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Elephant Valley

Tell us about your adventures, amazing stories, wow us with your wit...use your imagination, tell us some of the greatest moments in your life.

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:39 pm

Elephant Valley

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 1</span>

Elephant Valley... Viet Nam... March

Baie De Tourn (Bay Of Tourn), as the French called it serves as the city of Tourane's gateway to the South China Sea. When the French left Tourane the Vietnamese named the city Da Nang.
The muddy water of the Ca De Song known to U.S. Marines as the Cade River finds its end at this city, emptying into the bay that is guarded by a prominent peak the Americans named Monkey Mountain.

<center>Pathway winding through Elephant Vally</center>


Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 5:55:35 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:40 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 2</span>

The Cade River flows from the mountains to the west into thousands of rice fields that border the northern edge of Da Nang. During this region's monsoon season which lasts from November through February there can be more that one hundred inches of rain that makes the river swell, flooding the rice fields along its banks.
These farmlands stretch from Da Nang's northern limits to where the river's valley begins flowing between the Annamite Cordillera's eight thousand feet high peaks.
Along the southern bank of the river a dirt road winds just above the highest points that the monsoon floodwaters reach. This road serves the farmers who grow rice along this river, as a pathway to Da Nang's market. During the monsoon floods it also serves as their escape route from the deep rushing water as it flows eastward between dense jungle covered granite mountains.
No one knows who first built the road. For the Vietnamese farmers, it has always been there, the only trafficable route out of this mountainous jungle.
Because it is the only road the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army depended on it for supplies and reinforcements coming from North Viet Nam by way of Laos.
More than twenty kilometers northwest of Da Nang, heading up river to where the Cade bends north and then west again, rises a green mountain, thirty three hundred feet high, called Dong Den. Below Dong Den stretch the narrow, elbow-shaped run the Marine's named Elephant Valley.
It got its name one June night in 1965 when the first company of Marines on top of Dong Den's jungle covered ridges heard the trumpeting of Elephants for the first time. An illumination round was fired to light the valley and it revealed a group of eight elephants. The jungle around this area was home to a large variety of creatures.
The hamlet of Nam Yen is in the heart of Elephant Valley. There the river runs eastward. Two kilometers downriver where the elbow turns southward is the hamlet of Pho Nan Thuong Ha and two kilometers below this bend the river again bends eastward at a hamlet called Truong Dinh, the end of Elephant Valley.
It is here at Elephant Valley's eastern limit that the mountains become hills and the river spreads flat across the rice land, scattering sandbars between channels and dumping silt into the bay.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 5:56:35 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:40 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 3</span>

Darkness had swallowed this country as the two Marine Snipers slowly made their way over the hills east of Dong Den and descended into Elephant Valley where the Cade River bends from its southward to its eastward flow at Truong Dinh. The Marine Sergeant that was in charge of this mission planned to move into the big elbow's crook at Pho Nan Thuong Ha where the valley broadened between the dense mountain jungles. The two snipers were familiar with this area, they had been involved in several encounters with the enemy here before today.
"We have two, maybe three kilometers left before we're at the big bend," the Sergeant whispered to his companion as they paused to examine their map and survey the end of the long crooked valley. "I think we'd be too close for comfort here. There's only six hundred meters to work in. If we move up to the big bend where the valley widens we'll have a thousand meters to shoot across and by moving into a couple of different positions we have open fields of fire that extend two or three thousand meters up or down the valley. What's your thoughts?"
The Sergeant's partner on this mission was know as Viper, they had been on many missions together in the past, the Sergeant taught him a lot since he arrived in Viet Nam. As he stood up he said to his companion with a smile, "I think it will be goooood huntin."
These were the first words they had spoken to each other since they separated from the reconnaissance patrol they followed when leaving their base of operations on Hill 55. They went out with the recon patrol in case any enemy scouts or snipers saw them leave the base. Marine Snipers are not very well liked by the Communist troops. So much so that some of the Snipers had a price on their head, wanted dead or alive.
Once separated and moving alone they mostly communicated with hand signs and facial expressions.
While the two Marines slipped along the valley's edge at Truong Dinh, heading toward the big bend, as many as one hundred fifty North Vietnamese soldiers along with their Officers and NCO's reached the western reaches of the valley that follows the Cade River.
The NVA consisted mostly of young men as did the American Forces but both sides are well trained and respected by each other. They were valiant enough, these new replacements but they didn't have much combat experience. Their uniforms looked fairly fresh, their helmets showed no dents and each man's model AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle looked new.
They were a far cry from the typical Viet Cong (National Liberation Army) soldiers that the Marines encountered, The Viet Cong had no uniforms other than khaki shirts and shorts or black pajamas and most of their rifles were old and well worn. Men like these had often have been in the jungle for years, they were cunning, experienced and waged war with what little they could carry over the mountains from Laos and whatever they could steal or capture.
These NVA soldiers followed an Officer who had only a little more combat experience than the troops he lead, but he was assisted by a few subordinate Officers and NCO's who had seen some combat. Each officer and NCO carried a pistol, a symbol of authority on his hip.
As the company made their way along the rice fields, the commander kept his position at the lead. Behind him his senior NCO followed closely. The young officer who led the company planned to join his battalion in the jungles on the northern side of Elephant Valley and rather than climb through the rough mountains as he should have, he moved through the flat valleys at a rapid pace. A big mistake. He figured this would cut days off his trek because he had orders to get these badly needed replacement soldiers to his commander, whose battalion's numbers had been cut drastically by the Marine patrols. Normally as the troops and supplies flow into South Vietnam from the North, guides would accompany them. Apparently something happened and the guide was not with the NVA commander to advise him. These guides knew sections of the trail well enough to lead in the dark. The guides would switch and go back to their starting point and wait for the next group that needed to be guided through the jungle.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 5:57:14 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:41 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 4</span>

Concealed in the thick jungle growth at the valley's edge, the two Marine snipers peered from behind a vine covered tree that had fallen, they were scanning the open fields through which the Cade River ran. They blended in with the jungle as they had already rubbed light and dark green camouflage greasepaint on their faces, necks, ears and hands as they always did when only the two of them were out alone. The whiteness of their eyes was the only thing that contrasted with the mixture of green hues that surrounded them.
Soon dawn's first light began to reveal more and more of the flat river valley to the two Marines shifting and searching eyes. As the early morning brightened both snipers felt knots tighten in the pit of their stomachs, they could hear the muffled sounds of men on the move. Many times before they had run into situations where the enemy was so close they could here them talking to each other.
A thick fog hung just above the valley as it usually did in the early morning hiding the upper reaches of the mountains that surrounded the valley offering the two snipers a field of fire that faded after eight hundred yards from where they hid.
The distant sound of many voices became audible to the Marine duo. They searched for scouts who might be moving ahead of what they now believed was a large unit and they knew there were no friendly troops in the area. The way they moved puzzled the Marines. Was it a ploy by the NVA to draw fire and expose an ambush?
The snipers saw no scouts.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 5:57:50 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:42 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 5</span>

The Sargent tasted a mixture of salt and camouflage paint that dripped from above his upper lip into the crease of his mouth. He had to make a decision to shoot or wait as dark silhouettes appeared through the fog directly before him. The men were moving straight across the paddy fields that lay between the river and the hills beyond.
The Sergeant glanced left at his companion who rested prone behind his sniper rifle, aiming at the line of targets that grew in number with each passing second. In a whisper he said, "Be ready to call for artillery and move out quickly. I'm gonna shoot the one on the far right, you go for the one on the left."
Viper confirmed receipt of the order with a slow subtle nod and then trained his aim to the column's rear, his heart pounding away waiting to follow his partners rifle report. The Marine's breathing caused his front sight blade to rise and fall with the rhythm of his pulse.
The Sergeants heart pounded too, sending the rifle scope's cross hairs rising and falling over his target, the man who walked at the head of the column wore a pistol which meant he was either an Officer or NCO. The sniper waited for his pulse to again settle. He had faced the same dilemma many times before since his arrival in Viet Nam.
As his concentration narrowed more and more on the accuracy of this first shot, the pitch of his sight's cross hairs grew less and less erratic until the steadiness held the scope's center point steadily on the NVA commander.
The surprise of the rifle's discharge caused Viper to blink, as he heard the sound of the rifle bolt ejecting the shell and sending a second into the chamber, he fired at the suddenly frozen figure on the far left of the advancing column.
The NVA leader lay dead. A young soldier lay dead at the company's rear. A third shot cracked from the distant jungle and another NVA soldier reared back with a .30-caliber hole in his chest.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 5:58:24 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:43 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 6</span>

A short dike, approximately one hundred yards long, ran parallel with the column of soldiers. Other than the nearest tree line, nearly one thousand yards away on the base of the mountain slopes, nothing else offered cover to the company. They scrambled to the dike and as they ran the Marines shots followed them.
"We better move before they figure out what's going on," the Sergeant whispered to his companion, expecting the company of soldiers to react.
"We're go over to the other side of this little finger we're sitting on," the Sergeant said. "They might buy the bluff that we are spread out along this ridge. We'll pick at em from there. Keep your eyes and ears open."
The Sergeant moved first and took up a position fifty feet to the left of his previous firing point. Viper followed.
Behind the dike an NCO raised his head above the mud wall. He tried to locate his enemy's position in the silence that now met his ears. Wondering if the attackers had gone, he slowly stood. Lifting his leg to step onto the dike, he suddenly bounded back and crashed into the thick grass. The fatal crack of another rifle shot echoed through Elephant Valley.
On the right and left ends of the dike eight frightened soldiers leaped to their feet, set their rifles into action, and charged toward the mountain's tree covered base and their enemy.
"Here they come."
The Sergeant answered with a shot that dropped one soldier and his companion replied with a crack that dropped another. The Sergeant worked his rifle's bolt so rapidly that his fire kept pace with Viper, whose bolt operated automatically.
After they had downed six men, the charge stopped, the last two retreated toward the dike but were shot before they reached it. The enemy was firing wild.
At that moment, one of the North Vietnamese officers scrambled to his feet and ran toward the river which was five hundred yards behind the company. After he had gone fifty yards he leaped into a flooded rice field. His movement sent echo's across the valley as he splashed trying to make his way through the paddies. Just as he was about to disappear in the fog a rifle shot cracked from the tree line and he fell on his face by the force of the .30-caliber bullet.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 5:59:02 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:44 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 7</span>

Now none of the frightened soldiers moved, for they saw that cowardice or valor received equal treatment from the snipers.
The two snipers crept cautiously and silently around the curving base of Dong Den mountain hoping to expose the NVA's left flank. After three hundred yards they encountered a tiger resting in the shade. They decided it would be better to go around her so the move took the pair more than two hours to complete. They were use to seeing unusual animals in the jungle like tigers, tons of different types of snakes, monkeys, parrots, lizards, frogs and more types of insects than you can imagine.
The sun climbed in the sky clearing away the morning's fog. It revealed a blue sky with scattered white clouds that towered above the mountains. In the distance a wall that looked like nothing less that a Tsunami was rolling toward them but as the cloud came into clear view it turned out to only be newly hatched Butterflies, thousands of them.
"You definitely see some strange things here that you would never normally see, Viper said."
"Your right about that. I've seen a lot of unusual things since I got here."
By mid afternoon the towering clouds changed from white to dark with black bottoms that flashed lightning and rumbled thunder down the Cade River and through Elephant Valley.
The two snipers listened to the rumble of the approaching storm. They caught the refreshing scent of rain. The first few drops of rain fell on the leaves that hid the two snipers. They continued to watch the short mud dike where the North Vietnamese soldiers awaited the night and the possibility of escape.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 5:59:34 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:44 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 8</span>

The afternoon wore on and the snipers took turns, one resting while the other continued to observe the dike. The enemy had remained still and quiet for more than seven hours. It was clear that they were disoriented without their Officers so the snipers knew they held the upper hand for now.
With each passing hour the Communist soldiers situation became more desperate. They lay unshaded and baking in the midday heat. Their water supply was quickly being consumed. They impatiently watched the thunder shower's sweep down Dong Den and wished that it would hurry toward them.
In the shade where the two snipers lay hidden, alternating shifts of observing and resting, the heat also rose, raising sweat on both men. The Sergeant took a slow sip from his canteen, "Those guys have got to be miserable out there cooking under that sun. It's way over ninety degrees here in the shade so it's has to be close to a hundred out there in the sun."
"Think they'll make a move one way or another with this storm blowing in on us?"
Not unless it gives them enough of a screen. They might make a run for it then." He capped the canteen and looked down at the long line of the dike. "My guess is after dark. We'll let them try to slip out and then catch them with arty flares, light up the bad guys."
"Rain would feel good" Viper said, wiping sweat off his head. "These few little drops just make you wish it would hurray up and turn loose."
"Think of what it's doing to them," the Sergeant said.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 6:00:07 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:45 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 9</span>

On Hill 55, an assistant operations officer dropped a stack of yellow message slips on the intelligence chief's field desk. The gunnery sergeant took the stack and glanced through the first few until he saw the snipers report.
"What's going on with my best two men?" he asked the young lieutenant.
"They reported contact this morning and asked for illumination rounds on call through the night. They say they have a sizable NVA unit pinned behind a paddy dike in Elephant Valley. Division wants to wait and see what develops."
"What's Division going to do if the NVA decide to overrun our boys?"
They have units ready to move by chopper. They can be in there in less than an hour. I think Division wants to see if the enemy goes in to pull their men out of the fire and then they'll hit em."
"You think those two can hold for an hour if they're stormed?"
"No. But I don't think they'll storm those two, they probably have the enemy scared half to death."

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 6:00:41 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:46 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 10</span>

Rain partially obscured the valley but it did not provide the cover that the pinned NVA soldiers had hoped for. The two snipers lay still and watched heads pop above the dike and quickly drop back down.
"The bad guys are getting ready to move," the Sergeant whispered. "Sun's going fast and I'll bet they make a run for the trees or even them hooch's down the valley soon as it's dark. Just hope those artillery boys give us the flares when we need em."
Viper nodded and put his binoculars back up to his eyes. The Sargent slowly moved his rifle scope along the paddy dike, watching and waiting.
The afternoon showers faded and left the sky orange above the western mountains as the sun set behind them. Long shadows from the high peaks crossed Elephant Valley and as darkness descended the two snipers watched for movement emerging from behind the dike.
"I can't see a thing" Viper said, dropping the binoculars from his eyes.
"Call in an ilium"
Humid air hung through the dark valley and only water dripping from the jungle's leaves and the normal jungle chatter offered any sound for the two snipers to hear.
High overhead a muffled bang echoed and like a miniature sun dangling beneath a small parachute the illumination round exposed the NVA soldiers nearly one hundred yards from the dike moving eastward down the valley toward a group of huts that was one thousand yards away.
Without a word both snipers rifles fired on the line of men who ran toward the huts.
"Turn em back. Concentrate the fire at the head of their column."
As quickly as he could squeeze the trigger Viper fired on the fleeing men. The Sergeant fired as rapidly as he could work his rifle's bolt.
One after another the soldiers at the front of the column fell. The rest of the company ran back to the dike leaving their fallen comrades behind them.
"Well, I guess they won't try that again for a while" Viper said.
"Don't count on it. If I were them I'd make a run for it right now."
A second illumination round burst overhead lighting the valley with its eerie glow, showing no movement.
"Those guys are just plain too scared to move. I don't think they're going anywhere."
"Let's give em some time and see what they try. Tell them to hold the illumes for a few minutes. Maybe they'll make another run for it."
The two snipers lay quietly in the dark listening to the sounds of the jungle. Croaking gecko lizards and small tree frogs chirped, echoing sounds through the jungle.
Down below in the rice paddies of the valley they could hear only a deep silence, but as soon as they called for another flare it exposed a squad sized group dashing for the huts that were just beyond the trees, east of the dike.
Don't let em get to those huts. We'll lose them in the trees and they'll be on us in no time."
Both Marines fired as rapidly as their rifles could chamber rounds. The running NVA soldiers dropped to the ground and began returning fire.
"Tell that battery to keep the illumes coming. We can't let it get dark or we're dead meat."
The soldiers who remained behind the wall now joined in shooting toward the muzzle flashes that gave away the Marines position.
"Concentrate on those men out in the open. Well aimed shots don't waste your fire," the Sergeant said as he joined the battle.
The Sergeant laid his cross hairs on one prone NVA soldier after another and squeezed the trigger, killing a man each time.
Viper shifted his fire to the NVA company's main body which now appeared to be charging over the dike. "They're coming at us!"
The Sergeant turned his rifle on the charging company and began dropping a soldier with each shot.
"If they don't give up we're going over the ridge and up the draw and let them have this place" pumping his bolt back and forth as rapidly as he could shoot.
"I'm ready any time you are."
But just at that moment the attack stopped and the soldiers who were left dashed toward the dike.
The Sergeant turned his scope to the right of the dike where the escaping squad had moved to.
"I don't see any movement out there. If anyone made it he got to that hooch down yonder. We better watch our backsides real close from here on out."
The night passed. The Marines lay listening for any sound that might mean enemy movement. Under the dim light of the illumes they took potshots at any enemy soldiers whose heads popped up.
"You reckon we ought to call in the cavalry? We've been hammering those guys nearly twenty four hours. Sun will be up in an hour"
"I'll wait till we run out of lead or Division sends in troops. We can hold here awhile. We have them scared and disoriented."
The sun rose and the two men began rest cycles, one watched while the other napped. Throughout the second day the North Vietnamese stayed behind their mud wall. During the twelve hours of daylight the snipers fired three shots, merely letting the enemy know that nothing had changed.
The first illumination rounds came at sunset and lit the valley at intervals throughout the night. This small battle had reached a stand-off. For the two Marines time meant little. They took turns shooting and resting, eating their rations of cheese, peanut butter, jelly and John Wayne crackers (large round crackers packed in C-ration cans). They felt confident and completely in control.
They lay in the shade with water and food, while the enemy starved in the sun and exhausted what little water remained to them. Yet the NVA continued to wait.
The third day began as the second had and followed through to the fourth without change. The Sergeant knew that unless something happened he and his partner would move out on the afternoon of the fifth day and leave the NVA company to a sweep team.
He rested against a tree trunk and spread cheese on a cracker. Viper lay behind his sniper rifle staring through the scope, slowly moving it along the length of the dike.
Without lifting his eye from the rifle scope Viper said "If they don't try something tonight what are we going to do tomorrow?"
"We need to be moving out of here by ten o'clock, no matter what. We'll signal the sweep team at about nine thirty. One way or another those soldiers are going to get some relief tomorrow."
Viper chuckled. "Too bad we won't be around to watch the round-up, should be good."
He closed his eyes and caught up on his sleep.
The Sergeant lay behind the sniper rifle and scanned the short dike with the weapon's telescopic sight. He searched for a target to shoot that would remind the NVA that he remained their adversary, ready for whatever the night might bring.
As the afternoon wore toward evening the sky turned hazy. By the time the sun set forty five degrees above the horizon, the hazy sky had turned gray with thick clouds that threatened rain.
"Sun's going fast and it looks like rain," the Sergeant said.
"Yeah we'll probably get wet about midnight or so," Viper said, opening his eyes and raising on his elbows. "Those clouds will make watching Charlie a lot tougher. Light from the illumes won't break through the clouds until they're right down on top of us."
"Some just might slip through the crack tonight. We have to stay on our toes. At this stage of the game the tables could turn real easy. Just about the time we start thinking we got em whipped they could wipe us out. Those boys are getting more and more desperate the longer we sit on em. I think that if somebody was going to rescue them they would have been here by now and I think they realize that too, plus they're probably running a mite short on food and real short on water. The bad guys are at the point where they have to do something and they know it. We ain't got a whole lot left either. Our food is running short and the way we been taking pot shots the past four days our ammo won't stretch a whole lot further."
The two snipers waited for the sun to disappear behind the mountains and usher in their final and darkest night in Elephant Valley.
Behind the low dike, fewer than one hundred bewildered and desperate soldiers of the NVA company remained. They continued to huddle and wait behind the protective wall.
The youthful soldiers who sang songs of triumph as they marched through Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail now finalized their plans for one last desperate act. They too watched the overcast sky grow dark and knew that the heavy cloud cover gave them a greater chance for escape.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 6:01:25 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:47 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 11</span>

"It's starting to smell like crap out there" Viper said, after catching a whiff of the breeze that drifted across the valley. "They're gonna have a hell of a time sneaking through the dark smelling like that."
"I know. It's gotten worse today. I think a bunch of them may have a bad case of the squirts, being stuck down there for so long. And they can't have much water left if they got any at all. With diarrhea on top of the effects of cooking out there in the sun dehydration is gonna start taking its toll on em."
The sun was setting over the western mountain tops as a platoon of weary men crouched at the eastern end of the dike, hoping to make a run in the twilight ahead of the nightly barrage of illumination rounds.
The two Marines watched as the dike faded from view.
"There's something moving" the Sergeant whispered as he shifted his rifle scope reticle onto a dark lump that appeared to the right of the wall. He had already called the artillery battery to request flares.
Viper put his binoculars to his eyes and saw the motion.
"It's too dark to be sure of my shot, I can barely pick up my cross hairs. Where's those flares?"
High overhead three muffled pops echoed through the valley and three bright spots appeared in the clouds.
"They're running" and just as he spoke the Sergeant's rifle broke the silence with a shot that sent the cluster of dark shadows rushing across the open terrain.
"Shoot they're getting away!" the Sergeant said as he rapidly drew his rifle's bolt back, ejecting a smoking brass casing. As he shoved the bolt forward, chambering a second round Vipers rifle began to pop and flash in the darkness.
"I can barely see em, we need more light."
"Just shoot into the crowd. Those illumes will brighten up pretty quick once they drift to the bottom of these clouds."
Three muffled pops ignited more illumination rounds. As the glowing flares swinging beneath small parachutes flooded light across Elephant Valley the soldiers who remained behind the mud wall sprayed a hail of bullets at the tree line, hoping to suppress the snipers fire and allow their comrades to reach the huts. Once there they would set up a second base of suppression fire allowing the men behind the dike to follow them.
Behind the thick brush and fallen timber the two Marines continued their assault on the fleeing platoon. They had already shot the first few leaders of the escaping band and now midway between the mud dike and the huts the remaining troops fell into prone positions in the dried out rice paddies and began shooting back.
Those guys gonna lay there?" Viper asked. Both snipers dropped their heads behind the upper edge of the log that they had used as a bench rest for their rifles. Above them hundreds of bullets whizzed by making cracking sounds as they struck the leaves and branches along the tree line.
"I reckon. I suppose we're gonna have to pick at em down there until they decide to go back to the dike."
"Reckon we ought to radio operations and tell them what's happening?"
"Let's give Charlie a chance to regroup behind the dike. I'd rather wait until daylight before we drop our people in on them. We would stand a better chance of sweeping them out with fewer casualties."
Placing his rifle on the log the Sergeant put his eye to the scope and fired another carefully placed round.
Above the firefight more flares burned their way through the clouds. The two Marines continued picking at the platoon of soldiers who hugged the earth. The Marines were connecting with one shot in four and now once again the North Vietnamese rushed back to cover.
Huddled behind the dike a second platoon of soldiers crouched ready to run. They counted on their comrades to provide a more effective suppression fire this time.
At exactly the same time as more illumination rounds exploded in the clouds the NVA opened a hail of fire that struck much lower in the trees and sent dirt flying from the deadwood behind which the snipers lay hidden.
"We're gonna move out of here and take up positions higher up the hillside and on down toward those huts so that we got those boys running right down our barrels. Let's turn them back behind that wall and then scoot."
Both Marines began firing at the east end of the dike, daring anyone to venture past its corner.
The hail of fire began to concentrate into the dead tree and tangle of brush, yet the two Marines continued to pop the end of the dike with single shots that kept the waiting platoon sitting in place.
"Let's go," the Sergeant said and began to low crawl from behind the log barrier and through the vines and thickets that lined the hillside.
Viper continued shooting until his partner reached a sheltered point where he opened fire and allowed Viper to move away from the cover that now attracted the majority of enemy bullets.
As the two Marines made their way to a small ridge that jutted out ahead of the group of mud and straw huts the desperate platoon emerged from behind the dike and began running toward them.
The Sergeant sat cross legged behind a tree fifty feet away from his partner and opened fire. Viper hurried past him and crawled into a sinkhole surrounded by roots and brush, covered with vines. He laid his riffle across the mound and fired.
The Sergeant swiftly crawled to a small rise and lay behind it, resting his rifle across its top and aiming at the soldiers who now ran through his field of fire at a forty five degree angle toward him.
His first shot sent the lead soldier tumbling head over heels.
A second soldier fell to his knees at the screaming man's side and another round went straight through the man's chest, reeling him backward.
Realizing that they now ran directly into a new field of fire the remaining NVA soldiers turned and retreated to the dike.
"You OK?"
"Let's move over to that ridge."
Quietly the two snipers crept through the jungle to a hump on the ridge and settled behind it. They looked at the dike surrounded by open terrain and at the small mud and grass huts to their right.
"Let me see your map" the Sergeant said. "If I'm not mistaken these are the same huts that we have marked as on call targets for the artillery battery."
"You're right Sarg. We gave them these huts here and the set of huts around the bend to the west as primary targets. They should have these spots marked."
"If what I have in mind works, we'll send most of the rest of these boys back to Hanoi in pieces. We're gonna let them eventually reach these huts...just about daylight. We'll defend these huts for now. Later on we'll move up this ridge and go back over to where we first caught these boys on the march, but just a little higher up on the slope. We'll start hammering on em and let them see that we moved to the opposite end from the huts. Once they start out we'll have the arty hit our on call targets while we do a disappearing act."
"What about the sweep team?"
"We have to call operations and ask them to move up their timetable a couple of hours. We'll leave the sweep team a real easy operation, once we're done."
By midnight the NVA had made a fourth push toward the group of huts and each time lost men. Each time they turned back the two Marines ceased fire, encouraging the retreat.
For three hours after midnight neither side fired a shot. And, for three hours after midnight a drizzle soaked Elephant Valley and the men who lay imprisoned behind the mud wall as well as their captors. Other than the drip of the light rain only the sound of the Cade's rushing water and the intermittent popping of the illumination rounds overhead broke Elephant Valley's silence.
Both snipers lay quiet, their rifles trained at the end of the dike now nearest to them. Nothing but stillness met their eyes as they watched the low mud wall through the night.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/24/2007 9:35:26 AM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:48 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 12</span>

"Yeah," came his quiet reply.
"Let's get ready for the big adios. It's just past four o'clock and I'll bet the bad guys are sleeping. When we get to the other end, we'll wake em up."
Slowly and silently the two Marines crept up the ridge and edged across the lower face of Dong Den.
Two hours later they reached the ridge that overlooked the western end of the paddy dike. They slipped through the thick vines and brush, hardly making a sound as they pushed themselves up to a place where the ground leveled off. Carefully they pulled a thick branch from one side and bench rested the rifles across it focusing their scopes on the west end of the mud wall.
The Sergeant looked at his watch and offered a thumbs up sign. His partner smiled back and taking the handset he called the artillery battery, warning them to ready their guns for the fire mission.
The Sergeant looked at the thick black clouds that hid the sunrise and allowed only dim gray light to usher a new day into Elephant Valley. He hoped that the clouds were high enough to allow helicopters to land the sweep team into the eastern end of the valley near the tree line.
He pointed at the sky and shrugged at his partner.
Viper acknowledged the signal and radioed the sweep team which now sat mustered in the landing zone south of Dong Den with their three CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters prepared for takeoff.
He glanced back and put his thumb straight up.
His partner was busy sighting down his scope at the corner of the west end of the low dike and sent a round whining toward the river after it ricocheted at a right angle off the wall. Moving his scope along the dike he found a tuft of black protruding from behind. One of the soldiers attempted to peek over the top and locate the snipers position. He took a deep breath and held it, bringing his scope's reticle on the black tuft. Slowly he tightened his grip around the small of the rifle stock and began squeezing the trigger.
The young Marine winced as the bullet struck the soldier's skull, showering the young NVA troops who huddled beside him. The sudden bloody shower sent a dozen soldiers scurrying down the wall toward the eastern end and he followed them with three shots from his own rifle.
The Sergeant shot once more and sent two soldiers dashing from the dike's east end toward the distant huts. Both snipers concentrated their fire toward the middle section of the wall as more of the soldiers saw the escape unfolding and followed their brothers lead.
"Call the artillery"
Viper called the fire mission instructing the battery to fire for effect.
"Let's go."
Both men moved quickly up the ridge and began their trek around Dong Den to their rendezvous with the patrol that would take them back to the fire base and their helicopter ride home.

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 6:03:17 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:48 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 13</span>

The two Marines walked up Hill 55 toward the operations tent.
"You two look like hell!" the stocky intelligence chief called out to the pair. Between laughs he said, "The word's out on you two, all the way up to the top dog. Pinning down those NVA like that. What were they a Boy Scout troop?"
"Durn near I suppose," the Sergeant responded. "Their big mistake was walking smack down the middle of that valley. I was going to watch the other side of the river where that opening runs between the hills at the big turn. I had that all staked out to catch a patrol crossing there. When these characters come marching down the middle of the valley on my side just like they didn't have a care in the world, I knew I had them. But one thing that I can't figure out is why didn't they move out at night. All they had to do was run out to the river and jump in. I couldn't have gotten more than a dozen of them like that. They kept going for those huts that sit on the east end of the bend, you know, just out of the trees where that ridge runs down into the valley. I let that work in my favor when we had to pull out. We called in the fire mission and dropped over the ridge. We never saw what happened but I know plenty of artillery dusted them at those huts if the rounds were on target."
The gunny put his arm over the Sergeants shoulder and said "Come on in my tent. We'll debrief and I'll tell you about the artillery mission."
"What about that artillery."
The gunny chuckled and said, "You boys were real smart getting out before the shells hit all over that valley. You probably would have taken a few. When your partner here radioed for the fire mission and said 'fire for effect' they did. Those cannon cockers opened up with every gun they had and hit every one of your on call targets at both ends of the valley...and everything in between, too. By the time the shooting stopped and the sweep team got in there that NVA company had scattered over every mountain around that valley and they may still be running. The sweep team picked up one prisoner. And nobody can make heads or tails of any kind of body count out there."
"What did the prisoner have to say?"
"Well that company was suppose to join up with an NVA battalion that was waiting for them on the north side of Elephant Valley. By the way you killed their captain right out of the gate. We have encountered that particular battalion before so they needed these guys bad. But not bad enough to come down and face whatever it was that had them pinned. That NVA prisoner said that they had no idea what in hell they face up on that hillside, but whatever it was, it was deadly."

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 6:03:56 PM

Post Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:49 pm

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Page 14</span>

The two Marines walked away from the buzzing command tent toward their own tent where they would clean their gear, then themselves and get some rest. The Sergeant looked at his partner and rubbed his finger down the young Marine's cheek where sweat had washed white streaks through the light and dark green camouflage greasepaint that both snipers had caked on their skin. He shook his head and then said, "Come on let's get cleaned up, you never know when something strange is going to happen around here."

Edited by - bakedpotato on 4/23/2007 6:07:16 PM

Post Fri Sep 17, 2004 10:46 am

Now thats and outstanding read Baked - I really enjoyed reading that.


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