I go to the 221st AHC and the 336th AHC at the airfield. All their assets are committed! "What about the 21st Infantry Divisions C&C ship," I ask? And I am told it is with the division commander and senior advisor, and isn't even coming back tonight. That tells me something is in the wind.
I use the land line to call Bac Lieu, and am told that the whole staff, minus the sick, lame, and lazy is in Rach Gia! I ask why the engineers weren't notified, and am told, "Sin Loi," by a new captain I don't recognize.
Then, I call my boss, who is indeed at Rach Gia. He said the battalion commander and I are needed overthere as fast as we can get there. He also tells me no air support is available when I ask for it. I tell the colonel we will be on the way within the hour.
Major Mong tells me we will leave at 2000, and in the meantime the S-3 is trying to figure out our line of attack - well, the engineers aren't attacking, for sure, but the S-3 is the closest thing we have to the American Automobile Association.
Back at the MACV House I wolf down a quick dinner, and grab my steel pot, flack jacket, M-16, little 32 (just in case the VC try to get up close and personnel), and talk my roommate out of his M-79. I have not been so loaded down with "fire power" since coming here in January.
I get back to the battalion at 1930, and my driver and interpreter are loaded down like Pancho Via. I told Prumven, through Phong, that he could take the stuff, but he couldn't wear it because he had to drive. So, Sgt Phong has two rifles, and loads of shells. Then, I find out we are taking two of our soldiers, one with a machine gun; and he and the other actually have linked ammo crossing their chests!
Major Mong says we are taking three jeeps, the S-3 will lead, followed by him, and then me, bringing up the rear. We are to go up QL-IV to Can Tho, and then make our way south and west across the paddies to Rach Gia. In the dark! Through deep VC territory.
We take off at 2000, driving like bats out of hell. Phong Hiep flashes by - for once the bridge is intact! We stop in Can Tho to gas up, taking on a couple of extra five gallon cans of gas per jeep, and take off into the darkness. I can't tell you where we went, but there are a lot of right angle turns and I haven't the foggiest flipping idea where we are. There even isn't any Army air craft up over the whole delta as far as I am concerned, and the radio remains silent.
Three jeeps, with headlights on must make an interesting target. Sometime after midnight, there are several flashes off to our left, and we return fire; and then, lights out, 60 mph, we continue our journey, in the dark. I don't mind telling you, I don't know whether it is better to present a target, or dash over levee roads like a blind bat.
We don't see anymore VC, and we don't draw any more fire. And, by the grace of God, we arrive in Rach Gia around 0330. Tired and dusty, I go into the DTOC and flip the old man a high ball.
Glad you are here, he says, how was the ride? I told him, and he said, oh, we found a chopper for you around 2030! BFD, if you know what I mean. I am dusty, hot, tired, pissed, disgusted, you name any foul mood, and I am it.
Seems the division is going to mount a drive up the canals around Rach Gia, and the main canal is blocked by a blown bridge, and we need to take it out. No big deal, I say, and find we have a day to do it. [Seems to me with all the unusual division activity and HQ around Rach Gia, it should tell the VC that something is up.]
After a cat nap, shit, shine and shave, Mong, the S-3, and I, accompanied by a platoon for security, go to the site. Yeah, there is a bridge down - and a bridge up. In fact, there are seven fucking bridges down in a tangle in the same place! Seems that until now, no one thought the canal important, and blown bridges were pushed out of the way and new ones put in. We went back to the DTOC, and arranged to get the Public Works crane and a couple of wreckers and vehicles with winches, and spend the day pulling pieces of bridge out of the water. Some we lift up, and use a cutting torch on, and some we use demo. But mostly, just pulling pieces out of the water.
That afternoon, Major Mong and I, along with the S-3, set sail in a motorized sampan, and head northwest along a canal to see if there are any other impediments. And, we had some of our guys along in another boat (which is probably being kind - calling it a boat, that is) for security. Talk about feeling exposed. We are out in the middle of nowhere, in a hot, humid, stinking area, with isolated hoochs and some farmers in the paddies. After an hour, Mong decides he doesn't like where we are, and we di di back to Rach Gia.
The rest of the day and night we spend between the DTOC and our company's area, making sure the engineers are doing their thing; preparing the way for the infantry.
About 2000. our part of the job done, Mong and I hitch a ride back to Soc Trang, along with the S-3 and Sgt Phong. We leave our drivers to get back the next day.
Oh, yeah, I met a US Navy Lieutenant at the DTOC who told me there is some kind of US Navy base near Rach Gia. Never knew that until now.
[NOTE: a few months ago I found out that the Brown Water Navy did, indeed, have a facility in the vicinity of Rach Gia, but in 1968 I didn't know that, and I never saw it despite being in Rach Gia a dozen times or so.]