US Infantry in Vietnam - The Sixth Sense


Sixth Sense


I went to see the movie (Blair Witch Project - Mike R) and, for a horror movie it was passable but HAMMER STUDIOS (50s and 60s) could have done it better!

I too found myself paying attention to the blackness, isolation, fear and loathing that came with the darkness of the night in the movie. And it made me think about the jungle/bush darkness of the RVN. And this made me have a round of my night horrors which was, thankfully, short.

Y'all are right, the inability to see (even starlight scopes were almost useless under the trees and in bad - rainy - fog - weather) at night in the jungle and thick bush were bad news for GIs (and the gooks to on occasions!).

We were almost totally dependent on our ability to hear, to smell, and to "feel" OUT THERE in the dark. A darkness so black it was impossible to see your own hand at arms length or the GI next to you.

I mentioned this once before, I think, the ability to "feel" things under the stress of combat environment. In an Army field manual, I believe it is called combativeness, and in another, called, I believe SEE (survival, escape and evasion), this ability is mentioned briefly. Both stress that to ignore these "feelings" and "hunches" can be fatal. Some combat experienced Army instructors also talked about this, and warned against ignoring it. So the Army recognized this "combat sense" as a para-psychological phenomena experienced by large numbers of troops who are in combat conditions.

I could, and I knew others who also could, "feel" things. I have been curious for years as to how many others could "feel" danger, rightness and wrongness this way. So since then, I have run an unofficial survey among combat vets, non combat vets, policemen, and civilians.

So far over the years it is about 50-50 results as to yes and no from grunts, and about 10% "huh?" from some vets, and 99% disbelief from non-grunts and most civilians.

All I can tell y'all or anyone else about it is that there is a heightened sense state experienced by myself and some grunts. LOL! Sounds fantastic, but, I could smell, hear, see, and "feel" things more strongly then (and as a policeman on the beat afterwards) than I could as the jungle and I were separated by the passage of time.

I literally smelled the places where gooks had been, or were hiding on occasions. They smelled very different from GIs. Same as to hearing things that were wrong or dangerous in the jungle. A noise that did not belong, or did not exist but should have been there. Sometimes I could see little things, like bent twigs, grass, cut vegetation that was not dead yet, but had changed it's color very slightly, the darker color of recently dug dirt against the lighter color of dry surface dirt, branches with scrapes on the bark, etc.

But at night, sight was almost useless. Things can move around at night; not just imagination either, but optical illusions caused by staring intently at a thing or place. Night was the time for listening, smelling , and "feeling". And danger; the time for NVA and VC movement, attacks, ambushes, infiltrations.

Even now, more than 30 years since I went into the jungle and bush, I have spells where I am hyperaware, alert, and edgy at night.

Rainy weather still causes me a sense of unease, like that above, as the rain was also a time for NVA and VC activity, especially ground attacks on isolated units and firebases. The rain not only nullified the starlight scopes, hindered flares, but it often grounded the air support the gooks feared. It could also interfere with artillery fire support; Lightning interferes with radios, landline telephones, night vision and rain reduces visibility, Thunder makes it hard to hear, and the wet screws up the ability to smell anything but wet jungle and dirt. Rain also played hell with the damned M-l6 rifles, making them less than useless! From 1967 to 1867 in the space of a heavy rain!

Loved my M1917 pump shotgun and my M-14 rifle (which the Army took away and replaced with an M-16 crap gun), my .45 Colt, my M26 grenades and my Ka-Bar! These weapons never let me down, regardless of the time of day, or season, or if it was wet or dry.


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1st Infantry Division TAOR (1969)

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