CHAP4 The Boy Dies

     

    A few days later, while operation Cedar Falls was still going on, I remember the 1/18th filing across a large expanse of rice fields, while the battalion commander was up ahead herding the front part of the line into a jungle thicket, with me in the middle somewhere, still in the rice field about a quarter mile away from the thicket. Interestingly enough, to my remembrance, I never knew the commander's name until I did the research to write this book. In my peripheral vision I noticed a black speck in the brilliant blue morning sky. It was moving very fast but I kept my focus on where I was stepping next in the muddy rice field and also on the men who were in front of me moving to meet up with the colonel. As the line approached the edge of the rice fields, our men were slowly congregating at the bottom of a slight rise of land which was covered in secondary jungle growth. I could see several radio antennas bobbling in the air as two or three radio operators moved back and forth among this little cluster of headquarters people. Back then I had excellent eye sight and it was to serve me well in the coming months. Other radio chatter had intensified behind me and in front of me on several of the platoon leader radios. However, it was just chatter to my ears and not recognizable as anything I could understand because I was too far away.

    What happened next and what was probably causing a lot of the radio chatter definitely qualified as one of the most exciting moments in my life until now. The event which began to unfold before my eyes would have been what many of my generation would later call a “Kodak Moment” as another speck appeared in the sky following the path of the first speck. As I became aware of this second speck, the first speck had now grown larger and had turned toward the top of the wood line. I was now able to see that it was an F4 phantom jet making a bombing run and I had a front row view to the show even if it was “standing room only”. This was the first time that I had ever seen anything as spectacular as this and quite frankly it was trilling. The jet came in low and a black object tumbled from its belly onto the rise. The explosions were incredibly loud. I could feel the shock waves as they gently pelted my body although I was hundreds of meters away from where they were dropped. We could also see some of the debris propelled into the sky and flung in all directions. As this was taking place, my platoon kept moving closer and closer to the edge of this thicket where the rice field joined much more dense jungle growth which was composed of smaller trees, bamboo and other foliage but no big trees like that which could be found further north closer to the Cambodian border. As we approached the wood line, however, the thick jungle soon closed in around my entire platoon, obscuring our vision of the jets dropping their bombs.

    However, the explosions could still be heard a few hundred meters from our present position for another five or ten minutes and then things got quiet for quite a while. Several hours went past before we heard more explosions. Then darkness came. Incredibly, we were held up here for at least 3 days or maybe longer in this small patch of jungle surrounded on all sides by rice patties. We learned very soon after reaching the wood line that our unit had been deployed in this direction to surround and take out a manned enemy bunker complex which had been constructed in this area using the heavy jungle vegetation as cover.

    On the second day that we were there, I glimpsed a group of headquarters people moving up the gently sloping hill in front of us with our battalion commander moving amongst them. In my mind, he had a Patrician air about him and was as “cool as a cucumber”. I remember looking upon him as a “God of War” or at the very least a much more humanly superior person to me in every way. Just look at all this power which had been entrusted to him. I was every bit as awed by his presence as I was the phantom jets dropping an occasional bomb in the background. At this point there was no doubt in my naïve mind that our battalion commander was one of the most capable commanders in the whole world. It wouldn’t take long for that opinion of him to change but it would take years for me to realize how fault laden my parameters for sizing up people in general could be. “You see”, No human being, save one, is capable of assessing any other human being's true merit in a given situation. That's why all human actions are weighed in the scales of God on high. God gave the Holy Spirit to believers like me to help us first understand His judgments and secondly line up our own actions with those judgments in every single circumstance which befalls us in life.  However, except for the one night while camped along that river bank I had not been listening to the Holy Spirit since the age of 13. At this particular moment, our commander’s appearance augmented with this mighty display of America’s air power, seemingly wreaking havoc on our enemy’s fortified positions was very impressive and very reassuring. I felt quite sure that I was looking at a solid leader whom I could trust. To me, at this moment in time, he was in his element. Contrasting that, I wasn’t in mine. I felt like such a novice, yet for the time being, a relatively safe and secure novice under our commander's protective wing. I had no idea that there were other people involved in coordinating the air strikes other than he and the pilots. It was years later before I discovered that the military had trained people which they called forward observers (FO) to coordinate artillery and spotter planes which could talk to the pilots and people on the ground. Many times there would be a high ranking officer, maybe even a general, from division in those spotter planes overseeing the entire event, but I knew nothing of that at this point.

    Though I had this vague perception of how things worked and also an overinflated belief in the prowess of our commander, that’s not unusual. Perceptions and opinions of the good and bad of every human endeavor tend to become tremendously misshaped when viewed through only our human understanding. One fact that I have since learned about our commander at this time is that “Duchess 6” (radio call sign for our present commander) was a very brave man. He had voluntarily entered the very heart of hell on earth as a 2nd lieutenant, during the Korean conflict and cut his teeth in the cauldron of “Pork Chop Hill”. The horrific combat he experienced there provides irreproachable testimony of his courage under the most horrendous combat conditions imaginable. That bravery was further evidenced by the Silver Star pinned to his dress uniform. He had not only volunteered for Korea but later for Vietnam too. This established fearlessness coupled with his skilled command of the social graces within the officers corps was a powerful combination of exactly the kind of human characteristics needed to elevate his standing in the natural eyes of his peers, his leaders and himself. However, those qualities would do little to promote success on a battle field like we faced now in Vietnam, nor would they build needed trust for him in the eyes of these “baby boomer” grunts like me who largely walked by what they saw and heard and not by the Spirit of God.

    “This is absolutely crazy”, I kept thinking to myself over and over. It’s like absolutely “insane crazy”. That was the thought that kept racing through my 19 year old mind, pushing every other thought aside, a thought so vividly remembered that after 50 years, it is still indelibly imprinted into my brain in vivid Technicolor red. In five seconds our battalion commander had gone from being my hero to a zero. Why would any competent field commander order his men to do such a thing. There had to be many more options available to him courtesy of the mighty U.S. military? It was a command that most certainly meant needless causalities with little chance of success against the enemy. No soldier needed to graduate from "Army War College" to know that. Yet this order of death had still been issued by a seemly experienced combat leader. Now, to let the reader in on what had just happened to make me and everyone else who had any brains in the battalion feel this way, let me explain. We had just been given the order to assault the bunkers although there was no indication that they had been damaged at all by the bombing. My platoon was being summoned to lead the charge without the support of armor or artillery. Again, there is just no other way to say it. This was the height of insanity! It meant that we were now being cavalierly thrust into a suicide mission where many of us would probably never live to see the sun go down. Many more would have their lives shortened by the grievous wounds which they would soon receive. All this would surely happen but what wouldn’t happen is the destruction of the bunkers, because all we were only armed with rifles, a few M79 grenade launchers and two light machine guns which would be going up against an objective that was still well hidden by thick jungle foliage and also well protected against such light weapons. Patton once said, “No b*****d ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making some other poor dumb b*****d die for his country”. Had "Duchess 6" never heard that speech?

     At some point Sgt. Rook tried to explain the situation again to us in the most concerned and comforting tone of voice that I had ever heard him use. In fact, it was the most comforting tone I had heard anyone use since stepping off the plane onto the soil of this “God forsaken country”. He spoke almost in a whisper, with a softness I never dreamed he possessed. As he talked, he looked directly at our little group and said nothing that we didn’t already know. “The bombs have probably not destroyed the bunkers” he said, and went on to say, "It is impossible to know for sure whether they have or not because the jungle is so thick in that area. Now, the Colonel wants us to assault the bunkers and take them out ourselves". This wasn’t new news to us so it wasn't even a note worthy statement that he was making here, but it was the change in his demeanor which has captivated me over the last 50 years. He talked to us for the first time like one of "the boys" and there is a simple answer for why he would do that but one that did not readily come to me at the time. The answer is simply this. Impending death makes equals of us all. 

    When I looked at Sgt. Rook as he was talking to us, I could tell by the tortured expression on his face that he knew this was a suicide mission. “Shouldn’t we drop more bombs on the area to make sure that the bunkers are destroyed?” someone ask. That question was met with a moment of silence. Then our new 2nd. Lieutenant platoon leader spoke up and said one more time, bluntly, that the Colonel was giving us a direct order to assault the bunkers and that was it. Things got quiet again and then the “absolutely crazy” thoughts started running wild in my head, non-stop, along with what I thought would be the last question that I would ever ask myself or anyone else. That question was, “Why, in the world, would any experienced commander knowingly be so willing to cast our lives away in a blatantly obvious vain endeavor. I am just as sure now as I was then that there wasn't a junior officer or N.C.O. there that thought this was a good tactical decision. To make this decision even a worse one, is the fact that we had these bunkers completely surrounded and isolated from any reinforcements or avenues of escape. Why not at least drop napalm and move artillery into support positions to shell the area if the Air Force couldn't get the job done. If the napalm did not asphyxiate the enemy soldiers nor the artillery destroy the bunkers at least they would clear away enough of the jungle foliage to allow us to get a better view of what we were up against. “For heaven’s sake”, I had saw the war films of Hiroshima and the Naval guns did that much for the Marines.


    It was on this day in January 1967 that I became a man. No matter what else would happen to me on that day, the boy died forever. Not only did I become a man, but I became a man who would never trust another living soul in uniform, ever again. Now, it really was just me, myself and I or so I thought and I no longer believed that officers were gods.

    While we were still assembling and getting ready for the final order to start our advance through the jungle thicket that hid the bunkers, something else happened which I have never forgotten. I remember standing there waiting on orders to move out and looking at Walker who had rubbed me the wrong way since the very first day when he showed up to become a member of my squad. Since we had been in the same squad now for several weeks and although I didn’t like him, at the same time I couldn’t help but notice that he was very poised, confident, handsome and street smart with a lot of common sense to boot. Looking back, I believe the main reason why I didn’t like him was because I felt threatened by that very confident attitude in him, which I misinterpreted as cocky. Maybe he also felt threatened by me too. Who knows? Anyway, he was all "City Slicker" and I was somewhat of a "Hill Billy". However, neither the "City Slicker” in him nor the "Hill Billy" in me had a clue about what was about to happen next except that we were “fixing to get ourselves killed”. Neither of us knew much about workable tactics in jungle warfare and it had just become obvious to me that our commander didn’t know any more than we did. Basically, we were as green as green could be. But now, for the very first time in a matter of a couple minutes I was about to learn how really worlds apart Walker’s way of thinking was from mine in a completely unexpected way that would forever change the way I thought about him. At the same time, while being given that opportunity to peer into his soul, I would also become bonded to him forever.


    The platoon leaders, sergeants and squad leaders were still huddled in front of us discussing the details of our final assault plan as I found myself standing face to face with him. This allowed Walker and me to really look at each other for the first time. We both had been contemplating the day we would see our first action. Now that day had arrived and I sensed the hard veneer which Walker had been sporting towards me, break. I also saw the fear in his eyes as I am sure he saw in mine. There was a few uncomfortable seconds of starring at each other. Then, to my shock, he started talking non-stop strait to me. It was like we had been old friends all our lives. He never took his eyes off mine, ignoring all the “brothers” standing around him. And as I stood frozen in place, listening, he started, with a general description of his life back in the big city. He said he had been a pimp. He had nice cars and all the money he needed to buy nice clothes and other nice things. Well you could have "bowled me over like a bowling pen". He went on to say, "Before I was drafted, my girls took care of me. I never had to struggle much for anything. But this is the first time that I feel like I am doing something that really counts. I am serving my country and I AM PROUD TO BE HERE". Now, “I am here to tell ya” Those few words and the very idea of choosing to say them directly to me and me alone pierced something deep inside me through and through. I never looked at Walker the same, again, and I have never forgotten him, though I have forgotten most of the others. To the totally self-centered intellectual part of me, who could only see this situation as being a very stupid way to have my life end, the vast contrast between the very noble way he felt and the way I felt came as a strangely shocking and I must say uplifting surprise. However, what was even more shocking was the fact that he said these words to me, a person who was so different in so many ways from him. It would take many years for me to recognize this for what it really was. It was a manifestation of great unselfishness in its most raw and pure form, a form otherwise recognized throughout American history as patriotism. I was looking at a live patriot standing in front of me on that deadly piece of ground so long ago and he didn’t look anything like John Wayne.

    It is really strange how the mind focuses on such narrow remembrances of traumatic events. I can remember Walker’s face and the green towel he wore around his neck to wipe the sweat away, as clearly as if I had just seen him only 30 seconds ago. Yet, I remember nothing, at all, about the other soldiers all around us, who were engaged in all sorts of noteworthy activities. Now I know what I didn’t know then. Something else was happening to both Walker and me besides his decision to open up to me about himself personally. My mind was shutting down and so was Walker’s. Maybe that shutdown is what lowered defenses and triggered the conversation he had with me. And maybe that is why I listened quietly the way I did instead of searching through my own catalog of past thoughts while waiting for a break to interject those thoughts into the conversation. I understand that it is a very common phenomenon in trauma victims, for the mind to start switching off, ignoring the present circumstance and focusing more on other comforting thoughts. But why did Walker pick me, of all people, to express these thoughts to? I now believe the answer is that he was drawn to the Holy Spirit of God, who still dwelled inside me after all these years of rejecting Him.


    If trauma causes the mind to shut down, then that could be one of the reasons why many veteran combat soldiers tend to not talk about their experiences. They simply don’t remember very much about what was going on around them. I do remember this incident clearly after 50 years but at the same time I am sure that I have forgotten many other details. I am sure of this. We had advanced in 2 columns abreast with each column 3 or 4 meters apart which I can remember thinking was very strange because it meant that only the two men in the front could actually deliver fire on the approach to the bunkers. I was one of those first few men leading the approach but my platoon’s advance was suddenly halted. We were now no more than 40 meters from the enemy bankers although I wouldn’t know that until the shooting started. I was in the lead in the right hand column. One of our N.C.O.’s ordered us to halt. Immediately, everyone in my platoon in both columns kneeled down to make a smaller target of ourselves. It was a very tense moment, waiting to receive the order to make the final advance. Suddenly, however, 1st platoon (radio call sign “Lima”) which had originally lined up somewhere behind us came bursting through our ranks, in single file, between our 2 columns. As I watched in horror, they continued on at a very fast pace led by a staff sergeant in the lead. This was strange too because staff sergeants usually had better things to do then be the first man to get himself killed. Within seconds we heard several explosions and started receiving heavy fire coming from the direction of Lima platoon. All we could see was thick jungle to the front and bullets shredding jungle foliage all around us while we hunkered down unable to return fire because “Lima” platoon was now between us and the enemy. To this day I have no idea why my platoon was halted and “Lima” platoon was chosen as the sacrificial lamb to move through our lines and make this suicidal assault. Did Denton intentionally choose to do it this way, using his men to draw fire which would have exposed the location of the enemy so we could get an accurate bombing coordinate? Maybe, but I may never know the answer to that question. Even so, that still doesn’t explain why “Lima” was ordered to file past us and take the lead.

    The explosions we heard were probably claymore antipersonnel mines which would have been detonated by the enemy soldiers manning the bunkers and they would most definitely have killed or badly wounded the first several guys in the lead. If we had continued on instead of Lima platoon there is a very high probability that I would have been one of those guys. Although the jungle was too thick for me to observe a single downed soldier, I could hear the Med Evac Hueys (Dust-Offs) landing on the far side of the rise opposite the bunker complex. They arrived very quickly after the shooting started and continued coming in for some time. Because they got there so quickly, I believe that they had probably already been on standby or maybe even in route before the assault began because there could have been no doubt in anyone’s mind that there were surely going to be American casualties, simply by the way this assault was being executed. Now, however, at least the exact position of the bunkers was known and within an hour or so the air force was finally able to destroy them while everyone in our Company watched and listened to the bombing after withdrawing to the relative safety of our original staging area.

    Before dark my platoon along with the entire company was again ordered to make an on line sweep of the entire area where the bombing took place. I remember approaching the bunkers or what was left of them. The first thought that came into my head as I clawed my way in and around this tangled mess was how well constructed they were. They had connecting tunnels between them which had been partially unearthed and I am sure that they had underground chambers to store all kinds of weapons, equipment, ammunition and food. The overhead cover was made of several layers of large bamboo logs with earth packed between each layer of logs. Had we not withdrawn after locating them there is no doubt in my mind that my entire company would have been wiped out trying to take them man to man.

    This was the first time for me and the other new guys in my squad to see dead enemy soldiers.

    Shortly after surveying the destruction caused by the bombing we moved to a clearing which was close by and there we set up a night defensive position. The next day tanks and armored personnel carriers (APC) met up with us in a nearby village on what looked like a main road. We were loaded onto the APC’s which then headed north further into the Iron Triangle. I now believe that we were on highway 13 which was better known by its nickname, “Thunder Road”. During my time in Vietnam, I would spend a lot of time on and near this road where we would run security patrols and do company sized sweeps in the jungle on both sides of it. It ran about 80 kilometers north from Di An to Loch Ninh, a small village very close to the Cambodian border. This red clay highway also ran parallel to the eastern leg of the Iron Triangle whose southern-most tip was maybe 20 kilometers northwest of our base camp at Di An.

    Now, that I have given the reader a little 1967 Vietnam geography lesson it’s time to move on by updating the reader on some other particulars as I and the rest of the new guys in my platoon progressed in our status from new guys to full-fledged Vietnam combat grunts, after receiving our CIB. The federal code for issuing a CIB says, “a soldier must be personally present and under fire while serving in an infantry or Special Forces unit as their primary duty assignment, during the time period in which that unit is engaged in active ground combat, to close with and destroy the enemy with direct fire”. We certainly satisfied those conditions. This federal code doesn’t say anything about having to shoot back at the enemy. So, my military records show that Walker, myself and the other new guys in our platoon received a “Combat Infantryman Badge” on January 28, 1967, the same day that Operation Cedar Falls came to an end. I believe sergeant Rook was the one who passed on the news to us. No, we would no longer be considered “new guys” but that didn’t seem to matter much to sergeant Rook. He had miraculously gotten his voice back and he still treated us like raw recruits.

    Now, the CIB is the most coveted medal in the entire United States Army and one that is pinned on a soldier’s dress uniform above every other medal a soldier will ever receive, including “The Medal of Honor”. However, something else needs to be mentioned here concerning my receiving a CIB. That something is a very profound truth which applies to every Holy Spirit anointed believer like myself. Although receiving that medal was a very honorable and upright happening in my life, it was earned through carnal choices made by me instead of the leading of the Holy Spirit. As I have already mentioned, the Holy Spirit had opened the door for me to become the company clerk but fear of man kept me from listening to Him. If I had become company clerk then I would never have received this prestigious medal but I would have no doubt reaped much greater benefits by following the leading of the Holy Spirit instead of my own carnal feelings. Now, let me say something else which will sum up this profound truth in a “nutshell”. When a Holy Spirit anointed believer makes a willful decision to reject God’s guidance and begins to live life on their own terms nothing good ever comes it. Here is the irony in doing so. A believer can live a very upright life and even accomplish many worthy goals in life but somewhere along the way the tide will always turn in that believer’s life, leaving them “high and dry” because being led only by our own carnal thoughts, no matter how wonderful the results, will only end in a vanity, then death. Romans 8:6, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Solomon expounds on this principle in the book of Ecclesiastes. Indeed, this rule applies to all carnal decisions in life whether those carnal decisions lead one to become the most decorated soldier in the entire world or the recipient of the most prestigious degree that has ever been given in the most acclaimed school in the world. Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death.” My life had been on this path of death from the very moment that I made the decision to reject my God and live my life as I “saw fit”. Earning a prestigious medal was not going to change that path for me any more than staying in college and working on my degree would have changed things. Either choice when made with my present mindset still meant that I was a dead man walking, who would leave nothing behind but vanity with no chance of creating the eternal legacy which God had intended for me to leave behind when I went on to be with Him.   

    However, this particular CIB incident did have a very interesting twist. I couldn’t shoot back because my own guys would have been caught in the crossfire. Here comes the twist. Shooting back would have done nothing but reinforce the “blood lust” I carried inside me! I find that little “coincidence” which helped prevent that from happening to be very fascinating and it wouldn’t be the only time that these types of “coincidences” would happen to me while serving in a combat unit and also later while just living everyday life. One of the least understood works of the Holy Spirit is how He protects believers from themselves.

    We stayed on what I now believe was highway 13 for several days while being accompanied by the mechanized unit which had transported us there. During the day we pulled road guard while engineers cleared swaths of jungle on both sides of the road. I also remember watching large Rome plow bull dozers cutting down large trees throughout this area which had already been cleared of small jungle foliage. It was a terrible waste of natural resources.

    I had nothing else to do but watch as I sat there all day starring out from my position with the road behind me and the jungle to my front. Also, there was a lot of road traffic during the day, both civilian and military. I now believe we were located just a little south of a place called Lai Khe on highway 13 about 50 kilometers or so north of our base camp at Di An. We were here several days and we were spread out thinly. I remember having a very lonely feeling and I still remember that feeling 50 years later. It seemed as though I had been detached from my unit. I felt quite abandoned. I believe one reason this feeling of abandonment still lingers in my memory is because I was temporarily assigned to a position which had a 50 caliber machine gun. That fact alone made things feel sort of “out of place” because an infantry battalion like mine had no heavy machine guns like this, but mechanized units did. Could it be possible that I had been pulled away from my own platoon and temporarily assigned to a mechanized unit just for the purpose of guarding that road? I can’t answer that question but a have since learned that infantry units were used alongside mechanized units in these types of Rome plow operations to protect the engineers doing the work. A likely scenario is that my platoon members were all scattered amongst the members of this mechanized unit operating with us and also with the engineers who were clearing the jungle up and down the road. I do remember not knowing the other 2 guys stationed with me on this position and that wasn’t a good feeling. That was probably the main reason why I felt abandoned. All grunts in Vietnam had one thing in common. They never wanted to be isolated from the other members of their unit while on an operation.

    Another factor which I personally found disconcerting was the condition of this machine gun site which I was manning. It only had a few sandbags stacked up in front of it with no bunker emplacement whatsoever. It was also out in the open and could easily be taken out from an enemy hiding within the wood line. Years later I learned that mechanized units were usually stationed inside that Woodline to protect the Rome plows but at the time I didn’t see any evidence of them being deployed there on this particular day. However, the reader must keep in mind that there was a lot going on around the average grunt in this war that he wasn’t aware of. It is also possible that the other 2 strangers with me that day were part of the engineering crew. A clue that reinforces this thought is how very quickly the responsibility fell on my shoulders to man the 50 caliber machine gun which I was qualified to do. If these guys had been with the mechanized unit they would have been qualified also and would not have turned the gun over to a stranger. Engineers, on the other hand, would have definitely wanted a grunt like me to handle this gun, leaving them free to do other things.

    You would think that I would have ask questions of these guys to try to better understand my present circumstance, but I didn’t. I had been raised to never push myself to communicate with others when I felt uncomfortable and I was feeling very uncomfortable now out here in the middle of nowhere with not a single familiar face to be seen. I “clammed up” in part because the development of my interpersonal skills had been stunted for years.  In general, my parent’s false perceptions about almost everything had led them to make many terrible choices in many different areas of their children’s development. Development of interpersonal skills in their 5 children was just one of those areas. I had been encouraged to spend my summers in isolation on my grandfather’s farm which I have many fond memories of, to this very day, but must also admit was not the best place for a teenage boy to learn to deal with the 20th century world. However, that experience would have been great if it had been joined by a school year involvement in team sports, school clubs and maybe a part time job but my parents saw no value in that whatsoever. Those training grounds of interpersonal skills development were actually squashed very subtly by my mother’s fearfully domineering spirit before they ever had a chance to bud, and many times not so subtly. My father always went along with my mother’s wishes on these matters mainly because he was too wrapped up in what made him feel good to think much at all about the long range future of his children. I say this with the understanding that most young men of my generation lacked interpersonal skills. However, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the most lacking mine would have been no more than a 2.   

    So, no it wasn’t unusual for me not to ask questions of these guys at all that day. Not only had I received some of the world’s best prerequisite schooling in noncommutative behavior, but I was also still reeling emotionally from the close call that I had had at the enemy bunkers. I had come very close to dying that day and for what, “More cows for Lyndon’s ranch”? (By the way, I am stealing that line from “Open Range”) I may have been socially impaired but I wasn’t stupid. The command decisions made there kept screaming to me that the life of a grunt meant nothing to anyone in the entire chain of command or the entire military, itself, for that matter, and that belief went double for our present commander. This message kept repeating itself continually and it wouldn’t stop. Not only did this wickedly taped chorus continually keep playing, but another verse was added that repeatedly whispered something else even more sinister. It said that I had been thrust into a situation which had no doubt rendered me as helpless as a child being marched off a thousand foot cliff. I felt as though I falling and just waiting for the moment to hit bottom. I had literally lost all control over whether I would live or die and that was something which I just couldn’t tolerate. Like my father, life was all about me and no one else but me. Nothing was worth sacrificing “me”. Nothing!  

    Every waking hour now since the enemy bunkers incident consumed 90% of my thoughts with how I could keep myself alive under this man’s leadership over the next year. What could I do to regain some sense of control over whether I would live or die? Well the reader may be surprised at the answer to that question. Although it is not the only answer, many times when people believe that they are in a desperate situation, they look around for some mundane thing to tackle, one they know they can handle and that is exactly what I did on this day. The 50 cal. machine gun was fifty. I started breaking it apart enough to realize that it was not only dirty on the outside but there was burnt powder residue everywhere inside too. I found some old rags and made do with the rifle cleaning stuff that I had in my ruck sack to clean the inside of the barrel. After about 30 minutes I had cleaned the entire gun and had its “action” working as “slick as a whistle”.