We all pretty well know what took place in India Company before and during operation Hastings, because we were all still together. Many of you left India company after Hastings, or shortly thereafter because of wounds of transfers. A few of us remained with I Company our whole tour in Vietnam. I believe there were only eight of us originals left when I left Vietnam in April 1967. I can’t remember everyone’s name but I do remember that in my platoon there was: Cpl. Houghton, Cpl. Dodson, Cpl. Richardson and myself. I’m sorry I can’t remember whom else.
I would like to know where the rest of you went and what you did after leaving India Company. Tell us about the experiences you had during your remaining time in Vietnam or after you were evacuated. To get things started I’d like to tell you some of our experiences after you left India company.
Operation Napa took place in September 1966, not too far from the village of Tam Ky, just off Highway 1. I had a little experience on that operation that I will never forget.
As I remember it, we had been sweeping an area for most of the day. At dusk we set in for the night on a small hill in the middle of a valley. Edward Leonard and I were placed in a position to cover the trail as it came up the hill. We started to dig our fox hole but after only a few feet, hit solid rock and could not dig any deeper. We were tired so instead of moving our position to where we could dig a deeper hole, we convinced ourselves it was deep enough, a decision we would later regret.
At about that same time, they found some Vietcong hiding in the brush within our perimeter. It caused quite a stir. By the time the excitement had died down it was getting dark. Because of the delays we had not cleared a proper field of fire in front of our foxhole. There was brush and bushes within grenade range of our position. Because of the darkness we ignored that little detail, another decision we would later regret.
Leonard took first watch. He woke me up around midnight then curled up in the bottom of our hole. After Leonard fell asleep, I remember looking at my new Seiko watch and the time was 0020 (12:20am_. I remember the time so well because even though my new watch did not have an illuminated dial, the moon was so bright I could see the time. It amazed me how bright the night was. A few seconds later, I heard a noise to my front. As I listened I could hear whispering.
It confused me because it sounded like English yet I had not been told of any listening posts or patrols that might be out there. As I listened I realized it was not English but Vietnamese. As I reached over to wake Leonard, I saw two faces in the brush to my front. The moon was so bright it shone off their faces. It scared the hell out of me! I could see them so clearly. As I opened fire I was wishing we had cleared a better field of fire and had taken the time to dig a deeper hole. As I fired, I believe they did the same. I’m really not sure. Everything happened so fast and it has been so long ago. For the rest of the night I could hear noises to my front.
I did not know it at the time, but I had hit 2 Vietcong. One in the head and the other, in the side of the stomach I believe. The one hit in the head lay dead in the brush where I had first seen him. He had grenades strapped to his body and a 9mm automatic rifle in his hand. The second one who was hit ran down the trail where he died. The Vietcong were trying to retrieve the body and the weapons, of the one hit in the head, most of the night. As you all know, they hate to lose a weapon, especially an automatic one.
At first light it got very quite so I stood up and told Leonard I was going to see if anything was out there. As I stood up my heart skipped a beat and I became weak in the knees. In front of me just a foot from the edge of our hole was a grenade that had been thrown during the firefight. If it had gone off, it would have killed us both. I remember saying a little silent prayer as I stood there thanking my Father in Heaven for his protection. Back home I had a wife, and a new baby daughter who was born after I had left the states that I had not yet seen.
I never went down the trail to see the dead Vietcong. The one in the brush close to my hole was enough for me. I only saw him from a distance. He looked so young. Knowing I had ended his life was not easy for me. I’m sure he had a family waiting for him as well. I still have problems today with that thought.