A soldier’s story


The 10 helicopters carrying 60 infantrymen landed in a relatively clear area; a few small trees, high grass and scrub brush for as far as you could see. Within 10 minutes we were under enemy machine gun fire.

Our company hadn’t formed up to begin the operation, so troops were still scattered about. Klemme and I ended up behind a mound of dirt. The machine gun fire was coming from a distant bunker and nobody had been hit. Word spread that air support was called, so relax until it came.

The FAC (forward air controller) arrived in his small propeller plane and circled until the jet arrived. He then dove to mark the bunker with a white smoke rocket. Word was shouted to ‘pop smoke’. All infantry carry smoke grenades and you mark your position on the ground by pulling the pin and rolling the coke can sized grenade a few feet away. The fuse is instantaneous and smoke starts blowing out. Use any color but white, white is used to mark the target. The pilot can see where friendly positions are by the colored smoke and where his target is by the white smoke.

The jet circled, came in directly over Klemme and me, didn’t drop the bomb, but banked to begin a second run. The ‘coming to Jesus’ moment struck me. You mark your positions on the ground so the pilot can make his bombing run parallel to them. If there’s a short drop, no friendlies are killed. We were so scattered he was making his run as parallel as possible and it was right over Klemme and me. Not only that, but he was dropping into a tight position or why make a practice run under fire? He completed his bank and began the bombing run, no more than 100 feet (maybe less) off the ground and straight at us.

My back against the mound, bullets from the bunker whipping over the top of it seeking the jet, the bomb was released. I could see the bomb stabilizers pop out from the back of the bomb (they’re used to slow the bomb so the jet is away when it hits and explodes). The jet roared over and I yelled, “He dropped it too soon, it’s going to hit us.” I noticed later my helmet band was stuffed with grass. Evidently, as all this was happening, I was camouflaging myself against a 500 pound. bomb. As the bomb arrived overhead I closed my eyes. I heard the swoosh and swear had I raised my hand it would have brushed it.

The bomb exploded, the ground shook and word was passed that the machine gunner was no more. My confidence shakily returned as I stood up, looked in the direction of the once was bunker and yelled, “Take that you SOB.”

William Sirtola