A m b u s h ...
Tay Ninh, 1967

Claymores out ...
Ambush locked and cocked

by Patrick Camunes
© 1997

Tay Ninh Ambush, 1967

I spent part of the day with a Vietvet Bro that I grew up with that has 100% bone cancer from AO. He also served with the 196th in 1968 and we talked about ambushes, so I thought I'd put it down on paper while it was still on my mind, and to remind me of the good times I have been able to spend with him.


As DARKNESS falls - We move to our ambush coordinates in the semi-darkness which is still, except for the buzz of zillions of mosquitoes for which we have no defense. We know that the enemy can pick up the smell of our repellents, as we can pick up the smell of their fermented fish sauce they love so much. So tonight we feed the mosquitoes, and the enemy plans to eat their rice dry.
      We travel extremely light for tonight's deadly mission and have chosen not to use the head-nets for protection against the mosquitoes because they obstruct our vision---a necessity tonight. We carry only the minimum of water and no food, since there will be no time for eating and we can not afford to compromise the silence.
      The ambush has been prepped and is set up in a text book "L" shape fashion. Claymores and trip flares have been set out, checked, and double checked. The "clickers" for the claymores are within easy reach as are the double stacked clips of M16 rounds taped together. Grenades are also laid out with half of the safety pin straightened out to make it easier to pull, but not so easy to pull accidentally.
      A silence mode is instilled, and only the occasional low keyed hiss and coded clicks can be barely heard on the radio. There is no need to appoint times for watch ... we will all be up tonight.
      My mind plays tricks on me as I look into the darkness. The one starlight scope our squad is allowed brings a greenish-tint to the movement that is imagined in my mind.
      Boredom sets in as I stare into the darkness and try to keep my eyes open and alert, as thoughts of the World drifts through my mind. The movement that earlier had been imagined suddenly becomes real. My heart pounds as figures of armed men, barely visible in the darkness, move in front of us! Suddenly my squad is instantly alert and wide awake. We must confirm that there are no friendlies in the area before we blow this ambush.
      The ambush is set-off by detonating three claymores wired in series, as instantly 18 more claymores are blowing and tearing into everything in front of them. The M60 is spreading deadly fire as are M16s on auto and M79s blooping their deadly grenades, and the darkness suddenly becomes alive with our deadly tracer rounds and explosives. Hazy ghost-like figures can be seen trying in vane to avoid the deadly carnage. Our night vision is temporarily ruined as is our hearing. Apparently we have had the first hand since our barrage had very little return fire.
      CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE! ... Silence mode is now over, our eardrums are ringing, and our eyes are burning from the smoke as we prepare a hasty exit that we have prepared ahead of time. We have just blown an ambush on a patrol that could be the lead element for a regiment, and no one is in the mood to sit around to confirm it. I now realize what all the running was about in basic and AIT and take full advantage of what I have learned. The radioman has ceased with the coded clicks and breathless-whispers and is now yelling and repeating into the radio ... "Ambush blown ... returning to perimeter ... FRIENDLIES AT WIRE! ... FRIENDLIES AT WIRE!"
      We approach our perimeter with caution until it is confirmed that we are "Friendlies" at the wire, and we reenter the perimeter elated and exhausted. Somehow, I'm relieved that this had happened early and we were now free to sleep in relative safety until morning. I know we will be sent out to confirm any kills at our ambush site.

We move out at daybreak to our ambush position, with caution, to avoid any possible booby traps---Charlie knows we are coming back. The site is easy to find because our claymores had cleared the field like the ultimate grim-reaper. The heavy body count we had anticipated is not there. Many blood trails and body parts are found, but THEY have apparently cleaned up the field pretty good of their dead and wounded. Always a surprise to many, who never noted that we too care for our casualties and did not leave them to rot. We estimate a Body Count calculated to please the brass back at the Firebase. They, in turn, might further adjust the Count depending upon their pressures and pass it down the line: Double it---everyone knows THEY carry off their dead!; or Come on---there aren't that many VC on the planet! Cut it in half to exclude the Rock-Apes they counted!
      Whatever. We return to the Firebase looking forward to the beer we are promised for our "kills." After the brass figures out the correct count, there is no shortage as to the beer we are to get. First, a salute is given to our enemy, who are dead---and then to ourselves for being the living victors ... today.
      We're allowed the time to down our warm beer and a night off to clear our heads of the alcoholic numbness that somehow feels so good ... until tomorrow night when we are scheduled again for an ambush at different coordinates. Hopefully, the morning after, the enemy will not be saluting themselves as the victors, and us as the dead and vanquished.

No time for ghostly-dreams that will lay in wait ... claymores out ...

until another time.

APVNV Pat(Beanie)Camunes
D/4/31 196th Lt. Inf. Bde.
Tay Ninh 12/66-4/67, Tam Ky 4/67-12/67

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