July 20, 1969

The Major escorted me into the map room and he stretched as he placed his finger in the top left corner of the large wall map. I was proud to be a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) leader, but the words Long Range suddenly took on a whole new meaning. The Major begins to explain what was already painfully obvious. Our next mission would take us out of range for the more precise artillery units, and helicopters would not be able to reach us in less than fifteen minutes.

With only four men on the team, our safety was mainly in our stealthness. As long as the enemy was not aware of our presence we could blend into the jungle with our camouflaged uniforms. If we were discovered, artillery would be our first defense. We would direct the guns to fire close to our position until we could escape or get help. Knowing we could only be reached with the 175mm guns was like learning that William Tell would attempt to remove the apple with a shotgun rather than an arrow.

In a worst case scenario, being afraid of our own artillery we would most likely try to defend ourselves. Even with all the ammo we carried it would be unlikely that we could sustain a shooting battle for more than 10 minutes. An unspoken fact of life understood by all LRRP’s: If help were not received quickly, it probably would not be necessary at all. The words "helicopter support in fifteen minutes" were interpreted as "You’re on your own."

LRRP team on the Move
The goal of the mission was to look for any new activity in the area. It was know that the area in the past had been used by the NVA as a field hospital. For four days we wandered around the area. The jungle had reclaimed the area where the hospital had been. We found tracks that we speculated belonged to an elephant. I had never seen an elephant in Vietnam, but I had heard that the NVA sometimes used elephants to pack supplies into South Vietnam.

Just after dark we heard a quick burst of automatic gunfire in the distance. We did not feel threatened, but since we were suppose to be the only friendlies in the area, I radioed in and reported the incident. I was told to fire a few artillery rounds in the direction of the gunfire. I called in the coordinates and the big guns responded to the rifle fire.

After things settled down we went into our normal night routine of taking turns sitting up for one hour and sleeping for 3 hours. At night we were to check in every hour. I made my radio check and I recognized the voice on the other end of the radio. A fellow LRRP, who got stuck between missions having to monitor the radio at night. After I checked in he said "They’ve landed and just as they expected it was made out of cheese." I turned the radio off and pondered the message. We often sent cryptic personal messages over the radio along with our official business just to confuse the enemy in case they should be listening. Since this radio operator had helped with my war on rats I concluded this was his way of telling me more rats had landed in our traps lured by the cheese we had picked up in the mess hall.

Feeling the world had been made a better place, I passed the watch duty to the next man. A few minutes later he woke me up and whispered "Sarge they just told me on the radio we’ve landed a man on the moon." Back in the world I had watched with great interest as our astronauts circled the moon the previous Christmas, but I had no idea this mission had been launched. I sat up and looked at the bright moon trying to figure out if it should look different. I remember thinking "How about that, somebody’s further from the world than us."

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©1997 C. Warren Gallion
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