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Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

-- Sun Tzu
Green LTs (Story One)6539 Reads  Printer-friendly page

Vietnam Any officers (former or present) that would challenge the contention that relying on "Sarge" was a smart thing to do? I was an NCO during my tour of RVN and occasionally served as platoon sergeant so naturally I agree with the above. Amazed that OCS, ROTC, West Point didn't drive it into the heads of young lieutenants to "listen to experience."

I have three quick stories to eventually tell about "cherry" Lts I knew. Don't think I will give their names, though -- they all made it home and they ended up being excellent platoon leaders. One of them was on of the finest men I ever knew, should have made General (maybe he did) --and might even had made a good NCO.

His story is first (he was an OCS guy). Will call him Lt. M. It was his first day in the field. For some reason I must have been filling the platoon sgt function as well as running my squad. Most of the day was spent in patrolling (I think we were in the An Lao Valley). In any event, Lt. M decided we would laager in on the top of one of those hills that just seem to rise up out of the paddies. You know, a couple of hundred feet high or so -- covered with thick brush on the sides but grass on the top.

Pretty standard day actually, knew the VC were around (always were in Binh Dinh Province especially in the An Lao) but had only had incidental contact.

Well, we get up to the top of the hill and the squad leaders and team leaders start telling their guys where to dig in as usual when Lt. M decides that the proper procedure is for him to walk around with the squad leaders and indicate where fields of fire, foxhole locations, etc. Should be.

Probably out of some field manual somewhere I suppose and really not a problem except he wanted us to dig in at the top of the hill rather than the military crest. Us squad leaders tried to explain to him that that would just silhouette us against the sky-line and that it wasn't a wise thing to do. He chose to take it as a challenge to his authority. (The words of some TAC probaly ran through his mind -- "They'll try to test you").

Sigh. We just had our guys (and us too of course, our practice was that everyone dug their own hole -- suspect that that was pretty much standard procedure in most infantry outfits. Another lesson Lt. M learnt that day) dig a duplicate set of foxholes; one where Lt. M wanted them and one where they should be.

You might suspect that there was a lot of bitching from the troops about that but there wasn't much more than the standard everyday moan-and-gripe.

Sidebar: In relatively open areas where our position was known (perhaps from contact) we frequently would dig in at one position in daylight (to mislead the VC/NVA that would be watching) and then move after dark to another location where we might or might not dig in anew. This situation wasn't quite the same of course. A not so sharp-eyed VC could see us digging positions on the hill top -- couldn't see us digging the other positions further down the hill.

In any event, as soon as it got dark, we all moved to the lower set of firing positions. When the mortar shells came in that night, Lt. M came rolling down the hill to share mine.

The next day he talked to his squad leaders and said he would listen to us from now on. Did too. Didn't always take our suggestions (he was the boss), but he always gave them a fair hearing and never acted like we were trying to undermine his authority.

Good man.

Craig

Craig Thompson 11B4P
Co B 2/503d 173d Abn Bde
RVN 1968 - 1969

Note: by Craig E. Thompson


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