Angels on the Battlefield
From: Charles D. Carter (email@example.com) Story type: Angel Location: Viet Nam Source: Form Submission Date submitted: Thu Oct 8 13:49:49 2009
The year was 1969. I had been drafted into the Army and had to report for active duty on January second, the day after New Year.
I completed my basic and advanced infantry training at Fort Dix, N.J., took my months leave, and shipped out with a friend to Oakland for deployment to Viet Nam.
We flew out on a commercial jet, TTA airlines (affectionately nicknamed Tree Top Airlines) and landed in Ben Hoa after a lengthy flight. What happeened next was prophetic for my year tour of duty in Viet Nam as the base we were to land at was under fire from the VC in the early morning hours. The pilot turned off the cabin lights so we could see the action below and circled the base until the all clear had been given.
During my tour with an infantry platoon, we pulled 6 man ambush most of the time. I would come close to death 4 times and each time it was as though something of a higher power kept us safe from harm.
The first occurance was during monsoon season. Victor Charles, as the VC were named, liked to move around in the rain and had been very active in a village in the southern province. They would terrorize a village with their normal tax collections and conscriptions for the military so we were sent to intercept Mr. Charles in a nightime ambush. On our way there, we had to cross a swollen stream using a hand-over-hand technique via rope strung between two shores. We had all been loaded down with extra gear in case we got into a firefight and as RTO (radio operator) I had my radio, extra battery, 2 canteens, 30 clips of M-16 ammo, 6 illumination flares, 2 claymores, and 2 cans of M-60 machine gun ammo. Needless to say I was overloaded crossing the swollen stream, went under, and passed out.
The next thing I knew, I was lying on my back on the opposite side with this new replacement kneeling over me. Billy had jumped in to pull me out. He was my guardian angel that day because he just got into our unit and was there only a few weeks before we learned he was only 15 and lied about his age. He was a big farm kid from out in the midwest but was there long enough to save me. At first I thought this must be a lucky coincidence but this was to be reviewed again and again as time went on. Once they discovered his true age, they sent him packing for home. He was there at the right time just to save me.
The second ooccurance was on the Bridge to Cu Chi just outside the village of Phua Dong. We guarded the bridge by night, filled sandbags and performed full sweep patrols during the day. The sand bags were to be our protective base for our platoon's tent adjacent to the bridge but with all the patrols and sandbag detail, we were not able to complete it all in one day. Our platoon seargent thought it best not to use the cots provided but sleep on the ground until the sand bags were all filled and stacked correctly around the tent. That night it proved to be a life saving decision as a mortar round that fell outside our tent penetrated the fabric like Swiss cheese. We would all have been wounded severly or killed.
The next occurance was during the village seal of Phua Hoa Dong. The Battalion's decision to cordon off the village heavily occupied with VC meant using dug in emplacements from several infantry units around the villages entire perimeter hoping to force Mr. Charles out into the open.
The position our squad was to occupy had already been taken so we doubled up in another. That decision saved our lives that evening as the VC emerged from a trap door over a tunnel complex adjacent to the other position we were to have occupied. It was well camoflaged with brush and when they broke out, they had killed all but one man in that position - a position we were to have occupied.
The last close call occured on company wide perimeter sweep through the jungle in which all platoons in our company were to follow elephant style until we all got in line, then turn and sweep through the area hoping to flush out Mr. Charles. I was on radio with the Lt. at the back of our platoon when the point man for the group behind us fell and squeezed off 20 rounds of M-16 aimed directly at us. Not a single round hit yet he was only 20 yards away and there is no way he could have possibly missed.
When President Nixon announced the pullout of the 1st Infantry Division in April 1970, I had made the list to go home as part of the honor guard escorting the 1st Division colors back to Ft. Riley, Kansas. I looked back at my 4 close calls with death and by this time was convinced my guardian angel had worked hard enough, got on the plane, and never looked back.
Each night I give thanks for my second chance at life, and, like Private Ryan, Hope that in the end, I will have earned it.