Watching the War

The Chair
Me in my theater chair at dusk

January 29, 1968

Most of the live action of the war was visible at night.  It would start after dark and build with intensity into the early morning hours.  Out in Arizona there were fire fights with tracers going in both directions and a sporadic explosion or two.  There were lulls while artillery missions were radioed in with occasional air power; Huey gunships or SPOOKY (a fixed-wing aircraft with Gatling guns).  I watched the war from my theater chair just outside my hooch.  The rickety folding lawn chair was comfortable, and I actually fell asleep in it a few times.

It was still dusk when a low flying chopper flew over the hill with two Recon Marines dangling from an extended net. * They were heading south over Arizona territory, and it looked like they were being inserted into position as FO’s.  I thought of Captain Flowers and the good old days at the El Toro rifle range. **

We received four incoming rounds the night before so today I added more sandbags to the bunker.  It was becoming impressive, and I planned to extend the entrance and layer a sandbag perimeter on the roof.

The mortar attacks on our position were random and disruptive which affected my sleep patterns.  I adjusted and was able to get into a deep sleep quickly, but it would only last for an hour or so.  On some nights I would brew a canteen cup of my grandmother’s herbal tea blend . . . which was relaxing (hot or cold) and could put me in a meditative state of mind.  Somehow with all these factors, my brain and body found a functional balance.

Most nights just before dark I would write a short letter to Jenny.  It was difficult to write every day so some letters would be written over a two or three day period.  My writing skills were repetitive and the common mantra was, “I miss and love you very much.”

At 2200 a 100% alert was sounded.  Everyone was ordered to bunkers or fighting holes.  The Gunny and Top made their rounds of the sleeping quarters to make sure they were empty.  Just after midnight there was a sustained mortar attack, and I counted more than 20 detonations of mixed 82mm and 60mm rounds impacting our position on the hill.  One landed within ten feet of my chair and peppered it with shrapnel.  I was safe in my bunker and “energized” beyond any chance of sleep.  The alert ended at 0400 . . . time to start preparing breakfast.

*   See “In Country” 1/7/1968

** See “Sniper School” 11/14/1967

Next Edition:  Private Mott

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