I am sitting on my bunk staring at my boots. I haven't seen my feet for
well over a week. I was scared and I wasn't going to get caught by the gooks
with my pants down, or boots off. The other Marines that had been in country
for much longer, were getting naked, bathing, and swimming in the river.
"Ballsy stuff!," I thought. Not me. FNGitis. I still preferred being Pvt. Crud
with my boots on. I make my decision. I had heard the stories. The one's about
some guy taking his boot off and leaving half his jungle-rotted foot inside
it. Tonight, I was taking off my boots and getting a good night's sleep. A
good night's sleep being one with minimal bone-jarring jerks awake. I never
was able to "sleep" in Vietnam. I remove my boots. I remove my socks. I do a
double take on my feet. They are green. The green dye off my government issue
Marine Corps green socks, combined with the constant wet, was now the color of
What the hell!?! All of a sudden something comes screeching in.
Tipton jumps off his bunk, grabs his gear and yells at me that it's
incoming and heads out the hatch. I cannot believe this is happening. I
hurriedly put on my socks. Then my boots. All the time the intensity of
incoming is getting greater. I grab my rifle and ammo and out the door I go.
My hole is probably twenty yards away. I am running in a crouched position and
two more screeching rockets make their way in simultaneously. A noise one
never forgets. I hit the deck. BOOM!/BOOM! One lands to my left. The ground
shakes. The shrapnel swooshes by me. I jump up and take a few more steps and
literally fall into the safety of my hole. I don't feel hurt or sick. No
shock. I cannot see a damn thing Pitch black. I must be okay. I cannot believe
I didn't get nailed. My luck was running out.
Pfc. Aycock, who is supposed to be with me in this hole, is over at the Army
artillery unit doing mess duty. The Army had been letting us eat chow over
there as long as we sent a couple Marines over to help out in the mess.
Tonight was Aycock's turn. And I am alone, scared shitless, shaking with
tremors and trying to keep my muzzle above my head to keep from shooting
Another rocket comes in and hits near. SCHHHHHhhhh as the shrapnel
passes over my hole. I am not going to stick my head out of this hole.
Then I come to my senses; gooks. The gooks are going to come across the
wire. I have to look. I start peering above the edge of my hole. No small arms
fire, that I can detect, is being fired at us. I see mortar shells trying to
be walked into the gun position on my left. They fail to hit it.
On my right a rocket hits one of the hooch's. I would find out later
that PFC Crockett was in it, buried in sandbags, and bleeding from the ears.
Someone in the southwest sector on the other side of the road accidentally
sets off a tear gas canister. The prevailing winds are in my favor. Across the
river comes yelling for whoever is up in the tower
to evacuate it. There are red flashes coming from the tree line at my twelve
o'clock. Possibly the launch area for the rockets, or the flash of a mortar
tube. Someone calls for the tank to cross the river. I watch as the tank, with
about only six inches on each side to spare, slowly make its way across the
bridge. I am thinking about the pilings that had taken a helluva pounding from
the grenades I had been dropping next to them. The bridge holds and the tank
arrives on the west side.
The Army artillery unit is now firing large flares from a very close proximity
to our position. The shells popping open, releasing their candle power, and
the casings spiraling towards the ground with their whoop, whoop, whoop,
sound. I now have anxiety about getting beaned by one of those damn things.
Still no gooks in the wire.
The tank commander yells, "Everybody down, fire in the hole!" I wasn't going
to miss this. Zeroing in on where the flashes had been spotted, the tank fires
it's 90mm. The tracer round penetrates into the tree line. Boom! The tank
keeps up its firing into the tree line. More rockets and mortars land in our
Shells are hitting all around. They don't seem to be trying to hit the
bridge. They must want to keep it in tact. Crazy thoughts race through my
head. They can't aim those things, can they? They're gooks! They must be after
us and the tank. So, where are they?
Still no gooks in the wire.
The tank keeps up the fire and then is hit by a rocket. Then silence.
Morning's light comes. Charlie decided he didn't want too come inside the
compound. Hit, do some damage, and run. The bridge was intact. The tower still
stood tall. Nobody killed or wounded. Although I would have considered PFC
Crockett, with his ears bleeding, as wounded. Pieces of rocket fragments
laying around. We even found a tail section. The tank was hit, but not
The tank had its large spotlight blown apart. It was a dangling mess.
There is a nice dent in the turret where the rocket had hit. Large and small
holes had pierced the outside railings on the tank's body. One was almost big
enough to put my fist through. Even today, when I see one of those light beams
going into the air from some sale downtown, I think of that tank.
I had survived a night of terror on Anderson Bridge. A place that had
started out as good duty. Besides several inbound mortar shells, no less than
six rockets had landed in the northwest sector. One just before I left my
hooch; two hit as I was on my way to my hole; another passing its shrapnel
over my hole while in it; one that hit Pfc. Daisher's hooch; and the one that
had nailed the tank. I was beginning to get the picture. This was a very
serious place. What the rocket shrapnel had done to the tank would cause a
person to turn into hamburger. I was never the same after that night.
I cannot recall the next time I removed my boots.