I was a Grenadier or Thumper (M-79) with 1st Platoon, A Co, 1/502nd Infantry on this day, 27 December 1967. The platoon had a bad case of the ass because we had to go on this so called training mission in a semi-secure area outside Cu Chi Base Camp. What really gave us the ass was that we had to miss the Bob Hope USO show.
As I think back to that day, I can feel the shoulder straps from the heavy rucksack with the basic load of M-79 HE rounds, five quarts of water, C-Rat's, claymore, M-60 ammo, hand grenades, trip flares, engineer equipment, and all the other goodies we had to carry.
It seemed like we walked for ever in a column, like ducks in a row. We walked over dry roads, through rice paddies, on dikes, through ditches and on a small trail through scrub vegetation where an enemy mine exploded. Fortunately the only thing that was hurt was the scrub vegetation.
The platoon moved into a clearing and halted while the point moved up to check a hedgerow. The point drew fire and the platoon moved up. Gunships came in and started strafing the area. The enemy fired something at one of the choppers, it didn 't make an explosion, but it took out the rear rotor. The chopper rolled over and a blue flame engulfed it as it fell to the ground.
Cpt. Holland, (A Company Commander-KIA 1 Feb 68), called for a Grenadier and like usual, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He directed my fire . Fire to the left, fire to the right, he had me fire at the base of trees. One of my shots must have entered an aperture of a bunker because the tree I fired at swayed back and forth.
Our M-60 gunner, Binko and his assistant, Cason were down, they were caught in a crossfire. I don't know who retrieved Binko and Cason but the gun was left where they fell. Cpt. Holland then told me to crawl out and bring the gun back. Again, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I low crawled to the gun. It was at the edge of the burned out area by the chopper. I kept hearing bee's buzzing over my head, but I couldn't see any. I rolled over on my back and put the gun across my chest and started crawling back to the platoon. It seemed like an eternity getting back, the bipod kept getting hung up in the vegetation which made it even harder. Some one came part way out to help me with the gun. We then rejoined the platoon.
When the firing stopped we started toward the NDP (night defensive position). We passed close to the downed chopper. The crew was still strapped in their seats, burned beyond recognition.
When we reached the NDP everyone started to dig in and put out claymore's. A shithook brought re-supplies including constatina wire. We strung wire around our positions and went back to finish the holes, I was with Lee. When the reality of the events of the day sunk in, we both broke into tears for our fallen friends.
Binko and Cason were KIA, Mott, Knill, and for the life of me I can't remember the names of the other four that were WIA.
Our first fire fight was not what we imagined it should be. We should have executed an ambush, not be ambushed.
I am not writing this to say that I was a hero, because I wasn't. I was just a young dumb G.I. that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A forgotten memory has been rekindled and I appreciate having a place to release it.