Mike & H&S Companies
Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
By Mike McFerrin
I can remember going on a patrol from the first hill we were on Taylor Common. I think it was Hill 500. It was the first or second week of December, 1968. We went on a platoon patrol. Things had been pretty easy for a while.
It was maybe 200 meters to the top. Just past halfway, the people in front of me stopped and called me up. There were fresh tracks and matted grass where a tiger had gone through. And I mean BIG paw prints. It seems there were three or four of us looking at the prints when I looked down at them and realized they were fresh. They might stay looking that way for a while in the middle of that grass but I said something about them being fresh and everybody's eyes got real big. After thinking about it a second or two, mine got real big also.
I told everybody to keep the noise down and form a little perimeter with their weapons off safe, pointed outward, and fingers on the trigger. In that grass we couldn't see more than a couple of meters and a 8 or 9 hundred pound tiger could cross that and bite your leg off in a nanosecond. I felt a little stupid but I radioed the Lieutenant anyway and told him about the tracks. He didn't respond at all so I added that they were real big. Still there was no response so I was going to add that we couldn't see shit in the elephant grass so maybe he'd say, Okay, McFerrin. Forget going to the top. Back on out of there.
Fat Chance! It was more like, What the hell is the matter with you? Get your ass up to the top and report back what you see. I told everybody that we were to keep moving and we did for 10 or 20 meters. I'm talking babysteps that took about a minute per meter. I started getting radio transmissions from Blackman, What the hell is taking so long?
We never did make it to the top. The firefight stopped and we were still some 20 or 30 meters from the top of the knoll in the thickest part of the elephant grass. So I radioed back that we were at the top and couldn't see any thing. Everybody sort of breathed a sigh of relief when I did that. I mean it's really hard to ask somebody to risk getting dragged off and eaten by a tiger just to find out what the shooting is all about on the next ridge especially when you already know that there are no friendlies in the area in contact. I know there are all sorts of sayings regarding Curiosity and the Cat but I just didn't like the ones that ended with me being Cat Chow so I sandbagged the mission.