By Warren Murray
It was 1968, and the 1st Cav was given the mission to look for the enemy and find the base camps they had used to stage for Tet. We were told our area was virgin territory.
It sure looked it. A lot of signs of the enemy. Heavily used trails, bunkers, a lot of organization.
I grew up in the woods, a father who believed in taking his boys hunting as soon as they could walk. A father who taught his kids respect for nature and how to listen to it. This above all else is what kept me alive in vietnam.
Here I am in vietnam, leading a platoon of men in combat and not even old enough to drink. My 21st birthday would not be until August '69. In charge of leading a platoon that was never at full strength and always looking at another seasoned vet getting short.
We met with the cap at daylight to go over the days objectives and get the marching orders. Our day to be lead platoon. I have to get back to my men, pick the lead squad and point man. Everyone knows the morning routine--pick up your claymores, see if they had been turned, clear your booby traps and trips, and get ready to move. Gotta check for leaches and other crawlies and get your shit ready for humping cause it is going to be another long day.
You wonder if the rain is ever going to stop; it makes the jungle close in on you and makes it hard to hear. I have to tell the new rto not to walk so fucken close to me; i ain't in love with you and don't want to kiss you and get your fucken sorry ass away before you get me killed. jeezus! fucken fngs. How long is this one going to last?
The trail is muddy, slippery; and if you aren't climbing uphill, you are sliding down. how the hell are we supposed to make three klicks? The senses are working overtime and everyone is on edge. The trail has been used recently, fresh prints, the dirt still crumbling on the edges, not washed down by the rain. Everyone is scared, no john waynes in our platoon, just a bunch of kids who want to make it home. You could smell the ambush. The problem was there were so many good places to lay it. You approch every ridge and twist and the trail expecting the enemy to open up. It makes a hour seem like a fucking year.
The first pop seemed muted and somehow not real. The rounds start to go off, and it sounds like the start of wwiii. Just like that, it's over; seemed like it lasted forever, but it was just harassment, fire a couple of rounds and di di. The adrenalin high is unreal and takes a second to get control. So typical of this war, more brushes then pitched battles. They pick the place and time, and we play hide and seek.
The bunker complex is unreal, not to mention the hootches above ground. Uniforms, rice, weapons, ammo, a field hospital. The men and I are in total awe. We had no idea the enemy had places like this in south vietnam. A little over two klicks into the day, and we had struck pay dirt. Checked the uniforms for pants but no luck, nothing my size. Sure would have been nice to have some clean new pants.
We have found evidence of pows and fresh graves near the hospital site. We get the word the engineers and grave registration are coming in and our platoon is to move on to the hill that is our objective and secure an lz before dark. Just another wet miserable day as a grunt. Another day shorter.