Mike Company               

Third Battalion, Fifth Marines

RVN, 1966 -1971
Home Up Going to VN In the Bush Coming Home First Firefight Overrun! Dreams&Visions Sandbagging A Way Out





By Mike McFerrin

Sandbagging. Definition: Bush term meant to describe the act of avoiding the assigned ambush, patrol, listening post, observation post, etc. and usually the act is meant to be unknown to the powers-that-be that ordered the particular activity.

In the beginning I was not anything resembling a malingerer. I did intentionally try to stay in the background beginning with boot camp. Nobody in their right mind wanted to come to the attention of the DI for anything……….good or bad. This attention somehow always ended up with one in the push-up position on the knuckles. I never understood the reason for this kind of pain. How does crippling one’s hands make him a better Marine? But I did have a high threshold for pain. I could take it but preferred not to if I thought it could permanently damage me. Anyway, the less they noticed me the better.

After all my boot camp and ITR training I went to Recon. Not by choice but by whatever natural selection process was used by the Marine Corps at the time like maybe tossing the paperwork in the air and whichever pile it landed closest to was your assignment. Here is where I first engaged in "sandbagging" but not by personal choice. We all know how tough Recon Marines are. But at that time the entire company was made up of Marines who had done their tours in Nam and were waiting to get out of the service and 5 seventeen year olds waiting to turn eighteen and go to Nam. There was a full Recon training schedule in effect for the company but the prevailing attitude was far less than serious. Since I was one of the seventeen year olds, I simply did what the others said to do.

On one operation, I was assigned to a recon team that had the company clown in it. The company clown was a recently re-demoted Lance Corporal. He had just been fired from being the Colonel’s driver because he wrecked the jeep with the Colonel in it. They may have suspected or even knew that the Lance Corporal was high as a kite when he had the accident but he was immune from any serious discipline. Mulvihill was one of the Marine Corps’ genuine Vietnam heroes and had been all over the country, on TV, met with the President, etc. He was one of the 18 Marines in Gunny Howard’s recon platoon that had been trapped on a mountain top somewhere down by Chu Lai in 1966. They had been surrounded by five or six hundred NVA intent on wiping them out. They had killed nearly 300 of them before they were rescued. All 18 had been decorated with a Medal of Honor, several Navy Crosses and the rest with Silver Stars. Five were posthumous. The most decorated unit of the Vietnam War. The Marine Corps had a great deal of tolerance for Mulvihill’s antics and he knew it. He was always pushing the envelope.

When we were given our assignment as a recon team in the stateside operation, it entailed at least one night of sitting on some hill somewhere in the hinterlands of Camp Pendleton. This was simply not acceptable to Mulvihill. Miss a night at the EM Club? No way. So we went to the EM Club instead of the bush. Completely decked out for the operation. Every 3 or 4 hours, Mulvihill would send one of us or go himself to the top of the nearest hill and radio check with the CP which was on the LPH Princeton at sea somewhere between Pendleton and San Clemente Island. We slept in the barracks, ate at the mess hall, went to the snack bar and club for two days. No one told on us and Mulvihill had several answers for the questions about how difficult it had been to raise us on the radio during the operation. Radio problems, dead space, rogue squirrels chewing handset cords, etc. Not one staff or officer pursued any effort to discredit any of these well-and-not-so-well-spun tales though. I was young but not dumb. I knew that I was in an exceptional situation not likely to be repeated when I left this unit so I did not even begin to think that I could get away with something like this anywhere else in the Corps.

The first sandbagging incident that I engaged in while in Vietnam was similar in the sense that I did not make the decision to do it but just went along with it. But I would have made the same decision if it were up to me. We were in contact with an NVA unit all one afternoon. But the contact was light. Our sniper would ding at them. Their sniper would ding at us. Nothing heavy. In fact, I don’t think either sniper hit anybody. Just kept everybody’s head down. That was a bit difficult when darkness began to approach since somebody had to be digging the fighting hole. It was sort of a dance. Three quick swings with the E-tool then hit the deck while the opposing snipers fired one round each into the other’s perimeter. Jump back up and three more swings. There were several songs of the period that could have been used for cadence but I remember thinking of the Seven Dwarfs working at the mine and the Disney songs that went along with that.

A few minutes before dark fell, my squad leader was called up to the platoon CP. It was our squad’s turn for ambush that night. He went up to get the coordinates for the ambush. Upon returning, he got all of the squad behind some trees and sat down to give us the ambush plan. He was studying the map very closely and kept looking up trying to establish the physical location of the map coordinates. And I was right next to him doing the same thing as I read the map over his shoulder.

I saw the coordinates on the map as a point about halfway into the high ground across the paddy and I, too, began looking around me to see if I had made a mistake. The high ground across the paddy was where the NVA unit was set in. Obviously they would not give us permission to walk in their perimeter to set up an ambush. Likewise, I could not remember a time when the NVA had sent a patrol up to the gate at An Hoa requesting permission to enter the base to set up an ambush by the Mike Company area.

After a few minutes of double, triple, and quadruple checking, my squad leader and I went to the platoon CP to let the Lieutenant know there had been a mistake on the ambush coordinates. The Lieutenant quickly established that this was true and took us to the company CP to show the Captain. He, too, saw the mistake right away. He explained that the coordinates had come from battalion and said he would straighten out.

The Captain picked up the battalion radio and called in to explain the situation as we waited for the correct coordinates. We could hear some of the radio conversation coming across on the earpiece of the handset. It only took a few minutes for the Colonel to get on the radio and very sharply say that he had given those coordinates and expected his orders to be carried out. The Captain, as all of us with him, still believed that he hadn’t been made aware that the coordinates we had were inside the NVA perimeter so he told him. The response, in a very sharp tone, was something like, "I know where they are at Captain. Did you hear what I said?" The Captain blushed as he saw us looking at him still waiting for him to straighten this out. But he had been completely shut down by the Colonel.

Everybody began looking back and forth at each other not knowing exactly what to say. Finally, my squad leader broke the silence with, "This is not an ambush. This is suicide.

I am not taking my squad of 6 men on a frontal assault of some 100 gooks so that I can get in there to set up an ambush. We will all be dead 20 meters outside their lines. I’ve never even heard of this kind of shit."

To their credit, both the Captain and Lieutenant, turned even redder than they already were. The Captain said very softly, "Well, these were the orders that I just got as you heard." And then he just sort of let it trail off giving clear tacit admission that he agreed with everything that was just said by the squad leader. The squad leader did not catch this and started to renew his protest. The Lieutenant grabbed his arm and said, "Let’s go back to the platoon CP." Still the squad leader was trying to protest as both the Lieutenant and I got on either side of him to direct him back. I tried to whisper in his ear that every thing was actually okay but it wasn’t until we dragged him several meters away that the Lieutenant and I both were able to explain to him that the Captain had just given his "approval" to sandbag the ambush in the only way that he could as a good Marine officer.

That night my squad was dispersed throughout the other positions of third platoon. We did not go out at all. Just before first light, the squad leader ran out into the paddy and fired a green pop-up flare as if we were signaling to come back in. How the Captain handled any radio traffic from the Colonel through the night, I have no idea.

This was a very eye opening experience for all involved. And disturbing. For me, I now count it as an experience that I am positive saved many lives around me in later incidents. A battalion commander in the U.S. Marine Corps had knowingly issued an order that would only accomplish one thing….the deaths of all Marines involved. He literally had ordered a kamikaze maneuver without even a tactical gain as an excuse. The speculation as to the reasons he would do such a thing were: 1) In the overall picture of the operation there were mileposts that if achieved would allow for an "upgrade" of the operation. One of these mileposts was Marine KIA’s. The battalion was just short of having enough KIA’s to allow the expansion of the operation which would have looked much better in the Colonel’s record book. 2) Same premise as number 1, but it was to get more air power involved in the operation. 3) The Colonel did not like our Captain and this was his way of showing it. 4) The Colonel was simply psychologically and/or emotionally disturbed. The bottom line for all of us that witnessed this was not only could we not count on anybody in the upper command structure to be concerned with our welfare but we would have to watch our backs for their neglectful and purposeful murderous actions.

We really were lower than whale shit at the bottom of the ocean to those people.

The other interesting item about this particular incident that I considered was the fact that nothing else was ever said about the incident that I am aware of. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that the Colonel knew that we didn’t carry out his orders. He was not with our company but was close enough to hear the gun fire that should have killed us and, of course, should have received reports over the radio. If he called the Captain asking where we were or why hadn’t he heard any gun fire, I do not know. If he did, I am sure the Captain gave whatever answer he felt he had to. But there were no repercussions whatever on us, the Lieutenant, or the Captain. Well, if the Colonel had tried to pursue any kind of legal action, it is obvious that win or lose, he would have wound up in a position of having to explain to fellow officers about his order for the ambush to be inside of an enemy perimeter. That would certainly have been professionally embarrassing. I certainly noted all of this and was able to apply such things to my benefit later in the Marine Corps. Lawful order does not necessarily mean an order that anybody in their right mind would publicly try to justify.

I had now, as a follower, participated in sandbagging for fun and sandbagging to save lives. Now I moved up to be a leader. I was not a shirker of duty and did not see the fun side of sandbagging to be something I would engage in or let my men engage in. At least not in Vietnam. This was serious business and fun could be hazardous. But there was another type of circumstance that I had not yet seen. Personal comfort.

While on Operation Taylor Common in January of 1969, Mike Company was in the mountains. The canopy was at least single but sometimes double and triple overhead. There were many well traveled routes through here. One type was known as a "speed trail." It was an extra wide trail that could accommodate two way traffic and had usually been engineered to make it very easy to walk on and push or ride a bicycle on. That is it was smooth and had very few steep down or up grades. In the few places where the grades existed, the trail had been stepped or terraced to allow for easier movement. These trails were obviously used for the movement of quantities of troops and supplies. Ideal place to put a daytime ambush.

I was assigned to take a reinforced squad out from the company outpost to do just that one day. A machine gun team, a rifle squad, and lots of grenades and Claymore mines. The day was overcast and the distance was about 3 clicks. By the time we arrived, a medium drizzle had begun arriving on our heads after working its way through the canopy. Ordinarily, I would have sort of relished this assignment. Lots of firepower and a very likely chance to use it while having the advantage of surprise.

But as the other veteran members of the squad pointed out, due to the condition that the speed trail was kept in, travel on it during the rain was not recommended. The clean, smooth flat dirt became a smooth, flat trail with a quarter inch or so of mud on the top of it in the rain. It became very slippery especially on the gently sloping up and down grades. The NVA generally would pull off into the nearest rest area and wait for the rain to stop before proceeding. Well, we would wait too.

Being soaking wet in the mountains, even in Vietnam in the daytime, was no fun. Every thirty minutes or so, one of the ambush members would say something about sandbagging it but I did not want to give up the opportunity we might have out there because I was wet and cold. And besides, there was one who had never made an indication that he wanted to go in. The corpsman.

After about three hours, it was still raining and the thought of another 6 or 8 hours of this was not appealing. I notified the gun team leader that if we went another hour and it didn’t stop raining and there was no traffic on the trail, I would talk to the corpsman to get his cooperation and we would stage an ambush and head back in. Starting about twenty minutes later, the gun team leader would come over to me every ten minutes to see if the hour was up. By the time the hour was up every body was starting to make noise moving around trying to control the shivers they were getting.

The corpsman was a bit hesitant to say that he would go along with the plan to stage an ambush so that we could go back in. He was new both in the service and in Vietnam so was sure that this was an offense punishable by at least firing squad. I assured him that we were not shirking any duties since the trail was impassable in its condition. He finally reluctantly agreed.

I was now Director of Drama Production and assumed the position eagerly. The "NVA" would approach us from the front on the trail. We would blow our Claymore on these "gooks." Simultaneously, another column of "NVA" would approach up through the canyon off to the right of the ridge we were on. We would use M-16 fire and grenades on these. By this time, we should be getting radio traffic inquiring about our status. I would put off the first call saying we might still be in contact with the enemy. After a couple of minutes of occasional M-16 fire, I would radio in that we had made contact with 2 groups of NVA, one on the trail and one way down in the canyon. We were going to check for bodies, weapons, and documents. All went as planned.

After waiting 5 or 10 minutes, I reported the results of our search to SSgt. Blackman. I told him that the Claymore didn’t appear to have gotten anybody since we couldn’t even find a blood trail. We were pretty sure that we had gotten some in the canyon though since we had seen them fall but it was inaccessible from where we were at since it was about a 40 foot sheer drop. He very quickly retorted, "That’s a hell of a lot of shooting out there. You’d better have a body."

We all sort of looked at each other as the situation was so clear. SSgt. Blackman "knew" what we had done and nobody could figure it out. How the hell could he know? In my own head, I knew but didn’t say anything. Blackman was my mentor and had taught me a great deal. I knew that he knew that trail was impassable in the rain. We were not going to have a body. Well, maybe we could come up with a blood trail. Most of us had "jungle rot" sores on our arms and legs. Several of us scraped some of the scabbed-over, pus-filled sores on our legs open to get at our own blood. We took a large chunk of mud and pressed it against each sore until we had a visible "blood trail" on the mud.

I waited another 5 minutes and radioed that we had worked our way down in the canyon and found blood trails. Blackman radioed back to come in and bring proof. Geez, what a suspicious son-of-a-bitch. Everybody was simply amazed by the apparent psychic powers of SSgt. Blackman. And somewhat dreading his wrath.

As we moved into the perimeter, there was Blackman ordering us to the platoon CP. He demanded a detailed report which I gave. He had the look on his face that said, "You all are a bunch." Immediately after I had finished the tale of going into the canyon and finding the blood trails, I brought my hand forward to show him the glob of mud with the blood on it. And he, without a moment’s hesitation said, "All of you roll up you sleeves so I can see your arms." Just the stunned look on everybody’s face was enough to tell him that he was right. He began talking as he moved from one person to the other inspecting their arms. "Thought you could fool me, huh? You must think I’m stupid."

I was the only one still playing the role hanging on to the last thread of escape. He was checking arms and we had used legs. I did not know if he would keep checking but I kept playing, "What are you looking for? What’s this all about?" When he had found nothing on the arms, a puzzled look came across his face. He looked right at me and said that he knew what we had done but don’t ever do it again. For everybody in the squad, Blackman became as hard to lie to as their mother. Somehow he would always know. I certainly was impressed by his performance and did vow to myself that I would never let personal comfort be the reason that I sandbagged again.

Fun, survival, and personal comfort. All were reasons that sandbagging was alive and well in the Marine Corps and probably still is. I have only one Fun sandbag and one Personal Comfort sandbag to my credit. All of the rest fell into the Survival category. My last sandbagging incident epitomizes this category.

Outside of the An Hoa combat base on the road to Liberty Bridge were the two strongholds across the road from the ville with the CAP (joint Marine/South Vietnamese) unit. The CAP unit had a similar stronghold that they occupied during the hours of darkness. These strongholds were berms of earth formed by a grader piling up and packing earth up to some six foot high and six foot wide in a large circle with reinforced bunkers set in the berm every 10 or 20 meters. This circular structure had a cleared area some 50 meters wide all around it with concertina wire and trip flares. These strongholds were the size meant to be manned by at least a platoon.

Mike Company occupied the two strongholds sometime in the spring of 1969. I was given a reinforced squad that would be going on ambush that night. Our ambush area was to be in the treeline of a piece of high ground that was about 300 meters out across the paddy from the stronghold manned by the CAP unit. The high ground was actually between the CAP unit and An Hoa. This was some 5 or 6 hundred meters out from the actual lines of An Hoa to the northwest of the aid station. This seemed like a relatively safe place for an ambush since it was open paddy all around with An Hoa and the CAP unit on the other sides of that. I was sure it was going to be a boring night.

Right after dark came, we saddled up and moved out. I radioed the CAP unit that I was coming into their position. I came in and met with the Sergeant in charge to let him know where we would be and to work out the ifs, ands, and buts of any scenario that might require us to coordinate later that night. I didn’t get any more out of my mouth than to let the Sergeant know where I was headed when he stopped me and said I couldn’t go out where I was headed that night. I did not know exactly what this guy was up to but was going to assert myself because I didn’t like the way he had said what he did. I started to say something like I can go anywhere I want but again he cut me off.

This time he explained to me that he had intelligence reports that were rated as 95% accurate that his stronghold was going to get hit that night with a very large force of NVA. The treeline where I was going was the only place that they could assemble and accomplish this from. It would be suicide for me and my men to be in there. I asked him how come my command didn’t know about this. He said that his intelligence was from South Vietnamese sources that may or may not have filed anything through any Americans other than him since it didn’t concern them. He went on to detail that the attack was going to be a full effort to wipe out the CAP unit of some 42 South Vietnamese and Americans. This was expected to be an attack force of some 3 to 5 hundred NVA. It was obvious that he firmly believed what he was telling me.

I considered my options. I could radio the Company CO and pass this info on to him. I knew exactly how this particular CO would handle it. He would say that since he hadn’t heard this from his chain of command then it was not believable and would order me to proceed as he had instructed.

I could find another location to sandbag it at. This held its own dangers. The entire area around the An Hoa combat base was subject to H&I (harassment and interdiction) fire from artillery and mortars at An Hoa. Since I would not be in the location I was supposed to be, there was the possibility that this fire could get us.

Other locations within reasonable distance were extremely limited. If this attack did happen, almost any other location that was available was along a probable avenue of approach or escape for the same attack force. I did not seem to have a lot of options. If I believed this Sergeant and acted accordingly, there was not much I could do. If I didn’t believe him and proceeded, I would be in a world of shit if he turned out to be right.

Well, I had sandbagged before and I decided that trying to play the guessing game with this info was simply not worth all of these Marines’ lives so I would sandbag this one to be safe. I told the Sergeant about the predicament of finding a place to sandbag it. He instantly said there was no place and that we would have to stay in their stronghold. This presented a completely different picture for me to deal with. If they really did get hit as hard as they thought, we would still be in Big Trouble here.

If five hundred NVA came at this place, there was some 56 of us to defend it with 20 of those being South Vietnamese that none of us from Mike Company believed were worth their weight in pig shit. It was a very strong position from a defensive point of view but the overwhelming numbers and B-40 rocket propelled grenades would very soon eliminate that advantage. Of course, if I had to be anywhere out there that night, this was the best there was. And we could assist our fellow Marines at the CAP unit in trying to survive the night. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being offered a place to sleep at the Alamo. I questioned the Sergeant a bit about his access to supporting arms. Was anybody responsive when he needed it or would he get "slow" service? He was a very hearty guy who was confident in his unit’s ability to deal with the attack and being able to secure supporting arms if it was needed. Well, he was gutsy but it really didn’t matter as I could not abandon him under the circumstances. We would stay here and endure with them.

I gathered my Marines and explained to them that we would not be going out to the treeline that night and why. None of the Marines in that particular group had ever seen me sandbag before. It was a bit of a shock I suppose to have your Platoon Sergeant suddenly present as a shirker or maybe even a coward to some of them. I assured them that if the Sergeant of the CAP unit was right we would all be dead if we went out there and that also if he was right we were still in for a hell of a fight that night right where we were at. I got some questions about what would happen to us if the Captain found out we weren’t where we were supposed to be and why didn’t we inform the Captain. I assured them that I would take the full brunt of any punishment (whether I wanted to or not) for not being where we were supposed to be and that the Captain would not believe what the Sergeant had said and order us to go out anyway. The option available was to go out to the treeline and hope that 500 NVA didn’t come through that relatively small area. There was reluctant agreement from the few newer Marines and absolutely positive votes from the others.

I turned to the Sergeant of the CAP unit and asked him how he wanted me to disperse the men around his perimeter. He decided that he didn’t want my men on the perimeter to start with. Since we were not supposed to be there, he didn’t want any of my men to get killed or wounded if it could be helped. Well, I certainly agreed with that but did not think our fortunes would be so distinctly separated that night. There was a command bunker in the center of his stronghold and he wanted us in there. I did not like this. It was too small for all 14 of us and I did not want 14 of my men crammed into one small place that would be a target for any NVA that got in the perimeter. And we could not see what was going on which made us even more helpless. To better deal with the situation I had my men from a perimeter around the CP bunker. A perimeter within the perimeter. This gave us sight and mobility to fill in where needed and dispersed us so all could not be taken out with one big round. The Sergeant agree with it but did not want anybody moving unless on his command. I understood and agreed. At least while he was able to move and command.

The night started slow and I radioed in as if we had arrived at our ambush position. Then I started a series of radio checks every two hours. That is I got in the first of the radio checks two hours after "setting in" at our ambush when all hell broke loose. There was a trip flare set off in the wire around the stronghold which was immediately followed by an M-16 opening up and then everything went off. AK’s began firing in large numbers and there were several large explosions out front. I did not know if they were Claymores or the NVA blowing holes in the wire. It was, without a doubt, a large attack. I was very glad that I had listened to the Sergeant. Now I only had to live through the night.

The size and intensity of the assault momentarily stunned me but I knew what I had to do. I had to get my ass out of the CP bunker. This was not the place to be during an attack like this. Any NVA that penetrated the perimeter anywhere would be aiming for this place. I headed out the doorway colliding with several of my Marines trying to get in the bunker. I yelled over the battle sounds telling them to get back out of there. Their eyes told their fear. Again I yelled telling them that it wasn’t safe to be in the bunker and to return to their position on the inner perimeter and watch for penetrations by NVA. As I said this I looked around and began to realize the predicament. I had never encountered this problem before. There were some 20 South Vietnamese Popular Force soldiers (PF’s) on our perimeter. With all the explosions, tracer rounds, and now, parachute flares bobbing in the sky, the landscape and people took on an eerie, surrealistic appearance as all of the dancing shadows intermingled and increased the size of the force in the stronghold to ten times what it was. It was a double whammy. Which shadow forms were real bodies and which of those were the enemy?

Not only was there no letup in intensity but it continued to increase. This was beginning to look like the Alamo. I pulled my Marines back to the outside edges of the CP bunker so that we had sight and touch with each other. I kept my radioman in the doorway of the bunker. I cautioned all my men not to fire at anything but a direct assault on us or the bunker. One wrong move and we could all wind up killing each other in this scenario. My eyes were as peeled as they could get watching the direction from which the assault was coming and moving around the bunker checking all other sides for any sign of activity. After completing a check around the CP bunker I saw the Sergeant emerge from one of the line bunkers with his radioman following him. I yelled to him to see if he needed anybody moved up. He yelled back, "Not yet! I’ll let you know when!" The man was a hell of a Marine. He was maintaining extremely well. I was shaky as hell inside and this guy gave me some courage. There were very few Marines in command slots that performed this well and I was always thankful for their presence when the "stuff" hit the fan. He moved around checking his other bunkers.

We began to receive some supporting fire from An Hoa and it disrupted the intensity of the battle. There were slow downs in the AK fire. It was then that I witnessed something that I had never expected to see. A PF came out of his bunker and leaped up on the top of the berm in an upright position in full view of everybody, NVA included. He began firing his M-16 into the herd of NVA that was now in the prone position out in front. AK’s began firing back at him and he did not move. He kept spraying the area in front until his magazine was empty then came down, changed magazines and returned to the top of the berm. He was on his third magazine when the Sergeant came back around and saw him and ordered him to get down. We had all heard that the South Vietnamese were basic cowards who couldn’t be trusted. We had never been around them before and this display of John Wayne bravado in the midst of such an attack was stunning. Then it became like a dare or a game of "chicken" as others ran up the berm and stood upright to spray the NVA with fire until the Sergeant yelled at whoever.

The radioman was yelling at me to come over to the bunker door. The Captain had been trying to raise us on the radio for at least the last twenty minutes. I hadn’t even thought about it and the intensity of the battle was so great that the radioman didn’t bother. It was still going pretty good but the steam had been taken out of the initial push to get in the perimeter. They must’ve thought we were dead with all that was happening and we were supposed to be in the treeline in front of this place. I got on and whispered that I couldn’t talk because they were all around us. Had to do it three times before they could hear and understand me.

Now back to the battle. This was a sandbag that I would never forget. There was not 500 NVA out there but there was many. My guess was 200 to 250. This was not what one thought of when one talked of sandbagging. Tonight I had, without a doubt, done the right thing. I toured the bunkers on the perimeter with the Sergeant to see if we could be of any assistance. There were some wounded South Vietnamese but they weren’t bad and now every time a flare popped there were NVA running all over in front of everybody causing huge outbursts of fire from the perimeter. The wounded wanted to stay up there and get some of the easy pickings. It was simply amazing that there were not more casualties for the amount of firepower that actually got into the perimeter from rifles, mortars, and B-40’s.

The NVA regrouped and made at least two more half-hearted attempts over the next couple of hours before withdrawing at about 3:30 in the morning. We took a couple more wounded in the last attempt but otherwise were still intact when the sun rose. I had kept the Captain at bay all night with the whisper of "Can’t talk now." The sound level of the battle in the area where I was supposed to be was high enough to back up my claim quite well but was even more effective when I keyed the handset and they could hear it all around me over the radio also. We waited until about 5 minutes after first light and before heading back to Mike Company, I thanked the Sergeant of the CAP unit and gave him a "Well Done," or something like that. He would be a Marine that I would not forget.

Upon arriving back at the company I was truly struck with the concern that seemed to have been generated over us. When we hadn’t answered for so long, there had been an assumption that we were dead or captured. I was beginning to enjoy this but then this "care" started turning into questions like, "Just how did all of you escape all of that without a scratch?" I and my men chose to become very tired from being up all night surviving our horrible ordeal and retired to our positions to eat and rest a bit before the day’s patrol.

This became my final and best sandbag. I would later become an advisory team leader, similar to the Sergeant of the CAP unit, with teams of Marines and South Vietnamese. But I was responsible for all battle plans in that job so if I shut down an ambush or patrol it was no longer sandbagging but just "good sense." The Marine Corps really did operate on its own set of logic and physics. And you had to be in it to believe it.