At 0130 I awoke to the sound of mortars coming out of the tubes: Thunk, Thunk, Thunk. I was up in my helmet and flak jacket in seconds, yelling at Sumo, “MORTARS.” The two of us were in our new bunker before the first volley hit . . . SsshKaboom, SsshKaboom, SsshKaboom. They were coming in threes and were landing close to us.
Again we hear, Thunk, Thunk, Thunk, and Reb piled in the bunker with us. He was wide-eyed in the candlelight. I said, “Are you alright?” He gave me this wild look and said, “Sarge, the first one hit just outside the galley; I was opening a can of dehydrated potatoes, and it exploded on the other side of the wall.” I asked if he was hit, and he responded, “I think the stainless steel table saved me.” SsshKaboom, SsshKaboom, SsshKaboom. The rounds kept coming, and we stayed put as the NVA “walked” their mortar barrage across our compound.
Automatic weapons fire was coming from Dai Phu, and we could hear grenade-like explosions from the same area. We heard a new set of mortar tubes, smaller but closer. They were impacting on the India Company compound (100 yards south of us). A 50 cal. machine gun was firing at a mortar position, and the mortar went silent.
At 0300 there was another firefight at the bottom of the hill, and we could hear a more distant exchange further to the west. Finally the action tapered off, and by 0400 it was quiet. We went into the mess hall to start breakfast and found the can of dehydrated potatoes still in the can opener with a shrapnel hole in it. The plywood wall and screen were also full of blast holes; it was a miracle Reb wasn’t wounded. When the sun came up, we found the small 12-inch crater just outside where Reb had said the mortar landed.
As troops started filing in for breakfast, the stories filtered along with them. There were four enemy KIA at the base of the hill, and one was a Chinese officer with family documents. The ville to our west (My An-1) had been under heavy attack. The NVA soldiers terrorized the villagers and slaughtered animals. One boy was seriously wounded in the stomach and had to be medevaced by helicopter. A Grunt received minor shrapnel wounds but was returned to duty.
Sumo and I were in good spirits but hadn’t slept much. I managed the brunch while he cut steaks for the afternoon BBQ. Reb was asleep and snoring when I left for Da Nang to get my dressing changed.
Lieutenant Clark was irritated about my bandage being “dirty.” When I told him of the mortar attack, he understood. The Battalion had watched as rockets glided overhead into Da Nang last night.
It seemed to me, these coordinated attacks had nothing to do with Captain Robb. Hill 37 had been hit, along with Hill 55 and Liberty Bridge. Maybe this was the beginning of a new NVA offensive. The Recon teams had said, “The valley is crawling with activity.”
Wilson returned from receiving our food at FLC, and we headed back to Hill 65. There was less traffic, and we followed two Jeeps on Convoy Road to Hill 37. We traveled alone on the road from Dai Loc to Kilo battery without incident. It was only 1400, and I relaxed in the sun, stripped down to my skivvies after rinsing off in our shower. My tan was looking good, and I dozed off in the folding chair; the sound of the clanging horseshoe tournament was restful.
After dinner we tried to get to bed early. The mortar attacks and probes were disruptive, and everyone was operating on minimal sleep. I was sitting on my cot getting ready to lay down when Thunk, Thunk. We spent more time in the bunker, and the increased adrenaline rush would keep us awake most of the night.