Thursday, August 8, 1968
Today Fernando would drive without any tutoring. He knew the routine and would make the trip without backseat drivers. We had accompanied him to Da Nang for three days and familiarized him with all the different stops. Now it was up to him to make the trip on his own, without our guidance. I sat in the back of the truck instead of riding shotgun. The first stop, as always, was Battalion Headquarters. A few Marines got off, and several others hitched a ride to Freedom Hill. We would pick them up on the return trip.
Next was the Air Wing, and Sergeant Bob Stanek was ready for his adventure at Hill 65. He had a rolled-up mattress . . . a gift for me. He planned to sleep on it in our hooch and return without it (no one would be the wiser).
FLC was busy on Thursdays because we received “dry goods.” Stanek pulled his weight, helping to load the cases of food. Fernando returned to Freedom Hill, and we picked up the Marines we’d dropped off earlier. Then we drove back to Headquarters for the mailbag.
The trip on Convoy Road was slow; we had managed to get behind some ammo trucks and ate dust for 15 miles. After unloading the supplies, we acquainted Bob with the hooch and offered him the first shower. Although in our minds we had a top-notch shower, it was “primitive” compared to the ones at Wing Headquarters.
During dinner I introduced Stanek to Marines in Kilo Battery, and he ate with them in the mess deck. The cooks usually ate first, but this meal was running late. The siren went off announcing a fire mission, and a few artillery men made a quick exit.
Giving a heads up to Stanek regarding the artillery noise didn’t occur to me until the first rounds went out . . . BOOM BOOM! Then it was too late because his eyes were like saucers. I joined him at his table and reassured him they were all “outgoing” rounds. The fire mission continued through dinner, and word was sent to “hold chow” for the gun crews. Eventually the firing stopped, and we served the gun goonies. We then joined them in conversation about the target, “There were nine secondary explosions.” These guys were pumped up over the results! The objective was near Hill 52, where a Recon team had spotted a group of NVA setting up mortars.
It was a long night for our visitor. H&I rounds were fired sporadically, and there were a few “Screamers” (tin cans fitted to the artillery rounds to make noise as they left the gun tube). This conveyed a fear factor to the enemy and whistled loudly through the An Hoa basin. Thankfully, we had no incoming during the night.
Next Edition: Reb Off to Sydney