The 1/92nd Field
Humor in a Near Death Experience
form of entertainment that I have always enjoyed is the old, silent,
black and white comedies such as Keaton and Chaplin. The top of the
list falls to the Keystone Cops. It seems that in every episode, at
least once, there's someone who falls or is knocked into a mud hole.
What tickles my funny bone is the manner in which they end up in the
hole. But funnier yet is that stupid expression on the individuals face
as he is spitting mud out. Unbeknownst to me at the end of February
1968, I would find myself in a similar situation, but the hole I ended
up in did not have mud in it.
the end of December, 1967, the artillery unit that I was stationed with
was moved to a Fire Support Base fourteen (14) kilometers west-southwest
of Dak To, Vietnam. This base was called LZ Dogbone. When viewed from
the air you could see how it got its name. Two bald, dirt knolls with
a saddle in between situated on a valley plateau between two mountain
ranges, due east and west. Three kilometers west of the base, the plateau
plunged into a deep valley that butted up to the west range of mountains.
The infantry perimeter around the bse was shaped just like the dog biscuit
you see advertised on TV or on the grocers shelves, hence the name.
At last, about 1 pm a chopper came in to pick
up the last howitzer. I and my radio operator (I think it was Grasso
from Seattle) were standing on the north east portion of the west knoll
as the chopper lifted up this howitzer and left, again mortar rounds.
I told the operator to get his stuff and get over to the other knowll
so we could get on another chopper to get out of there. As he headed
down the saddle I took off my gas mask and put it in its case. I started
to turn to go pick up my stuff and it felt like someone with a big foot
kicked me from the rear. The next thing I remember is that I'm spread
eagle face down in a hole, spitting grit and dirt out of my mouth. My
left arm is munb and as I looked at my elbow, its scraped up, so I figured
I'd hit my "crazy bone" when I hit the ground. I looked back
over my shoulder and about fifteen feet behind me is a hole (mortar
round) still smoking. About then, Armstrong a kid in the ammo section
jumped in the hole with me. His eyes were big as saucers, and fear was
written all over his face. He asked me if I was hit, I told him that
I didn't think so, the shock hadn't worn off yet. I'll never forget
what Armstrong then said, "Sir, lets get the blank of this place".
I told him to get over to the other knoll. I got up and walked over
to get my equipment. Suddenly I realized that I couldn't pick anything
up with my left arm.
I finally got back to Dak To, I was as green as the jungle fatigues
I had on. Luckily the mortar fragment had gone clean through the meaty
portion of the inside of my arm pit. Luckier still, by being uphill
from where the round hit, I probably would have ended up paralyzed or
worse, in a body bag.