(July 1969 to July 1970)

I had orders to report to Fort Lewis, Washington on July 5, 1969.  As July 4th was a holiday I needed to fly out on July 3rd.  I reported to Fort Lewis, I believe, late on the day of July 3rd spending the holiday on post.  I flew out of McCord Air Base on July 5th aboard Saturn Airlines.  NBC news had a film crew at the air base filming the first withdrawals from Vietnam under Nixon’s plan of “Victory With Honor”.  I found the irony laughable.

Saturn Airline was a freight haul airline that had a contract with the military to haul personnel to and from Vietnam.  (I returned from Vietnam on Tiger Airline, also a freight hasaturn airuler.)  All of the stewardesses were, as I recall, motherly figures, meaning they were much older than the young men on the planes.  We were scheduled to fly from McCord to Hawaii to Okinawa to Vietnam.  We landed in Hawaii and spent several hours in a brick building with the only windows being at ceiling level, rectangular, and barred.  There were armed MPs at the only door and we were not allowed out of the building.
We departed Hawaii late in the day and head to Okinawa.  At some point, approximately half way, we developed engine trouble.  I recalled looking out of the window on the left side (port side) of the plane and seeing one of the engines dangling and flopping on the wing.  I thought my tour in Vietnam would be short.  We were diverted to Clark airbase in the Phillippine Islands, something about not wanting the mess up the runways on Okinawa with our dead, burned bodies.  B-52 bombers had to use these runways for bombing runs over Vietnam.

We stayed in a very old military terminal at the edge of the airbase for approximately 24 hours while they arranged for a plane to continue our flight.  The stay in this terminal was very uncomfortable and boring.  Again we were not allowed out of the building.
I assume I arrived in Vietnam sometime on  July 7th.  My first perception of Vietnam was of a body slap of steamy hot air that smelled of rotting pineapple.  I could barely catch my breath as the air was so stuffy.  I recall little of what happened next.  I assume I was processed in country and placed in a “conditioning unit” for three days.  I was then called to a formation at which time everyone was assigned to the division they would serve with.  When they called my name and told me I was assigned to the 101st Airbornaird4e Division, I was stunned.  I didn’t know that the division was not on jump status.  After the formation I went to the NCOIC and told him that there must be some mistake as I was not jump qualified.  He laughed and told me that it didn’t make any difference.  I was sent to Bien Hoa and spent a very short time there, maybe one night.  I was then sent north to Da Nang on a plane and on the chopper to Camp Evans where I reported to battalion and was assigned to Charlie Company.  I reported to Company headquarters and was assigned to the first platoon.  This was approximately July 11th.  I was issued an M-16 and a rucksack, poncho, poncho liner, etc.  The next day I was on a chopper the FSB Currahee.

I joined my platoon on FSB Currahee.  I only remember pulling guard at night and details during the day.  On the second or third day I was sent to the chopper pad for a detail.  Upon arriving, I was told to help unload several body bags of KIA’s from Delta Co.  I felt very uncomfortable.  I believe Delta Co. had eight KIA on July 11th or 12th and I think these were them. On FSB Currahee I remember there being a river nearby and going down to it for a bath.  After several days on Currahee, the CO, R. Moore, decided that as there were many replacements in the company, he would take the company out for a several day training patrol.  We walked out of Currahee heading toward Laos.  After walking all morning into the afternoon we were well into the mountainous terrain west of Currahee.  We began encountering numerous well travelled trails.  We began to follow one trail and as the slope up the mountain trail increased, we found that the NVA had planked steps into the trail and built hand rails for an easier climb.  I was completely stunned by this vision and remember thinking, “holy fuck Mike, you’ll never leave here alive”.

The A Shau Valley was a true hell on earth.  The enemy had built every mountain top, ridge, and hill into a virtual fortress from which they could ambush, fight, and when necessary, to withdraw to another defensive position from which they could begin the process over again.  My impression  of being on point, i.e. the point man and slack man, was that these people were expendable, their deaths were acceptable consequences of finding and engaging the enemy.  A very, very good and a very, very lucky point man may be somewhat successful but it was a real crap shoot.  I had spent a good deal of time exploring and hunting, as a boy, in the forests and wood of northern Wisconsin.  I found this experience quite helpful in Vietnam.  After my first patrol, an experienced sergeant approached me and asked if I had hunted “in the world”.  It was evident that my hunting experiences were obvious, were recognized, and would be valuable.  It also had the effect of moving me up to the point position, a real negative consequence.
I cannot adequately describe what it was like on this first patrol.  I thought I was in fairly good physical condition after basic training and infantry training, but I was so very wrong.  The weight of the combat gear and field gear was punishing.  Add to this the terrain (3,000-6,000 foot mountains), the heat in the 90+ degree range, and humidity that could be cut with a knife, and a man hovered near the point of passing out. 
To lift the amount of weight we carried was a daunting challenge.  I can remember times when it was impossible to pick up my rucksack and swing into it.  I had to lie on the ground, flip over onto my stomach next to a tree, and raise my body by pushing myself up on the tree truck.  To walk carrying this weight, a man had to lean forward at an angle that allowed that weight to help push the body forward.  A step allowed you to maintain balance without falling forward.  This became much more difficult when climbing or descending a mountain, ridge, or hill.  Keep in mind that you had to maintain absolute awareness of the surroundings at all times.

After this patrol, we returned to Currahee.  We were then sent into the bush on another patrol.  After a short  time, we were choppered to the air strip on the floor of the A Shau.  We were told we were going on a night ambush and to take only our combat gear and one C-ration meal as we would be returning the next morning.  We were CA’d  somewhere near Hill 937 (Hamburger Hill) and Hill 996.  Late in the afternoon the weather began moving in.  We set up an ambush position as night fell.  The rain began and it got very, very cold.   We got so cold we had to huddle to gather in groups of three hugging each other to keep from dying of hypothermia.  During the night, Moore received news over the radio that the USA had landed a man on the moon.  All I could think about was that if we could land someone on the moon, why could not they get us out of this shit hole.  At one point during this mission, we were informed that we were in the middle of an NVA bunker complex and we should get out.  We engaged in a night moveaird3ment.  It was very slippery as it was always raining.  I was on rear security.  It was a very dark night and if you strained very hard you could just make out the man ahead of you.  At some time during this move, I  must have stepped off the side of the trail and tripped on the lip of the entrance to a bunker.  Basically this was a hole with earth piled around it to keep the water out.  I slipped and fell head first into the hole.  As the NVA, on average, were smaller than my six foot stature, I became firmly wedged in the hole, upside down, with my arms pinned firmly against my sides.  I squirmed and wiggled put could not free myself.  I didn’t know what, if anything, inhabited the bunker but many things crossed my mind.  An NVA, a snake, or perhaps,  something worse could be down there.  To relieve this panic I squirmed and wiggled more and more frantically.  I finally managed to free one arm and pushed myself from the hole.  I don’t know how long it had been but when I stood up I was disoriented and completely alone.  I finally decided that when I had fallen, we were headed down hill so I headed in that direction.  After what seemed an eternity, I bumped into the man who had been in front of me.  Panic turned into anger immediately and I read him the riot act for not knowing I was missing.
I remember going out on, at least, two such missions.  On one of them, we were socked in for a couple of days and could not be extracted.  I often wondered if the planners of these missions ever consulted a weather forecast.  After a couple of days of this a chopper flew out a couple of cases of C-rations and threw them out through the canopy.  I got one meal.  It was canned eggs.  I was very hungry.  I took two spoonfuls of the green eggs and almost puked.  I threw away the rest of the can and ate what was left of the meal.

We were then extracted and taken back to the airstrip were we retrieved our gear.  We then joined a tank column and engineer outfit building a road up Hamburger.  At this point, I received my first letters from home.  I was very excited as mail call was the only connection soldiers had with the real “world”.  I chose a letter from my sister as the first to open as I wanted to save the letters from my parents.  She opened the letter with the line “I supposed by now you have heard that Banny (nick name for grandmother as my cousin could not say granny) died”.  As I sat amongst the toothpick sized, blown up trees near the top of Hamburger Hill, a couple of tears rolled down by face.  The shock and disappointment was overwhelming.  One of the guys asked me, “bad news?” and I replied that my grandmother had died.  He nodded knowingly and turned away to leave me with my grief.

When we reached the top, the mountain became a FSB with the tanks as artillery.  Ordered to dig defensive box holes I began digging about 10 meters below a tank position.  I dug approximately 18-24 inches and hit solid bed rock.  I piled wood splinters and dirt in front of the hole and hoped no one would shoot at me.  We went on patrol several days and pulled guard at night. I saw my first dead NVA at this time, a badly swollen body with maggots and insects crawling in and out of his ears, nose, and eye sockets.  The body smelled horribly.   We were then relieved by a company that was not from our brigade (501 or 505?).  We walked off Hamburger toward Hill 996 to the north.

As we proceeded up Hill 996, I remember we were in 11 fire fights the first three days.  It was ambush after ambush.  I believe in one of these ambushes Al Colletto was KIA and we had a couple of wounded.  When Al got hit I was up on point and he must have been 50 meters back in the column.  I still remember the sound he made.  It wasn’t a scream or a cry.  He got hit across the chest by automatic weapons fire and it was the sound of the air escaping from his lungs as the bullets hit his chest.  It made a god awful sound and was clearly audible from my point position.  I knew immediately that someone had been killed.  The wounded must have been severe as a medevac came in right on the spot.   There was just room enough in the river bottom for it to fit in.  As we waited I was looking to my right when I noticed a man put his rifle to his foot as though he was going to shoot himself.  I remember thinking, “oh shit, he isn’t going to do it”.  He did do it, as a second later he pulled the trigger.  As a result of this, the dust off could not take Al’s body as it was too heavy a load.  They left a stretcher and we had to carry Al’s body for several days.  As we went up the river bank there were four men on the stretcher.  I was on the left rear.  As the men in the front went up the slope with the stretcher handles at a high angle, all the blood that had settled into the bottom of the stretcher ran out the rear and flowed down the front of my uniform and body.  I wore this uniform until the next resupply which was 3 or 4 days.  It was very uncomfortable.  Where is the rain when you really need it.

At some point in this time frame, 1st platoon was called up to support another platoon or company that had been ambushed.  I walked past three dead GIs and proceeded some twenty to thirty meters down a trail on a narrow ridge.  There were two badly wounded men who had been shot across the middle by a machine gun.  I was sent down across a bombed out clearing (tooth pick type debris) to pull security.  As I found a position, an NVA mortar tube fired at our position.  The first round landed about 150 meters out from my position.  The next round landed 100 meters away.  The third round landed 50 meters away.  I found the largest log I could and crawled behind it waiting for the round that would kill me.  It never came.  I assume the NVA only had three rounds.  It was very late in the afternoon and the dust-off would not come in until morning so the two wounded had to spend the night.  I was called back up to the trail area and we set up a tight perimeter for the night.  As darkness fell the moans and groans of the wounded men became more noticeable and more audible.  As one of them kept begging, “Oh God let me die, please let me die, It hurts so bad” the other kept begging “mommy, please help me, I don’t want to die, mommy please help me”.  This went on all night long as their voices became weaker and weaker and by morning I was quite near crazy.  I remember asking myself several times during the night, “why doesn’t someone shut them up”.  I am sure Doc Jones was doing his best.  I am not proud of this.

At some point on Hill 996 we encountered an NVA bunker.  I assume we received fire from somewhere but I don’t recall.  I moved toward the front of the column to help set up security.  Some minutes later a call came out to pass my hand grenades to the top of the ridge as there was an NVA firing upon the column.  I did not like doing this because if I hump it, I use it.  Someone was throwing frags at this NVA like he was the last one on earth.  I would say that 15-20 frags were tossed to finally kill him.  I was told by men who witnessed this event that the NVA was trying to pick them up and toss them back at the GI's.  At some point one went off and blew most of his head off.  I was sent down with some others to investigate.  As I reached the dead NVA, I slipped and grabbed for an overhanging branch.  I felt something slimy and pulled my hand back.  I hand pieces of the NVA’s brain in my hand.  At some point along this ridge I was part of an assault on an NVA bunker.  We lined up across the ridge in two teams and made an assault, one team providing fire support while the other advanced.  Back and forth we went until we reached the bunker.  In the bunker were two dead NVA and one machine gun.  We had assaulted this bunker with two dead people in it.  They appeared to have been dead for a while.  I am sure we did not kill them during the assault.  During another ambush, I was up near point.  We were again ambushed in a river bottom.  I was caught in a small jungle clearing maybe 15 feet in diameter.  Above me was an NVA ambush with AK-47s and a machine gun.  The machine gun had me pinned down in this clearing and was shooting directly at me.  I could feel the rounds hitting the ground up and down my right side.  They were only inches from my body and the resulting impact with the ground caused the ground to fly up hitting my body.  The resulting impact of the ground on my body caused a stinging sensation and I felt every round as it hit the ground.  I remember thinking, “I wonder what it’ll feel like when I die”.  I played dead and the NVA redirected there fire somewhere else.  In a desperate attempt to find cover I moved back about 15 feet to the river edge.  The river bank had a four foot undercut that I sought to seek cover behind.  This spot was, however, occupied by a certain platoon leader and his RTO.  The officer began jabbing his rifle in my ass as he told me several times to “get back up there you chicken shit”.  They were hiding behind this river bank and I was a chicken shit!   I crawled back up into the clearing and the NVA again began directing fire at me.  Before the NVA machine gun could again find the range, first platoon began returning heavy fire on the enemy position.  After a few minutes of this intense fire, the enemy broke off the ambush and fled.  I still believe a certain Lt. owes me an apology.

After a couple of weeks on Hill 996, we were pulled back to the air strip on the floor of the valley.  We then went to Currahee.  At this time it was about Aug 16th or 17th.  Battalion wanted to send three six man recon teams to hill 996.

We left FSB Currahee at nightfall or maybe later.  We flew up to Hill 996 and the chopper turned on his landing light for a very short time as we neared an LZ of blown up  jungle trees and brush.  The LZ could possibly handle two choppers at once if both pilots had the balls to do it.  The six of us, Clegg, Williams, Hollar, Schiltz, J. Davis, and myself,  jumped into the darkness at approximately 11:45 pm.  I know the time because I was one of the few men who had a watch, a Caravelle (?) my parents had bought me before I left home (my father a WWII vet probably insisted).  The night was fairly bright as I remember I could see fairly well.  We moved about a hundred or two meters and set up for the night.  As first light broke on our world, we began hearing Vietnamese being spoken in the near jungle.  We moved into a better position around a huge jungle tree, maybe six feet in diameter, and reported this development to Capt. Moore.  After a brief duration of time waiting for a response, we were ordered to stay put and report and further developments.  I thought this was an odd “order” as no one spoke Vietnamese.  We set up a small perimeter and waited. 

Before we left Currahee, we had been told to leave any cigarettes, heat tabs for cooking, and anything else that could be heard or smelled at the FSB and go out light.  Several of us, if not all, smoked so after a day or two we were desperate for a smoke.  I ravaged my rucksack and found a pack of C-ration chesterfields (4 cigs).  I believe these were WWII or Korean War rations.  We lit and smoked them.  Because of their age, they were very, very harsh and burned my throat with the smoke but they were a fix.  We carefully dug small holes to bury our empty food cans and containers and, of course, our crap to keep from being detected by the smell.

During this time, we could hear the NVA talk and laugh all day long.  They were only about 50 meters away.  We heard their pots clang as they prepared meals, etc.  On Aug 20, 1969, at about 2:00 pm, we heard a commotion and a lot of noise.  We heard movement very near us and two or three meters to the right of our position, two NVA appeared, the first about ten feet in front of the second.  They each carried a 10 ft. bamboo pole on their shoulder on which hug approx. 25 canteens at each end,  about 100 canteens in total.  Jim Davis was a short distance to my right and slightly behind me.  As the first NVA past Jim, he shot the NVA with his M-16.  I wondered why he had shot as I didn’t think they had seen him.  I had been assigned an M-79 about a week earlier and had a canister loaded.  I immediately shot the second man.  Jim had evidently killed the first NVA put I had only wounded the second.  He crawled up the ridge a short distance and got behind a tree before I could reload and shoot again.  The jungle brush was very thick, more of a tangle.  The wounded NVA began calling to his comrades.  There was much commotion on the ridge and a whole lot of screaming amongst the men on the ridge and from the wounded man.  I tried to crawl forward and throw a frag at the wounded man to shut him up before he gave too much info to the men on the ridge but the brush was too thick to throw the frag.  I didn’t want it to hit a branch and bounce back on our position.  I crawled back the 10-15 feet to my position.  I looked around and understandably, everyone looked extremely tense.

At this point, the NVA opened up on us with automatic rifle and machine-gun fire.  As we were in a very small defensive position this fire was highly concentrated and very, very heavy.  SGT Clegg was on the radio with CPT Moore, reporting the situation and requesting orders.  I crawled over to Clegg, about 20 feet, and reported that the NVA had moved down-ridge from us and suggested we move.  Clegg agreed and motioned to everyone to withdraw.  I looked back to my position and noticed that I had left my ammo back at my old position.  I crawled back to get it.  When I turned around, everyone had withdrawn and I was by myself.

I immediately crawled to a big tree and started firing HE rounds into the tree tops hoping to suppress the enemy fire.  It worked briefly and I got into a sitting fire position and continued.   As I would reload, I would push myself back word with my feet and fire.  I continued doing this as I withdrew.  The enemy fire was ferocious at this time.  I could hear tens if not hundreds of rounds hissing within inches of my head.   I moved about 15 feet when I bumped into a rock.  To get round the rock, I had to move forward a couple of feet when a round from the enemy struck the rock and ricocheted into my tail bone.  I was lifted about 12-18 inches off the ground.  I hollered to the other guys “I’m hit”.  Clegg was again on the radio and told them he had a wounded man.  He then asked me where I was hit and I responded that I thought I was hit, it didn’t hurt at this point, and I said “in the ass”.  After relaying this info he asked if I could walk.  I said I didn’t know.  I was afraid to try because I knew if I couldn’t I would have to be left behind.  I tried to move my legs.  They moved and I took this as a signal to get the hell out of there.

I pulled back, as I continued to fire into the trees, to the edge of a bombed out clearing about 50 meters in diameter.  Clegg was in the bomb crater in the middle and I fired once and ran to the crater.  He asked how I was and I said “okay”.  He then followed the rest of the team.  I fired two or three rounds into the trees and then followed.  When I reached the other side the firing had stopped and Clegg and Williams were looking at a map and compass and Clegg was on the radio with a Cobra gunship that had shown up at the scene.  Clegg wanted the gunship to fire but the pilot would not because he didn’t know where we were and no one had a smoke grenade.  All our gear was left behind.  I always wore webbing with shoulder harness because just wearing the belt cut deeply into my pelvis bones.  I checked my webbing and discovered I had one yellow smoke which I immediately popped.  After this the gunship opened fire.  After he had expended all of his ordinance, he directed artillery fire on the NVA position.

Clegg and Williams then commenced to discuss which way we should go.  I looked across a gully to the next ridge and noticed a jungle clearing.  I told Clegg to tell the Cobra pilot that we would be at that clearing in 10 minutes (a very poor guess) and to have a chopper there to extract us.  It took us about 20 minutes to get to the clearing put the slick pilot waited right there for us.  Very brave man since there could be 100 NVA chasing us. 

When we reached the clearing we discovered that it was filled with 10-12 foot tall elephant grass and the chopper could not land.  The door gunner got out on the skid and reached down as far as he could and I jumped as high as I could.  The gunner grabbed my hand and pulled me up to the skid.  I then lay on the skid on my stomach and grabbed someone and pulled him up.  That man did the same and soon we were all in the chopper.

After this six man team was extracted from Hill 996 we were airlifted to Currahee.  Upon arriving, I was provided some minor medical treatment, tagged, and sent to the chopper pad.  There was one chopper leaving for the remainder of the day.  It was a Huey gun ship with rocket pods and machine guns mounted facing forward.  I was told to get on and I did.  I sat on the webbed seat that held three or four men.  The pilot looked back at me and asked where I was wounded.  I said, “in the ass”.  The pilot than told me to lie down on the seat and told three other men to get out.  I believe one of the men was going on his R&R.  I told the pilot I would sit.  I wasn’t about to have anyone stay there on my account.  The pilot took off and headed to the Army hospital.  I can’t remember where it was but I think it was the 85th Evac.  The pilot never got higher than 100 feet above the tree tops as he weaved in and out of ridges and valleys.  I was scared shitless and remember thinking that I just lived through all this crap and now this guy is going to splatter me all over the side of a mountain.

We arrived at the hospital and medics came out with a stretcher and took me inside.  I was put on an IV and then the hospital lost power as it was hit by NVA rockets.  The hospital staff could not even X-ray my ass so they called in a dust-off and took me out to the Hospital Ship Repose.  I was taken to a surgical ward and operated on.  The surgeon was annoyed to be sent this relatively minor case.  I didn’t think it was so minor.  I must have interrupted his evening dinner.  He began cutting on me before that anesthesia took effect and I rose about six inches off the table and screamed.  He then waited for a longer period of time.

I found the ship a very boring place.  The library was very limited and there was NOTHING to do.  No place to go.  The sailors fished from the stern but all I ever saw them creposeatch was sea snakes which are related to the cobra and are very poisonous.  They would slap them on the side of the ship to get them off the line.  Sometimes there would be a movie in the evening but as I couldn’t sit. I didn’t go.  At sometime during my stay I asked if I could get a pair of eye glasses as mine had been broken from falling off my face because of all the sweating I did.  They told me sure and asked if there was anything else they could do.  I complained about an old high school football injury to my left Achilles tendon.  About a week went by and one morning I was put on a surgical table and wheeled down to a very small clinic room.  I asked what was up and they said they were going to treat my tendon.  I looked over my shoulder and saw what was the biggest syringe and needle I had ever seen.  I asked them what they were going to do.  They told me to look straight ahead and I did.  They stuck this needle in my heel and all the way up my Achilles.  I nearly bent the steel table top from the intense pain.  They then pulled it out very slowly while injecting cortisone into the tendon.  The injection was just as painful as the needle.  After this treatment was completed I was asked if there was anything else I wanted treated.  I told them, “not a fucking thing”, and I meant it.  At some point on this cruise a typhoon was scheduled to hit the area and the ship was ordered to head away from the coast for open sea.  For three days we bobbed, rocked, and rolled.  Most of the patients became very sea sick and the surgical ward smelled of vomit.  I didn’t get sea sick but the smell of vomit made me gag.  All we got to eat for three days was saltine crackers and peanut butter.

I was the only army personnel on this ship.  The rest of the personnel were navy and marine.  At one point an eighteen year marine, who had been in Vietnam just a short time and had been married on his leave before shipping out, came into the ward.  He had had his penis shot off and all he did was cry.  They had taken part of a rib and grafted it in place were his penis was.  They told him he could still have children but this didn’t console him.  An old Navy nurse, a captain, would come by and scream at him to “be a man” and take it.  She was not sympathetic and I thought very cruel.  I wanted to tell her to go F--- herself, but didn’t.

After two weeks on this ship, the surgeons would do their rounds, they would consult on me.  They would all ask each other, “what do we do with him”.  A wound to the ass was supposed to be shipped home because of the necessity to use your ass to do practically everything.  After three weeks, one said, “why don’t we just send him back to the army”.  A real genius.  Evidently naval people couldn’t ship army personnel home.  After twenty three days they sent be back to “Charlie Co.”  When I got back the first sergeant was very surprised and told me he never thought they would see me again.  I reported to the battalion aid station as instructed and they put me on three weeks light duty.    
It was now approximately noon on the day of my return.  I reported back to the first sgt and asked him what I should do.  He told me to report to supply to see if they had anything for me to do.  The staff sgt in supply said he had nothing and he sent me to the mess hall.  The pricks at the mess hall had me washing pots and pans for eight hours.  Fine way to treat a wounded man, right!  I went back to the first sgt and told him so.  I also told him that I had heard the Company was coming to the rear the next day and that when they left for the field I would be with them.  I also told him what he could do with my light duty assignment.  He just sat in his chair with his mouth hanging open.  At this time I officially joined the KMA club.

When the company returned to the field after one night in the rear, I went with them.  There was, however, a problem.  I still had slivers of the bullet that wounded me in the tail bone of my ass and this is exactly where the bottom of the frame of my rucksack rubbedoc jonesd.  After a couple of hours I complained compassionately to the LT [Higgins] and the medic, Jones.  I told Jones he either had to cut out the slivers or call in a dust-off.  Higgins nodded agreement as Jones protested that it was surgery and wasn’t allowed to perform it.  After some discussion, Jones relented and took out a scalpel and cut out the two slivers.  After this I had no problem.

At some point around this time, Lt. Higgins needed a new RTO and he asked me if I would do it.  I said, “sure, why not?”  My career as an RTO lasted about a week.  We ran into a situation where what turned out to be single NVA fired a single round at us from an AK-47.  I instinctively dove off the trail head first as Higgins screamed “give me the hand set”.  I crawled back up the 2-3 meters to the trail and shoved the hand set toward his face.  This ended my RTO career and I resumed my point man position.

Around Oct 1st we return to Camp Evans and were deployed north to the DMZ to cover the pull out of the 3rd Marine Division from Vietnam.  These pull outs were a joke.  Only the Division name left Vietnam.  Any personnel with any amount of time left in country were reassigned to other units.  Anyway, we flew into an airstrip near a village called Mia Loc where there existed a miserable FSB.  It was a filthy spot which was also inhabited by giant dump rats.  We spent some time there, how long I don’t know but by Oct 5, we were out in the bush on a rocky hill I believe the marines called the Rock Pile.
We were walking along a well travelled trail and we went past several dead GIs lying along the trail.  I don’t know if they were from another platoon or a different company.  We passed forward and first platoon took the point.  I was slack man and we came to an area where the trail narrowed into a ledge about two feet wide with a very long drop to the right side.  We were told to proceed.  We went about ten meters along this ledge and a rock protruded out from the wall to the left leaving a gap of about three feet until the trail resumed.  The point man reached around the rock and while hugging the rock tightly, swung around it to the trail on the other side.  I followed suit but only got half way around the rock.   I remember opening my eyes and seeing tree branches pass by.  I then passed out again and woke up lying on my back, spread eagle across a pile of fairly large rocks.  I was looking up at the platoon.  Tom Williams was looking down at me, pointing at me and saying loudly, “look, he’s alive, look, he’s alive”.  I can only assume that the aluminum frame from, and the fact I was unconscious, saved my life.  Whoever was in charge, I assume Lt. Higgins, sent down a detail with Doc Jones.  Me, being in shock, I had stood up and was aimlessly wondering around.   Doc Jones came down with the squad and asked me if I was alright.  I told him my back “really hurts a lot.  “Doc” looked at me and told me, ”if you had stayed on the ground they would have to medevac you but you fucked yourself by getting up.  They won’t call in a dust-off if you can walk.”  This was comment was prophetic.

Someone at this time noticed that there was a cave in the immediate area and there was an initial investigation.  Some supplies and a lone NVA were discovered in the cave.  Someone threw in a CS canister grenade but as the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, we got gassed and not any enemy.  We may have been issued gas masks but no one carried them.  There were plenty of other things that were needed much more than a gas mask.  The captured supplies turned into a sizeable cache of enemy food and military hardware.  At this time we began receiving enemy artillery fire from, I assume, the other side of the DMZ.  The artillery fire was quite accurate as I was burned on my back by red hot shrapnel from the exploding shells.  We did not, however, have any casualties.  This all occurred on Oct. 5th, 1969 (check division yearbook 1969).

On October 9th, we apparently made a CA to somewhere.  I believe this is the point where, during the CA while I was sitting as one of the two men in the center of the slick, three rounds came up through the floor of the chopper and struck some engine components.  We had flown over an adjacent ridge at low level and taken the rounds from small weapons aimed at the bird.  The engine cut out and we crashed (more like a very, very hard landing) near the edge of the LZ.  If we had crashed 20-30 meters further out the incident could have been much worse as the chopper was at a precarious angle where it landed.  When the rounds came up through the slick’s floor, my mouth dropped open.  The door gunner was looking back and forth from the holes in the floor to my face.  His chin had dropped several inches also.  I instinctively grabbed between my legs to make sure everything was still in order.  As we hit the ground, the door gunner began screaming; “get out, get out”!  After running to the LZ and taking up a position, I looked back and watched as the pilot restarted the engine and flew away.  I was awarded an air medal on this date for meritorious action in aerial flight.

I remember being on a hill, I believe near Khe Shan.  We were there to begin the early stage of building a FSB.  The first afternoon, I and two other men were sent out on LP for the night.  Even before it got dark we began experiencing heavy movement in front of our position.  We had put out two claymores anti personnel mines.  The other two men wanaird6t to detonate the claymores and get back to our perimeter.  I won’t do it at that time and we waited.  Over the next several minutes the movement and noise got closer and closer.  I estimate that the movement was no more than 15 meters in front of us at this point.  The other two on the LP kept pleading to detonate and by this time I agreed and we fired the claymores and headed back to our perimeter.  When we got back, Lt. Higgins was furious with me and said, “Now they know where we are”.   I figured they already knew!  It was not quite dark yet in the clearing, and we began receiving incoming artillery fire, from across the DMZ or possibly from Laos.  I am not exactly sure of the geography of this position.  We were under artillery fire until dark.  The FSB was subsequently named FSB Shrapnel.

I also recall an instance where we were patrolling someplace up near the DMZ and the underbrush were very thick.  We often had to hack our way through thick stands of bamboo.  I was on point.  We broke through some bamboo thick and came upon a well used trail.  We followed the trail for quite a way and then broke into a very small clearing with canopy overhead.  In the clearing was a grass lean-to, a fire, and a pot with boiling water.  Evidently the enemy had heard us coming and had split only moments earlier.

This is all I can remember of the DMZ.  We returned to Camp Evans, I believe, on Oct. 31st.  I really have few memories of November 1969.  I have one; however, that I think occurred in November.  We received a replacement that was very big fellow.  He told everyone that he was really strong and could carry anything we had.  He volunteered to carry the M-60.  He soon found out that strength was the least of his needs.  Large men suffered more from the heat and humidity and smaller men.  This held true with this guy.  Anyway, we were CA'd into an area, I assume west of Camp Evans although it may have been up at the DMZ, and left the LZ and split into three groups, I assume squads.  After a short time some NVA managed to sneak up on one team that this new guy was pulling guard on.  I believe that we had a new platoon leader. The NVA fired an RPG into this position severely wounding this new man and the platoon leader.  We then called in a dust-off.  The medevac had to drop a basket down through the canopy and hoist the two wounded up through the canopy.  This took some time and the chopper was under enemy fire practically the entire time.  Again, balls of brass.  (I think this was still Charlie Co. but it may have been just after I transferred to Recon Platoon.
I think at the end of Nov. or Dec. we went to Camp Carroll for some reason or another.  I really don’t remember anything but filling a lot of sandbags and sleeping in a sandbag bunker at night.  Some time in very early December of 1969 I transferred to the Recon Platoon in Co. E.

As long as you are putting together this project, I have a very minor addition.

I recall a time the company, perhaps first platoon only if that ever happened, was granted a one night stand-down in the rear at Camp Evans.  It might have been last two weeks of Sept. '69 but I believe it was in November.

The company came in at the helicopter pad.  I remember looking across the pad and seeing a jeep and two men standing next to it.  I couldn't discern who these people were.  The company left the chopper pad and walked to the company area.  By the time we got there, I estimate about 5 minutes, CPT Moore was waiting and he was hotter than hell.  It turns out one of the men at the chopper pad was the division commander and not one man saluted him.  Moore chewed on us for what seemed like an eternity.

I never understood this as I would have needed binoculars to see who that man was. 

We were then provided with C-rations and were back on the chopper pad going out to the field within an hour of arriving and going back out to the bush.  Shortest stand-out in battalion history!

I was awarded my purple heart by a marine corp general who was visiting the ship. I gave my statement to a navy person (enlisted). I assume he was a ward clerk (something like a company clerk) and then the general, sometime later, pinned the medal on my blue hospital shirt. He looked at me, stepped back, and asked "what's wrong with you". I immediately responded, somewhat sarcastically, "I got hit on the other side, SIR!" Two or three colonels standing nearby grimaced and rolled their eyes. I thought to myself, "Christ Mike, why didn't you just ignore him." The general responded "Oh really!" I wisely said nothing. Someone then snapped a photo. Somewhere I have a photo of this event. It was sent to my parents and has been separated from my other photos ever since. Someday I or my kids, will open an old box of photos and come across it. I have not seen it for many years. In response to your question, I have never seen any orders for the purple heart but it is on my DD214. I suspect that the Navy must have some record but I wouldn't know where to look. The wound is mentioned in my bronze star award, however, and I have a copy of it.