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Dennis Rees, LT, 1st Platoon Commander (1969 - 1970)


TURKEY RIDGE: Somewhere Near the DMZ

November 27, 1969


by Dennis Rees


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"Banner Six called," he muttered. "He wants you to meet him down there at the tank crossing," Phil added as he pointed to the creek bed at the bottom of our night defensive position (NDP), a couple hundred meters down the hill. "You want me too?" Phil asked with much strain in his voice; elucidating the struggle his body had each morning with the backpack burden, until his legs were able to share their portion of the weight with his overworked shoulders.

"No," I said paternally; "drop your load here and wait. We probably have a change in orders."

I asked that he gather my three squad leaders and let them know I might have a change in orders for them when I return. I thought surely we were going to fly into C-2 instead of humping for so long. That will save us about five hard hours on the road. They must have other plans for C-1/61 and A-1/77 companies. What a break for us!

As I reached the tank crossing I could see Captain Mac (Captain James MacDonald West Point grad).

"What's up Captain?" I yelled across the creek as I gingerly stepped from stone to stone across the shallow water.

"Bullshit, absolute bullshit," was his reply.

My heart dropped. Instant nausea.

"What!" I whined. "What the hell is going on? Don't tell me we got Sparrow Hawk duty; that's crap. We had it last time," I threatened half-heartedly. (Sparrow hawk was the term used for a unit, usually platoon size, airlifted to another location to bail out a unit in serious trouble; always a dangerous assignment. And, to add insult to injury, they always select a unit either on stand-down or close to it as we were).

Our last stand-down was wasted when our platoon was designated the brigade "sparrow hawk". We spent three days running around looking for a new rocket site spotted by some colonel flying around in a helicopter because he had nothing else to do. It turned out to be just a shell casing from an illumination round fired from the USS New Jersey off shore. Those shell casements are so large they could destroy hooch just falling from the sky. So we found this "new weapon" and reported back that it was just garbage from the New Jersey. A wasted two days! Of course they couldn't find transportation for us back to Charlie Two and we wasted the last day of our stand-down swatting mosquitoes in the Cua Viet River Valley while the rest of our company is whooping it up getting smashed, eating real food, and getting plenty of rest.

Like a dangling carrot, I could see the hot turkey dinner, cool shower, clean clothes and a drunken stand-down being grasped from our clutches.

He gazed out toward the tank trail and noticed Wagner and Jarry (second and third platoon commanders) walking and talking on their way to meet us.

"Let's go," Mac shouted, "move out."

Wagner and Jarry had the same look of incredulity in their faces as I had in my stomach. Something was very wrong and we were going to be the recipients of the consequences.

Roger (Wagner) slowly crouched down shaking his head slightly and doing his best to hold back any comment. Finally he succumbed to the temptation sighing, "We're about to get screwed." With that he fell back on his butt, wrapped his hands around the back of his head and lowered himself to the sit-up position.

"Okay, before you guys crap yourselves, we're still going in today," Captain Mac assured (though not quite so convincingly). "They promised there would be a hot turkey dinner waiting for us when we're done today."

"Done with what?" I thought.

"Here's the scoop," Mac said firmly, "I-77 and I-61 won’t be picking us up this morning."

"That's a long fucking walk Captain," Jarry yelled, "We'll be too goddamned tired to eat."

"No, we're not walking back," Mac advised. "We're going by chopper; but not straight to Charlie-Two. A company of 1-61 has contact near Marine Hill. We've been assigned as a blocking force as they push Charlie into the Z. It'll be one big goddamn ambush. A regular turkey shoot," he added with a wink (for the obvious pun).

It really wasn't much of a joke. At least none of us were laughing.

"Alright, here it is," Captain Mac began as he unfolded his situation map. He pointed to our location and then to a rather flat area close by. "One-six, you secure a PZ (pick-up zone) for the move. Send a squad patrol here, west of Hill 180 to cover any movement there. Put two squads on Hill 162 and clear for six choppers."

Three-six, you pass through second platoon and board the first sortie. You secure the LZ here on Hill 270 (our destination, three kilometers south of Marine Hill below the DMZ). Get out two patrols right away. Send them at least a click north and west of the LZ.

Continued on page 3





Charles  Ames


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