The Night of the Mini Mortars
My 30 months In-country
New Year's Eve 1966


The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

Contributed by David Scott    70-71


One night some drunken idiots fired off a back pack launcher full of CS gas in front of the 1st Sgt's. hooch (Vandover, I believe), and they had evidently paid his Mama San to remove his gas mask before hand (Disgruntled Employees? - don't know). Anyway, at 2am the whole company area was suddenly saturated with CS gas, and everyone woke up in a panic thinking there were Dinks in the wire or that they were already on top of us in the company area.

We all woke to heavy gas and, at first, raced out of our hooch's to find it was 10 times worse outside. My hooch mate at the time, Ed Caroglen, from Cleveland, OH, and I fought over the only gas mask we could find and Ed won. He cleared it and put it on and went out to see what the hell was happening. I had to piss on my shirt and breathe through it until I could breathe again without choking. I swear that at the time I thought I was going to die from suffocation there was so much gas.

Fortunately we weren't under attack, and the whole gas cloud was carried off to the west (to the 7/17 Air Cav troop - I don't remember which one) by the wind and they (the 7/17 guys) evidently didn't appreciate it much. Because about two days later, at evening chow time, they hit us with another huge CS gas attack!!!

Everybody took off running for their masks (which, by the way, I knew exactly where mine was after the first attack), and some folks wound up stuck in the concertina wire behind the mess hall squirming like pinned insects. I managed to get my gas mask cleared and on quickly and then laughed about it later. The guys that originally caused the whole mess were identified and dealt with by the CO. It was kind of funny later on, but at the time of the original gas attack it was miserable for me. It made the gas house at Ft. Ord, CA, that I went through in basic training seem like the perfume department at Macy's.

Bill Doak, 70-71

The Night of the Mini Mortars

One quiet night at the 604th, there just wasn't a lot going on. The bunker line boys were all settled in for their shift on bunker guard. Well, it was just too quiet for the hopping place that we were. Then we heard the Nighthawk bird start it's engine. It goes up when there might be activity outside the wire. Not being able to draw our weapons to help on the line, we came up with our own plan. Throwing rocks at Charlie was not a good idea because of lack of range

The plan was to improvise our own weapons, which we did. Arky, Jones, Bogle and Nardini were there to save their fellow Highlanders. We got a 50 cal. tracer round, pulled the lead out of it and then poured the 50 cal. powder out because it burns too slow. Bogle and Nardini gathered up some fast burning M60 powder out of some rounds they found, while Arky and Jones peeled the bottom out of the tracer round. We filled the 50 cal. shell half full of the M60 powder then jammed the tracer round down into the shell while filling it to the top with M 60 powder. The mini- mortar is ready to fire. Well, Charlie doesn't show and we have nothing to shoot at ... or do we? Not wanting to waste good ammo, we put the mini-mortar between 2 sandbags and aimed it carefully. We light the powder with our trusty Zippo and it starts to burn down. Oh shit! Nighthawk is making another pass with the spotlight. Too late now, the mini-mortar is activated. We scramble for a close by hiding spot. The powder is burning down to the primer now, and the tracer is already lit. We hear that sound - POW - and the tracer is spiraling upwards and here comes Nighthawk. Oops!!!!! Looks like the tracer bounced off the gunner's door. Spotlights are shinning all around us, but we don't move a muscle. Finally, Nighthawk goes on it's way.

We just wanted to let the Ghost Riders know that we were there, toe-to-toe with them, doing our part. We couldn't tell them at the time because the CO might have not have understood our intention; helping our brothers-in-arms. Naturally, we trained the FNG's on these tactics when we left for the World. Ghost Riders, the 604th boys were there to help you Rock. On!

Robert Purifoy, 71 - 72

As I remember New Year's Eve, 1966, we had just come back from being down town. I was laying in my bunk when John Harlow came up to me and stuck his 9MM in my ribs. He was always messing with me (in fun)!!! He suggested we go down to the club and have a drink. I could hardly refuse. After having a couple of drinks we headed back to the barracks, and as we reached the new water tower the whole perimeter lit up with small arms fire!!! People were coming out of the barracks firing their weapons in the air. We dropped to the ground wondering what was going on, when I realized it was Midnight. All this confusion didn't go well with the C.O. He called for a muster formation. I often wondered whether all this gun fire was pre-planned or spontaneous.

David Brock, 66-67

Spent 30 months in country, almost a year between Cu Chi and Phu Loi with B company, 1st CAV as the "weapons guy"... ugly places but then luck grinned and got on a C123 [POS] to Pleiku (spent the night on a bench at the AF base). Next morning a jeep arrived and was off to Camp Holloway... tired and cranky. First stop was that hanger with the bulls-eye painted on the east roof where I began as the new weapons guy.

What did I see in those 19 months living in the village and working on AH1Gs? I remember the two A1Es throttled back with full flaps flying in formation with a shit-hook, and one night at dusk those two bright lights coming up the mountain from the east closer ... and closer … then two F4s passing over at maybe a thousand feet in full burner, and thinking these guys are going out somewhere in a hurry to help somebody in a shit-storm ... my team, the Green Machine! And those guys who would stop at my little armament shop at the north-east end of the hanger and talk guns - the lieutenant who wanted [and got] mini-guns for his convoy-duty trucks and jeeps.

The scary shit was happening too, but not as bad as Cu Chi ... the mortars and 122s stomping the compound like crazed frigging giants, berserkers randomly trying to hit that bulls-eye or the smoke filled tents in revetments back behind the mess hall. I lived at the Korean center for awhile and on Sundays (we got Sundays off), I'd go up on the roof and wait for dusk, when there often skirmishes between the white-mice and Charlie; bullets sparking off walls as they'd shoot back and forth. Saw my share of blood and murder... yup, true story; a thousand days living dangerously. This ain't but a taste of it, but I do miss you guys. Them outside the wire were the bad guys, and we knew who the good guys were, no question … black, brown or white, if you were wearing green, you were on my side!

Salutes to Sgt. Hunter, Sgt. Mobley, and all those happy faces who did it with class! Best to you and those met in passing ... we weren't perfect but we were damn good!

Ken Bylund, Dynalectron, 70-71
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