During firefights, battles and others chance contact with opposing forces, the element of the unknown can and often exists. This unknown element when in conflict is called the fog of war. What is the fog of war?
The fog of war is something that can change all preparations carefully planned into an exercise of futility. This chance happening that wasn’t accounted for could lose battles so carefully planned. This chance happening crossed my path when in contact with the enemy. This fog continued to follow me through my tour of duty while in the Republic of Vietnam.
Early in the year 0f 1968 (TET) my unit did a lot of search and destroys missions in the 3 Corps AO. The Dong Nigh river basin was like a highway we have in the states. A lot of river traffic with sampans needed to be checked for contraband and weapons. Our searches consisted of going down to the riverbanks and setting up ambushes at night. These ambushes netted us a few sampan kills, when we intercepted sampan weapons runs.
During this time the NVA had been in constant contact with U.S. force. The NVA tried to destroy the BIEN HOA airfield but were cut to pieces by our sister battalion 2/506, air force security personnel, and army gunship. Because of this action, my unit was placed in the surrounding AO, in order to stop the enemy from infatuating the large bases and city in the 3 corps region.
A FNG as I still was, kept me on my toes learning how to be a combat infantryman. Some of the lessons learned almost came at a catastrophic conclusion. It was during these times the fog of war came at a rapid pace.
While on a mission we found a NVA base camp and air strikes were called in. All heads were down when the first F100 Super Saber dropped its first payload of 500-pound bombs. Wham the ground shook with a violent upheaval, and the air was filled with zinging shrapnel. I tried to bury my head in to the center of the earth as the second plane made his pass. The air again was filled with hot shards of hot metal and mother earth punched me in the mouth as my body vibrated from the explosion.
You could hear shrapnel slicing through leaves and branches with a swooshing noise. Parts of branches and leaves began to flutter down on our position, when a plane barreled over our heads and released a bomb danger close. I became a real mole man this time as I burred into the earth. Zinging noises followed by dull thuds of shrapnel hitting our positions followed the bomb explosion. Zing thud was the sound next to me, and then a cry out of someone in pain. I looked to my left and saw a large piece of metal of my squad mate’s back. The piece of metal was still smoldering as he tried to remove shard.
A medic ran to the aid of the stricken along with me. The medic wrapped a cloth around his hand and proceeded to extract the hot object from my squad members back. This squad member was sent to the hospital to recuperate from his wounds. My squad member would return to our unit weeks later only to be killed in a heavy firefight months later
Later in the course of our mission I was selected to be on ambush. Our ambush waited for nightfall, and we then headed out to our ambush site. We move at night as not to be seen by enemy spotters where our location sits .The ambush settled in and prepared for contact with the enemy. While listening for the NVA I could hear helicopters in the distance. The sounds of the choppers grew louder and then the night was turned into day. We had been spotted and tagged by a hunter killer team. I almost shit my pants while sitting under a blazing spot light waiting to get shot to ribbons by our own team.
Speed was of the essences, and with our squad radios we contacted the company RTO, who at that time was monitoring the hunter killer frequency, called the HKT to hold fire friendly unit detected. The HKT acknowledge the call to hold fire, turned off the spotlight and moved to another location.
After a thorough pants cleaning, we moved to a new location as our last position had been compromised, and we continued with our ambush mission. No contact was made with the enemy that night, but the night was a long one indeed. I began to wonder of how many friendly fire incidents had killed our own because of the fog of war?
My unit continued to perform missions in war zone D, C, iron triangle and the hobo woods AO. The fog of war raised its ugly head a number of times and caused the death of a number of good people in our unit. When these mishaps occurred, one could only shake it off and continue to drive on. War is Hell.
William R. Hayes.