Sometimes our successes came to us through a combination of hard work
and persistence. And sometimes they came about by sheer luck. We were glad to
take them any way they came.
We had been marching all morning and into the afternoon on a local RIF (Reconnaisance
In Force) out of Dragon. We had seen nothing. The sun glared
unmercifully. As we reached the level plateau and started back to base, a man
collapsed from the heat. A cry of "Medic!" rang out, and our platoon medic
broke from the line and headed directly toward the fallen men. He made it about
halfway, and then suddenly dropped out of sight into the tall grass. We were all
watching, jaws agape, as he reappeared. "There's a tunnel here!" he
yelled. We rushed over and pulled him from the hole. As Doc stumbled off to
help the stricken man, we recruited a "tunnel rat" from among the smaller men,
and sent him into the hole.
Soon the "rat" resurfaced. He described the "tunnel" as a
single-room cache of weapons. Several more men went down into the hole to help him
clean out the hideaway. Out came a Chinese Communist light machine gun, an
American-made Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) from W.W.II or Korean war days, and a bolt
thousands of rounds of AK rifle ammo came next, along with ammunition for the BAR and
belts for the Chicom machine gun. A 60 mm mortar tube came up and was placed on the
pile. Then, hand to hand, the men started passing up mortar rounds. We
carefully placed them to one side, handling them like eggs. One hundred twenty
rounds were soon lying in rows on the ground. There were also grenades, both Chinese
and the old American pineapple grenades. All in all, it was a sizable cache, and a
lucky find. All of this was intended to be used against us, and we didn't mind
finding it first.
The most interesting item came out last. A large square tin was lifted into the
sunlight. It was two feet tall and about eighteen inches square. We opened it
carefully. It was filled with medical equipment. There were vials of colored
liquid, boxes of aspirin, and short knives. Almost half of the tin was filled with
rolls of old newspaper, cut into two inch strips. After discussing the
possibilities, we decided they were meant to be used as field bandages to stop the
bleeding. Newspaper - what an ingenious, low-cost answer to combat first-aid.
The tin also contained a medical field book. It was handwritten in a fine, tiny
script. Many of the pages were illustrated in painstaking detail with red pencil and
blue pen drawings. The major organs, arteries, and veins were all pictured. A
great deal of time and effort had gone into creating this notebook. The enemy medic
who had put these supplies here had most likely gone to school in the North. With
his drawing skills he could have become an artist.
A supply chopper flew out from Cu Chi to carry off our discoveries. We loaded
everything aboard and watched the chopper lift off. We were glad to see the weapons
go. It made our lives a little bit safer. We only wished the medic would fall
into more such holes . . .