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Return to "The Zone".....Please Add on

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posted on Feb, 6 2007 @ 05:03 AM
15 minutes before the plane lands, I started checking my seat belts and then I arranged some of my hand carry stuff. I looked at the window of the airplane while the plane is touching down the runway. I saw familiar buildings and hangars that are still there exactly 39 years ago. This is the city once called” Saigon” now it is called “Ho Chi minh City”. When I got out of the airport, flashes of déjà vu started. God it was just like yesterday. I was so young then. I arrived here in 1967 during the height of the war. I was here as young marine fresh from the bootcamp.

I got into the cab and I tried to speak to the cab driver in Vietnamese. I can still recall some of the language. The driver was surprised. “Can you speak Vietnamese?” I answered,” I am trying” along with a smile.

The driver took me to Caravelle hotel. I stayed in this hotel 39 years ago during the war. I was surprised to see the newly constructed building next to the original building. God this place changed so much. Now, this Hotel looks so modern just like the hotels that I see back home in the states.

After checking in, I immediately looked for the maps & other tourist guide books that I brought along with me in this trip. I am looking for the word “Khe Sanh”. Khe Sanh is the name of the place where I was assigned during the height of the Vietnam War. It is located just right in the DMZ. Which is an imaginary line dividing the North & South Vietnam. It was also known as “no man’s land”. Funny I can‘t find it, they probably changed the name. I saw a description of a “DMZ tour” in the tourist guide. Although there is no Khe Sanh, I am sure it is located here somewhere.

I went to the place, a tourist center where they actually have some tour packages available that will bring me to the former DMZ. As I was riding in the taxi on the way to the tourist center, I asked myself, why?,, why am I here again? Flashes of the past started to fill my head.

It was mid day afternoon, typical tropical hot weather for the month of April. I was part of a platoon doing perimeter check & a routine patrol outside the main camp. I can still recall the name of the platoon leader, 2nd lt. Little. He assigned me as the point man that day. As we patrol in the outskirt of the camp, no man’s land is visible, right there in front of us. Much of the vegetation has been almost wiped out. Huge craters of various depths can be clearly seen as well as dead branches of trees & hills in the horizon.

[edit on 9-2-2007 by searching_for_truth]

posted on Feb, 8 2007 @ 03:02 PM
I looked down to see if my feet were wet again, seems they always were
from slipping off the rice paddy dykes and sinking into the mushy paddies,
probably ruining some family's marginal cash crop as I did so ,again and
again. Of course it was safer than taking the trails, a lot less booby-traps
You know, walking point, you can smell a dead human up to three miles
away sometimes. And it's not a good smell either, like napalm in the
morning, you know what I mean? It's unpleasant as hell and sticks in the
nostrils for hours afterward. Once you come upon the source, you know
it's a smell you'd just as soon do without for the remainder of your tour.
Muddy water fills the craters all around us, muddy water and other things
that, had I seen any of it a year ago, would've made me blow chunks.
Now, I just swallow hard and keep moving.
( So why the hell did I come back here? For what?)

posted on Feb, 8 2007 @ 09:12 PM
Why? Why I am here again? "Excuse me sir" the Taxi driver said. We're here. "This street is called De Tham Street, this is where you can find all the booking office for you tours. Oh! Thank you. I answered back as if I have just awakened from a dream.

I went straight to the one of the counters. In fact, all the tours available are already posted on the walls. Most of the information that I need can be clearly seen. Sir, we don't call it officially Khe sanh anymore. The name Khe Sanh is somewhat retained as a tourist spot name. I see, this tour package brochures describes this as DMZ , Quang Tri.

McNamara Line! I recalled. U.S. and South Vietnam created series of bases with mines and electrified fencing. Here is where the fiercest and bloodiest battles of Vietnam War occurred. Along with Khe Sanh Marine Combat Base, there were others like, camp carroll, the rockpile, con Thien firebase etc.

My intention is not really to go to those now popular tourist spot in the DMZ. What do you mean sir? I mean few kilometers there is a city called Dong Ha if I can recall. Yes, that is still being called Dong Ha as of now. Oh really? But, I am not really planning to go to that City. My intention is to go in-between Dong Ha and the former Khe Sanh Combat base. I looked at the booking office staff, he seems to be surprised. Then he told me; I never heard of a tourist who wants to go there sir, if I am correct that would be at least 30 km halfway of Khe Sanh & Dong Ha. It is just practically nothing to see there except for some villages, farms & rice field.

In my mind, I want to tell to the staff that is where I really want to go, I had been there many times, it was almost like a home 39 years ago. The villages, innocent looking rice fields with bamboo houses & thick bushes. Just like a typical tropical country side. There was one particular incident that is still haunting me up to now…. "Sir? Excuse me", are you taking this tour?

posted on Feb, 8 2007 @ 11:31 PM
Which one are you referring to? I asked innocently to hide the expression of suprise.

If you really want to go to that part of southern DMZ near Dong Ha, you can take the Khe Sanh package tour or you can go straight to Dong Ha itself. Although not a lot of groups going there, it would be an ideal place for a solo exploration sir. But if you really plan on spending a lot of time exploring the outskirts of DMZ, then going to Dong Ha could be right idea. The booking office staff smiles as he said his last word. I asked his name.

Dung, My name is Dung. Nice to meet you Dung, you have been helpful so far. I am Brandon. Nice to meet you too sir. Then Dung suddenly stopped writing, he paused, looked at me for a while. Would you mind if I ask a question? Please go ahead, I immediately answered. I was actually expecting a question, I knew it, just by looking at his facial expression.

It seems that you are not interested going to the tourist spot itself Mr. Brandon. I am not sure why? Most of the western tourists like you would love to be in those historic places.

I was speechless for a while. My mind speaks, "The Zone" That is what we call it during the war. This town along with the provincial capital Quang Tri , just near south of Dong Ha was considered to be one of the main battle stage during the war in that part near DMZ. It was totally destroyed in a particular event of the Tet Offensive early 1968.

[edit on 9-2-2007 by searching_for_truth]

posted on Feb, 9 2007 @ 11:17 AM
The Corporation ! That's what it was, the Corporation! Something I picked
up when I went back to the "world". Guys were saying the frigging war
was being run by special-interest corporations, with the Rand think-tank,
chess-playing intellectuals actually ordering experienced military brass to
"play" by their rules. Resulting of course, in military leadership impotence.
The dam industrial corporate complex was running things and the generals
were kept in check. Figures! Had to be my war didn't it? No, we'd never get
our generation's "Patton" to brag about.
It was times like these that I was glad I always packed some extra heat tabs. The rain was warm, but it was always wet. My poncho did little to
prevent the daily invasion of moisture into everthing I humped. Heat tabs
just sort of took the edge off desolation, providing heat to cook with, heat
to dry your socks, and light to see by at times. And they stayed lit in the
monsoonal waves of rain that greeted us day after day. So.....where the
hell were we? Dong Ha? Three or so clicks from some place called Khe
Sanh that we're supposed to stop off at for re-supply.
I ripped open another heat tab packet and quickly dropped it in a c-rat can
I was using as a stove to heat my coffee. Ahh, hot coffee. Worth its weight
in gold, or ammo. What a tour!
"Tour?" . . . . . ."Sir, are you taking this tour?" (I was back again).

posted on Feb, 9 2007 @ 02:23 PM
"In my mind I'm going to Carolina" . . . ."can't you just see" . . .da da . .
"Oh I'm going to Carolina in my mind." Yeah, the mind does wander over
here. Next thing you know you're more worried about Jodie than anything
moving out there in the rain. Maybe you're thinking you'd like to get Jodie
alone and show him the business end of that M-79 you're carrying, with a
buckshot round in the chamber and the safety off! Scare the SOB away
from your woman for ever! Ha! But right now the real world is a long ways
And your squad leader just gave the silent hand signal to put out all fires
and scatter into the bush. Time to become one again with the jungle.
Just like that, everything has changed. You can hear yourself breathing.
It's raining hard enough to cover most approaching sounds, but you've all
heard something coming. The rain sounds louder and louder as you strain
to hear, to see. You have an uneasy feeling something bad is about to
happen, and you're going to be a reluctant part of it.

posted on Feb, 9 2007 @ 03:04 PM
The waiting was the worse part. Always was. And while you waited for
whatever, your mind would mess with you.
Like . . . . .why the hell did that ass in 2nd platoon have to kill those water
buffalo? Probably a city-slicker who thought killing animals made him more
macho. And he laughed about it! The dude laughed about it! It wasn't an
accident at all. And now, two big, beautiful water buffalo lay dead in the
paddy over there, still bound in their shared yoke. The gook farmer was
unhinged, screaming and crying over the death of his prized possessions.
And nobody gave a damn. He remembered feeling that farmer's grief to
the bone. There was something about animals with him. They were
special and they were innocent.
He had seen it before though. A complete lack of consideration for life during this war. Dead birds, dead monkeys, dead dogs, dead people.
Everything must be dead. Maybe our civilized nature is dead.
Funny what you thought about at moments like this!
Through the rain, he now noticed movement in various places, heading
directly across from them.

posted on Feb, 11 2007 @ 10:38 PM
What happened next was somewhat an unwanted familiar scene. As the rain drops hit the ground, it creates an incredible soothing and calming sound. That sound, damn! I swear I could sleep in peace forever. It was suddenly joined by mix staccato of gunfire & series of grenade explosion. Right flank, 2nd platoon stumbled onto several NVA in a well hidden ambush position. Our platoon was in the left plank and is somehow ahead few meters from the 2nd platoon. And the movement in various places, heading across our platoon suddenly erupted with gunfire. Small flashes can be seen right in front of us. Scattered tracer bullets can be seen everywhere, sometimes so close to your face that it would blind you for a moment. The familiar thuds, noises, the smell of gunpowder, the grease like smell of the M16, the voice of the 2nd lieutenant shouting to the top of his voice, the smell of death which has become part of your daily life in Vietnam, the sudden surprise as if you got electrocuted, the fear of unknown, feeling of unreal of what’s happening around you, the excitement of combat, then the tremendous stress and fatigue numb you physically & mentally, the instinct to fight for survival & the realization of the immediate danger. All came up in an instant.

As I turned back, I saw Private Kelley bloodied face, to my right, I saw Corporal Lowe fell down lifeless. The same to our Platoon’s left flank, I saw several guys on the ground, bloodied and not moving. The men of 2nd platoon were all screaming, the distance of encounter was very close, so close yet there were not so many big trees or bushes to hide. It’s the first time that I had experienced since I arrived in the DMZ. 2nd platoon soon was engaged with a hand to hand fight due to the closeness to the NVA who were wearing a mixture of light green khaki and some black pajamas. In one of the craziest event, I saw the men of 2nd platoon screaming as if they were having fun, swearing & shouting obscenities. I swear I care about these Marines like my own brothers, but somehow, the fight for your own survival persistently coming out.

posted on Feb, 12 2007 @ 04:35 PM
I said to hell with the tour-package bus ride to Khe Sanh and instead hired
a cab to take me directly to Dong Ha. It wasn't that I didn't want to sit with
a bunch of Vietnamese people, it was just that the bus was too damn
crowded, period. And I have never liked crowds.
Besides, taking the cab should give me some extra time to figure out just
why I came back here. Sure, I'd been telling myself I needed the
"closure", but that wasn't really it was it? Maybe I'd find some answers
after all these years. Maybe-schmaybe.

posted on Feb, 13 2007 @ 12:11 AM
Arriving “to the zone” gave me some weird thoughts. I walked slowly away from the highway. This is just 5 Km from Dong Ha itself. I can see the small town in the horizon. The main highway as it had been 39 years ago. It did not seem to change much after these years. It’s serves as a recognizable landmark to “The Zone”.

As I started walking, feeling of unreal on what’s happening began again. I thought I was dreaming. I don’t even know whether it’s my head that makes my legs move or it’s my feet doing the walking. I looked at the watch, its 13:36 hours, and rain drops begin to fall.

I wiped away the moist on top of my watch to see the time, “Private Brandon” Shouted Lieutenant Little, Come over here! Quick! I started to crawl to Lieutenant’s position. I don’t have the whole damn day to wait for you! Get yourself over here private! And I mean now! I quickly ran to his direction ignoring the flying deaths over my head

posted on Feb, 20 2007 @ 04:08 PM
Lt. Little was an ass. A "boot" ass at that. I don't think he's been in
country more than thirty days. But he's the kind of leader that likes to hear
the sound of his own voice, giving orders. I believe his voice is raspy from
trying to sound like a senoir D.I. in boot camp. But when you meet his
gaze, eye to eye, you sense his frustration and commitment at the same
time, and you know that he definitely doesn't want things to get screwed
up. But you're also feeling like you may not want to trust this guy any
farther than you can throw him, just because he's so damn new to the
company. But, again, he is the ranking officer, and so you move your
tired butt a little faster. Crawling over to him, you arrive just in time to see
his back get bloodied from three previously unseen holes about the size of
silver dollars. Incoming! Jesus! And you can't find a hole deep enough!

posted on Feb, 20 2007 @ 08:05 PM
We finally got a decent LT. Lieutenant used to work for a living just like the rest of us. He was a gunny who command forced into being an officer. He's not happy about it, just ask Jackson what made the mistake of calling him an officer. Man he got dressed down for about 20 minutes before our own gunney stepped in and reminded him that he actually was a officer now. He claims that he pissed off a general in command who thought it would be funny to see him as a officer. Personally I think 2 guns are better than one.
I just might get to see a few more days, then again I probably wont.

posted on Feb, 22 2007 @ 03:41 PM
I take that back. I "know" I'll get to see a few more days. Looks like Lt.
Little will be medivac-ed back to the rear, which, like I said before, leaves
our platoon with technically two "gunnies". Yeah sure, one is an officer,
but he used to be a gunnie! And that's a blessing unto itself. Because a
gunnery sargent is the guy you want around when the stuff hits the fan.
He's the one who comes up and kicks your ass to get you started, and he's
the one covering your ass when all hell is breaking lose. He'll be there
beside you, pushing or pulling as needed.
As I walked along-side the road now, memories came rushing back about
"the zone". It was years ago, but it seems just like yesterday. I remember
it well.

posted on Feb, 23 2007 @ 02:00 AM
The encounter with the reconnaissance force (or scouts in Vietnam equivalent word) of a veteran unit of an NVA was unexpected. They too, were not supposed to be involved in a direct combat. Since our platoon is part of a company that is making a grand sweep in the “the zone” we were detected easily.
Two NVA recon units, one unit supposed to be a tracker that follows us in the flank. The other NVA recon unit was to do some forward observer task for the NVA artillery. When they detected the 2nd platoon, they set up an ambush position, ours, 1st platoon directly encountered the tracker scouts of NVA. The battle was so close. It was also visible that the NVA’s were used to this kind of encounter. Several Marines were slaughtered in a hand to hand combat.

posted on Feb, 23 2007 @ 04:16 PM
Slaughtered was the right word. When the fighting got in close, one sand-
bagged position over on my left was quickly over-run. The marines used
all of their firepower but still ended up being chased down a path, running
for their lives and screaming like crazed lunatics. Later on in the day, we
found them tied up to a tree. Various body parts were missing or found
where they shouldn't have been. Scary stuff. We called in a medivac
chopper and loaded their body bags on board for the long ride home.

The NVA had disappeared again so we received orders to climb Hill 302
and begin securing it for a possible firebase. This entailed clearing the
whole top of the mountain of brush and rocks, thus creating an LZ for the
choppers if they needed to deliver some arty guns and make this a
legitimate firebase in the future. After the clearing was accomplished, each
squad was given a specific area of the perimeter to be responsible for.
This meant digging in. Foxholes were dug all around the perimeter and we
set up fields of fire for our automatic weapons which were placed about
every twenty feet around the circle. Claymores were put out along with
numerous trip flares. We settled in and began to eat. I had Ham & Lima's!
The heat tabs did their job and soon the smell of hot food made the
rounds. Rifles were cleaned, magazines loaded, and frags put an arm's
length away. The rain came, as it always did, just before dark. We
waited for Charlie to find us again.

posted on Feb, 24 2007 @ 04:24 PM
While we waited Tex and I pulled our ponchos over our head so we could pop a smoke. He pulled out a picture of of two girlfriends. They live in the same city, heck on the same street. He told me that they decieded that when he gets back they were all going to get a house and share everything. God If only there were more women like that in the world, I thought. But the sound of a twig breaking a half a klick to are rear ended our conversation. I am really amazed how great my crew really is, as we smoothly lined our sites on the possible ememy. "Wait..until I give the word", was whispered down the line. I had to control my finger as I spotted the a small mound of grass that was attached to a enemy helmet bob up and down slowly. I trained my sites on him. He would die first, as soon as LT gave the word, as soon as they got close enough for us to shread them. Just to the side I saw LT pop a pin and toss his grenade at the bulk of the group. Unable to miss the chance I squeezed the trigger and saw a blood cloud just as I heard LT shout "NOOWW!!". Then it was a full on slaughter. The firefight ended quickly.

After it was over LT came over to me, " I thougth you were smart enough to understand the English language". "Sorry boss, I though the frag was your signal", I responded. "Alright, since we are new working together, I'll let this one go. You and Tex head down there and find me some info". Me and Tex slowly worked our way down, with the platoon covering.

posted on Feb, 25 2007 @ 01:50 AM
The platoon continue to sweep “the zone”, we have reached the outskirts of Dong Ha where few visible small villages & rice fields can be seen. LT!!Shouted Sarge, that small village over there, we have to be careful; a week ago a force recon team disappeared without a trace in that area. When the reinforcement arrived, no information can be obtained from the people in the village. Of course, they are all suspected to be either VC or NVA sympathizers. Occasionally, our Helos received from the ground some small arms fire coming from THAT village. Makes me wonder why this village is still here and intact. I answered LT immediately, sir, local authorities are very sensitive of any aggressive action from the US forces against the “ordinary” civilians. There is this program called” pacification” which designed to win the hearts & minds of the local people. This is at least in a way that I understand it. I think I just heard it from someone.

[edit on 25-2-2007 by searching_for_truth]

posted on Feb, 25 2007 @ 02:24 AM
LT. smiled sarcastically and then he fired his M16 in the air. Then he radioed the company HQ captain. Sir, we are receiving some small arms fire from the village about 2 or so klicks from our current position, request permission to proceed outside our designated area of patrol. WTF! Is the LT out of his mind? Is he trying to play cowboy like John Wayne? Roger that! LT., please proceed with caution. That area is totally designated as Indian Territory. Sarge stared at me as if he can’t believe what he heard. Sarge whispered, where did this new guy come from? Annapolis??? Sarge!!!! Please check the available support that we may need. Sir, as always, the big guns of Camp Caroll is always at our service. If we are lucky enough we may have F4’s from the navy available too. Last resort would be the Marine helicopter gunship sir!

The platoon moved towards the village. Slowly, as we held our breath, I started to feel uncomfortable. There were about 26 guys in our platoon. One is a navy corpsman. When we were about few meters in the village, we were near the rice field, there was a deafening quiet. Even the bird and other insects that usually make noise ceased all of a sudden. I looked at the surrounding trees, they looked solid steady and don’t sway as if the wind stopped for a moment.

posted on Feb, 26 2007 @ 02:38 PM
Nothing moved. At least nothing along the path to the village. It was as if
time had suddenly stopped. Maybe it was a warning. Maybe someone was
trying to let us know that we were about to cross the line, leaving behind
good judgement and common sense. It was so quiet you could hear your-
self sweat. And then . . .we trudged on up the path, heading directly into
the village itself. First squad went left, second squad went right, and third
squad came in last, walking right up the middle.
The village was quiet, but here and there children raced around in circles,
women and old people were gathered around the cooking fires, chickens
and ducks wandered around aimlessly, and pigs and cows snorted into
the ground. A seemingly peaceful place. But there were no men visible
anywhere, not a one. Red flag ! Warning !
A quick search offered nothing more. The Lt. gave the order to take five,
in place, so we broke out our canteens and took turns taking a drink, all
the while standing there with our rifles at the ready. The LT. seemed to be
pissed that no potential NVA were anywhere about. Our interpreter was
arguing with an old lady in the middle of the village square when I leaned
against a short palm tree to rest. Next thing I know I was falling on my
face, trying not to land on my rifle, and watching the tree go rolling down
the hill. Scared the hell out of me. Everyone was pointing their rifles in my
direction and at the hole where the tree used to be when I stood up and
spit with embarrassment. A cache ! Food cache!
Looking down in the hole, I could see bowls and bowls of rice and fruit,
especially bananas. Immediately the LT. ordered us to check for hidden
caches. I overheard him say they were probably supplying food to the
NVA. Guys began finding these food caches all over the place, one here,
one there, two over there, etc. Once again our interpreter began to argue
with the same old lady. She was now screaming that the food was theirs,
for the village only, not for the NVA. But the LT. wasn't having any of it.
He ordered us to destroy it all, and got on the radio to HQ and began
telling them that we had uncovered a major food supplier to the enemy.

Frags were thrown into the holes, blowing the food and bowls to pieces.
The women were crying and beating their hands against the ground in
protest. Suddenly, out of the jungle, running right at us and hollering at
the top of his lungs came an old man about seventy years old. I could
see that he was upset with us for destroying their food, but the nearest
marine to him didn't have time to react and opened fire, mowing the old
man down. Now the women were screaming and crying louder than ever.
I felt like , "what the hell, anyway?" Another old man came running at us,
carrying a rice paddy rake. He too went down in gunfire. Suddenly every-
body was shooting. Shooting everything and anything. After awhile the
LT. called a ceasefire and ordered us to take stock of the situation.
We counted four dead chickens, a dead pig, a cow that was wounded and
down, three dead women and the two old dead men. And I don't
remember anyone firing a shot at us ! I hated days like today.

posted on Feb, 26 2007 @ 11:35 PM
Just about the platoon is getting ready to make another move; we heard the sound of 50 caliber machine gun. I saw the tracers coming directly to us. It was horrifying, the sound was like several jack hammer pumping at the same time. Several guys in the 1st & 2nd squad got hit one grunt was almost beheaded when a bullet edged his neck. Soon several guys got wounded. Some wounded men lying on the ground in between the last bamboo houses and the rice field were shouting for the corpsman. The corpsman, as if invincible, just casually runs toward lying wounded Marines. Sniper fire chased the corpsman who had luckily ducked to safety.

The 50 caliber started firing again and the platoon soon was stranded in the rice field. Each time the 50 caliber reloads, sniper fire begins to pick any moving Marines.
In just few minutes, the platoon got pinned down. Enemy mortars began to fire and luckily, the rounds were falling about 2 clicks away from the platoon’s position. But soon it becomes more accurate as the 3rd platoon took a hit. It was one of the worst situations a soldier can ever imagine.

Lt. shouted to the radio man whose face is bleeding. We need to call for artillery fire support! Sarge cautioned that the 50 caliber nest is in a dug up trench covered with logs and small trees. Behind the machine gun nest is the last row of houses in the village. There should be non combatants in that area, possibly children old men & women.

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