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Smitty Steps Up (continued)

After the Mortar Attacks

The weeks leading up to October 1 had been tough. The mortar battles on LZ Margo had devastated the 81s platoon.

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"This Radioman Has The Blues" is the title Smitty gave to this photo of himself on LZ Susan. He wasn't the only one who had to deal with recent, sharp grief while they tried to do their jobs and stay alive. Photo courtesy of Eric Smith.

Having lost half of our eight guns, we regrouped our remaining men into four full-strength gun crews with a few ammo-humpers left over.


Four mortars can still give the battalion good close-in protection, so extra men to carry tubes of 81mm mortar rounds strapped to their packs and carrying M-16s in their hands were welcome.

Morale was an off-and-on problem. Fortunately, everyone had their private moments of grief and then found their own way to climb out of the emotional pit that sadness, fatigue and occasional sharp fear will put you into.

Smitty was no exception, and like the rest of us he took Margo personally. His friends had been killed or horribly wounded. The bastards had tried to kill him too.


I sensed that Smitty was replacing his sadness with a hard anger, an emotion shared by the rest of us and one he would use to his advantage soon afterwards.

Gunny Fab Steadies the Men

The NCOs shouldered their own grief about our losses so they could support the younger Marines.

One who was especially effective was Gunnery Sergeant Stewart L. Fabyunkey, a greatly-respected veteran of World War II and Korea.

Gunny Fab had been well known on Hill 558 during the Siege of Khe Sanh for bellowing at each dawn loud enough to be heard by the NVA on the surrounding hills, “Gooooooood morning, Vietnam!!!”

Gunny Fab made it a point after Margo to sit quietly with each man and get a read on his condition.


Ours wasn’t the first platoon he had seen shredded around him.

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Gunny Stewart Fabyunkey takes a break after digging in on LZ Margo. His calm demeanor after the mortar attacks helped ease the shaken nerves of the younger men. Photo courtesy of Eric Smith.

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