By Richard H Dick James
54 years ago, March 1967, I was the Staff Sergeant E-6 Demolition Sergeant on Detachment A-422 (Vinh Gia), Company D (Detachment C-4), 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in the western Mekong Delta (IV Corps) of South Vietnam, 2,000 meters from the Cambodian border. I was on my 6-month voluntary extension in Vietnam. I had just returned from my 30-day extension leave in the U.S. Vinh Gia was still drastically short-handed. I had stopped in Saigon to help SGT Greene transport some needed food supplies back to Vinh Gia, on my way back. I was surprised at how improved the camp looked since I had left. The team had done quite a bit of work during my absence. When I arrived, I was told that SSG Smith (Radio Operator) had gone to Nha Trang and I was going to have to take over as radio operator until he returned. SGT Stephens (Medical Specialist) had returned to the U.S. just before I arrived and SSG Hunter (Medical Supervisor) was scheduled to return stateside in a couple days, with no replacement so far. Our team only had two medics allocated, and both of them were going home. An SF team could do without just about any assigned MOS (Military Occupational Specialist), except medical. There were always enough cross-trained A-team members to cover for missing men, but none are usually cross-trained as medics, especially well enough to replace an SF medic. We therefore assumed that a new medic would arrive soon. SF camps in Vietnam, and the CIDG troops (Civilian Irregular Defense Group aka our VN “mercenaries”) in our camps, had put it to the enemy during the three-month period of November through January. They were credited with killing 1,302 VC, many more than the 817 they were credited with killing during the period August through October. When I arrived at Vinh Gia I had a cold, caught at Camp Goodman, in Saigon. They had fans and air conditioners at Goodman, which gave me the cold. Almost every time I stayed there, I caught cold. While I was home, a miniature electric race set I had ordered from Monkey Ward (Montgomery Ward) had arrived, as had one my parents had sent. So, we had two car racing sets in the team house. We found out later that it would be difficult keeping them running because the very high humidity caused rust to form on the electrical contacts of the set, especially the racing surface contacts. The February issue of The Green Beret magazine was in the team house. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg had begun a “Special Forces Drum and Bugle Corps.” Somebody in Special Forces was going to be learning how to march in step? I hoped that was only going to be a part-time gig. I couldn’t imagine any qualified Special Forces men actually marching in step, and playing a bugle, or drums, especially full-time. Gag! Bands, by the way, came under the Army heading of Special Services, a title some people (especially civilians) sometimes misnamed us. A lot of the reason for misnaming us, of course, could have been that, during World War II, the unit that was most like us, as far as missions went, were the Office of Special Services (OSS). It was pretty cold in the mornings (at least down into the 60s or 70s) and I found I had to wear a sweatshirt and field jacket to be comfortable, especially in the morning. Hey, don’t laugh! When you’re used to high temps in the 100s, 60s and 70s can be downright uncomfortable. I certainly hadn’t lost being acclimatized to Vietnam weather during my time stateside. I learned that Headquarters, 5th Special Forces Group had named our nearby Seven Mountains as a priority target area. Each Corps area had been assigned an area to be a priority. Detachment C-1 was to prioritize operations in the A Shau Valley, C-2 was Bu Prang, and C-3 was the Rung Sat Zone. Also, according to the 5th Group Quarterly Report, ending 31 January, IV Corps VC KIA (killed in action) figures (verified by USSF body count) showed IV Corps rated second in South Vietnam. III Corps recorded the most VC KIA for the period. The first week back I went on a night ambush that resulted in nothing. The next day one of our patrols reported contact with a VC unit by the Cambodian border, only to be repelled when the Cambodian outpost gave supporting fire to the VC. Who said the Cambodes were neutral? What a crock! On the night of the 10th our last, small backup, 1.5kw generator broke down, with no replacement in sight. You might know, all that perishable food that SGT Greene and I brought back from Saigon began to perish. Word came down that we would be turning our camp over to the Vietnamese about May, then forming a new camp somewhere in the Mekong Delta area. We all knew that would mean plenty of combat. New camps were invariably begun in VC controlled or endangered areas and were, most likely, met with fierce VC opposition. In the meantime, we were remaining busy readying the camp for the turnover, trying to have the camp as defendable as possible for the Vietnamese. From my book #4 (“SLURP SENDS! A Green Beret’s Experiences in Vietnam Book 4”), of my four-book set of “SLURP SENDS!” Books #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 are available on Amazon, or from me.PHOTOS: A view north at the mountains in Cambodia, from Vinh Gia (the Vinh Te Canal is in the foreground, just beyond the camp entrance) / A view east at the famous VC-controlled Seven Mountains, in the Mekong Delta (my photos)SLURP SENDS!