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Bob Stockton

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Member Since: Nov, 2011

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Tet
By Bob Stockton
Monday, November 21, 2011

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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The author recalls his introduction to the Vietnam War.

©2010 Bob Stockton. Adapted from 'Listening To Ghosts' (Xlibris Press) by Bob Stockton. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

The next morning was January 31st of 1968 which was the beginning of the Vietnamese holiday Tet. Tet signals the beginning of the Vietnamese New Year. This year it also signaled the beginning of a major coordinated offensive by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Viet Cong irregulars (VC). Major cities
throughout South Vietnam were hit by division strength assaults, catching the South Vietnamese and American forces by surprise.

 The strategy behind the Tet offensive was more political than military. The NVA and Viet Cong were prepared to take major casualties in Killed and Wounded in
order to force Washington into withdrawing support for the shaky South Vietnamese government and begin gradual withdrawal of all American forces from the country. This was a last, desperate measure for the North. They were in fact losing the war badly and knew that they could not achieve victory by military means alone.

The Market Time base at Cam Ranh Bay was in no immediate danger of a major assault by the NVA or VC as the enemy was concentrating most of their strength
in assaults around Hue, Da Nang and other major cities. The battle for Hue lasted for more than a month with the NVA taking heavy casualties. The Marines at
nearby Khe Sanh fought off the enemy for nearly two months, and being cutoff from ground reinforcements, were being   resupplied entirely by air.

The entire Cam Ramh Air and Market Time bases were placed on Yellow alert and the Navy  Seabee Battalion was sent to their defensive positions with weapons locked and loaded. The Undersea Warfare Detachment was placed on extremely high alert as there had been intelligence reports that VC swimmers may try to penetrate the harbor and attach explosives to the hull of ships and patrol craft in port. The senior base security petty officer, a Boatswains Mate First Class named Broome and I were given an assignment to patrol the outer perimeter of the base and capture or kill any VC infiltrators that we encountered. We were issued our weapons and ammo, a PRC-10 backpack radio, flashlights and C-Rations. We jumped in the back of a pickup and were delivered to the outer boundaries where we would patrol until relieved. I remember thinking, “Just what the hell have I gotten myself into here?”

We spent the day scouring the outer perimeter for signs of infiltration, finding none. Day eased into night and we were informed that we’d be remaining on the
patrol for several hours more until we could be relieved. I didn’t particularly like the patrolling during daylight hours and nighttime patrol was even hairier. We
used our flashlights quite a bit and I remember thinking that the beam of light would make a wonderful target. I kept my light beam as far from my body as I
could without losing my balance while climbing among those damned rocks.

Right about then we took fire - from the wrong direction! Broome and I dived for cover. He got on the PRC-10 and asked whoooo the hell was shooting at us?
We got a “Wait. Out.” Shortly thereafter the firing ceased but we didn’t move a muscle. We were waiting for a radio response to let us know that whatever had
happened was done and wasn’t going to resume. Finally the radio came alive and informed us that the Undersea Warfare (IUWG) people had spotted VC
swimmers in the harbor and had hit them with a barrage of concussion grenades, killing at least one with several more surfacing in various areas. The IUWG
people had discharged some automatic weapons bursts at them and one or two Seabees who had seen our flashlight beams thought that the Base had been
penetrated and unloaded a magazine or two of M-16 fire in our general direction. Neither Broome nor I moved from our rock shielded position for what seemed
like about a half hour or so. My butt was so locked you couldn’t have stuck a needle in the opening. Eventually we moved out and resumed patrol using a lot less of the flashlights.

Welcome to Vietnam. Almost shot by my own people.

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Reviewed by Jansen Estrup 5/13/2012
Nicely done, Bob. Grenades in the water reminds me of nights in Danang Harbor, trying to sleep. One broke loose an air conditioner hose

and water sprayed a signalman. He woke up screaming 'torpedo, torpedo' ... not surprising, I suppose. We were all hallucinating half the time. Thanks ... I think.





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