Three men were assigned to each bunker and they took turns sleeping inasmuch as we all had to report to our regular duty posts each day following guard duty. All built revetments atop their bunkers using spare sandbags so that they could sit guard duty without going inside where the air was stale and fouled by rotting wood and humidity. Many feared the structure that was supposed to protect them would fall around their heads at any moment thanks to unrelenting attacks by termites.
The most unnerving aspect of guard duty was the fact that division artillery fired flare rounds to illuminate the ground outside the camp all night and they cast shadows that moved as they drifted slowly to the ground on parachutes. Often they swung to and fro making the shadows dance even more sinisterly. One of my men was scared back to his bunker when the casing from a flare round that detonated too close to the perimeter, fell to the ground next to him while he was urinating.
Sometime after midnight, I would take our assigned vehicle, a three-quarter ton truck to our mess hall where baked goods were being prepared for the following day's meals in the relative cool of the night. I then visited each bunker passing out hot coffee and cakes. In the morning, I had to form a patrol to sweep the area outside the base camp to look for signs of enemy activity or tampering with the defensive lines of barbed and concertina wire.
One evening before sunset, the guards at one of our bunkers had spotted activity about a quarter mile outside our perimeter. Since the area was “closed” to all civilians about an hour before sunset, I was told to take a patrol to investigate. I chose six men, two with M-79 grenade launchers and four with M-16 rifles. I divided them into two fire teams led by the grenadiers. We followed a deep drainage ditch that exited the camp perpendicularly and led past the road where the activity was observed. When we passed the last line of wire defenses, I stopped the men and explained our situation. We were on our own. There was no preplanned artillery support and we were too far from the perimeter for anyone to organize a rescue and come help us. Thus, I reasoned that we would have to attack fast and furiously if there was any trouble. Five of the men simply nodded their understanding and climbed out of the ditch onto open ground. The sixth had to be coaxed out.
We found a family collecting dead wood for their charcoal furnace and loading it onto a three-wheel motor scooter. I left the men to scout the area to see if they had done anything besides collect wood while I went to check for contraband and encourage them to leave. Since none of them spoke English, I had to pantomime my communication.
On the way back to our camp I began to wonder about the security of the ditch we had used to traverse the defenses. There was nothing in it to discourage anyone from approaching our perimeter. That night I installed trip flares and Claymore mines in the ditch. Possibly the Viet Cong in our vicinity were also REMF.