Just Another Day in the Nam
by Jim Doc Hall
April 24 1970
We didn't even rate a good footnote in the 2/35th Daily Journals this day but it sure was exciting for a while.
S-3 2/35th Daily Journal entry April 24, 1970 "Activity Summary Item 48 page 8 of 11": "3 Individuals moving to the south approx 20 M to the west. Employ S/A & R/L and enemy Fled to NW. See Spot Report 37." (Note Spot Report 37 merely reports the same info.)
The Daily Journals for this day were so noncommittal that even though I remember the incident clearly I could never pinpoint the date that it occurred until recently I was reading through a journal kept by Denny Burk that also mentioned the incident in passing but gave me a date.
To tell the truth the incident was not overly unique from many others that occurred during my time in country except for 2 stories that played in my mind for years.
Story number One: 1st Platoon Bravo Co had a few weeks before this incident gotten the very first Kit Carson Scout that any of us could remember. His name was Gioi (Yoy) (His whole name was given as Coa-Gioi on a company roster.)
Our 3rd platoon had had a Kit Carson Scout for quite some time. His name was Tran Van-Tu. Tu (Two) was a terrific little guy. Extremely personable and competent, and was well liked by anyone who came across him. (He returned to his home village on leave sometime in the summer of 1970 and was assassinated by local VC).
Anyway, after being around Tu we were really happy to hear that we would be getting a Kit Carson Scout.
Doubts about our new Kit Carson began immediately. First of all he didn't seem to speak any English at all. Secondly he merely sat in the corner of a hootch at FB Challenge smoking cigarettes with a sour look on his face that told us that he wasn't happy to join us. We weren't impressed. He sure wasn't a Tu.
We returned to the field off of Challenge and over the next few weeks we settled in to sort of accept Gioi but I can't say that he was particularly helpful or that we really trusted him.
Then came April 24th. Earlier in the day we had found a couple of hootches out in the jungle. We cleared them and found a few minor objects (an old type writer I believe and some clothes and rice and maybe a hammock.) Gioi was consulted at the time as to how many VC/NVA he suspected had been there and how long ago? Somehow he seemed to understand the questions but did not answer in English (or any other words) He would answer with hand signals (2 or 3 dinks I day old.)
In early afternoon, we stopped in a fairly open area. There was canopy over our heads but it was fairly high leaving the ground under it kind of open but it was still difficult to see in the dim light.
We put out a couple of OP's in two different directions and settled down to eat lunch. As was the habit most of the guys were eating laying down with their heads propped against their rucks which were propped against some slender trees.
As these things typically happen there was a sudden burst of small arms fire. I personally didn't hear the initial outgoing fire but sure was aware of the incoming. The dinks really hosed down our perimeter. There were rounds hitting everywhere and the small branches and trees were falling like rain. One of our guys had a 5 quart water blivet tied high up on his ruck (Ray Dail or Ken Gocht, I think) and it took a direct hit throwing water everywhere. The poor guy was sure for an instant that he was hit.
Our OP's were still out in front of us and were beating it for the perimeter so we had to hold our fire for a short period. During this time I was laying belly down beside Gioi and dirt was kicking up into our faces. It was at this moment that Gioi chose to say the first English words I ever heard him speak. He turned his head towards me and said "God Damn it, Doc" then he pointed with an index finger to several spots around us indicating where bullets had hit.
We were completely in the middle of a rather one sided (to that point) fire fight. We weren't able to return fire. Out of the corner of one eye I noticed one of our guys writhing around as if he had been hit (the water blivet guy). We were still receiving incoming small arms fire and as I was preparing to make a dash off to the side of my "wounded" guy I couldn't help but stop to laugh at the first words spoken by our new Kit Carson.
All of this happened in probably less than a minute but it seemed like hours before our OP's were retrieved and our guys got on line and cleared the area in front of us. Of course, we shot up a lot of rounds and we called in artillery but a sweep of the area turned up no evidence that any Dinks were hit in the exchange and in spite of my initial impressions none of our guys was hit either. Just another one of those exciting non-events that seemed to happen with some frequency.
Just a short note on the continuation of our day. In an expanding search of the area forward of our contact we found that day (Item 44 page 5 of 11 of that same Daily Journal) "A Cylinder shaped Booby trap, 6" in diameter, & 4' off the ground. A wire lead from it."
As I remember the thing it looked about the size of maybe a helium tank that might be used to blow up balloons back in the World but it was stainless steel and about 5 -- 6 feet long. The Daily Journal didn't reference it but I'm sure that we somehow blew it but I sure don't remember how or what the whole event sounded like.
Just another Day in the Nam!
Now to Story Two: About 7 -- 8 years ago I found one of the guys who was on OP that Day. His name is Bill Shepler. In response to one of the search letters I had sent out to various Bill Shepler's in Pennsylvania I got a phone call one night from our Bill. We talked of many things for over an hour and one of the subjects was this particular day and incident. Bill was sent out on OP with Donny Putman (from Oneota, AL) For some reason Bill was heating water for cocoa (while on OP -- don't ask me -- but that's what he told me all these years later).
At one point Bill reported that he looked up at Donny and Donny's eyes were big as saucers and his face was white as a sheet. Now to get the real flavor you have to harkin back many years ago to that old TV show called "Different Strokes: Where Gary Coleman's character would periodically say "What you say, Willis?" Only substitute here Bill's query, "What you see, Donny?"
Donny replied in his best southern drawl, "I see Dinks" and he opened fire. Of course the Dinks opened up on them and lit up our perimeter as described in Story one. The question and the answer given by Bill that night just cracked me up. Who knew all those years ago that war was going to be that funny?