Mike Braun: Veteran Story

General Westmoreland with our Capt. Krasnican
General Westmoreland with our Capt. Krasnican

This was quite a day for Co,E, 3/7/199th Infantry Brigade. It was another hot, muggy day on the "ISLAND". This was what we called our football size patch of dirt beside the Mekong River, surrounded by flooded rice paddies."Westy is coming" was the word passed out to the company living for three weeks in sandbagged pits around the perimeter. We slept by day and fanned out by night to set up ambushes along the many canals feeding into the river. Once in a while a platoon or squad would make a day recon just to give Charlie something different to look at. Hell, the area was as flat as Central Texas so sneaking up on them in daylight was a joke.

There was one central dike running through the paddies we called "Highway 101" -- so called because earlier someone dropped a 500lb bomb on the middle of it. From the air it looked like --- o ---. Since this was the only way of moving through the muck during the rainy season, there was an undeclared truce with Charlie. Neither side booby-trapped Highway 101 because neither side wanted to fight the knee-deep mud on either side.We used it by day and they used it by night; every where else was fair game.

Anyway, back to General Westmoreland. The Man himself was coming to visit our rag-tag dirty little in country spot tomorrow morning. The rest of that day was spent washing fatigues, boots and gear. The bunkers were brightened up with an extra layer of sand bags, a new latrine was set up. No ambushes that night. No mud-caked troops dragging ass back to base camp in the morning to tarnish the stage. At first light everyone was rousted out for a final policing action of the entire camp. No cig butts, c-ration cans, etc . Clean uniforms ordered, weapons inspected. If the General asked you a question, you were to say everything was fine. Any complaints would bring extra duty. 10;00am, Chopper coming! Four gun ships circled the island for ten minutes in ever widening sweeps.

Then a Huey swings in and lands. A civilian camera crew jumps out and sets up by the command post. Then another Huey lands and disgorges some mighty sharp looking brass.

Two Col's, Two Majors and Finally The General himself. The cameras roll, The Gen. and his Men march over to meet our Capt. at the CP. The chopper blades are still turning and the door gunners are already out with rags wiping the dust off the bird. A lot of saluting, a little talking, a pre-picked private or two brought forward to meet the General. And then he's back on the bird and gone. All in all it did help to build morale up a bit to think we were singled out that day for a obviously very busy man. At least until I drew "Lima beans and Ham" for my c-ration dinner that night.

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