James Neil

My recollection is kinda vague here, but here goes. We of C co. 1/501st 101st were flown on slicks onto the top of some wasted mountain somewhere around FSB Bastogne and I and my best friend then, Phong, the chieu hoi guy with us, immediately set up our hootch for the day. It was about noon. The whole ao was really wasted from a terrific blast- ing from either the artillery or air powers, there were darts covering everything, the trees were skinned and deliefed.

We were in the cp. The rest of the company was setting up ambushes and patrols for the night. The CO and his E-7 were parked in their hootch about 10 feet from me and my pal. Phong was young, but he was definetly true blue and a damn good friend, especially for me. I was big, strong, and damn ignorant. Phong knew something about what they were doing out there, the enemy.

About 3 feet from our hootch a tree was nearly cut in half, but still hung up, defiant. I remember think- ing that it'll be the shits if it came down, here what with us right under it. Poor decision, I suppose, but can't remember if it was voluntary or we were ordered to park our asses right there under the thing. That tree looked odd. I remember often looking out, up at it in the blue sky, wondering if it was gonna come down or not.

I started to doze or ease out of my predicament when a cracking noise got me back to reality and I took a quick look out at that tree to see that it was coming down towards the CO's hootch and fast. "Captain Broussard, get the fuck out of your hootch, and right now, sir, get the goddamn hell out of your hootch immediately, the tree is coming down on top of your hootch right fucking now!" Time sorta froze but that big tree was about to bear down.

And out, crouched and scurrying went the two dudes in charge of us, all one and each. Just in time. The tree cut down on their little hootch, woulda knocked life out of either one. I just looked at the picture of this awful place that I had somehow allowed myself to be taken to. Then I saw the CO shake.

Those two men later went home safe and sound, after their times where well up, I still wonder what the fuck they are doing now.

The next day I remember Phong and I in the foxhole killing time up on that wasted place. I think some- body else came by and we all three or four of us probably shared a meal or at least a story. Anyways, along came some fookin e5, a newbe, and tells us its time to learn how to throw frags. I was kinda a cherry then, but the thought of getting frag lessons out there seemed pretty damn stupid. But, the guy outranked us all so we just grinned and listened to his bull shit. He gave us all the basics fine, even told us to be very sure that when the thing is released, that it not hit a tree so that it won't come back at us.

OK now lastly he has to demonstrate it all. Takes it, nicely pulls the pin, holding the spoon, and carefully piroettes his ass to throw the damn thing. Out it goes about 3 feet and hits a tree, bounces back in front of us. We all 4-5 guys jump up and down to the bottom of the foxhole while the thing detonates and throws dirt, rock and metal up and down on top of us. Nobody is hurt but the e5 who just learned how big his ass really was. It was not funny one damn bit though and in fact their was absolutely no conversation. The sarg got up, brushed himself off, and walked away otherwise unharmed.

That night Phong and I were in the foxhole, neither was tired yet, silently communicating. We had to pull guard all night, one at a time between the two of us. A damn lousy job.

I had a lit cigarette down below the top of the hole we were in when the trip flare went off about 30 feet in front of us, down the hill, on the path coming up to us. I looked up at the picture, bright light in the black- ness, and me with my cigarette in my mouth. Phong grabbed me and pulled my down, roughly say- ing 'cigarette', me trying to pull my thoughts together. I took one of our claymore energizers up in my hand and squeezed down on the lever. Out went the reply. Then came silence. Eye popping, pulse beating, sweat pouring silence. And as the flare slowly burned out I again wished I was home.

The morning brought an awful odor creeping up the path, from just a ways down that hill. It was awful. It was just awful.

Go back to Stories

Added 1/5/98