Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
Beauty and The Beachby Brad Reynolds
Ive seen a lot of beaches in my life, but the beach along the South China Sea is the most awesome of them all. I remember many nights pulling small ambushes along trails that led to the beaches on the northern side of Hai Von Pass.
One night, we were told to set up an ambush, along a trail that followed a river that flowed into the South China Sea. It was thought that sandpans from the north were using the river and the village as a dropping off point for supplies destined for the NVA in that area. My men and I decided to go down to where the trail intersected with the beach.
We arrived at the intersection an hour before nightfall. We took our boots off and took turns running and walking in the breakers while the others kept watch. It felt great to soak our feet in the salt water and stare out at the horizon, and day dream about what our friends and families might be doing at that same moment in time.
When dusk started to cast its shadow across the land, we decided to find an ambush site that overlooked the trailhead and would insure us of an escape route if need be.
That night, the white sand on the beach seemed to glow like a night light left on in the bathroom back home. The waves even glowed that night, which turned out to be fluorescent bugs in the waves, and every time a wave would start to break, there would be a small glowing light way down the beach. As each wave broke and ran down past us, the light would get brighter and brighter, then as it passed by us it would start getting dimmer again.
It seemed to put us in a trance, so instead of watching for gooks coming down the trail we were watching the light flash by with every wave until a brighter light flashed just off and down the the beach a couple hundred yards and caught our attention. It flashed several more times, but it was so dark that we couldnt make out what or who was flashing the light.
The beauty that had surrounded us just several minutes before seemed to disappear into the dark.
Out of the darkness came faint sounds of wood tapping on wood. By this time, all of us were alert to the noises around us. We called back on the radio and asked for flares to be dropped over the beach and across the mouth of the river.
Within seconds, we could hear the sound of the flare canisters exploding overhead. As the first flare popped, we could make out the silhouette of a sandpan, and several dugout canoes alongside. As the flares sent their ghostly shadow skimmimg across the water, we could see men in black pajamas fleeing to take cover aboard the sandpan while others rowed their canoes for cover along the beach.