William R HayesDuring my time in combat zone VIETNAM, the thought of death became almost over whelming in my conflict exhausted mind. The exhaustion came from surviving contact after contact with the enemy, the NVA.
The new A O chosen for our brigade because of our mobility was the hotly contested Chu Chi region located in Tay Ningh province South Vietnam. This region contained many roads and trails that lead to the heart of South Vietnam, the city and capital Saigon.
Air mobility was our specialty, from out of the sky arriving in waves of HU1Bs we dropped in on the heads of our antagonists. This dropping in and taking ground from the enemy can and does cause causalities on a constant basics.
I can recall the time while in a heavy contact situation, new replacement troops were dropped off by are ever hovering angles the HU1B HUEY. This particular insertion was taking place at night, and if you have ever been in combat this kind of shit gets you killed.
Bullets are zinging all around and you hear the words, ďresupply chopper coming inĒ and with those words ringing in your ears, you began to lay down a base of fire, for your life line the whirly bird of hope. The word HOPE means a lot. I HOPE this bird thatís coming in has enough shit on board so that we can get these CONGs off our asses, or I HOPE to get my ass out of here via the air route.
The chopper lands and its cargo are taken off, while the wounded and dead cargo is placed aboard. The lead magnet, that bullet attractor, ascends and is gone. The world gets back to normal if one can say to kill or be killed is normal. The strobe lights that highlighted the LZ are now extinguished and the blanket of night envelopes you again.
The platoon sergeant approaches your fighting position with cherries to be distributed throughout the squads. These are your new replacements the PSGT says as he directs them to your fighting position. In the darkness you can still see the faces of the new bees. The faces are full of fright, wonderment and confusion, as you tell them to take a knee and take hold of what I have to say.
My introduction is short and sweet, keep your head down and follow me are the instructions given to the new jacks. I give no welcomes because how can you tell a person its is good to see you before you get killed or tell them that they are nothing but cannon fodder for the big green machine, a number that fills a vacated slot of another soldier killed or wounded in action.
The position of command can and does begin to wear on you after contact after contact and the familiar faces that once were the corner stone of you platoon has now been replaced with new unfamiliar ones.
My mind began to playback the faces of those who were lost through combat and the numbers of the fallen began to add up to an alarming percentage of you not pulling through your tour of duty alive or in one piece. The thought of my demise becomes stronger and stronger after each and every deadly contact with the enemy.
Out of the field we came, exhausted, hungry, fed up and afraid. Afraid of what is to come next after our little rest bid or stand down is completed? Will we be inserted in an area and expected to defeat the enemy that out numbers us 3 to 1? Will we be placed in an AO that has not had American troops there at all? Will we be sent on a mission to find an NVA battalion when we are less than half of company strength and are expected to defeat are found foe in mortal combat? Will I be maimed beyond my comprehensive min
These are some of the questions I asked myself as my feet touched terra firma at the Chu Chi combat base. I know that these thoughts were not exclusive to me because you could see these questions racing in the eyes of my surviving squad, platoon, and company members. The survivors of infantry combat accompanied with the now common thousand yard stare.
During debriefing I began to scan my surroundings looking for some familiar faces knowing they wonít be there. The sense of lose becomes ever stronger when your mind falls back to the time of kinship you had shared with the now fallen.
The XO gives you a report on the casualties incurred on this mission and than he begins to tell you of the next up coming operation. We were supposed to stand down for two days, but because of the combat field situation we will be ready to roll at 2400hr tonight. We are to eagle flight into an enemy held village and surprise the NVA with their pants down.
My liver starts to quiver, no rest for the weary, and no rest for the BEST. Here we go again ďWhat the FUCK OVERĒ. All the faces at the briefing are over taken with stunned surprise, are we the only ones fighting this war? We have been in the field over 20 days and we canít get a 24 hour stand down.
Less than ten hours from now we will be back in action, toe to toe with our enemy so sergeants get your men feed, resupplied and equipment checked and be standing tall at the pad at 2300 hours. Replacements will get to you in the day light hours on the resupply birds. AIRBORNE was the last thing the LT said as he left the briefing room with our mouths a gasps.
The dark cloud of doom arose and hovered over my bewildered head. This is it, the big one, the last hurrah, the dance of death pranced in my mind. Roland you are not going to come out of this alive, this is your day of DEATH. The thoughts in my mind kept repeating itís self over and over again dead, dead, dead you are a dead man walking.
All the ways to die in combat came, racing to the fore front of my mind. Will I meet my end by bullet, RPG, booby trap, friendly fire, what? I was beginning to loose my composure, and this I could not do in front of my men. To see the strong become weak kneed in a combat unit stirs up a recipe for disaster. I had to put on a good face and told my men lets go and kick some ass, but first letís get some chow. I knew that the thought of good food was a great distracter for us combat veteran line doggies.
After a good run of in the chow hall, my men split up and began to get what ever the thing they wanted to do before the up coming mission. Some of the men went to take a long cold shower; some went to the PX to get those items of need, some went to seek female companionship, others just wanted to get wasted as soon as possible and forget about the mission that was up coming. I did the latter.
I had the need to have my mind empty of all the intrusive thoughts that was permeating my combat weary mind. The best way for me at the time was to find an opium den. It did not take long for me to find such a place on the military base at Chu Chi.
The combat base was like a small city into its self. If you wanted it you could find it. All you had to do was find mama san or papa san and ask the question where I can find anything of interest and the cost. Lo and behold there it is.
I find what Iím looking for, given a price and told to have a seat at the back of the hooch. The place is dark and somewhat foreboding, but I continue on with my intended mission, complete blankness.
I lay back and in doing so a pipe was handed to me by the head of the den. I take a puff and shit I donít remember anything until Iím awakened and was told it was time to leave. I shook myself got to my wobbly feet and went outside and shit it was pitch black. I looked at my watch HOLY SHIT I was null and void for over six hoursĒ DAMN.í
I hustled back to the company area and ran right smack into the LT. Sgt Hayes I have been looking all over for you; you have a large box of goodies sent from home waiting for you at HHC.
I thanked the Louie and beat feet to the company HQ hooch. I front of me was the largest box of food stuff I had ever seen. What was I going to do with all this stuff? I could not carry it in the field so I decided to split it up and give some of the items to my platoon members.
The finishing touches was done with the sorting of goods as the LT came to get the NCO for the up coming briefing. This is when I began to wonder, if I will survive the day so that I could enjoy the gifts sent from my family.
The briefing began and we were told that we were to assault this village that was known to harbor the enemy at night as they passed through our AO. This Ville is surrounded by booby traps and the people are sympathetic to the VC and NVA cause. Stay alert, this will be a night assault and cordon operation. Expect tough resistance and stay calm, because we donít want to be shooting at each other when things get hot.
At 2400hrs the choppers pick us up and off into the night skies we fly to my destination of doom. The thought of my demise began to take hold of me as skimmed over the jungle tree tops towards our objective. I could hear the voices of my men talking about my death in my head. I could see my body being loaded onto an aircraft and headed to my final resting place at home. Shake it off troop you have men to lead and you can not do it by having your head up your ass as I said to myself as the gunners cut loose with their mounted machine guns.
Bullets are flying and voices are screaming commands. I realize the screaming voice is mine. Like clock work the village is surrounded and the fire fight starts to subside.
The coming of the morning light reveals that our mission has been a success. The NVA and VC were caught with there pants down, and I mean that literally. While the enemy was at home with his wife, girl, or other during the boom boom we were on his ass giving him the boom boom.Ē Eureka Iím alive.Ē
After a couple of dayís action we got the word to saddle up because we were headed back to base camp and a well deserved rest. I survived to live and fight another day. I would always be frightened when going into combat, but that did not stop me from completing the mission. The unknown it can make or break you.
The war continued for months on end for me and a lot of friends were lost, but I never felt the specter doom as I had before. The mind set it doesnít mean anything, not one damn thing became the focus of the day.
The story continues.
WM R Hayes.