S3 – THE LOST PATROL

What follows is an excerpt from “Sole Surviving Sons, a Marine Tanker in Vietnam“. The book is unpublished as of yet and is a Marine odyssey in Vietnam. Please comment if you would like to hear more…..
Additional excerpts…..
Although these short stories stand on their own, they suffer greatly from having the art and photos stripped out as well as being out of context. My book takes the form of months, not chapters and each month is prefaced by one letter that I sent home and paraphrasing of others….and then the real reality.

 

S3 – THE LOST PATROL

by D.

 

     D. river post 1967 S3, at least as far as we were concerned, was in charge of 1st Tank Battalion’s

security. That meant securing two small hills south of the Battalion perimeter, two

bridges south and east of the position, and also patrolling the areas around the 1st Tank’s

perimeter itself. None of these were very enticing jobs.

     If patrols were ALL of it, it wouldn’t have been that bad, but in the daylight we

how to bug in

also got all the glamorous work of digging pissoirs, repairing bunkers and burning shitcans.

All this after roaming the countryside for two to four hours every night. Night

after night.

     Most of the time we couldn’t muster more than half the troops assigned to patrol.

It’s very difficult to convince a drunk or someone in a sound sleep that he should get up

to slog around in the mud and monsoons for a few hours. Sometimes we didn’t press it

and just went out with what we had. Sometimes that wasn’t much.

     One particular night I got up, put on my illegal camouflage rain suit (it came from

the states with me and never saw a laundry for over two months of nightly patrols, I’d

just take them off of the nail where they hung, bang them against the hooch to crack most

of the mud off and put them on to let the rain do any further cleaning, (with what they

were put through every night it made very little sense to me to actually clean them) and

headed up to the Command bunker. When I get there the only other Marine present was

PFC Walker. We waited awhile for the others to show up, and then walked back to the

hooches in the rain to try to round some people up. We didn’t have any luck; everyone

we could even get to talk to us had one reason or another to not go out. Most of them just

told us to f*** off.

     We looked at each other, said the hell with it and went out on our own. Walker

was the point and auto weapons man, and I humped the radio and was rear security

carrying my old M-14. We went out the wire in the midst of the usual drizzle. Two man

patrols boarder on being suicidal, but this was close to Battalion, and we could always

call up some mortar support on the radio if we really needed it. Our patrol route was

relatively safe, but it still got very strange out there on some nights. We spent four hours

one night, snoopin’ n poopin’, and calling for illumination every time we moved while

we tried to figure out if we were on their trail or they were on ours. After a very tense

night we never did find out, just as well. Who knew how many of THEM there were.

      We had wound through about three fourths of our patrol route, getting ready to go back in

through the wire not long after going through an area with a little abandoned Vietnamese

shack. I’d been walking backwards half the time checking that our rear was safe and

clear. On one of these turn-a rounds to look back down the trail, when I turned back

Walker was GONE! We were right at the point where the trail branched off again.

Trying to look everywhere at once, I ran down one of the trails hoping to find Walker,

but thinking the gooks had taken him out when my back was turned and I was next.

Nobody. I went back up the trail to search out the other branches. About this time I ran

into a hallucination, I hope. Someone was moving through the area of the hooch and it

wasn’t Walker, I leveled my M-14 at him and backed down the trail away from him as he

seemed to do the same. Again I had no idea how many of THEM there might be, perhaps

he thought the same thing.

     I hadn’t any luck finding Walker, so I headed toward the wire where we were to

go in, moving cautiously; once I was within a hundred yards or so from our entry point I

spotted another little guy with a weapon coming back on the trail heading in my

direction. I got off the trail and locked the sights of my rifle on him, tracking his head

while whispering “Walker, Walker, is that you?” ready to squeeze off a round. You must

understand that Walker was as small, if not smaller, than the average Vietnamese so this

was very touchy, very dangerous.

     Luckily I received the answer that I was hoping to hear. It was him. He had

moved right along the trail and on up to the edge of the bush near the wire, before

noticing he’d lost me. He had turned around to have me call in, so we could enter the

wire without getting lit up by our own guys, but I wasn’t there. He thought I was hanging

back in the bush and waved me up a couple times, but I didn’t come. This is when he had

the same thoughts as I had, that the dinks had grabbed me off from behind him. He

couldn’t even get back in or contact Battalion without me and the radio, so he started

working his way back down the trail to where we met back up. We went back to the wire

and radioed in and entered the perimeter. My last two man patrol. It was too difficult for

two guys to hold down as many jobs as were required of a patrol and not get screwed up.

     Robert Walker stayed at Battalion and continued to run the S3 patrols throughout

his tour there. We ran other patrols together again, as Corporals, but I seriously doubt if

he ever tried to run a two man patrol again.

 


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7 Comments

  1. Please keep it coming. In fact I might be very interested if you got it sorted and packaged it. My HS buddy’s step-dad had all kinds of stories, from a 17 yr old’s perspective of being dropped in the jungle in the middle of a firefight. Some of the stories were a little hard to take but always entertaining. Looking forward to more.

  2. D., I enjoy your stories very much, the fact that they are real eye witness events that the author was deeply entrenched in and not just the re-telling of others adventures adds a certain patina to them. There are publishers who specialize (at least in part) on military memoirs and stories: Ballantine Books and Naval Institute Press are a couple….

  3. John Galt:
    Thanks for your interest.
    I actually have had a few social dinners and drinks with the CEO, retired Maj. General Tom Wilkerson, of US Naval Institute Press. They had their shot and screwed the pooch by losing the MS. I do not often give second chances. It’s not that I haven’t shopped it, I am just not driven in that manner.

    A few Beta CDs were burned, 354 pages(includeing about a hundred photos, maps, etc as well as a one hour DVD created from the film I shot in RVN) and given to close friends and tank crews who raved about it. At that time, that was all the review that I cared about. I wrote it around 78-79 and it has been polished since then without removing the 18 year olds naivete’ that was always a part of the story.

    Stay tuned, you may be pleasently surprised by plans in the works.

    BTW, I also have a trilogy of fiction? action/adventure loosly based on a short period spent as a corporate private contractor. They were more fun and less painful to write than the non-fiction, so I like them better. Regards, D.

  4. D., I’m looking foreword to the “plans in the works.” As a disclaimer I work for the oldest and largest book wholesaler in existence. It’s as surprising to me as with many, but books are still very popular. I see many military memoirs pass thru and it seems they are of particular popularity now. I choose to believe it’s a long unsatisfied need to know our history, the details of which are no longer taught in school, but I may be choosing wrong. I recently finished “UNBROKEN”, superb! and “AMERICAN SNIPER” poorly written but worth reading; the movie version of which is in the works. I’m no stranger to fiction writing and I wish you the best….

  5. I may not have been “obvious enough” with my comment “I see many military memoirs pass thru and it seems they are of particular popularity now. I choose to believe it’s a long unsatisfied need to know our history, the details of which are no longer taught in school, but I may be choosing wrong.” There is a need…. “a dire need” is not overstating, for a record of history. Your story is no less worthy than others I have seen published. The attempted sharing of your story could be considered a duty on to itself….

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