Green LTs (Story Three) 
Posted by : berben2 on Aug 12, 2001 - 11:15 PM
Vietnam War 
This guy was ROTC and technically he was green to RVN but not green to combat. He had been in Israel working with the IDF when the June '67 war broke out.
He was a good officer and though he wasn't the best platoon leader I had, he had one of the most colorful, engaging personalities I've ever known. Big red-headed Irishman , full of life. Not the sort of guy you would follow into Hell -- more the kind of guy who would crack jokes with you as you traveled to Hell together.
He had spent a few months in the rear before getting my platoon. I wasn't all that experienced my self -- must have been late summer of '68. We were near the coast in Binh Dinh Province, it was only an hour or so past dawn and we had not yet moved out from our platoon laager site. As a matter of fact, the LT had called us squad leaders to his CP and we were outside our perimeter scoping out the area we would be moving into (Sgt. Hunt, you flank, Thompson your squad has point, Foskey move to that ridge, etc.).
As we were standing there, 3 VC come be-bopping around the corner, see us, do a quick about face and vamoose (didi mau). We don't even get the chance to fire off a few rounds -- the LT has taken off chasing after the VC. Now you would think that he was just leading the way expecting us to follow -- and we did -- but the LT throws his rifle down (I suppose so he can run faster -- later he said he thought he could tackle them!) and takes off without us. So we run all out after this Jack-rabbit of a guy down the trail -- but he is fast and we lose sight of him as he rounds a corner. I just knew he was going to get wasted.
Fortunately the LT realizes that there are better ways to take care of VC than unarmed combat (If he could have caught them, he would have tried though) and reverses direction to call in arty on them. He rounds the corner he has just disappeared behind running full out for the radio yelling for us to follow. Almost bowls us over in the process.
He gets to the radio and we start getting our squads saddled up and ready to move out. A smoke round pops overhead and I hear the platoon sergeant yell, "Move! Move! Get the Hell out of Here!!
Most of you probably know that a smoke round is fired to ensure positions aren't reversed (yours with the enemy's) when a fire mission is called in and a salvo isn't supposed to be fired until smoke is confirmed -- the next rounds would be real and would follow the smoke in (though you could adjust from smoke). Well we didn't question the platoon sergeant's advice. We scatter. Incoming hits where we had been soon after. The platoon sergeant later told me that the LT, in addition to having reversed co-ordinates, had "confirmed smoke" even though the round was right over us.
Lots of guts. Became a good platoon leader. He learned to let his people do their jobs -- which seems to be one of the first lessons an infantry officer should learn.
The Major tells the new 2nd Lt., "I'm going to Division. I want a flagpole put up over there by the time I'm back tomorrow."
So the 2nd Lt goes to the post engineering office and gets blueprints for a flag-pole. And he goes to Supply and gets materials. The next day he goes down to the local repo company and gets twenty privates for a work detail.
That afternoon the Major gets back early and sees the 2nd Lt all sweaty, telling one group of men how the cut the pole; telling another group of men how to paint the pole; telling another group how to dig the hole the pole will be going into.
The Major screams out "HOLD IT, LIEUTENANT!!" That's not how you put up a flagpole!
The 2nd Lt is baffled and takes the blueprints over to the Major and says, "Yes it is sir, it says right here . . . "
The Major cuts him short and says, "No Lieutenant, this is how you put up a flag pole. Watch!"
"Sergeant, put a flagpole up over there!"
B 2/503 173d Airborne Brigade
Note: by Craig E. Thompson