Base Camp had hot food, hot showers, movies, real beds, PX and people to make sure we
didnít enjoy them. It was rightly assumed that we would start shamming and look for any
excuse to not go back to the field, if we started partaking of the pleasures of base
camp. As a result we were subjected to inspections, police calls (picking up cigarette
butts), and in general all of the Army protocols that were overlooked in the field.
I guess that is why I wasnít all that excited to be chosen to go to base camp to pick up a new APC. The APC to pick up had been a show piece to demonstrate the new hull that would protect the APC from the B40 rockets that damaged so many of our tracks. After being the show room model my driver and I had the honor to take it into action.
The plan was to catch a ride in on the morning convoy to base camp, pick up the track and catch the first convoy back that afternoon with minimum time in base camp. To reduce the hassles further I would not take my weapon and my driver would only carry a side gun. Even with Mang Yang Pass between us and base camp, this seemed like a minimal risk since the convoy would be well protected and I would be armed with a 50 caliber machine gun on the return trip.
The narrow road of Mang Yang Pass is where the French lost a decisive battle. As we crossed the mountain pass it was easy to understand how one crippled vehicle on the narrow winding road could leave a whole convoy stranded with no room to pass or turn around. The whole convoy could become a shooting gallery for mortars and artillery.
Everything was going according to plan. We arrived in base camp safely. The hot food was great. The new APC was a beautiful war machine. The shiny 50 caliber machine gun looked awesome.
With no time to shamm, and catch the convoy back I even felt respected by the men in base camp.
We drove to the armory and picked up ammunition for the 50 caliber. As always I loaded the first round of the belt and then left the cover up for safety. If you needed fire power, just close the cover, grab the handles and push the butterfly trigger with your thumbs.
We arrived at the check point only to find we missed the last convoy. The driver and I weighed our options. Should we take on Mang Yang Pass alone.
As we made each turn on the winding mountainous road it felt so different from the trip earlier in the day with the convoy. Each turn became more exhausting as it became later and I worried that the enemy knowing the last convoy had passed for the day might be using the road.
When we were finally safe back in the folds of our unit. I stopped to say a little prayer to thank GOD for watching out for me even when I do stupid things.
The next night I was woken by gunfire. I jumped on the track , grabbed the 50 caliber and slammed the cover down, only to see it pop back up. I slammed it again and again it popped up. The 50 caliber was defective. We had driven through Mang Yang Pass without a working 50 caliber.
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