Ole Didn't Joke Much in Them Days
by Jim "Doc" Hall
Ole Didn't Joke Much in Them Days
Mid-May 1970 brought us probably the easiest duty that any of us had ever seen in Bravo Company. We had pulled out of Cambodia on May 13th and suffered through that disastrous helicopter crash coming out (4 dead including 2 Cacti and over a dozen Cacti injured). But now we were back at Camp Radcliffe and pulling easy duty.
We were assigned to guard a group of engineers as they pushed back the foliage surrounding the perimeter of the camp. All we had to do is be there and pretend to be awake while we pulled guard over this operation.
To do this we found a little shade and had a couple of guys face away from the camp's perimeter while the rest of us engaged in the luxury of talking out loud or sitting in groups playing cards or taking an honest to goodness nap.
The day began at about 0800 . Hot food was served at lunch time. And we were finished for the day by 1600 hrs. We could of worn a suit and tie to this one.
But, of course, all good things must come to an end. Three or four days of this was all that the Army brass could stand to see us enjoy so the easy duty came to and end much too soon for any or our likings.
Then again, the next assignment wasn't all that bad either. Following our few days of guarding the engineers the 1st Platoon Bravo Company was assigned one night of Golf Course Guard.
What is Golf Course Guard? This was the name of the helicopter pad area at Camp Radcliffe. The story, as I remember it, is that when they were building Camp Radcliffe the commanding general (1st Cav) told his men that he wanted the area to be so flat and clean that it looked like a golf course.
Anyway, we drew golf course guard that night and our men were scattered around the pad area in different locations. This was a pretty formal affair with passwords and counter signs being handed out at some sort of pre-guard inspection before the guards were posted.
My Pal, Ole Olsen, was assigned to be Sgt of the Guard that night and, since I was the medic, I could hang out about anywhere I wanted so I stuck with Ole throughout the evening.
Now for a little background information. When we went into Cambodia Bravo's mortar platoon was pretty well disbanded and the men in it were dispersed to the various platoons. !st platoon picked up 3 or 4 of these guys and in the short time we had them we hadn't had the opportunity to get to know them too well. Among this group of mortar guys was a guy who we'll just call "Ken". He was a rather strange little guy but nobody really knew much about him at this time.
Just after dark Ole and I and a couple of others were sitting out front of the bunk house where the next wave of guards was trying to catch a little sleep when a call came in for the Sgt. Of the Guard to come to a certain station. Ole got in the jeep they had provided and having little better to do I climbed in with him. Off we went to the given station and when we arrived we found a heck of a sight.
An obvious American soldier was face down flat on the ground with "Ken" standing over him with M-16 buried in his back. "Ken" had what I can only describe as a lunatic look on his face and the guy on the ground was screaming for the "Sgt of the Guard". "Ken" was shaking pretty noticeably even from the 50 feet or so that separated us and his eyes were just wild and disassociated from the rest of the world.
Ole hollered for "Ken" to pull his weapon off the poor guy on the ground and the guy on the ground was pretty well crying out of fear. "Ken" didn't react in any way to Ole's command. It was just obvious that he had completely lost contact with reality by this time.
So I decided to give it my best try and I hollered out to "Ken" to move his weapon off of the man on the ground. I identified myself as Doc as I gave him this "order" (if a medic can give an order to a grunt). But again there was no effect other than he may of tensed up and trembled even more. His eyes were glued to the man on the ground and he didn't seem to notice that Ole and I were even there. The guy on the ground was still screaming for help but he dared not move an inch.
As I called out to "Ken" I had moved a bit in front of Ole but we were still about 50 feet away from "Ken" and his prisoner. So from just behind me I heard Ole say "I'm going to shoot him, Doc".
My eyes were still on "Ken" and his captive. "Ken" as really trembling now as his body grew even tenser and it really looked like he might shoot the poor guy on the ground at any second and the thought went through my head, "what an odd time to be cracking a joke".
So I turned around to look at Ole and he had his M-16 up and pointed at "Ken" and it was obvious that Ole wasn't joking. Ole's face appeared to be taking on much of the detached look that "Ken" had on his face.
So here I stood between the two and I wasn't sure which one to talk to next. But I said "No Ole, wait a minute" and I screamed out once more to "Ken" to put down his weapon!
For whatever reason this one seemed to get through. "Ken" kind of blinked and shook his head once and then removed the downward pressure on the guys back with his gun barrel. He then lifted it entirely. No sooner did the weapon lift than the guy on the ground jumped to his feet and 'di di'd" out of there in no time flat.
"Ken", while a bit more responsive, was still trembling and had more than a little bit of the lunatic appearance to his face. We called for an ambulance and they came out and hauled him off to the hospital. I never heard another word about him and he certainly never returned to our platoon.
In the past few years I have discovered that "Ken" died back in 1974. I have no idea what happened to him after the incident or what cause his death so shortly after his Vietnam service. But I can say that I have never seen anyone who looked more "lunatic" than "Ken" did on that day.
The details were a little fuzzy even way back then, and they certainly aren't any clearer today, but as I understand it the guy who "Ken" had on the ground was a helicopter mechanic who ended up working until after dark and didn't get the password for the night. Because he didn't have the password "Ken" stopped him and put him on his belly on the ground and then went off of the deep end.
This story is one that I tell with some frequency at reunions when our old group gets together. Even Ole gets a kick out of it but he still says to this day "You should of let me shoot him, Doc." Ole doesn't joke much even to this day.