Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Chapter 13: Scotch, Pot and Puff the Magic Dragon

One of the days we were off, our squad decided to have a party. The Captain frowned upon any alcohol so we had to be secretive. During the day, we went out to the vendors selling things on the side of the road right outside our FSB. We picked up a bottle of Scotch, some ice and had the tobacco in a carton of cigarettes replaced with pot. We put the ice in a bucket and buried it up to the rim to try and keep it from melting as long as we could.

After dinner, we broke out the soda (all we had left was grape) and mixed in some scotch. The guys lit up a joint and I tried smoking pot for the first time. I did what a lot of people probably did and took a hit like I would on a cigarette and blew it right out. I got my lessons and in a short time, I was an old pro.

We were having a grand old time when some guys came running out of the command bunker all excited and started running around to all the bunkers telling people something. We put everything away in a hurry so not to get caught. Someone came over to our bunker and told us a large number of NVA soldiers had been spotted heading in our direction.

“Son-of-a-bitch, why did I have to drink the scotch and smoke the pot?” “Why didn’t we listen to the captain?” I swore right then that I’d never do anything like that again as long as I was in the field.

We were told we were going to be supplied with extra claymore mines, rounds of ammunition and hand grenades, as an attack sometime during the night was imminent. We were on 100% alert that night, which meant no one was to go to sleep. If it looks like we were going to be over run, the artillery would be set level to the ground, and fire shells filled with nails at the NVA.

Well, news like that has a way of sobering you up very fast. We set up all the claymores out in front of the bunker (no, I didn't fuck up this time), unpacked and distributed the hand grenades and ammo and just waited.

I don’t remember what time it was, maybe 10 or 11, when the artillery started firing. At about the same time, off in distance, you could see what looked like a firework show was just starting. You couldn’t hear anything, but could see the light from a lot of explosions and then saw the light from red tracer bullets being fried from up in the sky.

Word spread fast that the NVA had been spotted and was under attack from the air. That’s what our artillery was firing at. The picture below gives you a very good idea what we saw off in the distance. The circle of red lights and the red funnel shapes in the sky are from the gattling guns firing in AC-47 airplanes.

This is an AC-47, otherwise known as "Puff The Magic Dragon" after the Peter, Paul, and Mary song of those days. This dragon, however, was not the benign one of song. Clearly visible on the left side of the aircraft are the barrels of three 7.62-mm gattling guns protruding from the open windows. Each was capable of 6,000 rounds per minute (that's correct - 100 rounds a second) for a full output of 18,000 rounds per minute, although the guns were normally only fired one at a time. The guns were aimed by rolling the aircraft into a left turn and visually lining up the target with index marks on the left wingtip and the pilot's side window. The door was left off so that illumination flares could be tossed out. Spent cases from the guns were collected into ammo cans placed beside each gun. It was not good to be the object of Puff's attention. This photo was taken at Phu Cat where the AC-47 squadron was based

Next thing you know there were very large explosions. They told us they were bombs that were dropped from a B-52’s.

We all just sat in awe watching the whole thing. At one point we even saw an explosion in the sky from one of our aircraft being shot down. Never did find out what it was. I don’t remember how long that went on, but it was quite awhile. We got updates pretty regularly on what was going on as the command bunker was in constant contact with whoever organized these sorts of things.

We never did come under attack that night because of everything we saw the night before. The next morning after breakfast, we packed up all the extra supplies we were given the night before and gave them to the supply personnel when they came around to pick them up.