Dear Mom and Dad,
We left Saturday at noon and got back Wednesday at noon. Seven, yes 7+ hours sleep, 46+ miles of hilly dense woods and rivers and streams and swamps later. I carried 42 lbs. of combat gear plus 10.4 lbs. of C-rations and 7.8 lbs. of machine gun ammo and a 27.2 lb machine gun and two quarts of water per day in 81-93 degree weather.
That's the statistical way of saying we really caught hell out there. We had 2 guys lost the first day from heat exhaustion and finally lost 3 more from injuries. I'll run through the days and tell you all about it, cause I can't afford to talk on the phone for that long.
We rode to Stewart County on busses and then began, in a field, to be issued all our equipment. I could hardly stand up under my 90 lbs. of gear at first, then we got our first order on the spot. We were to act as a platoon size patrol and set up an ambush on a river crossing site 2 miles across the thickest scrub oak and vine covered hills I've ever seen. So at 1:00pm we moved out in 83 or 84 degree heat with no chow since breakfast and finally reached the ambush site at 2:45 pm. Most of the fools had used all their water by then (I didn't) so we were planning on drinking at the stream, but the patrol leader said we couldn't because we would muddy the water and might alert the enemy as to our position. We quickly set up the ambush and began to wait; everyman awake and trigger happy. We finally got word from our outpost security teams that the enemy patrol had been spotted about 2:30 am Sunday morning. (no sleep yet, or food, or water) We waited some more while they stopped to make a map check or something just out of the killing zone of our ambush. Thirty minutes of sweating quiet and nervousness later they finally moved out, out of sight the way they had come, that is, and we missed getting them simply because they stopped a few yards short of the proper position. Well that kind of killed our morale for a while. Then we got word from Headquarters to move about a mile away and set up a patrol base to conduct our operations from. We left the ambush site and immediately our compass man got us lost. By the time we finally got to the place and got settled it was 8:30 am Sunday morning. We were put on 50% alert, which meant that half of each position had to be behind his weapon at all times, since we had 2 man positions, it meant little of no sleep for the rest of the time we were out there. I took the first 2 hour gun shift while my buddy Moreno, ate three cans of cold C-rations and cleaned his weapon, and started to get some sleep, but was called by the squad leader before he could, to go on a reconnaissance of the section of the base perimeter we were responsible for. He got back at 12:30 pm and took over watch, while I ate a hurried meal of dry fruit cake, cold ham and lima beans, and cookies, no water left by now.
Third squad was then assigned the mission of picking up supplies from a helicopter at a landing zone about four miles off. We left and returned about 9:30 pm Sunday night with more C-rations and some water purification tablets and ammo. We each carried in addition to all our equipment, which we never took off at any time, one belt of 2,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, one carton of 12 C-ration dinners, and two grenade simulators each, about 30 extra pounds in an awkward carrying load through thick undergrowth at night. Quite an ordeal. By now we had people stumbling and falling every couple of 100 meters. When we reached the patrol base, we were surprised to find it deserted! After finally locating some old commo wire in a nearby valley, we managed to make a field expedient antenna to increase the range of our small "walkie talkie" "Pric-6" radio from 2 miles to 6 and got in contact with our patrol at last. They had been attacked and forced to withdraw to a new position 3 1/2 miles across the river. They left a man to tell us where to go, but we later found out he had gone to sleep and been found by his snoring by an enemy patrol. Our patrol had gotten a supply of water at the river, but needed the purification tablets to use it, so we left right away. When we approached the bridge to cross the river, I was sent ahead to recon the area for signs of the enemy (another platoon with orders against us). I found and almost walked into a 30 man ambush on the other side of the bridge about 50 meters down the road and very well dug in. This really put us in a bind, because the stream was wide and fairly swift and deep: we had no ropes, and no time to build a raft either. It was now about 8:30 pm, exactly dark, not twilight, so we decided to try to wade across under the bridge on it's supports and wade neck deep for about 200 meters down stream before coming out and going on toward the base. 9:45 pm we were wet, chilly, mosquito bitten, tired, sleepy, and still 2+ miles from base camp. When we reached it at 4:00 am Monday we were put in 3 man positions and got a good hour of sleep before the stand to (30 minutes before and after sunrise 100% alert, all men awake and ready to fight). We were just about to go back to 30% alert in our 3 man positions when the headquarters section called and said we had been discovered by two enemy platoons, 70 men, and had about 30 minutes to clear our of the area.
That's the way it went all the time, and since I don't have any more time, I'll just say the other days were just as busy. We all got eaten up by red bugs and some were really bad with poison oak. I sure was surprised at how quickly I got used to the heat and heavy load without adequate water. I have to hurry now to get the room ready for inspection.
By the way that movie camera I bought from Rutledge, tell Linda I'm talking about that small (size of half a cigarette pack) camera in a brown grey leather bag. Did you send my key? I couldn't find it anywhere. Well just about finished the 10th week. Short Timer now, less than 100 days now. I initiated a $50.00 bond and I'll send it to you to keep for me until maturity. The first one will come out of my July check. I tried to call, but the phone was busy all night.
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