Jim Anton Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
A Rock And Not Steel
A chopper had dropped a sling load and I helped some guys unpack it. It was a load of black bags. We then began the awful task of loading our dead friends into body bags. I kept working on that until I didn't think I could handle one more body and walked away and had a smoke.
I joined John Balaam, a guy I'd also gone through training with. We were both physically and emotionally exhausted. Soon the Medevac choppers started in and we helped load the guys until everyone was outbound.
I wandered back to my cave and salvaged what I could. My few cans of C rations had holes in them. My spare magazines were no good. The ammo might have been OK but I wasn't taking a chance. I scrapped it all. The grenades were OK, just nicked a bit. My cartridge belt and canteens were shot. But I grabbed what I could and went back toward the LZ where I could see the captain and some of the guys.
Captain Cregan saw me and started yelling for a corpsman. I looked a lot worse than I was. I'd never stopped the bleeding in my hands and wiping them on my shirt made it look bad. Plus it wasn't all my blood.
But the corpsman got some powder on it and the bleeding slowed down. I refused battle dressings as it wouldn't allow me use of my hands for anything essential. The corpsman checked my back and bandaged my legs. He told the captain that the shrapnel in my back would have to come out but he couldn't do it.
The captain asked if I wanted on the next chopper out. I told him I was fine.
So we all sat there quietly, lost in our own thoughts. Phantoms had been bombing and strafing the area they thought the mortars had been fired from while getting some help from a few gunships. I don't know why but I always thought they were hitting the wrong place. I might have seen lingering smoke while I was on the LZ. I don't remember why, just that I thought they were off a bit.
We didn't get any artillery support from the big 175s at the Rockpile, which I thought was odd since we had some forward observers attached to us. I found out later they'd been killed early in the barrage.
It was getting toward sunset and suddenly the quiet was shattered by the distant, "Thunk Thunk" of more incoming.
I had been sitting on the edge of a shallow hole guys had been using to dump trash. It was the only shelter around so I folded myself into it. The hole was so short and shallow I had to hunch up to fit. It left my rounded back above ground but there was nothing I could do about it.
Rounds were hitting all around us. One round hit really close on my left. I took a hit in my side that knocked the wind out of me. I think I passed out for a few seconds. I was sure I was hurt bad. I slowly reached my hand toward the wound hoping to stop the blood loss. I felt broken panels on my flak jacket but no wound.
The barrage stopped as suddenly as it started. I lifted my head and saw a chunk of rock the size of a softball resting against my side.
Thank God a rock and not steel.