By Richard H. Dick James
58 years ago, 25 January 1963, I was a Private First Class E-3. I had been in Special Forces Training Group (Provisional), in Fort Bragg NC, since September 1962, assigned to Company B, Special Forces Training Group (Provisional). I was finishing up the Demolition course.
We had spent a lot of time during the final weeks of training learning about expedient demolitions, since many SF missions were, at the time, expected to be behind enemy lines, where explosives might not be supplied to us during a mission.
During the last week of demolition training we went to the field for three days, beginning 21 January, on our final demolition tactical exercise. It was in a very remote location of North Carolina, Camp Mackall, in marshlands. At that time there were no buildings at Camp Mackall, so we fashioned our own hooches out of ponchos for our temporary “living quarters.”
Even though it was still winter, we had to be wary of poisonous snakes. We were told that some were not hibernating as they should have been. Most of our operations were done at night, in a tactical mode, so no flashlights could be used to spot snakes.
The operation went off without any incidents. We returned to Ft. Bragg on the 24th, and I graduated from Demolition Training on the following day, 25 January 1963, with an 82% average, placing well up in the top half of the graduating class. Of a beginning class size of 63 men, only 35 of us graduated.
Like most demolition experts, I had grown very fond of very loud noises, and became very proud upon accomplishment of a difficult surgical demolition job, done perfectly. Graduation meant I had two Special Forces Military Occupational Specialties (MOS’s), Heavy Weapons (MOS #112) and Combat Engineer (MOS #121). Graduation also meant that my new primary MOS was Combat Engineer (or Demolition Specialist), while my secondary MOS was Heavy Infantry Weapons.
In fact, I had MOS’s that qualified me for three separate slots in an A-team (25% of a team; Demolition Sergeant, Demolition Specialist, and Heavy Weapons Leader), although my knowledge of heavy weapons was not nearly as in depth as Special Forces trained Heavy Weapons Leaders. Upon graduating we were advised that our names would be sent to our home town police department, to be included on their list of local individuals considered to be explosive experts.
“There is no situation in the human condition that cannot be solved through a properly sized, shaped, packed, placed, timed, and detonated charge of high explosive!” — Military Engineering Axiom.
Sometime in January, we heard about a 13 January attack on the Plei Mrong Special Forces camp in Vietnam, on the border and manned by indigenous Jarai tribesmen. The camp had been infiltrated by Jarai Viet Cong sympathizers, who had signed up as CIDG trainees. During the hours of darkness, many of them cut a twelve-foot gap in the camp perimeter barbed wire, permitting a swarm of VC to enter the camp, armed with satchel charges and Bangalore torpedoes.
During a period of two and a half hours, a hundred Jarai CIDG soldiers were killed or missing and four SF were wounded. Because of the amount of VC sympathetic infiltrators, it became difficult to determine friend from foe. It underscored a constant problem Special Forces had during the Vietnam conflict, not being able to fully trust the soldiers they were working, and living, with.
From my Book #1, of my four-book set of SLURP SENDS! Book #1 (“SLURP SENDS! On Becoming a Green Beret Book 1”), #2 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of an A-Team Green Beret Book 2”), #3 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of a Green Beret In Vietnam Book 3”) and #4 (“SLURP SENDS! A Green Beret’s Experiences In Vietnam Book 4”) are all available on Amazon or from me.
PHOTO: Military Dynamite (from Internet)