Đà Nẵng, SVN

by: Jack Mapes,
USMC 7th Comm BN; 5th Comm BN, Đà Nẵng
(© 2005)

I was a Marine with 7th CommBn and with 5th CommBn in Đà Nẵng from May 1965 till July 1966. My little brother, Jerry Mapes, served with the 2/26 from March 1968 till April 1969. Below are a couple short stories about our experiences. We hope you can use them. Thanks for providing us the opportunity to tell our tales.

Jack Mapes


We had been pinned down for almost two days. The Sun is about an hour from setting. We are almost out of ammo our radio is dead and I don’t want to face another night surrounded by Viet Cong in the bush. Last night had been bad enough with plenty of ammo. But the combination of no ammo and no light just didn’t sit well with me. I low-crawl up the creek to check the rest of my squad. Everyone is still in good shape but no one’s got more than a half dozen rounds of ammunition. It’s my call and my responsibility. I’m the Sarge in charge. I have to choose someone to send for help and I’ll  probably be sending that someone to his death. I crawl back to my position thinking hard about alternatives and the fact that this mission has been a bust from the start.

Yesterday morning my squad escorted a four-men demo team to blow a wooden bridge located a few clicks from our company’s position. We had no problems getting to the bridge and I was thinking ‘piece of cake’ mission. But I thought too damn soon. We set up a defensive perimeter and the demo team went to the bridge to do their thing. I wasn’t paying much attention until I saw the demo guy, who was carrying all the explosives, start walking across the bridge like he was on a Sunday stroll back in the world. I yelled a warning just as the sniper blew his left leg out from under him. He went down screaming holding his leg. My squad opened up with suppressive fire. Then despite all the training and yelling to ‘Take Cover’, ‘Get Down’, ‘Hit the Deck’. The rest of the demo team ran out on the bridge to aid their wounded buddy. When the rest of the demo team reached their wounded buddy, the sniper sprung the trap by shooting one of the demo packs. The entire demo team disappeared.

So here we are pinned down, lost a whole demo team, out of food, only a few dozen rounds left, no grenades, no flares, no radio, the Sun is sinking swiftly, and out of cigarettes. There was only one thing left for me to do. I decided I’d have to go get some cigarettes. I low-crawled up the creek telling my men my plan. There’s a lot of volunteering, protesting, even some regulation citing but it’s my call.

Back in my position I take a few quick looks over the creek bank trying to map out my best rout. It’s at least a hundred-and-fifty yards of rice paddies to the nearest cover. I toss my remaining ammo to my radio man. I tell him to take care of my 16 it’ll just slow me down. I signal my men then scramble up out of the creek bed in a dead run. I hear AKs open up but they haven’t got my number yet. When I feel the rounds getting too close I fall and lay still like I’m dead. I wait until I think they have relaxed, then jump up and run like a bandit again until the rounds get too close. Then fall again and play dead. Sometimes I make it ten yards and sometimes I make it twenty but it still seems like forever. I cuss my men because they are wasting their ammunition trying to throw off the VC’s aim. I think, ‘You dummies! I told you to save your darn ammo. What if I don’t make it?’ Their selflessness renews my determination, recharges my energy.

I check my position. I figure I’ve got about another hundred yards. But my odds are improving as I get farther away from the enemy’s positions. I jump up and run like a rabbit. I feel good. The rounds kick up mud and rice plants all around me. I think about zig-zagging but don’t want to because my buddies are probably out of ammo by now and I don’t want to waste the time. I’m almost to the tree line now and nothing is going to stop me.

Finally, I hit the treeline but I don’t stop running. I don’t have time to walk. All I can think of is my friends back there in that creek who thought nothing of themselves and used the last of their ammo to protect my worthless ass. I arrive at my company too winded to explain. I run to the ammo and grab as much ammo as I can carry. People are asking me questions but I can’t answer. I can only do what I came to do. A couple of guys get the idea, grab some ammo, their 16s and somebody else grabs an M-60. Finally I can speak and without stopping I relate the situation to the LT. Then I run back the way I’d come with the others close behind me. It’s still taking to damn long. My mind runs through all the depressing possibilities as we make our way toward my men in the creek. Then as we clear the treeline at the edge of the rice paddies I hear a chopper. It comes in low off to our left and opens up on the VC’s position. Thank GOD for Hueys.

Jack Mapes