So there I was laying in my bunk after having a good run at acey- duecy. My helmet was stuffed with military script and I had just slipped off to sleep. KA-BAM!!! Well Hell, that got my attention; I’d heard that sound before. “INCOMING!” someone yelled. I thought: “well no s**t Sherlock”- time to leave this fire trap of a hooch. Grabbed my fatigues, threw the script out of my helmet into my locker, snatched my boots and beat feet to the bunker. Just as I entered the dogleg of the bunker more 122mm rockets landed across the road, that motivated me to more rapidly ingress the bunker, except there was some idiot blocking my chosen path; he got tossed inside by the expedient of wrapping my arms around his scrawny body and flinging him forward.
Hooch after 122mm rocket hit 31 Jan, 1968
(Photo by Jim Benjamin via The Tan Son Nhut Association)
Having (finally) arrived in our beloved bunker, the rats who usually occupied the bunker vacated the premises. You could see them scurrying out the door even as more troops piled in. Guess they were more worried about us than being blown up by a random explosion.
I bummed a Camel from a fellow denizen of the bunker and we entertained thoughts about how long this would last. The consensus was probably about a 1/2 hour. I had just returned from a 179 day TDY in Bien Hoa where these mortar or rocket attacks happened with boring frequency, mostly lasting long enough to get everybody up and armed . The VC would usually leave the area before the Quick Reaction Force could get to them. Little did we know that this rodeo would last several days.
Though I hadn’t experienced any attacks in Saigon. Here I wasn’t armed. I felt nekkid.
A little later we started hearing small arms fire, that distinctive sound of an AK-47, some answering fire from a M-16. Huh! About that time an E-6 stuck his head in the bunker and asked for volunteers to augment the 377th Air Police Squadron to help defend against the VC who had penetrated the fence. “Hey Sarge, will we be issued weapons?” “You bet!” He sold me, I stood and followed him out the door with about 5 other troops. I wasn’t staying there in a bunker unarmed; my Momma didn’t raise any idiot children. [To any friends who might see this post and want to refute that statement. Remember I moderate the comments and I don’t have to allow you any rebuttal ;-)]
We wound our way to the HQ of the Air cops and joined another 40 or so troops waiting to get our weapons issue, vests, and ammo, lots of ammo. Well, I remember getting 4 mags full. Hey, way better than I had earlier.
An old tough looking E-7 gave us our safety briefing. Number one on his list: DO NOT CHARGE YOUR WEAPON WHILE IN THIS FORMATION! So this “Delta Sigma” next to me says “oops” real quietly. I glance over at the dumb s**t and he’s trying to figure out how to “un-charge” his weapon, with his finger on the trigger! Before I can react other than lean away (luckily the muzzle is pointed towards the clouds) the weapon discharges. BANG!! That got everybody’s attention. When the Ol’ Sarge got in that poor fool’s face, I was concerned I would get splattered with whatever was left of the boy. That boy got to meet new and interesting people, he also was un-volunteered. I did see him later, filling sand bags, so he did contribute to the effort.
To be continued (maybe; the story gets harder to tell the more I write. We’ll see)
Badge for 377th Air Police Sq.
To the 377th: Thanks y’all!