Murphy's options were these. Move back to the day logger and risk another ambush along the way. Or stay and defend this position in the woods, hoping that reinforcements would arrive soon. He consulted by radio with battalion headquarters and decided to stay.
We set up an L-shaped defense along a pathway and facing the rice paddy we had just left. Murphy put guys at intervals 15 yards into the woods and told them to dig foxholes. There were 22 of us left, including five wounded. We didn't know how many NVA there were or what they might do.
The second question was answered shortly. The enemy followed us across the rice paddy, spotted our command post and spread themselves over the edge of the woods.
About two o'clock in the afternoon, the firing resumed. Murphy was in the middle of our defense, lying on his stomach, propped up on his elbows to look over a small bush. He was working three radios and a pair of binoculars simultaneously. I was six feet away from him, sitting on a two-foot ledge at the side of the pathway. I was holding the gauze to my wounded leg, resting it on the path. Two feet above and behind me was a fellow named Tommy Brown. He was sitting on a hillside of rocks.
Pop. Immediately, we recognized the sound of the "potato masher" grenade, an explosive head attached to a stick-handle with a pull string at the bottom. We called them "Chi-Com," or Chinese-Communist, because they were made somewhere in Red China.
"Grenade!" Murphy screamed and ducked his head. I rolled into the pathway on my right side. It landed about two feet behind me, almost in Tommy Brown's lap. He dived over me just as the grenade detonated.
Tommy landed eight feet to my left, face down. He was conscious, groaning in deep tones. His back and legs were splashed with shrapnel holes. His blood mixed with the dirt and sweat, pasting his clothes to his skin. His moaning grew deeper.
My ears were ringing. I couldn't hear at all. This was a cheap, concussion-type grenade, so the noise was greater than the damage. Except in Tommy Brown's case.
I realized I hadn't been hurt. Still, I stayed in a prone position on the pathway. Small-arms fire was flying over me. I was a spectator. I had no weapon, no mobility, no capacity to join the fight. I kept my head down and didn't really know what was happening. Five minutes passed before I looked up, and when I did I was terrorized by what I saw.
A grenade was flying toward Murphy. He didn't see it. It hit him in the middle of the back, didn't go off and then came directly toward me, bouncing crazily with its top-heavy shape. I had a milli-second to decide. Should I go backward? Or jump over the grenade?