|from Wally: |
When I first
arrived in Country, I was ready! I was going to go out and do like John
Wayne. I arrived in Cam Rahn Bay and for the first twelve days of my
tour of duty, I and several other guys, awaited orders and pulled Bunker
WHAT A TRIP.
It was what we used to call easy duty because we
had only to stay stay awake, call into the command bunker every hour,
and report if things got crazy and we saw movement.
In Cam Rahn it was a drag because it rained every night and we were all
strangers. We had to do all night shifts and had no idea what the hell
we were doing.
Orders came and I arrived in Quang Tri, got trucked to Nancy and after
meeting my platoon sergeant, I got assigned to BUNKER GUARD again.
Now, at Nancy it was a bit different than Cam Rahn. It seemed like a
scene from 'Apocalypse Now'. The bunkers were dark, wet, rat infested
and I knew no one because the FNG's got all the shit details. One
evening early in my tour, late September '69, an officer came up to the
bunker and said, "hey you guys did not ask for the password", one of the
guys replied, " man, you better get the hell out there with that
password shit, everything here is cool" That was strange to me because I
knew from Basic and AIT about Military protocol. That was not how we
were supposed to talk to the officers.
A couple of days later, it was early evening. The guys from higher
higher came by and offered us some coffee while we were on bunker guard.
They said that we needed it because lately we had been falling asleep.
Little did we know that someone had spiked the coffee with that shit in
those little bottles the Gook kids used to sell, SPEED. I remember I
drank that coffee and was awake for three days; couldn't stop talking,
that was some sad shit.
Early in October, we went to C-2.
Boy, bunker guard was sure different there. There was no fooling around.
It was quiet tense and DARK.I kept telling Big Daddy, "Hey, smile so I
can see you!" he replied," Mendoza, you onion head MF, you think you're
funny telling me to smile in the dark". We then would all laugh. That
was great because we could laugh at each other, even in the face of such
tension and stress. That is probably why we became so close.
Bunker guard was a time when we talked to each other in very close
quarters. We reflected, reminisced and we shared our closest and most
intimate feelings with those who were our buddies that night. We
reflected and got philosophical.We talked to perfect strangers about
home, our parents, that girl we left behind. Some of the guys talked
about the CARS they left behind, some were glad to be in Nam compared to
the life they had left behind. But, there we were, EQUALS; no one was
better than the next guy, and it really did not matter if you lived in a
mansion back home or you lived in a shack, we were all equals.
When we arrived in Cua Viet, bunker Guard was pretty much PARTY TIME.
Listening to the guys on the radio was some of the most fun I have ever
had. That was some funny shit. The Captain was having a cow about the
radio procedure. No one gave a damn, however, most of the guys on the
radio were some of the funniest stand-up comedians I have ever heard....
I wish now I had recorded some of those sessions. I could sure have a
good laugh now. I remember the officer of the guard, don't remember if
he was Navy or Army, coming on the radio and saying something like, " I
am going to come over there and inspect everybody, you better not have
any dope on you while on guard. " Some guy on the radio replied, " If
you come out here you better know your pass word or you gonna get your
ass shot off."
Perimeter guard was a bit different while we were out on the field; that
was some serious shit. The most memorable of all was the night Big Daddy
and I spent out on ambush, across the river from Cua Viet, in a foxhole
full of water, together. It was cold, miserable, we couldn't see shit,
the mosquitoes were eating us alive. After several hours in that cold
dark wet foxhole, Big Daddy said to me, "Hey Mendoza, I am so miserable
right now I am just going to go to sleep, that way if Charlie comes and
cuts my throat I will be asleep when he does." I never forgot that, Big
Daddy was a hell of a soldier and yet this night he had hit rock bottom
because that's how bad it was that night.
The darkness got
to me, to this day I cannot sleep in a dark house, I have to have a
light on all night.
While on bunker guard we talked, we
lied, we made up stories, we wrote letters home, we wrote poems, some
got high, some got drunk, we all got old. That tension of looking into
the dark and not knowing what the hell we were looking at and hoping we
could see Charlie if he came. It gave us all that look that most Viet
Nam Veterans have. You have seen it. That cold, empty, blank,
Clint-Eastwood-stare-into nothingness-look. I can spot in a man a mile
away and say, "he is a Viet Nam Veteran".
WE all have
intimate memories about those long hours on Bunker Guard. We will
remember those times forever. I hope that we remember the men we were
with in those bunkers. The stillness, the darkness, the rain, the rats,
the silence, the sounds of darkness, the sounds of College Football on
that transistor radio at 3 am, the sounds we imagined and made up in our
minds.... all of the things that will be with us for the rest of our
I speak for myself now. I am a better person today
because of those lonely hours I spent in close dark dangerous quarters
with the men I have not seen in many years and may never see again. I
learned to appreciate the small things in life. God how I longed for a
Cheese Burger from Tommy's at 3 am at A-4, how I wanted to be at
Huntington Beach those cold wet days at Cua Viet.
ever forget those days and nights we spent together so many years ago.
Events that transformed us, literally overnight, from boys into men.
Love ya All,
I remember doing bunker guard at both
LZ Nancy and Quang Tri. If I remember correctly, the troop was assigned a certain
sector to guard. At Nancy, it was a more personal occurrence because
the bunkers were located close to the Cav's quarters. However, at Quang
Tri the bunkers were far away from the troop. It never failed that when
we came in for a stand down, we had to do guard duty. I remember one
time Cox and I had tower guard. We sat up there and waited for sundown.
It was ok duty because we could see a long way and we had a starlight.
Anyway, after dark a unit got into a firefight and put on a show for us.
Tracers were flying , bombs going off and choppers were dropping CS
gas around the fight. It was quite a few clicks out. We discovered a
problem when the gas cloud started drifting towards us. Further
complications developed because we didn't have our gas masks. The cloud
hit us and we were very sad. I remember Cox getting on the radio and
yelling "get us some fucking air out here". It was one of those
Murphy's Law things, when the gas comes you didn't have a mask nearby. I
also remember the bunkers at Nancy. If I recall correctly, they were
occupied by some rather large rats. When I first got there in 1969, I
was doing guard duty with one of the seasoned troopers. He pulled out
his .45 and blew one of the furry creatures away one night.
Yeah, i remember that bunker the biggest rats i've ever seen, running
around all over your feet and shit, i shined my light down at one and it kinda smiled back
at me, i pointed my 1911 at him and there he sat on that box of gernades just looking up at me like it knew i was'nt going to shoot. yeah i remember that
ole bunker, i slept outside on top , to hell with that rat..
|from Pineapple |
My first night on bunker guard at LZ Nancy was with Papasan and two
strangers from HQ platoon. No one in public outranked us privates,
therefore no one was in charge. We were near the motor pool, facing
north. The guys from HQ were more knowledgeable than us, perhaps by a
few days. We all carried our M-16's with one bandoleer of ammo each. The
main armament was a fifty-caliber machine gun and four claymore
clickers. The HQ guys told us if we were attacked all we had to do was
to crank the fifty back once and then press the butterfly trigger. I
vaguely remembered the class in AIT that said if we were on guard duty,
to do that with the fifty so we wouldn't have to crank twice. I asked if
I could just fire it to practice, since there seemed to be a lot of ammo
around the bunker. No, they said. How about blasting some claymores? No,
they said. Got anything to read? I asked. No. They said we had to all
stay up until ten o'clock and then we would pull 2 hours until 6 a.m.
Papasan and I got the middle shifts. The task seemed easy enough.
The terrain was down-sloping dirt for at least three hundred yards to
the perimeter wire and then nothing but trees beyond that. I imagined
the NVA would be charging our position that night because I think they
knew that one) we didn't practice with our weapons 2) all we had was one
bandoleer of ammunition each and lastly, we were FNG's. I hoped it
wouldn't hurt too much to die. No one I was with inspired confidence,
not even me.
It was hot inside the bunker so we sat on the sandbagged roof and talked
about home, cars and girls. No one wanted to talk to me about the
sociological impact of firebases on contemporary Vietnamese society or
about the history of cardboard. It got dark real quick, like a bugs
bunny cartoon - peeo-whoop! - And I couldn't see a thing. Yet it felt as
if we could be seen for miles. I know that the logic was skewed, but it
seemed that if someone was sitting in the woods watching us when we took
our posts, it wasn't too difficult for them to locate us in the dark.
But we couldn't see them at all, if they were out there. When it was
completely dark, it made me sleepy, so my fear subsided in direct
proportion to how drowsy I was getting.
To keep everyone awake when the conversation inevitably flagged, one of
the HQ guys tuned the radio's 2 frequency-dials all the way to the end.
He said it was the "bullshit net." The bullshit net was made up of bored
bunker guards and radio operators all over the country. The stuff you
heard on the net was hilarious, like an all-talk comedy station or
something. It was way beyond its time. The people were stepping all over
one another vying for their time on the air. People were saying hello
from wherever they were, it was kind of comforting that there were
others just like you staring out into the inky horizontal darkness, just
waiting to be attacked. There was a guy who said he was delivering
pizza and people were making orders like crazy. The ingredients mostly
had to do with the female anatomy. Stiff-nipple pizza was a crowd
favorite. I ordered a large, with pubic hair. Then there was the voice
of a frantic-sounding guy asking for advice, claiming that he was in a
ground attack and the VC already rejected the marinated pork slices and
tropical bars. "Try heating up the rations and putting them on a nice
plate," a voice offered. "Melt the chocolate and pour it over the pound
cake" another helpfully answered. The scratchy voices slowly faded from
my mind as the night wore on.
Artillery, masquerading as lightning, flashed in the distance, briefly
outlining the clouds. I looked at the vertical darkness and saw a
bazillion stars. Hey it was ten; I could go to sleep for 2 hours!
I wondered how Jody, the guy the drill sergeants told us was taking our
girlfriends out, was spending his Saturday night.