Short Timer Photo: SHORT, 1967 Ch Chi
SHORT, 1966

"But, Sir --
I always clear the .45 caliber pistol this way"

by: Theodore T. Jagosz, Cpt Inf (USA)
2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized),
5th Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division

© 2004


"But, Sir -- I always clear the .45 caliber pistol this way."

After over seven months of almost daily contact with the enemy and as mostly the rifle platoon 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry of the 25th Infantry Divisionleader of 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division, I felt as much a wreck as my old command track, which lasted only a month longer in combat than I did. At least I didn't lose an idler compensator wheel like old "Si Ambulavero ..." (It's a quote from the Psalms of David In Latin and starts, "If I should walk into the midst of tribulations... " or in the vernacular, "deep doo doo"), but I did feel as if other wheels were coming off.

So, when I was rotated out of the line and was made the Executive Officer (XO) of Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 1st Bn (Mech), 5th Inf, it wasn't my first Headquarters Company (HHC), 1st Bn (Mech), 5th Infchoice of assignments, but I felt quite secure in the knowledge that not much ever happened at the Cu Chi base camp.  True, there was the occasional mortar barrage but this was my attitude towards mortar fire and other indirect fire weapons: The message being sent by the enemy is sort of like incoming mail addressed, "To whom it may concern". Out in the Ho Bo or Boi Loi Woods and out in the Fil Hol or Michelin rubber plantations, the direct fire message being sent is much more in your face and goes something like, "This is for you, fella!  Take this and eat it!"

Therefore, my new assignment made me feel as if I were out of the woods both literally and figuratively as far my personal survival was concerned -- Wrong!

Headquarters Company (HHC), 1st Bn (Mech), 5th Inf. Track.Not too much happened in the first couple months of of my last five months "in country". Then I realized that my Date of Earliest Return from Overseas (DEROS) was not that far off. Like anybody else, officer or not, I started to get a little antsy.  True, as an officer, it would have been unseemly for me to post a "FIGMO!" calendar (Poss won't let me translate that last acronym) [You're so right!] on my office wall. But hey! Didn't that last mortar barrage come awfully close to my bunker? You know the one? Right next to the Officer's Club. It wasn't paranoia. I was certain the "O" club was way up there on the VC target list. "They" knew I'd be "there" and "they" just wanted me to make a low crawl to the bunker -- as if "they" didn't know that's usually how I got back to my "hootch" after "last call".

Photo: XO and theatre.
Theodore T. Jagosz, Cpt Inf (USA), 1966As you can see from the photo, my duties as the XO of HHC got me involved in supervising a lot of interesting projects such as the Battalion movie theater and chapel. If you look closely you might determine that the welders from our motor pool constructed the affair by welding together empty 175 MM gun shell canisters to form the columns. Other projects I supervised involved latrines, shower points and making sure that the "sand bag dollies" didn't run off with the Regimental Colors. The heart of my "ash and trash" mission involved supply, most particularly weapons accountability.

When we had arrived in Cu Chi on 28 January 1966, we were armed with the M-14 rifle.  Then they issued us M-16s in February. Then somebody realized that there was not enough ammunition for the line companies and HHC. So, the HHC M-16s were recalled and the M-14s reissued. Then the ammo supply caught up with us and the M-14s were recalled and the M-16s were reissued. Then a strangest thing happened: the monsoon season blew in and somehow all the clothing forms of HHC (which included issued weapons by serial number) somehow got washed away in the flood waters and there wasn't a genuine hand receipt on hardly anything. Maybe somebody put them on Noah's ark for safe keeping.

So, I spent a lot of time across the street from my comfy little office at the HHC combination supply tent and arms room. I became well acquainted with the company supply Sergeant, S/Sgt Johnson, and the company armorer, Specialist Fourth Class (Sp/4) King.

When the troops were out of the field there were a lot of weapons in the arms room. Just like in old Dodge City, when the "cowboys" came into town, they had to check their guns in with the Sheriff, me. Of course we had a big rack full of .45 caliber pistols. here are a lot of officers in HHC, the Bn Commander and his staff. As we all know, staff officers don't like carrying rifles, too heavy. So, we had a lot of .45 cal. pistols in our inventory.

Anyway, true to the theme of this essay, I was getting real short in January 1967 (DEROS, 16 Duty Station in the HHC supply/arms roomJanuary 1967) when I was at my usual duty station in the HHC supply/arms room. The troops were in town so the weapons racks were full. The supply sergeant and I were sitting directly across from each other on metal folding chairs with a mess of hand-receipts strewn between us. Sp/4 King was just a couple of feet away from both of us "clearing" .45 caliber pistols. I just happened to glance in his direction when I noticed several of the .45s still had their magazines in them.  Nevertheless, Sp/4 King was supposedly "clearing" the weapons with the magazines still inserted. And at times he was carelessly pointing the weapons in our direction (I'm paranoid about things like that). Now you know and I know from the time I got "gigged" at an inspection for having a tiny speck of dinosaur crap on my shield that the .45 caliber is cleared by removing the magazine first. Then the slide is moved to the rear and locked. Then the chamber is inspected, the slide released and the weapon is "dry" fired" and the weapon is considered cleared. When I pointed out the above facts to Sp/4 King, he blithely replied, "But, sir -- I always clear the .45 this way". The words were no sooner out of his mouth when the slide of the .45 he was "clearing" slipped from his grasp, chambered a round, which was fired. The round impacted the floor midway between the supply sergeant and me, missing our toes by just a couple of inches. A wilder swing on Sp/4 King's part could have killed the supply sergeant or me. In the calmest manner I could muster and in my own world-weary way I asked, "And you were saying, Private King?" He corrected me by saying, "Excuse me, sir, but I'm Specialist King!"  I corrected him by saying, "Not anymore you're not -- Private King!" Logo
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