Nothing beats a cold, refreshing drink on a hot day. But there is
a time and a place for everything. This was not the time, and definitely not the
place. After another brief stand-down in Cu Chi we were returning to Patton II, and
we were walking the eight or nine kilometers all the way back., through the old rubber
We passed down long rows of tall, stately trees. They extended in all directions
as far as we could see. The ground was level, with a minimum of vegetation.
Still, it was difficult to see very far because trees obscured the view. If you
stood in the middle between two rows you could see a long way up and down the row, but you
couldn't see more than a few trees in any other direction.
So we almost missed spotting the ambush hastily set up ahead of us. Our
sharp-eyed point man saw movement at the base of a tree. Two men lay half hidden in
a shallow fighting position behind it. Both sides opened fire at the same time and
both missed. We scrambled for cover behind the trees as the firing increased - and
the chatter of small arms fire echoed through the trees. The captain assessed the
situation. We were too far away to throw hand grenades. So he called for a
The LAW, or Light Antitank Weapon, is a lightweight two-and-a-half foot rocket launcher
with a missile inside. It was our war's version of the bazooka, and it gave the foot
soldier an equalizer against armor. Since Charlie didn't have tanks in our area, we
used the LAW for blowing up bunkers. It wasn't really effective, but it gave us lots
of moral support.
Several guys in our platoon carried LAWs, and one of them was just a few yards from the
captain. The captain yelled for him to fire upon the fighting position with his LAW,
but the man seemed to be having trouble understanding the order. Again the captain
shouted, and again the man did nothing. This was puzzling. The captain
motioned to one of the men nearby, who took off at a crawl under sporadic fire to get the
LAW himself. He tried to take the weapon, but the man shook his head. There
was a short conversation. At last the GI reluctantly handed over the tube. The
courier took one more look at him, then made a dash for the captain.
When he reached the captain's side, there was another hasty conversation. With an
expression of disbelief on his face, the captain looked down at the tube. Then he
picked up the tube and flipped the switch that held the end caps in place. Out
rolled a small block of ice and four cans of Coke! The spent tube had been turned
into a portable refrigerator! How ingenious. Of course, at that moment the
captain didn't think so. He called for another LAW, and eventually got one that did
the job. With that the enemy pulled back, leaving two dead comrades behind.
Then the command group sat down and enjoyed the Cokes.