First (Friendly) fire fight

By Ben the plunderer

 

In 1966 my first firelight was against friendly forces...in broad daylight  ,clear sight and intentional. One camp against another. This was  not something  we  were  normally trained  to do. This  was  definitely not  the  place  you wanted  to be. 


 It was my 3rd day on the A - team A-227  in  Bong Son . The  main gate  to the  Special Forces   compound  had just been  unlocked when  small arms  fire   suddenly broke out between our   camp and  the ARVIN 105 artillery   battery  across  the  dirt airstrip  that divided   the  two camps ...On the   previous night    ARVIN (Vietnamese soldiers) had  raped  several  of the wives of  the  Vietnamese soldiers  of  our  camp.  The   soldiers in our  camp  wanted  immediate revenge. (Rolf  Kreuscher my X/O, should be able to verify this)  and  bullets were  flying  everywhere. 

While our  camp was  heavily fortified with  mortars  and   M-60 machine  guns we knew we were  no match for the  single 105  Artillery cannon in the  ARVIN camp. We faced  heavy casualties   at point  blank range  of  a 300  hundred  yards if the  ARVIN  lowered their cannon  .We. ran to our   machine  gun bunkers  and mortar  pits   with our guns  drawn to keep our other  hail  rifle shots that were kicking   up the  dust all around  us. We  did  not know  if  we  were  going  to be  able  to defend our  selves  from our  camp's soldiers or  be  hit  by rifle  fire  from the  other  camp. 


After several  minutes   both camps finally  ceased  firing.   Over a  1,000  rifle rounds  had  been fired by each camp and  remarkably only one  person had  been hit....in the ass  by a shot  fired  from our  camp. As  the  firing  came  to a  halt  in both camps I took  cover behind  a sandbagged wall near the  entrance to the  front gate. 


Our CO and team/sgt   climbed  into a    jeep and  started  towards  the Arvin  105 Camp waving a  white  flag. Just  As  their jeep passed  the mid point  of  the runway , a Vietnamese soldiers near my position stood  up and started  firing his  M-1  carbine   at the other  camp . Again, both camps  began   firing at each other . Our  C/O and  our Team /Sgt. driving  the jeep  were wildly waved  their  little  white  flags as  they approached  the  Arvin   unit. Our  guys  in the  jeep  had  probably both just   just shit  their  pants.   I started body slamming  soldiers who were  still firing  and  grabbing their weapons..  . All   SF were now  walking  around  with cocked  45. Cal automatics  trying  to cover each others  backs as  well as to prevent  further  firing . We were   not  the safe.  Our camp's soldiers  outnumbered the  10  SF  at least  30 to one. 

A  fragile truce  was  again called  by our  by both camps . The  CO and  team/sgt  roared  back into our  camp and  order was  slowly restored . The only casualties on our  side  were the several soldiers who's ribs I had  cracked  while  disarming them  .Everyone was  mad  at each other. Everyone  was  yelling ! 

My CO (who's  name  I will withhold )  began surveying the  camp for wounded  . The LLDB were  upset that I  had cracked   couple of  their  men's ribs and  complained  to our  officers. My CO  did  not handle the  situation any better. It was also the  his  first fire  fight. ,but he was to stupid  to  understand  that the  soldiers  that jumped up and  started  the  firing  again ,could well have  been  firing  at him. 


.Hell for all I  knew , they could  have  been  some  of  the  VC  in the  camp. He  chewed  me  out stating that I had  been over reacting?  I said  fuck it!  I walked   into the team house  and  grabbed a  cold  pack  of Coors beer.. I  was  not  happy about  flying  8,000 miles to sit  in one   South Vietnamese camp while another  South  Vietnamese Army  shot at me. This  was their  war.  I was  pissed  that I  had been reprimanded  by my CO, for  possibly saving  his  ass. Minutes  later he came  into  the  team house  and  told  me  to  leave  my M-16 in camp , take  a  jeep and  drive  down to the  end  of the runway and "detain some  Vietnamese tanks" in route  to restore peace  between the  two camps....... for as long as ...I  possibly could..?

Shit,  I was  a medic , not  a tank detainer !..How  the  hell do you detain a  tank with nothing  but  a  holstered  45 Automatic? Popping another cold beer I jumped  into the jeep  and yelled a   dubious “yes Sir" ? If  I was going  to get shot  in this  3  ringed  circus at least  I  was going  to have a couple  drinks to dull  the pain. Fuck them all. Nothing  made any sense  so far. I guess  the objective was  to  allow  the  situation to cool down before  the tanks  got there  because they would fire back ,if  fired  upon. I hauled ass  down to the  road that approached the airstrip hoping no one would  start shooting  again . I parked  the jeep well out of  range. 

This  sucked!  A few   minutes later   several  ominous  tanks came  clanking  through the  village near the runway  kicking  up the  red  dust as  they approached. (see photo below)I stood  in the  narrow open road wildly  waving my hands and   hoping that the  led  tank was  going stop.  Fortunately for  me,  it did as  very excited tank commander started  yelling  at  me  in Vietnamese...  I sort  of got  the  gist of what he was trying  to say in universal language  Move!!!  It  was  his tank and  he was not  used  to being told  to stop. The   tank's driver kept  revving it's engine, belching  thick  black smoke  smelling of  hot  diesel  and  red  dust. All I could  do was  stand  there   in front of   the  tank looking  up and  yelling  back  that"  I didn't  understand him " . I keep waving  my hand   as  him as  he grew more  impatient. 


All of  the villagers  began to run up to where the  tank and  I   stood  facing  each  other and  laughing . The  tank commander  was  cursing  me and  yelling  that I was   "dinky dow"  It sure  looked crazy to me  too!, I thought. . I  took a  long pull  on the cold beer  in my hand  , thinking  how  can I detain  that big  fucking  tank   . There  is  no  reasoning  with a tank . It  is  pretty much gonna do what it  wants .  I started  pointing  along  the  road  and yelling MINH ! (land mine) which was  one  of  the  few  words  I  knew  in Vietnamese...If  you don't  learn that one,  you can pretty much forget about  the  other  words. Suddenly   all of  the villagers started  running  the other way ... even  the  tank commander was  well aware  of the  ramifications of  the word  MINH! 


He decided  to  waste a  few  more  minutes ...and   someone   was sent to check the  road in front  of the  tanks..  They   yelled  up to the commander  in Vietnamese   that  there  were  no mines .The  tank commander gave me   a  dirty look and  flipped  me  off !  The  tank  lurched forward and I knew  it was  time to step aside  or never step again.   Five minutes  at the  most  was  all I could delay  the  tanks with my antics ,but  it  was  more  than nothing. I followed  the  tanks  back to camp where they took up a  position   on the  airstrip between the  two camps  for  the remainder of  the  day. The  next day I requested  to be  sent  to a  fighting  camp in a  free fire zone. Hopefully ,there  If I did get shot it  would be  the  enemy and  not  a  friendly camp.