During combat a number of things can in a blink of the eye change. Emotions and the fluidity of hostile engagement can cause one to pause and reflect on how his performance affected the final outcome of the fight. I as a young infantryman learning the ropes of how to survive in mortal combat had such an occasion presented to me.
The early part of TET 1968 found me and my unit performing search and destroy missions around the vicinity of the Long Binh logistics base. Long Binh was a very juicy target for the enemy and he (NVA) tried to take it by force. In order to protect the base from enemy infiltration and attack we (3/187) were placed in strategic position around the base and began vigorously to patrol our sectors of responsibility.
The sector we were in consisted of dry rice patties, coconut groves, banana trees and hedge groves. My company was set up in a grove of banana trees. Off to the right of my position was a dry rice patty. To the front of my position was a hedgerow that was about 50 yards from my burm with about 10 yards of open space. To the left and behind my position and me banana trees grew.
I took off my rucksack and began to scan my sector of responsibility. Sitting and thinking of what a beautiful day it was placed me in a position of complete serenity. My mind now is completely void of what my responsibility are, and is ripe for the confusion that lay ahead.
The utopian vision that dangled in my head was shattered like a pane glass window as the sound of automatic weapons brought me back to reality with a sudden jolt. I must have looked like a crazy man as I looked for my weapon on my hands and knees. Finally I collected my thoughts after my had to be comic routine and located my m16A1, and began to return fire on the suspected enemy position.
Iím firing my weapon on full automatic with three round bursts at the hedgerow target in front of me. I sweep my M16 from left; to center, and right and continue to do so until my 20 round magazine is empty. The word for cease-fire came before I could load another mag into my weapon and continue to pour hot lead on target.
The acidic smell of the firefight-hung heavy in the air as to my amazement people began to emerge from the hedge in front of me. The men were from my companyĒ I almost shit on myself. This feeling of shitting on myself would be a constant companion of mine until my DEROS. Well I see these guys leaving the protection of the hedgerow and am walking towards my position. The ambush continues passing through my position when I heard one-say man rounds were sure hitting close to my position, Iím thought I had to be hit for sure. I shuck with relief, because after expending all those rounds I did not hit a damn thing, thank GOD.
The order came for a team to go out into the rice patty to check out what had started to whole thing. I was selected to be one of the members to do the checking. Out from the protection of the banana grove walked into the dry rice patty and to a dike ahead of us. I was taken back of what I saw behind the dike. The dry patty held the remains of two men, both armed with hand grenades. These two men were VC and not regular NVA infantry. You could tell this was the case by the uniform they had on .The Viet Cong wore the ever present black pajamas, only these guys were black shorts no shirt and sandals.
If it had not been for the ambushes alertness, I might have been on the receiving end of those exploding devices. The VC were caught in a cross fire from the ambush while the ambush was being ambushed by me. My heart skipped a number of beats due to the relief I felt after knowing my bad judgment coupled with bad shooting did not cause any friendly causalities. All I could say to myself was OOPS.
After this episode I learned two things of importance while in combat. Know your position and of other friendly forces, and shoot true, shoot straight.
Many more lessons were to come my way while in combat. Lessons learned along with luck paved the way for my survival and my being able to talk about my youthful adventure.
The story continues.
WM Roland Hayes.