reinforced bunker
The bunker where Private Mott and I fought during TET

January 31, 1968

Mott and I took turns observing while the other laid low below the sandbag perimeter.  At 0300 we could hear NVA officers yelling commands in Vietnamese down in the paddy.  Thunk, Thunk, Thunk was the sound of mortars being fired.  We hunkered down as they exploded.  As another round of mortars was fired, there was time to observe the wire between volleys of incoming rounds.  Mott began firing short bursts and said, “They’re in the wire, 30 yards out, Grenades!”  I responded and had four grenades in the air before the first one detonated.

The two OP’s were firing, and I emptied a magazine of fire with my M-16 as Mott loaded another ammo belt.  Green tracers were zipping over us from a big gun by the PF unit.  It was out of range and was tearing up our side of the hill.  As Mott continued firing, I reloaded and waited for him to finish the rounds on his belt.  The mortars had been silenced, and now as predicted, there were muzzle flashes in the paddy below.  They made a hollow staccato sound and Mott said, “AK’s” (AK-47 assault rifles).

I remembered not to aim into the paddy and concentrated my fire directly to our front.  As I emptied my second magazine, Mott was ready to fire when a trip flair went off in front of the OP to our left.  There was a bright flash as a B-40 (rocket-propelled grenade) slammed into the sandbag base of the OP.  Mott was returning fire where the B-40 was launched, and I threw two more grenades in the same area.

All of a sudden the sky and terrain lit up with bright illumination.  Mott announced, “Basketballs” (illumination dropped by aircraft).  He said, “Reload your empty magazines.”  Two Huey gunships appeared and were circling the paddy, laying down suppressive fire.  The big gun out by the PF unit fired at one of the Hueys, and the other Huey silenced it with rockets.  The Hueys continued to devastate the area, and more basketballs were dropped.  RRRRrrrrT, RRRRrrrrT, RRRRrrrrT was the noise coming from Spooky above us, pouring out a solid line of yellow tracers shredding every square foot of the paddy dike.  It was mesmerizing, like a fire hose spraying out a stream of golden liquid.

Mott laid back, watching me, and started laughing.  “Sarge, you are lit up!”  I looked down and checked my body and arms and said, “What?”  He was holding himself in a spasm of laughter, and I realized he was saying my adrenaline and other hormones were on fire.  He was right; I was “lit up” and had never experienced anything like it.  It was as if all of the nerves and senses in my body had come into focus.

The battle had lasted 40 minutes; it would have gone on much longer without the air power.  Mott threw some of the rocks into the wire and listened . . . nothing.  I asked him, “Where did you learn that?”  He answered, “The gooks – they do it all the time.”

At 0400 the word came, “SECURE.”  I gathered my gear and put it away in the hooch.  The six leftover grenades went into my tool box, and I headed toward the mess hall.

Britt and Murphy were starting breakfast; they had spent the night in a bunker on the west side of the hill and had missed much of the action.  I was feeling buzzed, as if I had downed a couple rounds of boiler makers.  The recovery from my body being flooded with adrenaline would take hours.

Mike Company had priority at breakfast as they were mounting up to sweep the rice paddy at dawn.  Mott came through the chow line, pointing at me and telling everyone, “This dude stayed cool; I never seen anyone so lit up.”  There was a lot of laughter, hand-slapping bravado and then Mike Company was gone.  I never saw Mott again.

Next Edition:  After Action Report

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