WP Airbursts

Thursday, July 4, 1968

Kilo battery was not getting fire missions. Our primary assignment was “general support” for 3rd Battalion 7th Marines, but they weren’t operating within our range of fire. Although their job was to keep Route 4 secure, there were no convoys.

Boredom was killing us, and our only relief was to cool off in the river. During the day everyone went shirtless. It was so hot the mosquitoes would only appear after sunset when we put on our shirts for protection.

None of us wore underwear . . . it just wasn’t practical. We needed more ventilation to reduce moisture. We never used the term “going Commando,” but I did hear references to “free-balling.” Either way we adjusted to the conditions, and it appeared that the Vietnamese did likewise.

Just after sunset, Captain Cavagnol yelled, “Fire Mission.” The coordinates made no sense because we would be firing toward the mountainous jungle to the west. To further complicate things, the altitude was at a high angle, and all the gun tubes we’re pointing skyward. The ammo was WP with a timed fuse. Oh I get it . . . Fireworks!

The guns fired on Cavagnol’s command, and a few seconds later the rounds detonated (3000 feet above). Twilight backlit the white phosphorus, giving us a view of scattered puffs of smoke. It wasn’t the most impressive fireworks display I’d ever seen, but it made us laugh.

The radios crackled with activity as the Marines on Hill 52 wanted to know what was going on. Corporal Diaz, our radio operator said, “Amigo . . . Es Cuatro de Julio.”

Next Edition: Heat Casualties

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