Short story

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Short story

Postby tomfen » Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:29 pm

Crispy Critters

It must have been around July or August of ’68 when Fox Company received quite a few replacements. These FNG’s were nameless to most of the hardened Marines who had been living in the mud and humping the hills and valleys of Quang Tri Province.

Three new guys were assigned to third squad and I did my best to brief them and spread them through the 12 man squad. The acclimation process is most important, life or death as a matter of fact—and not just theirs. Those who have been there and lived the dream help the new men through explanation and example. At some point every ground-pounder had someone show him the ropes.

The platoon received orders to ascend a hill that only an hour before had been targeted by jet aircraft using napalm. We moved cautiously upward toward the crest with the gasoline like smell of the napalm growing stronger with each step.

To the relief of all we encountered no resistance during the ascent or moving across the summit. We found bunkers though, plenty of bunkers and trenches. This was the kind of hill that was all too familiar. It had well constructed bunkers and fighting positions with intersecting fields of fire. Just the kind of place to walk into an ambush and have the lead squad slaughtered. We were fortunate that a spotter plane saw activity and ordered the air strike.

As we moved across the hilltop we could feel the heat from the scorched terrain penetrating our jungle boots. That, combined with the smell of the napalm and the burnt flesh was too much for some of my squad. We found bodies of enemy soldiers that were caught in the napalm bombardment. They were fried black and some continued to smolder. There had to be a couple dozen all stiff and crispy. The salts were joking and calling them ‘crispy critters’ while the new guys were vomiting at the sight. I was just happy they were dead and not shooting at us.

The far end of the hill dropped off quickly and as we looked at the area below we could see many enemy troops running in the open. The whole platoon set up and opened up on the moving targets. I remember Bob Grigsby, our M-60 gunner firing and adjusting using his tracers as a guide. It was a turkey shoot.

This was a day to be savored because we had the opportunity to exact some revenge for previous hellish days and losses. It felt good.

I recently found out that Bob Grigsby died in 1974. He was only 26. I had looked for him for years. A fine man and great Marine. May he rest in peace. Tom F Fox, 67-68

Bob Grigsby
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