April 16, 1969
I was beginning to figure out some of the rules to this war. During daylight hours we
played offense and the NVA played defense. During the day we would seek out the enemy
from the air and on the ground. If we could find them, we were allowed to fight on our
terms. The rules allowed the enemy to do strategic attacks (e.g. ambush) but they were
not allowed to move freely outside of the mountain jungles during daylight hours.
On the other hand the enemy played offense at night, while we went into defensive positions. It was legal for the NVA to attack us at night if they felt they could penetrate our perimeter. We were also allowed a limited number of night time strategic attacks, but as a rule we were only free to move within our defensive positions at night and the NVA was free to move at night. (Breaking this rule is what got us in trouble on Valentineís night.)
It was not unusual for an APC to throw a track or get stuck. Generally, we all pitched in to get the APC running. On this day the problem was more serious and we had to wait for some new parts. It started out as a welcome break in our mission, but as the sun started to set, it was obvious we would be out of position and off sides. As I pondered the consequences to this infraction, into the night, we were finally informed the APC was finally fixed enough to get back to our night location.
We turned on the headlights and moved the APCís on to the highway. I had learned my eyes would adjust to the darkness and although I could not see well enough to read, I could pick out objects in the darkness and detect movement. Except for the short run on Valentine night, this was my first time to see the tracks work at night. The headlights caused night blindness and my only vision was within the bounds of the what it was like to be cold.
It was just a quick sting to my face and I saw stars for just a second. I grabbed my upper lip and at the same time I could taste the blood running into my mouth. The object that hit me landed in front of me on top of the track. I picked up the object and found I had been wounded by a 65mm hand launched beer can thrown from the track in front of us.
As I nursed my swelling lip in the dark, the point track stopped in the middle of the road. I had not heard anything. I looked around and our whole party appeared to be intact. I jumped off the track and walked to the front to check out the problem. Laying in the middle of the road was a dead NVA soldier . Apparently the body was being transported, as his hands and feet were tied to a long pole. The men transporting the body must have been startled by us, dropping their load and running.
There had to be several NVA soldiers nearby watching us check out the body they had left behind. They never made their presence known, but Iím sure in their mind, they were yelling "FOUL".
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