Tuesday, March 12, 1968
Sumo suggested I take the convoy to Da Nang and do some scavenging for materials for the shower. Also he wanted to spend some time teaching Reb free style cooking because Sumo hated the Navy recipe index cards. They were the only reference Reb had used to cook. As I was leaving, I heard Sumo say, “Didn’t your mother cook?” Reb answered, “Yeah, but it was just grits, red eye gravy and hush puppies.”
I still had the bottle of Bacardi rum * purchased in Laguna Beach the night Jenny dropped me off at Camp Pendleton. I stashed it in a sandbag and got in the truck headed to Da Nang. About four miles north of Hill 37, we passed a platoon from India Company, and I recognized Lieutenant Nowicki, their Platoon Commander. He was a tough Grunt officer, and I respected his reputation. He gave me a nod of recognition as we passed.
Battalion Headquarters had changed. The mess hall was larger now, with better seating arrangements and an officers mess with shiny new fiberglass tables and bucket seat chairs. I found Mai hanging out with the Sergeant ** (originally from Hill 65), and we greeted each other. She excused herself, and I could tell he was dependent on her for his alcohol problem.
As we walked around the compound, I noticed a scrap pile of discarded and damaged equipment. I asked if I could have any of it, and he said, “Sure, it’s just clutter to us.” There was a heavy steel grill with broken legs and part of an immersion water heater (missing a fuel tank). As we stood there talking, I opened the sandbag and showed him the bottle of Bacardi. He said, “What do you need?” I told him I needed another oven, and he said, “The only extra oven we have is damaged.” We walked to the storage shed, and sure enough there was a field oven full of shrapnel holes. I gave him the rum in exchange for the oven.
After loading the broken griddle, immersion water heater and damaged oven, into the truck, PFC Wilson and I took off for FLC to “code X” the equipment. I filled out the paperwork at the supply counter, and a Staff Sergeant accompanied me to the truck. He asked me, “When did this happen?” and I answered, “Last week during the rocket attack, our Sergeant Major was KIA.” He acknowledged the attack, shaking his head and said, “This damned war is crazy.”
We left FLC with a brand new oven (burner included) and a new water heater; there were no griddles available. We stopped to pick up the mail at Headquarters Battery, and I noticed a new metal pallet on the ground next to the Admin office. I went in with Wilson to get the mail, and Sergeant Major Lossie (Hodal’s replacement) handed the mailbag to Wilson. Lossie introduced himself and asked my name, “Sergeant Kysor, Sir.” He said, “Ptomaine, I hear good things about your mess hall.” When he walked us out to the truck, I asked if I could have the metal pallet. He said, “Yes, take it . . . put it to good use.” As we drove away, Wilson said, “Sarge, you got balls.”
On the way back I could see the small Marine compound where India Company was operating west of Convoy Road. Wilson said it was referred to as Hill 41, although it looked like just a mound rising slightly above the rice paddy. This was where Cobb would be going soon.
*See previous “The Final Hours” blog
** See previous “Lima Battery Attacked” blog
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