During one of my many “retreats” to Nui Ba Ra, I had the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of being a part of a mad minute I’m sure everyone knows what a Mad Minute (See Note) is; but did you know there is a protocol that needs to be adhered to. It’s simple; make sure anyone that could be affected by it is notified. That means contacting all units in the vicinity to insure no one is in the immediate area, and everyone is expecting this to happen; that way there are no surprises. I did not notify anyone.
The security for the Mountain consisted of at least one platoon of grunts that were usually rotated out every few days or so. When a new platoon arrived we were re-supplied with water and S.P. packs, something I always looked forward to. The grunts used this time to rest from their laborious day to day routine of busting brush. It also allowed the newer members to get acquainted with the weapons they used in the field.
On one occasion they spent the day practicing blowing trees with C-4 and LAW rockets (Light Antitank Weapon M72-A2). I sat on a bunker overlooking the landing pad watching as they had their fun, and wished I could be a part of it. This went on for most of the day and the longer it went on, the more envious I became of their getting to play. I really wanted to be a part of the destruction I had been observing.
As the sun started to set the Lieutenant in charge approached asking if I would like to be part of a mad minute they were going to have. The thought of throwing rounds down range, without being shot at, made me very excited and I accepted the invitation without hesitation. This is what I had been waiting for since the day began, and in my zeal neglected to inform Bravo Battery, at Song Be, what we were going to do. This I found to be a mistake.
The signal to begin was given by a flare being popped, and all hell broke loose. I had picked out a sapling I wanted to try and cut in half, then opened up with my 16 on Rock and Roll. It proved to be a waste of ammo, but it sure was a lot of fun. All around me 16’s, 79’s and 60’s were being fired at an alarming rate. The down slope of the mountain was covered with tracer rounds and anyone looking at us from the bottom was sure to think we were under attack. I had expended three magazines when the ceasefire was called; and I loved every round of it.
When I got back to the radio room I could hear Bravo Battery calling and they sounded extremely agitated. They kept repeating …. “Echo are you there, do you need support…Echo are you there, do you need support.” Then it dawned on me what they were excited about and I answered, “This is echo, over.”
“Echo do you need support, we have the short stubbies turned and ready to fire support.”
“Negative, we don’t need support, I say again we do not need support, we were having a mad minute.”
The radio went silent for a bit and then another voice came over and very sternly said, “Next time make sure you notify us before having your fun, Out!”
I learned a valuable lesson that night, and often wondered what would have happened if Bravo Battery had fired support without hearing from me. It would have been quite a surprise to all of us on the mountain to see the 8 inch rounds hitting below our position with no way of knowing where they were from, and whether or not they were friendly.
HHB, 6/27th Artillery