If I ever stayed at a miserable sh-thole of a place, this is it. The monsoon rains had begun in earnest & everything; the ground, your gear, the ponchos were muddy & wet.
This is the only time I know of when Recon “dug in”. We all spent some miserable nights in our muddy foxholes. There was no chance of setting up a shower in this place…an enemy cache site on a ridge in Cambodia. We hadn’t been on the move as we usually were and so were not able to bath in the streams. All these years later I’m so particulary glad I wasn’t killed here; not only to die, but to think of death in such a filthy state seems to disturb me a great deal. Such is war.
Mother was badly wounded here in the infamous Ice Cream Ambush. He tells that story on this site in the SCRAPBOOK section & I suggest you read about it there. Degree also received a bad wound here, Kansas and Wayne Roe were wounded by enemy fire. Bob Cossey received some “friendly” pieces of shrapnel on the same day. As did Red, both hit by a GI grenade that hit a tree and bounced straight back to us!
I am forever haunted by a dead combat engineer shot & killed here.
So why are Jobe & I smiling? I think it’s a reflex; you always smile for the camera. “Hi Mom! I’m fine.” As a friend of mine always says, “No worries!” (Photo: Cossey)
LZ Kuhn was just a hop, skip & a jump from LZ Salty. We were simply moving up the ridge to the next cache site. More thatch roofed “hootches”, filled with big bags of Chinese rice & typically with a false floor. This cover of poles & dirt hid many, many rounds of rocket & mortar ammo all stacked in deep pits. The NVA had been doing a lot of digging! Apparently they didn’t like us there…coming around to shoot at us every day it seemed.
We went looking for them as well.
We no longer had a Lt. with us after Lt. Mc Gough got wounded in the enemy bunkers near LZ Salty. I remember one day there was a loud klunk in front of the perimeter where Recon was dug in. The Alpha Co. 1st Sgt (Top) came over to where Recon was & “suggested” we go after them…it had sounded like someone dropped a weapon onto a box or something. I didn’t say anything but gave him my best, “You’ve got to be f-cking kidding!” look. Top then said he would walk point. Coz said “OK, we’re game” or something like that.
I know I remember this day so well because of all the shooting & drama of it, but I think it also stands out because of the way it transpired. Top, as ranking enlisted man on the LZ , could of ordered us to “saddle up”. He wasn’t part of our chain of command though. Really he did ask us, as I recall. Like, don’t you guys from Echo Co want to go find out what’s up?
Brer Bird had a bad feelin’ bout dis.
Before long we had saddled up & moved out toward the nearest “hootch” that was outside our perimeter. Top was walking point with an M16 & LAWS rockets slung across his back & Cossey behind him. I was further back in the file with Kansas & Wayne Roe. Kansas had been pulled from the firebase to be a rifleman & Roe was there as FO. We had been assigned some FNG’s (F-cking New Guys) as well, Degree & Red. I remember Burleson being with us. Ski & Jobe were there. Undoubtedly, Martin & Coppella with their M-60’s. Several grunts from Alpha Co. were tagging along.
We didn’t have far to go, I don’t think we went more that 50 m. from our perimeter before the NVA opened up with AK’s & RPG’s. Kansas & Roe were both hit. Kansas with a stomach wound from shrapnel & Roe with a bullet in his shoulder. Chico was there immediately, treating their wounds & covering them with gauze bandages. I remember this quite well. Roe was on the ground leaning on his good elbow & talking on his radio to whoever a forward observer talks to…it would do us no good for the moment, we were right on top on the enemy. I’m sure he was required to be in touch with command & control (C & C) at the firebase anytime we were in “contact” with “hostile forces”. So he’s doing his job while I hold a gauze pad on his shoulder & Chico tapes it down. Chico in a rather matter of fact way starts talking about the need to conserve his supplies.
Chico! Edmundo. Doc, is this just another day at the office? Patching up the wounded GI’s, seeing them off on the Medevac bird & going back for more. Concerns about bottles of plasma, gauze & tape…
Meanwhile, Top is throwing grenades like a kid chuckin’ balls at an arcade back home. Almost everyone is on line & blazing away at the NVA. I’m afraid they’ve had time to prepare positions & are willing to shoot it out with us even though I never see one enemy soldier. We are still getting return fire. I go with a small group to carry Kansas back to the LZ & get more ammo. I recall several grunts from Alpha showing up to go back with us with -more grenades-, of course. We return to the ambush site & distribute what we’ve brought.
More shooting, I still haven’t seem an enemy soldier.
Top throws a grenade that hits a tree & bounces right back to us with a distinctive thunk!
Everyone hits the dirt! The underbrush is very heavy here & aside from the concussion it seems everyone is alright. I remember this well…Top actually said “Oops” when he hit the tree.
Brer Bird he lay low.
Not long after this, Degree in a low crouch executes what can only be described as a “flanking movement right”. He is alone to our right & is hit by an AK round. He goes down, hit in the abdomen with a serious wound. Chico treats him as best he can, trying to stop the bleeding, etc. Top picks him up in the “fireman’s carry”, but Degree cries out in pain, moaning.
That was not a good idea, Top!
They rig a litter for Degree & we start pulling back. The medavacs were busy today. After he’s been flown out, both Cossey & Red have apparent shrapnel wounds. Coz’s knee swells up to where he can hardly walk. He was right up front when Top threw that errant grenade. Red’s chest is swelling up in an alarming way. He doesn’t look too good. Call for another “dust off”! I am near the LZ clearing, waiting to see them off.
Before they can be flown out there’s a loud explosion on the far side of the LZ! What the hell? Then the unmistakable sound of an artillery shell coming in & kaboom. Shit, those are 105’s! The firebase (FSB David) is hitting our LZ by mistake, the shells are “walking” our way!
Chico, they’re bombarding your office!
Suddenly, I love my muddy hole & have the greatest desire to be in it. I would dive headfirst into the puddle of water at the bottom if I could. But it’s too far away, no time to run. We can only throw ourselves into the mud & make ourselves as small as possible… a terrible feeling.
Dis put Brer Bird in sech a bad temper, he still is to dis day.
Miraculously, no one is hurt despite 3 or 4 shells coming in before they stop. One landed close to the Recon positions and shredded the ponchos that were rigged over the foxholes. I believe somewhere there is a photo of Martin, grinning & pointing to his.
Hail Mary, full of grace.