Sunday, 15 February 2009
Decca Navigator, Phan Thiet, South Vietnam, 1965 1968
Photos: John Hansen, Chris Rose
Decca Navigator, Green Slave Station, Phan Thiet
The Ammunition Dump 1. Memories of Vietnam
It was about 9 o'clock in the evening when the mortar rounds started coming in. Everybody rushed to their positions. I found myself, alone, behind a low wall. We had no helmets or flak jackets. I had my trusty sub-machine gun. The Viet Cong sometimes sent teams of saboteurs in under cover of these attacks. One of their points of entry was up the cliff at our back.
Suddenly there was a massive explosion and a sheet of flame shot hundreds of feet into the air. I thought to myself what a marvelous firework display. I knew the ammunition dump, situated about 150 yards away, had been hit but my mind refused to register the fact. It was a retreat into one of my shades of fear I have talked about. I took out my pipe and started to calmly smoke it. It was always most comforting under such circumstances. The night accentuated the repeated explosions, but luckily hid from me the mass of unexploded shells and shrapnel that were falling back down to earth. In the morning I would find the base littered with them. At the time I was mercifully ignorant.
Our sergeant however decided it was time to withdraw to a bunker so I rejoined the others. As we made our way there was another almighty explosion and everybody dived for cover. It is strange that a few minutes before, alone, I had not thought of cover, but now the herd instinct was beginning to take over. A 155 shell landed close by but did not explode. I was trying to crawl under a flimsy building; there was a six inch space between the floor and the ground, all fear of cobra's dispelled by a greater one. The corporal next to me was wounded by shrapnel, but not too badly.
We made it to the bunker. The sergeant took off somewhere. The military were in theory responsible for our security but I preferred to remember my Black Watch training. The others kept inside the bunker which was below ground. I stayed half out of the entrance. Somebody had to keep an eye open for Viet Cong. The thought of huddling in the dark not knowing what was going on didn't appeal to me either.