Sp4 Rick Ericksen

Donut Dolly visit occurs during a live fire mission
Funny thing happened when the one girl/Donut Dolly in blue uniform visited us at St. George. She is the one sitting with Mike in and or around our gun pit. After being there for a short while suddenly all hell broke loose and we heard, "Battery Adjust." We were going into a real fire mission.

We told her to stand off to the rear and next to one of our bunkers as we did not have any time to spare and escort her from the immediate area. As we continued into our adjustments and then finally got the word to fire, it must have scared her to death as we went into a full-blown fire mission. Every time the guns went off she jumped up like a little pogo stick with her hands cupped over her ears and let out a little scream. We could not feel sorry for her at the moment as we were deeply engage in trying to save our Brother Grunts who were in contact and a fire fight at the time. It must of lasted 15-20 minutes but must of felt like a life time to her.  Poor kid, she never seen that coming nor did we.

Oh well such is life and when you least expect it. Look out Brothers & Sisters!. Another tale of the Mighty ninth and the famous LZ St. George. Now that I think of it, poor kid somehow moved closer to the gun at one point in the mission and when the loader flipped out one of the empty shell casings, he flung it and it hit her square in the gut. She doubled over but came right back up like a real champ. It knocked the wind out of her sails but she recovered rather quickly. I really think she was so frightened that it overwhelmed the pain. And so went one of the really off the wall stories of St. George. I am sure she would remember it and will never forget it as well. Thank God she was ok. So that is one for the books.

Now all we have to do is find and locate her. She, as all the rest of the Donut Dollies should get a medal just for being there, let alone out in the bush with us. They were the Best of the Best.

 

Webmaster's Note: I've always wondered if our Donut Dollies were at a firebase when the "2nd Worst Scenario" occurred.  The worst case scenario would be an attempted overrun of the firebase.  Now I know it really did occur. The visit of the Donut Dollies at LZ OD had me extremely worried that we could not protect them.  Thanks, Rick!  This is a great memory of the bravery of these young women who cared about us.  

Webmaster's Addendum:  A GREAT find in 2014!  Donut Dolly Jennifer Young was located.  Please see Rick's Photo Gallery for more info.

"Never Volunteer"...took me a while to understand that lesson
After all of the events that took place (GI going beserk; see war story "Good Morning, Vietnam") and I returned to the area where I was looking for my unit (2/9th), I finally found it. It was late afternoon at that point and I was just about to enter the tent when this really big First Sergeant comes rolling out and says "Who the hell are you?"  Before I can utter a word, he looks at my name tag and it says "Ericksen".  "Where the hell have you been?  You're AWOL!"  I then tried to tell him where I was and what happened but he yelling at me like an animal and cussing me out. I never did get a word in edgewise. He then orders me to get my ass down to the chopper pad.  There is a Huey going out to my firebase and I better be on it or else. So I haul ass down to the pad and sure enough there's the bird warming up for takeoff. I wave them down and I get on telling them I am the guy who they have been waiting for. No one says anything, so I let it go at that. Meanwhile, there are these other two guys on board going to the same place as me. About 10-15 minutes later I see this hill in the middle of nowhere and we circle it for a landing. When we land we are greeted by the BC who introduced himself. I am not sure what his name was but someone mentioned Williams.  In any event, he welcomes me to our unit which was "A" Battery and the hill/LZ. We were on the LZ known as "Bunker Hill".  They kept talking about the Chu-Pa mountain and I asked what was the big deal about it. I was told Charlie owned it and that they were trying to run him off and out for some time. I got a first hand look at that as well as action up close and personal. While the BC was talking to us, he sort of slipped in a question on radios. He asked if anyone knew how to operate one. We all looked at one another and no one said anything, so being the curious one, I said I guess I could learn how to operate one. He just smiled and said fine, in the morning meet me here by the chopper pad. Not thinking very much, being a new guy and forgetting those Famous Words, "Never Volunteer for Anything", I was caught. Truer words could have never been spoken. After he finished his little chat with us he told us to find a bunker who had room and that we would be lodging for the night till he got us squared away the next morning and assigned to a gun crew who needed one of us.  

The rest of the day/night was quiet. When I woke up at first light, I remembered the BC telling me to meet him at the chopper pad around 0730hrs. Sure enough he was waiting for me, radio in hand, and when I got to him he started explain to me about the radio and how it worked and so on. I then noticed a rucksack laying on the ground and asked what is that for? He said "the radio". I asked him why did I need a rucksack for the radio? He told me "to carry the radio". I said to him I thought it would be on a desk or table in a bunker. I know now you must be laughing out loud, not so smart was I. That's when he lowered the boom on me and tells me it goes on my back! I had volunteered to be the new RTO.  I said "What?!?"  He said when the supply chopper comes in, you get on and you'll be flown out to the Infantry unit that they were supporting and I would be with the FO Party,  call sign "Arc Light", and that was all. Now I remember those Famous Words, Never Volunteer for Anything.  Oh well....away I went. 

Next thing I know, I am in the Huey and off to GOD knows where. After about a 10 minute ride, we landed in the middle of a clearing. Soon as I got off, I was greeted by a bunch of guys all wanting to know where I was from. After only a short time I got to meet most of them and then one of them said "Want to see some dead dinks?".   Yeah, okay, I said.  Let the games begin.   We walked from the fighting trenches/foxholes dug around the clearing.  We walked about 50-75 yards towards the center. As we walked, I could see bodies everywhere. I was so amazed at what was there, I asked him when this happened. He said that this was from yesterday. As we walked a little more and I turned to ask him another question, he was running like the devil was chasing him back towards the fighting trenches. Everyone was yelling for me to get down and waving me back. I stood there like an idiot wondering what the hell was going on and why he took off and everyone was screaming at me to get down.  I heard a "Whoomp!" in the back ground and then what sounded like a tree crashing down out in front of me. I still did not know what was going on and started to walk slowly back towards the line when I heard the same sound again and this time the crashing tree was closer. I looked back for a second but did not see anything. Next thing I know is the third one did not sound like a tree crashing, it was a big explosion and a nasty crack in the opposite side of the tree line.  Yeah, they were walking mortars in on our position. That's when I kicked in the afterburner and dove into the first hole I saw.  Then everyone opened up and started spraying the tree line. I asked the guy next to me how come they were shooting and at what. He said "They are coming!"  I asked "Who?" and he said "Charlie".  I asked "How do you know?"  And then it started.  Bullets started buzzing by like super sonic bumble bees. I got way down in the hole and just about peeked over the top. Next thing I know, I hear a rumbling sound and feel the ground shaking from behind me. I see this tank come out of nowhere and is headed right for us, but it's one of ours though.  He stops just short of us and the turret starts to turn in the direction of the opposite side of the clearing.  Next thing I hear is "hanging". Just as I was about to ask the guy next to me what the hell "hanging" meant...."KaBoom!". He lets go with the main gun/cannon. I go flying up and down and there is this giant cloud of dust from the dirt from the fox holes all around us. Just as it clears and I am gaining some sense back, he lets go again with hanging and another big "Ka- Boom" before I could get my fingers in my ears. This went on for about ten minutes then it was like someone turned off a light switch, it stopped and an eerie silence took over. Everyone was dusting off and clearing their weapons as well as checking for wounded when I hear someone yell out, "Saddle up!"  Not knowing the terminology of the grunt world, I asked the guy next to me, "do we have horses too"? He says "No, you jackass"...meaning me.  I looked at him somewhat perplexed.  He explained "that means YOU...put on your pack...we're moving out". Oh well, live & learn.   Next thing I know, there are two APC's along with the tank and a APC/Fueler with a big diesel tank laying in the back. We get on one of the APC's and start moving out up the large trail of a hill. We got about a couple of hundred yards up when, all of a sudden, Charlie lays into us from about fifty yards inside the tree line. The action starts again. This time we are in the back of the APC and firing into the tree line and are actually able to see the dinks as they engage us. Then this one dink steps out from a big tree and levels an RPG at us. I ducked and heard the "WHOOSH!" when he fired it. The next thing I knew, the APC gets rocked, but the round fell short of us. The guy on the fifty Cal comes to bear on the dink and as he is trying to reload for another shot.  The dink spots the .50 cal bearing down on him so he ducks out of sight behind the tree...bad idea! The fifty opens up and starts to blow away the tree.  The dink makes a run for it, but to no avail. The guy on the fifty picks him up on the run and gives it a short burst. All I remember was a big cloud of crimson and what was once a body blew apart like a rag doll. Next thing I know, there are more dinks and with another RPG, but his target was the APC/Fueler in front of us. He lets go and scores a direct hit in the cab and instantly KIA's both driver and assistant driver. We bang it out for another 10-15 minutes before the dinks broke contact again. We then went back down the hill and the two KIA's were taken off the track and laid out and put in body bags. Then a chopper came in for their bodies and took off. I was shaking like a leaf and trembling as well and trying to not cry.  I was so scared I even had two cigarettes, one in each hand and did not even know I lit two of them. The guy next to me gave me an elbow and said you'll get use to it or join them. With that we started back up the hill and Charlie was waiting for us again, only further up the hill. We engage them and another 10-15 minute fire fight. This time only, they bought the farm and we continued on up to re-engage them one more final time for that day. As we got to the top of the first hill of two, we settled in for the night. Next morning they sent a squad up the second hill with the tank and got into another firefight but only light resistance. When they came back the TC of the tank came out and was showing everyone a picture of something that looked like a pile of goo with an AK 47 sticking out of it. I asked him what it was, he said a NVA dink was left behind to hold us off while the main body got away. He said the dink kept firing right up to the point he ran over him and backed up to take the picture. I wanted to puke but was afraid to that I might be seen as weak so I just sucked it up and went and sat down and drank some water and cooled it. 

And so it went for a while until I felt like I needed more time and experience in-country to be better able to adapt. So I asked  to go back to my unit. I finally I got sent back and replaced. When I got back, it wasn't much better. Although we had the luxury of overhead cover/bunkers, we were banging away day and night supporting the Infantry Company I just had left only to return several months later on my own after LZ St George.

Didn't Know about the Dink hiding under vehicle at LZ St. GeorgeI guess we were too busy holding our position to even know what was going around us let alone inside our own perimeter and then at the very core of it. Itís too bad no one knew at the time of his discovery. I do not think everyone would have been so gentle and caring towards the Dink. I just as soon have ran up and rolled a grenade under the truck and be done with it. As far as I am concerned they were all fair game. After St. George and when I went out with the Grunts I really became a real hard ass. My whole attitude had changed and my demeanor was far from subtle. It really made me hardened to the core and with every day that went by and fire fight after one another it took its toll on me emotionally. Every time we had a guy get WIA or worst case KIA, the resentment grew much larger. By the time I finally got my orders to go home I was spent and really disillusioned. Till this day it still haunts me but I press on. I now know where the saying came from, WAR IS HELL! Once you been there and lived through it the hell never eludes your mind. 

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