Mission 1

Copyright© 2010 by Terriblethom

These are a series of short stories about some of the different operations I am familiar with during my time in Viet Nam. All names and characters are ficticious. You will have to decide what's real and what is not. Names of mountains and other topographical areas are fiction also. This is in first person and doesn't use a lot of the military jargon.

We were dropped in the valley just inside of Cambodia at almost sunset. As soon as we hit the ground we spread out in a defensive perimeter, and waited till the choppers disappeared to see if Charlie had noticed our arrival. Our team consisted of me, my second, and five small mountain people otherwise known as yards or Hue depending on the tribe you recruited from. I was the team leader, and the head man of the yards was Chung, half yard and half Chinese. Chung witnessed his whole family being tortured and killed by Charlie and hated the VC with a white hot passion. He kept souvenirs of every kill he made, and swore to kill a hundred VC for every member of his family they killed. I had been working with him and his men for about four months and he had a very high kill rate as well as the rest of us on our little seven man team. The yards were all mercenaries that were paid by MACV/SOG out of our base on the outskirts of Saigon.

For the most part we worked out in the bush on search and destroy missions all over the different battle areas as well as deep in Cambodia. Now to make this a little clearer we weren't in Cambodia, and we all knew if we got caught inside it's borders we would be wrote off as being KIA or worse if we actually got captured. The present bounty on green beanies was about twenty five hundred American if they brought our heads back to their commanders. This particular mission was a little vague even to me as we were instructed to kill any VC as well as look for caves and supply dumps that we could destroy. To me and I told my Captain the same, this was fubar since if we started setting ambushes as soon as we hit the ground we would spend more time running that searching for hidden supplies. He agreed, but also said I was the team leader, and as always made all the decisions in the field.

We set out in the typical travel mode, Chung on point, two yards about a hundred feet on our sides and two about a hundred yards behind our direction of travel. We moved this way almost all night and about daybreak Chung came back saying he had found a good spot to lay up for the day with a good view of the trail we were following. He said there was a small clearing with fresh water and a good escape route if we needed it. He was familiar with this area as he had lived not too far from where we were at. We quickly moved to the small clearing and got out our c-rations to have a bite to eat if you could call World War 2 rations food. Chung went back to make sure there wasn't any sign of where we had quit the trail so the VC couldn't find us. I had to admit that in the short time I had been acquainted with Chung he had earned my trust and respect, not counting the last mission when he had saved my life from a sniper. The yards carried rice and dried fish to eat, and even though I didn't mind eating the rice, I never developed a taste for the fish they all seemed to love.

I would have went to supply and gotten LLRP rations for me and Roberts, but I just didn't have time as we were only in for two days before being sent back out. This made the third mission in a month and we were all dead on our feet. I had been able to get my yards a good sharp machete and sheath from the Marines as well as the aircraft metal crossbows and bolts for them. They carried their own usually, and they were good with them but these were better because of the power as well as being light weight. We all had full packs of ammo as well as grenades, claymores, and five blocks each of C-4, with the detonators being in my pack since I didn't trust anyone but my second with them. We used small balls of plastique to heat our rats with and make coffee for all of us. It was instant but kept us going when we were dead tired. We set the guard rotation and I went right to sleep after eating.

I woke with Chung shaking my shoulder and he put his finger across his lips as I started to open my mouth.

"VC come, look like big bunch. Have white men with them Sarge. They come down trail with many supplies. Come I show you."

I woke Roberts and told him to get the others ready to move as soon as I got back. He didn't question but just nodded his head. I took off behind Chung and we went into the bush headed toward another rise about a hundred yards to our left. When we broke into the clearing he went down to his stomach with me following his example. We crawled to the top and I got the binoculars out to have a look see. When he pointed I looked in that direction and saw what amounted to about a company of VC coming single file out of the trees. All were carrying large bundles of something on long poles, and from the looks they were heavy since the poles were doubled and still had a big sag in the middle. There was a Chinese major and a Russian Captain walking ahead of the column chatting back and forth. Now what the hell would they be doing with a company of VC and out here where there was no known NVA bases. I watched them for a little then got a surprise as they headed up the footpath in our direction. We backed off and moved back to where the others waited and I brought Roberts up to speed on what I had seen.

"Damn Sarge, there's nothing out here according to reconnaissance photos. I wonder where they are going, and why is a Chinese major, and a Russian Captain with them? Some things hinky about this. Want me to call in an air strike?"

"They won't strike this far in Roberts. No I think I will let Chung follow them and see where they go. Maybe one of those caves is a base or a supply dump. If it is then maybe we can blow it up and get them all at once."

"Ok Sarge but tell him to be careful because we have been lucky so far, and I don't want to lose one of the best yards I have ever worked with."

"Hell Roberts he moves through the bush like a ghost. Most of the time I don't even see him even when I know where he's at."

I went over to Chung and asked if he wanted to follow them for the rest of the day and maybe find out where they were going. He gave me that grin and took off before I could say anything else. I called one of the other yards over and in my broken language told him to set the others out in a square, and keep watch until Chung came back. He nodded and took off to tell the others. I knew he understood English but even in my broken way of talking it was a sign of respect to them because I was trying to learn their language, and it made them more loyal to me and Roberts. Now came the hard part, setting and waiting for word from Chung. I told Roberts to make some coffee then go back to sleep. He nodded handing me a cup, and lay back down seemingly to fall asleep as soon as he closed his eyes. I took my coffee and moved to the crest of the ridge and scanned the area around me with the binoculars to see if I could see any movement. I finished my coffee and put my cup away and decided to climb the tree that seemed to look out over the way the VC had been moving. I was finally able to get high enough through the canopy to get a clear view.

I quickly checked our back trail and it was still clear so I swung the binoculars back to where we had watched the VC come out and almost immediately noticed movement. I watched and saw a platoon of NVA regulars come out of the bush but instead of following the supplies they all stopped and started to set up like they were spending the night. Damn this was strange since it wasn't noon yet, and why were they just sitting around, setting up tents and starting cooking fires. I watched as several were sent out to clear some of the brush around the clearing they were in. I quickly switched back to where the supply train had went and watched for about ten minutes but didn't see any of them since the canopy was so thick. I switched back to the clearing and saw that another platoon had joined the first and they too were setting up small tents like they were going to be staying for awhile. Now I was getting a little antsy because if they sent out scouts we could be discovered. I looked uphill from where we were at and saw another clearing about a mile up the side of the mountain and decided to move our camp to it just to be on the safe side.

I quickly climbed out of the tree and woke Roberts telling him what I had seen and decided to do. He fully agreed with me, and we got our stuff together. I bird called for the yards to come in and briefed them, sending out a scout to check out the clearing before we got to it. He took of running and we walked out behind him heading into the bush. I told one of the yards to police up the area and to cover our trail, and he immediately fell back to do as I ordered. I wasn't worried about Chung finding us because for some reason he always was able to find me even if we moved. We marched for about an hour when the yard came back saying the clearing was ok, and that there was no sign showing it had ever been used by the VC or anyone else. It took us about another quarter of an hour to reach it and it was smaller than it looked through the binoculars. I decided we would set up in the bush on the edge of the clearing instead of making us sitting ducks just in case that platoon did send out a scout to look around. We got settled in and I took a nap not knowing the next time I would be able to do so. Roberts woke me with hot food and coffee and I immediately noticed it was almost dark. Man I hoped Chung showed up soon as I hated waiting blind and not knowing what was going on around me. We decided to keep radio silence just in case there was a listening post close to us. I didn't want to give away our position or alert the VC we were in the area. I told Roberts to go ahead and get a snooze and that I would wake him when Chung came in.

It was almost midnight when I heard a rustling on our back trail. I listened for a little bit and could tell it was something coming in our direction since it was on the same trail we had taken to come here. I shook Roberts and pointed behind us. He immediately went to the side pointing his sixteen in the same direction.

"Coming in Sarge."

It was Chung and he looked tired from what I could tell. I quickly fixed him a cup of coffee and he just nodded when I handed it to him.

"Big buildup in our area Sarge. Where we were and the other clearing full of NVA now. Must be hundred or more. They here for long time, have tents and boku food cooking. You moving very smart. I follow supplies to big cave in mountain. They take everything in and meet with others who camp near cave. They stay all night I think. Sarge, I hear them talk about attack on camp by river tomorrow night. They building ladders and have boku coffins already stacked by cave. Major say more men coming in morning from north."

"Do you think we can blow the cave when they pull out?"

"I think only a few stay to protect coffins. Sarge, as far as I see into cave it full of boxes that have big red crosses on them. I think they steal supplies from our side somewhere else and bring here to store."

"Ok Chung, get some sleep and we will move toward the cave in the morning."

"Ok Sarge, first I check men make sure they all awake and not sleep while watching. If they do I slit throat."

I watched him disappear into the dark as silent as a stalking tiger. I felt an involuntary shudder thinking of how he could move and was glad he was on my side. I also knew he meant every word about the men because he had already did one of the men that way when he caught him sleeping on duty. He was respected by all the yards and to a man they all listened to what he said. They also knew when he gave an order and it wasn't followed he wouldn't hesitate to kill them for not doing what he wanted. He was considered big medicine by all of them and we never had problems finding replacements if we lost a man along the way.

I told Roberts to go back to sleep and I stayed awake. It was about four in the morning when I woke him and lay down to get a few more winks myself. When Roberts woke me he put his finger across his mouth for silence and pointed to the clearing. I raised up and watched a platoon of NVA cross and go into the bush on the other side.

"That's the second platoon to cross since it got light enough to see. Sarge if they keep coming in firebase alpha don't stand a chance without a warning. You know as well as I do they are understaffed since it's only been there a month. I think it's time we broke radio silence and warned them."

"The VC won't move until dark so we won't do anything until we get a look at this cave. Before I alert them to us being here I want to see what's in it. We have plenty of time to give them warning but we can't afford to give ourselves away until we positively have too. Remember our LZ is a long ways from here and right in the middle of where all those VC are moving. Our secondary is in the middle of them too. No I think we will wait as long as possible before we give ourselves away. Lets get moving toward that cave. Whistle the yards in and get ready to move out."

I sent two of the men to the upper part of the clearing to see if there were any more NVA coming from that way. While we were waiting we moved to the point where the previous patrols went into the bush and I could tell right away it was a well used path. Being under the canopy you couldn't see it from the air. While we waited I made the appropriate marks on my map for the clearings and the trails I had seen so far. Chung pointed out a couple I had missed, and I made note of those also until we heard the all clear call from our scouts.

We moved carefully across the trail back into the bush trying to leave no sign of our passing. I sure as hell didn't want us being found this close to so many men that would love nothing more than to kill all of us for fun before attacking the camp. Chung hand signaled the two behind us to make sure there was no sign of our crossing when we moved into the bush on the other side. We kept moving and Chung caught up in about five minutes taking point again without being told to do so. He was about the best point man I had ever seen, and seemed to instinctively know when we were walking into booby traps or any other nasty surprises. Before our last mission I had presented all my men with a small gold Buddha to wear as a necklace. Roberts and I both wore them too. Since we never wore dog tags on a mission we tried to fit in with the yards as much as possible which they thought was great on our part even if we didn't worship the same as they did. We had been moving through thick jungle for about two hours when I called for a break and whistled Chung in leaving the others out on our perimeter. When he came back we had coffee hot and ready and we all sat down for a few minutes. We were all soaked with sweat but that was normal.

"Sarge, above the cave there is an old graveyard we can sneak into to look at the cave. VC not come near it they afraid of ghosts. NVA same so we should be able to watch the cave until the men move out."

"What about your men Chung? Are they afraid of ghosts too?"

"We be ok, just tuck Buddha in mouth and he protect us. You too Sarge."

I looked at Roberts and he just smiled and shrugged at me. I wasn't about to argue just asked him how much further it was to the cave. He grinned at me, and said it was about another hour going the way we were through the bush. We policed up and moved out again with Chung on point. We walked about an hour and twenty minutes before Chung signaled me to come up. I dropped my pack and moved to his side. He pointed out the mines and said he had already disarmed a path through them for us and to stay on his tail while he led us through. He whistled the flankers in and told them the same. We moved out single file and before I noticed the stones we were in the middle of a graveyard that looked very old. There must have been a village here a long time back because it was overgrown and the two stones I saw were leaning almost flat on the ground. He looked back and tucked the little Buddha into his mouth, and I saw Roberts doing the same so I followed suit. I hated the feel against my teeth but I didn't want to insult my team, and the smile I got from Chung when I did it was worth any discomfort I had.

There was an old falling down pagoda in the center and he led us that way. Just as we came up on it I saw him chop at something with his machete. When I got to where he was I saw a one stepper with it's head cut off laying by the pagoda. He motioned for us to stop, and he carefully checked the area out to see if there were any more. I saw him chop again and knew he had gotten it's mate because when he waved us up this one was the female because it's coloring was lighter. We spread out around the old pagoda in a circle covering all points, and I dropped my pack motioning to Roberts to do the same. We crawled behind Chung for another hundred yards and he pointed toward a small valley below us.

I quickly got the binoculars out and checked to see that the sun wouldn't reflect off the lenses before I raised them to my eyes. When I got the focus right the picture in front of me took my breath away. I had a clear view into the cave and although I couldn't read the small stencils on the boxes I recognized them without having to read what was stenciled on their sides. There were boxes of guns and mortar rounds, and in the front just inside there had to be a hundred packs of Special Forces Paramedic treatment bags. These things had it all from morphine to field surgery kits. Where the hell had they gotten all of these I had no idea, but they wouldn't never get to use them if I had my way. Looking down near the entrance I could see several men setting up tables to treat the wounded that came back. These had to be doctors or personnel trained in battle triage, and I knew they would be staying behind tonight to get ready for the wounded that would be coming in. They would never get to do anything if I had it figured right. If we did our jobs the survivors would be coming back to nothing but a hole in the mountain. If they had all this stuff I knew there would be satchel charges inside and we would use them instead of our C-4. It they were timed and not short fused we could set them to go off within a couple of minutes of each other.

I panned a little further to the side and noticed three men sitting under camoflage netting. I focused in on them and started cussing under my breath. It was the Chinese major, the Russian Captain and one more man that shouldn't be here or even in this area. It was General Sun Yin, commander of the twelfth NVA battalion. Damn this wasn't good because if it was his men, they had never given up in any battle they went into. They usually accomplished their goal and faded to the north before anyone knew they were there.

I handed the glasses to Roberts and told him to tell me if he recognized the three men under the netting. He looked for a couple of minutes and almost dropped the binoculars in shock.

"What the hell is he doing here. According to intelligence he was killed when his jeep got hit by a rocket. It was posted in the squad room with his picture. Damn Sarge they must really want Alpha out of business. We have to report this and give the base warning so they can call in the Mike Teams for backup. They are going to need air cover too."

"I know Roberts, but I want to wait and see if he moves out with them. I am going to blow that cave right after we call in. We are going to be up a creek once we make the call because we have no fallback LZ in this area. They will be looking for us with every able bodied man they can muster. With the distance they have to travel to get to the river I figure they will be pulling out in the next hour or so. When they do we will wait an hour then call in and blow the cave right after that. I have a feeling there will only be about a dozen men left here once they go. We should be able to handle that many, and then blow that hole and get the hell out. There are boxes of claymores in that cave, and I want to set them up all over the trails coming into this valley. Maybe we can get lucky, and cut down the pursuit long enough for us to get a good lead."

We moved back leaving one of Chung's men to keep watch, and I went on to explain to my men what I had planned. They were all smiles when I got done. We sat back and I got my map out to try to figure us a way to get out of the mess we had stumbled into. The more I looked at it the more a plan was starting to form. To the northwest of our position there was a large Air America base we could get a ride out of if we could get there. It wasn't on the map, but I had run a couple of missions out of there and had a good idea where it was at. The only trouble with that was I knew the General would also know it, and would radio ahead to cut us off. Chung was looking at my map and pointed to an area above where we were at.

"That village on top of mountain. Hid in trees and VC not know it there. Have to climb up ropes to get to it. They good people and friendly to all who hate VC. I think be good if we hide there for 2 maybe 3 days till VC leave area."

I questioned him a little more and decided I would follow his hint because it was better than anything I could come up with and he knew this area. I called Roberts over and told him about it, and he seemed happy to follow my hunch with Chung leading the way. I didn't mark it on the map because of security reasons, but I mentally memorized it's location from the cave just in case. A friendly village was hard to find, and one that the VC hadn't raided was as good as gold to us if we were stuck in the bush for too long without being resupplied. The fact that they were friendly was just the icing on the cake to me. It was then that I heard the alert whistle from the guard we had left watching the valley. We looked at each other wondering why he had alerted us already and crawled his way. When we got to the crest I immediately could see why he had called us up to him.

In the valley filling it almost to the bush on all sides were probably a Battalion of NVA regulars and at least three companies of VC all standing as if waiting the order to move out. I couldn't use the binoculars since the sun was facing me, but I really didn't need them to see all the bodies standing below us. The General stepped up with the other two following him and started down the valley with the men following behind as if in slow motion. It took almost an hour before they were all out of sight. I looked at the cave and counted fifteen men that I could see around the entrance still setting up for the wounded who would be coming back to be treated. I motioned for us to move back and when we were out of sight of the valley I called everyone in for a meeting.

"Ok, this is the way we are going to do this. If any of you have any more to add when I finish speak up please. Chung, I want three of your men to work they're way around the cave looking for hidden guards. They seem pretty lax down there but since the General is in command I would almost bet he has guards out where they can watch the whole area. I want one of your men to follow the VC who just left for about a half hour to make sure none of them turns back. Tell your men to go for throat shots so there's no noise. When they have eliminated the guards have them move close in to the cave mouth, and when I signal start dropping any target they can kill. Make sure they take out the ones closest to the cave entrance first. We can't afford a prolonged battle here, lets hit it, blow it, and run like hell. Ok, it's 1430 hours now, at 1545 hours we will hit the cave. The VC who left will be coming back at full speed when that explosion goes off, and I want us to be miles away when that happens. Roberts, at 1545 make the contact call, then join us at the cave as quick as you can. If they give you any shit, hang up and send up a burst message to HQ with the details. Anyone got anything to add?"

"How come we wait so long to kill VC at cave Sarge?"

"Chung, we take our time so that the VC who left will be too far away to come back quickly. Besides it will take at least forty five minutes for your men to take out the guards. When we start shooting at the cave, I have something new with me that I want to use so there is no noise to alert any patrols close to us. I know the way this general works and you can bet he has at least one or two patrols in the bush close by. He is very smart and doesn't leave anything to chance. That's how come he is so well liked by his men and why they never fail on a mission. He plans ahead and I am doing the same thing by keeping two steps ahead of him. Anything else?"

"I think I will send the burst message first, then try to contact the firebase after I send it off. You know how unreliable these damned radios are."

"Ok Roberts, send the burst as soon as you can get it ready but don't break radio silence until 1545 hours. If it all works out right we can be halfway to that village before the charges go off. I also want time to booby trap all the trails we can before we move out. The more time we can buy the further away we can get before they come after us. The booby traps will make them nervous as hell, and give us that little bit of extra that we are going to need. Any more questions?"

They just looked at me, and Roberts was shaking his head with a smile on his face. I motioned to Chung to move back and we went to the pagoda, and he passed my orders to his men, and they immediately moved out with smiles on their faces. One thing I had come to respect about these yards, was that once you pointed them in the right direction they didn't hesitate to do what you told them to. I waited with Chung and the other man for about five minutes and started out of the graveyard. Chung immediately took point as if he belonged there, and we moved through the bush to the cave. We stopped opposite the cave entrance in the bush after moving a dead guard out of our way. I shrugged out of my pack and dug down in it getting the little surprise I had brought with me for this type of thing.

When I pried off the butt plate and pulled out the rifle barrel Chung's eyes widened, and he started to smile. I quickly had the barrel screwed on and then got the long silencer out and screwed it to the end of the barrel. I got back in my pack pulling out the hard case that held the small 4x scope and mounted it on the rifle. I then shoved one of the two magazines into the receiver and chambered a round laying it across my knees when I was done. I didn't have to worry about ranging it in because I had already did that when the armorer called me to let me know it had arrived. Granted it was useless at more than fifty yards, but it had a helluva good grouping at fifty so that where it was set at. I had planned on hitting nothing but head shots unless they ran then I would shoot for the spine knowing even at the longer range it would put them down if I hit even close to the spine. Besides using the hi velocity bullets it would tear anyone up inside if it hit a bone. I had opted to use full metal jacketed rounds instead of the hollow points that came with it. For some reason I had always disliked hollow points and always used full metal jacketed rounds even in my pistol.

I sat and dozed off, and woke to Chung lightly shaking me pointing to his watch.

"None in cave Sarge, my men above and at either side of cave. We ready to kill VC when you give word he whispered in my ear."

I sat up looking through the scope, mentally placing my shots as I took them. I shot the one closest to me in the center of his skull since he was looking down. I swung to the next one and hit him between the eyes since he was looking our way. The next two didn't even know what hit them and both were head shots. I swung to one furthest from me, and just as I started to squeeze the trigger a crossbow bolt hit him in the back of the neck coming through completely with a wide spray of blood following it. I swung to the next man and he was down with a bolt sticking out of the back of his skull.

"They all down Sarge, my men checking to make sure all are dead."

"Have the men quickly drag them into the bush just in case a patrol comes by. If they are out of sight they will think they are having tea in the cave and maybe keep going."

"Will do Sarge."

I went out counting the bodies as I went and came to the conclusion we were two short of the fifteen I had counted. I called Chung over and told him to have the men start looking for them. He looked at me and grinned that irritating little smirk of his before he smiled again and spoke.

"No need worry, they run toward me when you shooting others. I kill both and drag in bush out of sight. You say fifteen here and now all stinking VC dead."

I just looked at him surprised again by the venom in his voice when he got on a roll about the VC. I directed him to put a man at either end of the valley until I could check out the cave. I had just stopped by the paramedic bags when Robert's joined me at the mouth of the cave.

"I got Alpha and they said there was no way a full Battalion could sneak up on them. Sarge, that Captain just about called me a liar on the horn. I chewed his ass a little and then hung up telling him he better get on the horn to HQ as soon as possible. I also sent the burst off to HQ and hopefully they will chew some ass."

"Well Roberts we done all we could for now. The rest is up to them. Gather all those bags, and put all the morphine into one bag and fill another one up with bandages. The rest we will burn."

When he got busy with that chore I went into the cave which wasn't as deep as it looked, but was stacked to the ceiling with stolen supplies from our side. I didn't find any explosives but I did find several dozen claymores that I set aside. I set my C-4 under the ammo and grenade boxes after filling a bag with HE and WP grenades for our use if we needed them. I found several cans of coal oil that they had for the lanterns, and poured it over everything keeping five gallons to pour on the medical bags to ruin them for charlies use. I also decided to pour a lot of the last can on the newly built wooden coffins. I knew they would be madder about this than the loss of the supplies. I took out the small camera we all carried and took several rolls of pictures of the crates as well as the numbers on the sides that would give Intelligence a way to track where they had come from. I had a hunch that these had been sold to the black market by someone in the supply depot. I knew if I ever found out who had did it I wouldn't hesitate to shoot them immediately.

I called Chung in and got his and Roberts C-4 bricks and set those too. I planned on leaving nothing but a big hole where the cave used to be. I sent Chung for his men telling them I wanted the claymores set up at the valley entrance in the inverted c that I had taught them and to make sure they were well covered and wired to go off at the same time the trip wire was broken. Since we had plenty of them I said use them all and to make sure they were tilted one upward and followed by one downward. That way if they hit the ground they would still be killed by all the shrapnel flying at a downward angle. While I waited for them to finish I set the detonators in the blocks. The ones I had with me were preset for fifteen minutes so I had plenty of time to get my people away before this blew.

While I was waiting for Chung and his men to come back I broke the AR-7 down and put it back in my pack. All I had to do now was to pull the trips on the detonators as I ran out of the cave. I knew from this point on we would be running for our lives until we could get an airlift to get us out of Cambodia. Maybe we should lay up in the village Chung told me about, but something just didn't feel right about it. It wasn't that I didn't trust Chung, I had learned to go by my gut feelings, and it was telling me to steer clear of this village for some reason. We would lay a false trail like we were going towards the Air America base, and then go in a big circle, and see if we could get back to friendlier ground and call for evac.

When Chung and the men came back I called them over and told them of my plans. Chung never mentioned the village but I noticed I did get a funny look from him when I didn't mention it in our E&E route. I did split up the extra grenades I had and we all looked like walking grenade factories after hanging them all over us. I also had us split the extra blocks of C-4 to help lighten the packs a little. I knew when I blew the cave it would bring the patrols in to check it out so we would have to make time as well as watch out we didn't run into Charlie as we moved away from the area. I looked at my watch and it was almost 1730 hours so I sent the men to the treeline to wait, and I went in to arm the fuses. I went to the end of the cave and mentally brought up where I had set the blocks of C-4 and pictured myself running out as I pulled the timers. I took several deep breaths and started running and pulling as I went along. I got to the entrance and ran like hell for the treeline, and grabbed my pack from Roberts. I had it on, and we were almost running through the bush to get as far away as possible. We had just topped the ridge when I felt the ground beneath my feet trembling. I didn't even look back just kept pushing on to get as much distance as we could before we stopped to take a breather and have a drink. I was soaked and looked like I had been swimming by the time I just couldn't go on and called for a five minute break.

I kept the flankers out and Chung came back to say there was an open field ahead of us and what did I want to do?

"Go around, and keep an eye open for patrols. When we get back into the bush on the other side we will start our circle to head back toward Alpha. Chung tell your men to stay sharp because I want us to keep moving for at least two hours after dark before we stop for the night in a safe place if you can find one. We need to keep moving because they will be after us hot and heavy come morning."

"Not worry sarge, I find safe place. We all get home in short time."

He was true to his word and we slept in the middle of a thicket is what it looked like to me. We ate and watched two patrols pass during the night headed toward the area we had just come from. They didn't seem to be in any hurry either. We pushed on for two and a half days before we started running into wounded and scared looking VC headed into the area we had just vacated. We swung further out, and by the time we figured we were close to the border we hadn't seen but a couple of patrols. When we crossed the river I took a heading and swung us around to the south of the camp and then we made our way in from there. When we started up the ridge above the camp we run into a mortar team and took them out and destroyed their equipment before we moved on. I had us stop and got out my binoculars to have a look see at the camp just in case Charlie had been successful.

My first sight of the camp caused me to cuss under my breath. Everywhere I looked there were bodies in the wire and spread out inside the camp. I felt like puking when I saw all the bodies of our men stacked in body bags by the gate. I just handed the glasses to Roberts and rolled on my side breathing heavy to keep from vomiting all over myself. I sat up and took a drink from my extra canteen which was almost empty.

Roberts handed me back the glasses not saying a word. Chung held out his hand and I handed them to him. We all just looked at each other in shock before any of us spoke.

"Damn VC didn't get the camp but plenty of them die trying. I see many NVA as well as damn VC dead down there sarge. What we do now, go in or call for ride?"

"I think we better go in and lend a hand getting the bodies out. We can catch a ride on the last choppers out. Roberts, call in and see if they still have communication, and then throw smoke. Come on lets get the hell inside where there are some friendly faces."

We called in and threw smoke, and were let in by another Sargent. He told us he was in charge as all the officers were either dead or wounded. He said medivacs were on the way and should be here with relief and supplies in about an hour. We spent two days helping out with HQ raising hell the whole time wanting us in for a debrief. I finally got on the radio and told the operator we would be in when we thought we weren't needed here, and that the few days we spent helping wouldn't change our report. I got my ass chewed for not following procedure, but what the hell, all they could do was send me to the bush again. I did make it a point to go in immediately without showering as well as the rest of my team. That didn't go over very well but I told them I was following some assholes orders to come in as soon as we got back. The debriefing was short and I noticed several of the officers were trying to breathe through their mouths by the time we were in the closed up office for about ten minutes. Oh well another mission done with and another article fifteen for me. It was only the fourth one in the last six months, maybe I set a new record and didn't know it.

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