Transplanting Rice Seedlings

Thursday June 20, 1968

Since the 26th Marines took over operations in the Thuong Duc area (the day after I arrived), Kilo battery had very few fire missions.  We could see the action in the hills and mountains to the north (especially at night), but they weren’t calling in fire missions.  We did fire sporadic rounds throughout the night, but they were preplanned H&I fire.

My sleep patterns changed in Thuong Duc, and I rarely slept more than three hours at a time.  From 2000 to 2300 was my primary sleep.  At midnight I was designated as the northern perimeter LP until 0400, and we used a “wired” phone connected to the CP to communicate.

The late watch was relaxing, and I was comfortably reclined in my fighting hole/hooch.  The moonlight was bright enough to view the fields and landscape in front of me.  I heard a long ShhhhhhH passing overhead and a series of loud booms in the distance.  I thought it was some sort of BIG artillery.  I usually slept, after being relieved, from 0400 to just after sunrise.

While I ate breakfast, the Mama-San showed up in the flooded plot with bundles of rice seedlings.  She started planting them by hand and stooped, constantly pushing the short stems into the mud.  She planted in perfectly straight rows and slogged her way back and forth across the paddy.

Captain Cavagnol announced that the noises we’d heard overhead during the night were gliding bombs from B-52’s.  They were targeting a suspected infiltration route.  After making my morning rounds of the perimeter wire, I sat with Doc Furman in the med tent, trying to stay out of the sun.  The Mama-San continued planting rice in the 100-degree heat.  It was exhausting just watching her.

After bathing in the river, I took another 2-hour nap before dinner.  Mama-San was almost finished planting and continued until after sunset.  It was a 13-hour day for her to plant the field.

Next Edition:  The Campfire

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