March 4, 1969
FIRST CONTACT

View from LZ Bass/Polei Kleng
The Army had built a runway in the jungle north of Kontum. On one side of the runway was Polei Kleng a Green Beret Special Forces camp. On the other side was our knew home fire base LZ Bass. I was into my third month in Vietnam and had yet to engage the enemy directly. My mission was to take a patrol about 200 yards from the perimeter, work my way around about one forth of the perimeter and then come back in. On the patrol we stopped for lunch near a clearing. From this vantage point I could see the mountains. It was so quiet I ate lunch and took a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of the country. We completed the patrol and I was proud to report everything was quiet around the perimeter.

That night, automatic gun fire woke me up. I sat up and asked, "What is going on?".

"Sounds like contact up the perimeter." one of the men replied.

We grabbed our rifles and looked out over the runway. We had already been told that we had tracks at the end of the runway and we had orders to not fire unless we had a very clear enemy target. There was an explosion on the runway and I watched as a pallet of military supplies started burning. As we listened to the fighting and held our position doing nothing, the smoke from the fire started drifting over our position. As my eyes began to water I recognized the familiar odor of tear gas that the drill sergeants had seemed to take so much joy exposing us to in training. Two of us ran to the track, collected the gas masks and brought them back to the rest of the squad. But, just like training, the mask prevented you from inhaling new gas, but was not a cure for the nausea and burning sensation we already felt.

As the gas from the burning supplies covered the base, the battle came to an end. Either we or the gas had repelled the enemy. The 3rd Platoon had some men hurt out on the runway, but my team survived without firing a round.

At daylight we went out to see what we could find. We found a whole trail of gas masks, AK-47 casings and blood. The trail led us to their staging area where we found other supplies they had left behind.

My knees became weak when I realized the staging area was less than 10 feet from my quiet lunch the previous day.


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Web Page Created 12 Jan 1998
1997 C. Warren Gallion
eMail: wgal@wgallion.com

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