It was to be our rest period but a Mike boat that was supposed to run supplies up to a F.O.B, (forward operating base), had been ambushed. She had been hit by rocket propelled grenade and recoilless rifle fire, which resulted in her receiving severe structural damage. One of her crewmen being killed and another three wounded.
Making water and listing badly she had barely managed to limp home as dusk fell. Had they been ambushed in a canal instead of the river I doubt they would have managed the return. You simply couldn’t turn a Mike boat around in a canal that was half, at times even less, a boats length wide. If ambushed in a canal all that could be done tactically was to run the gauntlet of fire, and return same.
Out military boating, in the practical, was no different from civilian boating, other than we had the added hassle of weapons, tactics, and of course mines to contend with. Then, last but not least, there was also the enemy to consider. Following the standing order that our boat had to be in a constant “ready-to-go” state was one thing, but the protocol of checking everything at least twice still applied.
Get caught out in the boonie with no machinery power, or out of ammo and supplies, and then you were, using the most used “in-country” (Vietnam) word, fucked! Ending up being at the mercy of whatever the fates, but more importantly the enemy, threw at you. Then there was capture, a frightening prospect in itself, and needless to say best avoided. So regardless of anyone or anything, we stuck doggedly to the double check protocol.
Checking and checking again turned what was a normal chore into a mad rush as we prepared for the task we had been given, and this made the guys irritable. I was also in a foul ...
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...ntastic amount of ammunition and pyrotechnics could be fired off by both sides during these night battles. Strange as it may seem, there were never that many casualties, on either side.
A flight of “Fast Movers”, (Phantom jet fighter-bombers), the workhorse of the tactical air support fleet, flying high and traveling at speed, and a few minutes later groups of helicopters, made up of “Slicks”, (UH-1H, Hueys), used for transporting troops in tactical air assault operations. A pair of “Snakes”, also known as “Red Birds”, (Cobra helicopters), tore over at near zero altitude being chased by a little “White Bird” (observation helicopter) going flat-out as tail-end-Charlie, which looked almost comical, like a little kid trying its best to keep up with the older kids, but not quite managing. All were heading in the same direction, towards the now heating up battle area.
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