January 12, 1968
It was mid-morning after breakfast, and we were preparing for lunch when a jeep pulled up. A Lieutenant got out of the jeep and entered the dining room looking for Gunny Sampson. I directed him to the Gunny’s table and observed them having a serious conversation. The Gunny’s head was down, and his hands were on his head . . . it didn’t look good.
Lima battery had been attacked during breakfast. An 82mm mortar came through the mess tent and detonated on a table, and three cooks were KIA (killed in action). Sampson knew all of them and had tears in his eyes as he left for his quarters. Everyone was silent as we ate lunch. The Gunny returned and sat alone in his corner.
My expectation was that I would be sent to Lima battery, but instead two of our galley cooks were summoned to his table. Quietly they got up and left the mess hall to gather their gear. There was a truck outside waiting, they got in and headed out for Lima battery . . . no good-byes, no best wishes, just an uneasy silence. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I took over the dinner shift and assigned menu items to different cooks. Friday night was always Ocean Perch. We baked it with a thin slice of lemon, sprinkled with salt and ground pepper. I didn’t like perch because it had a mushy consistency, but we served it with Mac and Cheese which was a popular item, and Coleslaw balanced out the meal.
The Battalion Doctor came in as we were finishing cleanup after dinner, and again there was a huddle at the corner office table. The Gunny looked angry and slammed his fist on the table. The Doc got up and left . . . more bad news?
Sampson motioned for me to join him. It turns out that the Mess Sergeant at Kilo battery had come into sick bay in the afternoon, and the Doc diagnosed him with a bleeding ulcer. He was medevaced to a Hospital ship. Tomorrow the Gunny and I would be on “convoy road” to hill 65 where Kilo battery was positioned.
I took a shower before going to bed, and then wrote another letter to Jenny explaining the situation. I didn’t tell her about the three cooks being KIA. I told her the only change in my address would be “K” battery instead of “HQ” battery. It was a fitful night of sleep.
Next Edition: Convoy Road – Dai Loc