Cav Takes Over Khe Sanh

 

 

Yesterday my wife was going through a box of old papers when she came upon the April 24, 1968 edition of the Cavalair, the 1st Air Cavalry Division newspaper. When she handed it to me, I was instantly plunged into a swirl of memories from nearly half a century ago – flying fearfully in a long chain of Huey helicopters with the doors open down Route 9 west toward Khe Sanh (Operation Pegasus, 31 March 68) near the DMZ to end the siege of 3500 Marines and 2100 Army of Vietnam troops by 20,000 North Vietnamese troops (NVA). The whole 1st Cavalry Division was joining in the attack.

My company – A Co. 2/5 – landed on a hill denuded by Agent Orange with a 30-foot-wide B-52 bomb crater on top. We jumped out, hit the ground,  and raced all over the hilltop with our rifles at the ready, expecting live fire at any time.

Eerily, we found no enemy troops – only some discarded weapons. Where was Charlie? It was as if the NVA troops had seen us coming, dropped their weapons, and ran.

I wrote a song about it, which is on my Skytroopers CD:

Charlie’s Gone, Charlie’s Gone, from Khe Sanh, from Khe Sanh.
When we got there, when we got there,
the Leathernecks were lyin’ in the sun
and a-havin’ fun, a-havin’ fun,
and a-sippin’ a long, cool one.
‘Cause Charlie’s gone.

Charlie’s Gone, Charlie’s Gone, from Khe Sanh, from Khe Sanh.
We’d like to think, we’d like to think, he heard the Cav was comin’ and he run.
But there’s more than that, there’s more than that,
‘Cause the jets are gettin’ deadly with their bombs.

He didn’t even say goodbye.
He didn’t even pack his bags.
He didn’t even say where he was goin’ knowin’
We’d want to pay a visit to him soon.

Charlie’s Gone, Charlie’s Gone, from Khe Sanh, from Khe Sanh.
We’re moppin up, we’re moppin’ up
his weapons by the hundred these days.
But no KIAs, no KIAs and no pris’ners are we gettin’ from the caves
Cause Charlie’s gone.
Adieu.

[I wrote nineteen songs while in Vietnam. I recorded them in 2009 on my  Skytroopers CD, which you can purchase online from CDBaby.  The song above is about Operation Pegasus: “Charlie’s Gone.” You can find all my song lyrics here, along with the Cavalair story about our company’s “Rockpile” operation in Vietnam.]

Meeting no opposition on the hilltop, we presumed that the attack on the Marine base had ended. However, other 1st Cav companies saw days of tough combat. Overall, the division killed more than 1000 enemy, while 19,000 fled. It was a great victory in a war that saw 58,000 American soldiers killed, and a war in which we killed between one and two million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, and exposed four million soldiers and civilians to agent orange defoliant (a million of whom continue to suffer serious health issues), and denuded millions of acres of forest and crop land resulting in widespread famine.

These are some of the experiences that shaped my first novel, Cologne No. 10 For Men, which is a satire. Kirkus called it A funny and serviceable satire about the gross rationalizations that propel war and peace.” “. . . like Catch-22 or M.A.S.H. . . .carries echoes of Tim O’Brien’s similarly toned The Things They Carried.“— Kirkus Reviews. Writer’s Digest said, “This is truly a superb novel of the Vietnam war, a novel that compares favorably with those earlier “dark humor” war novels such as CATCH-22 and M.A.S.H. The writing crackles with authenticity.” David Willson, Books in Review II, The Vietnam Veterans of America Veteran said, “There aren’t very many funny Vietnam War infantry books. This is one of them. Read it and be amazed.”

You may also be interested in my other Vietnam blog posts:

Fact or Fiction in Vietnam,”

Kill Anything That Moves – The Real American War In Vietnam, by Nick Turse: A One-Sided View of the War,”

Cologne No. 10 For Men – Fact or Fiction

 

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