If you would like to add your memories to this thread please email them to David J.
Mother’s Day Hill from the back of the line in second platoon
Here is what I remember about the events leading up to and including the Battle.
I was a grenadier in 2nd platoon. We had been operating around Duc Pho for several days without enemy contact. We did see some signs of use in villages, such as military equipment, maps, canteens etc. left in the empty villages we were in.
At the time we had an ABC news man and a two man crew of Koreans carrying the large film camera they used. Most of the time that group was attached to the command group, the CO, his RTO, an FO and his RTO.
After about the third day I think, we got orders to start up a high hill with the plan to rendezvous with the choppers for resupply on the other side. My squad Sgt., I can’t remember his name, but he was a great guy, was to get on the chopper to go to the rear. He was going to go to Hawaii to meet his fianc and get married. She was already there, expecting to meet him in a couple of days.
As we started up the trail leading up the hill, it was clear it would be a hard climb. The trail was very steep, windy and narrow, with heavy jungle on all sides and above. I was in the last squad in my platoon. There were two platoons, 4th and 2nd, and the command group in between.
With a total number of about 55 or so men, spaced 5 meters apart, the entire column was perhaps 250-300 meters long. Those of us in the rear were nearly the length of a foot ball field away from the lead elements. With the jungle as it was, the only people we could see were all within about 15 meters forward and back. As a consequence, those of us in the rear really had no idea what was going on at the lead, other then what we could hear.
On the 13th of May, about noon we stopped for lunch break, each one of us sitting on the trail facing in opposite directions, leaning back on our rucks and eating C’s, smoking and talking quietly. All of a sudden, the guy sitting next to me, ( can’t remember who) jumped up and opened fire into the foliage just to our right. He fired one round then his 16 jammed. (not uncommon no matter how often you cleaned it). We went into the woods where he had fired and found a VC in his black pjs with a grenade in his hand. The one shot had hit him right in the heart. We had been seeing signs of enemy emplacements, commo wire and phones, ammo bags etc. as we had been going up the hill and this made it clear that we were entering Indian territory.
My memory gets hazy here but I think our CO decided to cap up and head up the hill right then.
I remember that our lead elements made some contact as I remember fire, and shouts and moving quickly up the hill. Our lead elements has dropped their rucks and so those of us in the rear were grabbing them along the way. We were carrying ours and then had one on each arm as we suddenly found that running up the hill was easy. Gun fire has a way of doing that.
The rear elements I was with never got far enough up the hill to yet see what had transpired and no one really passed any information back down the hill, but as it was starting to get towards dark ( usually always around 1800-1830) we started digging in for the night right on the trail.
As were digging in ,the dog handler we had assigned to our unit, SP/4 Bost and his dog came and joined the three guys that were at my position for the night. I had never met him before but as we rapped about our lives, his plans, his girl etc., I came to feel like I had known him forever and was very impressed with how friendly and easy going he was. I was looking forward to talking more with him as the days went on. The despite the fact that it was a very tense night, knowing that we were likely going to catch more hell the next day and expecting perhaps more grenades during the night.
The next morning we were up early and back on line ready to go up the hill. From my location all I could see were the three or four men in line just ahead of me and the same to the rear. When walking up a trail slowly like this it was sort of being like any other line in the Army, a few steps forward, then wait then a few steps forward then wait again. I remember that we had moved up hill just a short ways, then seemed to be going back down a short dip in the trail and then back up. We had moved maybe 100 meter when all hell broke loose. The VC had opened up from bunkers on the lead elements of our unit and apparently hit first the dog, rumor was later in the day that it had been hit, jaw blown off and the dog ran off into the jungle. Along with the Sp/4 Bost who had been mortally hit. I don’t know too much about who was hit and where initially as we were still strung out way back down the trail. As soon as the noise started every one hit the ground in a defensive position. We could here screams of pain, and cries for ” medic” over and over. We could hear commands to move up the hill, move on the flank etc., then we heard “2nd platoon on line” We came running as fast as we could up the hill into the salvo.
I remember coming into a small clearing where I could see two men laying behind a log. One was Sgt. Jerry Norris, I don’t remember the other. I rushed up next to them and lay down behind the same log. They both had a cigarette lit and were firing their 16s into the heavy jungle. Visibility was about 20 meters. I had the M 79 which in that jungle could not be used because the round would not penetrate far enough to be armed, or might even bounce back to where we were. All I could do was keep low. In the past grenadiers had been issued .45’s but I guess there had been to many “accidental” foot wounding so they took them away. At least that’s what I was told when I asked for one.
At this time the noise was beyond belief. People were screaming for help, the CO was somewhere e ahead of us screaming into the radio and the FO was screaming for fire support. A volley of fire came in and it was incredibly loud. I remember thinking that was close. I heard an adjustment call and thought “don’t drop it any more”. Then I heard a voice in my head (guardian angel ? Premonition? ) Scream, move move move away. I low crawled about 20 meters behind another tree and just as I got there the rounds came right on top of where I had been. It killed Norris and all around and must have wounded many others. After the rounds hit the intensity of fire dropped a lot but there were still incoming. There was several round fired directly at me that went over my head into the tree that I know were from 16’s. I thought it was Charlie, but in retrospect it may have been someone up front just firing anywhere at random.
After a few minutes I got up and went to were Sgt. Norris was, and where I had been to see what happened and what I could do. The 2 of them were still lying in a fighting position with there weapons supported by the log, smokes still going. They were perfectly normal from the waist up but from the web gear down they looked like 100 lbs of ground beef, I mean exactly like that. I move on up the hill and found our medic, he had his intestines out on the ground, so I tried to dress him with wet rags. Apparently the CO had called in a medivac as the air was full of smoke, and choppers were coming in. He was also severely wounded. I remember giving morphine surrets to some in that area
To the best of my knowledge, there were 2 other people left in my platoon not wounded, one was named Brabson, I don’t remember who else. They and and I and the ABC crew who were also not wounded spent a lot of time trying to give first aid to the many wounded. I don’t remember that there was anyone else moving at the time. When the choppers arrived, they could not land due to the heavy jungle, so the 6 of us started chopping down the small trees in the area with machetes. I remember one of the camera men filming this. The choppers then hovered and lowered baskets down. We loaded wounded in as fast as they could lower down a basket. It was scary because they were only about 20 feet or so over us in full hover, and there was still some occasional incoming. The noise, and confusion and fear was indescribable.
After what seemed like forever elements of the 1st and 3rd platoon joined us and set up a perimeter. They started taking over the loading so I went to try and give first aide to others.
Some how the a chopper must have been able to land as the camera group were soon gone. We spent the rest of the day evacuating the wounded. My squad leader had his leg blown off just about the knee, and I remember someone load him in a basket and then put his boot with his leg still in it on his chest. I thought he was going to die of shock. In fact I never knew what happened to him nor do I remember his name.
After the fight there only three from my platoon, so we were assigned to one of the other platoons and the next day soldiered on. This was tough because there was never any time to process the losses, and I remember that for the next few days where ever there was any gun fire, I would want to cry. We did not make any heavy contact after that day.
After a few days, were ordered to go back up the hill from the back side, to see if anyone had reoccupied the bunkers. When we had checked them out just after the battle, there were blood trails but no dead or wounded…. So we never knew what kind of damage we had inflicted.
As we approached the battle area, the stench of death was overwhelming, and there were pieces of flesh still hanging in the trees all around.
My life was forever changed by that day, and it is sad that we could have avoided it if the CO would just have listened to others.
My name is Mike Ainsworth and I have memories of that day as well. I was the 4th Plts medic. On the 13th of May while on a search and destroy mission the 4th Plt under leadership of SSgt Ed Birmingham (SSgt Birmingham was KIA ( October 2nd, 1967) ran into supplies and a few enemy.
As the day went on we found many new supplies and ran across mines that had been set out. Our dog handler Mike Bost with his dog Lady found those before any harm could be done. After one mine was detonated and the area checked for additional mines we started to move when all of a sudden the point yelled “grenade” and we all hit the ground.
I counted to 4 or 5 and looked up and what I saw was Sgt Bernie Simpson (from New York) shooting this VC almost point blank in the chest. I moved to Sgt Simpson’s side and my eye’s were glued to the Chi-Com the VC had in his hand, I believe he was dead on his feet after Sgt Simpson put a few rounds in him (his M-16 jammed so he ejected each round that he fired into this VC.
I walked over and shoved him down to the ground disarmed him and Sgt Green came over and kicked him in the head finally killing him.
Sgt Simpson is also the person who lost his leg the next day on Mothers Day Hill. (Sgt. Simpson was also the first disabled amputee veteran to get his shield from the New York Police Department in December 1968). (How I know this is that we had a journalist with a camera crew with us and he took film of part of the fire fight. I saw myself and another medic working on people Sgt. Simpson for one).
The 4th Plt went to the aid of another platoon on the 13th of May 1967. The 2nd had two wounded Spec 4 Bell one of the M-60 Gunners for the 2nd Plt and Sgt Easton.
The 4th Plt also had the “Old Man” traveling with us. As we reached the fire fight where the 2nd Plt was pinned down and we could see the from our vantage point just where they were and approximately how many VC there were; the “Old Man” ordered SSgt Birmingham to take about a dozen men and move up to the enemies right flank; Artillery came in and we assaulted the hill yelling “ABU” and kicking ass, we took back the M-60 and killed a number of VC and there were no more wounded that day for us.
After Doc Smyth (passed away last year) Doc Dolinger (I think) and myself took care of the wounded and had them safely hosted out of the jungle it was already night, we all returned to our platoons and needless to say we were at a 100% alert for the night.
The next day Mothers Day May 14th, 1967 early in the morning I was doing my duties as a medic, like passing out required daily malaria pills to each man, Pat Phillips was the point man along with Mike Bost with his dog Lady. (Anyone that doubts this, take it up with God).
I remember Phillips looked scared and SSgt Birmingham (SSgt Birmingham was the 4th Plt leader) disagreeing as well as the 2nd Plt leader on the plan to head up that hill, even I knew that artillery should have been called on the area we were going to go thru merely because what happened to us the evening before.
Of course we all followed orders, both Mike and Pat and perhaps Sgt. Norris sent down by the point radio that there were signs of life, the old man said keep on pushing a second communications about more signs of life, I was still at the CP and turn was coming to start up the hill, it was a eerie feeling just waiting to have your ass handed to you but not knowing when, I guess that why they call it element of surprise. I looked at Snow the RTO for the Old Man, (Snow and Mike as well as Benito Gonzales from the 2nd were good friends of mine Snow along with Benito and Bell who was wounded the previous day are men I went to jump school with all were pretty good friends and Mike and Snow were like real brothers.
Mike and Snow had been in the 3rd Plt as well as SSgt Birmingham with me and we really trusted each other to have each others back and this goes for Benito as well because we had history together both in the United States in jump school as well as Vietnam.
SSgt Birmingham had a Fire Base named in his honor, he was killed months later.) We both just looked at each other and pounded fist, almost at that instance the ambush started and I headed up the hill patching and triaging as I went. I knew artillery was coming in at some point from experience so I was pulling people down and off of the trail. A trooper we called Animal real name was Hoover came down off the top of that hill with two long gouges in his flesh of one leg caused by an AK-47 or SKS, his wound was cauterized and he was not bleeding much, just a trickle. He told me, Phillips is up there and he is shot in the groin, I went straight up as I started I was wounded in the left side by something however; I didn’t really feel it that much, I saw a body lying on his back and his legs pointing down the hill between two trees about four feet apart with another tree laying on it’s side behind them so it wouldn’t roll down the hill, (thus could be the log your talking about) I went straight at a low and fast crawl to him, he was not shot in the groin but twice in the upper left chest, Mike Bost was about 30 meters to the right and he was dead, I did not see his dog Lady.
I tried to move Phillips in a position to pick him up and I was wounded in my legs by M-79 shrapnel that the enemy had taken from Phillips, all of a sudden I looked down the center of the hill and Smith from the 4th was motioning for me to get down and I again tried to pick Phillips up but other explosions, the automatic weapons fire was making it really difficult to say the least. Then all of a sudden Smith who came through all that metal flying in the air and the automatic weapons fire to help me, he should get the Silver Star for that heroic deed. Anyway, we couldn’t get Phillips down the hill because of the fire the all of a sudden grenades stated to come our way Smith was hit and yelling for a “medic, I told him to shut up that I’m the medic and I’m hit too and I couldn’t move.” Next thing I knew I was hit yet another time. I could hear, but I couldn’t see clearly, what I could hear was muzzle blast and Vietnamese voices and someone tugging at my fatigues, It was the enemy and they were coming down upon the first squad and taking equipment, my aid kit for one.
They really shot Phillips this time in the middle of the chest and both Smith and I had head wounds which bleed a lot and just thought we were most likely dead. Phillips was alive before I was rendered semi-unconscious.
I lay up one that hill with Phillips and Smith and part of the first squad for from what friend from the 3rd Plt who found us for three plus hrs. I can remember swearing at those that found me “leave me alone you mother fucking bastards and other profanities,” because I thought it was the gooks carrying me away. The next face I saw was our battalion surgeon patching me up Doc Nelson medical Plt SSgt, La Salle and Art Timmons voice along with Steve Naughton my old platoon leader from the 3rd Plt.
The last thing I remember from “Mothers Day Hill” was how the medivac medic stood on the skids of that helicopter while Capt. Muchler buttoned me up in the basket for the awaiting medivac about a hundred feet up in the sky. That was actually besides parachuting the ride of my life, literally.
Another sad thing was how me being wounded could have gotten my friend Rick Sanders killed, he described to me a few years ago how I looked when the chopper I was on came in to our base camp and I’m truly sorry to have put that image in his minds eye. He went back into the field after being taken off the line a week before.
In all we had 34 WIA and 7 KIA a DR. Lee from the 326th Medical Battalion wrote to me with a higher figure 42 WIA and 10 KIA. I think 34 and 7 is more accurate, I know I patched up over a dozen men and because of the noise as Steve mentioned and how fast I had to work because I focused on their wound some dead as well.
I know that Snow had been torn almost in two, the Old Man was wounded and never made it out of the CP area, his other RTO Michael Peterson was killed his FO was also wounded and John Smyth took a bullet in the stomach with no exit wound and he was not ripped open. He passed away a year ago January from throat cancer.
There is much more to be written, each person in a fire fight sees events from their perspective while the fire fight is taking place and I know I’ll think of more things especially about the individual heroic deeds that happened that day. I was very fortunate to have survived with the nature of my wounds, but with God protecting me and my Guarding Angel watching over me I’m here. I have to thank the Paratroopers of “ABU”
who’s excellence made ordinary men extra ordinary in a world of chaos on that day.
Airborne and ABU,
Mike “Doc” Ainsworth
9/66 to 5/14/67
“For My Friend Snow”
Airborne and ABU,
Mike “Doc” Ainsworth
9/66 to 5/14/67
Early in the morning we started up the trail,
Pat was point man in this green hell of hells.
As we headed towards the ridge line everything
was quite and still…
In a few minutes men would be laying all over the hill…
Most of them wounded and some would be dead…
I can still the cries for medic and the
muzzle blast that rang in my head.
As I moved from man to man, not one did cry…
I remember Michael, Pat and Snow with death in their eyes…
We fought like hell to get out of that mess…
Now, for you in the street and behind that big desk…
In Vietnam we gave Americas best!
How many returned to face a life of ruin…?
Those of us that made it, a new life begins, dealing with bigots
and people we used to call a friend.
I’ve heard some of those people laugh…
Most of the time behind my back.
But, if they went to war today, tomorrow there would
be no last laugh.
(I first wrote this in 1968. Crawford Snow one of my very best friends
died on this day May 14, 1967, I trained in jump school with him. He
was 100% American Indian, a warrior and a brother and son.)
Mike “Doc” Ainsworth
My name is Ronald G Turner, I was with ACo., Ist Battalion, 101st Airborne, 2nd Platoon.
What I am going to try and relate is my experience from around 12th-14th May 1967. By chance it was Mothers Day. I have only allowed this to become real a little over a year ago. I came out of a 42 year stupor of drugs and alcohol and without that things started to come to the surface! I went to the VA, something I did not know I could do, and was truly welcomed as a Brother! Anyway that is another story.
Most of my time in Viet Nam I never really knew where I was or when I was there. I remember names like Kontum, Phan Thiet Duc Pho and Phang Rang. Phan Rang was our “Official” base camp but I only saw it 2 or 3 times. The Boonies was our home! We stayed there most of the time. Search and Destroy man, and we did it. However one day does stand out in my mind for several reasons.
1- The fear I felt for days in a row. Knowing that we were going into action but not when!
2- For the way I conducted myself under extreme conditions and
3- How it all concluded!
We all laid awake on the night before our mission. We listened to bombs and artillery and hoped that they were softening up where we were headed. We were told we were going into a “hot” area. We were all in thoughts of our own. What ever they were! The next morning we all mustered and headed out. Our LZ was quiet and we all came in safely. We were all given our area of operation and off we went. The Company Commander, Forward Observer and some Camera crew humped with us. 2nd Platoon led the way up a very well worn trail. Our objective was a mountain top good for resupply.
We started up to find several very dead VC and some hootches. We burned the hootches and continued up! It was very evident there was a lot of recent activity! We knew the going was not going to be easy. All of us just wondered when. So our going was slow. I humped a PRC25 for Lt. Robert Rivello. A fine leader. On the way up we kept running into unoccupied foxholes. The Lt. would radio back to the Company Commander and we would stop while he came up to survey the area. Then up we would go! The smell of the rotting vegetation, noise of the birds and lizards was overpowering. We we all super vigilant for anything “different.” Each of us looking ahead for the best cover. We knew it was coming!
The 12th of May closed with us setting up a perimeter on a flat spot on this Highway we were traveling on! We had made it through another day What was tomorrow bring? We all pretty much stayed awake all night worrying and wondering. We ate cold Cs no fires and total silence. The morning of the 13th we saddled up and once again headed up. Up into hell! After a couple of hours we were fired on by what semed like 7 or 8 enemy! We returned fire and the M-60 Gunner, Bell Rushed up to lay down some serious cover fire. Bell and his ammo bearer were wounded almost immediately. He still fired. We all got on line and assaulted the enemy positions. Running and firing like hell! We took the position to find… nothing.They had dee dee’d. A squad was assigned to take the wounded back down to be Evaced. We regrouped and the Lt. and CO conferred and we were ordered to continue up toward our resupply point. On top of this damn mountain!
We all hardened ourselves for what we knew was evident. Some serious contact. A couple of hours later we came to a fork in the trail. There were 5 rucks there. The Gooks had dropped them and we knew they would come back. We halted and set up an ambush a few meters off the trail but with in sight of those rucksacks. We didn’t have to wait long. We could see their heads bobbing up the trail and when they got in our kill zone we unloaded. We blew all five to pieces! Terry Gray was in this ambush and took film with a 8mm Kodak camera. It was the size of a cigarette pack and the film was grainy but he sent me a copy 6 months or so ago. I actually have the aftermath of that ambush.
Of course we held up while the Old Man and Lt. talked to Command. And naturally we headed up! We all wanted some artillery to fire ahead but at what? 2nd Platoon lead the way and up we went. We had no more encounters and when nightfall fell we all slept, if you want to call it that, in place on the trail. An outpost was set up up the trail for early warning. The 13th of May closed with some satisfaction as well as uncertainty. What and when! The morning of the 14th started out like the others but with more stress. We were to arrive at our resupply point today. By what we were seeing, more bunkers and bigger, we felt very apprehensive. Yes, Scared.
Around mid morning this highway came over a ridge and another trail branched off leading downhill. The Lt. sent a squad downhill to secure our flank and the point squad came on line and started uphill to secure our front. There were two large bunkers on each side of the trail and the Lt and I knelt in this intersection and he called the CO to let him know what we had came up on. The first thing I remember was a gunshot, so loud, I thought I had been hit in the face! I fell back hands to my face, no blood. I looked over at Lt and he was behind a tree barely big enough to cover him and the bullets were quickly cutting it down. Than I heard all the noise! Firing and screaming and bullets landing everywhere. We were on a flat spot and all the rounds were landing on top of us.
I threw my Radio in front of me and the handset was shot in two. The Lt. also had a very close call! I grabbed my rifle and drug it to me. I also noticed one of those bunkers close to me and I rolled in My radio was useless. The Old Man had moved as close as he could but out of the kill zone. The point squad was yelling for artillery and the FO was calling in coordinates. The first volley was fired an landed up the hill and point was yelling!!! Drop, drop! the second volley landed and it was close, I mean close! But, the point squad yelled drop, drop!!! I heard men yelling no! no! And the FO called in drop 25 and fire for effect! That volley came in like a dive bomber right into your head. When the rounds went off they ground burst right on top of us! They had time delay fuses because of all the bunkers we were seeing. They hit trees and were deflected right on top of us.
My God the screaming of pain, fear just the sight of packs, trees, dirt, and pieces of meat landing everywhere was enough to freak even the hardest Trooper out. The most frightful thing was in the distance you could hear another volley being sent. Boom! Boom! Boom! Coming to us. Those that could ran downhill and those that couldn’t tried to crawl under their helmets. No place was safe! Even I was in that bunker I knew the next round was coming to meet me! However they landed further up the mountain. Then almost all firing stopped. Only the screaming of the wounded and dying. Snow, Full Blooded Sioux, was the COs RTO and had been reduced to hamburger so was the other RTO for the old Man. The FOs RTO had been killed and I believe the FO also. Eddie Vowell had been so close blood was coming from his ears and nose! If you tried to touch him he would let out the most blood curdling screams. Benito Gongales was our new m60 gunner and caught a bullet square between the eyes. He had a letter to his family in Texas in his helmet.
I came out of that bunker to witness such unbelievable carnage! I tried to help those that I could with pitiful words of encouragement but I was like a Zombie. I was dazed and confused and was probably not much help. By this time reinforcements arrived and took over getting things organized. A landing zone was cleard and the wounded started to be Evaced. Those Medivac choppers did an Heroic job of getting the WIA KIA out of there. Terry Gray was wounded and filmed much of this. I am not sure but I think maybe Sgt. Simpson was carried to a chopper on a stretcher as a Sultan by Porters with his leg and foot still in his boot as calm as if he did not even realize what had happened! I was helping load the wounded when Phillips handed me a radio from a RTO that was wounded or killed. I am not sure.
I have heard as low as 3 and many as 7 or 8 out my Platoon was left in the field. I know Steve Black was one who else I am not sure. I was pretty out of it and after 42 yrars all the facts are fuzzy. Lt. Rivello was not physically wounded but lost his cool. He was Evaced and I have often wondered what happenrd to him. Terry Gray has filmed many of the wounded in a field hospital and am sure people would remember their faces. As for me we were assigned to another Platoon. We reached the supply point on that godforsaken mountain top to find blood trails but no dead VC. Frustrating to say the least.
I got another Lt. and a bunch of cherries and we drove on. Looking for more of the same. We had many skirmishes an contacts but nothing ever ever quite compared to that fateful day on May 14 1967. By some quirk in life in a ironic way the Gooks saved my life by having that bunker I could live to kill another day. My life was forever altered that day! I took revenge where ever I could and how ever I could. Enough said. Thank You to all the Heros I served with. If I had It all to do again, I would.
Your Brother in Arms
Ron Turner(Zero) RTO 2nd Platoon
Terry “Gray Ghost ” Gray
There came a time for me as for everyone, I believe, when life through circumstance, allows one to learn before he may continue. Deep down my reason about Vietnam became in question. Life at this point will not, for some, allow death to be the only direction one goes. For me I believe this question arose in my mind, as an abscess on an old scar on my right forearm arose. It was not only me who questioned our purpose at this time. We all questioned our beliefs. But so, I believed as most did, any and all beliefs stood on they’re own merit. None, for us, answered anyone’s questions, they spoke to satisfy all among us. Which we concluded was the true definitions of freedom. To express one’s opinion without fear of being different seemed to some as exciting as life itself. Then to watch life truly dictate who’s right and who’s wrong I believe is what comes from war.
To remember who died is the most important, and so is the reason that they gave their life. The survivors purpose can only be to explain for the rest as to what took place. So the lesson I learned is only for those who care.
I never considered not fulfilling my duty, which as I was told, was to spend one year fighting for the honor of the red white and blue. I will never believe I was wrong in trying to fulfill this task. But as the abscess grew to the size of a golf ball, I realized, for me, as many did, there was reasons a person could without jeopardizing his honor, leave the battlefield and continue to learn. I actually felt bad about leaving my comrades in the field for any reason.
We all were waiting for our first major battle which we knew would come. The battle that would dish out life and death and end the war. But for me, this bubble on my arm was reason enough for the Lieutenant . to send me in on a supply chopper. Back to the M.A.S.H. unit to see a doctor. I arrived at the medical tent were I was told, wait there, a doctor would see me. Only twice in my life, as a kid, when I had split my big toe open, and once when I cut the end of my finger off had I ever seen a doctor. The one who stitched my toe did it without giving me anything for pain, the skin dried up, then fell off. The other doctor that worked on my finger tried grafting skin from my forearm to the end of my finger. That fell off too. It was at that graft scar where this boil had developed.
You have to realize that I had been walking the jungles, mountains and valleys of this war zone for five months. I’m not the same person I was when I came here. I’ve matured as we all did. I’ve seen good Lieutenants and bad Lieutenants. I’ve seen good Sergeants and bad Sergeants. There were good privates and bad Privates, good Vietnamese and bad Vietnamese. I am beginning to know the difference between the tow. But most important, I see something that’s not right. I have fought for this right.
So this guy comes in to look at my arm. Then he tries to squeeze it, which hurt like hell. Now I’ve picked any number of my own pimples, and this is no pimple, there’s no head on it. He gets a scalpel, cuts through the first layer of skin. Then starts squeeze it again. This ass is hurting me but afraid to cut deeper to the sack. I tell him to cut deeper, I’m pissed, I’ve had bad lueys and sergeants and now I have a bad medic. I push the scalpel in and about a cup of puss comes out. I get a band aide and leave.
Now a report comes in that the 101st is in heavy combat and the wounded are coming in. I didn’t know if it was my unit, but I knew many men through out the 101st.
It’s a very strange feeling to be waiting to see if you know any of the dead or wounded coming in, then comes the realization that they are all Americans.
I watched the morgue, watch the process the dead went through. He was stiff as a board with his mouth open and so were his eyes. He was frozen in disbelief. His life had ended. The guy processing him stuck his finger in the bullet hole in his chest to see how it entered. Hit him in jaw to try and close his mouth and pushed his eye shut. Took a ring off and closed the bag.
The next guy guy’s shoulder was blown off and so was half his chest, I didn’t know him either, so I left. I went into the next tent to see them bring a guy in and lay him on a table. He had a bad head wound, but was still alive. When the doctor came in, he just looked at him. Not even, as a fallen comrade. Did not remove the dressing. In three to five seconds decided this man was beyond help, turned and left, leaving him to die. I’ll never forget this for it was wrong. His name is non the stone in Washington.
Saddling Up on Mother’s Day
To me it was just another day, I only had 24 days left. This was to be my last operation. I knew it, I even asserted some confidence which, could have proved ignorance. When we were saddling up, I shouted, “well one way or the other this is my last operation”. I didn’t shout it real loud, I know because I had to look around to see if anyone had heard me. you see, what was said, to my knowledge, was never said before, not in second platoon. We knew because we were on the line, life changed in instance. That statement could only be made by a fool, because mainly you never challenged death in this way. In the same way you never mutilate a body by taking an ear, endangering your life. You never saw, on the line, three on a match. You handed the third person one of the lit cigarettes. Well this is the way we handled it.
Like I said, I only had 24 days to go. I use to do things that would blow minds, I used to do things that would blow my mind. But the “Gray Ghost”, like I say was gaining confidence that surviving generated.
May 11, 1967
Saddle up First Squad, take point. We were looking for a base came, nothing new, and were working at platoon level as usual. I was following a heavily used trail. My senses hadn’t alerted in any special way yet when I came around this corner and the Luey called to hold up, I thought I didn’t need to think about the openness ahead until he said, “move out”. I pulled off, through a little opening on the right and sat back against my back pack and leaned my 16 against a little bush. There was pretty thick foliage around and I was content to find such a convenient opening.
I was listening to Bell and Speedy setting up the machine gun on the opposite side back at the bend I had passed. Why they always talked so loud I don’t know but it always bugged me when I was on point. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but when I looked up, by the expression on the two NVA I could see they didn’t understand either. Why did I put my rifle so far away? One foot, as I came up and flipped to automatic the click was hidden by the sound of the burst, and in the blink of an eye they were gone and now Bell had picked up on the action with a burst from the “60”. I jumped out on the trail and they were laying there trying to move. I finished the magazine into them, reloaded, emptied that one and reloaded once more. Now I walked up and looked real close, face to face in case for some ungodly reason they would laying there in pain. I eliminated that possibility with a single shot to their brains which opened heads like a cracked egg.
The Lieutenant was pissed at all the shooting and the mess, but me a zero was all smiles. Their M-16 and S.K.S. never got off their shoulders. I filmed it! I felt I evened the score for a poor Marine who lost the (M-16)weapon. It was our first recapture.
Third Squad took point down the trail and in a minute opened fire and had taken the base camp. No casualties, capture an old B.A.R. and didn’t bother to follow the blood trail. This place was all bunkers and tunnels. Their back packs were left in a row on the trail. I didn’t feel welcomed or comfortable and it wasn’t even time for lunch yet!
The order was “search the tunnels”, somebody didn’t know second platoon didn’t go in tunnels, except “Door”, but not this time. So after the grenades started exploding the order was rescinded.
Well it was an hour or so before we joined up with the their platoon who was escorting the Captain and an ABC film crew. This was the first time I saw the Captain in the bush. The their platoon took point who were very reliable and the second platoon followed up. The luey, still wouldn’t look in my eyes after I did in the morning, so the first Squad brought up rear. I moseyed back checking everybody out and walked the tail, the two points I felt most comfortable with, first or last.
It wasn’t long before their squad fired up again! The point approach two NVA planting a mine in the trail and killed one and the other got away. ABC was interviewing the hero when we came by, second platoon was back on point.
The luey told second squad to go up the trail and secure the trail until the engineers blow the mine. Be careful David, Door, Sarge and Speedy, watch those cherries. All hell broke loose in seconds. They were pinned and calling for us to help. Dave didn’t even need his radio. I was next to miles and the bullets were hitting next to us too. When Bell got shot in the ass and Sarge was shot in the arm. Grenades were going off too. They needed help fast. We started yelling, “fall back, fall back”. That was all they needed, they came down that trail at light speed, all of them. Ball holding his ass, Sarge showing his wound. Door was the only one to stop. He said, “I shot one”. His first I think. The guy was throwing a grenade, his last. Door’s face was all puffed from the concussion. He was hurting. I asked him, where’s the “60”, he said they left it! I looked at Miles, he looks back. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I felt fear. If they got the “60”? I looked down the line and we had one, so we charged. Screaming all those things we learned in training. Kill! Airborne! ABU! and laying down a field of fire that could be broke. I saw the “60” and went in for it. Miles continued to fire while I loaded and I picked up the fire while he reloaded. We reached Door’s Gook and I started pumping him until Miles thought the ricochet rounds were going to hit him in the feet and he was dancing. We had the knoll, the “60” and a bad feeling. I had five rounds left. The enemy fell back, the Luey tells me to set up the gun on the trail in the direction they went. We’ll stay here for the night. They’ll have to blow an “LZ” for Bell and the Sarge back to the rear. I told them to send me two boxes of ammo, then wondered, where’s my “16”? You see, I’m just a point man. Well I get my twp boxes and I tell Speedy, who is the assistant gunner, to hook them all together, five hundred rounds. I wondered if “Jones” still only carries twenty rounds in his box.
I laid down just on the left of the trail pointing straight down it. I had a little tree, about the size of a baseball bat for cover. I rested my chin on my left hand as I laid on the stock and my right hand on the trigger.
After awhile Speedy breaks the silence by stating, Terry, I’m scared, this ain’t anything like we’ve run into before, and he was right. I got here just after the last one in “Dak To”. The only answer I could come up with was, “you just have to be tougher than they are, and watch the trail”, wondering what I had meant.
It was dusk now and I could still see the big tree that the trail went down to and turned right about 10 yards away, maybe 15, and here we go again! Another NVA. I found that I always blink as the first round leaves the barrel and luckily whatever’s been there disappears. But I kept firing round after round. I sprayed everywhere. The other positions opened up too. The Luey started yelling, “is there any incoming fire?” Everybody sounded off, No! No! No!, I just kept firing. Baseball bat indeed, my only protection was what I was putting out. The Luey walks up to me and is pissed again! He was yelling, “stop firing Gray, stop firing”. I stopped. He asked me, “what did I see?”. I could barely talk, I said, “A Gook”, and opened up again. Rat-a-tat Rat-a-tat, and he’s yelling, “stop firing Gray, stop firing”. He’s in charge so I did, there’s that feeling again. He asked me if I got em? I said, “I don’t know”. “Go look “, he said. Well I did look, now it’s after dusk, so I looked at him, I can’t believe how calm I’m staying, and I asked, “which way do you think we’ll go in the morning? I liked him more and more, he gave me a reply instead of an order, and said, “we’ll probably go that way”, pointing down the trail. “Then I’ll check in the morning”‘ I said and bent down to check my ammo. What ammo, I went through tree hundred rounds.
It’s dark now and the weapons sergeant brought over another box of ammo and says, “this is it till morning”. He tries to lay the heavy on me, with what authority he could muster, he reminded us of Walter Brenner, white hair and proud. We would kid him that it was grey. He was a lifer, fifteen years an E-6 and over 50 years of age, but stayed up with us kids the whole year. But when he told me, “Gray you stay on the gun”, I had to stop him. I told him, “I got twenty-one days left and you have an assistant gunner”. “I’m going over to my position”. He let me go. I felt bad for Speedy. Everyone knows a machine gunner life expectancy was eight seconds in a real fire fight.
We dug in that night, I stopped digging when I got it level.
This was written way back, 69, 70? I didn’t date anything back then…I started to write then stopped, so now 46 years later I’m picking up the pen. The rest will be continued by memory.
Terry “The Gray Ghost” Gray