Chapter 3 - The Bronze Star
We returned to LZ Hawk for a three day stand down. Free beer and soft drinks, and all the food we could eat, 24-hrs a day. We had a band from the Philippines play current music for us all three days. I went swimming in the South China Sea. All of my bug bites, cuts and sores stinging like fire coming into contact with the sea salt water. It felt really good knowing I would not get infected by all of my minor injuries.
Off we go again, hunting Charley after our three days. We did not climb any mountains with this sector of our responsibility. We came to a village. The CO ordered a line assault. All 200 of us lined up in a vertical line of Green Guys and walked toward the village. I was not really keen with this as we were in the open, no cover, just open rice fields to the village. The VC could be behind the houses and trees ahead of us and blow us away… (Our former CO had finished his tour and returned home. We had picked up a new CO. He looked like John Wayne: tall, loaded with hard muscle, no smile, extreme hard core. He had a mean scar from his forehead, down the left side of his face that ended at his chin. Whoa, one mean-looking motor scooter... he he he.) Well, we did not receive any fire from the village. I believe the VC had seen the new boss and took off, not wanting any part of Captain J.Wayne... he he he.
We stopped on a high level section of land that had a shallow valley ahead of us. We had seen some locals, women, walk across our location. When they were across the valley, mortar rounds started falling in on our site. No cover anywhere. We just picked up and left. Nobody was hit, no injuries. It was like the CO just went, "Oh, hmm. Whatever."... he he he. He knew there was little danger. I was just glad we were moving out to the tree line across the valley. We came to a chest high river that was about 100 feet across. Everyone was across except the squad I was with (7 guys to a squad) when the VC opened up fire on both us, and the rest of the company on the other side of the river. The squad leader called in artillery and air support on my squad's location. Gee whiz, I did not feel really comfortable with that decision, but I called it in. The CO then ordered us to cross the river while the other 193 guys of the company opened up on the VC placements. There were bullets flying past us as we crossed the river, making water jump-up all around us. We went in single file rather than just make a mad dash for safety. Golly Molly, can you imagine us trying the cross the chest high river water with our weapons held above our heads... not able to fire back?
You will find this impossible to believe, but true, The Lord as my witness... None of us was hit with enemy fire. The river was shot up rather badly along with the opposite bank of the river. Please understand that the majority of the VC are young boys less than five feet tall. They were scared and exceptionally nervous. They tended not to take careful aim. They would just point their AK-47 on full automatic fire and jerk the trigger, spraying everywhere, and not all that often hitting anything, as all Americans looked to be seven feet tall... he he he. Also, they knew that once they fired on Americans, they only have maybe 10 to 15 minutes before all hell would be dropped on their heads. When we were all across the river, the CO ordered all of us to fall back as quickly as possible and to get down as flat as a cow paddy. We heard the Phantom Jets coming in. Three of them dropping 500 pound bombs on my old location, just a little over 100 feet away, on the other side of the river. I could feel and hear shrapnel flying over my prone body... gee whiz, holy cow! One of the GI's stood up and started taking pictures of the jets and the impacts... fool, idiot, knuckle head. He was hit with part of a bomb and went down hard. He survived, but the CO told the Medics to leave him. He was just a little ticked. Next were the Phantoms with the Napalm bombs. Wow! Three of those jets also, each with two bombs each. Now that is a sight to see! They looked like two small cars dropped, tumbling end over end just before impact, then red, yellow, and black horror all across the other side of the river.
Can you believe... the CO ordered my squad to go back and check for bodies and/or whatever! Holy Molly, we went back over looking all over for something but everything was toast. The point man fired at a lone VC running like a deer about a 1/4 mile ahead of us. He was hit only once that I could tell. He jerked his head back but kept going. Never so scared in his life to be sure…and probably dropped dead before going 50 feet. We chose not to stick around and left the way we came. That was the time that I was given a Bronze Star, as was all of us in our squad. My goodness gracious this was getting really scary by now. Those silly kids in black pajamas and conical were getting a little too close in my opinion!