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reetings from the 21st Century. That makes Nam seem sooo long ago - you know - having been in the last Century!
I haven’t told you about my Cambodia/Laos experience, have I? As a bit of background, one of my jobs in Artillery Fire Direction Control was to be familiar with maps so we could plot fire missions accurately taking into consideration the unique terrain features of the area of operations.
It all started on one gloomy rainy day in early 1970. Actually, gloomy rainy days on LZ Stinson were happy occasions for two reasons. The first was that you normally didn’t come under attack when it was storming, and a reduced probability of attack was always good news. The second was that you had plenty of time trying to perfect the precise, athletic act of lighting a cigarette in a storm with only one hand and a match.
Anyway, I was minding my own business totally focused on reason #2 above when my battery commander called us together. He gave us some maps and advised us to study them. You see, the battery and a company of infantry were being choppered to the top of a mountain designated as Point A in exactly one week. I needed to know the terrain, because I would be the second man off of the first chopper (right behind a grunt with a machine gun) so I could “lay out” the battery and have them firing in support of the infantry within a few seconds of landing. That’s all they told us at the time.
Upon studying the maps, it was easy to conclude that we would be landing in Cambodia at the Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam border. We really started getting nervous - to me that means flu like symptoms. Without my Pepto-Bismol, I got into desperate shape pretty fast! Since others were approaching my condition, we decided to press for more information. That was a BIG mistake, because we GOT the additional info. You see, there was at least one Battalion of North Vietnamese Regulars in a permanent base camp at the bottom of the mountain designated Point A. We were told the Grunts were going to attack between 1,000 and 2,000 NVA’s and we (6 puny 102 Pea Shooting Cannons) were their artillery support. Further, the infantry would give us a half day to set up the battery before being choppered on site. The strategy was to surprise the NVA in their Base Camp and annihilate them while destroying the Viet Cong supply pipeline - making South Vietnam a better, safer place and furthering our strategy of winning the war (or conflict - whatever).
This was all a good and noble cause and a sound strategy as events eventually bore out (at least in our area of operations as enemy hostilities basically ceased for a couple of months). In fact, the bad guys were much less effective for the remaining 5 months of my tour because of the success of this operation.
Back to the story. After having all this information, my “flu” symptoms accelerated into something that kept me from eating for a week (considering the food, that probably wasn’t all bad). The night before we were to leave for Point A, we were told there was “heavy intelligence” that our area was about to be massively attacked, so they were sending another Battery in our place. Have you ever been so seasick you couldn’t stand up, and then the boat stops moving and everything is better instantaneously? That’s what it was like - better immediately. We weren’t going to Cambodia because of “heavy intel”, and “heavy intel” was ALWAYS WRONG!!.
HALLELUIAH - I dug into a box of C rations, turned on Credence, grabbed a can of warm beer, and had a fitting celebration. Life doesn’t get much better in a war zone (or conflict zone - whatever).
And, the “heavy intel” was wrong!
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