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JJ_BPK 05-10-2015 06:10

45 Years Ago, May 10th, 1970
45 Years Ago,
May 10th, 1970,
A small chunk of my history.

We had been in Cambodia for over a week. Activity was up but manageable, with the action above average, bunches of small unit skirmishes, but no major battles, for my company.

On the 9th of May my platoon was tasked with protecting a C-123 that had landed at a small SF compound along the Cambodian boarder. The pilot had attempted to turn at the end of the runway and the outside left wheel cage was stuck in the mud. We were to watch it until they could fly in a team to left the airframe back onto hard tarmac. I was not all that happy as the plane was full artillery rounds. It became stuck on the 1st delivery of a multi-stop re-supply run.. One Big Ass fire cracker.. They told us "only" a couple days...

The next day, I received a call that we were being pulled out to run a support op for another company that was pined down by a sniper. The CO, 1st SGT, & a platoon leader had already been hit.

The plan was for combining my platoon with the rest of my company and run a sweep from behind the pined down company to flush out the sniper. This was a new game, as I had operated as an independent ambush platoon for 5 months. We had not worked with the other platoons,, But shiite happens and I didn't see any major problems.

We had 5 choppers for infil. My platoon was 1st. The round trip cycle was about 15-20 minutes. The Monsoons had not started, so we landed in a dry rice patty and spread out to set security. It was around 3PM, nice sunny day..

As I was walking to this bamboo clump wood line to see what, if anything was around, I saw some movement, figured it was local farmers being curious. NOT

It was two well dressed NVA's in clean uniforms, AK's at sling arms, pulling perimeter security. I was not at sling arms, after a brief shoot, I heard my guys firing over at the other side of the rice patty.. NOT HAPPY.. The J2,G2 chain missed something. I later found they have set us down in a North Vietnamese Bn headquarters bivouac area.

The firing had moved from sporadic to almost constant,, I started to see green tracers... We did not get to move inside the wood line, stuck in the rice patty laying behind the 12-20 inch berm for protection. Not the best but it appeared that the NVA did not have arty or mortar support, I don't even remember any RPG or B40's, it was just small arms..

I told my radio operator to contact BN over watch and advise them to slow down the other platoons and find some arty that could support us. Also I asked for CAS, but figured I would not get it as the other platoons were on choppers and they would not mix airspace. We also didn't have a Pink Team or Cobra coverage. Being blind as to the NVA strength, I was concerned but felt confident with the other platoons "in the air" it would work out. This lack of CAS coverage would prove to BARRY BAD. By the next morning, My company had received very high casualties.

Back to this rice patty.

Right in front of where I was lying, hand grenades started popping out of the ground?? Seems there was a bunker and someone was opening the door and blindly flipping one or two of the NVA/ChiCom potato mashers. Fortunately, the weeping bamboo was blocking or bouncing the grenades back at the bunker. We tried to add our grenades but were likewise just lobbing into the bushes.

After about 6-8 tries the NVA become aggressive and peeked out to see if he could be more accurate. He aim was getting better.. NOT HAPPY

At about this time I tried to toss a grenade into the bunker pit at the same time the NVA was lobbing one at me. His went off and I received a chunk of Chinese cast iron about the size of a Lima bean in the side, just about at the bottom of my left shoulder blade. VERY NOT HAPPY..

Felt like it was the preverbal "kicked by a mule". My breathing was very painful as the chunk hit and stuck into a rib. I was not able to yell, but got the attention of my M60 shooter, He understood and moved over to cover fire while the medic and my RTO tried to drag me back to a safer area,, Really wasn't any, but they tried.. BUT before they moved my the M60 gunner decides he needs to open up with two 100 round belts,, while laying 2ft to my left(remember 2ft).. BAD MOVE.. The M60 ejects brass on the right side,, very hot brass,, ejecting very hot brass on the right side into a 24 inch pattern about 2ft to the right side..

On the right side,, WHERE I WAS LAYING... The hot brass was pouring over my head and getting into my shirt,, I was not a happy puppy.. I could not yell over the noise the M60 made, best I could do was NOTHING.. Fortunately when the medic came over he stopped..

They moved me back behind a large tree and I waited until the 2nd chopper flight arrived with my CO. I tried to stop the infil, as I had an idea that this location was way to hot. I proposed we pull out my platoon and bomb the shiite out of this loc. They don't always listen to 1st LT's. The rest of the company arrived and spent the next 24 hours in deep shiite.

Around 3:30 PM, I was put on a chopper with two other wounded and flown to the same SF camp we had been protecting. A mini-MASH had been setup, we went thru triage, tagged and lifted out to the 45th Surg hospital in Tay Ninh. There I was x-rayed and into the OR within 15 minutes. When I woke up at 3AM, after surgery, I was told I was lucky, as the fragment smashed into a rib and stopped. 1/4 right or left and it would have been significantly different.. Can you spell "sunken chest"??

From the time the grenade popped to the operating table was less than 90 minutes.. I LOVE THE AIR CAV...

On the afternoon of the 11th, I was moved to the 24th Evacuation Hospital at Long Binh. Thus started my three(3) months as a patient of the US Army hospital system.

And that is what I was doing 45 years ago today...

Richard 05-10-2015 06:54

Memories of the times, JJ. Glad you survived to tell them. ;)

10 May 1970 was not nearly as exciting a day for me. I was 19 and going to college...well, barely anyway...and working as a tree trimmer because it paid really good money at the time. Little did I know that in 3 months I would be in-processing for BCT at Fort Ord, CA, going from a job paying over $7/hr (minimum wage was $1.40) to one paying $124/mo and beginning a journey in uniform that would last 23 years.

And so it...went...


SF_BHT 05-10-2015 06:58

Busy day, glad all turned out as it did for you.

Good AAR;)

Sohei 05-10-2015 08:19

Thanks for the post, JJ!

That's a part of history we would never know about without it being told by those that were there.

mark46th 05-10-2015 08:21

But Nixon said we weren't in Cambodia.

Richard 05-10-2015 08:48


Originally Posted by mark46th (Post 582634)
But Nixon said we weren't in Cambodia.

30 Apr 1970 - President Nixon gave a national television address telling us that US troops had invaded Cambodia from Vietnam. Reaction to this announcement was a factor in the Kent State debacle four days later.

Such were the times.


Sdiver 05-10-2015 10:18

I think quite a few of us can relate to the "Hot Brass Dance" ...

...but not to the extreme you experienced. :D

Glad you made it back and thanks for the story.

PSM 05-10-2015 10:47

You've hinted at that story in the past, JJ. Glad you made it back to tell it! :lifter

That was Mother's Day, also. I was dodging a swarm of tornadoes near Lubbock while hurrying to get back to Ft. Huachuca so I wouldn't be AWOL. I saw a lot of damage but not a single twister.



Roguish Lawyer 05-10-2015 11:32

JJ, thank you so much for your service. What a story!

Team Sergeant 05-10-2015 12:24

I can relate to the M60 hot brass leaving scars....:D

Damn good AAR! Great read too, thanks for sharing that! And I'm also glad you're still above ground!

Stobey 05-10-2015 18:29

Thank you, JJ_BPK, for the post. I'm glad also that you made it back to be able to tell about it.

MR2 05-10-2015 19:36

Damn them lima beans...

Divemaster 05-11-2015 00:21

JJ, men like you sent me on the path I traveled. Thank you for the push.

JJ_BPK 05-11-2015 06:51


Originally Posted by Divemaster (Post 582705)
JJ, men like you sent me on the path I traveled. Thank you for the push.

Thanks, to all..

I spent a week formulating this little tail. I wanted to make sure I didn't stretch nor miss the hi-points. The problem for me, was not drifting into a self patronizing ego spin.

I think I missed on the severity of my wounds.

I did spent 10days in ICU that I have always thought was wrong. Wrong because I was the only that could get out of bed. I had a couple IV bottles and a 2gal chest pump, but with a little help from the nurses, I would stay up at night and play card, help where I could, and go to the john...

In retrospect, I think it was a case of SF can-do attitude, I don't know, but it has been a small concern all these years..

On the flip,, at the end of my ICU stay, I snuck out with the ward nurse to the O club for a stake n Lobster dinner, ++ couple of Whiskey's, back by 3AM. She arranged to have a ambulance for a taxi and carried extra compression bandages, they hadn't stitched me up yet, wanted as much drainage as possible. The hole in my back was?? Sloppy??

When I returned, The new ward nurse was livid,, She had listed me as AWOL, she had no sense of humor.. I went to bed..

Next morning I was in front of some bird-col who also did not have a sense of humor.. Put a note in my 201 file about being A BAD BOY, and determined that as punishment I should be sent the Camp Zama Hospital, Japan. (where I spend three months in rehab).

Alone with a lack of humor, he didn't comprehend the dichotomy of his "punishment". :D

"Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don't throw me into the briar patch... please" Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby

Anyway, That's another story for telling,, probably more fitting for the local watering hole.. :D

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