By James E. Leiker

Do you really know what it's like to wake up in the morning and be absolutely ecstatic that you're still alive? After spending every nighttime minute staring into the darkness trying to separate the moonlight shadows from a possible sapper attacking your position, a sunrise over the South China Sea can bring you back to reality. The golden sun signifies the end to another night that you have survived. You're alive, and it feels damn good just to be covered in the cool breeze and the morning glow.

This picture was taken from the China Beach area, looking out over the South China Sea in 1970.

Sunset spells the death of a day. It's also a beginning. Time to get started. Fire missions, guard duty, restless sleep, mid-rats, flares, H&Is all fill the night. You've got a lot of time to think at night. Think too much and you'll loose your mind. Night is a time to get busy so you won't think or fall asleep at the wrong time. Fear helps. It gives you an edge to keep you alert. You just have to learn how to use it.

This picture was taken from the China Beach area looking toward the Marble Mountain area in 1970.

Sunset on Hill 55 was the start of a full night's activity. Patrols were out and needed support. We were Battery B, 1st Bn, 11th Marines. Batteries A and C had intersecting fields of fire with us. We spent the night supporting each other with illumination, fire missions, and H&Is (harassment and interdiction fire missions).

This picture was taken from the Tower on Hill 55 in 1970.

Want to resister a 105 battery? Fire one White Phosphorus from the left most and the right most gun. This was usually followed by corrections and a fire for effect of High Explosive rounds. The 105 Howitzer was the most prolific artillery piece used except for mortars. Danger-close missions were within 50 meters of friendly forces. Doing your job and being accurate really meant something to the gun bunnies of Battery B.

This picture was taken from Hill 55 in 1970.

The 8-Inch, Self-Propelled Howitzer was the brute of the artillery pieces. It wore out the artillery crew as well as the targets it hit.

The 175mm, Self-Propelled Howitzer was the longbow of artillery pieces. It's extended range put a new meaning to reach out and touch someone.

The 155mm, Self-Propelled Howitzer was the second most common artillery piece in use. It's armor and mobility made it a formidable piece of equipment.

Personal grooming was required even in Vietnam combat zones. Our barber on Hill 55 was an ARVN we called Marvin who showed up every month on his Honda 125 with scissors and razor in hand. For $.50 MPC you got the full treatment:

Not only did you get a hair cut, you got a karate chop massage of the neck and shoulders:

This was followed by twisting of the head until the neck cracked in both directions. If he didn't break your neck, Marvin's treatment was very relaxing.

Note: You may notice that we are wearing field jackets in these pictures. The temperature dropped from about 105 F to 70 F, and we were freezing our collective butts off.

Copyright © 1997 By James E. Leiker, All Rights Reserved