I Tried to Turn Invisible That Day
© James J. Alonzo
“Shit!” I said aloud to no one in particular. It’s the morning of January 23, 1968, I awoke, after two hours, with a stiff neck, and I ached all over from having slept on the Viet Nam jungle floor. As I took over my early morning watch, and there’s a heavy fog covering the visibility of the jungle floor. However the rising sun’s rays will quickly disperse the fog.
An hour later we moved out, and I am once again assigned point. Within minutes we were all drenched in sweat, from the hot humid air of the Iron Triangle. As we moved cautiously through the thick overhanging vines and heavy underbrush in this area we named Indian Country. The area was north of Cu Chi, and south of Tay Ninh, a popular ambush area of the supply convoys that ran up and down these roads and known for it’s many booby traps, explosives, road mines, heavy enemy engagements, and fierce fire fights.
As point man, I was on constant vigil looking out for trip wires, hooked to explosives or other nasty booby traps. Patrolling, I was trying to smell the enemy, his body odor laced with a fish smell. In this thick brush, I felt that I would smell them before I saw them.
Behind me I could hear the rest of the platoon following, in a long stretched out column, hoping the VC could not hear them. Sweat stinging my eyes, was flowing in steady trickles from my forehead, neck, and back, soaking my T-shirt and waistband of my soiled, ripped trousers. Tears from the jungle foliage that cut like razors skin and clothing.
It’s the beginning of another day in Viet Nam, and we hadn’t been re-supplied for days, nor eaten in two days except for the C-rations we individually carried, so we were hot, haggard, dirty, hungry, and just down right miserable.
“It’s not a job, it’s an adventure!”
As I was wiping the sweat from my eyes, I stepped out of the thick brush into a small clearing. As I did that, my peripheral vision caught the movement to my right, not 20 feet away, an enemy soldier had just broke through the jungle bush into the same clearing! I froze, and as I did the American soldier behind me not knowing why, still signaled the rest of the platoon to stop movement.
The Viet cong soldier had been looking down, and had his weapon pointed downward parallel to his right leg. Somehow his weapon’s front site and bayonet housing was entangled from protruding vines. As he jerked it free, I tried to turn invisible, but when he turned his head in my direction he saw me. (Shit! It didn’t work!)
We both froze, stood there, except for our heavy breathing, we silently stared at each other. Two, three, five long seconds passed between us. His straight dark black hair wasn’t combed, one side stood up as though he had slept on that side, his black pajama like uniform was dirty, tattered and torn like mine. A skinny man with a like wise skinny bedroll tied and draped over his shoulder, at his waist ammo belt and a bamboo container, they were know to carry rice and such in.
His black eyes now fixed on me revealed much pain, sorrow, and maybe fear. His rifle was still pointed downwards; mine was at waist high pointing at him. We both knew at that moment I had the advantage. Behind us our buddies had no clue what was happening at that moment.
In the next few seconds there was going to be a fierce fire fight, where there would be a lot of splattering of blood, guts, and screams of pain. We would be firing blindly and violently at each other. The area would soon be reek with death and destruction. He knew this as I knew this. Maybe that is why he took a small step backwards, and waited for me to react.
It seemed like life, death and eternity flashed before us. It was so quiet, even the jungle seemed to be lacking the normal noises. I heard his stomach growl, loud and empty, or maybe it was mine? Instead of firing, I too lowered my weapon slightly and also took a step backwards.
Life, it seemed, at that moment, returned between us with it’s promise of tomorrow. His eyes grew big and he released a deep sigh at my step backwards. He took another step backwards, and I followed suit, our eyes never moved and seemed not to blink. He turned to his right and quickly disappeared in the thick jungle, as I turned left to get out of the clearing and behind me the platoon began following again. I never told anyone what had happened that day. I wonder if that enemy soldier is still alive, well I hope he still is.
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