conditioning and insights into the nature of the enemy. Not a clue would be the best description of this jarhead, not a clue.I was introduced to smoking Marijuana there, chased girls in Old Mexico, was nearly thrown into the jail in Tijuana and made friends with a bunch of finest of misguided young men. But all that fun had to come to an end when I received travel orders to report to 1st. Batt. 1st. Marines in DaNang, Republic of Viet Nam.
Here is the inside cover of that War Journal I kept in Viet Nam. A couple of things to note: my name under contract with the Marines was Bockman (that’s another story) and there is a place for a photo of the love of my pre Viet Nam days, a middle Tennessee beauty, Miss Gloria Gray.
After I was appointed to Fire Team leader of a Machine Gun Team in Delta Company, I drew our logo and later I added the moniker ZAG as that is what they called me in the field – as a Scout. But, I arrived at 1/1 trained as a field Marine – a Jarhead in a Line Company, a grunt, humping about 105 lbs. of equipment in the jungle and directing three other young Marines in the operation of our M-60 Machine Gun.
After my participation in the historic “Battle of Medina,” (see Book “Lions of Medina” by Doyle Glass) I was selected to be a Battalion Scout, by the Scouts. My job as a Scout is hard to describe in terms of the regular work of a combat Marine. Perhaps it is best described in the events that followed that selection that I shall highlight.
In early February I was given Orders to attend the Vietnamese Language School at China Beach, Da Nang. On the 19th, I received orders to travel urgent priority – by any means – to return to Battalion from the school as it was on the move into the “Battle of Hue” North on Highway 1 from our HQ on Base X at Phu Bai. Depicted here is the Marine’s quarter and the Army is adjacent with the Motor Pool from whence we stole our Jeep to operate in Hue City as the Keystone Cops (but that’s another story).
Begin the Begin:
I arrived at the Air Field of Base X on a DC 3 operated by “Air America” a sideline of the CIA. Reporting in, I found the Line Companies already gone forward to Hue’ City or there about, the exact location was not known. Anxious to get up front, I attached myself to the point element of an Army column going to relieve or resupply Army and CIA Personnel at the MACV compound inside the city. I walked behind and directed the fire of an Army Duster trying to dislodge fire from NVA Snipers shooting from the windows and roof tops of the buildings along street side.
Reaching MACV HQ downtown Hue’ City, I joined 1st Mar Div’s Division Snipers and an ARVN Master Sgt. in popping looters carrying off all kinds of things. After an afternoon of shooting in a target rich environment, I rested that night there then, hooked up with my Battalion, holding the South Side of the Perfume River. I found the Scouts I regularly worked with resident (parked on the sidelines) in a very nice home located a hundred yards or so South of the first bridge carrying Highway 1 across the Song Loi Nong, a.k.a the Phu Cam canal. Corporal Lawrence (Hoffy) Hoffman, Scout’s scrounger (Acquisition Man) had pissed off the Alpha Company commander, 2nd Lt. Ray Smith by negatively responding to his request for help from Scouts in standing night watches. Hoffy, had informed the Lt. that Scouts didn’t stand watches. Also I found Maas had been using satchel and shape charges on buildings to clear them of snipers and sappers (Maas is the most dangerous and destructive man I have ever known – I’m proud to call him friend). Quick to avoid a loss of our independence I got us squared away with Smith, and we took the watch along with his Line Company Marines. Perhaps that is the reason I was assigned the job of Coordinating the defense of that city block on the South West Corner of the An Cuu Bridge, with a CIA funded Provincial Recon Unit (PRU). My interrupter, ARVN Sgt. Cu’ng, indicated to me that these 37 men were essentially murderers / pirates that were serving in lieu of a death sentence. I got along famously with them for a few furious days of the “Battle of Hue’ City.” They called me “Dai Uy Zag” or Captain Zag.
Lay Out of the City:
Hue’ is an ancient city with a winding river known as the Perfume River. On the North side is the Imperial Citadel that was home to the Imperial Family till around 1945. On the South of the Perfume River lay the newer section of the city, a bustling residential and business community that contained numerous public buildings, including the prestigious Hue University, the province headquarters and its associated jail, the main hospital, and the treasury. Southern Hue, half the size of the Citadel, was also known as the Triangle; this irregular shape was bounded on the south by the Phu Cam Canal, on the east by a stream known as the Phat Lac, and on the northwest by the Perfume River. A pair of bridges linked the modern city to the Citadel. The Nguyen Hoang Bridge, built to transport vehicles and pedestrians using Highway 1, spanned the Perfume River near the eastern corner of the Citadel. Fifteen hundred meters to its southwest was the Bach Ho Railroad Bridge. The other bridge of military importance in southern Hue was the An Cuu Bridge, a modest arch on Highway 1 that conveyed traffic across the Phu Cam Canal. Despite Hue’s size and importance, the city had relatively few defenders within its limits. My job was to oversee the security of that south side of that An Cuu Bridge, hold that block of buildings against the North Vietnamese Army occupying and seeking opportunities from the opposite side of the street called Highway 1. The security and occupation of this small piece of the space and time was my 1st real opportunity to get to be with and understand the South Vietnamese businessmen and women (Mama Sans).
“Some local PRUs (Provincial Recon Unit) and National police officers are assigned to
me and I set up a HQ on the SE corner of the bridge. My job was to secure and hold secure that block of the city. On it was a bakery still operational (baking French Bred), a closed apothecary, a barber shop and directly behind my “office” a storage ‘store front’ full of gasoline!” (but that is another story about my pirate band of PRU’s).