May 12, 1969
The night of May 11, 1969 was much like any other night in Quan Loi. As I remember it seemed to be rather quiet with no firing missions being called. We had heard rumors that Charlie was near our perimeter. In fact, during the weeks before that night, the two eight inch guns had been firing point blank or should I say straight at the perimeter. Air Force jets had dropped napalm around the perimeter so close that we could feel the heat from the explosions. These were not good signs.
Our location was on the west side of the Quan Loi base camp. “A” Battery’s position was protected by concertina wire and various guard bunkers. At 1:30 on the morning of May 12, 1969, my life was changed forever. Rockets and mortars came in from everywhere. That night trip wires went off on the perimeter, and we knew we were in for a ground probe of our position. I, along with another soldier, was sent to the small guard bunker atop the projo bunker in Gun Section Number Four .
I remember seeing movement near the wire; at first I thought they were Americans from the mortar platoon. When we realized they were North Vietnamese, we opened fire with our M-14’s. They had a flame-thrower, and used it to set the gun pad on fire. I remember seeing one of the NVA aim a rocket-propelled grenade at us. He wore khakis and had a beekeeper type hat on. I can still see him aiming that thing at us as we fired at them. The next thing I remember is hearing the explosion and being on the ground about twenty feet from where I had been. I crawled into the closest ditch.
Flares started exploding overhead, and we threw sand from sandbags on the fire that had set the gun pad on fire. It was an eerie sight – surreal. The night was lit up and was almost like daylight; only the light would come and go with the flares. Everything seemed like it was in slow motion.
I remember looking at my arm and seeing blood running down my hand. I noticed my pants leg had been shredded. Blood was running into my boots. There is nothing more frightening than seeing your own blood flowing. One of the guys helped me to the aid station, I think in Headquarters Battery, but I can’t be sure. The medic there cut off my shirt and pants. He told me that I was lucky and not hurt very badly. He gave me an IV and hauled me in the back of a truck to the 1st Cav. medical aid station in the chopper area near the airstrip. I was examined by another medic who assigned my stretcher to a side area. I watched the soldier on the stretcher next to me die. He did not seem to be in pain. He was covered in shrapnel. He just seemed to go to sleep.
Looking back, the medivacs must have been transporting the most critically wounded; those that they thought could be saved, out first. Finally, (it seemed like hours) my stretcher was loaded onto a medivac chopper. I didn’t have on a stitch of clothing. I was wrapped in a poncho liner, and clutched my dog tags and wallet. All my worldly positions I held in my hands.
As the chopper rose up in the air, I started laughing. The machine gunner looked at me – I yelled, “I’m never coming back here.” He pointed toward the ground down into the jungle. We could see what looked to be hundreds of lights flickering. Charlie was making his get-away.
It was almost daylight when the chopper set down at the hospital in Saigon. The doctor removed the shrapnel from my body that morning, and told me that I would probably return to my unit in a few weeks. I still have shrapnel that occasionally works its way through may skin. Anyone old enough to remember May 1969 will recall a battle called Hamburger Hill. So many soldiers arrived in the hospital that day there were no beds to put them in. We were put on stretchers on the ground in the courtyard.
My million dollar wounds began to payoff. Medical flights to Japan on C-141 transport planes started flying out of Ton Sa Nut. I flew to Japan on a stretcher, wounds bandaged, but not stitched up, wrapped like a mummy, but still laughing. They did not stitch your wounds for fear of infection. Vietnam was one of the filthiest places on earth. My freedom bird was flying out of there, and I knew that I would never return.
Larry Jameson Then and Now
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