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This memoir on the Vietnam War completed by Robert R. Amon Jr. is currently awaiting a publication date.

 

 

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Chapter 4

'Troi Oi... Troi Oi!'

 

MAY 23, 1969

Diary Entry:

Today I went with SSgt Parson and Dai Úy Hoa to inspect two outposts of the 338 Company in Co’ Khiá and Duóng Xuông hamlets. Later in the morning we had a visit from Major General Ekhardt and I gave him a briefing.

2315 hours - grenade incident in village, it was the father of the newly elected assistant hamlet chief.diary

Another long, trying day. Parson and I were out at the crack of dawn on a sampan trip with Dai Úy Hoa to the two new outposts to the north and west. Upon returning, we no sooner entered the teamhouse when a call came in that LTC Stanberry was in route with “Fuzzy Empire 68” for another briefing. But who the heck was “Fuzzy Empire?"

We all scurried to give our messy teamhouse a quick cleanup. Within minutes, a chopper was circling, and I ran out to the helipad to pop smoke. I guided the helicopter in, and out jumped LTC Stanberry with a two-star general and a rather large entourage.

“Lead the way, lieutenant,” screamed Stanberry, pointing to the outpost. So off I went, like the Pied Piper, the entire entourage in pursuit.

"Fuzzy Empire 68" was Major General Ekhardt, the commanding general of the entire IV Corps Theatre in the Mekong Delta! This unannounced visit was only my second briefing. I wondered why he was here. What was so important about visiting our little outpost?

I remember the general frequently interrupting, firing questions before I could even finish sentences. He wanted specifics about what we were doing and what my plans were. I gave him the best answers I could and then told him about the 3 VC we killed, about the 5 captured prisoners, about the free elections and the numbers of civilians moving back in. We were "winning hearts and minds!" Hóa Quản was a success story, and I wanted him to know it!

He stood up before I had a chance to finish and I barely had time for a salute before they were out the door. As they walked to the helipad, General Ekhardt was side-by-side with Stanberry, gesturing in the air and pointing here and there. The briefing was more demanding than briefing "Coal Bin Willie" Wilson. I still wondered why all the interest in Hóa Quản, but it was a relief to see the party take off.Snake

Late that afternoon we all kicked off our boots, opened up some warm Carling Black Label and played cards. We turned in about 10 p.m., hoping for a good night’s sleep. We had a big operation in the morning, and we were going to have another busy day.

No sooner had we dozed off than the sound of an explosion woke everyone in the outpost. It came from the north, in the center of the village. Out of bed and pulling on my fatigues, I was out the door in a flash and headed for the Dai Úy’s hootch. Dai Úy Hoa had already dispatched two squads of infantry up through Hóa Quản on the dangerous mission of determining the cause of the explosion.

A few days before the March 2 elections in Hóa Quản Village, one of the young men running for the office of hamlet chief in Co’ Khiá was given a message by the Vietcông: withdraw your name from the ballot or harm will come to your family! They didn't like the fact that he was helping us build another outpost in Co’ Khiá Hamlet.

Undeterred, he defiantly ran for office anyway, and I celebrated with him in the village on March 2 after he had won! He completed the outpost, and Co’ Khiá began to flourish again with returning refugees.

Their marketplace grew as a spin-off of our successful, entrepreneurial market in the center of Hóa Quản. And because of the threat of harm from the Vietcông, he had moved his family to the center of Hóa Quản and had them sleeping in the nipa-palm home of a friend.

But enraged by the hamlet chief’s progress and after waiting nearly three months to exact revenge, the Vietcông managed to sneak into the heart of the village on this night to carry out their threat. Along the wall of the house in which the family slept, an enemy soldier stealthily reached through the nipa-leaf exterior and placed a hand grenade under the bed of the sleeping hamlet chief’s father. The explosion blew the poor old man out of bed. The force of the explosion broke one of his arms and showered his back with metal shrapnel.

It was midnight at the edge of the village. I crouched with Dai Úy Hoa and “Doc” Parson in the dark, watching our soldiers clumsily moving toward us carrying a lantern to guide the stretcher.

Parson worked on the poor old man while I pleaded for a medivac on the radio. Again, everything in Vietnam had priorities. Medivacs for ARVN soldiers were slow in coming, medivacs for Vietnamese civilians were nonexistent.

But tonight, I was lucky. It was Sgt. Setkusky’s voice on the radio again, and I convinced him to bend the rules one more time. And as before, he dispatched a medivac for me!

By 2 a.m., Parson and I were huddled in a group at the helipad, staying low in the dark with the lantern out so as not to attract unwanted attention. Remnants of the VC band that had planted the grenade might still be around looking for more fun.

When the chopper finally approached, the pilot had me wave a flashlight at him. And then, as I stood up, he turned on a bright headlight located under the belly of the ship, completely illuminating me!

With my arms outstretched and looking up, completely night-blinded and shirtless, I guided the ship in, aware of what an unbelievable target I now presented. I felt naked, helpless, almost suicidal. I was living proof to anyone watching that the Vietcông had left for the evening because if they hadn’t, this was their opportunity to shoot me.

When it was over, the hamlet chief couldn’t thank us enough. I even let him jump on board to accompany his 65-year-old dad.

When Parson and I finally turned in for the night, we felt good. We thought we had saved his life. Days later we received word of the old man’s death. He succumbed to the shrapnel wounds in his back.

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