I was still on base piece when the January ground attack happened. I remember LZ Betty also got hit that night. They blew the ammo bunkers up and I have pictures of that. You could feel the heat flashes where we were, it was that hot, maybe five miles away.
When they attacked us at Sherry someone spotted them coming at us through a starlight scope and we just lit them up. I stayed up all night. I think the whole battery was up all night.
The next morning Rik Groves and I both went out to the wire and took pictures. Then we went and had breakfast and loaded up for an air mobile operation. First Sergeant Farrell said one thing to us, “Just remember, it could have been you laying dead out there.” He put it in perspective. Nobody freaked out because we had some guys that were used to seeing death and they were career soldiers.
How did you react?
Business as usual.
First Sergeant Farrell
Sergeant Farrel liked me and he liked Tommy Mulvihill. Some guys he didn’t like, and I don’t know why. I was older and I didn’t kiss his ass, but I did not disrespect him either. If Farrell didn’t like you he’d pull all kinds of shit on you.
A guy by the name of Jesse was the battery punk, a punk kid. He wouldn’t cut his hair, and he had his pants pegged tight (tapered at the bottom). So some guys one night cut his hair and broke his nose. The First Sergeant had to come out and ask everybody who did it. And I know he put two guys up to it, one of them my sergeant. That night this sergeant come up to me and says, “I need you to pull guard for me for about an hour. I got to go do something.” I know what he did and I know Farrell put him up to it, and I guess he figured I was old enough and smart enough not to say anything.
Farrell had to investigate the incident and came around with an investigator from the rear, an Inspector General guy with him. Farrell knew how to ask the questions. He asked me, “Did you see who did it?” Well of course not, nobody saw it. If he had asked if I knew who did it, I’d of said I got a good idea, but he didn’t. Farrell had his ways, but he was a great guy and I had nothing against him. He was a character and a good first sergeant, let’s put it that way. I liked the guy.
We had a colonel come out, a full bird colonel, he was from the states and he was going to come and give us an inspection,. We were all set up for this goddamn inspection, it was going to be like a stateside inspection. And all of a sudden we got mortared, and we did a mad minute, with all the howitzers, machine guns going off. That colonel had a chopper come get him soon as it quieted down and he took off and he never come back, because we scared the hell out of him. To this day I swear to god we didn’t get mortared, but Top threw some grenades out in the wire. I swear to god he did that. Top Farrell used to pull shit like that all the time. He knew how the system worked.
I’ll tell you one thing Farrell did for me, a very nice thing. My wife was pregnant. It happened the last night before I left for Vietnam and I found out about it a few weeks later. This wasn’t a surprise, because we planned to have a kid while I was in the service. I wanted to go on R&R to Hawaii to see her, but she had to go before she was six months. They didn’t want her flying after that. Getting an R&R would have been pretty tough, because it was first come first served, and I wasn’t in country long enough. Farrell put in for an R&R for himself, and when it came through he turned it over to me, which you could do. He did that for me, and I was only a PFC at the time.
He liked me and he helped me get rank. It was like anything, I never gave him any problems and I did a good job. I was 24 ½ and all the other guys were 18, 19 years old, they’re still kids, they didn’t have any idea. And the career guys, they were dumber than a hoe handle. Farrell was good to me. I’ll never say anything bad about him.
Just before I went on R&R to see my wife I got promoted to corporal, and when I got back went over to Gun 2, where Rik Groves was chief. I was at the gunner’s sight and Rik was standing beside me. We were maybe a foot apart, and saw VC running way out there. Could see them running around some bushes. We’re standing there and hear a pfffffft. What the hell was that? We didn’t know what it was. And then we hear another one, and it goes bing, bing, bing, bing – it hit something. Then we realized we were getting shot at, and we no more than turned around and Lieutenant Monahan comes out of his hooch. He was getting ready to go home in a day or two, and like all short timers took a special care not to get killed. Another round hit behind him and you could see it kick the sand up. He leaped I’ll bet 20 feet. I’ll never forget that sound, when a bullet comes that close. If it was any closer one of us wouldn’t be here today, or both of us would be gone – or hurt bad. The 1st sergeant told us to shoot back, even though we didn’t see any weapons. We shot back into the brush pile with the howitzer and killed all of them.
Another day I was standing there and I remember the explosion that killed Sherlock and Gulley. From Gun 2 you could see it. I remember Pee Wee Watson flying back into the battery in a jeep for all it was worth, getting Doc Townley and taking off again. I never saw a jeep go so fast.
I am in contact with Sherlock’s brother. He’s an ex-Marine. He has a motorcycle group, and every time they have a body he escorts the coffin. I never physically talked to him, because he doesn’t want to talk. But we corresponded a lot. I sent him stuff that his brother would have had if he’d of come back, like a 101st Airborne service patch that we wore. You see his parents never got over it. He was young and he had to do all the funeral arrangements, though he was probably under aged to do it.
He never knew much about his brother. One day he asked me, when his brother died, if the body was intact and if his brother suffered. They had a closed casket because they didn’t want to open it up and see. I was really uncomfortable and was going to lie to him, but I said, “Jeez, I don’t know.” I called Doc Townley and he told me Sherlock’s body was kind of intact and he died instantly, where the other guy was riddled, in parts, and didn’t die right away. I was able to tell Sherlock’s brother that he went quick and didn’t suffer. So he didn’t know this all these years, until five or six months ago – until I told him. It’s a sad thing.