SPECIALIST 5TH CLASS CARL FORGEY
I had extended my Viet Nam tour by 6 months and on the afternoon of 3 May 1970, I returned to LZ Betty, RVN. Climbing from the plane, I was greeted by my buddies of our 2nd platoon. We shared some quick conversations and I went to my quarters & put away my things. I returned to our flight line and took a look around the LZ and out to the South China Sea. Standing there, I began to wonder if my decision to extend for another 6 months was the right one but hey, too late now ! Later that night after sharing some drinks at the flight line, I retired to our 'hootch' for some much needed sleep. I never slept in my fatigues but for some reason that night I did and I quickly fell asleep.
Sometime after falling asleep I was awakened by a sound I could best describe as a 'thud'. It was the sound of a mortar round leaving its tube. For those of us who have been in a mortar attack, you learn to tell the difference between in-coming rounds and out-going rounds. I heard a second thud and as soon as I heard the second, the 1st mortar round hit with a big explosion. The second round hit and then all hell broke loose. I jumped from my bunk, grabbed my M-16 and ran to the bunker located just outside our door. I met all the other crew chiefs there and we assessed the situation and decided what to do next as we listened to the sounds of out-going and incoming rounds which by now included small arms fire. The night's sky was filled with red and green tracers and flares which lit the darkness. At the sounds of the first mortar rounds exploding, one could hear the cries of "In-coming" all around. G.I.'s were running to bunkers yelling and screaming and trying to decide what to do next. In the short two minutes we sat in that bunker deciding what to do next, we made our way to the flight line to help the crew chief who was already getting the plane out of the hanger and ready for flight. It was Army SOP to have a pilot and crew chief on alert status each night. We jumped into our 3/4 ton truck, with me at the wheel, Jean Kent sat in the front with me and the other guys jumped into the back as we drove alongside the runway with the sounds of explosions that seemed to be going off all around us and tracers going over head. That night is just as real to me today as it was 41 years ago!
I drove as fast as I could and within minutes we arrived at the flight line. Gordon Green, the crew chief, already had the plane ready to go. Gordon & our pilot were standing by the plane along with our Vietnamese Observer. We jumped from the truck and ran to the plane for there was a problem with the Observer. This South Vietnamese 2nd Lieutenant was refusing to get into the plane. The observers job was to go up with the pilot and direct artillery fire on the V.C. and NVA who were launching their attack onto the LZ. I told the pilot I would go up with him as his observer but I would not be able to direct the artillery fire. Our pilot said "no" and stated that the 2nd Lieutenant had to go. This left me with just one thing to do, I had to get that terrified ARVN officer into the backseat of that plane! I used a little force and with some struggle, I was able to get him into the backseat. During that struggle I found that observers 2nd Lieutenant collar insignia in my hand! I must be the only US Army Spec 5 to "bust" a South Vietnamese officer. I still have it today and wear it on my Seahorse cap with great pride! That night I knew that if our pilot was willing to take the risk in taking off with the shit going on, that coward needed to go too. I thought that the next day I would hear about my actions the night before but not a word was said. The business of that day went on as normal. I am proud of how I handled that situation.
The night of 3 May 1970 was the worst I had been through as the V.C. and NVA had launched many attacks that night throughout Vietnam at other LZ's and military installations. The attacks were to coincide with the war protest back home. What did hit the news headlines were the Ohio National Guard shootings of the students at KentStateUniversity on 4 May 1970. The night of 3 May 1970, seven young American soldiers lost their lives, 35 were wounded and several helicopters were destroyed along with some vehicles.
The memory of that night brings on the dark side of the war dreams. I dream of explosions, the sight of tracers going through the LZ and the cries of help. What I am left with, some 42 years after the war, are not only nightmares and sleepless nights but this thing we call PTSD.