By Mike McFerrin
Somewhere near Henderson Hill. Late 1968. Maybe October or
November. Operation name not remembered but the Operation itself well remembered. Classic
hammer and anvil, sweep and block, the rock and a hard place. Memorable because of two
things. First the battleship New Jersey used its large guns as part of the sweep. Biggest
craters I've ever seen. Second, the operation actually worked. Large numbers of NVA
soldiers running right to us trying to get away from both the New Jersey's guns and a
battalion of 5th Marines sweeping from Go Noi.
This was my first operation as a squad leader and I had been
blessed with a squad of "new guys." Boots from head to toe. I believe I had six
men in the squad which was not unusual at that time. Don't believe I ever saw a full
strength squad in Mike Company. Six boots, myself, and my radioman who had come to the
bush at the same time as I had. This was a test I was not eager to take.
I had, by necessity, become proficient at many disciplines in the bush but had never, ever
done so for any other reason than to keep myself alive. Map and compass, fire support
direction and control, ambushes, trail signs, tactics, first aid, camouflage, mine and
booby trap detection, explosives ordinance disposal, enemy weapons and tactics, etc. were
all a part of my still developing repertoire of skills that were being honed simply to
allow me another hour or day or week of Life. Twenty four hours per day I was consumed by
the perceived need to know all of these things to the Nth degree. I had actually become a
bit of an annoyance to the platoon sergeant and platoon commander as I developed questions
every few hours that I would hit them with at every possible opportunity including when
they attempted to go relieve themselves. Now they were making me pay for it by making me a
squad leader. I had enough trouble keeping myself alive. How was I going to keep anybody
We left the forward CP outside of An Hoa on the road to Liberty Bridge in the morning.
Prior to moving out, I gave my "boot collection" a quick class on step 1, moving
down the road in daylight. We followed the road north about halfway to Liberty Bridge than
moved west off the road to some high ground and waited as the New Jersey and the guns from
An Hoa began pounding the area on both sides of the river to the north that marked the
southern edge of Go Noi. Extremely impressive display of firepower. Humongous explosions.
Now we were to move into positions on a piece of high ground that sat in the middle of the
rice paddies with some 500 meters of clear, flat rice paddy to the north. Class for the
boots on step 2, moving on rice paddy dikes and through ville areas. Stress on the mine
and booby trap potential since that would be the most likely daylight threat to be
encountered in that area. "Stay directly behind the man in front of you. Try to
follow in his footsteps but do not get too close. Keep the gap at about 20 meters if the
terrain allows it. Do not lose sight of that man. Do not, I say again, DO NOT touch or
kick any thing you see laying on or near the trail."
As we moved through a piece of high ground towards our objective, we began seeing the
first signs that we were entering the area of the bombardment. Large chunks of shrapnel. I
mean pieces of shrapnel larger than an intact 155mm artillery round. And the smaller, arm
length splinters of steel shrapnel. Trees shredded by this hailstorm of steel. The column
stopped as the Captain attempted to get his bearings to our final destination. My squad
and I were halted in an open area which made me feel uncomfortable but it was on a thin
piece of high ground so the chances of an ambush from the rice paddy was remote.
Nevertheless, I instructed my newbies on defense for the halt. Every other man face one
side of the trail, the rest face the other side. Keep as low a profile as possible. Stay
quiet. Do not step off the trail.
I noticed I was beginning to sound like an instructor at a stateside school. And now that
we were 2 or 3 hours into this and nothing had happened yet, I noticed that the newbies
were beginning to sort of give me the ho-hum kind of attention that a stateside instructor
would get. Well, what the hell. I didn't want to do this anyway.
After about 10 minutes in this hold position, I noticed one of the newbies looking at one
of the large chunks of shrapnel off to the side of the trail a meter or so. I watched
incredulously as he took one step off the trail and moved his foot forward to nudge the
shrapnel around to get a better look at the other side of it.
I was mad that this guy was trying to make me look like an idiot on my first operation as
a squad leader so I yelled at him, "Hey, what the hell's the matter with you? What
did I tell you?" He stopped without making contact with the shrapnel. I moved up and
said, "Let me refresh your memory. Do not leave the trail. Do not touch or kick
anything you see. I ain't doing any of this because I like you or being a squad leader. I
just don't want to carry your fucking body to the LZ." Even as I spoke, I realized I
was sounding like an asshole. The stress of this new job on top of trying to keep myself
alive was getting to me.
I then noticed that the piece of shrapnel that he was about to kick had rust on the edges.
The rest of the shrapnel in the clearing appeared to be new as if from the bombardment
that morning. I realized that I have the opportunity to actually teach them something
instead of yelling at them because I was pissed off about having to be a squad leader. I
got the squad's attention and I explained to them about booby traps and what strategy is
used in placing them to increase the probability that they will work. Then I pointed out
to them the difference in the piece of shrapnel that he was about to kick. In addition to
being an older piece of shrapnel then all others in sight, its lay on the ground was as if
it just landed there instead of having been for the protracted length of time that it
would require to get the rust. In my mind, I thought that this was because some other
stupid son-of a-bitch had come along and kicked it before us. But to follow through with
the lesson about looking for these small details that can save your life, I carefully
approached the shrapnel and scraped away some ground beneath it to show them how to look
for the booby trap. I knelt down and looked and, By God, it was booby trapped. It appeared
to have a 60mm mortar round buried except for the tip which came up under the shrapnel and
had a pin from the shrapnel inserted in the nose of the mortar round. One good nudge and
the mortar round goes off and the old piece of shrapnel once again becomes deadly. I
called each and every squad member over to have them kneel down and look. The one who had
almost kicked it was pale faced.
Though I was actually surprised to see the booby trap myself, the circumstances that came
down made me look like Chesty Puller to these boots who never again failed to heed my
words. As the column moved out, the engineer stayed behind and blew the booby trap and my
status as a booby trap "expert" in the platoon began. In reality, I was so
scared of booby traps that I often would use the "expert" ploy to slow the
column down while I checked out "likely" sites if I felt that we were moving too
fast or carelessly. To me, this "slowdown" and turning the platoon or company's
attention to booby traps in areas where they did exist was probably responsible for saving
We arrived at the piece of high ground that was to be our position. Three platoons strung
out on line at the edge of the paddy facing north. The company CP stayed back in the
center of the high ground and set up the 60mm mortars and to provide rear security. Within
10 minutes we saw a group of five NVA soldiers coming out of the trees into the paddy,
making their didi from the north coming right at us. They did not know we were there. They
got within a 100 meters of us and the whole company opened up on them. Then there were 3
more coming. This went on for the rest of the day. Like a turkey shoot. After each group
of 2 to 7 were killed, somebody went out to search the bodies. It had an odd aura. It
didn't feel right. They didn't stand a chance and I wondered about this slaughter. Without
a doubt they had done the same to us before and would do so again if they had the chance
but still I had never seen us with such an overwhelming advantage and exercising it to
this degree. The bloodlust was building in the company as the day progressed.
Late in the afternoon, it was decided that we would set in there for the night. My platoon
was selected to put out the ambush for local security and me and my newbies would get the
job. Due to the volume of enemy troops in the area, I would be given a
"reinforced" squad for ambush that night. That is, I would get a M-60 machine
gun team to go with the squad. I was to find an ambush site somewhere to the north where
the NVA was coming from. This was very limited since it was open paddy all the way to the
river except for a small splinter of high ground just to the northeast of the high ground
the company occupied.
Ambushes in the rice paddies are very dangerous and I would not even attempt it with these
newbies. Quiet is difficult when laying in water and mud. And the only cover is a rice
paddy dike which is linear. In the event that the enemy does not approach the way you
would like him to, you are presented with a problem that requires good timing and
familiarity with the local terrain to come out a winner (staying alive equals winning).
The ambush must be sprung if they come along the dike that you are using for cover since
they are going to walk right up on you anyway. This means that you have to have an avenue
of escape planned in advance for both directions. The timing of the ambush must be based
on the estimated size of the enemy force and the anticipated spread of their troops. You
must maximize the confusion and dispersion of their troops so that coordinated, effective
reaction to the ambush cannot be brought to bear on you for as long as possible. This buys
the time to get to a secondary site as a unit. The ability to move and fight in concert
with each other was not within this squad's capability----yet. And we did not have any
knowledge whatsoever of this section of the An Hoa basin since this was our first time
there. The splinter high ground would have to be the area for the night activities.
About an hour before dark and in between groups of NVA coming out of the trees to the
north, the machine gun team leader and I ran across about 100 meters of paddy to the
splinter high ground to check it out. The small splinter of high ground was about 150
meters long with the southern end being about 100 meters northeast of the northeastern end
of the high ground that we were set in on. Rice paddy was everywhere else. The splinter
was about 75 meters across with a slight rise in the middle of it. There was no vegetation
except for a small garden at the southern end surrounded by a few bushes and bushes
scattered along the edges.
We moved up to the rise in the center of the high ground so that we could see the other
side. The bushes were a little taller along the far edge so we moved down there to look
for ambush sites. As we got into the bushes we looked out the other side and saw a lone
NVA soldier come out of the trees about 200 meters to the east on to a rice paddy dike
headed right to us.
I was considering the options that seemed available under the circumstances when the gun
team leader raised his weapon and began firing at the NVA. For the day and the
circumstances this was not unusual. Only in my own head was there "other
possibilities." I was uncomfortable with gunning down somebody, even an enemy
soldier, when there were other options available. This was the first time that I had ever
encountered such a situation and had never even considered ever being in such a position.
I was new to this being in charge thing and even though I saw the weapon being raised and
he had said something to let me know he was going to fire, I did not attempt to stop him.
I was in a bit of a quandary with this circumstance.
He had tracer rounds in his rifle and it was easy to see where they were hitting. He was
missing his target who had leaped off the dike and taken his own weapon off his shoulder.
Once I saw the weapon come off his shoulder I raised my own and began firing also. The NVA
then leaped to the other side of the dike but realized that neither side offered any cover
from us since we were standing at the end of it and could fire to either side. He turned
and began running back to the treeline but only got about five steps before I saw one of
the tracer rounds pass through his upper body. He went down and stayed. We fired a few
more times but he wasn't moving.
I looked at the gun team leader and said, "Want to go check him out?" In this
context, it would mean to see if he was still alive and/or to recover any weapons and/or
documents that might be on him. The body was about 150 meters out. Fairly close to the
treeline on the other side.
His eyes got real big and he said, "No way. That treeline is probably full of
gooks." Well, it didn't have to be "full" of gooks to put us in a world of
shit if we got caught out in the open like the NVA soldier did. One hidden sniper could do
us both. We moved on and continued scouting the splinter high ground.
It boiled down to a choice of two situations for me as the squad leader for the ambush
that night. I didn't like either. The boots could not be trusted yet. Too many boots in
one squad. They should have been dispersed better.
The far side of the splinter ground was probably the best place to put the ambush. We were
likely to catch more small groups attempting to cross on the only dike from the east where
we had seen the NVA soldier. And they were coming from the north also. Only one dike came
in from there also. In both cases we would have the rise running lengthwise through the
middle of the splinter behind us which would require rear security at an abnormal distance
from the other positions to cover it. And with the many groups that were out there the
possibility that one could get between us and the company perimeter was relatively greater
than normal. This could cut us off from getting back in the company lines if the shit
really hit the fan and the NVA regrouped and attacked in force.
Also, even if we hit a small group, procedure was to pull back to a secondary after the
ambush and be prepared to hit again. The problem with this was that any secondary site
would be up on the rise or back on the other side of it which would also expose us to fire
from our own lines if they opened up on anything. I did not like the "ifs" with
The other possibility was to set the ambush around the garden on the side closest to the
company lines on the other high ground. Some cover was offered with the bushes and one
tree. The positions could cover from the western edge of the splinter to the rise in the
center in sort of a horseshoe shape. With the radioman and myself in the back center of
this horseshoe, I could direct fire and cover the rear which was rice paddy for about 75
meters to the company lines. This offered no secondary site but I did not want one with
the boots. This was the safest for the situation.
I would have to personally go see each position on the company lines that we would be in
front of before it got dark so that I could point to where we would be so that they did
not shoot at anything. Grenades only if the shit hit the fan until we got back in. We
would be running like hell and cussing. This was the "password" normally used to
make a hasty entrance into the perimeter at night. Security questions like "What
color were the winning team's catcher's shoe laces in the 4th game of the 1921 World
Series?" were never used. Nobody but a native American can cuss in English at the
same speed he is running. This was absolutely the safest and fastest way to get into the
We chowed down just after dark and I gave the boots Class 3, Ambush Technique and
Procedures. Thanks to the booby trap incident earlier and the obvious presence of the
enemy, I had their complete attention. Then I drew a map of the place where we would be
setting up. I would personally take each position to its spot. I would put the gun team up
at the rise since this was the most likely avenue of approach. The gun team leader could
handle himself well in a fight. It was around 10 that night when we saddled up and moved
I was not looking forward to this experience. Boot squad in an enemy saturated area.
Couldn't get much worse for me. Yeah, it can. It began raining as soon as we gathered to
leave the company perimeter. Sort of a mild rain but still wet. This was a double edged
sword. Very difficult to fall asleep when its raining on you and you have no cover from
it. Ponchos were not allowed on ambush with me. They make too much noise. But, on the
other hand, the rain striking your head, body, the ground, the leaves, etc. serves to form
sort of a "white noise" that hides the telltale foot "crunches" of an
approaching enemy. Damn! I sure hope if the gooks come that they come at the machine gun
position. It will be a "cluster fuck" no matter what trying to keep this crew
together but at least I can count on the gun team to kick enough ass to buy some time to
assess the situation and I won't have to worry about getting them to move appropriately
regardless of what it is. The tension went up several notches as we left the company
To me it seemed as they were already making too much noise. I did not like the level of it
but knew it was probably my own paranoia and all I could do is make it worse by running
around going "SHHH!." I got all positions set in well. They had good fields of
fire and were mutually supporting except for the gun team. I intended to move forward if
the ambush was sprung there to assist. I placed myself and the radioman in the center of
the horseshoe with semi-cover from the only tree. I did not want to get too close to the
tree since it would probably draw fire if the shit came down.
With the low cloud cover, it was pitch dark. Fields of fire aren't all that good if you
can only see 6 inches in front of you. We were to run 50% watch, half up in each position
and half down sleeping. This was not likely to work any way since it continued to rain. At
about 2:30 in the morning, I was supposed to be down but was not doing well at getting any
sleep. I had just found a way to lay that was comfortable and kept the rain from hitting
me directly in the face. I finally started drifting off.
A hand shook me awake. The radioman was leaning over me telling me that they had a gook in
front of one of the boot positions. I whispered, "How do you know?"
"One of them guys is right there," he says as he points behind me. I wasn't
comprehending. I'm in the center of the perimeter of an ambush and I'm being woken by the
radioman who is telling me that one of the boots has left his position and come back to
the center. What the hell is going on? I rolled over and peered into the darkness and saw
one of the boots laying flat on his belly about 2 meters away.
He starts whispering about the gook out in front of his position. This is not the way an
ambush comes down. I crawled over to him and asked him why he had left his position to
come back and tell me that. He responded that there is something weird about it.
"Weird? Why don't you just kill him? You don't come back and request
He wanted me to come up to his position and look at the gook. I couldn't believe this guy.
But he was insistent that it was weird and I must see it. He was, without a doubt, very
scared. I stifled my growing anger and left my radioman to keep the position covered as I
went up to the boot's position. It was really dark. As I got to the position, the boot
crawled up next to me and pointed into the darkness. About 5 meters away stood an NVA
soldier holding an AK-47 in front of him at port arms. He had on the same uniform all of
them had been wearing that day; gray short sleeve shirt, gray shorts, and Ho Chi Minh
sandals. The boot whispered, "He ain't moved an inch since we saw him."
"Which way did he come from?" I asked. Response, "Nobody saw him come from
anywhere. He was just there. This is weird, man. Why doesn't he move?" Another boot
in the position was even more agitated and was rising up to panic. "What is that,
man? What's going on?" One of the boots from the other position crawled over and was
also appearing to rise to panic. They were like teenagers in a haunted house.
I had had problems and fears on my mind all day but this was not one of them. Yes, this
was a bit eerie but against the background of war with fierce and violent death everywhere
I was not shaken. I realized that to these boots who had not yet been baptized in a real
firefight this was "scary." But I could not allow panic to even get started. I
got up in each of their faces and gave my best rendition of a drill instructor. They were
to resume their positions, ready some grenades, and wait for my commands. They were to
move and act only on my command.
I looked closely again at the NVA. What was going on here? I wasn't sure. Maybe it was a
ghost. If it was, I knew it must be the NVA that we had shot in the rice paddy yesterday
afternoon. In my heart, I knew we didn't have to kill him. We could have captured him by
waiting in the bushes and letting him walk right into our arms. Is he now going to haunt
us for this? If so, how long? Can a "ghost AK" shoot real bullets? This was not
an area of expertise that I thought I would need to stay alive in the bush. I was sure
that there wasn't even a chapter covering this in the Marine Corps Manual.
Well, ghost or not, this is a war. I was wary about opening up on this figure since it
would give away the position. Maybe that's what it was all about. I had one of the boots
get a grenade ready, back himself and the rest of his position up a little bit to get some
clearance. I told him that I was going to alert the other positions then get close enough
back to his position for him to see me signal to throw it at the gook. I alerted the
positions and quickly filled in the gun team on what was going on. I don't think the same
thought about this possible gook ghost crossed the gun team leader's mind as did mine.
I got back and signaled for the grenade to be thrown. The explosion shook the ground, lit
up the night, and threw mud every where. As the mud plopped around, all eyes came back up,
weapons at the ready to respond to any attack. There was nothing but the NVA still
standing at port arms. "Heeeey, man!" and "Ohhhh, shit!" came from the
boot positions. Before the panic could set in, I ordered another grenade to be thrown.
Repeat performance. No fire was received and the NVA didn't move. The gun team leader
wanted to turn the M-60 around and blast the gook. The radio was going crazy with the
Captain wanting a situation report. The radioman brought the radio to me saying the
Captain wants it NOW. I yelled to the gun team leader, "Do NOT use the gun!" At
this point, there was no return fire but we hadn't given away any exact positions yet. The
last thing I wanted to do was give that gun position away, ghost or no ghost. I grabbed
the handset from the radioman and called in, "Mike 6, this Mike 3 Charlie, we are in
contact with unknown number. No sitrep available yet." He radioed back some questions
but I begged off on knowing any answers yet. This was all certainly true.
I moved in between the boot positions and opened up with my M-16. I told the boot to throw
another grenade. I hit the deck as it went off. When I looked up nothing was there. I
moved forward a little bit trying to see a body. I couldn't see one. They didn't have time
to pull that body back. It must be there. I stayed there with the boots for about five
more minutes. Nothing heard or seen but the radioman was coming to me again. I had to tell
the Captain something. Well, I guess I'll try the apparent truth. "Mike 6, this is
Mike 3 Charlie, made contact with at least one armed NVA. No return fire received."
"3 Charlie, Do you have a confirmed?"
"6, not known at this time. We have compromised our positions and have no secondary
to move to. Request permission to come back in."
"3 Charlie, that's a negative on your last. Just move your positions around and stay
Sure. He's not out there. Not too hard to make somebody else take the risk. I began
cussing under my breath. Boy, what a day this was turning out to be. I could still hear
the boots murmuring in fear. I crawled up there and ordered them to shut their mouths. I
guaranteed them that there was far worse than a ghost out there. And it would blow them
into tiny pieces. I shifted their positions a few meters in one direction and ordered them
to keep an eye on the spot where the NVA body probably was. I did not want this body
dragged off. I went to the gun position and had them move a bit too because their voice
volume may have helped somebody locate them. I returned to the boot positions and waited
there for about 20 minutes to see if anything was going to happen. It appeared to be
quiet. My radioman was scared being by himself in the center. He sort of pretended like
the Captain was calling for me again to get me to go back there.
He whispered to me to ask if I thought it was a ghost. I told him that as long as his AK
was a ghost too then I didn't care. It was the live gooks that I was worried about.
Because of the positions we were in, the radioman was sort of watching to the front where
the machine gun team was and I was watching the rear. It was so dark but we would all be
on watch until first light. This didn't require a command. Nobody was going to sleep in
this ambush site.
I laid in the mud with my mind going in circles trying to find an answer for this
situation. Nothing quite fit. Since we had received no fire whatsoever, it seemed to belie
any possible NVA trick. What's the point of tricking somebody if you don't use it to your
military advantage? They weren't into parlor games with us for social reasons. And every
Charlie within miles now knew where we were. Geez, I could hardly wait for first light.
Perhaps another 15 or 20 minutes went by and my mind began to slow down a bit. I was tired
and cold. I tried to relax a bit. I laid on my side with my head propped on my hand
watching the darkness to the rear without focus. I heard a long soft scrape of my
radioman's leg moving as if he was changing positions. I started to turn my head on my
hand to confirm this but the sound stopped so I didn't bother. Then it happened again but
this time I heard rustling noises in the bushes up in front of him but off to the side of
where the gun team was. This time I turned towards him and pulled my 16 around from the
rear. He looked back towards me and all I could see was the white of his very, large eyes.
Rustling noises continued and seemed to multiply. The only thing that came to mind was a
massing of enemy troops. My mind went into high gear trying to figure a way to deal with
this imminent threat. Based on the position of the noise, only my position and the gun
position could bring fire to bear on it...right now. If they charged it would be too late.
They would be on my position in a few steps and in this darkness it would be impossible to
deal with in any coherent way. It would be slash, kick, bite, and shoot everything that
moved until I was dead or all of them were.
The boots' positions would be totally exposed since the fighting would be going on behind
them. They would be afraid to shoot until it was too late. The gun team would more likely
be able to defend itself but would not be able to render any aid to us in the darkness.
Nobody would leave their position in this circumstance and they would more than likely
shoot out of fear me or my radioman if we attempted to get to them.
This did not look good at all. It was me and my radioman to the death. And he was still so
petrified that they were ghosts that he probably would not even take one out before he was
killed. The dire straits that I was in was clear to me. I was determined that I was going
to get at least several before they got me and if there were not enough of them, they were
not going to get me at all.
I moved further to the side of my radioman and began moving up alongside of him so that we
had space in between us and our weapons were on a straight line to reduce the possibility
of shooting each other. I was going to tell him the "big plan" that I had come
up with. Basically, it would have been, "Marine, we're in a World of Shit here. Stay
flat on the ground. Blast them as they come at us. Then roll outwards from me a couple of
times and repeat the process. I'll do the same. Do not get up unless you are in
hand-to-hand for your life. Shoot anything standing up coming at either of us. May God and
the Commandant have mercy on our souls."
But before I could get up to an even plane alongside and about a meter away from him, the
rustle turned into a fast crunching of multiple footfalls picking up speed and coming
directly at us. Then they were crashing through the bushes in front of us. This is it. The
shit's come down. Hell has arrived. I snatched my 16 up into the firing position. I had
already switched to full automatic. I looked for my first targets as I felt my mind and
soul settle into the eerie calm that I, after my first firefight, found that could I enter
into in these perilous situations. Regardless of the confusion and slaughter that was
about to occur around me, I would keep my mind and body at peak performance levels. They
were going to pay dearly for this attempt on my life.
My radioman had not readied himself yet and the thought occurred to me that he was still
looking for the ghosts to attack and was on the verge of fleeing. I did not worry about it
in the least since these ghosts would be on us before he could rise to his feet. He would
be riddled with bullets or bayoneted before he could stand.
The crashing through the bushes noise was now arriving at the last set of bushes. It
sounded as they were going to break through almost directly in front of the radioman. I
could see the vague darkness of the bushes in front of him and as the crashing through
them began I expected to see them move as they parted to allow the NVA soldiers passage
through. But they didn't seem to be moving even as the noise came from them. Each
millisecond that elapsed with the steps coming closer and the bushes not parting became a
jolt to my calm. I needed a target to appear.
The jolts came faster and faster. What? The multiple footsteps were now right in front of
us. They had cleared the bushes without moving them. My calm exploded into terror. The
radioman let out a cry of terror. I rolled up on my side with my 16 still pointing at the
pounding footfalls that were about to run right over me. The radioman did the same thing
in the opposite direction from me. I still could see nothing. This was a ghost army for
sure. What were they going to do to us?
The squeal from my radioman increased my heartrate another 100 beats per minute. He was
providing sound effects for my terror. I did not know what position to be in,where to
point my rifle, or which way to look. I know I began reaching for my knifewith one hand. I
don't know what I thought it was going to do. It appeared the Marine Corps had failed to
issue me crosses, silver bullets, wooden stakes, or even a clove of garlic.
As the footsteps came next to me, I cringed but then saw a flash of movement out of the
lower corner of my eye. Finally, a target. Even as I turned my head down and back, I could
hear more coming up on me. My eye caught the cause of the first flash of movement I had
seen as it disappeared into the dark behind me and even as I tried to refocus there were 5
more on top of me. The radioman was now crescendoing in a bellow of fear as he too caught
But it was too late to do anything. The pig and her 5 piglets had completely overrun our
position and were now headed to parts unknown. I could not help it. I gave away my
position as I rolled in the mud attempting to stifle myself. It took the radioman a minute
or so before he could utter a sound but then he too exploded in hysterical, muffled
The gun team and the other positions had heard everything but hadn't seen anything. Now
they were hearing what sounded like laughter, but who was laughing? Worried voices looked
for us. It took all the control I had to tell them that everything was okay. By this time,
I am burying my face in the mud trying to quiet myself. Eventually, I was able to get to
each position to tell them what happened. But for the next 2 hours or so until first
light, either I or the radioman would break into giggling fits which then caused the other
one to do the same which then caused the other positions to do the same. We had met the
enemy and they were hams.
At first light, we went out to where the NVA soldier had been standing. There was one set
of footprints in the mud. None coming up to them and none going away from them. Two
grenade holes were right next to the footprints. No blood trails.
There was one possibility though. The footprints were about foot and a half in front of a
two foot drop into the rice paddy on the western edge of the splinter. Could a body have
been propped up there to scare us. By using sticks and vines they could have tied a body
to a pole and tied the AK into its hands to make it appear as if it was holding it. I
looked for signs of this. It still would have required some dragging to get it up there
and get it back down. There was no indication of this. There weren't even any footprints
in the paddy. Even if this had been the case, what was the point? Nobody had fired at us
I decided I would just make this an elusive NVA soldier in my spot report since I couldn't
even explain this adequately to myself. The response to it was, "That was a hell of a
lot of shooting with no body." More than you'll ever know, sir.