Not A Drill

Tuesday, July 23, 1968

After closing my letter to Jenny, I sealed the addressed envelope and dropped it in the mail slot at the battery office.  I noticed a light glowing behind the building and decided to check it out.

Approaching the glow, I saw it was a headlamp worn by Captain Smotherman.  He was sitting in a rocking chair, reading a book outside the Officers’ hooch.  He looked up and said, “Can I help you?”  I answered, “No Sir, I was just curious about the light,” and I headed off to bed.

My sleep was interrupted in the early morning when I heard mortars coming out of the tubes, Thunk, Thunk, Thunk.  Running out the door of the hooch in my helmet and flak jacket, I saw Reb was ahead of me.

The mortars landed close, and we could see the flashes as they exploded.  Climbing the ladder to the roof of the Exec Pit, we loaded the 50 and scanned for a target.  The air horn went off (a little late), and Reb spotted the flashes of the mortar tubes.  They were far out at the base of Charlie Ridge, maybe 1500 meters.  I flipped the sights up and aimed high . . . The tracers went over the mortar position so I lowered my aim.

I could hear Smotherman ordering, “COMMENCE DIRECT FIRE.”  Sergeant Bivens’ gun #1 fired first and hit to the left of the mortar position.  Reb shouted, “Adjust a little to the right.”  The mortars kept coming, and two other outposts were firing on the target.  Bivens fired a second round and hit closer to the mortars.

Green tracers whizzed overhead, and all of the 50’s unloaded on the muzzle flashes at the base of the hill.  I emptied the first 100 round belt, and we reloaded.

Waiting for a target . . . none showed, and everything went quiet.  We waited in silence for 15 minutes, and Smotherman yelled, “CLEAR and SECURE.”  This was a quick encounter, just enough to lose hours of sleep.  I couldn’t help thinking:  The NVA gave up too easily . . . Was this their version of a drill?  Were they just setting up for a larger attack?

Before we got down from the Exec Pit, I marked the position of the mortars and locked the barrel of the 50 on it.

July23
Command Chronology – Kilo 4/11 – July 1968

Next Edition:  Skipping My Shower

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