Monday, August 29, 2005
You Learn Your Way In
Paul and I were supposed to maintain the radio equipment in our team. We were assigned to an Air Force Forward Air Controller Team and spent a lot of energy and time to crawl up to the position the Team had selected. It was not easy to haul all the stuff I had brought, including my extra rifle case, scope and ammunition. The Lieutenant, whose name was Jacoby, told us to find a good spot about 100 meters away from the main position, and said "don't call us, we'll call you. But if you see any of the other side, you have my permission to shoot, 'cause you are far enough away from us that they won't target our position."
So we crawled further down the forward slope and over some distance till it looked like that 100 meters, and found a natural flat spot to dig our hole into. Some shrubbery grew there too, which gave us a little cover. This was to be home for a while, since there was a kind of standoff across the whole of Korea for the moment. That didn't stop either side from patrolling their front and probing each others defenses, and an occasional shelling, or in our case, close air support missions to vector, just to remind us that the war was definitely not over.
Later in the day we were whistled up to have chow with the rest of the team. The Sarge looked at my rifle and said: "Holy Cow! Is that a sniper rifle there?" I told him yes, that I had been qualified while at Fort Bragg. It was a long-standing hobby of mine to shoot."
"Great, he said, you can keep the Gooks busy and maybe take out an officer or two!" The Lieutenant is as good a maintainer as there is, so you can be our very own sniper!"
I need Paul, I said, to be my spotter; the field of view of my scope is pretty narrow, so he can bring me on target with the binoculars or the spotter scope. And, Sarge, I need to get more ammo, match grade, can you do that?
"OK, you got him!" said Sarge, who the old guys in the unit called Bart. We newbies didn't dare call him that yet! "and don't worry about the ammo, I have a good friend over with the army."
"One more thing, I asked. Can you get me a nightscope?" He said that he'd try like hell; "the Gooks favorite trick is to crawl up to your hole and cut your throat, so watch out for them! Oh! and if you don't have a .45 I will get you one -- easier to use up close."
Back up to our hole we went, this time to dig a sniper nest further around the hill. No sense in drawing fire to our little home in the ground. The next day we spent in scanning the whole field in front of us, and setting down registration points that were visible for both the rifle scope and the 10 x 50 binoculars. I zeroed in my rifle at 300 yards, shooting away from the front at a paper target. Paul scanned the area for anything interesting. So went another day.
Neither of us slept very well that night, the thought of being attacked in our hole was enough to unsettle our minds. We decided rather quickly that one of us would stand guard for 4 hours while the other slept, then change. You learn very fast to sleep whenever and wherever you are. Sarge woke me up to hand me a bunch of stuff he'd gotten from the Army that night.
"Won it all in a poker game over at the CP" he joked. We each got a .45 and some clips of ammo, and I got a starlight scope and a case of match grade rounds! We were in business for sure. I happily spent the next few hours mounting the starlight scope onto my M-1 and zeroing it in. I should have asked for another Springfield sniper rifle, I thought; one for day shooting and the other for nighttime. I made a mental note of that for the next day.
Paul woke me up that night saying: "Listen!" A bugle was playing way out there. And then another one came on to answer the first one. Then a third one blared out. This is scary stuff!
I got out the M-1 and scanned the area: nothing moved, and nothing was there that shouldn't be there. The bugles blew again. About that time George came to our hole and asked in. George was the number two in the team, a second Louey, so he must have something important to tell us, I thought.
"I thought you guys would be up!, he laughed. Those damned bugles can scare you to death, and that is just what those Gooks want. They blow them at night to wake us up and give us the jitters. So don't pay them any attention until they blow lots of them at once." We thanked him for the info, and Paul turned in again. I went back to my M-1 and kept scanning. Then I picked up a flash, something like a reflection of light just for an instant out there about 800 yards away.
So I focused on the spot, and in a while it flashed again, this time with the sound of a bugle accompanying it. The Bugler! I nearly said out loud! This I must try!
I got ready, and had my nightscope trained on the spot the next time he started. When I saw the flash of light, I fired. The bugle made a strange sound and then went silent. It was quiet for the rest of the night.
Sarge came over the next morning very early and asked me if I had fired at the bugler. I said yes, that I had.
"You dumb shit!, he roared, do you know what happens now?" No, I answered meekly.
"Well, get ready for a shelling! That's what you've called down on us! Next damned time, let the sucker blow all he wants!" He was really mad!
Sure as hell we had a shelling. Maybe a battery fire of six shells for each tube. No one was hurt, thank God, but it would have been on my conscience if there had been. They tore up the hill just below our positions.
It took a long time after that till I earned the right to call Sarge "Bart".