Continue To March

April 11th, 2005

In reflection of the battle at An Qui, there are so many little things that you begin to remember. I can remember when I had gone back across the open area for the second time trying to get back to our lines the M-60 had jammed and there I was with no weapon. I had made it across the open area and picked up a wounded man’s M-16. That weapon belonged to Peace who I had told you about earlier. He had a bandage wrapped around his head and was full of blood but the strange thing was he had a smile on his face. I’ll never forget him sitting there against a built up hedgerow dike. I remember asking what in the world happpened. He just looked up at me and smiled and said “I guess I got shot” like it was nothing. Apparently what had happened was a round had hit the front site of his rifle (for those of you that don’t know about the sight on the M-16 it sticks up a couple of inches in a triangle on the front of the weapon). When the round hit the front site it deflected it just enough for the round to crease the top of his forhead and part of his head. It wasn’t a horrible wound but when you think about the possibility of what would have happened had the round been 1/4 inch to the right or left it would have hit him right between the eyes and there was no doubt he would have been killed. God works in very strange ways. Peace got on the medevac and only had the same amount of time left in country as I did he never came back to the field again.

Then there was a big black guy by the name of Shedrack (sp). He was sitting next to Peace with his rifle broken down running a cleaning rod down the barrel to get a round out that had jammed. (The M-16 was notorious for jamming. A tiny grain of sand would jam it so it had to be kept clean all the time). When I was picking up Peace’s weapon for another trip across the field I looked down at Shedrack and just kind of laughed. He looked up and smiled and said “darn M-16″. He was never a slacker at all. He could always be counted on. He was an extremely religious man and you would never hear him curse no matter what happened.

Charles Thoms, a New York City kid was on the other M-60 was pouring rounds into the village. I slipped around him and let him know where I would be so he didn’t fire in that direction. I got about half way across the field from another direction with more cover and slipped down behind a tree. As I began to pour magazine after magazine into the village I had just made it out of just in case the NVA had moved back into the bunkers to catch our trapped our last squad coming out. I kept the covering fire up until our last man was out of the village and we moved out of the village. We took up positions out in the dry rice paddies while the artillery, ARA (gun ships) and the jets pounded the village. I remember the Phantom coming in with their bombs. When they exploded we heard the awful sound of ppfft……pfft……ppfft hitting all around us. We were too close to the village and the sharpnel was landing all around us. The RTO got on the radio and screamed to call them off until we could get back about another hundred yards. When we got down and covered up Goode (another rather large black man) was ling on his back next to me. His eyes were as big as saucers. He was in the squad to the right of mine going into the village. They got pinned down immediately and couldn’t move an inch. The gunships came in and laid down fire so precise he said it was about 25 feet in front of them and worked over the NVA positions so they could pull back.

There were simply so many little things that come back to me when I begin to think about it. It seems like it was yesterday. I remember when I went back in to show them where the bodies were. Sgt. Dunn was lying on top of a bunker as was Sgt. Neese. Dunn had one hole in his stomach that was so small I could see his intestines sticking out the hole. Sgt. Neese had most of his head gone. The new guy had been shot several times. He had bandages on his head where Doc Word had patched him up while he was still alive. That just wasn’t enough. He had several holes in his chest also that he had take after Doc had patched him up. Doc was on the end of him where his head was while patching him up when he got hit several more times in his chest. I remember asking Doc about it and he was crying. He thought he had saved him so we could get him out to a medevac but as he was working on him he got raked again. I could tell by Doc’s face that he was just frustrated because he could have saved the man had they not raked those bushes again. I guess it’s hard to imagine how Doc felt sometimes. He was a wonderful man, as brave a man as you would ever meet. Our medics knew no fear. They saved so many lives with their pure guts.

But the fight was over and we were back on English drinking a warm beer waiting for a couple days until we had some replacements and were ready to go back to the bush. The next day we got a new Lieutenant that was gung ho. He was the type that thought he was a hard ass. This was a guy that wanted to be a hero and was apt to get some people killed. The night before we were going back into the bush I began to run a high fever. The batallion surgeon took me to his tent, gave me an IV and iced me down. He told me to stay there. About 10PM that evening the new Lt. came into the surgeon’s tent and told me I had damned well better be on those choppers going to the field the next morning. To begin with he didn’t know me from adam. He was simply an asshole. That’s as simple as it gets.

There are two different types of malaria. One is called Plasmodium vivax which is gone forever once cured. The other is Plasmodium falciparum and is the life threatening malaria. It never leaves you blood stream and can come back if you are in the wrong climate for years after you have had it. That was the kind I had caught early in my tour. Never the less the next morning I pulled the IV out of my arm, rucked up and moved out with my company as I had been ordered. We had set up in a small abandoned village and were sending platoon patrols into the mountains out of that location. The new platoon leader had threatened to bust me down to a PFC from a Sgt if I didn’t get out of that bed and hit the choppers with my unit. Needless to say, I was pretty well torqued at him. Before my platoon moved out I was talking to the third platoon leader, Lt. Radcliff, great guy, West Point Man and great leader. I tried to get him to move me into his platoon before I decked this young Lt. He said he would love to have me but he blew smoke up my ass and told me I was too good a man to take out of that inexperienced platoon (yeah, right, and my mama’s a possum). So, I went back to my platoon to begin patrol. I was walking third in the column but we had one guy with a month in walking point and an FNG walking second. I was pissed anyway and itching for a fight. I told the point man to take my place and I’d take the point. The new Lt. told me no way and I told him to go f*** himself, it was my squad. He told me when we got back to English he was going to Article 15 me and bust me. Like I really cared. I told him to do as he pleased and moved out. Along the trail I began to feel like hell again. Doc word came up again and stopped the column on the spot. He called the platoon leader’s RTO up and called for a medevac. I heard the batallion commander on the radio ask Doc “is it Foote”. Doc told him yes and the batallion commander, a Lt. Col. brought in his own chopper to pick me up. The Batallion surgeon came to the chopper when the Col set it down and asked me why in hell I left the tent that morning. I told him what had happened and the Lt. Col. simply lifted his chopper off and flew me to Cam Rhan Bay immediately. It only took two weeks to knock this bout out and I was right back with the unit ready to go healthy as a horse. Funny thing was when I got there we had a new platoon leader. The new Lt. had been replaced the day the batallion commander picked me up. They apparently sent him back to some unit where he would do administrative duties rather than lead an infantry platoon. I remember Lt. Radcliff came over me, shook my hand and said he was glad to see me back so soon and the problem had been rectified the day I was lifted out. Some people just aren’t meant to lead. I’m sure that Lt. didn’t go far in the military. Probably about like John Kerry. Kerry reminded me of him, no wonder I hated Kerry so much.

But on we went. It was getting close to the first of June and I was getting what they call “short”. I had about 75 days left in country and was hoping we would get a nice quiet area to hump for a couple of months. No such luck, we headed further north than the Kim Song in the direction of the AShau valley. It became known as the “Valley of Death” when the Cav first entered it. The Bong Son area was mild next to the AShau. We didn’t enter the AShau but we were close enough to begin running into a LOT of NVA platoon size plus units and the fights became more numerous. When I returned to the platoon there were several new faces and a couple new sergeants plus a couple sergeants missing. One had finished his tour and the other had been killed. As we patrolled closer to the border casualities began to mount as did enemy contact. I thought to myself “I just knew I should have found a way to stay in that hospital”. Problem being we had a lot of new faces and they needed all the older guys they could scare up to help the FNG’s survive. So on I went back into the same old grind, climbing up the mountains, setting up for the night on top of a mountain, hoping Charlie wouldn’t want that particular piece of Viet Nam that night. It became routine again. Most of the older guys would get a night on English now and then just to get a break and a good night’s sleep. We all needed it. I can remember some of the newer guys kind of resented that but they would simply have to deal with it.

It was getting close to July and no major fights since An Qui but we knew there was one coming soon. We were seeing way too many signs of heavy troop movement and that wasn’t a good thing. They were massing again. We just didn’t know where.

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