Tuesday, May 23, 1972
Yanks Patrol the Pleiku Bush
by Spec. 4 JIM SMITH
-And Ask Themselves Why
S&S Staff Correspondent
PLEIKU, Vietnam --The six-man patrol that Delta Co., 17th Inf., ran the other day was little more than a romp in the woods until S. Sgt. Harris T. Little spied a series of bent-over bamboo sticks along a trail.
"Everybody down," Little said, inching forward to check them out.
"Never seen anything like this before. Looks like trail markers of some kind."
Little, 27, on his third tour in Vietnam, radioed the command post at Camp Holloway a few miles away to report what he'd found.
"Before I do anything," he said, "I'm going to check with the South Vietnamese and see if they knew anything about this.'
The patrol walked to a nearby ARVN compound where an interpreter told the man "that they'd found animal traps.
"I figured it wouldn't be booby traps or anything," Pfc. Cooper R. Allen said. "The Montagnards run cows through here all the time and they would have set them off by now."
"Okay," Little told the South Vietnamese. "No sweat. Just checking. We leave tomorrow. See you later."
"Oh," the interpreter said, "VC come here tomorrow."
"Good. We see you about two weeks. Bye now."
And the men went off laughing. Another patrol, another walk in the meadow, and no contact.
"I don't believe we need Americans out here," Little said as he rigged a shelter with two bedspreads. "There are ARVNs all around us. We're supposed to be providing an 'early warning' for Holloway, the only U.S. helicopter base in the central highlands, in case of enemy attack. The ARVN should be able to do that."
The men of Delta Company are inexperienced and unhappy. They are infantrymen who had drops cancelled or just missed a drop off their year tour.
The company was hastily put together a few weeks ago with soldiers form units that stood down at Cam Ranh Bay, Qui Nhon and elsewhere. Most of these "grunts" have pulled nothing more hazardous than bunker guard on this tour.
"I'd rather be here than in the rear," said Little, who came to Vietnam in September with the 101st Airborne Div., at Camp Evans. "But I'd rather be home than anywhere. I don't like it all. It's not the same war we used to fight. Too many restrictions. I'd rather keep on fighting like we used to than be doing this."
The company, operating on six-day patrols, has not had a contact since it began walking the jungle two weeks ago. "The only thing we have to be afraid of is the ARVNs," one GI said. "They fired mortars at us one night. They thought we were VC, I guess."
Pfc. Steven J. Parker, 19, has been in Vietnam eight months. He said he was in four contacts with the 101st near Phu Bai.
"Nothing heavy, just ambushes, sniper fire, people taking pot shots at you." He'd like to get out of Vietnam as soon as possible.
"I hate it," Parker said. "There are too many men working this area. What the hell am I out here fighting a war for? GI's have no reason to be out here. The ARVNs should be handling everything. It's low cut, easy.
"But if a GI gets killed, he dies for nothing. We were supposed to be pulling security while the rest of Holloway stood down. But with this offensive, it didn't work out.
"Yanks Patrol the Pleiku Bush -And Ask Themselves Why", by Spec. 4 JIM SMITH S&S Staff Correspondent, PLEIKU, Vietnam, published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Tuesday, May 23, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.