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ROCKY BLEIER'S WAR
Rocky Bleier
June 09, 1975
What was war like for a football player turned combat infantryman? Here is Vietnam, as it was for this Super Bowl star
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June 09, 1975

Rocky Bleier's War

What was war like for a football player turned combat infantryman? Here is Vietnam, as it was for this Super Bowl star

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I began to spring forward. The grenade was at my feet, and it exploded.

I landed on top of Murphy, both of us unconscious. He woke up after a few seconds. The first thing I remember, he was pushing me off.

He had caught it between the legs. He was moaning, having trouble staying conscious.

I was lying on my back, looking at him. Then I looked at my own legs and saw the right one quivering uncontrollably. It scared me. I grabbed it to stop the shaking. I felt my pants. They were full of blood. The pain in my right foot pierced me. I could see places on both legs where shrapnel had shredded my fatigues.

Since Doc's left hand was wounded, too, we had only Murphy's medic from company headquarters to treat the entire platoon. He cut off my boot and tied a sterile gauze around the foot. "That's all I can do for you right now," he said, and low-crawled away down the pathway like an alligator.

Murphy was dragged to the most secure position, the corner of our "L" perimeter. He had lost consciousness again. I was left lying among his three radios. One of them was for communicating with the Blue Ghost, our helicopter gunship overhead somewhere.

"Pop smoke, pop smoke. Mark your position!" I heard the gunship demand. But nobody could find a canister of smoke. We had left them all in our packs.

"Well, what are your coordinates?" the gunship asked. I tried to recall if I had heard Murphy mention them. I couldn't. It was hopeless. The Blue Ghost couldn't help us if we couldn't locate ourselves.

Finally, somebody calculated our position with a compass and range finder. We radioed it to the gunship, with specific instructions to strafe the open area around the rice paddy—so those special rockets would be detonated—and the edge of the woods, but no deeper than 10 yards.

Somehow, somebody miscalculated or miscommunicated. As the Blue Ghost peppered the NVA position, it fired rockets too deep into the woods, hitting our farthest foxhole. One of our men, a short-timer with 28 days left, was killed. Another man had a piece of shrapnel break his collarbone, nick his heart, puncture his lung and settle in his spleen. He was our second grenade launcher. When they pulled him back, he was in delirium, moaning and wailing grotesquely.

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