From G. Gersaba’s War Dairy:
We got here 2 days ago. 1-2 caught fire 3 miles before we reached here. The batteries have mysteriously reversed polarity, they tell me. The days have sped by, unlike our track. Otherwise, on the way over here, we went through Quang Tri City for the first time in my tour. Tripped out on the sidewalks, shops, traffic cops, etc., I was surprised to see that a real city exists here. Since I came in country the only city I’ve seen was Saigon.
Crossed the Cua Viet today, going north. Nice day to ride in the sun. It has been a long time since we’ve last seen the sun.
Sgt. Styles comes up to me and tells me that I’m going on LP and Stoecker will take it out. OK, what the fuck, I say, and he says nothing, turns and leaves. Fuck. After a while, Lt. Styles comes around and says that I’m in charge of the LP again. Sgt. Styles comes back and says, “I’ve changed my mind you’re in charge.” What the fuck?? Stoecker comes by and says that he doesn’t care that he’s not in charge and volunteers to hump the radio. Should I break the news? I’m a fucking Speck 4! So we stealthily set up about 250 meters from the village. It was very realistic. Mendoza, Stoecker and Hooper are with me. I survive the night.
Another sunny day. Is it true that the monsoons are over? February is the fabled time. Since September, it has been nothing but rain, and here I am with a fresh pack of Marlboros, and a tepid Pepsi to greet the day. Last night was a semi-bummer, but today the sun shines and my heart sings. But essentially, this day is the same as yesterday (as all days are.) Spent an uncomfortable night wrestling with flu symptoms. I think I have a head cold, at the least. Defcons kept me awake all night as they screeched overhead to land about 2000 meters west of our NDP. Intelligence predicts that the 2nd platoon, which is NDP’d on the other side of Jones’ Creek, is going to get hit tonight.
We swept some flat sand today with PC’s on line. Most ridiculous exercise yet. Object of a sweep being to look under rocks and shake bushes, something we can’t do in an area devoid of bushes and trees. I guess we were looking for mines. I lost my nerve and made Alvis and SS drive, better them than me.
They’re telling me I have to attend the TC meetings since I’ve been taking out LP’s since Groove left us in December. Great. When the hell will they give 1-2 a sergeant? I’ve been asking since December, with no answer.
Today we will go to Jones’ Creek to dick around and eat lunch. We are scheduled to go back to the great sand wastes in the afternoon. I am definitely sick. My nose is running and my eyes are sore. Alvis gave me some penicillin and some thing he said was “generic” Contac. I should beat this cold by tomorrow. Sgt. Styles thinks I’m high. Wow.
Feb 4 Cua Viet, here 4 days now (Taylor)
I feel better. My nose is still running, but my body doesn’t feel as if was used as a bowling pin, like last night. Yesterday, I could hardly move.
At the end of my guard, about 0215hrs, Cooper’s LP spotted fifteen gooks! He called for 19’s mortar tube and artillery. Christ! 15 gooks? This morning we go on a body count hunt. It rained last night. I got wet despite my being inside all night. Today it is overcast. Maybe I spoke too soon about the end of the monsoon.
We checked out the area where Cooper saw those gooks. Found nothing. No blood trails, nothing. So we dried our wet sleeping bags and poncho liners ~the rain did catch us by surprise. I am still sick, but feeling 100% better than I did yesterday. Tonight, Big Daddy takes an LP out.
My sprocket broke loose, all of the bolts snapped off because of short blocking to increase the tension. I have to be towed back. Bummer. 1-2 dies again, unable to finish another mission. Have to remember to replace the block, and puzzle the motor pool sergeant once again.
Ah! Today! Nothing happened in the night. No gooks to shoot at. At 8 AM, I broke track and while I was working, an explosion sounded about a click away, near the village. I find out later it was an advisor to the PF & RF (ruff & puffs) who stepped on a tank mine. It was in about the same spot the old 1-7 hit one last November. Brings back visions of the grunt Captain who went the same way at the Marketplace in August.
I am towed in with some difficulty – but make it in safe, only to run into skirmish #25 with motor daddy on sprocket theory. I let him have his way without too much argument. I used works like “probably” the bolts were loose…It is nice to be back in Cua Viet proper.
Oh yes, I made friends with the kids from Lang Ha, the village across the Cua Viet Navy base. “Mason” was one of the kid’s names. I smoked one of their horrible gook cigarettes and shot marbles with them. Mostly it was a nice day in the sunshine.
TET starts today, also is “Red” Phillips’ birthday. SS and Alvis stay in the field. I saw the tail-end (ha-ha) of “Some Like it Hot.” The movie was excruciatingly boring, even for what little I saw.
I assembled a sprocket today with almost no help. All I needed was professional opinion. That is the extent of the work I did. It took me most of the morning, a job normally done in about 10-15 minutes by someone competent. From lunch to about 4pm, I read a science-fiction novel, “Operation Time Search” a story about the war between Atlantis and Mu. I never heard of Mu. Did you hear that? Are there cows around here? Photograph of Pineapple assembling a sprocket.
This afternoon, a LCM carrying a deuce and a half and army people hit a mine just as they docked in Dong Ha. 2 killed, 1 mutilated and one missing. One of the killed, a guy in HQ 1/77th, on the mortar track, was on the way to face charges for possession of marijuana. The mine blew the 2 ½ ton off the boat. No navy men hurt bad.
Pulled KP today in the Navy Mess, not as difficult as KP in the world. I did very very little, almost nothing, but what can you say about KP?
They found the “missing” in that Dong Ha explosion. He was under the 2 ½ ton. Crushed. His name was “Joker” same company as those others that were killed. He was to face charges too. He locked and loaded on the master-at-arms in the club. Swift justice dealt out by the Cua Viet river!
While on the subject of mines, 2-1, 2nd platoon Sergeant Hunter hit one today near those French ruins where I shot marbles with the kids. The driver had a sore jaw and broken teeth. Sgt Hunter, a huge guy, limed into the mess-hall. The mine blew him out of the cupola with is .50 caliber MG.
Otherwise, today was another dull day in the NAM! Would duck hormones help?
A day characterized by dull recollections of the night before. Worked hard all day. Nearly got the track together. Received some “care” packages from the silent majority. Best ones since Christmas!
Motor Daddy, after seeing me pull apart a track adjuster, popped his eyes and accused me of having the mechanical ability of a monkey. How right he is! Luckily, Giz put it back together again despite motor daddy’s doubts about all the kings horses and all the kings men.
Got the PC together today. Batteries down low. Looks like slave-starting from now on. In disgust, I volunteered for afternoon detail on the bunker line. Tried to see Tony Rome and True Grit this morning, but at the last moment, the films were cancelled.
Parkinson tells me that a girl who read his palm two years ago predicted “a horrible death” for him before his 24th birthday. In about 2 days, we shall see. Actually that’s a bummer of a thing to think about in the field. I don’t think I’ll drive anymore.
This looks like a bleak day. Already my PC refuses to start. Burnt-out slave receptacle. No negative ground, all melted away. Dammit! I hate this stupid vehicle!!! I feel like going over to 1-3. Today we go across the river for another 6 day mission.
Feb 11 Cua Viet 6 nights out, three in, new LT.(Taylor)
This time, we pull ambushes. 4-0 elements are already across spending miserable nights in the Cua Viet cold. I anticipate another fight with Motor Daddy today over “who melted the leads on my new cupped slave cable!? What will I tell him? That the evil spirits that inhabit my track took a hold of it? Gah-damn! The hassles mount steadily over the mechanical state of 1-2.
Across the river today with the old man. We swept our AO which is about ½ way up the river to Dong Ha. Rice paddies up the ass. Conducted my first “cordon and search” since AIT. Cordoned a bombed-out Buddhist temple and searched it.
Word is that the mission is mostly ambushes at night ~ a bummer. Right now, ambushes are the worst things we do in the field.
Word on 1-2 is transfer case. They’ll pull the pack on that hunk of shit! Gizmo scares me with his crappy tracking. Told him we may as well be on the lead vehicle! Riding with Milard and Giz on the 1-3.
Hot chow today while the weather is bitter cold. My cold lingers on, hoping for another wet night. We re-swept our AO this morning. I shivered most of the way. Damn the monsoon is still fucking with us!
Today is Parkinson’s birthday. He survived the horrible fate predicted for him. The only negative thing that happened to him was an insect bite near his groin (he said.) What an anti-climax! Whew. I drove for a while today putting my mind at ease about the tracking business.
First platoon sends out an ambush patrol at night while operating across the river at Cua Viet. Sgt Styles, Wally, Barnes, Alvis, and Zahler. We ended up being ambushed ourselves. Too detailed to write in, I will describe the scene when I see you all. I have been dying to tell this story for 32 years, since everyone else was sleeping; Alvis and I are the only one that really knows what happened that night. By the time the others woke up the shit was all around us. (W. Mendoza)
Then there was the time when we couldn’t decide if we wanted an ambush or a listening post…sent 4 guys as I recall out way to far for a listening post But too Small for an ambush. In the middle of the night the NVA and our guys got into it. The NVA threw grenades so as not to give away their position, our guys opened up with an M60 and M16s. I can’t remember who went out that night, but I talked to the guy who had the M60. He ran a belt of ammo thru it took about 2 steps and threw it down as it was slowing his progress. They left the M60 and a prick25 radio in the field.
Was this the same night that Coop, PR, Maggot, Kid, Veatch, and a few others were out, and we took friendly fire coming in to help out Sgt. Styles’ squad? Sounds like the same night. Anyway it was a wild one!! Remember riding up river on the Navy boats, and getting sniped at? It was a wild & crazy time, but got to know a lot of GREAT GUYS!!
From Ggersaba’s war dairy:
Last night, a little after 12, the ambush led by Sgt. Styles (Mendoza, Barnes, Alvis and Zeke) was surprised by some gooks. Very exciting for them. The story is as close as I can piece out, is: Mendoza and Alvis were up on guard. Suddenly without a sound, a gook walks up on the trail they were watching. He was carrying an AK-47 and stooping low. 3 feet from Wally, he stops, spots the ambush and runs. The gook dove into the bush, and with another (who knows who else?) starts pitching grenades at the ambush. In the confusion, our ambush manages to shoot about ½ magazine of 16 and blow one claymore before they start running madly back toward our NDP. Styles deserved some credit for getting all the men back. They left the radio, the M-60, 2 rifles, grenades, sleeping gear and ammo. Yesiree Bob. Must have been some run. Meanwhile, I had a major case of the ass because I had to get up. We pulled 100% alert the rest of the night. I’m going out of my gourd with the lack of sleep. Still, I’m glad I wasn’t out there.
At dawn, we checked out the area. And I do mean dawn, yawn! We found the weapons, radio and everything else intact. We also found 4 Chicom grenades, all duds. Three grenades had the pins pulled and one was completely intact. I guess the guy that threw the last grenade after 3 duds thought maybe he’d bean someone with it. I found something in a cellophane bag that looked like dried food. There were blood trails, but as usual, no bodies. 4/12 Cav strikes again.
The day is overcast and cold again. The C.O. wants a practice ambush with 12 claymores on 12 clickers. What bullshit. We change AO’s today ~ going to our old one just east of Jones’ Creek, word is that no L.P.’s tonight!
Sgt Barrows needs to tell the tale of the 4 ill fated guys who were too far out for a listening post and too weak in strength for an ambush. He knows names etc. The NVA must have kicked one of these guys and got his attention. The NVA threw grenades to prevent giving away their position (damn guys were good) our guys on the other hand opened up with their M60 machinegun and M16s giving the NVA a target for their grenades. I talked to the M60 gunner the next day (can’t remember who it was) and he said he ran the 100 round belt thru the M60, took a few running steps with it and decided it was way too heavy to be running with and threw it down. They left the machine gun and their radio out there that night. I don’t recall anyone getting wounded. They were way out there as well and had to come back in on a very dark night.I don’t remember the details of the mine we hit up on the DMZ. I do recall spending days putting the damn thing back together. It seems to me we hit 3 mines in A17. I know we got a new M48 while we were there and it seems to me we hit one in a Sheridan and got a new one but I’ve slept since then. Sgt Barrows was telling on the phone the other day about getting the shit knocked out of me with a .50 cal ammo can when we hit the mine north of Cua Viet..Hell I didn’t remember that.
GOING TO SIGN OFF FOLKS
By the time you receive this ,it will be 12 Feb. I wanted you all to have this before the end of the day.
It was 31 years ago tonight that a small ambush patrol was ambushed by NVA at Cua Viet.
Sgt. Style, Zahler, Barnes, Alvis and myself were hit while on night ambush about 500 meters from the Troop position .
I recall it was raining lightly, Alvis was on guard, it was about 11:30 PM . We had all turned in for the night, taking 2hours shifts (I think) each, it was Alvis’s turn and I had just finished my shift at 11:00pm so I was a bit awake.
The way they hit us it is a miracle that anyone of us survived, much less come out of it without a scratch. The whole incident is too long to recount from beginning to end, suffice to say I thank God I am alive today to retell it.
That is the night I earned my CIB. I can still recall Big Daddy’s voice in the dark yelling from the troop location, “Mendoza, come on in! Mendoza come on in!”
I have been spooked about the dark ever since and to this day I cannot sleep in total darkness.
I am glad to be around today to be able to share memories with You all who I consider all to be brothers, even thou in some cases the memory is a bit faint. I look forward to seeing all of you in November, when they will be saying in Vegas, “HERE COMES THE CAV.!!!!”
Take care guys, Wally Mendoza
Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2003 6:56 AM
Subject: Monte Stamm’s neice Ashley
it’s good to hear from you. i was in the 2nd plt., Aug. 18, 69 to Feb. 13, 70. i was a gunner on track 24. Monte Stamm was on 24 with me, also Jerry Hansard was on 24. Stamm got hit on Dec. 15, 1969, and died. I saw a message on the message board from his neice Ashley, asking for anyone who rememered Stamm to contact her. I posted my e mail address, she answered, and i have lost her e mail address. I sent her a message, on the message board to write me again, but no response, so far. I want to thank you for offering to help a old 12th cav. trooper I think of you guy’s often. I got hit on Feb. 13, 1970. I spent 6 months in the hospital, at Ft. Gordan, Ga. I’m doing well. Maybe i’ll see you guy’s again someday.
Ron Stinnett i had no nickname.
What can I say? The morning is as overcast as my clothes. My first exertion today was to fling squares of black tar paper. This is the stuff they put in the crates of M-79 ammo. Kind of like tossing Frisbees.
Yesterday, on the way over to this AO, while on the LCM, I had the same thoughts as I always do; that is, when I ride LCM’s on the river: We’re going to hit a mine. That’s why whenever I board a boat I loosen my shoelaces. Superstitious? You damn right. Today is supposed to be Valentine’s Day back in the world.
Went out on a dismount along Jones’ Creek around noon ostensibly to look for mines floating in the river, but really just to kill time.
Spent the rest of the day either sleeping or skipping stones in the river. No LP tonight. A general pays us a visit and tells us about death and communism. Also, the general expects us to tie down our one row of concertina with tangle foot and engineer stakes tonight! What lifer dreams!
Stoecker, short as hell, (15 days) is driving me crazy with his Gracie Allen logic and incomplete hearing. Ah well, someday…
Oh yes, around lunchtime, I taught some kids how to write their names and drew some silly pictures for comic relief.
Instant cocoa this morning. Had a sleepless night because of the killer mosquitoes attacking me. I fought a losing battle. First sentence I said this morning was “Get the Fuck out of Here!” to the gook kids that appear every morning at our NDP, hovering like vultures and begging ~ unlike vultures ~ for food. I can almost see why the men who massacred that village felt no pain as they cut down those skinny children. I find myself wishing I could spray their bodies with my rifle on full automatic. Meanwhile Gizmo is trying to brew the world’s perfect coffee-can-full of cocoa. Tell me life isn’t maintaining a weird cosmic balance.
Yesterday, a cataclysmic event! Before I went on the noon dismount, the radio mentioned me, saying that higher wanted me for an interview. Further probing revealed that I am being considered for a job in Finance! Me? Lucked out and become a REMF? Suddenly Vietnam is not as hostile. My problems all erased. No longer will 1-2 dictate my actions. Out of the field and into the kitchen the slave moves!
Clearly this sudden turn in fortunes will have a profound effect on my war dairy. After almost 8 months in the field, I can hardly think, lucked out for the second time in my life, the first was when I was sent to the Cav instead of to the leg unit I was born and bred for. No more sleeping in holes, going on LP’s or AP’s! No more worrying about land mines, no more ambushes to look for. All tension and all danger is now reduced to intangibles. I pulled guard last night, I think it is the last time I put out claymores, concertina, trip flares, and dug a foxhole! Ah yes, 1-2 is “up” today.
A trip today on the way back from Cua Viet to Quang Tri. I rode a ¾ ton truck with Karl from the 2nd platoon driving. I sat in the back with my meager possessions, all of which fit in a M60 ammo can. I had a broken mirror, a double edge razor, a book, “Waiting for Godot,” and a folding pipe from Hong Kong. We stopped in Dong Ha and purchased some fine Dong Ha 100’s to smoke on the way back ~ they look like commercially rolled cigarettes. I don’t know how Karl could drive. I didn’t care. My brains were numb as I:
- I saw the deputy commander of Red Devil in his air-conditioned office. I started to salute but he waved me off.
- Saw a major somebody, he’s the commander of Finance, but has an airborne ranger patch on his uniform. Very friendly guy.
- Saw a Mr. Reynolds, a not so friendly warrant officer.
- Even tho’ I was high I functioned, because I really really wanted out of the field.
- Got the job, at least until March 25, I’m out of the field!
But the field is where my buddies are, how about SS, Milard, Giz, Park, Al and everyone else? Ah well. Met Deon, Vouk, PR, Jim D, and Corso to party up the night. [This was the end of my “war diary” of 17 days in February, 1970 ~Pineapple]
Been having our trip flares tied off by Charlie. Bout 9:30 trip flares went off on 3 sides at the same time. (I was buttoned up in my mortar track (hey, c’mon, it was raining – gotta keep the ammo dry ya’know) when our perimeter exploded w/ return fire. Banged my head then got it opened up and still remember how incredibly impressive all that firepower was going off allat once. Damn you guys were good!!!) I popped illum and HE until we all decided no return fire was going to come. Chuck was just doing a serious perimeter probe and he learned quickly our shit was much to fast and much to powerful to mess with. Think they went home to change diapers….
Feb 19 Cua Viet, going back to Quang Tri on the 22nd. Tankers to get new Sheridans . Lost two APCs to mines. Took speed boat ride on Cua Viet River (Taylor)
I just returned from R&R to Hong Kong. I have been putting off for a long time facing something that I had to think about first. About 3 or 4 weeks ago I took out a four LP. We had one M60, three M16s and claymores. We were out about a half click or so in a grave yard. Around 01:00 while I was on guard, I saw movement ( 6 or 7 VC) about two hundred meters to my front. I woke up Coronato and we saw 6 or 7 more go by. I told everyone not to make a sound, I was afraid the VC might hear my knees knocking. The way I have come to look at this is being the safest way I could deal with the issue. One group was to my flank and out of sight while the in front out numbered us, through we would have surprise on our side. We had one other ambush that tried to shot it out with VC in a graveyard and they came out on the short end of thestick. I have thought about this for a long time and like in most of my cases your instincts take over for better or worse. I STILL THINK ABOUT THIS OVER THE YEARS, BUT ALWAYS I COME TO QUESTION, “HOW MANY MEN WHEN OUT AND HOW MANY CAME BACK UNHURT. The Kid, Maggot and myself were talking about traveling to Sidney.