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Friday, 16 March 2007

Odds & ends from Phan Thiet

Phan Thiet had been hit during the recent offensive. The camp barber had been found amongst the dead, evidently leading them as a guide. Our sergeant had shot up one of our own buildings with his machine gun. We went for a ride down town out as far as the hospital. This had a team of Chinese doctors and nurses. When the Viet Cong offensive was renewed they would be cut off. The South Vietnamese and Americans refused to rescue them and a mixed bunch of civilian contractors went in. They were ambushed and one killed. I don't know what the fate of the Chinese was. The town's water supply had a bloated dead pig floating in it. This part of town was absolutely deserted and rather creepy.
At night I remember sitting on a bunker with a cold beer watching a duel between a Viet Cong machine gun and one our Puff the Magic Dragons. The fire power was most impressive with their three six barrelled machine guns firing up to eighteen thousand rounds a minute.
There frankly wasn't enough work for ten men on a station. Two could have handled it perfectly well. We spent a lot of time on the firing range. I never did get to like the M60 machine gun but loved the M79 grenade launcher. A very dangerous weapon though. I remember reading of a GI who accidently fired one in the air in a crowded market. What goes up must come down and it killed and injured many people.
One of our GI's shot a cobra on the path between our living quarters and ops room. I can remember driving slowly down some isolated road in Phuc Thuy province when an enormous cobra suddenly reared up in front of me. Like some idiot I found myself slowing down not to run it over. I can understand the expression to be paralysed with fear. That was to happen to me once when shooting erupted at some Viet Cong. It can happen once. Twice is not wise. Its funny how one can spend hours on a rifle range and when the moment one has to squeeze a trigger for real one can't. As I said I believe once is allowed.
We didn't have very good relations with the local people nor any chance to develop them. The town had not yet felt the full force of being liberated by the US army, but that was to come. It was at Ben Tre in the Delta that an American general had said the town had had to be destroyed to save it.

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