We both continued our rap about AN KHE itself and the ways. My friend now in a remote way started to fill me in on the workings of the base.Its relative meaning in the war. Again he stated AN KHE had been left a shell before the TET offensive. The First Cav. had been moved up north to the D.M.Z. region. An KHE was now only a training area for the new First Cav. replacements. All the new F.N.G.s that had orders assigning them to the First Cav.received their basic training at AN KHE. The base had become quiet in the last year. Most of the action was now taking place in the north regions. It was sort of a regrouping of forces for the Viet Cong and the north regulars. The bombing of the HO CHI MINH trail had reduced the flow of war goods to the south regions for the last few years. He said, one of he big mistakes was the stopping of the bombing of the trail.
AN KHE itself in the whole picture was probably a staging area for the Viet Cong. In fact the city of AN KHE was probably a rest stop and relaxation point for the Viet Cong and their families now. He said, this was probably why the action around the area was very low. During the TET offensive the airport had been attacked. The airport was over run for a short period of time. The greenhouse on which the tower rested had been hit by a B-40 rocket. It blew a hole big enough to place a truck through it. The captains office got the full impact of the rocket. By relative fate and luck he was out of his office. This seemed to be the way of the war. Luck was either on your side or just against you with fate riding along. There were two C-130 cargo aircraft on the ramp at the time of the attack. Sappers placed satchel charges by both of them and severely damaged the two aircraft.
With all that, the act of killing and being in action really crossed my naive mind. He said also, that Viet Cong were inside the serpent wire and that they were killed or captured and some escaped. Then again these thoughts seemed still unreal and only the talk of an interesting person that I recently met. I was again a wide eyed F.N.G. listening like a child. Inside myself the tender nerves of real reality were becoming the moment present. This was war, I had never experienced war before, now the full experience was coming beforeme wide Hollywood live. The childish game in the local woods was becoming, the real game of life or death. The M-16 rifle by my side was real, along with its twenty rounds of clip death. It stood in the corner of the tower, lurking and staring at me like somehideous new friend. It now had that cold steel and modern efficiency of modern society. All the fast efficient modern technology, placed into that super light weight people killing rifle.
The size of the ammo was efficient. The bullet the size of a finger nail. Behind it was the force and power of a very high caliber shell. It was designed to enter the body and travel where ever it well pleased. Modern technology had come a long way from the days of powder and ball muzzle loading rifles. Its expendable killing power was twenty rounds which projected at full auto in the time it took to say your first name. Twenty rounds that could kill, maim and destroy in its line of fire. If you were experienced after awhile you kept number twenty one in the chamber, oh brother I thought to myself. This is all the real thing. This talk was the dawning of a new day for me in country, like the sun rising over the horizon.
Soon another plane was calling in for landing instructions, it broke the tension of the rap. The routine was repeated and soon another dot was on the horizon looking out the plexiglass. That same ball of metal that was en-route to AN KHE airport. SOUL 226 was getting ready for takeoff. It called the tower for taxi instructions. He was given instructions and told to hold short of the runway for incoming traffic. The job of the air traffic controller, was to place the timing and separation of aircraft for safe flow or movement.
The forces of approaching time were upon the new and the old at the base. The guys the rear before had done their duty and repelled the TET attack. Most of the Viet Cong were killed or escaped. Some to the haven of HONG KONG mountain inside the base. This was the mountain that held the radar approach control systems and micro wave transmission points. It was located in the base with the serpent perimeter winding around the mountain. I guessed HONG KONG mountain was the center and main reason for AN KHE itself. Communication efficiency up and down the length of Viet Nam.
The steps of the ladder began the creak and quiver alerting us to a visitor. The vibrations could be felt inside the tower, with each foot step and weight on its rungs. It always served as a good signal that someone was coming to the greenhouse roof. It gave you that extra few minutes to get yourself busy and look sharp to any high ranking person. This always made a good impression to anyone in the military. That was one of the tricks of good survival in the army. Make work if there really wasn't any. Then screw off when you had the time and place to do it. This also helped you to not get picked for details or work that was on details list.
Two guys came through the trap door. They looked and smiled and asked how things were going. There was that sarcasm that filtered through the whole intro. They were the next shift. They asked about the runway in use, local artillery hot zones that were active at the time. There were a number of artillery batteries located at the AN KHE base itself. They gave support to field sweeps and any local requests for artillery support. At night you could hear booming all over the base when things got hot.
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