blàr anam [46]

“Today I really am pissed off, and mad, and scared and everything. Today I was a gunner. I’ll describe the day’s events, no exaggeration, no drama, nothing but anger and frustration. I flew today with two of my buddies, Lt Monsaro and Lt Meadows. We took off about 9:00AM to VR, a grid where a team had located bunkers and equipment and hooches yesterday. We flew out there and we went low level while our smokes covered us. Well, we hadn’t been down five minutes when POW! One single rifle shot. We hauled ass out of there and on the way out I was firing behind us, as was the crew chief. I stopped firing and looked in front of the ship where we were going. We were still low level and still in the area. I spotted a man standing in a slit trench that we were passing over and he got down in a huddle. I opened up again and my mark was good, all my tracers went in the trench, I think I got him, so we climbed up to altitude and our smokes had sealed in right behind us and the smoke I had dropped, and pounded the area. We then went back down low level and in another five minutes we were going along a ridgeline with heavy vegetation when all hell broke loose and I heard the unmistakable chatter of an American type 50-caliber machine gun and then as I was dropping my smoke and opening up for the second time I saw green tracers from an NVA type 51-caliber AA gun go under and behind our tail, and the pilot saw a big red American style 50-caliber tracer go across our nose. Again we hauled ass out of the area and our smokes expended their rockets on the ridge. This time the smoke took fire from the ridge. Well, we were expended so we went back to QT for fuel and to re-arm while the air force put a fighter-bomber strike in the area and they took fire out of the area, so we came back out and again went low level and in about ten minutes of searching we began taking heavy automatic weapons fire from at least four positions. I expended all my ammo on the enemy where I could see muzzle flashes and bunkers and likely hiding places. We took fire all the way out of the area for about half a minute to a minute, still no hits on our aircraft. We considered ourselves lucky and swore we’d never go low level in the area again until they put at least an ASC light on it. Our smokes expended again and we came home a second time to refuel and rearm. During our absence the air force again bombed the area. We stayed down for lunch and figured we were through with the area and that this was enough evidence for a heavy bombardment. The artillery shelled the area a bit and we came back out to our ship after dinner and were informed that the general of the 5th mech wasn’t satisfied that there was enough justification to put a heavy strike on the area. We were told to go back in again and also advised to be cool because intelligence sources thought that what we had found was a large NVA unit. (I won’t specify because I don’t know if that’s secret or not.) I’ll say large unit anyway. It was supposed to be their headquarters or something. So we cursed and swore and flew back again. We went down low level and flew around, and flew around, and found huge bunkers, a trench line forty feet long, walk-in bunkers, at least two 50-caliber positions, one with the 50-caliber mount still in place, bunkers and trenches, and fighting positions everywhere. We flew around straining our eyes everywhere and found all kinds of stuff. This went on for about thirty minutes and then we were flying along a ridge at about 60 knots when we heard a ‘plink’. Meadows said we took a round through the floor. I had opened up and dropped the smoke and I saw flashes in the bushes beside us and I fired back until we were out of the area. We heard another ‘plink’ but it didn’t hit us. So now we were real unhappy. Meadows checked around in the backseat. He told us that the bullet had gone up through the floor through the bellcrank housing, then it went up through a box of hand grenades and dented two of them and then on up through the ceiling of the aircraft. We all decided we had had enough. The smokes rolled in and hit the area again and then we headed for a small fire support force close by. We landed to check the ship because from the places where the [?] were, were all control coffer housings, we landed and got out, we looked, no other holes in the ship, just the one through the floor. It had come within inches of the bellcrank, which in all the controls of the ship, if he’d hit that our ass would have been his. The bullet had lodged in the ceiling of the rear cabin. It was a 30-caliber armor piercing round, and just the tip was dented. We all agreed, that did it, we were through. no more, the general could go stick it up his ass. Our team leader went to talk to the general and the general was mad at us and said he wanted us to go back in again. We said no. He said yes. We said no. He said yes. We said all right, if you want us to go in again, you’ve got to go through our operations office. We won’t go back until you put a B-52 strike on it. Intelligence already says it’s something big and we’ve taken heavy fire four times from this area and twice the day before. So we packed up and came home, and the general was mad (and I mean mad) at us. Now the way it works, if you fuck up and get shot down just flying along, fat dumb and happy, and get your shit blown away, this is considered heroic and you get a medal, a DFC. I know this is true. We all do because a lot of people here have DFC’s for this very reason, and if we had been dumb, if we had goofed up and got shot down today we’d have probably gotten a medal, but we were cool, we were up tight, we went back repeatedly and took gobs of fire, everything from AK’s to automatic weapons fire to 51-caliber AA fire. But we had our shit together and we accomplished our mission, taking only one hit. Our mission is to find the enemy. We did that. We gave a detailed report of the area but we didn’t get shot down. We accomplished our mission and got away with it without fucking up. So all we got from the general was a good ass chewing, no medals, no thanks, no nothing. If we’d been splattered all over the side of the hill by the 50-cal he would have been happy and given everyone a cigar and a medal and got one himself for sending us in there but we did his dirty work and got away with it and he got pissed off at us. All Charlie Horse got was an ass chewing. This is the glorious VN war at its best. This is it, lovely. Oh what a lovely war. I really love every minute. Our government is wonderful. A war with rules even. Isn’t this great? Rules that we must obey, but not the enemy. And who made these rules? Our government, of course. Wonderful. This war is nothing but a chess game for the lifers. A chance for the brass buttons to get medals. The medals are a farce. You get a medal for goofing up and nothing when you do your job. King, I shall return, I will come bearing my shield, not on it. Thus, no medals. I know you don’t care about medals though. You now know what medals are and what our job is. I think I’d be embarrassed to get a DFC because it would mean I fucked up. I’m pissed off though because he’s mad at us cause we only took heavy fire four times and two times yesterday and he feels we should go back again to get ‘justification’ to put in a B-52 strike. I’ve got a belief now, a strong belief. I believe this government can take this war and stick it up their ass. Your loving son, David”
–David Freeman, four days before he was killed – letter to his father, Arthur, from Quảng Tri Vietnam: 11 September 1970

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