The morning of November 18th, A Company 1st Battalion, 1st Platoon, 1st Squad was preparing to move to Hill 882 to set up a blocking position. I would be lying if I said it was a normal morning. Yes some things were normal or more routine, such as stand to, security, bringing in Claymores, trip flares, and filling in the fighting positions, (foxholes), but everything was done with such care and quietness because we had had almost daily contact with the NVA, (North Vietnamese Army), for the past few days. There was tension in the air.
Sgt. Doug Baum 1st Squad Leader, (1), came to me and told me the order of march was first Squad and then the rest of the Task Force. Sgt. Baum said he would like me to pull point for the movement to Hill 882. I wanted to protest it wasn’t my turn or I would be better as rear security; but I knew why he picked me for point, I was no cherry. I had been in country since February and had run operations in War Zone “D”, The Iron Triangle, War Zone “C”, Operation Junction City I & II, and to many operations to remember. He wanted me to pull point because I knew you don’t walk in the jungle, you walk with the jungle and you use all your sense’s, sight, hearing, and smell. You look for the common to be there and the uncommon not to be; the wind and other sounds of the jungle or the lack of them. As we prepared to move I was gratified for the trust Sgt. Baum placed in me but my pucker factor was still ten.
While we waited for the word to go forward I checked my ruck sack and web gear. I had four grenades,( Mark 26 fragmentation),a smoke grenade, a total of 442 rounds of 5.56, 4 boxes in the pockets of my ruck sack, eight magazines in my ammo pouches’ one in my rifle and ten magazines in a claymore bag under the top flap of my ruck sack all cleaned and ready to go. Sgt. Baum came over to review the route selection which I wasn’t crazy about because we had to follow an old trail we had use in July during the wet season to go to the same hill, Hill 882,(2); So much for Roger’s Rangers’ rules. The morning started off cool but now it was almost 07:30 Hrs. and it was starting to heat up. The movement was slow, Sgt. Baum was my slack man/ compass man; he had me go 100 meters at a time then stop and wait for his signal to move forward another 100 meters, we did the rest of the morning. About 11:30 Hrs I came to the bottom of the hill mass we had been following ; and before me was an area where an air strike or artillery had blown down all the trees, and in order to cross this area I would be completely exposed for about 70 meters . I stopped and signaled Sgt Baum forward and showed him the clearing and the distance to the finger that started up Hill 882. LT. Robinson ,(3),came forward to talk to us, told Sgt. Baum to set up the M-60 to cover me and for me to go ahead and cross the area until I reached cover on the other side and to provide cover for Sgt. Baum and the rest of the Squad. While I waited for everyone to get set I took out a cigarette to smoke and had a swig of water and did a visual recon of the clearing and the bottom of Hill 882. This was not going to be easy the air strike had knocked down all the trees into a big pile of crisscrossing logs that I would have to climb over or under to reach the other side. Sgt. Baum gave me the signal to move forward, (it had been a good cigarette). As I started I felt a wave of fear go through me , I knew there were over 100 armed to the teeth paratroopers behind me but it didn’t help me because I felt like worm on a hook , the NVA were the fish and I was the bait.
As I crossed the opening climbing over tree trunks I tried to scan the opposite side until I reach the tree cover on the bottom of Hill 882. Once I was back under the trees I turned to signal, but saw Sgt. Baum hadn’t waited for me to finish crossing the opening but was half way across the logs. I walked into the jungle for about 10...