2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment 1967-68

Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) Bravo Company, 2nd Bn, 8th Cav Regt. 1st Cavalry Division Bravo, 2-8th Cav - Co B, 2-8th Cav Regt. - B Co, 2-8 Cav Co B, 2/8 Cav Regt. - Co B, 2-8 Cav, 1st Cav Div - B/2-8, 1st Cavalry Div - B 2/8, 1st Cav Div

A War Story

I love sharing old war stories with old war buddies. Who else can you tell a war story to and get the reaction only an old war horse can give you?

Many of the “real” war stories are not only about fear, horror and pain, but also accounts of failure, despair and riddled with clumsy attempts in doing one’s duty. When you tell such a story to an old combat vet, their reaction is pretty much the same every time. He starts to laugh and he does this not because he is making fun of you or making light of your ordeal, but because he can relate. He has been there and he understands that firefights are often confused and bloody, and things don’t go smoothly or according to plan.

The following story about throwing a hand grenade during a firefight is a prime example of this. When a recruit learns to throw a grenade at a training range it seems like a very straight forward task and it is - you pull the pin and throw the grenade away. But there are many other factors involved when in the heat of battle you throw a grenade against enemy soldiers located a few meters from your position. For instance, the time fuse of the M-61 hand grenade is between four and five seconds and this is always a very, very long time when you lob a grenade in close combat.

During the summer of 1968, I was walking point for Aztec on a mountainous jungle trail and in an area infested with highly trained NVA soldiers near LZ Carol. As we advanced up the trail, I came upon a huge rock that stuck out of the ground next to the trail. Just as I reached this rock, word was passed up the company line for us to stop where we were. Following our standard operating procedures, I checked the area on the right side of this large rock to make sure it was clear of enemy soldiers and then stepped back on the trail. At the same time the trooper who was immediately behind me moved to the left of this rock to make a similar check. While doing this he leaned his M16 against the face of the rock and peaked around the left side. He returned quickly to the front of the rock with a terror-stricken look on his face and immediately made eyeball contact with me and whispered “Gook”, meaning enemy soldier.

I gave the danger signal to those behind me and in less than a second all of Bravo Company had moved off the trail and occupied concealed positions on both sides of the trail. At this point my emotions became very mixed and my actions were automatic responses of my military training. Although I felt very alone in the jungle, my brain was telling my feet to quickly find a protected position and one not too close to the large rock. So I took five or six giant steps back towards the rest of the company and threw myself down behind a tree. As the tree was not very large and only provided limited protection, my immediate thoughts were “how can I make myself smaller”. At the same time I glanced towards the rock and to my horror my buddy is still in the position behind the rock and there is an enemy AK-47 protruding at the top of the rock and aimed in my direction.

The enemy started firing and I quickly returned the fire, first using automatic and then single shots to keep him pinned down. The enemy AK-47 disappeared behind the rock and I signaled to my buddy to throw a grenade over the rock. He pulled the pin and tossed it what looked to be straight into the air. Now everything is in slow motion and yet it all took less than four seconds.

The grenade went straight up about ten feet above the rock and then straight down. By now I was feeling very responsible and firmly convinced that it is going to fall and detonate on our side of the rock and kill my buddy. It was a great relief to see that the grenade landed on top of the rock, but the danger was certainly not over because it bounced and spun on top of the rock in what seemed like an endless period of time. To me it resembled that dance of death that a squirrel does when he runs out in front of your car, back and forth with the “can’t make up my mind“ mentality. The pucker factor went down several notches when the grenade finally dropped on the other side of the rock and exploded. After the grenade detonated other Aztec member flanked the area to insure the area was clear. At the same time, my buddy asked if he should throw another grenade and I answered “NO” in very precise military slang.

Prepared by Bob Hall




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