he raised his M-16 to his shoulder and fired 3 rounds. Now he fired the M-16 from his shoulder at a dead run, and the Gook dropped like a rock. When the rest of us caught up with him, we saw that the Skipper had hit the Gook right in the forehead. There was a Itty-Bitty hole in his forehead, however the back of his skull was gone. The Gook, was wearing black pajamas and had been wearing a cone hat, also carrying a AK-47, which we brought back to the CP with us. I still today marvel at the Damndest Snap Shots I ever saw fired.
By Roger F. O’Brien
I am in charge of the better part of a Marine Rifle Company in combat. It’s January 1968, near the Republic of Viet Nam’s provincial capital of Quang Tri. I’m a 21-year-old 2nd Lieutenant and I’m in charge. I’ve not yet been shot at – unless you count the NVA artillery fire zeroed in on the shitter atop the Hill of Angels – and I’m in charge. I’ve been “in-country” all of a month and I’m in charge. I’m the Weapons Platoon Commander and I’m in charge. (In reality, I’m the 60mm Mortar Section Leader, since the Guns and Rockets are detached; but, I’m in charge.)
I don’t know the whereabouts of Lieutenants Bob Anderson (XO), Bob Dodson (1st Plt.), Larry Perry (2nd Plt.) and Mike Casey (3rd Plt.), all of whom are senior to me and God-like in their own right. Trust me though; I’m in charge of lots of their grizzled combat-hardened Marines, every damn one of which knows I don’t have a clue. But, I am in charge.
Note: I say “in charge”, and not “in command”. That role belongs to the Commander of Charlie 1/1 – Captain Merrill James Lindsey. Captain Lindsey (Jim, to his friends and Skipper, to his troops) had leathery skin and forearms that forced me to recall my childhood exposure to Popeye. Captain Lindsey (according to the scuttlebutt I’d picked up) ate 2nd Lieutenants, instead of spinach, for lunch. Captain Lindsey’s absolute favorite phrase was “…God Damn It!” and it was usually directed at a 2nd Lieutenant. I’d not yet been victimized by the Skipper, but I was in charge.
So; where exactly is the Skipper? Well, it seems he’d got this hair up his ass (observe my keen use of the Marine vernacular) to go play Green Beret. An equally imposing veteran named Ed (Rowdy) Yates recounts the tale of the Snap Shot far better than could I, because I wasn’t there – I was back with the rest of the HQ group and lots of the Skipper’s Marines. I was in charge.
Just as I was getting quite used to being in charge from a supine position, the phone rang. (Well, you know what I mean.) The Skipper’s hunting party had contact and I needed to “get the God Damned Company down here NOW! I mean NOW!” My first real assignment in Viet Nam – I was off to war. Right. Talk about molasses. I took too long. I got yelled at. Lots.
Were I prone to nightmares about the war, I am absolutely positive of what the most vivid one would be. I would be running down a dirt road, leading a column of Marines in full combat gear, with a radioman next to me. I am holding a handset close to my ear, while I run. Captain Lindsey is calling cadence:
“God Damn it!”
“God Damn it!”
“God Damn it!”
“God Damn it!”
“God Damn it!”
“God Damn it!”
In reality, we did get there (although I think it took longer to get in column than to get the column down the road). The bad guys were across the river and they were actually shooting at us (or so I was told). It was a perfect way to have my very first firefight. Lots of gunfire (I have this vivid memory of running back and forth, directing fire at the enemy), shouting, testosterone and adrenalin pumping, and – not one friendly casualty.
Rowdy & OB