21 February 1970
Submitted by: Jim "Doc" Hall
THE GREAT CATTLE RUSTLER INCIDENT
Feb 21, 1970 was my first firefight. Well \"sort of\".
I\'d joined 1st platoon Bravo 2/35th a few days earlier back at Camp Radcliffe. I\'d been assigned to the 4th Div and went through repo depot training (about a week) at Camp Enari in Pleiku. From there I was assigned to Hqs Co in 2/35th and sent to the aid station in Camp Enari. They kept me around for a few days and then put me on a convoy heading for Camp Radcliffe. (To this day I don\'t desire to see much of Vietnam but I\'d love to travel through those beautiful mountain passes between Pleiku and An Khe again.) After arriving at An Khe I spent a day or 2 at the aid station there and then was assigned to 1st Platoon Bravo.
On the 21st we set out bright and early by truck to a jump off area outside Camp Radcliffe. From here we were patrolling an area around the base for a couple of days. We left the trucks and had gone maybe a couple of hundred yards through pretty thin brush when all of a sudden firing broke out from fairly close on our left side. Everyone hit the ground quickly and rolled out of their rucks.
Everyone except me, I should say. As a new guy our RTO Mike Slyck had given me a bit of a lesson on how to pack a ruck. I followed his advice pretty well but then I was a medic. We had a few extra items that didn\'t fit into Mike\'s instructions. One of these was a bag with \"cutter sets\" (for the IV bottles). At the last minute I strung this across my chest (and ruck) much like m-60 ammo.
When the firing started I found that this trapped me from removing the ruck while in the sitting position. Thus I experienced one of the few moments of pure terror that I can remember feeling in country during those first few moments in the field.
After what seemed like hours (really seconds) I wriggled out of this trap and got flat on my stomach while the firing was still going on. At the first lull in action I called out my first of many \"Is anybody hurt?\" Turns out though my inexperienced ears didn\'t tell me this, that the firing never did come that close to us. The story finally came down that some Popular Forces had mistaken us for a group who had just stolen their cow. They thought we were cattle rustlers! (Yes it is true. You can look it up in the Daily Journal for Feb 21, 1970. It\'s items 21 through 26).
For about 15 minutes, I thought I was under fire for the first time. To tell the truth those 15 minutes were as real as any other firefight I have ever been in.