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Subject: Full Metal Jacket

Bill Bellinger
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Date Posted: 09:00:56 04/12/05 Tue

There were a lot of ways you could get it in Vietnam, ambushes, landmines, snipers, sappers, Katusa rockets and much more. Two soldiers riding in jeep down a dirt road near Qui Nhon came upon several water buffalo in the road. They stopped and were immediately taken out in a burst of gunfire. A commander of one of the 56th Signal Companyís (554th) Signal Detachments drove his jeep over a buried 105 mm artillery shell that the VC had planted in the road. He was very lucky. The shell did not explode until the rear wheel hit it. The explosion went straight up and blew the back of the jeep off. He suffered burst ear drums and that was it. In 1966, a sniper shot and killed a GI sitting in a 2-1/2 ton truck, parked down by the Qui Nhon Harbor. Before I arrived in 1966, sappers blew up the ammo dump in Phu Tai Valley and of course later they hit the 526th. In Da Nang, early in 1967, we had a different problem, Katusa Rockets. Charlie would haul those things down the Ho Chi Minh Trail one by one and fire them at the Da Nang Air Base, which was less than a mile from my quarters. Early on, they missed more often than they hit the air base. One rocket fell short and hit a residential section killing a number of Vietnamese civilians. On another occasion a rocket hit a barracks of a Company of the 39th Signal Battalion, which was adjacent to the air base. It killed several GIs as they slept. There is a series of famous photos hanging on the wall of a corridor in the Pentagon that depicts a direct hit of a Katusa Rocket on a C-130 sitting on the runway at the Da Nang Air Base. I survived all that. The only thing that happened to me was a scorpion sting I got in the Charang Valley! When I came home from Vietnam in 1967, the Army assigned me to a reserve unit, were I served for a number of years. During one summer tour, I served with a BCT Battalion at Fort Jackson, SC. The two weeks I was there the unit was at the firing range. Sometimes in a BCT class you will have an individual that you know almost immediately is not going to make it and you wonder how they got into the Army in the first place. If youíve seen the movie ĎFull Metal Jacketí, you know what Iím talking about. They bear watching closely. One day at the firing range, I was acting as the Safety Officer, which means I was wearing a white helmet liner walking up and down the firing line looking important. During one live firing exercise a soldier wheeled around in his foxhole and pointed his loaded M-16 directly at me. I froze in my tracks. I believe my heart stopped. Itís funny what goes through your mind at times like that. Like, I spent a year in Vietnam, and Iím going to get blown away on a firing range at Fort Jackson, SC! Fortunately, two DIs jumped on this individual almost immediately and disarmed him. He was taken away by the MPs. I never heard what happened to him. I feel sorry for him now, but at the time, I was scared sh------.

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