Wednesday, February 19, 2014
An Offence that didn’t Happen
(Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, 1971/War)
For the most part, on Cam Ranh Bay we never had any drills: nights, mornings, forenoon, evenings, none at all. We drove here and there, now and then for rifle practice, everyone sooner or later had guard duty; some of us visited village girls, and in-between drank and smoked ourselves to a frenzy, or virtually dead state: one or the other; and by and by had ourselves a youthful good time, and by and large, had honestly good meals: then back to our regular duties, happy and content like a Minnesota Prized Hog, at the State Fair. And to add to that, one might say, for the longest time life in a war zone was idly delicious, per near perfect, even movies on bed sheet held tight against our wooden outside wall, a part of our dayroom, or lounge where we usually could find a can of warm beer after duty hours: hence, the sheet was stretching across the wall, and we saw the latest movies, at 611th Ordnance Company. There was little to mar it.
Then came the alarm one day. It was reported, no, more like rumored that Charlie, the enemy was advancing on us, here at Cam Ranh Bay, in all directions; from the surrounding hills, — digging in for an offence. The result was near panic among us, an all encompass concentration.
It was by far, a rude awakening from our pleasant day, every day trance like tranquility.
The rumor was not definite, nothing concrete; so we didn’t know what to anticipate, where to retreat to if we had to retreat, all that was certain was, the South China Sea was on one side of us, and in a horseshoe shape, the inland peninsula surround us on the other side. Consequently, we were sitting ducks—so was our circumstances; but we all tried to maintain an attitude of laisser-faire, to put up a front of not yielding to the unknown.
And so the captain, Captain Rosenboum, yielded the point and called a counsel of war, for one and all, all being 160-soldiers in or Ordnance Company.
The question was: do we fight or retreat, which is more like running. Nobody appeared to have even a guess to offer, but the Captain.
He explained in a few chosen, and well selected words, calm and slow: “Insomuch as Charlie approaching us in the hillside, in fox holes only big enough to breathe out of, we know he is there, but will he attack in force?”
And we all looked at one another, our course was simple, there was no direction to go in—; the Captain’s face how true this was. It was now decided that we would stand our ground, right here, never fall back because, back was into the sea, although we had ships out there, somewhere, wherever.
And so our rifles and our magazines were full of ammunition and were within a hand’s reach; close to that anyways.
The hills were rough and hilly and rocky, with lots of foliage. And into them the night always grew very dark, and rain began to fall. So surely if they were to attack it would be burdensome, if not troublesome, struggling and stomping along the narrow muddy pathways in the dark to get to us; and we all slept with our arms and legs ready to jump up and out of bed to the muddy slop in front of our campsite; of course, we were half drunk, or if not drunk, missed up by dope of some kind. And there was among voices dismal to hear and take part in, low voices. And the enemy maybe coming at any moment. And so the growling and complaining continued night after night, unabated.
For a week we waited for the attack, as helicopters pawed around the rocky hillsides, swept down around the coastal areas, rocketed here and there, looking for Charlie. Consequently we lost interest in the attack, the war, the worry of it, about it, because the attack never came.
And for the rest of this story which precedes it, has long ago faded out of my memory.