Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mine Sweeping

My typical day at Camp Carroll started out by going with the Marine infantry and engineers to sweep a section of Route 9 for mines that would be planted during the night. There were several teams that each had a section of road to check. Once that was done the convoys could roll.

These photos show some enemy mortar attacks. We also had to contend w/ command detonated anti-personnel mines along here. Mortar and sniper attacks would be mounted from the hills just N of the river that runs to the N of route 9. There was one hot area where the problem was the worst. Both pix of shooting Dusters were taken on different days but the action is in about the same approximate place. Our guide wanted to know where this was, but because of all the houses and tall trees, I was unable to pinpoint the spot. These exchanges of gunfire took place in what is now somebody's front yard.

It was an unnerving experience. When I first came under fire I was glad to be in a steel vehicle, but as crazy as it sounds I thought maybe "I'll just stick my finger up out of this cocoon I'm in to see if I can get a Purple Heart." So, while mortars were exploding around us, I gingerly poked a couple of fingers up out of the track. It took about a nanosecond to think, "Jesus! What if a piece of shrapnel comes flying along here and hits me and pulls my whole hand up and out and I lose my arm?!" My hand came back down in a hurry. I'm laughing right now as I write this. What a stupid thing to think. I guess that's why they send kids to war. We were dumb enough to do all kinds of crazy stuff.

What I experienced along here went a long way towards my disenchantment of the war. Marines who were stationed closer to the DMZ and various pilots who had a better view than we did told us of seeing trucks in the DMZ loaded w/ ammo, or troops swimming openly in the river, but the Americans were under orders to observe the neutrality of the DMZ and not call air-strikes or artillery in on them. NO! we had to wait until they brought all that stuff down a little closer and mortared us and mined us before we could take any action. One can only imagine how pissed we were about that! Another time we were getting mortared and my radio quit working. I could hear , but couldn't transmit. The Marine RTO kept trying to raise me on the radio so he could tell me where to return fire. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, " TRANSMIT TO ME! I CAN HEAR YOU, BUT I CAN'T TRANSMIT TO YOU!" I finally had to get down ( out of my somewhat protective hatch- with frikkin' mortars exploding for chrissake!) and run over to him and explain the situation. Not a fun day. We always had something breaking down. There were other dicey situations where I couldn't communicate or some other damned thing wouldn't work. Our equipment was just too old and that is what we were sent into combat with. The Marines had it even worse than we did. They even came to us begging for rifle patches to clean their weapons. They complained of only getting 2 C-rations per day while they were burning calories like mad out in the bush. I distinctly remember a squad of Marines being so thankful to get C-ration Ham and Lima Beans. They were so bad that we called them "Ham and Motherfuckers" and refused to eat the stuff. They had to be terribly hungry!

This FUBAR crap happened all the time. In the Iran-Contra hearings, Col Oliver North defending his actions, explained that he was motivated to "... not abandon men on the battlefield." I never met Oliver North, but he and I were both officers along the DMZ at the same time and same place. I know EXACTLY what forged his mindset in this matter. In later years I got further enraged while watching the PBS presentation on the War I heard that the high mucky-mucks in the Whitehouse and Cabinet were discussing that they knew we couldn't win this war. All this was going on while young Americans were fighting, dying, and being maimed along the DMZ during my tour. Much has been written on the tragedy of all this, but this is my own personal take on it. All this disenchantment changed how I operated. My mission was to not win a war that it appeared to me was just a terrible sick joke. My mission became "Don't risk my troops unnecessarily. Don't go looking for Missions we can get involved with as the whole thing is going terribly wrong." I wouldn't hesitate for a minute to go to the rescue of Americans in trouble, but any pro-active gung-ho, macho BS was off my plate. I told my brother to go to Canada. The President, the Congress, the whole American leadership apparatus placed no value on us at all. It became my job to protect as many American lives as I could.

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