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Corporal Darrell U. Mahan

Edgar A. Goulet (sp00n)
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2nd Bn 1st Marines
Golf Company 66-67
Corporal Darrell U. Mahan

While doing some research, I found that Marine who died on Anderson Trail on the 19th of August of 1967 just two days after I was discharged from the Hospital Ship USS Sanctuary, I can't believe it?

I found my discharge from the ship and the date was August 17th 1967.  Leaving the ship I was headed back to 2/1 but I made a stop too “A Med” because my old squad got hit and I had to know what had happened?
. . .
Well the only guy that I knew was Harold Jackson as the other Marines were new replacements who I never knew but I knew Harold pretty good.  Harold was from down South some place, Louisiana possibly but I don't recall.

He got shot in the head and his story was just amazing. He showed me a bullet hole on one side of his head and another one, on the opposite side which had me thinking, why are you still alive? He said the bullet went thru the steel Helmet, thru the liner, and thru His skin and followed along His skull right around his Head and came out on the other side, can you believe that, I seen the holes in his head and I still can't believe it, as Fate, is something that much harder to explain, than I know so, he was going to be OK and I hope he gets sent home, as a short timer. He got to Vietnam before I did.  I was going on my eleventh month in two weeks.

One of my photos told a short story, the caption was, “Are We There Yet?”  We were in a flooded rice paddy about twenty yards apart when it started raining bullets, as everyone was submerged under water all that I could see was their helmets.  The water was about waist deep give or take a little bit but when I looked to my rear, I didn't see Harold’s helmet nor anything for that matter, but he was there just prior to the ambush, so I made my way back towards him as more shots were fired my way but as long as I heard those shots, I was OK.

When I got near Harold I had thought he got shot so I grabbed him and pull him up and he had started turning blue and started puking right away “I said are you hit”, he said no, so I said, what’s the problem, he said,  he was tangled with that rope, tied to the hook, black poly tied to the grappling hook floats and somehow it got tangled with his feet and with all that weight in the mud, he couldn't stand up, so we knelt there like a couple beavers in that area for almost twenty minutes.

We never went anywhere without that hook, as anything that we had to move, a weapon, body, brush in the way or suspected booby trap, anything. We used that hook to move objects and on some occasions, heard an explosive boom and sometimes another.

So while we were getting things untangled resting as if we were staying cool, taking a bath, and washing our stinking sweaty fatigues all at the same time our body odor was really bad, we stunk and that could give away our position in a night ambush or at least make the VC aware, that we were in the area, because we could smell them too.

The firing had stopped as another squad pressed the enemy with some fire power of their own, as small hit and run skirmishes were a daily event. And, just before the Sun went down, was one of their favorite times too fire at us.

When you’re walking in the muddy rice paddies with all that gear, (which is a lot of weight). It’s impossible at times due to the rain making for a slow going. With the fact that you’re in the open is not a good idea but, in certain areas… your choices were limited and the VC took full advantage of anything they could.

The only good thing was, most of the time they shot at us from long range and were not trained like we were, so the odds of getting killed from that distance was in our favor and they didn't put mines in the mud very often except on the dikes. Occasionally they booby trap area’s if it looked like a real good short cut for Marines to cross, they were smart, small and fast.

Any way this story was kind of short and since Harold was in this story and in another unrelated short story, I decided to blend both short stories into one. Harold was a shy guy but, in the bush he was one dude that you didn't have to worry about. He never complained about anything. Was a better Marine than I was because I was more outspoken, that's why your listening to my story and not Harold's.

I don't remember my trip back to 2/1 after I left “A Med” where I was a patient there just seven weeks ago from a search and destroy mission on Operation Calhoun. I was air lifted out by Helicopter with a 104.5 temperature from a crotch infection that I wasn't even aware of until I passed out, and was flown to “A Med”.

I think I got back to 2/1 on August 17th the same day I got discharged from the ship. And the place was deserted except for a few people I can't remember because they were mostly new guys.

I was hoping that I wasn't noticed right away so, I could sleep on a cart in a tent where my gear was and avoid doing night lines around the Battalion perimeter which is better than being out on an Ambush for sure.

After my visit to the ship which also woke my ass up too reality, and some other experiences that I haven't wrote about yet, my Vietnam War was over as far as I was concerned.  Between giving us no choice and forcing us to use a weapon that was not properly tested and with no leadership we had no plan, to win the war, and used Agent Orange to kill foliage, all I wanted was to go Home.

I had heard enough lies about body counts, which was invented just too make it look like we were winning this War, but I didn't see it that way at all.  You see when there is no front or ground to gain, it's hard to know who's really winning.  So with this new body count system as, long as we did the math we could never lose a battle.  Or, If we did, they could pro rate it.  Mix that lost skirmish, into another larger Operation and make the numbers favor us.  It's like cheating in our Court system, or political system breaking laws with permission, is okay as they never lose or found guilty because they’re in charge.

I think I slept in a tent that night because I don't remember having line duty the Morning of the 19th.  I heard a loud explosion not that far away. Either that sounded like a large mine or a bomb that was re-rigged from a dud dropped by one of our planes that never went off, like a 250 pound bomb. The date would have been August 19th 1967 I heard that loud explosion down Anderson Trail.

I was headed towards the front gate where I was told that real milk had finally arrived to Vietnam in those small one portion cartons. Got milk… finally had arrived to the Far East. Everyone wanted real milk so on my way to get milk, I run into this Officer, a  1st Lt. And, he asked me who I was and what Company that I belong to.  I told him my name and I was with Golf Company.  So, he wanted to know what I was doing here because all Company’s were out except H&S.

I told him I just got discharged from the Hospital Ship the USS Sanctuary on the 17th and then he asked me how long have I been in Country?  I told Him that in two weeks it will make eleven months.  Then He said did you hear that explosion?  I said yeah it was probably a mine or a bomb.  He said it was and that he had a problem?  He told me that someone got killed while walking Anderson Trail and was left there because most of those guys were new who freaked out (panicked) and left him there and I have to get him back, but no one will go.

Could you do me a favor?  Do you think you could get him back with the Jeep.  Your more experienced than anyone here? Well I knew that I didn't have to go but I had the most experience in the Bush and had a better chance to succeed than anyone else who couldn't drive a standard shift vehicle and I was here for a reason.

Because no one else had the nerve to go, fate brought me there for a reason and after leaving that ship and remembering all that carnage, I had to go as, I never left anyone behind and I wasn't going to start now.  Besides that there was something about facing a challenge that made me who I am, as if I cannot resist doing something hard and stupid.  Here I am with a full roll of gauze in my gut. With a drain and more gauze that needed too be changed once a day that couldn't get wet and I was about to go out on another escapade where I knew could have a bad ending.  But, I was confident except for that M-16 Rifle.

So I got my gear together with my defective weapon, a poncho and a couple of M-26 frags. One for me plus one for insurance.  So, rather than having too watch no one do anything for me Anderson trail wasn't a big deal as I walked it many times before.  And, besides that I had been made into a motor vehicle operator and drove that same jeep for a couple of weeks for H&S Company.  That's another one of my stories that is a must read, so I was very familiar with that Vehicle.  I just drove it for a couple of Weeks just a few Months ago. If I had My M-14, I would have done a one man patrol and carried that Marine back, that was the difference between those Rifles.

I started driving down Anderson Trail as usual, My adrenaline was starting to flow and I was thinking, as a short timer I  shouldn't be Volunteering for anything at this point in time. But, this was important, even though the guy was dead, he is still one of us and has a family and I was “The Sp00n”, who had a reputation to Defend.  My sub conscience was giving me crap about how many time I'm going to have too bail you out Ed, this is the last time, Oh sure, that's what you say every time, you’re a tough one to watch over and keep out of trouble, sorry!

I either had a Death Wish or I was Dumber than Stupid when I enlisted.  I knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life, other than Getting Married, that is?  I'm here now and have to do whatever it takes, too get this Guy back home while I can, even though, I'm starting to feel as though, I'm the Enemy, sometimes?

I was sure I was headed for trouble and the chances of getting shot at were more than likely, but I kept on driving than I could see the damage to the Road up ahead as half of the trail was missing.  So I drove right up to the opposite side spun the Jeep around and left it running as I wasn't planning on staying very long.

I jumped in the hole for some cover as the Jeep covered the other side and took the poncho and Matte Matel with me and laid the poncho out flat on the ground, while feeling very uneasy. I was lucky that he wasn't booby trapped cause I would have been there too laying right beside Him. But when your’re in the field you have to be on your game all the time, every time.

That six weeks off put me at risk as my brain was so high doing this shit, I should have at least moved him with Mattie and staying close to the ground but I fucked up. I could be dead too. The Marine was laying face down, his lower half was missing, all of it… I turned him over facing me and he didn't have a mark, not even a scratch on his face. Nice clean cut good looking guy, nice complexion, a Corporal.

I thought the mine or bomb had been planted about six feet or more off the trail where the metal detectors wouldn't catch the signal and somebody set it off manually and dragged the wires back, was my guess? But what do I know. I was just a shit bird Private that took a ride because no one else could drive a standard shift

I grabbed his arms and put him on that poncho as I lifted him he didn't weigh very much. I folded the poncho lifted it and put in the Jeep. Then grabbed my piece of shit rifle and looked around for a weapon or anything of importance.  But someone had been here before me and I was shocked that no one fired at me.  So I go the hell out of there fast as I could, as all this happened in two minutes, but is seemed much longer like five minutes.

I stated driving back wondering why I didn't receive any fire and I didn't get blown up.  My theory was, because the Battalion Area was so close with our dead Marine, pay back was going to be a mother, and no enemy wanted to be around or even close.  Someone was going to pay a heavy price, big time.

Approaching the gate a bunch of Marines had gathered around wondering if I was successful so I gave them the thumb up so they knew I got the Marine without looking.  I pull the Jeep over and walk away to avoid questions as I was felt relieved that I was okay,  but I wasn't feeling that good and had to lay down.  I was still infected after two surgeries.  Oh, one Marine said “hey thanks!”

I never heard anything more about that Marine, as death was everywhere and no one wants to say anything when someone is killed except… I've heard this saying a few times that I never liked to hear which was, “better him than me.”  For some reason I thought that I had seen a name tag on that Marine that sounded like “May”, but I never had a name tag and no one that I served with had one either, that bothered me?

Edgar A. Goulet (sp00n)