Snippets of Recollection - Market Time - Viet Nam

by Eric Mittwer - RM3 1964-1966

As you all know time has a way of "adjusting" ones memory, but the way I'm telling this one is just as I remember it.  There are details and incidences which occurred during the same moments so those of you who were there, please fill in the blanks and correct my "adjustments."

I recall on one occasion, we had pulled about five or six hundred yards outside of a coastal cove where there was a small village.  We went about our usual inspections using the motor whale boat.  Nothing exciting, but that night, I went up to the bridge and took a peek through the night vision scope.  HOLY COW we were surrounded by sampans, dozens of them scattered every where.  Turns out they were night fishing.  Nothing came of it and we were at relaxed GQ but the thought of them gave me chills.  Early the next morning I ran up to the bridge again.  This time the night vision scope had been replaced with a long glass (telescope).  I looked through it and saw people walking out on a small peninsula.  Some stayed standing and some squatted.  Since the squatting position is common I couldn't tell if they were just looking at us or what.  I later leanred that it was their latrine.  The tide washes it for them  What a surprise!

Later that morning we moved in a little closer for the usual inspections.  I was on flag bridge duty wearing one of those dumb looking extra large hard hats and head phones.  All of a sudden I heard "We're being shot at"!  I looked over and couldn't see anyone in the boat.  They had all ducked down and were heading back to Wilhoite.  We quickly weighed anchor and as soon as the boat crew was aboard with what was the fastest lift I'd ever seen, we turned slightly starboard and let loose over the port bow with the forward 3 inch.  There was a hillside with a small shack and we'd seen people going up and down to and from it from time to time.  That was our target.  From my vantage point I could actually see the rounds fly toward the shack.  Well, after about three or four rounds the gun jammed with no hits, but at least one near miss.  We were about to turn to our aft guns when our Vietnamese Liaison officer came running up to the bridge yelling stop, stop, that a Buddhist shrine...So much for artillery.  Oh yes, there was only one shot fired from shore, but close enough that the boat crew heard it whiz by and see the splash.  And the reason he was so late in warning the captain was that he was on the boat.

That night after pulling back out to a safe distance, we heard a report that there was a fire fight just outside the village.  The Captain notified the ground forces of our location and if they needed help and requested permission to fire flares over the village if it would do any good.  The night was pitch black and as we proceeded closer, the sky filled with one flare after the next every few seconds, the night began to look as eerie as in the movies with the flares coming down under their parachutes, light filtering through the tree tops and casting strange moving shadows.  We could see the flash of explosions and small arms fire just past the village.  From our location we could just hear the thump of the explosions.  Bright flashes then moments later "thump, thump".  As the night became still, I heard on the radio some light crackling static then something like "thanks for the help".  My chest sorta puffed out about then and felt a huge sense of pride....      GO WILHOITE!

End of this snippet episode.