Out Of The Blue!


RTO - Radio Telephone OperatorPerhaps it is true that fact is stranger than fiction.  Early one morning we left fire base Keene and moved at a slow, steady pace across a perfectly flat open field.  We spread out, so that no one was closer than fifteen or twenty feet.   We were marching in three lines - a platoon on each side and the command group in the middle.  The sky was absolutely clear, with no clouds in sight as far as the horizon.  There was a slight haze, as was often seen in the dry season, so that the full heat of the sun was not yet upon us.  We were alert, as always, for the possible booby trap, and on the lookout for VC.  All was quiet.

And then, from out of that perfectly clear sky, striking right into the midst of our patrol, came a lightning bolt.  It was sudden and swift.  A single faint shaft touched quickly down and then was gone.  The clap of thunder was not even as loud as our 105 mm. howitzers.  But the effect was just as deadly.  The man carrying the company radio took a direct hit - his tall antenna had probably guided the bolt in, for it was the highest object for hundreds of meters in any direction.   The sudden shock knocked him to the ground, senseless.

We had to hold our positions and not bunch up, but we got steady reports as the medics went to work.  His ears and nose were bleeding, and he suffered severe burns on his shoulders and the back of one leg.  He regained consciousness quickly, though he was dazed and in shock.  The brunt of the charge had traveled down the antenna, through the radio to his shoulders and back, and then to the ground through his leg.  His head was untouched.  Perhaps the steel pot had protected him (a static electric charge rests on the outside of a metallic body).

A Medevac chopper soon arrived to evacuate the man, and that was the last we saw of him.  But I could never shake the feeling of irony about it.  Of all the ways that a man might be injured in Vietnam, who would have guessed he would suffer such a bizarre accident?  I never saw such lighting again in my thirteen-month tour of duty, and I was glad of it.


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Out Of The Blue!:  Tales Of A War Far Away
Copyright 1995 Kirk S. Ramsey
Last modified: March 02, 1995