Boondocker's Diary: Page 20
The sky turned to the color of tin as the humid breeze danced upon the treetops. The sickening smell of gunpowder and sweet red dirt filled the air just before sundown as we settled in for the night. Tired and recovering from sickness (the whole company had come down with fever and trots), some were even delirious, and still we sat on the perimeter. Mutter Ridge had taken its toll but war had no sympathy for its pawns.
The radio squelched.
“Mutter one, this is Mutter two, we are taking enemy fire, can you assist?” and then nothing but static filled the airwaves.
All we could do was sit and wait as fevers rose. In the hills there was hell to pay and those of us who were in the rear were helpless and in most cases senseless. Those of us near enough to my radio jeep listened as though it were a ball game back home. We were anxious, every time my radio squelched heads turned. We would pick up bits and pieces of the battle going on. There was no popcorn, no fanfare; just the frantic sounds of war and cries for help as the battle raged.
The tin sky broke loose, and the monsoon rain began falling upon us as though it wanted to suffocate us. The shallow streams rose from two feet deep to a depth flooding the whole valley. The tents that were pitched in the ravines were half filled with water and rubber mattresses floated high with Marines still hanging on to them were Marines for dear life.
Our whole world was now under water. From the high ground the water came crashing down in torrents white with foam, roaring as it devastated any form of sanity that remained. Sheets of rain exploded into the water like white-hot bullets. The rain continued and the Battle of Mutter Ridge ended; the torrential downpour of the monsoon quenched the heat of war.
I thought to myself, “Welcome home, boys, from one hell to another.”
There was no rest and no dry haven to be found under the tin sky.
O’dark thirty the following day and it was still wet black and dismal. The rain still pummeled us, sickness still running rampant among us; fever, chills, sweats and dehydration. And then the word comes down for Pineapple and me to go to the morgue tent and verify the identify some of our Brothers who were KIA.
Could this nightmare ever end?
Ponchos on, we slipped and skidded through the mud making our way down to the morgue. The rain sounded like a machine gun as it beat against the canvas. We stepped through the flap of the tent and the smell of embalming fluid and blood hit us like a direct hit from a rocket. A yellowish glow was cast by the weak lighting enhancing the eerie feeling we had; and then we saw them stretched out on lined up gurneys. Pale, lifeless, some being prepped in ways that I will not reveal to you. To this day I still see the blank eyes, ashen gray skin and experience the smell of death in ways few can imagine.
One by one we searched an endless line of stretchers. “Yup, that's him, damn it, that's another one of ours.”
Pineapple and I identified five of our unit that night.
We staggered out of the tent, emotionally drained and heartsick and silently trudged back to the gunny's hooch and reported our verification of the dead.
Tents were now pitched on high ground. Told to go sack out, I laid my head down on the cot and shivered myself to sleep with the visions of war etched in my mind. Could this macabre scene be real? I woke up three days later, having been delirious for two, thinking, “Has this been a nightmare? Could I have imagined this?”
No, it was real enough all right and so was the absence of my Brothers.
The monsoon continued to beat down upon us from the tin colored sky.
Richard D. Preston
©January 8, 2001
Page created: Wednesday, 10 January 2001