The last firefight I was in in Viet Nam was on September 4, 1967, at approximately 1730 hours while on a search and destroy mission near Tay Ninh.

I don't recall how long we had been out. But, we were approaching an open field when we were ambushed by Charlie as soon as we left the treeline into an open field. We were in another firefight with an enemy barely visible.

You gotta remember, Charlie could hide his small frame of a body behind a bush or a tree, pop off a few rounds at a time and pin down a whole platoon for days. This was done while he puffed on a cigar or a joint and ate handfulls of rice and raw chicken.

On this day he hit 2 of our men. It could have been more, which was difficult for me to tell. All I know is that there was heavy fire being laid out in front of us and the gun ships and artillery didn't make it any easier to comprehend the entire situation.

What I do know is that these 2 men who were hit were in my squad. I think one was Sgt. Joe Riley(still not good on complete names) my friend. I knew I had to do something.

The way I remember it was I looked at the man next to me and yelled, "gotta get my friend!!!!" and took off to the open field. I don't remember if I took my weapon with me, I doubt it since it was a M-60 calliber machine gun.

I took off keeping low as possible. I was able to pull the first man back to the treeline to await medical evacuation. I don't recall who I pulled back first. I got back to the open field and put the second man across my shoulder and headed for the treeline. I didn't get far before I felt myself releasing him.

As I released the man I was carrying and not by choice, I got this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I fell. I don't recall making a sound at that moment. I stared into the heaven above. I could hear and feel the gun fire and rockets all around me from the firefight that was taking place. I couldn't see the man I was carrying just seconds before. I felt like lying there had been forever. I was overcome by this empty feeling over my entire body.

As I lay there I could see visions of loved one---my mother--my daughter and my then wife. I was - I was - I was immobile. I was hit. I took a round from a rocket . I couldn't feel anything in my legs. I didn't know if I was alive or dead. A a scare set in. A fear set in. I was angry. I was worried about everyone else. I was out of the battle.

I had been wounded before. And I returned to the battle. But, this time I couldn't return to help my comrades. I had this feeling I had let them down by getting hit. I wanted to be with  them. It was not like in the movies when a buddy walks over to you as you lay on the stretcher and says "hey may, you're going home!" Instead one of the guys said they're going to give you a Silver Star. I never saw him again. This was not the movies. And I encountered a feeling of guilt. I had learned to fight. I had become a warrior.  And I didn't feel like a hero. I was doing my job!!!!

The picture is vauge of the chopper lift off. It took so long to get there as it was difficult to land because the LZ (landing zone) was hot. It felt like forever and I left the field that day without being able to say , "Goodbye!"






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2000BY WILLIAM R. ILAM "EASY" SMITH
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