February 9, 1969
WORKING LATE

We were building a new fire base PATT. I was impressed with the ease the APC could push itself up the trunk of a tree. The nose of the track would climb up the tree until the tree could no longer support the weight and the tree would just lay down.

With the trees down, we would spray them with diesel fuel and set them on fire. In less than 48 hours a patch of jungle was cleared and starting to look like a fire base.

I was still new in this country and the men knew I had earned my Sergeantís stripes by going to NCO school. Thus Sergeants like Fox, Frederick and myself were affectionately called "Instant" or "Shake and Bake" Sergeants. As I worked beside them and learned from their experiences, Some of the men were warming up to me a little.

We worked hard all afternoon putting barbed wire around the perimeter of the new fire base. The sun was going down and my men sensed it was time to return to the safety of the perimeter. One of my men said it was time to go in. I told him I hadnít received orders to come in yet. He told me not to worry, he knew a way to get us in.

A few minutes later there was an explosion at the edge of the trees. I jumped and turned as my men yelled "Incoming" and started running to the perimeter. The perimeter guards saturated the perimeter with automatic gun fire. After dark, we were ordered to cease fire and we determined that the enemy was no longer returning fire.

The next morning I was pleased to hear there had been no serious injuries from the night before. Some of the perimeter guards swore they had seen some movement in the tree line and was sure a patrol around the perimeter would result in a body count.

The morning patrol turned up nothing. Apparently the enemy must not have minded working late and came back to pick up their dead and wounded. Iím sure that must have been the case, because I refuse to believe one of my men would have purposely thrown a hand grenade when I wasnít looking.


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