Sergeant (Sarge) Bob Skinner, Corpsman Otis 'Doc' Phelps, Sergeant (Mac) McNamara, 'Professor', 'Gramps', Corporal John Mages (Mr. Love)
My pathetic, but eventual sucessful goal of crossing the river near hill 55 in a basket boat ( small, round, basket-weaved boat, appr. 5 ft in diameter). Trying to stay afloat without turning over, was a tremendous chore in that small boat. Needed to do it, because there were times when I needed to get across the river on the other side. The local vietnamese made it look so easy when they utilized those basket boats. I beg to differ.
Recall time when I was temporarily attached to an ARVN company conducting a op near hill 55. Thru the use of my prc-25 radio, I was able to help provide coordination during the op between the arvn's and other marine units in the area. Vividly recall the evening meal shared with the arvn co and his staff, the co asked if I was interested in eating some snakes floating in a adjacent pot filled with water. I politely declined due to the fact the mere thought of eating some of those slimy snakes made my stomach churn. Happily settled for my c-rats.
Recall honoring the ocassional request made by a villager to throw an M-26 frag (grenade) into the nearby river for the purpose of killing some fish and eating them for dinner. Happy to oblige!
Remember one night in 'Nam', when I was prepping the perimeter area outside our CUPP unit bivouac site located next to a vietnamese village close to Hill 55, with HE (high explosive) rounds from a M-79 grenade launcher. This was being done at night to secure/destroy suspected enemy locations. While doing this, I accidentally fired [or merely misjudged the distance] a M-79 grenade round into a Vietnamese hut, which was part of the nearby village. At the time of the strike, a Vietnamese family was sleeping inside, which included a father, mother and some small children. A emergency medevac chopper was called in to evacuate the family who were by all accounts seriously injured/possibly dead. I never heard any more info about the condition of the family after that night. Recall the screams and cries coming from the family immediately after the tragic incident occured. The image haunts me up until this day. Evidently, my particular action that night was able to irk the area viet cong. As a result, on the following night after this tragic incident, our CUPP unit received a significant amount of small arms fire from at least several Viet Cong who took up positions in the adjacent village. Vividly remember the next morning, there were several communist flags (describe flag as containing a star in the center which was completely engulfed in a red-colored background). Made a nice souvenir for a few fellow marines who were able to snatch them up.
It is my current understanding [02-13-2011]; or based on what I heard from another grunt with the unit at the time, that the other two marines who were injured as a result of this aforementioned frag [grenade] incident, died or succumbed to their injuries at a later date after the fact.
Recall another tragic night in 'Nam' when my CUPP unit was entrenched in another perimeter area near Hill 55. There were three fellow grunts dug in a nearby foxhole close to mine, suddenly, a loud explosion/smoke erupted from that position. At the time, it appeared to be the result of a grenade going off. From what I understand or based on rumors at the time, the discharge of the suspected frag may have been caused by a fellow marine who was known to be left-handed and had the dangerous habit of pulling the pins out of the right side of his M-26 fragmentation grenades and inserting them on the left side of the frag. Apparently, the marine got careless doing this, and unfortunately dropped a grenade with no pin inserted on either side, it (grenade) went off and tragically killed that marine (L/Cpl Vega) and seriously wounded two other marines (last names of Campbell & Stanton). Still recall the moans and groans coming out of the foxhole that night, immediately after the frag went off.
For the longest time, I was lead to believe all three of the aforementioned fellow marines entrenched in the foxhole next to mine were KIA as a result of that accidental grenade detonation. It wasn't until just recently that I contacted the Manpower Management Support Branch of HQMC and was able to verify the circumstances which I previously mentioned regarding that horrible episode.
Recall the slogan posted at a enlisted club located at a marine base near Marble Mountain, DaNang, S. Vietnam. It read "PRIVATES, PFC'S, LANCE CORPORALS, FIRST TO FIGHT, SECOND TO NONE". AMEN, BROTHER.
Recall one night whereby I stayed overnight at the marine base located by Marble Mountain (cannot recall specific reason for being there, but I was there). I was laying on one cot of many situated insided a wooden hut covered by screen windows. Sleeping inside the hut was an assortment of other marines (enlisted and officers). I was resting on the opposite of the building where possibly one or two officers were located, as far as I can recall. Suddenly, late in the night, it appeared some moron (disgruntled marine), definitely threw a frag (m-26 grenade) near the area where the officers were sleeping. The loud sound and significant vibration produced by the frag was clearly enough to wake me up and other marines residing in those quarters. To say it scared the shit out of everybody there, was an understatement. Fortunately, noone had been physically hurt, just rattled all to hell. Remember thinking, just another day in the 'Nam'.
Remember the time while leading a night patrol composed of several marines and arvn's, which also included being temporarily set up in a ambush position. After several minutes had passed, I had clearly noticed an arvn lighting up a cigarette. Recall being very ticked at the moment. It was a task trying to be as tactful as possible while telling the arvn to put his 'dumb-ass' cigarette out. Can't say it enough, it was just another typical arvn stunt.
Remember several emergency medevacs I called in while operating a prc-25 radioset ( still able to visualize the memory of one medevac involving a fellow black marine who set off a toe popper resulting in the dismemberment of approximately half his foot/poor grunt was in immense pain as attested by his loud crys until eventually being administered morphine by a fellow corpsman on site/this marine had been walking directly in front of me at the time during a routine daytime patrol ). Recall the frequent callsign (CHATTERBOX #4,5,6, whatever) used by the CH-46 chopper pilots during these situations. When requested by the marine pilot to give an emergency medevac briefing, I was always a little nervous and always wondered if I ever gave out the correct grid coordinates (map location), during my briefing. Thank God for the strobe light and multi-colored pop-up smoke used to assist in identifying our position, would've been lost without it.
Recall one particular firefight near the vicinity of hill 55, when my squad/unit encountered rather intense small arms fire from a concealed unit of at least several vc positioned across the river from where my CUPP unit was conducting a daytime patrol. At the time, I served as a grenadier which encompassed being armed with a M-79 grenade launcher and a .45 semi-automatic caliber pistol. During the firefight, I became so absorbed, that I felt like I could not fire HE [high explosive] rounds from my M-79 fast enough. As a result, I ended up pulling out my .45 pistol and starting shooting rounds from that weapon at the enemy. Bottom line, we managed to eventually cause the vc to retreat from their position as a result of our actions.
Remember meeting and shaking hands with television actor Fess Harper at Freedom Hill in DaNang. Harper was the actor portrayed as 'Daniel Boone' on the tv series, 'Daniel Boone', during the sixties.
Recall witnessing one night, a marine CH-46 helicopter being shot down by enemy fire while flying relatively close to the ground, approximately a click (thousand meters) or more from our encamped position. It was learned a rpg round had been fired from a nearby enemy rocket launcher. Another CUPP unit in the area had responded to the incident. Quite an event to witness!
Recall the sporadic but sometimes occasional sounds/views of gunfire/muzzle flashes coming from the nearby but somewhat distant, adjacent mountainous region known as 'Charlie Ridge'.
Remember one time when I had flagged down and hitched a ride with several other people in the back of a six-by driven by a arvn from some location in DaNang. The military truck was being driven on the road which led toward the location of my CUPP unit nearby hill 55. While the truck was doing an estimated forty miles per hour or more, the driver unexpectedly drove off an embankment, causing myself and others in the back of the open six-by to fly at least 20 feet or more in the air into a somewhat, soft or grassy area. Everyone appeared to be okay. I got up, shrugged off the incident, and continued my travel towards my unit location. Thought to myself at the time, just another typical arvn stunt.
Remember the 'bamboo viper', a skinny green- colored snake, approximately one and one-half foot or longer in size, highly venomous/deadly. Recall one or two times when this snake actually crawled through our entrenched perimeter/bivouac site, a great way to clear out some marines/arvn's situated in a perimeter after someone yells, "lookout, there's a snake inside the perimeter, it's a viper".
Here's another snake story, sometime, later in the night, after enduring a firefight previously mentioned, I was fixing to lay down on my camouflage blanket situated opposite my foxhole. To my surprise, I noticed a snake, at least several feet in length, laying there. It scared the shit out of me as I yelled something, not to forget the reaction of the snake, which decided to slowly clear out. Bottom line, someone else had witnessed the snake and recognized it as a 'king snake' (non-deadly). This incident definitely got my startled attention.
Recall another night with my CUPP unit, when a marine decided to walk outside the specific perimeter area where a few arvn's were setup in a defensive mode. This marine, while attempting to take a tactical shit without telling anybody (by the way, BIG MISTAKE!), accidentally tripped an illumination flare. The nearby arvn's responded to the setting off of this flare with a barrage of small arms fire. It was only until they (arvn's) and others (marines) were able to identify the screams of 'stop', 'no', coming from this distressed marine, did the shooting cease. Bottom line, this marine wound up getting shot in the ass and was immediately medevaced out by chopper. The injury was non-life threatening and the marine in question, sucessfully recovered from his wound. Moral of this story, don't attempt to take a shit at night without notifying counterparts within the immediate perimeter, unless you wanna take the risk of being shot in the ass. Sad to say, but you don't qualify for a purple heart if you sustain any injury from friendly fire.
Recall the occasional time when myself in addition to another marine would visit a specific hut in a nearby vietnamese village close to our CUPP unit location, where it was common knowledge that the resident mama son would cook up a sizeable bowl of noodle soup in exchange for a box of c-rats. Loved the noodle soup, it sure beat the hell out of tasting and drinking a swig of rice wine.
Remember one nite when I was prepping the area outside our defensive perimeter with the good ol' M-79 grenade launcher for possible VC attempting to attack our position. Somehow I was able to place a HE [high explosive] round into the midst of 3 VC, resulting in their deaths. The following morning, local villagers took it upon themselves to attach these VC to some type of board/plywood (approximately 8 feet by 10 feet)for all the local vietnamese villagers to witness.