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Another shower of grenades landed in and around the perimeter. The chilling rattle of AK-47 fire swept over the ridge. The Marines fired back through the thick vegetation and threw grenades down the incline. Most of the Marines were hit now, mainly by grenade fragments. Neither the North Vietnamese nor the Marines could see each other because of the tall and thick elephant grass.
Hopkins and his assistant patrol leader, Staff Sergeant David A. Woodward, each grabbed a handful of grenades. They ran about 20 feet out through the elephant grass, and from there they hurled their high explosive grenades in the direction of the North Vietnamese. Hopkins got hit in the face and in the hand, but both he and Woodward were able to scamper back into the Marine perimeter.
Now the incoming fire intensified, and the Marines fired back. The only sensation was chaos, bedlam, and unceasing crescendos of deafening noise.
The Grunts straggled up behind their assigned helicopters. Here they dropped their gear, their rifles, and sat down on the grass to wait. The Grunts knew full well what lay in store for them that hot Indochinese morning. Dong Ha was near the coast in the flatlands. The coming battle, however, would be fought on terrain that is maddening, worse than any the Marine Corps had ever encountered, worse than Guadalcanal.
The mountains west of Dong Ha are cloaked in 100 foot high jungle canopy. Beneath that dense foliage lies a tangled and nearly impenetrable mass of vines and undergrowth so thick that machetes are needed to hack through it. The jungle vegetation is so dense that at midday it appears almost as dark as at midnight. There would be no breeze to ease the stifling and suffocating heat, no relief from the constant swarms of stinging insects that make days miserable and nights unbearable. The jagged and jungled Cordillera is a wild and uninhabited wilderness. It is spooky beyond mortal belief, a foreign land where demons, trolls, and evil spirits might live and roam the earth.
5. The camaraderie, trust, and loyalty can never be explained to one who has not experienced the unique bond that is shared by Marine Corps helicopter crews in combat. Our bond transcended material possessions, military rank, and social status. We shared a brotherly love, a love that no earthly circumstance can ever shatter. War is a cruel game, a brutal game, a deadly game. I knew that this would be the most intense and utopian experience that I would ever have. Although it now sounds insane, right at that moment I would not have traded places with anyone else on earth.
Posted July 19, 2005
Marion Sturkey has captured the essence of combat from a USMC helicopter pilot's perspective. Very few actions in Vietnam did not involve helicopters, and Sturkey writes about the mundane, the terrorfying, and bizarre missions with dispassion and with clarity, managing to illustrate the courage and fear always present in combat situations. He does this without hyperbole and without self-acclaim. His description of history of the Vietnam conflict is brief but on the money. He focuses mainly on the events that he experienced. Sturkey's writing reflects the esteem in which he holds all combat veterans, especially United States Marines. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in what makes a Marine tick or what it takes to be a combat helicopter pilot, or just to read about the experiences of a Marine helicpter squadron in Vietnam. Pardon the cliche, but this book is spellbinding.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.