Boondocker's Diary: Page 1
I remember it well, the stench of Vietnam. The air was filled with the smell of diesel fuel and death. The mood was heavy, and the look in the eyes of the Marines who had been there awhile was little more than a vacant stare, As if their souls had been sucked out from their beings.
I later learned that the term and the look was called the 1000 yard stare. This look you had to earn, and it was all about self preservation. Vietnam had no place for emotional attachment, in fact you made no friends, so the term military acquaintance was used. After the loss of my first friend, it seemed best to detach and resist for fear of loss.
As a young Marine I had a lot to learn and just a short time to learn it in. My first night in Vietnam was spent in a foxhole south of Phubai. It was unbelievable. I want to tell ya, that it was the last place I expected to be on my first night in country. What the hell, I was here, I might as well get my cherry broke and get it over with.
The view was less than spectacular, My foxhole overlooked a rice paddy field. in front of me was concertina wire strung out in rows of three. Tin cans were placed dangling from the wire at various intervals within the wire. Inside the cans were pebbles which would serve as an early warning device. Claymore mines were in position for detonation in case of attack. We were armed with M14 rifles, Bayonets and a whole shit-load of grenades. My greatest asset however, was the fear of the unknown.
Night fell quickly and the silence was deafening. I know that sounds strange, but when you can hear a skeeter sucking blood out of a water Boo at 100 yards it's to damn quiet. In the distance I could hear shots being fired and watched in awe as tracer rounds lit up the sky in the darkness. It looked as though the tracers were coming right at me, it was unnerving to say the least. It was an illusion, but the reality of Vietnam had set in like exposed nerve on a broken tooth and I learned my first lesson. This was not a game I was not running in a war game on the Island of Greece this was the real deal, Bullets were real and death was real, This stinking fox hole was real and reality sucked.
The night was pitch black, For you city folks who never experienced pitch black, try this, bandage your eyes, then jump into a hole 30 feet deep at midnight on a moonless evening. Then have a lid place over the hole. If you even have the inclination that you are still living, there is still to much light.
If we were to sleep it would be in two hour snatches, but sleep was not on the agenda for this night, my first night. I was scared to death to close my eyes I couldn't even bring myself to blink, and if I had blinked I wouldn't have noticed it anyway. This form of darkness was a hard one to overcome, but in time I found that this darkness would become a blessing as well as a curse and completely necessary for survival.
A rattle of a tin can caught our attention. My heart was beating a thousand beats a second and with each beat I felt as though my head was going to explode. Silence again. It seemed as though an eternity had passed, I wondered to myself, where is the dawn, Will I live to see it, This was just my first night in this shit-hole and will every night be like this one. Question after question popped into what little room I had left in my mind, fear had taken up most of the space already.
Another rattle of a can twenty yards out at the eleven o'clock position, nobody breathed. A rustling in the dirt, we had no patrols out, it's gotta be charley. A trip flare ignites, the claymores are detonated and explosions fill the silence. A burst of flame lights up the night emitting from the barrel of an M-60 machine gun, Hand grenades follow.
Silence, Silence, Where is the dawn...?
Richard D. Preston
Page created: Sunday, 28 May 2000