Cam Ne Burning
My group was assigned the lead group. Just as we formed for attack the enemy took us under fire. We still entered the complex. It was a place that lacked young men. Still, the hamlet looked normal. Young women with small children were playing in the area. Older women were working on preparing the meals for that evening. Some would be standing in their thatched doorways, nursing infants and spluttering red streams of betel-nut juice into the dust. (Note: Betel-nut is a mildly euphoric stimulant, attributed to the presence of relatively high levels of psychoactive alkaloids. Chewing it increases the capacity to work and also causes a hot sensation in the body. Chewing betel-nuts is an important and popular cultural activity in many Asian countries.) The older men were working their rice grounds. If they were not working the fields, they would be standing by their thatched houses smoking gnarled cheroots. Not surprisingly, they would be staring at us without seeming to notice us. But there were no young men to be seen—this seemed to be very strange. This was probably a sign that there was going to be trouble.
Operation Rice Straw Golden Fleece
Our group lifted off the flight deck of the USS Princeton; as we moved away from the aircraft carrier, we could immediately tell we were in trouble—deep trouble!
The gunner, sitting next to me, with his M60 machine gun at the ready, received a distress message from the pilot. He, as quickly as he could, voiced to us, in a very loud way, we were too heavy and that we had to unload some of our gear. While we did not want to discharge our stuff, we did just that. We threw out our extra ammunition. Does this not sound a little crazy? Actually, we had no choice. Otherwise, we were headed smack dab into the ocean. As a matter of fact, our helicopter was taking in lots of water as we were trying to unload some of the extra weight.
The operating room stayed busy for about six hours before I could be seen. I sat there listening to the moans and groans as well as the whines and whimpers of other warriors, soldiers, and more servicemen who had serious, life-threatening wounds. It was disturbing to hear these men, who were about to lose an arm or a leg. It certainly was annoying and difficult to listen to these gutsy and spirited warriors scream with pain. Most important, it was exasperating, knowing that some of these young brave fighters would soon die because it was too late for the doctors to help them. For example, some of the head and chest wounds were so serious that the doctors were unable to save the men. Some of these brave troops, as hideous as it may sound, died there on a gurney. As you could probably imagine, it was an uncanny and eerie feeling that day. It felt spine-chilling as I awaited my turn to be operated on.