|May 12th 1969 - Quan Loi, Vietnam|
To clarify where this story takes place I must go back to when I first arrived at
Quan Loi. At that time there was a battery of 155's on
HHB 6/27th's west
perimeter between our fence and the perimeter road. The 155's eventually moved
out and the 1st Infantry Division moved a
mortar platoon in there spot. It
was a good location for them. It had existing bunkers for them to live in and
the gun pits made a good place to set up their tubes. There was also a
walkway through our fence to allow easy access to our mess hall.
On the evening of May 11th every thing was as every other evening. Those on perimeter guard had their guard mount and were on their bunkers, while those on interior guard were at their posts and those on duty were at their stations. After showers the EM club was in full swing, with people talking about their homes or the day's events. Others were settling down to relax or write letters to loved ones. No one had any idea of what was to happen later that night.
At midnight the first rockets came in, and as usual I was up and moving before the sound of the first rocket faded. When I got outside the bunker I knew something was different because the perimeter was alive with small arms fire. There were explosions I didn't recognize and I could see the guard tower burning. I made my way to the RTT area where I was supposed to go, and waited for instructions.
After a short time the 1st Sgt. came and said he needed someone to go to the motor pool and get some concertina wire to plug a hole in the fence. Myself, SSGT Hinkle and E-5 Kraft grabbed a jeep and headed for the motor pool. Our motor pool was not in the compound so we headed out the gate and around the airstrip to where it was located. I remember the night sky was filled with Huey Gunships and Cobras. Both were firing their mini-guns and rockets. Puff was there, but because they were already inside the wire the only thing he could do is drop flares. When we got to the motor pool we found the gate was chained and padlocked and we had no key. I tried to break the lock with the butt of my M-14 - that didn't work. I don't remember how we got the gate open, I just remember loading the wire into the jeep and heading back.
When we returned to the battery we drove to the officer' s shower near where the hole in the fence was, and that's when I got my first look at the carnage. Where our bunker #8 had stood now was a pile of sand bags. There was a person I had never seen before standing in the middle of them with a mortar tube. On the ground were two NVA, one had his leg blown off and the other was lying on his back over an 8x8 wood beam. Still the rockets kept coming and the rifles kept firing. Next to us on "A" Battery’s side I could hear the .50 caliber barking. The flares gave everything an eerie look that now seemed surreal. As we unloaded the wire someone said "hey, this ones still alive". I looked down at my feet and, sure enough the NVA soldier lying on his back was breathing. I could see the slight rise and fall of his chest. It struck me as odd, though, with as many times as he was shot there should have been a lot more blood than there was. The 1st Sgt ordered two guys to take him to the Medical Aid Bunker with instructions to tell the medics to do what they could for him.
I approached the guy by the tube to see if I could be of some help. He was in bad shape mentally. He kept saying "I had to do it, I had to do it.” After listening to him babble I figured out that he had been outside looking at the stars when the attack started, and a sapper had jumped him from behind and he was forced to kill him with his bare hands. I could see he was in shock and of little use. I also learned that while I was getting the wire several of our guys went through the mortar platoon looking for bodies and survivors. I was told that only three of the platoon made it out alive and two were medavaced along with a couple of our boy's.
At some point the 1st Sgt told me to go to the aid bunker for something, I don't remember what, but I do remember I didn't want to go because of what I might see. As I walked to the aid bunker I saw a soldier lying on a litter outside the entrance. I knew he was dead but part of me wanted to say "come on man wake up". I remember going down the steps - the air was warm and thick. I remember coming back out, but I remember nothing in between.
I thought that night would never end, but like all night's do, it finally did end with a sunrise. In the morning, when all was done and secure, and we had time to reflect, our morbid curiosity took over and we walked to the green line to see the enemy we had beaten. When I got there what I saw were mostly young boys, but you know back then we were all mostly young boys. I found they didn't wear black pajamas, they wore only boxer shorts. I remember thinking how much like wax figures they looked due to their skin color and lack of blood. I still see the faces of both our boys and the enemy, and if it weren't for the photos I have of the time I spent in that country I would think it was all a very bad dream. Sometimes I wish that were so.
|Roger Mallory Then and Now|