Cacti War Stories


Edited by Wiley "Tiny" Dodd
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May 8th 1967

by Dave Crocker
May 8th 1967

May 8, 1967

With only a little over a month in the boonies I had shed my FNG (f--king new guy) status and was becoming a seasoned Infantryman half way around the world and about twelve thousand miles from my home town of Port Huron, Michigan.

Sergeant Penny was our acting platoon leader and was being considered for a field promotion to 2nd Lieutenant.
There never was a time that when I would see him that he didn't have a smile on his face.
I felt he would have made a great Officer.
As we were conducting search and destroy operations the now very familiar crack of an AK47 echoed through the air followed by a loud scream. As I made my way to see who had been hit I was shocked to see SGT Penny laying on the ground with a serious wound to his leg. The hurt on his face immediately changed to his recognizable smile.
As he was being loaded on the Medivac he still had that encouraging smile on his face.
I never saw him again.

Not long after SGT Penny was wounded we were operating on May 8th in the same area and preparing to set up for the night.
As was the standard procedure we would place Claymore mines around our perimeter.
The Claymore mine is extremely deadly and directional with an effective kill range of about 50 yards arced 60 degrees to the front but capable of a much larger range.
A blasting cap which is attached to a wire is strung from the mine to a remote location which is then activated by a detonator.
While the wire is being strung it is necessary to keep a suppressor attached to the end of the wire, something that we were trained for from the first day we saw the Claymore.
The suppressor keeps the cap shorted out so that static electricity doesn't cause the cap to detonate prematurely while unwinding the cord.
The cord looked like a standard brown rubber lamp cord.
Once the mine is set and the cord is run the suppressor is removed and a detonator is then attached. When needed you'd just press the detonator and the mine which is filled with C4 and steel balls would explode.
Corporal Paul Mullins, the assistant squad leader at the time, was preparing to set up the Claymore when all of a sudden a shot that sounded like a 22 rifle rang out, followed by that all too familiar scream.
As I approached CPL Mullins he was holding his hand against his stomach and the red evidence was everywhere.
As I helped to load him on a Medivac he looked straight at me and said "I wanted to go home but not like this".
The blast of that blasting cap ripped open his stomach and blew off three of his fingers.
He failed to attach the suppressor to the cord of the blasting cap while stringing it out and the friction activated the blasting cap in his hand.

That would be the last I'd see him until 41 years later in 2008.
I had always wondered what happened to him and how he made out. There were lists for KIA's and WIA's but no list to show what happened to the WIA's afterwards.

My daughter Kim was browsing the internet when she run across someone looking for a Davy Crockett that served in Vietnam with this guy.
She called me and asked if I remembered a Paul Mullins.
"Yes I sure do" was my response.
Most of the people called me Davy Crockett because of the name association and I responded to it like it was my real name as I had been going by that name on the CB Radio prior to my military service.

I then contacted him and we talked like it had only been yesterday.

I drove to my unit's reunion (35th Infantry Regiment) in St Louis. Mo in 2008 and in doing so I planned out the locations of several graves along the way and also Paul's home in Big Stone Gap, VA.
He and his wife Cathy were so gracious and even contacted Layton Drew, another buddy I served with and he drove in from KY.

Paul and I would remain in contact till his death in 2015 followed by Layton's in 2016.

As the month of May 1967 moved along we were still on search and destroy missions when we came upon a heard of water buffalo in the middle of rice paddies surrounding by nothing but mountains.
It was determined that the water buffalo were being used to transport enemy supplies.
Water Buffalo in Vietnam were considered somewhat sacred and we were instructed not to harm them unless they were being used against us.
It was decided that they were in fact carrying supplies which had been located nearby and the order was given for our squad of four or five to kill the buffalo.
As our squad moved out into the open area of the rice paddy we began to unload our fully automatic weapons into the buffalo.
As we were all firing weapons I noticed that dust was being kicked up all around us.
I checked everybody's direction of fire to make sure that I wasn't once again caught in the middle of some kind of friendly fire.

I began to yell cease fire and sniper but being heard through all the weapons firing at the same time was a real challenge.
As I was screaming sniper and pointing towards the mountain I started running forward to the closest berm at the same time trying desperately to remove my heavily loaded back pack.
I'm not sure how many rounds total that were fired at the buffalo that day but I know I emptied at least two or three magazines and the buffalo were still trying to stay on their feet.
Fortunate for us again, nobody was hit.
I think there was a good chance that the sniper saw all the commotion of us removing our back packs while on our stomachs and that he thought one of us was hit.
Once the sniper fire stopped we proceeded to climb the mountain to search him out.
We spent a whole day humping that mountain and never located the sniper, just his cache of goods.

Everything remained kind of quiet for us until May 19