Run Through the Jungle: Real Adventures in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade

Run Through the Jungle: Real Adventures in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade

by Larry J. Musson


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504921183
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 07/15/2015
Pages: 356
Sales rank: 409,234
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Larry J. Musson entered the U.S. Army on March 3, 1969. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star, Air Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, National Defense Ribbon, Vietnam Civil Action Ribbon, and Vietnam Service Ribbon, among other honors.

David Drummond has narrated over seventy audiobooks for Tantor, in genres ranging from current political commentary to historical nonfiction, from fantasy to military, and from thrillers to humor. He has garnered multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards as well as an Audie Award nomination. Visit him at

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Run Through the Jungle

Real Adventures in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade

By Larry J. Musson, JoAnne M. Katzmarek


Copyright © 2015 Larry J. Musson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5049-2118-3


On Leave Before Vietnam/The Lion Story

It was early September; I was on leave after Airborne School before going to Vietnam. I took a long route home, which included a stop in Carbondale, IL. I was visiting my longtime girlfriend who was attending Southern Illinois University at the time. While there, I had a unique, frightening experience that is almost laughable today.

On Saturday morning, my girlfriend had an early class and suggested I meet her in the student center cafeteria for breakfast afterward. I agreed and we met as planned around 7:00 for breakfast. The cafeteria was on the lower level of the student center. It had windows along one wall that looked out along the walk that circled the cafeteria as well as the entire center. As we walked out of the cafeteria, toward the exit of the student center, we saw a man and woman dressed in what looked to be safari kakis unloading a full-grown male lion from a station wagon parked along the walk. My girlfriend and I spoke about how strange that was and then went back to our conversation of planning the remainder of the day before we had seen the lion. We did not know at the time, there was an event scheduled at the school, in the student center, which featured the lion, a young replacement for the older movie lion in "Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion" and of the TV series "Frazier".

We continued to walk to the end of the corridor where there was a set of doors to exit the Student Center. The doors led directly outside but were two sets of solid doors both opening out, the inside being solid glass, the outside being solid metal and separated by a small carpeted vestibule. Each set of doors was equipped with "panic bar" latches on the inside, very easy to operate and ideal for exiting the building in an emergency. you could not be trapped up against the door if being shoved by a crowd trying to get out. We did not know it at the time, but very shortly, we would be in a difficult emergency in that vestibule. As we passed through the inner glass doors, I saw the arm of the person on the outside of the solid metal doors holding the leash with that full-grown lion we had seen lead the lion around the solid door. Without looking to see if anyone was in the vestibule and saying to someone on the outside "Here, just let me get rid of him while we talk", the person's hand let the lion go and he was with us in the vestibule between the glass doors and the solid doors. I immediately put my arm out and directed my girlfriend behind me and backed up against the block wall to my left. The doors to the outside were not accessible because the lion was standing directly in front of us. The doors we had just entered through had closed and they opened into the vestibule making it impossible to open them using only the handle and latch mechanism that was on the inside of the entryway. We would have to turn our back to the lion and pull the door open to exit the vestibule. We did see a crowd forming out in the corridor and some of them had very worried looks on their faces. The lion did not hesitate to pin me to the wall with his head against my chest and sniffing, probably smelling the sausage and bacon I had just eaten for breakfast! He then proceeded to sniff al l the way up to my face, his nose against my cheek. The only strange thing about this was I could feel the wall behind me, somewhere my girlfriend was back there too!

After several frightening seconds, which almost seemed like an eternity, the person that had let the lion into the vestibule opened the door to find us at the mercy of his pet! I remember his surprised comment, "Don't worry, he won't hurt you, just stay calm and don't move!"

My comment back was "That's easy for you to say".

He then gained control of the animal and was apologizing to us, almost pleading as if he was expecting a lawsuit. I was just glad I got away with all of my limbs attached. I was very frightened then, but I tell the story as a fond remembrance of the day that I came face to face with a full-grown African lion. My girlfriend was very appreciative of my protecting her the entire time, but I truly do not know where she was all of the time the lion was in the vestibule with us because all I really could feel was the wall behind me!

I thought that meeting a lion face to face was the most scared I could ever be but I wasn't thinking of the year ahead of me. What was in store for me the next thirteen months made the lion incident seem like putting out the cat for the night. There is no term to describe the extreme fear I experienced during the fire fights in the jungles and rice paddies of the Republic of South Vietnam.


On Hold in Seattle

My girlfriend and her mother rode with my mom and me to the airport in Chicago to see me off to the war. We left early in the morning, but I did not know when I would catch a flight out to Seattle where I would continue on to Fort Lewis. I was flying military standby, which meant the airline would put me on the first flight when there was a seat available. Back then, there were not as many full capacity flights so I got a seat relatively quickly and was ready to go.

The airplane from Chicago arrived at Seattle-Tacoma airport early in the afternoon on 6 September 1969. The weather was clear and sunny; the temperature was around 70 degrees. It was a beautiful late summer day in Seattle. I found an elegant restaurant overlooking Puget Sound and watched ferries passing in the brilliant blue waters while I ate dinner. The huge ferries with their decks filled with cars and people moving through the blue waters traveling between the mainland and offshore islands creating white wakes at the stern, making a sharp contrast in the brilliant sunshine of the late afternoon. The view was magnificent and helped calm my nerves about being AWOL for one day. My orders were to report on 5 September 1969, but that was my girlfriend's birthday and it didn't seem right to leave her on her birthday. I was worried not knowing what to expect when I reported in at Fort Lewis on 6 September. I had always prided myself on being a good soldier and had never been absent without leave before. The meal, the view and the time alone to think helped tremendously to settle my nervousness. After dinner, I didn't think any more about my dilemma.

I caught a shuttle bus that ran from the airport to Fort Lewis in the early evening arriving after 6:00 PM. Check in turned out better than I expected for being absent without leave for one day. First thing, I found out my MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty, which was infantry, was on hold until further notice, a plus for me. Then the sargent at the check in desk mentioned I was a day late according to my orders, but did not dwell on it very long. He seemed to be more interested in getting me over to supply to get my issue of jungle fatigues, which was the standard uniform for all transits shipping out to Vietnam. A small bus took us to supply to get the fatigues and turn in our class A uniforms. They told us at supply we were restricted to the area around the transit barracks. We found out, that was one of the controls they used to keep their eyes on the transits making sure they made all formations and worked the details they were assigned. They did not want any transits going off post into Seattle or not paying attention to the flight status board and miss going overseas. What they did not tell us, but we found out later, that the jungle fatigues were authorized to wear at any post facility or movie house including the main post.

Back at check-in, the desk sargent assigned me to a barracks and told me where I could get on the bus that would take me there. While waiting for the bus I met the five guys I would spend the next six days with and take advantage of the Army for the first time since being inducted. One of them, a corporal who had come through Ft. Lewis before on his way to Korea, seemed to know the routine. He was a nice guy and the five of us bonded instantly. All of us were given a building number that was to be our barracks until we shipped out for overseas duty. The bus arrived and we loaded up sitting among the others on the bus that were just like us, all going to a building somewhere on post. Although it seemed like we were driving all around Fort Lewis, the bus driver knew where each building was and continued to drop off riders at different locations. I remember going through the WAC barracks area. In 1969, the Army still had a Women's Army Corps and fortunately, for us the WAC area at Fort Lewis was huge. As we passed through the WAC barracks streets, we could see the women in the windows in various stages of undress. Some of the guys on the bus yelled and whistled to which the women responded, leaning out of the widows bare breasted or in their bras. Others mooned us, enticing us with their round naked asses to come up to their rooms. They didn't seem to mind us viewing their nakedness or care how much we saw. I am sure they felt protected because they knew we were transits and the bus would not stop in the WAC area, but it was fun having a thrill while it lasted, especially those of us that had a window seat.

Finally, the driver pulled up in front of our barracks. It was a huge complex and for most of us, a different type from those with which we were familiar. As he let us out of the bus, the driver told us to stay put, not to attempt to go anywhere. The complex was a newly designed self-contained barracks with all amenities included in one building and obviously in a section of the fort that troops stationed at Ft. Lewis no longer used. The attached mess hall was converted to a large sleeping facility with rows and rows of bunk beds separated by narrow walkways. We guessed there to be about two to three hundred beds for transits to sleep while waiting to ship overseas. The six of us selected bunks in an inconspicuous spot nowhere near the front isle but not all the way in back either. Since we were the only ones in the room at the time, we started to devise a plan. Luckily, for us, we had a more experienced Army corporal in our group that had been in this situation before. The corporal took the lead and guided the rest of us on things that would follow or might happen in the next couple of days. He emphasized keeping our group together no matter what anyone might say to us or give us orders to do something to the contrary. Then the corporal and one other guy from our group of six went out to one of the post-exchange bars, leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves. I was tired from the long day and looked forward to getting some well-deserved rest in the new barracks. The corporal and the other guy returned about an hour later with some cold beers for the rest of us. We had a beer and then decided to sleep until morning when we would make our remaining plans.

At some time in the middle of the night, a large number of new transits being herded into our barracks awakened us. The whole place filled with people dressed in jungle fatigues just like us, ruining our quiet sanctuary. An NCO standing at the front of the room was barking commands to everyone, telling them to stay inside and a bus would come for them in the morning. He was right, about three hours later another NCO was standing near the first row of bunks commanding while yelling obscenities at everyone to get up and get on the bus parked outside the barracks. Everyone in the room but the six of us original occupants was hustling to get out there on that bus. The yelling and obscenities began to be directed at the six of us steadfast and staying put no matter what the sargent said. The corporal had convinced us not to get on the bus. Even though the NCO threatened and called us every name in his book, we held our ground and stayed in the barracks while the bus pulled away with the transits that shared our barracks for a short time the night before. We had no idea where the bus was taking those transits and we didn't care.

The corporal came up with an ingenious plan to keep the six of us informed of what was going on with all transits and exactly what we needed to know to keep ourselves out of trouble before shipping overseas. Every day all transits were required to attend a morning and evening formation and were assigned to details until their name appeared on a flight manifest for their destination. Because the corporal had been through the process before, he was familiar with the routine. The plan he devised was to stay away from doing work details altogether. In order to do that, we had to have a reason, an excuse, or already be on an assigned detail so the brass wouldn't bother us. We had to be in the proximity of the formations in order to hear our names if called during the formation. We all agreed on a place to meet after the formations. Then four of us went to find a safe spot to hang out during the day when everyone was supposed to be on details. The corporal and one of the other guys went to the formation to get information about what was going on. The scheme the corporal came up with was to use a clipboard he found with some blank paper to deceive the NCOs guarding the formation making sure no one left the formation. The plan was to tell them we were counting the broken windows in the barracks that surrounded the formation area. Those barracks were used to house the transits that were called for the flight manifest during the formation. The clipboard worked perfectly! Once we told the NCOs guarding the formation we were on a detail, they were convinced when shown the clipboard with our numbers on the paper. We were able to stay close to the formation listening for our names and not be herded off on the other details or police calls.

Later at our meeting place, the rest of our scheme came together. The hideaway we selected was a small hill in an open field next to the runway at the Fort Lewis Airport. It had good cover with trees and high grass. We also discovered that when everyone at the formation was put on police call of the airport property, the hill was not included in the cleanup. That hill became our meeting place and proved to be a great sanctuary away from the senior NCOs that were assigning and watching work details. It was also close to the barracks where we spent our first night so we would always return to that barracks to spend the night. The barracks remained empty except for the six of us while we were on MOS hold at Fort Lewis.

We were very cautious about what we were doing during the daylight hours. We all agreed that we would be at the hideaway or stay away from the formation area and keep on the side of the fort away from the transit area. We ate all our meals at the Enlisted Men's (EM) Club snack bar, which was much better than the mess hall for two reasons. The mess hall had senior NCOs watching the transits that ate there and could become a problem if the NCOs recognized us and the food at the EM Club was much better. One evening we decided to save money so we ate at the mess hall. The chicken they served that evening was overcooked so much that it was hard to distinguish the skin and meat from the bones. That was our worst meal the whole time at Fort Lewis and we never ate in the mess hall again. The snack bar closed early so our last meal was at 5:30 PM every night. After we ate, we headed to the bus stop nearby to take us to the main post so we could take in a movie. In the Army, the main post theaters show movies for several days and you must wear civilian clothes or Class "A" uniforms in order to attend. At one theater close to the transit area, we talked to a WAC officer. She informed us they allowed transits to attend all post theaters in jungle fatigues even the main post theater. She also told us the whole fort was open to transits in jungle fatigues because we were going to Viet Nam. That single bit of information allowed us to take in a different movie every night. It also allowed us to get to the Main Post Exchange for some extras that weren't available at our snack bar EM Club.


Excerpted from Run Through the Jungle by Larry J. Musson, JoAnne M. Katzmarek. Copyright © 2015 Larry J. Musson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Dedication, v,
Introduction, vii,
Chapter 1 On Leave Before Vietnam/The Lion Story, 1,
Chapter 2 On Hold in Seattle, 4,
Chapter 3 On to Vietnam, 10,
Chapter 4 Assigned to A Company 3rd Battalion, 503 Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, 17,
Chapter 5 Work Details and Making Friends at Uplift, 23,
Chapter 6 My first Combat Assault with the Radio, 32,
Chapter 7 Assessing a B-52 Bomb Strike Way up North, 38,
Chapter 8 Blocking Force at the Beach, 44,
Chapter 9 PX Trips and General Population Assessment, 51,
Chapter 10 Setting the Trap and Friendly Fire, 60,
Chapter 11 Monsoon, 66,
Chapter 12 The Big Lie, 73,
Chapter 13 Lost for Christmas, 84,
Chapter 14 Walking Out of the Mountains to Firebase Abbey, 93,
Chapter 15 Change in January/A New CO/The Tiger Story, 103,
Chapter 16 Wood Cutters Ambush Site, 112,
Chapter 17 Straight up the Mountain, 121,
Chapter 18 St. Patrick's Day Massacre, 130,
Chapter 19 Return to Uplift/My Birthday, 144,
Chapter 20 Hill 466, 152,
Chapter 21 Sappers at Firebase Tape, 167,
Chapter 22 R & R, 174,
Chapter 23 Hollywood Visits Alpha Company, 205,
Chapter 24 Dangerous Animals Out in the Boonies, 211,
Chapter 25 Night Ambush Outside Uplift, 221,
Chapter 26 A Very Important Kill, 227,
Chapter 27 Balls of Fire in the Hills Outside English, 234,
Chapter 28 Unbearable Temperatures/Hump to 506 Valley, 242,
Chapter 29 Searching for VC/NVA in 506 Valley with the New CO, 249,
Chapter 30 CA to the Basecamp Five Miles Out, 255,
Chapter 31 Five Days in the Hospital, 265,
Chapter 32 Rescue in 506 Valley, 271,
Chapter 33 CP Ambushes/The Navy Ends a Problem, 282,
Chapter 34 Battle for Our Lives, 293,
Chapter 35 In Country R & R at Phu Cat Airbase, 299,
Chapter 36 The Last Detail/Exit Uplift, 306,
Chapter 37 Hendricks Saves the Day, 313,
Chapter 38 Getting Out of the Army/Going Home, 322,
Afterward, 331,
Glossary of Terms, 335,

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Run Through the Jungle: Real Adventures in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! True life account of action in Vietnam with an interesting twist with the author's homecoming.