Listening Post by Bill Kelly

LP Bo Tuc, Vietnam December 18-19, 1967

It was a hot night and I could feel the sweat running down my back as the mosquitoes buzzed around my face. The base camp needed Listening Post positions set up out side the perimeter to warn if any hostile forces were approaching. I had volunteered to take this one out and I had a bad feeling that wouldn't go away. It had been dark now for about an hour. I had been waiting for orders to go, which I prayed would never come. I hated LP's like everyone else but felt that they were necessary and I was just taking my turn. We had been under fire earlier that day and just minutes ago two grenades had been launched into the camp and exploded overhead not far from us. Head Quarters had doubts about sending out the LP's because of earlier activity around the base. Finally the word came. Sgt. Babcock put hand on my shoulder and whispered Good Luck Kid, take your men out, see you tomorrow. As we moved out of the camp and into the tree line it became very dark. I strain my eyes to see, scanning around looking for the face of the enemy. The sounds in the jungle kept us on edge, and with every step we took, I thought it would be our last. I knew Charley was out there and just waiting for the right moment to open fire on us. After walking a long distance we came upon a clearing about 40 meters wide and about the length of a football field. There was a dried up water hole that made a 2 feet deep 8 foot circle just inside the tree line. This would be our home for the rest of the night. We set up a few claymore mines on the right and left side of our position just in case. The moon was bright and we had a perfect view of anything coming our way. My men and I tried to settle down for the night but everyone felt uneasy; and we did not sleep. It was now the early hours of the morning and we were tired. As I closed my eyes and started drifting off; I woke in terror to what sounded like 50 to 80 motors rounds being launched all at the same time. I realized what was happening and we prepared for the worst. Minutes later we could see movement on the other side of the tree line and then 75 to100 NVA and VC soldiers came into view. I could hear them talking and orders being given on how to attack. I told my men "do not fire" until they are right on top of us, don't give away our position. The NVA had no idea that we where there. I then grabbed the radio and called the CP and informed them of our situation and the enemy forces that were headed their way. As we watched; they seemed to be starring back at us, but it was dark and we were too deep in the tree line for them to have seen us . Then 6 or more NVA soldiers moved into the opening; pointed RPG rocket launchers in our direction and fired . It scared the hell of me as the rockets flew overhead and then hit in the camp behind us. I radioed the CP and gave them our location and ask for fire support. I was told we would be linked up to Artillery Support and a marking round was on its way. I would have to make the call on where I wanted the rounds dropped. Also Air Support was on it's way because a large enemy force had been spotted by scouting helicopters. Off in the distance I could see a couple of choppers flying and being chased by a steady trail of tracer rounds coming up from the jungle. The moon was still shining bright and I could now see more NVA soldiers headed our way. Then the artillery marking round hit, way too far away I whispered into the handset of the radio, drop 100 meters. Still too far away drop 100 meters, drop 50, again drop 50, drop 50 more!!! The artillery rounds were getting close but the NVA soldiers were getting closer too and would be on top of us any minute. I knew our chances of making it out of this alive was very slim and we would die fighting before allowing ourselves to be captured. Suddenly it sounded like the end had come for us all, with shrapnel, trees, bodies flying all over the damn place. I yelled in the radio handset to "KEEP UP THE FIRE", they're all over us!!! NVA soldiers where running on the left and right of our position, we blew the claymores but no one fired a shot. The artillery was right on the money and the whole area was being blown to hell. The explosions were so great and so loud I didn't think anyone would survive including us . We where all doing a lot of praying to GOD that the NVA wouldn't spot us and our position wouldn't get hit by the incoming rounds. After the artillery finally stopped pounding the area, we waited for more NVA to move in . We were pretty shaken up by now and I knew it wasn't over. I radioed the CP of our situation and to napalm the tree line across from our position. I could hear a jet coming in fast and hard blasting away tearing up the jungle and then the night turn into day with a great explosion of fire that engulfed the whole area around us.. After the jet had finished napalming the area gun ships move in and took over blasting away. I radioed our situation in one more time which would be my last report. I was given a choice by the C.O. to bring my men in or stay put till day break. Realizing that the enemy forces were between us and the base camp I decided that we would stick it out. It was not what my guys wanted to hear but these brave soldiers knew I had made the right decision, at least I had hoped so. The area didn't look the same anymore. Dirt and smoke filled the air with small fires burning all over, it was hard to breath. All during the night I could hear the enemy talking and whispering. Bodies where laying all over and some barely alive that moaned through out the night. Our contact with the base camp had ceased, the radio had been damaged in the fight. We were now completely on our own, cut off from the base. I had no idea what was going to happen next. Some small arms fire was still going on back toward the camp but nothing to compare to fire fight that I heard earlier. There was still some enemy movement throughout the night. I could see dark figures moving around and it sounded like they were picking up their dead. It seemed like an eternity but day break did finally come and we where still alive. We where preparing to head back to camp when I heard movement behind us. We turned around ready to open fire. I couldn't believe my eyes but it was Sgt. Cochran and Sgt. Babcock with a bunch of bad ass Manchus coming out to get us or..... to pick up the pieces. We were pretty damn happy see their faces. They were surprised to find us alive since we had lost radio contact. As we made our way back to the base camp there was plenty evidence of the battle. A lot things were going through my mind as I looked around. I thanked GOD for getting us through that night and one of the most terrible battles the Manchus would encounter. I am proud to say that I served with these brave young men of "The Manchus."


Bill Kelly, Delta Company, 1967-1968