Just Give Me Tomorrow
One Tour of Duty In The Republic Of South Vietnam, 10/1967 – 11/1968
Sgt. D.P. Smith, 2234701, “B” Co., !st Bn., 26th Marines
12 OCT. 67
We left El Toro at 0530 tues. morning, stopped off in Hawaii to refuel, then made Okinawa by 1:30 P.M. their time. By 0530 this morning I was in Da Nang. Right now I’m waiting to catch a plane up to Phu Bat. So far all I know is I’m going to 1st Bn., 26th Marines.
15 OCT. 67
I arrived at Khe Sanh yesterday. I’ve been assigned to Bravo Company . . . Khe Sanh is located on what seems from the air to be a plateau surrounded by a deep valley which is surrounded in turn by some fairly high mountains. It rains all year ‘round. It rained yesterday . . . last night . . . this mornthg . . . and It’s raining now. It’s raining so hard right now that I can see only 50 feet outside the tent, and it’s 1:30 In the afternoon.
23 OCT. 67
. . . peop]e here have complained
that some of their letters have not reached the States . . .
4 NOV. 67
The weather was so bad today that the choppers wouldn’t resupply the hill…
22 NOV. 67
Khe Sanh took 28 incoming mortar rounds last night but nobody was hurt.
24 JAN. 68
Our mess halls were demolished on the 21st and all we have is C-rations.
29 JAN. 68
So we made the front page, huh?
8 FEB. 68
It’s been a while since we’ve receIved any mall – ammo and food have priority on the planes that resupply us. There are about 200 people waiting at Phu Bai for transportation to Khe Sanh.
Remember the shooting galleries at the fair? I feel like one of those little ducks that move back and forth and get shot at. I ride in a Jeep all day, all over the base, picking up gear and delivering it to our 3 platoons.
Bravo Company is spread out around the perimeter. We never know when to expect incoming (except when a plane lands; we always catch it then) or where the rounds will land. Too many times they have landed too closely . . . we’ve lost a lot of sleep these last few nights.
Two nights ago Mr. Charles overran a Special Forces outpost about 3 mIles west of here. They did it with 7 tanks and flame throwers. The same night they tried to take Hill 861 and were beaten off.
10 FEB. 68
It finally happened. A C-130 landed on the strip, caught a mortar round, exploded, and burned to the ground. There could have been mail on it.
16 FEB. 68
I guess I’ve recovered somewhat from the ‘initial shock’ of the 21st. We’ve been hit every day since then. The artillery they use on us makes a hole that is chest—high to me. As long as I’m inside my house (which is rare in the daytime) I don’t sweat their mortars. Rockets I worry about; arty I worry about. So far, three of our people have cracked up and have been sent home… the main reason I haven’t asked for R&R yet (I’ve been over here long enough to rate it) is because I know that if I ever get out of here, I will not return.
. . . men, caked with Khe Sanh red dirt and mud. Men who live on a diet of C-rations and an occasional letter from Home. Men who shave and wash once a week and drink no more than 2 canteens of water per day . . . who didn’t really want to come here, but didn’t complain because they were sent – – and will never be ashamed of the time they spent here. Eighteen and nineteen year old men . . .
22 FEB. 68
That C-130 had landed and was turning around at the end of the runway when it took .50 cal. sniper fire. One of the engines started to burn, and crew & passengers left in haste. The strip was closed for a day or so. Then a few days later, another C-130 landed, took a direct hit by mortar, exploded and burned to the ground, except for the left wing which was pushed off the strip. Four of its nine men made it to safety. Now an occasional Caribou lands, but most of our supplies are being air dropped or skid dropped. That’s quite a sight – – a C-l30 comes In low as if about to land, drops a ‘chute, touches down, guns it, and lifts off. The parachute drags the cargo – – usually ammo or chow – – out on to the strip. It looks like the “touch and go” jet exercises I used to watch at Cherry Point.
By the way . . . I’m able to write about everything that happens here but if I filled my letters with such stories it would serve no purpose except to increase the worrying at home. I just marvel each night over the preceeding day’s near misses and the fact that I am still able to mark off, with shaking hand, one more day in my little calender.
We’re down to two C-ration meals and one canteen of water per man per day . . .
25 FEB. 68
Khe Sanh has been hit every day since 21 January. The last three days have been among the worst. Day before yesterday we took over 1400 incoming rounds. This morning our 3rd platoon sent out two reinforced squads on patrol. They were caught in an ambush, and only a few have made it back so far. One squad was completely wiped out except for one, the platoon corrrnander has been killed, and the platoon sergeant is missing along with approximately 20 others . . .
1 MAR. 68
My driver says he almost decked a cameraman the other day who wanted to take some flicks of what was left of our 3rd platoon . . . rnail service is a little better lately . . .
16 MAR. 68
Things are about the same here. I won’t say I’m getting used to it, but at least I am still kicking. 236 days left . . .
20 MAR. 68
This is the 60th straight day . . . there is lightning, thunder, and rain out side my hootch. In a few minutes Khe Sanh will change from a dust bowl to a mud hole . . .
24 MAR. 68
We have lost about 80 men in the 64 days since the “siege” began. Day before yesterday Charley Company lost their Skipper, Company Gunny, and 3 radiomen. We took about 650 rounds that day.
28 MAR. 68
Tomorrow will be the 69th straight day. So far, Bravo has lost over 90 people . . . the place is crawling with correspondents and photographers – – they come up here, get their stories and get out as soon as they can.
2 APR. 68
I listened to Mr. Johnson’s speech last night over AFVN radio. Rest assured, the bombing has not been stopped around Khe Sanh. If it was, we could hang it up. In Time’s article “The Dusty Agony of Khe Sanh” there are some individuals’ pictures – – check the man with the button on his helmet “Does Vietnam Exist?” – – he was my driver for a month. He’s Home now, and I wear that button on my helmet.
6 APR. 68
Hueys have been doing a job on Vic for two days. We just stand up on top of our bunkers and cheer. I’ve never’ seen so many choppers in the air at one time before.
11 APR. 68
Now I’m sleeping in one of the most unsafe bunkers on the base – – right next to the ammo dump. But things have been very quiet during the past few days . . . nobody knows what is happening we might go to Quang Tri. Or Hue – Phu-Bai – Or Da Nang. Or the Delta. All I know is my gear’s ready to go, and so am I . . .
20 APR. 68
We are at Wonder Beach, 10 miles from Quang Tri. It’s really quite nice, after Khe Sanh. Body surfing every other day . . . hot chow and milk at the mess hall. We still run patrols and ambushes. Don’t worry about me – I’ll be Home in another 6 1/2 months . .
3 MAY 68
We just got the word to be ready to move at any time. Again, we do not know where.
12 MAY 68
We left Wonder Beach a week ago and have been on a series of operations (sweeps) somewhere between Da Nang and Con Thien. We don’t know how long this will last . . . Delta Company was chopped up badly day before yesterday – – the only trouble Bravo has had as far as casualities is a few heat exhaustion cases – – so far. We’ve been fighting other things – – mosquitoes, dysentery, leaches 8—10 inches long in waist-deep rice paddies, unclean water . . .
20 MAY 68
Just finished writing my radioman up for the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry after his performance during the operation on the DMZ last week. He caught shrapnel in his right leg when we landed on a hot LZ but refused to be rned-evaced until he was ordered to – – two days later due to swelling.
3rd platoon is moving today to Hill 60, 4 or 5 miles from Da Nang. Our mission is to run squad – sized patrols to discourage the enemy from setting up mortar and rooket sites. In effect, we are defending the Da Nang airstrip.
8 JUNE 68
Tomorrow morning, it’s back to the bush with us. We move around so often now that it Is impossible for me to keep you up on where I am. I might go on R&R sometime this month. I need it badly.
I see Mr. Johnson gave us the Presidential Unit Citation for holding Khe Sanh. Half the men who held Khe Sanh are not with us any longer.
18 JUNE 68
I’m carrying a Thompson Sub-machine gun – – much more reliable than the M-16. This battalion has been on operations since Khe Sanh. I’d give a week’s pay for a platefull of enchiladas right now…
27 JUNE 68
I have a different job – – there is a shortage of officers in our company due to recent action and I am the Weapons Platoon Commander. We are in the mountains west of Da Nang – – the leaches are terrible and there is supposed to be an NVA regiment in the area . . .
11 AUG. 68
Five days at Home seemed like a dream . . . I can still taste those enchiladas.
23 AUG. 68
We took about 10 minutes of incoming this afternoon. Reminded me of the old days . . . seven men wounded, one critically, and one killed. We heard that Da Nang was hit also . . .
24 SEPT. 68
The company admin. chief, Cpl. McNeely, says I am going to be written up for the Navy Commendation Medal w/combat “V” – – I asked him just why did anybody think I rated it, and he said, “Khe Sanh, plus the fact that another man was given your Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry because of the friction between yourself and Capt. Champion five months ago.”
23 OCT. 68
My orders came in today – – they want to make a drill instructor (of all things) out of me. Somebody must think I’m pretty squared away. I can’t see it, though, because it would mean another 3 years in this green machine. As a Sgt. I’m considered a career Marine, so today I submitted my “Intent to get out” through the company office.