My citation for the Republic of Viet Nam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star reads "He gallantly maneuvered his company for thirteen days. As a result of his actions thirteen enemy were killed and umpteen weapons were captured," or words to that effect. What really happened is that I sat in a hole for twelve nights and thirteen days, smoked cigarettes and shot at anything that moved. I suppose that I was in danger but mostly from the 82nd Airborne or from spent mortar flares that peppered our area at night.

Phu Hoa Dong was a village that was controlled by the Viet Cong even though there was an ARVIN regimental headquarters in it. It was located along a river and was surrounded by rice paddies on three sides. A well armed unit could probably go there in the day without problems but the night definitely belonged to Charlie.

The plan, as best I could figure out, was for units to operate around PHD just like normal but at night, instead of the usual ambush or laager, they would move into their seal locations after dark. PHD was no small ville. It took five battalions to seal it. There were a few from the Big Red One, one from the 82nd Airborne and one or two ARVIN battalions.

PHD was located about two kilometers from the main road between the Phu Cong bridge to Cu Chi. It was connected to the main road by an elevated gravel road through the rice paddies.

We didn't get briefed on the plan until it was to late to desert. It wasn't considered healthy to move after dark, especial ly around PHD. It was kind of exciting though. The whole battalion moved out in single file, just like the ARVIN's. It was easy to control, hard as hell to ambush but a bitch to maneuver or to deliver fire from unless the bad guys were to your flank

Our perimeter sector was from 9 to 12 o'clock with the main road at 12. My company was the last in and tied in to the road. The airborne jocks were supposed to barrel down the road after we were in position with their service drive (main headlights) on and put the cork in the bottle.

I had put out the word that digging in was optional depending on the individual's position. When I saw the area selected for my command post, I decided that digging in was most appropriate. A tight feeling in my guts lent credence and urgency to my decision. I quietly started digging in. I had my hole half completed when the 82nd arrived and the shit hit the fan.

I jumped in my hole -- at least most of me did and immediately called for reports from my platoon leaders. What had happened was that as the VC in PHD tried to escape the village, they ran into us.

We took some sporadic isolated fire which moved along the perimeter as the VC tried to find a break in the seal. The company to our right took some KHA's and some wounded. Luckily, we didn't, perhaps because the word had spread that the old man was digging in and the rest of the company followed suit. I felt somewhat exposed as certain portions of my anatomy didn't fit into my unfinished foxhole. I didn't quite know where to put my helmet.

Each night for three or four nights we had action. It was kind of like a shooting gallery -- we shot at anything that moved. Then for a few nights, things were quiet. When a fire fight started down the line everybody cheered, just like in the movies. One night we even had an exchange of fire with the 82nd. It passed the time and nobody got hurt.

The concept of a thirteen day seal was really different for us. Most seals (also known as cordon and search) operations that we had done lasted only a few hours, a day or so at most. We were not used to staying in one place for so long. It didn't take long for us to settle in and make ourselves at home.

We all set up rain and sun covers and lined our holes with whatever we could. The ultimate luxury was full illumination all night, every night. This meant that we could smoke as long as we kept the cigarettes below the edges of our holes. Uptown!!!!

There was a severe bend in our perimeter that caused us some concern lest the platoons shoot up each other. The 82nd was fair game but not our own. Second and third platoons each had a leg of the angle formed in our perimeter. The whole company was on line in one or two man holes. There was no depth in our position as there was only about ten meters of high ground before the paddies started to our rear.

One night the second platoon leader said that he heard something to his front and requested permission to blow a claymore. Permission was granted and the claymore was duly detonated. We really couldn't see much except that the house in the angle of the perimeter suffered some damage.

The next day mamma san returned to her house and began wailing when she saw her dead pig and the damage to her home. The third platoon felt that the second had acted rather cavalierly in damaging the house and in their "porkicide." Third platoon members busied themselves most of the day repairing the damage to the house. That night, the second platoon did it again. During the course of the seal the feud between the platoons continued and the house was destroyed and rebuilt several times. A busy soldier is a happy soldier.

One notable event at the seal of PHD was the arrival of Tim. One day a lieutenant, obviously new to RVN, got off a jeep and came over to my hole. He introduced himself as my new artillery forward observer or FO. I was glad to see him as I had been without an FO for a while. I don't remember what had happened to the old one.

He said he was from Philadelphia and that he was really excited about joining us. When I told him about the action the previous night his eyes lit up. He said that he was worried that when the action started he would forget to remove the red plastic dust plug issued with his M-16. I told him not to worry that the army would buy him another one. Tim saw an unoccupied hole near mine and asked if he could have it. My RTO smiled and said "Sure, sir."

There is some law of nature or physics that makes it next to impossible to dry out a hole that has been dug below the level of the water table. You can't just put back an inch of dirt and expect it to stay dry for long. The hole that Tim selected had been abandoned after the hopeful occupant hit water. It looked dry because the digger had tried to make it useable but eventually gave up.

Tim settled in for the night and nervously awaited the communist hordes. As luck would have it, we had a little action in our sector. Since we couldn't call in artillery Tim got to play rifleman and blazed away accordingly.

The next morning I saw Tim get out of his hole. He looked like he had slept in a hog wallow. When I asked him if he had enjoyed our brief fire fight with the shadows. He said that, just as he had feared, he was so excited that he shot off the red plastic barrel plug and then he puked. Welcome to the infantry Tim. The little cannon cocker from Philly was a welcome addition to my command group.

The PHD seal was a relaxing break from our usual sweep operation or daylight ambush patrols. But all good things must come to an end. We were getting fat and lazy anyway. It was time to get back to the war.

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