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If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity.

-- Sun Tzu

VietnamWe had a new guy in our mortar platoon I will call Joe C. He was a Chicano from East L. A. He was friendly, and fun loving but liked to take chances. In the world of mortars, one of the top rules, is not to have a round in each hand while firing a mortar tube. It is nearly impossible to keep track of where the round in the barrel is.
Each round has a shoutgun shell device on the end that sets it off when it hits the pin at the bottom. Depending on how many powder charges are left on the round it will come out very slowly or if all of them are left on it, very suddenly and then go several miles. We had a fire mission one day and Joe was the gunner. I was standing about 30 feet away at an angle and saw him grab an extra round as he shoved the first down the tube. He actually double fed the tube once before the inevitable happened. A round was almost out of the tube and hit the one he was trying to put in. The round coming out of the tube was deflected from its intended trajectory and went sailing over my head and exploded about 60 feet away. Luckily no one was hurt. The main cause of all of this was that due to all the divisions that were pulling out of Vietnam, they weren't filling officer and platoon leader slots. We didn't have either and were short 2 E-5s. On Joe C. 's track there were several other FNG's also. After this fiasco however, we all got together and made damned sure everybody was on the same page. It didn't happen again. We got a new Lt. about a month later. About that time we went into an area that had been heavily bombed for many years, as well as being fought over. There were wrecked tanks and APCs, as well as 25 ft. deep bomb craters. There were also many unexploded butterfly bombs. These beauties are released as bomblets from a larger bomb and are supposed to explode on impact. In this case, many were sitting above ground, with the little steel ball on top of the two metal parts that resemble a butterfly. Well, Joe C. couldn't resist this. As soon as the ramp on the APC went down, he picked up one of the steel balls from the butterfly bomb and chunked it into the nearest bomb crater full of water and it blew up. He reached down and was ready to do it again when the acting platoon Sgt. grabbed him by his pants, as he didn't have a shirt on, and and asked him what the hell he was doing...He didn't answer and was told in no uncertain terms not to do this again. It had all happened so fast I didn't have time to be scared. It just reinforced my opinion of Joe C. as a loose cannon. Several weeks later, Joe C. and I were walking around a firebase. In my memory it seemed like an ARVN base. I don't recall exactly what we were supposed to be doing. I do remember very clearly Joe C. saying hold it and touching my leg. I looked down to see a trip wire attached to an RPG round. I thanked Joe C. and went back the way I came. Needless to say I avoided him like the plague the rest of my tour. He was still alive when I left. If you read this Joe. C, THANKS !
Note: by Larry Nuckolls, 81MM + 4.2", B Co., 2/22 (M) 25TH INF DIV., 1970.


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This Day in History
1863: Confederate President Jefferson Davis names General Joseph Johnston commander of the Army of Tennessee.

1864: The Battle of Nashville concludes with a Union victory.

1904: Japanese warships quit Port Arthur in order to cut off the Russian Baltic fleets advance.

1940: British troops carry out an air raid on Italian Somalia.

1944: The Germans launch the last major offensive of the war, Operation Mist, also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Battle of the Bulge, an attempt to push the Allied front line west from northern France to northwestern Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge was the largest fought on the Western front.

1950: The U.S. 24th Infantry Division received the Distinguished Unit Citation (now the Presidential Unit Citation) for "extraordinary heroism in combat against a numerically superior enemy." The division, commanded by Major General William F. Dean, by then a prisoner of war, was the first U.S. division to enter the Korean War.

1950: In the wake of the massive Chinese intervention in the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman declares a state of emergency.

1965: Gen. William Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, sends a request for 243,000 more troops by the end of 1966.

1998: The United States launches a missile attack on Iraq for failing to comply with United Nations weapons inspectors.