Before I share this story I would like to explain that I wrote these in order to deal with my PTSD. I also thought my family might be interested in learning why I “seem different” to them by sharing some of my experiences. Which is why the stories were written as they were. Those combat Marines who served in Vietnam might remember that we were not very popular back home. I wrote about 50 stories—they are true—they happen to me—I remember every one like it happen yesterday and for awhile these experiences changed my way of thinking, feeling, and interacting with others (including my family). I found that the VA has an excellent treatment program that worked me. “Thank you my brothers and Semper Fi.”
There was a part of Golf Co. 2/5 A.O. (Area of Observation) that was called a “Free Fire Ozone”; which meant that if you found anyone there consider them VC/NVA and you were allowed to fire on them without receiving clearance from Battalion before hand. This wonderland was called the Arizona Territory because it was like the Wild West once you entered in to it. There was never any doubt about having connect of some kind with the “bad guys”. It was a flat plane area with a huge mountain range on one side and a “blue line” (a river) on the other and boxed in by the road on the ends. The area was all elephant grass with a few tree lines and without a rice paddy in sight (that I can remember ).
The company was stationed on Liberty Bridge the day the 3rd. Platoon was ordered to enter in to the Arizona. In the briefing by our Lt. , we were told to take as much ammo as we were able to carry and smoke grenades to mark our position for the medivac choppers. We were told to expect a firefight and a high causality rate once we cross the blue line—I’m not sure what the percentage was but it was uncomfortably high. We assume that this bright cheerful news was coming from Bn. Intelligence . So at dawn’s early light , we put on our gear, grab our weapons and set out for what a lot of us thought might be our last patrol on Mother Earth.
In the first hour, we found a 250 lb. bomb which we “blew in place”. The interesting thing about this is that we moved about 500 to 600 meters away from it before it was set off. We could feel the force of that bomb even at that distance. Next, a few bunkers were discovered by the point squad and we got to get rid of some C-4 (too heavy to carry any ways). And then, we humped for a while without seeing any of the outlaws (VC/NVA) we were told to expect. At one point, one of the guys shot at a dog (he missed) that was running lose in the area; which caused our anxiety to jump back up. By this time, it was getting to be another hot day in Vietnam and none of us brought food to eat so that we could carry extra ammo and must needed water. We came out of a tree line in to an open area when we got hit from behind. The fourth squad turned to return fire when our right flank started receiving fire and then the left side opened up. The third squad turned right, the second squad turned left and the point squad charged forward in order to get us a way out of this box shape ambush.
I was humping the radio for the Platoon Lt. and was position in the middle of everyone. We got down for cover. The Lt. got out his map and started calling in a fire mission from our fire base. The VC/NVA apparently had not counted on our response to this box shape ambush because the firefight didn’t last more than 15 mins.. The only causality we had was one of the radio operators got shot in the hand. The first squad manage to over run the outlaws (VC/NVA) to our front killing all them. When the first squad entered in to a village (that was to suppose to there) they found a 50 lbs. bag of rice from “Tennessee Sympathizers”. Our Platoon Sargent was from the green state of Tennessee and caught hell from everyone for this. As for myself, I had a couple of rounds hit in the dirt in front of me—there is something about that radio that caused the VC/NVA to always shot at me. I started to think that they had something personal against me.
Footnote: I need to add that getting in to a Box Shape Ambush is very rare and Marines are taught how to fight their way out of an ambush—which I’m very grateful to have learned that lesson. Also, a company size patrol went in to the Arizona a few weeks after us and found a fully equipped hospital with doctors and nurses working on some VC/NVA—I always like to think that my platoon put them there as a result of that day.