Smitty Steps Up (continued)
But the enemy gunners were watching closely and finally timed a cannon shot just as they saw two Marines jump up and dash towards my small group.
It took only three or four seconds to run that distance, but that was enough time for the NVA to blast a shell that landed just behind the sprinting Marines.
PFC Randy Andrews was severely wounded and fell into our midst where Smitty and the others began to tend to his wounds.
His squad-mate LCpl Linwood Thompson had fallen close enough that we were able to quickly recover him too, and discovered that fragments of the shell had hit his head from behind so hard that his eyes had been knocked, still attached, from their sockets onto his cheeks.
Along with our other wounded, both men urgently required a medevac.
PFC Randy Andrews was severely wounded trying to outrace an incoming 130mm artillery fire on LZ Duster. Photo courtesy of the Winston-Salem Journal.
LCpl Linwood Thompson was nearly blinded by incoming 130mm artillery fire trying to escape the landing zone with Randy Andrews. Photo courtesy of the Winston-Salem Journal.
Understandably, the next two Marines were not eager to take their chances running across the same ground where they had just seen Andrews and Thompson get blasted. Even so they sprinted for their lives when they heard their “GO!!!” and the remaining pairs were able to cross without incident.
My job was to be with the operational portion of my platoon – what was left of it – which had disappeared down the trail, but we also had to medevac the wounded and dead.
After a quick consultation, I asked the staff sergeant to handle the medevac, Smitty to act as his radioman, and a couple of other men to help load the casualties. It would not be an easy task on such an LZ, but we knew it had to be done.
I waited with the wounded men until the medevac choppers were inbound and then departed down the trail with everyone else, perhaps fifteen men, everyone carrying whatever loose gear they could pick up from the littered zone without exposing themselves too much.