"One helluva way to start your tour of duty"

Sp4 Rick Ericksen arrives in Nam, reports in at LZ Mary Lou....and the SHOOTING begins!!

I had just arrived at LZ Mary Lou and got off the truck/convoy and asked a guy who looked like he was from there where I could find my unit. He said head straight down the road.  When you come to a line of containers/Conex's, on just the other side of that is a row of tents. He said just look for your unit's name/insignia above the opening. 

As I rounded the containers, I heard two men running really hard from my right.  As I turned to look, they went flying by me. There was this black guy/GI with a look of anger on his face and he was frothing around the mouth like a mad man. I froze up instantly as he was aiming his M16 at what first looked like me, but was actually pointing at the two men that were running away. He let of two quick bursts and dropped both of them in their tracks. One was not moving and the other was just moaning and rolling around. He then refocused back on me.  Just about the same time, a guy came from his right and behind him from a bunker. He immediately swung to where the guy was coming from and let go with another burst.  At this point his M16 went dry and he turned and ran up the road towards the gate. Next thing I know is someone gave me a shove forward and yelled out, "Stop that MF'er, he's crazy.  He shot the LT. .... he's dead and he wounded the sergeant. At that point I guess instinct took over cause I remember pulling a mag out and locked & loaded and started running after the guy and was joined by two other guys who came out of nowhere along side me.  The road leading back to the gate was full of trucks that I had just arrived on and other GI's were milling about. Suddenly the guy popped out from between one and that's when all hell broke loose. He spotted us the same instant we spotted him and he opened up on us.  We returned fire meanwhile taking cover in the drainage ditches alongside the road. He then made a run for it, dodging between and behind the trucks and we in pursuit trading fire as we went. It seemed like forever but we were headed straight for the gate and I could now see the MP's at the gate turning to bear on us with there 16's & 60's. I knew then if we did not end this soon, it was going to be an all out firefight with our own guys who had no idea what the hell was going on. I grabbed the two guys in the ditch and made a hasty plan. I told them I just got here and this is not what I expected or planned on and did not want to go out this way.  So, let's break on three and spread out so we could draw his fire in three different directions.  It would make it easier to move and not give him one target to bear on. I remember all the time though, hearing the supersonic sound of bullets whizzing over head. 

As soon as I heard a break in the shooting, I gave the command to break out and move. One guy went to the opposite side of the road and the other laid flat in the middle and myself stayed put in the drainage ditch on the right. When he saw the guy on the left side, he stood up in the middle of one of the trucks. Suddenly he broke out in the middle of the road and winged a few shots and started running up the road. I remember as we opened up on him, he turned once to return fire and then as he turned back and ran forward, there was a burst of three M16's going off all at once.  He dropped in the middle of the road and his weapon went flying forward. I jumped up with the other two guys in close pursuit, but I was the first one to reach him. He was screaming at the top of his lungs and rolling around. When I finally got to him, he was face down.  I grabbed his shirt by the shoulder and flipped him over. He had this big wound in his left shoulder, one of the rounds hit him high and blew out his whole shoulder. It was really nasty. Before I knew it, there was several MP's standing over us telling us to put our weapons down. At that point they pulled us up and handcuffed all of us. Next thing I know, there are medics working on this guy and  putting him into an ambulance. That's the last time I ever saw him. Next thing we are loaded into a jeep and taken to MP HQ's to sort this out.  Once they sorted the whole thing out and got all of the stories straight, they cut us loose. I never did find out what happened to the shooter but I was told later by some guys who knew who he was that they had just come back from two very nasty operations. One I believe was the Chu-Pa mountain and the other was Dak To north of Mary Lou in Kontum Province. They were up against the 141st NVA regiment; they were seasoned hard core regulars. They were in heavy contact and lost a lot of guys in both of these operations and he managed to survive both. When he was ordered back out again to the same areas he said he had enough and then they told him he had no choice.  So I guess that is what set him off and he went bullshit and started going crazy and so it went.

This was my "welcome" to Vietnam and to the 2/9th Arty.


submitted by Rick Ericksen

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