Larry Jackson Remembers His Last Days in Vietnam (cont.)
The Daily Routine
Each day we would have to keep our field packs and rifles ready to go as they told us we needed to be ready for a landing at any time. Daily we would have to go down in the bottom of the ship and get aboard a landing craft which reminded me maybe of what it would have been like to be inside a turtle shell. The craft had only a dim light inside, and we were cramped inside with all our gear. Come to find out, there would be a Navy dignitary coming onboard and wanting to see if the Marines were ready, and would see us circle the ship in these landing crafts. We would come back aboard and it would be over.
After a few days of the same routine, they informed us that we were to start another operation and we were going to be gone two or three weeks. We were going to make a beach landing. We went down and boarded the landing crafts and circled the ship a few times and went to shore. We had been told that we could very well encounter enemy fire and mortars on the beach so we should run up the beach, drop life preservers and zigzag running up the beach.
Marines of BLT 2/26 head for the beach in amphibious tractors while the heli-borne assault wave is inserted by air. Photo courtesy of Alan Green.
Needless to say, all I could think of was all the John Wayne movies I had seen growing up as a kid when the Marines would land on the beach in WW II. I was really scared as I was a point man at the time and my company, platoon and squad were the first to hit the beach. Our officers had instructed us that the beach could be "hot" meaning rifle fire and mortar shells. A lot of things were rushing through my mind as I felt the landing craft tracks digging into the beach.
When the front ramp dropped down, we ran up the beach as fast as we could, zigzagging all the way and dropped our life preservers and ran on up the beach, hit the ground and put our packs on. As I had rolled over to put my pack on my back, I looked back down the beach and saw a bunch of little Vietnamese children that had waited for us to make our landing, running around and pulling the release cords to inflate the life preservers. All I could do was laugh and thank God it was not like I thought it was going to be on that beach.
We had gone further inland for the rest of the day and were waiting on choppers to pick us up and carry us to a destination. I never knew where I was at or what we were there for. All I knew was to saddle up with my gear and be ready. I had always tried to keep at least four canteens of water and as much food as I could store in my pack. I remembered how it felt when we were at Khe Sanh during the Tet Offensive when they could not supply us with food and water for days at a time because of the enemy surrounding us. I remembered how thirsty and hungry I had been there.