The Sixth Man

Copyright 2002: Rigo Ordaz. All rights reserved. (Copy permission at bottom)

Webmaster's Introduction
Many stories change a name to protect the innocent- in this story a name has been changed to protect the guilty. Many people who have survived combat have learned to see and hear and feel things that ordinary people don't. Quite literallly, combat helps them develop almost a sixth sense. But sometimes in the aftermath of combat, even some of the normal five senses can pose a problem, as former Squad Leader Rigo Ordaz explains in this war story, which could have been called "The Sixth Scent."

I was getting short in my tour of duty in Nam when my platoon got night base security duty at LZ Schueller on 14 Sept. 1968. I got my squad together and scheduled the night guard duty.

I was busy with routine stuff when along comes Joe (not real name) with a bottle of good whiskey and ice cold beer. Now Joe, who was not in my squad, was well known in the company as the man who could find ice cold beer in the middle of the desert. Nobody knew how he did it, nor did we care, but obviously he had good connections.

A group of us got together and partied, as best as we could under the circumstances. Most of our conversations gyrated around previous battles or where someone had gone on R&R, or what we would do when we got back to the "World". Around midnight I went back to my track to check on the guard and to catch some Zs before my guard time which would be around 0400. Some of the guys stayed there and got plastered, including Joe. Finally they also went to sleep.

Earlier I had buttoned up, in other words, I put the sixties (M60 machine guns) on either side of the APC and closed the driver's and the cargo hatch on top. Only the fifty (.50 cal machine gun) hatch remained open with the guy on guard. I had just finished closing up when a new platoon sergeant came by and ordered me to open the hatch and put the sixties back, which I did.

A little past 0100 (1 am) we got a barrage of 82mm mortars. One landed right on top of my APC destroying a sixty and was a few inches from coming inside the track. I consider myself very lucky and/or someone up there was taking care of me because I was lying right there under the open hatch.

I woke up startled .thinking I was in hell. I could hear someone yelling very far away not to go outside. The guy was a few feet away. My hearing was shot, had some shrapnel wounds in my chest and leg and a small piece perforated my ear drum. I went outside anyway and regained my composure. I called the Lt. that we had some wounded. He directed me to collect all the wounded from the tracks and to take them to the road (Hwy 19) just outside the perimeter where the Dustoff would land.

I went from track to track and collected all the wounded. Out of all the wounded Joe seemed the worst and some of the guys had to carry him to the chopper. We climbed on and Joe was lying on the floor. Midway between Schueller and the 17 Field Hospital at An Khe, I got a whiff of a stench and figured we were passing by a stinky rice paddy.

Once we landed at An Khe, the medics rushed to the chopper and took Joe, who seemed to be the worst wounded, in a litter and whisked him away. The rest of us hopped, wobbled, and dragged ourselves to the hospital.

The doctors started working on us. We heard a lot of yelling and we figured Joe was in a lot of pain.

The doctors frantically began cutting Joe's pants to get to his wound. The doctors were surprised to find, not a wound, but that Joe had an involuntary bowel movement all over him.

It seems that Joe had gone to sleep on the floor of the APC boucoup dinky dau (drunk) and in the scuffle when the mortars hit, he was stepped on his face and body by several in his squad. He thought he was wounded badly.

To make things worse, Joe, still drunk, started yelling and fighting with the doctors and nurses. He was yelling that he didn't want any medals. The First Sgt. whisked him away before they threw him in jail.

The official report says that there were 5 wounded that night. Nothing is said about the sixth man evacuated, and he got his wish about not getting a medal.

He was later seen driving a jeep, with a new haircut, spit shined boots and starched fatigues. He had been transferred to base camp duty at An Khe.

I am sure he was well behaved from then on, but that night he put up a big stink.


© Rigo Ordaz, 2002-2005. All Rights reserved.

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