The 1/92nd Field
After spending so many months on mountain tops, Ben Het seemed huge and vulnerable. I don't remember compass directions but we were dropped off at one end and being the army, our guns were at the opposite end of the compound. we were knee deep in mud and very exposed until we could get our tails out of the wide open space that the chopper pilot dropped us in.
My recollection of the walk to our guns was that we humped over one small rolling hill, down to the bottom and back up again. As i topped the first mound and started down, there was a duece and a half coming up the hill. the mud was slick and there was a berm built up on either side of the road about four feet high. the truck was sliding all over the place trying to make it to the top. There was no way to tell where I should put myself so i moved to the left side of the road. It looked like as good a choice as any, right up until the truck started sliding toward my side of the road. By now it was only a few yards from me and I had to make a decision because whoever was driving that truck was more interested in making the top than he was about crushing me between him and the berm. At the last second, I heaved my gear up over the berm and followed it with my body. What i didn't know was that the other side of the berm sloped down hill several feet and at the bottom of !
that slope was a huge bomb crater filled with water. It was beautiful, really. Remember how perfecctly clear water would appear in those craters? Remember how the algae on the bottom was a beautiful aqua-marine blue? Well, when you and everything you have is submerged in that beauty, you don't care how beautiful it is. During monsoon, we all know how long things can stay wet.
At any rate, we all settled in and took our beating for a couple of weeks. Lots of incoming, lots of firing. Dave Paul and I built a hooch out of a damaged conex that was between the two gun bunkers. Some of you may remember the blast wall we built with the big white peace sign painted on it.
I could write a lot about Ben Het but let me get to the dog and pony part: when the siege was over, it was over in a heart beat. Now you see em, now you don't. It just ended. It seems to me that we were at Ben Het for about three weeks after it ended. We had absolutely nothing to do and we were enjoying the respite.
Then one morning Lieutenant Livingstone (i believe it was him) told us to start taking apart pallets and building walkways all over the place. As you would expect, we were not very pleased. As far as we could see, it was just busy work because someone didn't like us not having anything to do.
As it turned out, however, it was not just busy work. About ten days after everything stopped, General Creighton
Abrams shows up with an entire entourage of subordinates dutifully following the general along those walkways we built. Each was clad in shiny, new, startched fatigues, sleevels rolled, baseball caps hiding atop high and tight barber cuts and dark black freshly shined boots.
Following them, and fanning out to appropriate places, were members of the press, replete with their own subordinates dragging around news cameras whirring away as General Abrams braved the vigors of the siege at Ben Het for all the folks back home to see.
As if that wasn't enough, a company of freshly spit and polished ARVN infantry was dutifully dispatched out into the surrounding jungle as cameras filmed the hands on connection between high command and field troops.
We were instructed to keep out of the way, which was just fine by us. I was standing about fifty yards away watching this spectacle unfold. I could only shake my head as I realized that folks back in the world were going to be given the impression that American Commanders fought in the field with us.
It was all pretty silly and, other than having to make those walkways, I thought it was pathetically humorous. But...I never forgot it. To this day when I watch news clips, I know they can fake them. If it seems bogus, i figure it probably is. With some folks, impression means everything, even at a dog and pony show.