By: Mick Fritz - 1- Feb.- 2010
The perspective of this paper is the views of a 19 year old PFC 0331 Marine from the farmlands of the Midwest. On this stroll we were looking for the 141st Regimental rear area of the North Vietnam Army. We had 11 Marines and as usually spaced out twenty feet between each Marine. An 11 man patrol would be dead meat if they ran into an entire company of NVA. Since our patrol was on their home turf, that could happen. As usual we were walking by the dead bodies of the NVA solders from prior fire fights, reminding us of what could be in store for us if the stroll was not successful. In the triple canopy jungle the light stays semi dark and the vegetation is hanging over the trail. The trail winds around with sharp inclines and declines. There are times you lose sight of the Marine in front and behind you. When the column halts everybody faces out board covering the other guy’s back. There are times when the column comes to a halt while you are standing right in front of a three week old dead gook. You watch the maggots crawling in and out of the gook’s body and if you have been by here before you can determine the amount of deterioration since your last time you came by that way. The odor is really bad the first time, but you get used to it by the time you have been pass there several times. The Hand signal is given and the column moves out. No one talks since you are trying to keep quiet and trying to get in the first shot at the gooks. My thoughts flip back to the University of Evansville and Comp 101 which now does not seem so difficult any more. The column comes to an unplanned halt and as if the jungle just opened up you can see bunkers everywhere. We have walked right into the NVA's 141st Regimental base camp. Everybody freezes and we are dead if the gooks are home. It seemed like a long time but probably not more than 10 sec. and the command is given to back up and get back out of the possible kill zone. The patrol heads back to our rear area and back inside the perimeter. It is good to be back inside the perimeter with more support; and now we know for a fact we are in the area of the NVA Regiment and if we had any thoughts about being up here in the mountains by ourselves those thoughts are now over. Once back at the rear area the report is made to Capt. Barba and he says we will go back tomorrow with the 2nd platoon and sweep the camp. I thought the entire company would have been a better number than just a platoon. Classic Marine Corp, let’s give the bad guys the superior numbers so the fight will be more even. It seemed we were always moving around with a light number of Marines for the operation. Going back to the NVA camp was not good news and being a machine gunner I knew if the shit hit the fan we would be in it. This was not good news but you could not share doubts or concerns, we were supposed to be happy to have the chance to go out and kill some more gooks.
After cleaning the gun and getting all the gear ready for tomorrow it was time to write my letter home. As I started thinking about the topic of the letter it came to me this could be my last letter home. I had not been one to show any emotion to my mom or dad, and I do not know if I had ever told them I loved them and what they really meant to me. I decided it was time to make sure they knew what my true feelings were. Writing this letter brought out emotions that had never came up before. This letter took longer than normal since I kept stopping and thinking about home. Once I finished the letter it was getting dark. We stood two hour watches and usually argued over who had to stand the first watch since it was usually longer than two hours. This evening it did not matter and we were not talking to each other as usual. In the triple canopy of night you cannot even see your hand in front of your face. I put my two grenades right next to my k-bar so I could find them in the night. I know a PFC is not supposed to have a K-bar, but I stole it from the supply guys when I got into country, since I thought I needed it more than they did. Then I set there thinking about what would probably happen tomorrow. I thought about the fact that I would never get to ride my motorcycle in the summer and smell the corn fields in the summer time of Southern Indiana anymore. I would never see my Parents or friends back home. Sitting there in the jungle, I said to myself "if I ever get out this jungle there will never be a worst day than this for the rest of my life". I was raised in a very religious family and praying was a normal part of my life. Very interesting when you know you are going to die how religious you get. I sang How Great Thou Art to myself and somewhat made peace with myself. I started wondering how much pain I would be in before I died. As I pondered the inevitable, I started going through a personal transition. I was thinking about those bastards that were going to take my life away. They would keep me from seeing my family or any of my friends ever again. Then this strange feeling came over me and I thought how many of those bastards could I kill before they got me. If I had to go then I wanted to take as many with me and make them pay dearly. At that moment I became very dark in my thoughts and did not care about all the bodies lying out on the trails anymore. I developed a very deep hatred for any person that appeared oriental. Usually I really look forward to the morning dusk of light, but this morning only meant it was getting time to go meet your maker. The usual morning conversations were not taking place and it was time to saddle up and head for the base camp. This was the largest staging of the Marines on this operation and the size of the staging was an indication of what could happen. Capt. Barba was joining us with Lt. Joyce and if the Captain was coming along it only meant one thing; he thought the shit would hit the fan and he was going to be part of it. I dropped off my last letter home and headed out on the stroll.