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VIETNAM: MY EXPERIENCE

John R. Duncan Jr. - Marines

Our platoon was brought ashore by the old green grasshopper choppers and dropped off on a ridge inland of the beach. We set up a perimeter and began digging our foxholes. After about a half-hour of two of us digging out the same hole, we had dug down about seven inches into the rock. Everyone else was having the same luck, so we did not feel so bad.

There was a stream at he bottom of the hill that meandered between the mountains on to the sea. We heard a rifle shot and were told that someone thought he had seen a VC next to the stream and had fired at him. Hey, we are Marines and all of us fired. We also heard (in a loud voice) what the lieutenant told everyone about holding their fire. Just before dark, we received several incoming mortar rounds and everyone dove for their indention. I do not remember who my partner was but both of us were trying to get into the same seven-inch deep hole. There isn’t a lot to do while you wait on it to stop. I remember thinking that I might be able to get a little lower in the hole if I did not have my belt buckle on or the buttons on my shirt. The rest of the night was uneventful.

Later in the operation we took up positions not far from the beach. I remember the sand was so fine that it got into everything. Anything that had oil on it had sand stuck to it.

Our squad was chosen to go on a patrol. It was to run parallel to the beach and about a mile inland. In addition to our radioman, we also had an artillery radioman. The squad was not assigned anyone from weapons platoon, as well as I can remember. It was not a bad patrol, as patrols go. We did not see many civilians, mostly women and children. We found a few holes and closed them up.

Later, the patrol stopped and the word came back that the point had spotted about six VC sitting in front of a hut in the village that we were approaching. The word was passed that we were going to move into position and then attack. Before we could move up, the point got excited and opened fire on the VC. None of them were hit and they scattered. It was not to be a good day after all.

We moved onto the trail that went through the village and came under fire. We returned fire and in no time we had two Marines wounded and possibly dead. We were now pinned down. They were in front and to the sides of us. We would later learn that they had tunnels everywhere.

The squad leader was able to contact air evac for the wounded, but the site was too hot for them to land the first two times. The pilots radioed us that they could see more VC converging on our position. The chopper was finally able to land in the rice paddy between our position and the hedgerow to get the wounded. You could hear the rounds hitting the chopper. Those guys must have had nerves of steel, among other things.

While all of this was happening we were still trying to get word to Echo Company that we had a problem. With the help of our radioman and the chopper pilots relaying messages, they were finally able to contact our company. I was unaware of this at the time and was somewhat concerned about my future at that point. My fire team was covering the rear flanks. I had continued to fire into the hedge-row area (about 300 feet away) as the choppers picked up the wounded. I had now used up about all of my extra ammo as had the other members of the squad. Since the wounded were now evacuated I expected that we would try to move back toward the beach and find better cover. I never did understand why they did not come at us from the right flank. Maybe they were waiting on their reinforcements to arrive.

Just as I was running out of promises to the Lord, if he would get me out of there, several amtrac vehicles came busting through that hedgerow. The platforms dropped and out poured Echo Company. John Wayne has never made a more exciting entrance. If it had not been detrimental to my health, I would have jumped up and cheered.

The company quickly moved into position and pushed forward. Part of the company was online with the CO, while others were cleaning up behind us. Our squad was on the trail just behind the CO. There was a trench that ran along side the trail and it was well maintained. The CO said for someone to check it out, so I jumped in. The left side toward the paddies was lower then the side next to the trail and I could see the company moving forward. The right side, next to the trail, was head high and I had to look up to see the squad. As I moved along the trench I noticed an opening, on the right, going back under the trail. I yelled that we had a possible tunnel just ahead. The CO said to keep the line moving and to have the fire team behind ours check it out. I heard several Marines jump into the trench about 200 feet behind me. I approached the tunnel and as a Marine stood above me to my right, watching the entrance. I could see that it went in to the left and then sharply to the right. There were bare footprints just inside, and all along the trench. I had not gotten more than 10 or 12 feet away when a rifle went off twice. I ducked and turned around. There lay a VC just outside the entrance of the tunnel. He had come out behind me and the Marine on the trail had shot him. I can not tell you that Marine's name today, but I remember using his name at that time, saying thanks and moving on down the trench as if it was just another day in the paddies.

We came to the end of the village path and someone had put up a bamboo barrier. All of the firing had stopped. The barrier was checked and removed. We only went a short distance from there and waited on orders. Some of the huts had caught fire and the CO passed the word to make sure it was not our men doing it.

The tracks came up and we got on board. I crawled up on a tank for the ride back to the beach. An hour earlier I was lying on a path, concerned about my butt sticking up too high and now here I am sitting high on a tank smoking a Pall Mall. Life is good.

I was later given my own squad and promoted to sergeant.



 


 



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