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May 18th Firefight

 

Perspectives

Dave Bowman
Bill Barber
Mike Price
Bill Hardin
Willis Padgett
Cypriano Garcia
Bill Blevins
Don Aguirre
Howard Wilson
Harold Jensen
William Martin

James Crenshaw

Bill Hardin

     B Company had just, that very day, been air lifted by helicopter out of the A Shau Valley where they had been for some time and had taken many casualties.  The 1st squad that we had been sent into as replacements had lost about 1/3 of its men.  They had looked upon coming to this new area as "break time".  The company had been in this general area before and had not had much trouble here.  My guess too, is that being so close to LZ Sharon, most expected to be pulled in to Sharon for a 2 or 3 day "stand down" to relax a little bit and clean up.  Though this was slated for later, it was not to be quite yet.

     The old timers were tired and battle weary and they were looking forward to a peaceful night near their foxholes.  There was some bitter grumbling when the order for a night ambush came down to the 1st squad; not so much for the danger, but for the hassle and sleeplessness.  The order was accepted though, and Pitts drew Sloan, Christianson, and I around the foxhole he was digging and we all discussed what was going to take place.  The one thing I remember being decided was that there was no way in Hell we were going south for 2 kilometers and then west 1 as the order called for.  We would go just out of sight of the company perimeter and lay low.  We would set up our ambush, but we wouldn't do it in the spirit of the rear echelon officers who planned these missions from their comfortable quarters.  This was the first time I heard the term "Search and Avoid" (instead of "Search and Destroy").  It had been about 3 months since Tet of 1968, which history has shown was the major turning point of the war, and there was no will to kill, or be killed.

     We started out from Pitt's foxhole (which a few guys from another squad were now occupying) at about 8:00 p.m. in more or less total darkness.  We moved about 200 meters south and just down a little drop in the landscape where we set up an "L" shaped ambush on the same dirt trail upon which we had been traveling.  We set up a watch schedule and then we waited.  For about 4 hours we saw and heard nothing.

     There were 2 parts to the ambush order.  At Midnight we were to pull back to the nearest available hill and set up a circular LP/OP (Listening/Observation Post).  Pitts had neglected to tell me that it was esoteric "grunt" SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) never to move at night if it wasn't absolutely necessary.  None of the old timers in the squad expected to move that night, but I was uninformed and at Midnight I innocently gave the order to "saddle up" and get ready to move.  Pitts gave me a sort of sick, questioning look.  Maybe he was intimidated by my rank, or maybe he was silently berating himself for not including this "no night movement" information earlier around the foxhole.  In any case, he offered no information now, and we moved.  It took us only about 15 minutes to move the 50 or so meters to the east, to a little knoll that would suffice for our LP/OP.  Again we set up a watch schedule, and since I wasn't on, I went immediately to sleep.  Nobody else seemed to be expecting anything, so I didn't either.  Nor did I have any reference point for anything.

     At about 2:45 a.m. Christianson heard movement to his front and passed the word back to Pitts as he was used to doing.  Pitts reported nothing to me and moved up to Christianson's position to see what was going on.  In a few moments he heard movement too, and close, and told Christianson to get ready to move out.  Pitts then went around to the other positions, told them about the movement, and to get ready to move back to the company perimeter.

     At about the same instant that the men of 1st Squad started to move, the NVA attacked quickly and straight ahead with small arms and satchel charges (grenades with no shrapnel - because of the close combat).  The whole 1st squad was now at a mad run for the perimeter, some turning their weapons behind and firing occasionally.  I believe Christianson was the only one to fire while still facing the enemy.  His position was nearest to the attacking "Sappers" (we learned later), and he was the most heavily laden with the M-60 machine gun.  In any case, at some point of his firing and getting up to run back with the others, he was shot once in the chest and was found dead the next morning in his position of the night before.

     The next man to get hit was the RTO (Radio Telephone Operator).  The radio was given to a new guy for the purpose of freeing up the more effective old timers in case of a fight.  After no more than 10 hours in the field, he was severely wounded and unconscious.  Doug Sloan saw this happen, stopped his run to the perimeter, and went back to see if he could help the wounded man.  Before he could even ascertain whether the man was dead or alive, 2 or 3 NVA came up on him and the wounded RTO.  The RTO was already out and Sloan played dead while one of the NVA held an AK-47 to his temple and the others searched the 2 downed GI's.  The NVA took their weapons and left (Sloan was always amazed that the guy didn't shoot).  When Sloan couldn't hear anymore movement he called the company on the radio which was still working due to enemy incompetence.  He was told to sit tight so he could help direct artillery, mortar, and helicopter gunship fire.  For the next couple of hours he did just that and had to direct some of the ordinance extremely close to himself and the RTO.  When things settled down toward morning, Sloan carried the RTO, alive, back into the company perimeter.

     Sloan got a Silver Star for his actions that night and though the report stated that it was for directing artillery and dragging the wounded man back with him, it has always been my opinion that his real act of courage was his conscious decision to turn back into the oncoming enemy    and stay with the wounded man while everyone else was on a mad run    for the perimeter.  Nobody I knew there ever doubted Sloan's courage or compassion.  I wonder though, if he didn't doubt his own.  He told me later in a personal and secretive way that he had heard Christian-    son moaning and calling for help all night.  Sloan was the only one in any position to help and didn't.  Sloan and Christianson were good friends, and Sloan was part of the patrol the next morning, as was I, that found Christianson, still warm and limber, just having died of a simple  chest wound that  he easily could have recovered from had he been  treated.  Christianson had been the best liked man in the squad and he was missed terribly.  The 2 or 3 bitter, angry letters from his mother that came to our platoon in the next few months asking "Why" didn't help anyone, least of all Sloan.  I know Sloan took Christianson's death personally, guiltily.  I know it ate on him.  Sloan was a little bit crazy before he died a couple of months later; explosive anger, more and more irrational, fixed bayonets for him and his squad at all times, the angry red bandana he wore constantly.  A very good man driven past his limits.

     Some of the other men from the squad were also caught outside the perimeter that night due to being wounded and not being able to move.  The men I am sure got back in were John Pitts, Randy Baynard, Gary Broas, James Newsome, and James Boe.  This left only 4 un­accounted for - they were all the new replacements and they were all wounded so badly that they never came back to our unit after this unbelievable first night in the field.          

     John Pitts told me the next day that he shook me and thought he had awakened me.  My experience of that night was this: I awoke in a dreamlike haze to the simultaneous sounds of rustling brush, as if in a strong wind, small arms fire, and several extremely loud and large explosions.  The rustling brush was certainly my own men and the NVA running past and over me on their way to the perimeter.  The loud explosions were 2 satchel charges that must have gone off very near me as Gary Broas, one of the first men back to the perimeter, reported to have turned to fire at the NVA and seen the satchel charges go off and blow me to bits.

     The truth is that I awoke completely unharmed.  Lying flat on my back, the force of the charges must have gone over me.  I calmly took the towel off my face that I used as a shield for mosquitoes, groggily rolled to my side, perched on my elbow and looked all around.  I was completely alone.  Slowly and dreamily I got into a one leg up, crouching, night firing position and searched for my M-16 rifle.  When I found it, I picked it up, held it in a waist high firing position and waited.  For a few moments nothing happened so I searched around for the Claymore bag in which I had about 4 or 5 grenades.  I had slept with my M-16 ammo in a bandoleer around me, but the bag of grenades was lumpy and uncomfortable, so I had taken it off.  I was still groping around in the darkness when something to the southeast caught my eye.  I saw movement in the direction I remembered Christianson's position being.  I trained my eyes and weapon in that direction.  In a few seconds I was able to make out two bare heads bobbing up and down, sort of comically, as they moved directly toward me.  I remember an intense wish that they would veer off.  I stayed low and made sure I was below the horizon line.  These two bobbing heads moved closer and closer, and I could see more and more of the upper part of their bodies.  I remember I considered the proper "night firing position" that I had learned in training and also consciously considering whether to put my M-16's selector switch on semi or full automatic.  I chose full automatic, readied myself, and waited.  They were now only about 10 meters away and I could distinguish their weapons.  As they bobbed up and down, I could see them both clearly from about the thighs up.  In a few more seconds they were so close, about 5 to 7 meters, that I began to distinguish their features.  There was nothing more to wait for.  On about the 10 hour of my very first day in the field, completely alone in the middle of the night, I did what I was trained to do - I "sprayed" them on full automatic with a full 15 round clip from my M-16.  They both went down without returning fire.

     Despite all of my father's war stories from WW II, all the John Wayne movies, and the whole year of training and indoctrination I had received from the Army to be a 111 B "killing machine", I still wasn't prepared for the actual reality of killing people.  The instant I pulled the trigger, heard the loud reports, felt the recoil, saw the muzzle flashes from the weapon in my hands, my dreamlike state vanished and was replaced by an excruciatingly painful hyper awareness.  Instantly the war had become a reality to me, and a piercing, palpable fear took hold of me.  Moments after the 2 enemy soldiers went down I came to my feet, tingling and feeling a cold sweat beginning.  Of a sudden, from somewhere deep inside me, a strange, woeful sound emanated and I ran from the scene of the execution.

     I don't remember having a thought about running toward the company perimeter; I was just running "away".  As it turned out, I was running parallel to the perimeter, more or less in the direction of the ambush site where the 12 of us had been no more than a couple of hours before.  Somewhere before reaching this site I lost my M-16.  I was running so fast and hard when it snagged on a bush that my feet flew out from under me and I landed flat on my back a few feet from where it left my hand.  I low crawled back and looked through the thick bushes to try to retrieve it; I hadn't yet noticed the strips of flesh torn from my fingers and palm.  I was searching for no more than half a minute when I heard movement very nearby.  I searched frantically for another few moments, then more movement.  Again I bolted.  Without even noticing, I ran across the road on which we had set up our night ambush and was about 20 meters on the other side when I tripped and tumbled to the ground.

     I rested for a few moments catching my breath, trying to catch my wits, could not, and was about to get up again to run when I heard, slightly to my left front and no farther away than 10 or 15 meters, clear and distinct Vietnamese voices.  Although they were talking low I could hear every syllable they pronounced.  Then, one of them raised his voice as if hailing me.  I said nothing.  He hailed me again.  Again I said nothing.

     After a brief silence, the next thing I heard was 2 or 3 small, dull thuds on the ground around me.  I knew what was coming, so I prepared myself.  Seconds later came 2 or 3 loud explosions very close to me.  Immediately 2 or 3 more satchel charges were thrown at me, and again the deafening explosions.  I had not recovered my grenades at the LP site before the 2 enemy troops started coming toward me, and I had lost my M-16 just moments before.  I was completely defenseless, but to bolt again now would mean certain death, while laying there seemed to mean the same thing.  I was frozen with gut wrenching fear.

     The men on the perimeter about 150 meters away noticed the commotion out my way and began tentatively firing in my direction.  Then the NVA opened up.  I could see 7 to 10 of their muzzle flashes even through the heavy brush as I lay there facing them.  As the Company saw where to direct their fire, the whole southwest section of the perimeter opened fire.  As the intensity of fire from the perimeter increased, so increased the fire from the NVA.  I lay directly between and totally exposed to it all.  The sound was like that of about 3 dragsters at a racetrack starting their unmuffled engines in succession.  The ground around me and the very leaves and branches of the bushes I was hiding in took the impact of many of those bullets.  I lay frozen, every instant seeming an eternity, as 40 or 50 weapons fired back and forth at each other over and around me.

     Eventually there was a lull in the firing.  Both sides were probably reloading and re-evaluating.  My fear began to remobilize me and I knew that if I was ever to get out of here alive, I would have to move.  I felt groggy and my mind was hazy as if I'd been drugged.  Slowly and without much caution I got up to my feet and started toward the road.  I perhaps hadn't even taken a step when the NVA spotted me and started again firing at me.  I was ridiculously close to them.  Their muzzle flashes made visible to me their heads and the upper part of their bodies.  Almost immediately the company perimeter opened back up firing at full intensity.  I remember turning my head 180% and seeing the 30 or so muzzle flashes from the perimeter.  The sound of all those bullets breaking the sound barrier as they passed by my moonlight outlined body sounded like bacon frying, though amplified about 1000 times.  My knees buckled and I dropped back down to the ground.

     My psyche had had all it could take.  The incredulity of my not being hit during this last volley reduced me to a puddle on the ground.  I lay there reciting the Lords Prayer and waited to die.

     Although shorter in duration, this second volley was as intense as the first.  Again there came a lull.  This lull in small arms fire, however, was replaced by the sound of nearing helicopter blades as they approached.  I was beyond being able to think, feel, or do, so I just lay there awaiting the next scene in this incredibly bad movie.

     After the firefight I learned from Doug Sloan that he helped direct the gunships' attack.  We became quite close friends in the next couple of months, but I never knew whether to thank him for his night's efforts because I was still alive, or to curse him for almost killing me.  In any case, stuck  out where he was with a radio, he was in a perfect position to help direct the attack.  His line of sight was almost a perfect 90% from the line of sight of the company perimeter, and together they were able to pinpoint the enemy's position.  The enemy position, however, was basically my own position, and since I was reported dead at the LP site there was no reason for the gunships to be on the look out for any friendly troops.

     As the ARA (Aerial Rocket artillery) gunships came swooping down, criss-crossing the area with their rockets and 2000 round a minute "mini guns", any small vestige of hope I might have had of surviving this night vanished.  The rounds from the mini gins were hitting the ground so close to me at times that the dirt they kicked up was stinging my face.  One of the rockets hit so close to me that the incendiary from it started my clothes smoldering.  From several of them I could feel the heat and concussion from their explosions, and from all of them, even with my eyes clinched tight, I could see their red, fiery flash.  I don't remember feeling much at this point, except being "one" with the intensity.  I wasn't praying, I wasn't hoping, I wasn't thinking at all.  I was just sort of attentively waiting.

     Abruptly it stopped and there was silence except for the receding sound of the helicopters.  Slowly my mind came back from where it had been, and what I remember feeling was surprise.  I tentatively investigated my physical state and found I was unscathed.  I listened around me and heard no noise whatsoever.  I began again to hope, and as each moment passed my hope became stronger.  At one point I remember forming the words in thought, "Dear God, if you let me out of this one, I'll do anything you want".  I put a cigarette in my mouth, tore a match out of a C ration matchbook, held it to the striker, and waited like this for about an hour until dawn.  I was a small town surfer kid from California.  My delusions about being a hero in glorious war were dead.  Born was a spiritual and psychological confusion that would live for many, many years.  (The total confusion of the Viet Nam war took the entirety of my tour of duty to form, and it involved more than just the trauma of the possibility of my own death.  Other vital ingredients were the real deaths of my friends, and maybe even more, the senseless deaths of so many Vietnamese civilians.)

     At dawn I lit my cigarette and though I don't remember, it must have tasted good.  At about the same time I heard tense and anxious voices from the perimeter as the company aroused.  Very shortly there were patrols sent out.  I was found by my own platoon.  When I heard them nearing me I called out, "Hey, don't shoot, over here".  Lt. Blevins called back tensely, "Put your hands up and come out slowly".  I put one arm up and very slowly, raised first my head, and then the rest of my body.  I came up to 8 or 10 M-16 muzzles pointing straight at me. Behind each weapon was a ghastly mask, a combination of hate, fear,            and youth.  They were doubly confused as hardly any of them recog­nized me as I was so new to the company, and the ones that did had heard that I was dead.  They treated me oddly.  I pointed out to Lt. Blevins where the enemy troops were firing from. He sent a couple of men over and they found 3 or 4 bodies.  We moved off toward the LP site.  On the way I stopped and pointed out the area where I had lost my weapon.  The whole patrol looked for it for a few minutes, but we came up empty handed.  We moved on to the LP site.  Oddly enough, we found another lost or abandoned M-16 with a serial number that was not on record as belonging to anyone in our company. It was given to me and I carried it for the rest of my tour.

     And we found Danny Christianson's body - limp, warm, and with fresh blood on his single chest wound.  He was just very shortly dead.

     We also found a dead NVA soldier in the area where I had fired off a magazine of M-16 rounds the night before.  He was lounging back against a sort of tall reed type bush, different than most other bushes in the area, as if he was taking a nap.  His eyes were closed, his face was expressionless, and he was generally unmarked.  The only thing to differentiate him from someone sleeping was the small, clean bullet hole directly above his left eye.  Before I could say anything, John Pitts claimed the "kill".  He said that as he was retreating, he turned around, shot the guy, and saw him fall.  I said nothing; it could be true.  The doubt, then, and especially now, gives me some relief.

     We searched the body of the NVA soldier.  Among other things, we found in his wallet a picture of him, his wife, and his 2 kids.  They were all happily smiling and full of hope.  It was a back yard type of picture - one that could have been taken in any similar back yard in the USA.  He was a skinny, tall young man quite similar to any of us who were standing around looking at him.  No feelings of hatred were inspired in me toward him.  I was unable to feel hatred toward the enemy during my whole tour.  All I felt from then on was the waste.

     When we learned all we could at the LP site we moved northeast and started down a small ravine.  Not far down we heard a loud cry of, "Cheu Hoi!, cheu hoi!"  "Cheu Hoi" means "Open Arms" in Vietnamese and it was the American policy of taking in defectors from the other side.  It was "Grunt" policy to kill them on site if given half the chance.  There were many stories of Cheu Hoi's being "re-educated" and sent back out to the field as a "Kit Carson" guide only to act as a double agent for the VC or NVA and lead a company just such as ours to its doom.  At best they were mistrusted; at worst they were hated.  Some one of us yelled something back at him, and as soon as he made himself visible a couple of guys emptied their magazines at him.  He went down, yelling more frantically, "Cheu Hoi, cheu hoi!"  When we got to him he was wounded in the foot.  He was an humble looking little guy and nobody had the cold bloodedness to kill him now.  He was lucky.  We took him back to the perimeter and a medic bandaged his foot.

     It was now about 2 hours after dawn and most of the other patrols were also on their way back into the perimeter.  The enemy dead were being piled into a single pile.  It was a particularly grizzly sight.  The helicopters must have got most of them as they were torn, mangled, and dismembered far beyond what small arms fire could do.  A picture that remains in my mind from that scene was that of Randy Baynard loosing grip time and again from the shred of uniform of one of the more badly mangled dead soldiers he was trying to drag to the main pile.  Randy was very upset as he had been good friends with Danny Christianson.  When Randy had lost grip on the shred of uniform for about the third time, he took the entrenching tool he was carrying, pick extended, raised it as if he was going to impale the body to drag it more efficiently, remained poised like that for a few moments, and then broke down into tears.  He cried for a short time, put the entrenching tool back in his left hand, and finished dragging the body to the main pile.

     The "log" birds came with a resupply of ammunition, water, and we were treated to a hot breakfast this morning.  I ate my bacon, potatoes, and reconstituted powdered eggs not more than 20 feet from the pile of 11 dead NVA soldiers.  Between bites I would look up and see some of the men from the company file by, rip the Cav patches off their shoulders and embed them in the gaping holes in the dead bodies.  During all this, perhaps right after I finished my breakfast, someone offered to take my picture.  It is the only picture I have of myself from my whole tour.  I am standing so close to the bodies that my left elbow is cut off in the picture (by my request) with my right arm casually draped over a sign that says, "No sweat, Jarhead.  This is Cav country.  In case of trouble wear this", with an arrow pointing to a Cav patch.  My right hand is covering a picture of a naked girl out of Penthouse magazine.  I am nonchalantly poised, and on my face is a careless, youthful smile.  How strange this picture looks to me now, in retrospect - taken so shortly after such an event.  It certainly hadn't dawned on me yet that everything I thought of the world, and myself, was no more.

     I spent about 8 more months in the field.  Despite this inaus­picious beginning, I turned into a competent soldier.  In no more than a month I moved up from squad leader to platoon sergeant.  In time I gained the friendship and respect of most of the men I dealt with.  While I never amounted to what you would call a hero, I did my job, and my share of the work, both in the incredible labor of "humping the bush", and in a firefight.  For 8 more months I took my chances.  I experienced all the senseless killing, all the screaming, begging, dying of my friends, all the horrible maiming, wounding, all the dead women and kids.  I endured it all for 8 more months, and then I cracked.

     It was a private, personal, high amp anxiety breakdown which may or may not have been noticed by those around me, but which I never admitted or spoke about.  By sheer luck I found an old friend, a lieutenant, in the rear who set me up with a job.  I went back to the field for about a week during which time I begged sincere pardon of the 3 squad leaders under me at the time.  Other than me they were about the only "old timers" left in my platoon.  Other than becoming close just by proximity, I had become close to Ron Coombs and Dale Griffith as friends I would have chosen under any circumstances.  The third, Ray Stevenson, was on his way to going crazy.  I experienced the worst of this about 6 weeks later when Coombs and Stevenson came by my job in the rear to say good bye.  Stevenson had a high pitched cackling laugh with a demented look in is eye, and a demeanor about him that seemed to me to forbode complete insanity.  Griffith would have come too as they were all due to DEROS (leave the country) within days of each other, but he had been shot in the foot and was in the hospital.  The story from Coombs was that Griffith was asking anyone and everyone to kill him; apparently the pain from his foot wound was that bad.

     The 3 squad leaders let me go with great good will.  I had told them simply that I had had all I could take.  They understood and didn't begrudge my good luck.  I had to check out with the new company commander also.  He was brand new in country and he had only been in our company about a week.  He was the 4th one I had served under.  I told him more or less the same thing I had told the squad leaders.  He called me a coward.  This didn't mean much to me and I said, "But, you will let me go?"  In a short "Gung Ho" speech he called me a coward a couple of more times, and then left the decision up to me.  Before I left on the returning log bird that evening I had a talk with the 1st Sergeant.  The gist of his comments to me were that the new company commander, though he didn't know me, had heard that I was a competent, experienced platoon sergeant and was more concerned with his war plan than my well being - he didn't want to let me go.

     For 2 months I had the job of "Entertainment Director" at an in-country R&R center for grunts on Tay Ninh base camp.  I took care of things like movies, the USO shows, when we were lucky enough to get them, and I built a bar that served whisky and beer.  During this time I had visits from guys in my unit who were wounded, leaving country, or maybe just going on R&R.  One of these visits was from Tommy Jackson, a machine gunner in one of the squads of the platoon of which I was the platoon sergeant.  We were never real close, but we shared something of a distant friendship.  He was one of the lucky ones, going home after a full year in the field without a scratch.  We had a few beers as he filled me in on the other guys still in the field.  After a while he got around to a story that I noticed was a little bit hard for him to tell.  Tommy told me that on the night of the May 18 firefight, John Pitts intentionally left me out there to die.  He told me that one of the other guys who was out there that night was about to shake me awake when he was grabbed by Pitts who said, "Let him sleep".  Tommy felt at ease telling me this now as all those involved were either gone home or dead.  In fact, he could have been the last guy around who knew anything about it.  My feeling at the time was that he was telling me this story to get it off his chest.  We wished each other well and off he went back to the States.

     I thought about this for awhile, but just couldn't muster any anger for anybody.  It was just another example of how cheap life was over there.  I suppose it was also an example of how cheap life was in the ghettos of New York where Pitts was from.  Nor could I blame the guy who might have awakened me had Pitts not stopped him.  Pitts was a big, powerful black man who, rumor had it, joined the Army to avoid a murder investigation where he was from, and would have continued to be this guy's squad leader with me dead.  Not a guy to cross.  It was probably very lucky for me that Pitts got a job in the rear very shortly after the May 18 firefight.

     What an alienating war.  You could get killed from anywhere, anyhow, for any reason.  Sloan got it from one of his own men.  A cocky "Cherry" thought he would play a trick on his fire team who were all in a bunker on LZ Anne.  Earlier he had unscrewed the cap on a grenade and fired it off under a sandbag.  He then screwed the cap back onto the grenade and reset the pin.  Later, in the bunker with his fire team, he pulled out the grenade, pulled the pin, threw it on the floor, and started laughing.  It was the wrong grenade.  Newsome was mangled badly but was alive when he was med-evaced out.  One other cherry was dead on impact.  The guy who did it had a clean hole in the center of his forehead about the size of a dime that was spurting blood as his heart pumped.  He was conscious, but seemed blind.  When Sloan was pulled out and laid on his back on top of the bunker, he was white as a sheet and breathing like he'd just run a mile, but there was no blood and I didn't see a mark on him.  One minute he was breathing, the next he wasn't.  All attempts to revive him failed.

     Randy Baynard was the first one to have the guts to go down and start pulling guys out.  He was crying the whole time.  First Christianson in May, now Sloan and Newsome in July.  Randy didn't calm down all day, and that evening when the log birds came he threw off all his gear, hopped on one of the helicopters, and told anybody and everybody who tried to talk him off, "Fuck you, go to Hell!”  The bird took off and he was met at the other end by MP's who sympathetically took him to Long Binh Jail and charged him with desertion.  What an alienating war.

     I did my last couple of months swilling beer, eating great chow in the R&R mess hall, and flirting with the sand bag girls.  My psychological state alternated between high anxiety and numbness.

     Finally my DEROS date came up.  I left sometime at the beginning of March, 1969.  I flew out on a way overloaded C-131 that barely cleared the fence at the end of the runway, with a hangover, in the middle of a major rocket attack on the airfield.  Sweet Jesus Christ!  ~  Bill Hardin 

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