...I need to make this clear, I do not tell Stories. Stories can be Made-up and untrue. My writings come from My Memoirs, as I experienced them, All True, as I remember them like it was yesterday. I have often described my experience as "I was 'Almost' killed 100 Times", in the year I spent there. The next writing is one of those times.
I only spent One Tour in Nam, subtracting the Christmas, I was sent home on 2 week emergency leave as my mother was dying from cancer. Then, honour dictated I return to Finish my 'Tour of Duty'.
This memory is true as the Nightmare it was.
'The Guard Tower'.
I left Oakland, my hometown on July 8th 1970 on a Commercial Flight; With a stopover in Hawaii, to refuel for the 22 hour flight. Then onto the Landing 'In Country' at Can Raun Bay RVN. They said the aircraft may have to 'Dive' into the airport, to avoid being Mortared. That did not happen. We landed at around 1500 Hours, and I was the first at the door when the attendant opened it.
My first sight of Vietnam. I describe it as being hit in the face with a 'Sledge-Hammered, Blast Furnace'! The Heat, but the Humidity was Incredible! All of that aside, the Stench! The smell was, I can only think, the Smell of Urine, Blood...Death. The Smell of Death! Can anyone ever get used to this smell? In time, the answer is Yes.
In Can Raun Bay, we were lead to a room and given our acceptance indoctrination. All I remember is, "You have crossed the international dateline, you have already Done a day of your 1 year tour.
We were all 'Casual', No assignment, No Unit, No Noth'in, yet. Waiting to be assigned to our 'Unit', we spent an entire week, cleaning barracks, marching, KP, some off-time, reading writing letters.
After one week, I was assigned, to where I wanted to be...the '1st Aviation Brigade', the Patch was Purple and Gold (my highschool Colors), the Patch with the 'Crow with Sword Up it's Ass'. I was then in Saigon.
I'am on a Huey flying South, My first time on a Chopper...but never My Last. We are heading to Soc-Trang, in the southern tip of Vietnam, where there really was No Action. The 'War' was mostly up North at Da-Nang, near the DMZ. I was assigned to the 16th Cavalry in the 307th Aviation Battalion. C Troop (AIR) 16th Cav 307th BTN, the 1st AVN BDE, to be exact. I was signed in, given my own cubicle in the Barracks. There were No other Soldiers Around, I found it very odd. I locked up My duffle, put a radio cassette player, my father had given me, in the top of the foot-locker, I had no lock for it. I went to mess, returned and the Radio had been stolen. I went and Showered. It was strange, I saw No-One!! My cube was on the top floor, near the North end...I went to the rear fire escape landing, and looked North. Jungle, Rice Patties, Wire fencing, and then pitch black, Silent, No Lights nothing to see. The night was humid, I don't remember hearing anything. I thought to myself, so This is Vietnam!?
The next morning the Maintenance Sargant shows up, and with Me in Brand-Spanking New, Jungle Fatigues, we head over to the Hangers of the Huey and Cobra Gunships. The hangers were simple OD Green canvas covered, half-round, Quonset Huts. My first job, I was told to work with this Team. I was un-bolting panels to get to and replace a rubber fuel bladder, that had been shot up with holes through it. A couple more days of learning the Hueys, unbolting more panels, inspecting and Maintaining Flight Controls...remember I was trained on Chinooks. The Huey Pilots were known as 'The Four Horsemen' (of the Apocalypse). The 'Darkhorse' reads on our Chest patch. These men flew as 4 Huey gunships, escorted by 2 Cobra Gunships, always two, always, you'll see why in a future chapter. They fly 'Hunter-Killer' Missions, as 'Slicks' some rescue, Extraction/Insertion Missions Mostly Enemy Equipment Destruction!! And Making the Viet-Cong Disappear in a 'Red-Mist'.
10 Days in country, July 19th 1970...and I am told you are on guard duty tonight. I check out my M-16 and report to the Guard tower at sunset. The Tower was a wooden shack with a roof approximately 30 to 40 feet up in the air. A wooden ladder gets you up through a trap door in the floor with hatch that is closed off, so an inattentive idiot doesn't fall through. Getting Dark of Night, I climb up to 'make an appearance'. I am greeted by one fellow American soldier, a Black Soldier. His name tag reads GOOCH. There are 7 South Vietnamese soldiers there with him, we are all in our jungle fatigues, his are very faded, he has been In Country a Very Long Time. In the south, we worked mostly with the South Vietnamese Army, very rarely would I see American Infantry.
There was more room up in the Tower than it looked, about 15 by 15 feet, there was dim lighting, or only the glare from night flood lights into the jungle. Our weaponry was a single M-60 machine gun, mounted on a tripod and with 'Butterflys'. Pointed 'Due North' into the Blackness. Plenty of 7.62 ammo. All had there M-16's.
Now 'the Fun' begins. After some time, Gooch, who I believed was in charge, tells me to "wake up the Soldier sleeping in the Hammack. It's his turn to guard". Big Mistake!! I walk over to the hammock and just tap him on the shoulder and said, "Time for your shift". Immediately his eyes are wide open, like he was never asleep! This south Vietnamese Regular, PISSED Fn OFF!! Jumps out of the hammock puts on his helmet, grabs his M-16, already loaded with a Mag, chambers a Round. As I am backing up to the East wall, he puts the weapon on full automatic and points it directly at my Belly! This man was Big! Their Leader, a Bully, and mister...he was Angry. It was clear he Hated Americans, and I am sure he had good reasons, too.
I stayed calm, I believed I was about to be Executed! There was nothing I could do, but prepare to die. With his left hand, he points to the floor, demanding I get on my knees. I tell him No, you want to kill a American soldier, you're going to kill Me Standing up and on My feet! He just about to Pull the Trigger! NO sooner did I get those words Out...than in a Flash, an Eyeblink!! Gooch, a Tall Man, picks up the M-60, from it's mount, grabbing it by the handles and forearm, Ammo Belt and all, Holding the Heavy Weapon Above his head, and with all the Power that GOD gave this Black Man, He SLAMS the Flash Suppressor Muzzle into the Viet Soldiers Helmet!! I mean, he hit him Hard, VERY Hard! hit him to Kill! His Helmet went flying, The guy went Down, down and out. Probably Snapped his neck. I don't know if he was unconscious or Dead! I didn't give a shit, Gooch Just saved my life! I asked Him "what the 'F' "?? Gooch replies..."That Mother F-er has been F**kiN with me for Over a week! I've just been waiting for him to be distracted!" I replied "I'am happy I could be of Help".
The rest of the night was 'Routine', 'Normal'. Now Bored, I noticed that someone had taken apart a M-79 grenade. Looks like a Huge Shotgun Shell. I have learned 'Touch Nothing!!' especially do not touch abandoned ordinance, there is a very good chance it has been 'Booby-Trapped'. There were loose Lead balls, I picked one up, it looked like the perfect diameter. I pulled a 5.56 shell out of my 16 mag, I wiggled the Bullet loose, and pulled it out. I dumped out half the powder, my assumption was correct! With My thumb I could easily squeeze the Lead ball into the Neck of the Shell. I chambered the Custom made cartridge into my m-16, and leaning over the wall of the tower, looked for a Target. There was a beer can in the wire below, and out a ways, I took am and fired. The shot worked. It did not break the sound barrier, not much more than 'phoomp', A direct Hit to the Can, did Not penetrate. From the Bunker down at the ground level, and to the right...an American Soldier comes over to their wall looks up at me and askes "Did You see Something??" I replied "Test Fire".
I looked back into the Tower, Gooch and I had ignored the other Viet Soldiers. They had put the 'Big Guy' back in his Hammock, and were standing, sitting around him 3 on Each side. They were Scared, really Scared! Their 'Leader', I believe now, may be dead. He had a Smile on his face!
Gooch and I talked all night long. Turns out, He also grew up in Oakland California. We were now Brothers in Arms, for Life.
I only spent the One night on guard. I never saw Gooch again, nor did I ever hear any repercussions about this incident. In retrospect I think, the Bully had been pulling this shit for a Long Long time! Only One Night with Spc-4 JACK, and he turns up Dead! The Legend begins!
In the Future, in Later Months, the 'Blacks' started referring to me as 'Blue-Eyed Soul'. A title I accepted with respect and Pride.
I thought to Myself...'Marlin Welcome to Vietnam' It's going to be a Long Year, but Most Interesting!
Next Chapter 5 'Shot Down Cobra Gunship' Marlin performs in the AO repairs.
Pictures to follow.