As the attack continued, I noticed that the rounds were seven seconds apart. So, between blasts, I bounded up the steps, speared the cup and sprinted back to safety. Without spilling a drop. Britt offered to nominate me for a medal, but I declined.
"All in the line of duty," I said.
Insignificant as it seemed at the time, that mortar attack marked the end of tranquillity in Hiep Duc. It was repeated the next two nights, and on the fourth night we heard that 300 NVA had surrounded Landing Zone West in a "zapper attack." Our guys, waiting for them, killed 50 and wounded more than 100. There were no American casualties.
One night word came that B Company, Bravo Company, had been hit. An NVA had come into Bravo's perimeter during the afternoon, screaming, "Chieu hoi, chieu hoi," meaning, "I surrender," and, after interrogation, said he could lead them to a cache of weapons and rice up in the hills.
One B Company platoon maintained the camp, while two others followed the chieu hoi. He took them farther and farther up a mountain range, until, from the camp below, they heard a barrage of everything the NVA could muster...rockets, mortars, machine guns.
They shot the chieu hoi and hustled back to the perimeter. The enemy ambush had succeeded. They found the other platoon all but annihilated, and a fire fight waiting for them. Now Bravo was waiting for us to bail them out.
When we got to them at 10 p.m. the following night, the men of Bravo were lying in a ditch at the side of the road. The ones still alive were enormously relieved to see us. It was an hour of confusion before we got the dead and wounded lined up to take back. As we began to move out, I noticed one corpse lying unattended in the ditch. I turned to one of my platoon-mates and said, "C'mon, let's take this guy."
"Hell, no," he said. "Our platoon's got rear security."
"But there's nobody left to take him."
"I don't give a damn. Let him lay there."