Jim Anton Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
Caught in the Open
The 17th dawned sunny and hot. Shortly after full light you could hear choppers coming. One big Sea Knight for the wounded and two gunships to ensure their safety. We got our guys to the LZ and saw them off as soon as the chopper touched down. The bird made it in and out without drawing any fire.
Shortly after that we got the word to saddle up. Echo was moving again. We crossed the perimeter and took over the positions previously held by Golf Co, I think. I ended up sharing a foxhole with my buddy John Balaam. There were so few of us left the captain had us spread thin, two men to a position.
Around noon we watched Staff Sgt Sanchez start down the hill in front of us and outside what we considered our perimeter. There was virtually no cover on that steep hillside below us and he was not only visible to us but to enemy gunners.
Unfortunately, he happened to look up and see us watching him. He motioned for us to join him. Rats. I was perfectly happy just sitting.
I remember I had my shirt off as I'd tried to wash it with water from my canteen and had it hanging from a bush. We grabbed our rifles but he yelled at us to leave them. I leaned mine against a small tree and headed downhill.
We were almost in the exact spot where we'd climbed up the day before. The hill was very steep with almost no cover for 100 yards in any direction. There were a few downed trees artillery or mortar fire had blown down as well as a few trees blown apart with only a waist high stump remaining.
We got to Sanchez and he told us what he wanted. He'd brought a machete and was looking to chop a few limbs off to put over his foxhole. You put tree limbs, then a tarp or poncho, and then cover with dirt. Might save you if you took a direct hit. We were chopping away at limbs I thought were way too big for a machete to hack through.
We were taking turns and taking too long in the open when the dreaded "Thunk thunk thunk" started again. We dropped where we were and laid against a good sized tree that was laying perpendicular to the perimeter. The base of the tree was downhill and the top uphill.
Sanchez was the farthest down, then me, then John. Our heads were pushing against the feet of the guy above. The rounds began hitting right around our holes and started working downhill.
They'd spotted us and decided to take us out. Felt kind of personal.
There was a brief lull in the explosions and I jumped up. I thought I could make it back to my position. Sanchez yelled, "No. Get back down!" and I did. He saved my life.
I'd have probably gotten half way when more rounds started landing. Some rounds were falling further away, near our old positions in the ravine. I heard one hit and then a huge explosion as the ammo dump went up.
Then rounds started working their way closer and closer to us. Suddenly something told me to move.
I got up, jumped over the tree and dropped on the other side. John stuck his head up and asked me what I was doing. I told him I didn't know but I had to be on this side of the tree.
I crawled a few feet to my right where a small tree had blown down. It also faced uphill. I pushed my head into the roots as we'd also left our helmets up top. Rounds kept screaming in and getting closer. I put my arms along my sides to try and protect my organs.
The rounds were exploding so close to me that I was being covered in dirt and rocks. I began to recite the Hail Mary. The impacts were so loud I ended up shouting that prayer over and over.
Then I heard Sanchez scream.