Page 26 - Scene Magazine 41-12 December 2016
P. 26

 area is quite famous as China Beach. Our area of operation was not as idyllic as the rolling surf on that pristine beach. We were
hills (or small mountains, depending on your perspective) on the west end of the valley. Once there, we were to mount two 105 howitzers, and keep company-sized patrols humping the area constantly to try and interdict the VC. We flew a mass of choppers onto the hilltop and dug in a small perimeter. The word was that we were going to operate out of this forward firebase for some time – at least a month. There was no road into this area, so all resupply had to come from the beloved Huey helicopter.
On a rare clear day, it was actually quite beautiful looking down into the valley. About six miles to the east one could glimpse a bit of the ocean. Checkered with rice paddies, this rustic valley was dotted with occasional small hamlets composed of mud floored grass huts, water buffalo, and a verdant landscape. As we moved up the hills, the jungle became very thick. Remember, it was always 100 degrees there, and 100 percent humidity. Astonishing bugs and snakes filled the landscape. We weren’t in Michigan anymore.
As the Colonel and Major MacDonald
our honeymoon at the Chippewa Hotel on Mackinac Island. Further, we were on the second floor immediately behind the lighted sign, so it shined in our window day and night.” He accepted my testimony at that point as an expert witness, and the name stuck – LZ Chippewa.
Day and night we directed combat patrols all over the area from that hilltop. Occasionally we took sniper fire during the day, or more likely at night, and mortar fire, but it was not constant. The main rule was absolutely no light at night. Any light, even the tiny glow of a lit cigarette drew gunfire from somewhere, so everyone knew you moved into a foxhole or a deep bunker. Even the red lights on the radio panels were turned down low.
It was odd to still have the temperature around 100 degrees during the day, but quite cold at night up at altitude on the hilltop. My duty at a firebase became night operations. I would sleep during the late afternoon in our foxhole, then join my buddy, Woody, at dark in the operations bunker. We had land lines to the artillery
First Place
A True Story By Robert Kirsten Christmas on LZ Chippewa
  “Alpha six, this is Cutlass three three. Do moved a bit south of the airfield and out were preparing the plans to take the hill you copy? Over.” This was my lingo as an to the west into a rather hostile area aptly and occupy it, they decided the name of infantry radio operator in Vietnam in 1967. called “Rocket Valley.” Roving Vietcong the firebase should be “LZ Chippewa,” Our entire Brigade had trained in Texas (VC) units would take over the hamlets but neither was certain how to spell it. I earlier in the year and then was transported at night, often setting up rockets in crude carried the radio for either one of them, so I by ship across the Pacific in September of dirt launching ramps and fire them at the stepped forward spelling it “CHIPPEWA.” ’67. A detached battalion called the first airbase. This was disruptive for the crews The crusty Major MacDonald looked at of the sixth, we were deployed to Chu Lai there, and not good for the aircraft, hence me like a small child and curtly asked how within a few weeks of landing in Danang. our mission: to try and stop them. could I be certain about the spelling. (The The Marines and Seabees had built a large Our Colonel Baxley, commander of first sergeant didn’t like me; I was still a air base there, right off the beach on the the battalion, concluded that we needed Private.) I responded, “Major, I was just South China Sea the year before. The to combat assault onto one of the big married this year, and my wife and I spent
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