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The Sound

By Roger Conard, Army

Writing Type: Prose

I participated in a battalion-level recon platoon in War Zone-C in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. One day we were ordered to climb to the top of the Razor Back Mountain along the border of Cambodia and Vietnam.

A “grunt,” whose name I wish I could remember, and I, the medic, were ordered to go down the hill on the Cambodia side and take a radio with us to set up a listening post. We got there and set up our claymore mines pointing downhill in the direction of large-scale enemy incursions. The 11-B infantry man I was with manned the radio, and we both prepared our weapons.

We waited.

I don’t know how long we waited, but it didn’t seem long before I heard what I believed would be the sound I would hear at the end of my life- the sound of what I thought was a large enemy force coming up the hill.

The fellow with me was on the field phone telling our platoon leader that it sounded like a regiment breaking brush straight up the mountain toward us. My thoughts were very simple. I would wait to blow my claymores; throw my grenades and then try to rejoin my platoon at the crest of the big hill we called the razor back, just five miles north of our base camp at Dau Tieng.

Suddenly we realized that a herd of apes had come upon us - I’m sure they were Gibbons. Although I wasn’t so sure at the time, we were both mesmerized and relieved that they weren’t a regiment of North Vietnamese Army regulars. I can imagine the first images that were manifested by our relay call to Battalion.

Eventually we called back and told our platoon leader it was only a herd of apes. They traveled quickly in the trees and on the ground and had detoured around us as naturally as could be.

The day went on without a major invasion force coming across the border, as had happened in the past. As it turned out, the major offensive would be our own, early in 1970 when our troops went to Cambodia in force.

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