The Battle For The Saigon Bridge
The North Viet Namese desided to attack all major citys during tet 1968.Usually there was a truse,since both sides were buddish.I had arrived in December of 1967 and felt lucky to station in Saigon.Our outpost was at the end of the Saigon bridge.Military intelligence station,they looked at photos taken from me taking pictures with a 35mm camera in a single engine plane.
The bridge was one of main entrance from the north side.It was always guided by MP Viet Namese army.A ww2 Sherman tank and fifty caliber machine nest at the side.
In the mornings I would get a ride to the air port where a pilot would be waiting.The little plane looked tiny with all the gun ships around.He would have the area to be where the photos would be taken.
Captain Smith was a very thin 35 year old lifer.In the air it was like we buddies on the run way it was yes sir.
I arrived flax vest and forty five and three cameras with telephoto lenses.I don't know what gun was for maybe to shot myself rather being captured.
Lately we had been seeing a lot of movement of vc in the jungle.Once in a while they would take a shot at me.It use to make me mad I couldn't shot back.
I got out of the jeep and walk over to the plane where the captain was waiting.I saluted and got into the plane.January 30,1968.
We went about 20 miles out and I started taking pictures."Jesus cap you seeing what I'm seeing."there were hundreds of VC in the open running towards Saigon.
"Base this captain Smith theres a whole lot of VC coming to town to party and they are armed to the teeth."
little did we know that a lot of VC had already entered the city.These were main force along with north Viet Namese army soliders.Instead of jungle warfare they were coming as an army to the cities to raise hell and show they would never give up.
"Captain I got enough,lets get out of here."I shouted .
A couple of gunships came flying bye.The door gunners were firing their m60 machine guns into tree tops.
Up came a shoulder held rocket and blew one of choppers to pieces.The other gunship turned and shot rockets of its own down in the dense jungle.Explosions and fire and smoke.Our plane flew on through it,taking a few bullets to the wing.
We landed on air force base in Saigon.I jumped out and got into a jeep and drove myself to the front gate.I could hear rifle shots all over the place in the city.The Mp Stop me at the gate.
"You can't go out there all hell breaking loose."He leaned in and put his hand on chest.
"I got get this film to my base," I screamed.
"And wheres that!"
"Saigon bridge !"
"Good luck buddy."
I drove into the city.With three rolls of film and a forty five on my lap.
The city was dense 7 million lived there.The builders were mostly build out of concrete by French.CHolon the Chinese section of the city actually look like Paris with bricks and morter.
I kept my head down and drove a steady pace as not drawn attention.Which was stupid looking back now.As I heard shots being fired here and there.Sometimes like machine gun and other times with pistol fire.
Women and children were running for cover and the police waving me through enter sections with their pistol in hand.
Crack a bullet went through my windshield on the passengers side.
"Shit,"I shouted."Where that come from."
I press pedal to metal after that and almost went into an open sewer that ran along the road.Adjusting for the turn a little late.Just missed the ditch.I could smell raw soage.Thinking thank god I didn' t die in pile of shit.
When your scared out of your mind all kind of things pop into it.
Finally the compound was in site as well as the bridge.The tank was firing rounds to other side of the bridge.Helicopters came flying over head shoting rockets.A hand held rocket laucher came zooming across the river,hittting the tank at the bottom.Breaking treds on one side.a fire started at base of the bridge from the rocket.UP poped tank crew member firing the 50cal machine gun threw the fire.
I stopped I didn't know what to do.I wantd to join the fight but all I had was a pee shoter.The south Viet Namese fought bravely on with A rifle unit joining fight.
I snapped out of it and drove to the gate.
"Open up," I bellowed."Its me Harmon!"
Two MPS raised the crossing bar and drove in,
The compound was on full alert.All the office boys and intelligence people were on all four sides of the small base.Two buildings near the center were head quarters and intel readers.The other was for the paper work they generated.Two double decker barrarks near bridge side and a look out tower maned with a m60 machine gun.No combat troops here.But they were behind sand bags firing across the river.
I rushed into head quarters with the film.I dropped it off with the lab people and reported to Major Nelson.
He standing around a map of our area including the bridge."Well Harmon what you see,got a feel the number."
I pointed to an area I just came from.The main force is behind these guys get here by dark.There was so many they couldn't hide in the jungle."
"Well how many damn it!"
"Hundreds sir,I say hundreds.
He looked worried."Okay grab a rifle from supply and man the line."
"Yes sir."I turned went outside where all hell was breaking loose.A Cobra just came over firing its mini gun with empty shell raining down on me and some other soliders.The gun sounds like a fog horn.Huh huh.
I ran over to supply just a rocket came across and blew the top of the look out tower off.
The guy in the tower must have seen it coming because he got up off the floor and started firing the machine gun."You mother fuckers,I'll show you."He screamed firing so many bullets it looked like a lazer beam.Since every 7 shell is a tracer.
In supply was an old black sergeant.He was big as a house and attude like James Brown screw whitie.
"Hey give me a gun and some clips."
"Sure white boy just sign this paper next to this number.After the battle they'll be wanting these guns back for next stupid white boy.
"Come on Serg jesus why breaking my balls,I never own slaves."
"I'm funning with ya Stevie boy.What you want."
"I want m14.I'm an expert with that weapon.Damn m16 keeps jamming on me. When I took it to the range state side.
"Here you go boy and five clips,they come through front gate save bullet for yourself.They don't like white boys and specially black men."
I joined a group of office soliders at the banks of the Saigon River.Our fense next to the water was only six feet high.Sand bags pile as high and couple to stand on to look over the fense.
The river was fast moving and no swimmers could make it across and also the boa constricters that swim back and forth waiting for some fool to fall in.I called the biggest one uncle Sam.Of course it would eat us as well but we thought of him as one of ours.
A Koren War jet came and took roll pictures,
Small arms fire started shooting at the jet and it was flying low.We got up and started firing across the river and a large Chinese style heavy machine answered our volley.The just in front of the fense with some hitting area as well.Made us duck for cover.
Just then a couple of cobra gunships came in firing at area of heavy gun but a hand held rocket was there answer taking one of the cobra's blades out.It came crashing down at the foot of the bridge on our side.We poped our head to take a look and Viet Namese solider was taking the pilot out .BLoody but alive.
After that the other cobra shot every rocket mini gun bullet he had and silent the big gun.He turn to go back to the base.Then Morter rounds started coming into the base.There is nothing more scary.All you here is a whristling sound and when it stops that means its on it downward path.So is whistle passes you by you feel lucky but if you hear whistle then quick silent pray to your maker.Thats just what first one did.
"Hit the ground boys,"someone yelled.A solider down a little from me got hit screamed in pain as his right leg was bloody.A guy next to him yelled out for a medi pac and I through mine over.A bandage and morfine needle.A few minutes later the medic was there doing his thing and they took him off later.
THe men from rear must have come up because all of sudden lead was flight in like rain from hell."Hey I yelled out don't you know we just Military Intelligence boys we don't fight we send others to do that."
"They ain't listening Steve must be a language barrier!"answered another.
Then a c130 plane from ww2 came in and it had four mini guns installed ran by men through side open windows.HUH Huh,came there sound empty shells raining down.Trees on the other side were falling like Paul Bunyine was them chopping down.
The plane left after awhile and all was quiet but I knew they were not done.They didn't travel hundreds of miles to quiet that easy.Night fall was coming and another push to be sure.
We heard that many citys were being attacked at the sametime and down town Saigon was full of VC that had entered the city over the last few weeks causing trouble and the American embassy was raid for awhile they got them out.
I knew something was up because old blood and guts himself was out the headquarters armed with a drawn pistol.Wave people on "Get ready boys the word is coming expect an attack.He came walking up to my area."Can hit anything with that old thing or you want a new m16."
"I like this fine don't jam and shoots further."I replied.
"Think you can hit the bridge from here."
"Maybe not,"I'd have move closer.
"Well I expect you better just do that now solider."He walked away talking to other soliders .
I got up move closer to the bridge.Getting as close as I could and then stacking sand bags to be a little higher.Resting my gun the fense for support.I thought I wish Jolene was here she was a better shot then I was although I had gotten better.
It was very dark now and I could here a horn on the other side. Dot ud dot he sounded and then screams and yelling.a red communist flag went rushing in front of men charging from the other side.They were shotting and another rocket went into the slient tank.iT was down and out.But fifty on top was still maned.It started firing along with rifle squad.Men in the front fell and the flag went down to snapped up by a fellow comrade.More came from behind this was the big push.The fifty rattle on.
I started shooting and first few seem hit the medal supports of the bridge.Ping I could hear my shot bounce off."Shit ."I said and took off my helmet and wiped the sweat off my fore head.
The rifle team was coming up around the tank firing old 45 cal machine guns and carbines and 30/6 rifles. Our whole line was firing at the bridge now and we taking down people as well as VIet Namese troops but they were still coming.Endless supply of men and I thought we would run out of bullets before they ran out of people.
More rockets came at our passion of the fense to keep our heads down.Just when we thought all was lost three cobras came in firing there mini guns and the VC north Regulars fell like cord wood.
Pinging off the metal supports and thuds when the bullets hit bodies.The first group was all shot down and rear group quickly turned ran for cover.With choppers following getting some more as they ran.
We all stood up and cheered feeling lucky to be alive.As I was sure we couldn't hold them getting in here without the choppers.
The next day the big red one 1st infantry division came in from the delta and they retreated back into the jungle.The compound was a mess but no one lost there life.We all greatfull for the Cobras saving the day.
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