by Curtis Batten
I Remember when I first got to THE NAM it was just like everyone had
told us. As soon as they opened the door of the BIG BIRD you could smell it, it was an odor which I just can't explain one of those (YOU JUST HAD TO BE
THERE TIMES), those of you that have been there know exactly what I'm talking about. I was not really scared at this time, more confused and naive
than anything. Just did not know what was going to happen next. Then, when we were finally able to get off of the plane it was soooooooo soooooooo HOT.
Once again a hot that I just can't describe, it was another one of those had to be there times. They
herded us over to a large shed of some type but at
least it was shade. The smell of JP-4 fuel was just overpowering. Now is when I once again began to feel like we were a
herd of cattle just like the first NIGHT of boot camp (IF YA'LL REMEMBER THAT FEELING OF HELPLESSNESS
THAT CAME OVER US WHEN THE D.I. HOLLERED AT US IN THE BUS AND SAID "DO YOU SEEEEEEEE THEM YELLOW FEET PRINTS OUTSIDE"). Then they told us to line up in
the letter row that our last name began with, long lines I remember that.
When I finally got up toward the front I began to listen to what the dude sitting behind the desk was saying. He kept repeating over and over 5th
Marines, and then every now and then he would tell someone something else but for the most part it was 5th Marines. And it was not just the guy that I
was lined up on but also the one at the desk next to him, he was repeating the same thing. I guess that it was somewhere along about then that I began
to realize that the 5th Marines were way too popular for me but my luck held true and when it was my turn and I
handed him my orders and he stamped them and yelled back 5th Marines. I looked to the guys beside me and said "THIS
AIN'T GOOD".. I just knew that we were in a real pile of dog do-do!!!!
Well by this time several hours had passed and when we began to ask about the 5th Marines we were told that they were out toward AnHoa, and then
somebody else said that they are in "THE ARIZONA TERRITORY", wherever that was, now here I was dumb silly me I thought that "THE ARIZONA
TERRITORY" was back in "THE WORLD" ((THE GOOD OLE U.S.of A. FOR YOU NON-DOERS READING
THIS)). When we asked how do we get there, I'll never forget them telling us
"THE BEST WAY YOU CAN"!!!! Oh, how reassuring they were to us, now we were starting to worry. I had gone over with a friend that I went through boot
camp with and he and I finally caught a chopper to "THE 5th". Now this was another wild experience it was the first helle-e-o-copter ride which either
of us had ever been on and the damn thing did not have any doors on it. That was a very strange experience for both of us what with all of the vibrating
the noise and the wind. Well anyway the chopper landed a few minutes later and they hollered at us to get off, so we did and once again did not have
ANY idea as to where we were at.
Finally we located someone who told us that we were on HILL 55 and where to go and check-in. About this time it was starting to get on towards
chow time (SUPPER) and we were told where we could put our junk and then where the mess hall was
located. Now as some of you might remember this was a really civilized place, nice and clean and everything which you might
expect from civilization. Once we found the mess hall we were really in for a real treat, but little did we realize at the time that we would later
yearn for this place and the magic which they performed with the cuisine. After chow we began to wander around and see things. We were just absolutely
intrigued by all of the stuff to see. We finally went back to the area where
we had left our junk and met up with a few guys who said that they were from our outfit that being 5th Marines and that we could follow them to our area.
These guys were really scary to look at course we did not tell them this and they stunk, I mean really really bad. The
uniforms which these guys had on if you want to call them uniforms were just tatters and their boots they
were white and these were supposed to be MARINES. The guy I was with and I
just kept looking at each other and wondering how these guys could stand to be around themselves they smelled that bad. After they took us over to a
tent and told us that we could sleep here for the night they said that they were going to clean up.--THANK GOODNESS I THOUGHT--Well in the meantime
somebody came by the tent and hollered that they were showing a movie over in the mess tent. Somebody asked them what it was tonight and the guy
replied "TO SIR WITH LOVE" said it was supposed to be a really good flick. So we all decided to go over to the mess hall and watch the flick. Upon
getting to the mess hall we must have gotten there late because the only
place left to sit was sitting on the tables across the back wall. Well the movie started and did turn out to be a really good flick, somewhere during
the movie I remember that it was good and dark outside as we were sitting on the tables and really involved with watching Sidney Portier, when all of a
sudden we heard the loudest explosion I can ever remember hearing and it sounded like it was right behind me. Well it absolutely scared the dog do-do
out of me. The only thought that came to my mind was move and move fast. So we took "COVER" under the table, as if it would have really done any good,
but that did not matter it was psychological anyway. As I was lying under
the table I began to notice that we were the only two on the floor and it was right about this time that we began to realize
something was not right.
Then one of the guys that was beside us leaned down and said "HEY BOOT THAT WAS OUTGOING!!!!!!!!" "YOU'LL LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OUTGOING AND
INCOMING!!!!!" Now is when we really began to feel like fools. After I crawled out from under the table I asked the dude "OUTGOING WHAT!!!!! And he
replied 155's shooting a fire mission probably H&I, whatever the hell that was supposed to be. But at the same time I began to wonder just what had I
really gotten myself into. So ended my first day in "THE NAM".
P.S. We eventually did learn to tell the difference.
Curtis Batten----Weapons Plt. Mike Co. 3rd Bat. 5th Marines
Sometime in September of 1967