Scariest-Most Scared–More Scared than Any Other Time

Somebody was talking about when they were the most scared while in Vietnam. Not surprisingly, I have my own story…

Cherry’s to the 9th Infantry Div. all went through the “Old Reliable Academy”. That consisted of 5 days of mostly classes & a little live fire practice. That was topped-off by a real patrol and a all-niter.

Normally a walk in the park we were all kinda spooked being it was the end of TET ’68 and lots of clearing was still taking place. We hiked a few miles to a rubber plantation while the Lt. checked a couple of ID’s and put us on the ground several times. I’d heard that the Army paid the plantation owner cash for using it and he paid charles to leave the place alone. I thought that deal was a good one at the time.

We took up a night defensive position just off the main road (main dirt road). Dark found us all facing out like the spokes on a wheel. Every other guy was on watch for two hours. I started on and was able to stay awake by needing a cigarette worse than life itself. I woke the man on the right & slipped straight-off into sleep.

Just after I got to sleep a mortar round sailed into the trees off across the road. Scared everyone shitless of course. Not enough to keep me awake I drifted off soon after. I was never convinced that the Lt. didn’t have somebody lob one our way just for the hell of it.

Some time later, much more than 2 hours later, I woke with a bad case of piss pain….

Without a thought of anything but taking a leak I rolled back and to my knees ready to start the wet season.

It seems that most of us around the perimeter had succumbed to sleep. My sudden rustling of the dry grass brought the man to my left to instant wakefulness. In a single heartbeat I found the flash suppressor of his 16 deep in my belly. “Password”, he challenged, voice full of scared shitless backed by gunpowder.

I did remember the word and whispered it back into his dark face. I heard like a clap of thunder the first click of his safety going to “Manual”. Then, “O God in Heaven forgive me of my sins & please get me the hell-out-of-here!”, came the second click onto full auto. I don’t know what happened to the piss…reabsorbed on the instant, I guess.

“Password!!”, he demanded again in a harsh (I’m gonna have to shoot this dink SOB) voice.

I repeated the word twice quickly at him. At that exact moment I was scared worse than ever before or afterward, Vietnam or anywhere else. I vivid picture of 20 rounds plowing through my body in hot flame blasting guts, meat & bone out of my back was searing it’s way through my poor little brain.

Fortunately for me a young Buck Sgt. (yeah, Instant NCO) who knew the guy with the end-of-my-world-right-now thunder stick in his hand and told him to stand-down. He did, apologized to me, & went back to sleep!

I was scared so many times later and feared no less for my life but on the bar chart of fear it was all downhill after that moment. That was it, I didn’t know it yet but I had the worst fear behind me.

I have no idea what time that all happened but I slept not a wink the rest of the night. I lay there & heard all the peculiar sounds of war around us and watched the first of many lines of tracers weaving through the darkness. It was a beautiful dawn.


45th anniversary of my discharge. Processed-out at Ft. Lewis, WA after the long flight back from Nam. Main things I remember: All cadre at the proc. center wore masks ’cause we all stank and our breath could melt paint off walls. Took a hot shower & felt clean for the first time in recent memory. I had a pocket full of money and I ate a huge steak at the airport & 3 pieced of chocolate pie…all of which made me sick but satisfied.

I flew into OKC and when my mom grabbed me she was shaking uncontrollably. Driving through the big city to get out of town I thought how normal it looked…just like when I had left it. After I slept the clock around I discovered the world I had left was really gone. Then I had to start building a new life which in some ways was successful but in others I failed totally.

That long day seems like yesterday, yet, here I sit nearly a half century later. On other 8/8s I would lose my dad, I quit smoking finally on 8/8/84…and so many more incidents on 8/8 just because I noticed it on that day…this day…today.


Had a Cobra do a low-level high-speed fly over one day. The whops were few & far between. Heard it coming in time to enjoy it. That Cobra went by so fast…gave me chills up my back. If I remember correctly the top end on that gunship was around 165 kph.

We had an F105 do some close suppord on firebase Schroeder one night. He put some napalm on the woodline. It is amazing how that stuff first sucks your breath & then the heat…

We had an interesting talk the next day: When the 105 comes over @ tree level you just could not hear it coming. Only when it came over and the full blast hit you did you know what was up. Now the napalm drop took a few seconds to ignite/spread. We wondered whether the charlies had time, between the blast of the jet passing immediately over their heads and the time the napalm crisped them, to get really scared. We of course hoped they did, but that was just GI talk…