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Spec. 4 Vaughn O. Doty Age: 22 MOS: 11C20 (mortar crewman)
Charlie Company was conducting routine combat patrols that day in the very heart of what they called “Indian Country”. If you look at a map of S.E. Asia you will see a place north of Saigon, where Cambodia juts far into Viet Nam. This was the route the NVA used for their final invasion and capture of Saigon in 1974.
It was about 1600 hours as C Company crossed the clearing in single file and headed toward the tree line on the other side where they would camp for the night. A perimeter about 150 feet in diameter was sketched out and members of the three rifle platoons set about digging foxholes around the outside of the imaginary circle. In the center of the circle, the members of the mortar platoon and the company headquarters dug their foxholes and a pit for the 81 M.M mortar. About 1700 hours, a UH-1H helicopter arrived in the clearing. It carried containers of hot food for supper, the mortar, several cases of mortar rounds, small arms ammo and drinking water. The troopers ate their supper and then checked their foxholes, polished their weapons, finalized guard duty assignments for the night, wrote letters, and finished their “hooches “ (tents made from ponchos) where they would sleep. As dusk approached, the rifle platoon members slipped out about 100 feet from the perimeter where they set up trip flares. They then came back toward the perimeter about 50 feet and set up claymore mines and then slipped back inside the perimeter. By this time, the mortar team had finished setting up their mortar. The final stage of this operation was to fire a round towards the tree line on the other side of the clearing to calibrate the mortar.
Three crewmen were in the mortar pit when they dropped the first round into the tube. The defective round went off in the tube and there was a huge explosion. Willie Marshall and another trooper lay dead. Doty was lying on the ground. Both legs were blown off at mid-thigh. He lay there screaming in pain. As they waited for the medivac chopper some of the troopers went about gathering the remains of the dead. There was a boot hanging in a tree about 30 feet from the mortar pit. The trooper that retrieved it thought it seemed heavy until he realized a foot was still inside. Thirty minutes later, the medivac chopper finally arrived. All this time, Jim’s screaming never stopped or even weakened, even the sound of the chopper blades couldn’t drown it. As they laid him on the floor of the chopper, his screams continued. The medics on the chopper injected two syrettes of morphine and as the drug took effect, his screams subsided. The morphine also had another effect. The muscles in his thighs relaxed and released their pressure on both his femoral arteries. He bled to death on the floor of the chopper.
© Ed Boysun 2001
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