John Yakubov and I, Bob Canape were in a gun team with Cruitt and Bellamy, Yak and I joined Kilo November 28. This was about Jan 15th. Those guys were old salts compared to us.
After a few months in country senses sharpened to the point of smelling the presence of the enemy. Now different, the salts smelled NVA, different from the locals. NVA smelled more like jungle than human , were mostly invisible shape shifters, appearing as a muzzle flash in the brush, as a vine stretched across the path, and finally as a corpse. We found footprints.
Dohler, a Hawaiian called” Pineapple” , like a Nebraskan called “Cornhusker” was pointing them out to Lieutenant Black. There seemed to be some hidden [ from me] message. They pointed and gestured while speaking in low tones. I” You see that?” I couldn’t until Bellamy’s voice practically shoved my face in the mud near a heel print that Dohler, a real salt; probably saw a unit designation , mission objective, and marital status in. The print‘ s in mud by a streamlet at the bottom of a steep hill. It was near dusk, a time movies love for this shit. A flat in a car without a spare, fifty miles from town and a five mile hike from a phone. A common enough theme, get somewhere before dark. I wanted to get back to the hill, just tired of patrolling and ready to eat. Bellamy had to impress the reality of what I was seeing, before I could see it. Yeah, yeah, water, mud, a dent. Bellamy’d been to Con Tien and seen things. It’s darkening, that’s not the point. Of course I don't get it yet that Bellamy knows we’re seeing sign of a force that wont vanish by daylight.. A stagnant Smell falls into these places. Streams like this have leeches. Bellamy’s extra two seconds of pointing mean I actually see the depression in the mud . It also somehow communicates that attack is not imminent.These guys were positive about their excitement instead of paranoid . There were about thirty five of us, in a terrible position strategically, but excitement spread. We’d seen the Achilles heel print .
The march back to the hill was a bit more intense than usual. Something in the prints made the brush denser, the dusk grimmer. At the bunker Bellamy decided to lighten things.” There’s probably sappers working their way up the hill now to plant satchel charges and blow the wire. Cruitt agreed. Yak, Carr, and I got the gun in the window of the bunker and got six hundred rounds ready, boxes out of the canvas strap, ammo out of the boxes. Cruitt was pointing down the hill. It's too dark to really see shit, but there was a spot where the Gooks could get up to the wire and get the gun position and rocket team in a field of fire. It made some sense to choose the spot for a charge because a ledge might serve as cover.
“ They're probably ten meters outside the wire. I say we frag ‘em”
“ We ought to tell the lieutenant before we start chucking grenades.”
“ They could be on top of the wire before you get up to the CP.”
“ If you know where they are, you’ll be a hero, But you can get into deep shit chucking a grenade just for the hell of it.”
“ I’m telling you, if I was a gook sapper, I’d be right over there setting a charge on the wire.” Bellamy pulled out a grenade and started pulling the pin. Cruitt said, “ he’s probably down there, but maybe we should get Black so he can alert the line.”
Bellamy was contemptuous,” Why don’t we just wait until he’s alerting our next of kin.”
Cruitt was stung, and turned to walk away. Bellamy kept pulling on the pin.” Pussy. Maybe you’d better ask Lieutenant Black if he’ll walk you to the shitter after dark.” Things had gotten ridiculous; these guys were supposed to be best of friends . Cruitt turned back on Bellamy now and shoved out his open hands sending Bellamy into the side of the trench. As the spoon went flying away from the grenade: two things happened; The striker activated the three to seven second fuse that would detonate the grenade, and the grenade went flying out of Bellamy’s hand.
Start collecting taxes at a Republican convention; the room won’t empty any quicker than that trench did. Except, of course, for Bellamy and Cruitt, who were howling at the success of their stunt. Bellamy picked up the grenade.” One of you guys want to go notify the lieutenant that we’re going to chuck a grenade that’s had the explosive burned out? “
“ Tell them to get ready for a burst of silence.”
Yak and I were back in the trench.,copies of the guy who’d spent an hour searching for a glass stretcher at the lumberyard.
“ Did you notice nobody fell on top of that grenade?”
“ Yeah, I noticed that.”.