This is me in RVN at Chu Lai in January of 1971, I was twenty years old
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I was in Nighthawk, a night-time Hunter Killer Team. We were working our usual area denial mission when the radio came to life. A Ranger sniper team was surrounded on a hilltop and the enemy had worked in CLOSE. The next step would be a large number of grenades upon the Rangers and then the enemy would spring forward, their weapons firing on full-auto. The defenders were few, only six men, and they would be quickly over-run and killed.
We were diverted to their location. We came up on the frequency of the trapped Rangers. In a whispered voice the radioman began to fill us in on their situation. They were on the very top of a hill, which was 400-feet high at most. The hilltop was about 75 feet wide and then it began to slope away very steeply all around. Obviously it was impossible to escape other than down the steep trail which they had ascended hours before. Enemy watchers had either cut their trail or followed them as they left their LZ insertion point. And now, after careful tracking, assembly of their troops, and the difficult and tedious approach to the summit, the enemy was ready. They would kill the Rangers soon.
The Rangers held their fire. The enemy was close, too close. If they shot their weapons, the enemy would know where they were, precisely. Not the They are over there on that hill but instead there they are, thirty feet away, I see their muzzle flashes kind of thing. The only weapon they could use, and keep the enemy guessing about their dispositions, were the hand grenades on their web gear. Preparations were being made for the imminent enemy assault. Grenades were in hand, their pins straightened for easier removal. The thoughts of each man wandered from making sure that his weapon safety was off and his finger was off the trigger. No accidental firing, not now. A fleeting thought of home, Mother, Father, girlfriend, family .no, concentrate. Death is near, ready to snatch you up and leave your body to bake in the next days sun. Get ready. Ears strain on both sides for a loose pebble, a weapon scraping a rock, water sloshing in a canteen. The cotton mouth was there, too; your mouth so dry, you cant spit. The impending action forces men to have the urge to urinate to be ready to fight.
Whop, whop, whopa Huey! Now they all heard it. The enemy waited. Maybe they could shoot down the helicopter, which was coming to pick up the Americans. The crew of the Nighthawk gun ship listened intently to the situation. It would be difficult to get the Rangers out alive. The enemy was ready and close to the friendlies. I did not want to injure or kill any of our men. Quickly we formulated an attack plan. The pilot spoke to the Ranger on the ground and he whispered back. We maneuvered into position and our flare ship dropped two illumination flares. The Rangers threw a grenade into some bushes near the trail. That was my signal to fire the mini-gun. I worked over the enemy position repeatedly with a steady volume of fire. The Ranger radioman was yelling into his mic now, Youre killing them! I can hear them screaming! The plan was for the Rangers to run down the trail when I stopped firing. The Rangers jumped up and bolted down the trail just as we planned. The last Ranger had his strobe light flashing and it had an inverted cover with a blue plastic liner so it would not look like muzzle flashes, nor be readily seen by the enemy. In the moonlight I could see the remnants of the surprised enemy force running down the trail in pursuit of the Rangers. I immediately opened fire and swept the trail repeatedly with a deadly hail of fire from my mini-gun until no further movement was detected. Our flare ship picked up the Rangers and we returned them to Chu Lai without further incident. Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.