Vietnam Personal Accounts

Rockets And Green Feet

By Rick Maddy

Kilo Co., 3/5

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 my feet.

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 myself accidentally.

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 perimeter.

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 penetrated.

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.