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Dancing with the Darkness Volume One
An excerpt from the book:
Eight American men in camouflaged faces and gear were moving through the jungle about five or six kilometers south/southeast of the village or hamlet of Fo Chi - about thirty miles west of the Mekong River inside Cambodia. They were designated Delta LRRP team. They were originally on a ‘dark op’, a mission that could be disavowed by the Pentagon if the occasion called for it.
Scout/Sniper Corporal Barton Webber had advanced nearly three quarters of the way up a ridge that would be the end of how far he was authorized to go by Sergeant Marks and Lieutenant Fitzgerald (not to mention Charley Bighorse) - as a deviation from their planned mission objective’s ingress course.
It was the five kilometer limit that Marks had told him he could go and that Big - his shadow, self appointed body guard, and spotter when he was snipping - had reemphasized. Besides that distance limit, Marks had imposed a two hour time limit as well. It had taken him an hour and fifteen minutes to get this far with all the care he had to take looking for the enemy, spider holes, tunnels or ambushes as he went.
He and Bighorse would have to hump it hard to get back in the remaining forty five minutes of the two hours that Marks had told him he could be gone. He had traversed the terrain as fast as he could with his eyes, ears and senses ‘peeled’.
A hundred yards from the ridgeline he began to get a powerful sense of danger, of malevolence. He knew it instinctively for what it was. It was the same sense he had gotten just before the enemy patrol had passed by them in the night on their first mission. It was the enemy.
He had already identified the particular sense as if it were a particular scent or fragrance to another of his senses. He cautiously approached the ridgeline and found a spot where he could conceal himself underneath the low hanging branches and leaves of a small tree just at the ridge line - and sheltered in the cleft between two massive rocks.
He took out the team binoculars and surveyed the valley below, then down the valley to his left. He saw movement coming down the valley, but angling across it as well in his general direction. It was the Bravo team.
Their pace was hurried towards him as they came. He saw that they also carried the bodies of two of their fallen team members. They hadn’t even taken the time to put them in their ponchos. He could see the blood on them. So the dream was really true. Webber hadn’t doubted it, but now his eyes confirmed it.
He swept the binoculars to the right and spotted movement advancing up the valley toward Bravo patrol. The hair on the back of his neck stiffened and he knew before he even identified them that this was the enemy force he ‘felt’. He swept back to the patrol. Fear for them stole over him.
He willed them to see the enemy and take cover. He could not yet communicate with them over his radio for that would give away his position and his team. They had to take their chances for the moment, but he didn’t like the choice he was forced to make.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw them apparently spot the enemy or at least movement down the valley. He swept back and forth from one unit to the other. He was glad in one respect for the leaves above him and for it being overcast. He didn’t believe that he would give away his position by any glint off the lenses of the binoculars since there wasn’t any sun out to reflect off them.
He saw Sgt. Rives giving hand signals and guessed they had indeed recognized it was an enemy force countering their movement. They took refuge and the best defensive positions they could in a depression that Barton guessed was a buffalo wallow in the center of the valley. He rotated the dials of the binoculars to zoom in on them. He smiled a rueful smile. He was, he guessed five hundred yards distance from them and still, because these were good binocs, could make out their features.
As one of the troopers closest to him poked his head up briefly - he believed he recognized a slightly older, and slightly frightened - PFC Steven Howard. He sighed a second sigh, this one not of relief really, but more of resignation. His dream of Howard and his team being in danger had been real after all, now confirmed twice with the presence of Howard.
He eased back a bit beyond the ridge line and turned back to the ridge behind him where he had left Bighorse. Big hadn’t liked it when he had disappeared but he had held his position on the preceding ridge line. When Barton located him through the binoculars, he saw Big looking back at him through his own rifle scope.
It gave Barton a slight sniper’s chill to see a rifle - even his own in the hands of his trusted Bighorse - was sighted on him. He thought of giving Big several short and rapid, ‘come hither’ waves. He wanted to convey to Big to move it. He debated using his tactical radio and decided the risk was worth the reward. He decided it was but then amended his thoughts about what he would say to Big.
For one thing he was beneath the ridge line and that gave his radio transmission some dampening effect. He decided that he needed Big to convey the message back to Marks and Fitz from where he was. He hoped if the Bravo team heard the transmission they would be smart enough and disciplined enough to not act as though they had.
The three quarters of a kilometer that now separated him and Bighorse might be the difference between him being able to make contact with the rest of the team or not. If Big couldn’t reach them he would have to decide on whether to send him back as a runner or not. That would take too long he thought.
Barton had already decided that he and Bighorse could pin down the enemy force but he wasn’t sure about effecting an extraction. They had come up the valley enough from his vantage point by then to count their strength. There were 34 of them.
He had also seen that the Bravo team had what looked like two KIA, but no one else seemed to be wounded of the remaining six members. Carrying out the two bodies would slow them up considerably and he needed his own team’s entire firepower, especially the M-60 to make their extraction happen. Then there would be the pursuit and the rear guard action to deal with if they didn’t kill all of the enemy force.
There beneath the ridge he keyed his mike while looking at Big and said, “Send lantern, wave to me if they receive”. He watched and heard Bighorse’s transmission to Marks. He hoped that RTO Baker was as diligent about scanning the team tactical channel at the moment as he usually was. Momentarily he heard some static, and saw Bighorse wave and heard his response to Marks himself.
He keyed his mike and gave the map coordinates - where the Bravo team was pinned - and the location of the enemy force relative to Rives patrol, and its size. “Send it with the request that Delta two double time it and rustle up some air cover if he can.”
Bighorse held up his hand as if to tell Barton to be careful not to walk on the transmission from Marks and then heard him relay Barton’s request for expediting the team. He heard the static of the response from Marks and Bighorse waved his hand again. He looked at Barton for direction. Barton waved to him to join him.
Big got the message and was there within ten minutes. As Bighorse began to come to him, Barton slipped back into his position on the other side of the ridge. The spot was a perfect firing position. It was big enough for the both of them to be concealed and within arm's length of each other so that they could communicate with whispers.
Barton had been gone from surveiling the situation for only five minutes, but he kept his ears and senses trained on the Bravo team and the enemy all the while. In the twenty minutes that had lapsed from when Barton had first slipped over the ridge and spotted the Bravo team and the enemy until Big slipped into the sniper’s nest beside him - Barton saw only one slight change in the scenario.
It was Rives scanning the ridgeline and holding his lapel mike in his hand. Barton guessed that he had heard at least his transmission to Big. He figured he was tempted to break discipline and contact him. He also guessed that Rives was being a true soldier, when he didn’t transmit - knowing that the other team could not help him unless the situation was favorable to effect a successful extraction.
He was right. Rives had heard the transmission although he didn’t recognize the voice on the cryptic transmissions. He knew from the signal strength and from the accurate description of his coordinates and reference to his unit that someone had to have his team in visual contact.
He also got the info on the force pinning him down and despite it giving him a chill, at least he knew what he was up against and that Delta would help his team if they could. The Delta two reference in the transmission confirmed that it was a member of Mark’s team (Delta team) transmitting.
Rives concluded two things: that one, on the ridge above him was at most (at the moment at least), a two man scout/sniper team. Rives concluded that they wouldn’t have been communicating on their squad tactical radios if the main element of the team was with them. Besides that, it was the right way to approach the situation if they were separated by much distance.
He also concluded that he had gotten his team into this predicament - he couldn’t expect the other team to sacrifice themselves in a fruitless effort to save them - at the expense of getting themselves killed or captured for nothing.
He also concluded bitterly that after twenty minutes of no shots being fired - or the enemy force not attempting to advance or flank him - that either the enemy force out there were figments of he and his teams imagination, or they were simply a blocking force waiting for a another force to come and flank them.
It had all the earmarking of that and there wasn’t anything he could do about it without a radio - their tactical radio had been shot through in the earlier ambush. He devoutly hoped Marks would hurry and he hoped the sniper was very, very good if the time came for him to engage.
So far at least he seemed to be handling himself like Rives would have wanted his own sniper/scout to. It was his only lifeline, but it gave him some additional hope for himself and his men.
Barton has also concluded as much - it was a blocking force - about the same time as Rives did. At the moment he was doing all he could about it without exposing his team. He felt sorrow in his heart, and muttered to Big, “The bastards are just waiting, blocking until reinforcements arrive.
If Marks can’t get us some air support which might be damn near impossible with this cloud crap above us, there might not be nothing we can do but watch.” That depended on when the full team arrived, when the flanking force arrived, and how big they were. It was also not going to be his decision to make.
Marks was working on the air cover as he came. They had closed the distance from five to two kilometers when Marks made the transmission to the FAC that resulting in his signal being picked up by NVA Lt. Hien’s force.
It was his third transmission to the FAC - the second being to acknowledge that the FAC had not thus far had any success in contacting a Mohawk - that was picked up by the enemy when he acknowledged that the FAC had only fifteen minutes left on fuel. That transmission had been to acknowledge the FAC's transmission that an OV-1H was enroute, about fifteen minutes out and he would hand off to him when he came with five miles.
By then Patrick and Alvarez had closed to within a kilometer, but the last kilometer was the roughest valley they had to cross. It was steeper and more densely vegetated than any valley they had covered so far and they were starting to get winded, especially Baker and Marks.
RTO Baker had to deal with the bulky radio on his back and its antennae - and its getting snagged at by limbs, plus having the cord being tugged on by Marks frequently. Sometimes it affected his balance as they double timed over the difficult terrain.
Several times he had to protect the radio with his body, warding off the slapping limbs from damaging it. It was their lifeline for air support and for extraction later. Without it, not only was their team in serious trouble, but Rives team could simply kiss their asses goodbye. Marks had begun to get winded, too - he had to talk on the radio while mostly running, and sometimes having a hand out to steady Baker.
Within fifteen minutes after the O-1 Birddog pilot radioed a Mohawk (OV-1H) was on the way to relieve him and effect a strike, the radio traffic picked up dramatically. First, the Mohawk pilot made contact with them. He identified himself in his transmission as ‘Velvet Glove’.
The Mohawk pilot said he was five minutes out heading west to east to the indicated map coordinates. Just after Marks acknowledged the Mohawk’s transmission, Webber came on the team radio for the first time to him. He rapidly gave Marks an emerging sitrep (situation report) on what was developing below him and on the opposite slope.
“Delta Eight to Delta Two: I have the following sitrep in addition to preceding transmissions. A battalion size force of at least 450-500 men is emerging from underneath the cloud ceiling as they come down the slope opposite me. Their range is appx. 1200-1300 yards from my position.
Terrain is a gentle slope, not exactly out in the open, but not much cover for them. Force seems to be arraying in flanking motion one company beginning to fan to the west and another to the east, with one company size unit in the center, probably battalion command.
They are close together as yet, but they should be in position to set up machine guns, mortars and sniper posts within five minutes. They are at present due north of Bravo team’s position, beyond them some eight hundred yards. It looks like the smaller blocking force is poised to strike as well. Please advice”.
“Hold one, eight”, said Marks. He looked up the slope to where Lt. Fitzgerald and Patrick were just reaching Bighorse and Barton’s position. He saw that Alvarez and Braun had already reached Barton’s position and had flanked them down the ridge to the right.
He saw that Bighorse had come back on this side of the ridge and was directing Braun where to set up the M-60. If they were going to successfully engage the enemy and extract the Bravo team it had to be now - before the NVA opened up. The action was upon them whether he was fully ready or not, or liked it or not.
Marks keyed the RTO’s mike, “Delta two to Velvet Glove, I have a firing mission immediately in front of you as you clear the highest ridge point in front of you on your present course. NVA target is battalion force, appx. three minutes from your position.
Be advised that there are six friendlies pinned down in the valley at (he gave the Mohawk driver the coordinates) with 30 plus NVA in close contact with them to the east and south east. The battalion size force is closing and attempting to flank from the north appx. 800 yards distance.
Recommend you engage them on your first pass from west to east, and then from north to south or as you choose, and after that dump all the ordinance you have as you think best.”
“Roger that Delta two, I am in hot in just over two, tell the friendlies to keep their heads down.”
“Roger that Velvet, my unit is on the ridgeline south of the friendly position; bring the rain. Do not attempt to engage the smaller close contact unit, my unit will engage them.”
Marks switched back to team tactical radio and said, “Delta two to Delta Eight, the rainmaker is here, cover Bravo team, do all the damage you can." To the rest of the team he simply held down the transmit button and said, "Delta team you are cleared to fire as soon as the rainmaker engages.”
Barton Webber could not wait much longer. He didn’t know what the capabilities of the strike aircraft coming in was, but he suspected that all they were going to get was 500 pound bombs and maybe napalm dropped as accurately as the fly boys could on the map coordinates he had given them.
He had given them accurate info - he was sure of that - but he wasn’t too confident that they could hit much from altitude without being able to see their target. Fate moved by a momma’s prayers had brought him here to save the life of PFC Howard with whom he had a checkered history. He was going to do his best to not fail him or Rives’ team. The die was cast and now it was time to play the game.
While Bighorse was setting up the M-60’s firing position, Barton chose his targets on a threat priority basis. Besides covering Bravo team's breakout, he needed to diminish the threat to his own team - the biggest threat would come from counter fire once the action started - and once the enemy got a general location for them.
Sniper and machine gunners would be the most immediate threat to them, but he had to eliminate as much communication and command capabilities of the enemy as possible, particularly of that battalion. They were biting off maybe more than they could chew and they were a long way from being able to retreat with Bravo team to an LZ.
The enemy company on the right - to the west, his left - was advancing and starting to sweep in a movement that could flank his own team. He had to diminish, to blunt that threat. He selected three targets in that company: the nearest sniper, a light machine gun squad, and the enemy RTO. They were at long range and some distance apart.
He estimated that he had to devote two rounds each to the sniper, the lead machine gunner and the enemy RTO and hopefully the radio unit itself - he could spare no more time or rounds on each of them. He had to rotate right and place some rounds on the center company - to its battalion commander and that radio man - again two rounds each.
He intended to do as much harm to their command and control as it could on the first round of firing. Finally, he selected a seven man squad of the blocking unit that was nearest to Rives squad. He would take out as many of them as he could because they were the most immediate threat to the Bravo team.
After that he would go after targets of opportunity and threat as Big selected them for him. He gave each of his targets a dry run: in his imagination shooting twice at them and shifting targets. It took him less only thirty seconds to complete the sweep.
That bothered him a little bit, because his Remington model 742 was not a military specked rifle, even if Sgt. Clancy had modified it a great bit. It was not built for sustained rapid fire. He didn’t think he could get by with more than ten rounds a minute sustained firing without doing serious damage to its rifling. But he himself he would do what he had to do.
He kissed his rifle and spoke to it as Big settled back in beside him. He named all his favorite rifles going back to his days as a kid in Arkansas. His first big rifle, an Argentine Mauser, he named Maria. His favorite woman’s name was Maria and he thought all rifles should be named with women’s names if they were going to be named at all. His first Model 742 that was back home he had name Gloria.
This 742 he had named Elena (his second or third most favorite woman’s names respectively). Big thought he heard him say as Barton kissed the rifle, “It’s up to me and you Elena baby, shoot true.” Barton quickly told Big his priority of targets and then told him after that set that Big would be selecting his targets, and handle any communications. Big nodded.
Barton keyed his mike for the final time before the firing started, “Delta Eight to Bravo leader”. Rives came back almost instantly, “Bravo one to Delta Eight, go ahead.”
“Bravo One, have you been monitoring Delta transmissions?”
“That is affirmative, Delta”.
“Then you don’t need a sitrep, Bravo, except to say that the ball is about to drop. Expect to hear and feel heavy denotations to your north. When we open fire, concentrate your fire on the enemy unit immediately in front of you to the southeast. My unit and the air strike will take care of the rest. Go through one belt on your M-60 and attempt to break through. Advance up the ridge on my position, my unit will cover you. Do you copy?”
“Bravo acknowledges begin firing on air strike, and attempt to break through to your position. And thanks Delta, however, this turns out.”
“Roger that, Bravo; Delta Eight out”.
Barton settled into his final firing position. He relocated and began to track the enemy sniper he had previously selected. He did not see the ghostly black image come nose down through the cloud cover firing his miniguns and ripple firing his rockets before it even emerged from the cloud cover. But he sort of felt it, he knew it was there. He began firing as soon as he sensed the first rip (the six barrel cannon’s firing has been described because of its rapid fire as sounding like the ripping of a bed sheet by observers) of the miniguns overhead and to the west.
He had estimated that his first round would fall appx. 15 inches at the distance he was firing. He held his cross hairs that much above the head of the sniper and in front of him what he estimated necessary to lead him as he double timed ahead. His 742 roared out the first shot and bucked against his shoulder as Barton commenced firing.
He fought down the muzzle automatically as he had hundreds of time before and fired again. He need not have fired the second bullet because his first round caught Private Dong of the NVA slightly above the bridge of the nose and left a gaping hole as it emerged from the back of his head. It was the first man that Barton Webber had ever killed, but it would not be his last, not even the last this minute.
His second shot passed through empty air as Dong was falling. Without knowing it he had avenged the earlier ambush of the Bravo team. He shifted fire to the RTO operator nearby. His first bullet struck the enemy soldier high on his right shoulder - Barton’s second bullet went squarely through his chest and destroyed the enemies’ company radio as it exited his body.
He shifted targets again, his first round at a machine gunner killed him outright so he directed a second round at his loader - his round took him down, but he didn’t have time to verify the kill. He shifted right a few degrees - and zeroed in on what he thought was the equivalent of a major - by his rank insignia. He suspected him to be the battalion commander. His first bullet struck him squarely in the chest and his second ripped through his right shoulder near the heart as he fell twisting to the ground.
Within ten seconds of being hit Major Lon Giap was dead, not even having enough time to reflect on the disappointment of having his prize stolen from him. Barton again fought down the muzzle of his rifle and shifted his aim as he did so slightly to the left and took out the battalion RTO who was looking off to the west and up at the sky.
His bullet took the RTO squarely mid chest and also accomplished its task of destroying the radio on his back as it expanded and exited the RTO’s back along with several chunks of ribs that together decimated the radio.
Barton’s concentration on his selected targets was such that he didn’t even see the effects of the Mohawk strike that tore into the enemy troop formation along with his bullets. But he was vaguely aware of it none the less. So far it had been the focus of the NVA attention and he doubted they even knew there was a lrrp team firing at them as well.
Barton snapped fired two rounds at a nearby machine gun squad and saw two more enemy soldiers go down as he shifted fire another twenty five degrees and down - past Rives squad to the seven enemy soldiers he had selected as his third set of targets. Just as his cross hairs came to bear on the squad one of them (seeing the action opening before him) started to rise to engage Rives squad.
Barton made sure with a bullet to the head that he never got fully erect. The range to the enemy on this side was much closer and there wasn’t much drop to compensate for, so Barton could shoot more precisely just by using the cross hairs and not calculating Kentucky windage for each shot or group of shots. On this group of targets, he had calculated one shot, one kill.
He took out the three NVA nearest Rives squad, and then he took out the machine gunner and his assistant with five rounds. Every good shooter counts his rounds and Barton knew he had fired seventeen rounds in less than a minute.
He knew his precious Elena could not stand that rate of fire. There was only one thing here that was more precious to him than his rifle and that was American lives. If he had to burn down his rifle barrel to give them a chance to get out of this, he would; but he would do so only as a last resort.
His left hand was on the stock. Both his palm and fingers were close enough to the barrel to feel the heat rising with each shot. He wondered absently how hot it would be getting if Clancy hadn’t replaced the original barrel with a thicker one and relieved around it to help it breath.
After his initial rate of fire, the rifle needed thirty seconds to a minute to cool if he could give her that. His special order ammo clips were twenty rounds each and two of them were tapped together opposing each other. His experience from back home was that the rifle sometimes jammed when you forced all twenty rounds into the clip.
He left one additional round out for good measure - to further lessen the pressure on the clip spring for longevity. Since he had fired all but one round in his present clip and he needed to breathe his rifle anyway. He thumbed the release and rotated the spent clip out. He replaced it with the clip taped to it and clicked it into place.
He reached into his jungle fatigues leg pocket and drew out a twenty round cartridge box that was loaded with a 1 to 1 ratio of full metal jacket rounds and high velocity 150 grain lead tipped bullets. He passed it to Big and said, “Next pause, I’ll pass you these two clips. Use the box to reload as much as you can; no more than 18 rounds per magazine.”
Big nodded. Sgt. Charley Bighorse was Barton’s spotter. He had his binoculars trained on the battle field as Barton fired to observe and confirm the kills, but also to look for other targets from a wider scope than what Barton could see as he was zeroed in on each target. His job was to assess threats to their position and to protect his sniper.
Bighorse was a respected, crack paratrooper in his own right. He had earned the bronze star on his first tour and had re-upped to stay in country. He liked the army, more particularly, he liked airborne and he liked combat. It wasn’t the savagery, or the killing he liked. It was being his own man, of earning respect and of being respected on his own merit.
Charley had been raised in Oklahoma, not on a reservation, but by his mom and dad northwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma, near the Osage Indian reservation. His paternal grandmother had lived with them and she had attempted to teach Charley the old ways.
Charley respected his grandmother - and listened because of that respect as she talked of spirits and medicine men and their heritage - but had largely let it go in one ear and out the other. That was until he met Barton Webber.
He hadn’t been too impressed when Barton had joined the team - as a replacement for their former medic - who had been wounded by a mine and had been evaced stateside. But then in two short weeks, Barton had saved his life and that of another member of his team.
He had not only come to be in awe of Barton, but he had also become his blood brother, his protector and his roommate. Because his upbringing had more resonance in him than he realized, the imagery of it affected him deeply.
He regarded Barton as a medicine man, a shaman or whatever he could lay his mind on from his heritage. Barton walked at night on point like a ghost; he did things Charley could scarcely believe.
All the team had come to deeply respect and rely on Barton in those few weeks (Marks and Fitz who knew Barton nearly two weeks more than Big were as equally impressed with him even if they showed it less than Charley).
When Bighorse was asked later to give his report on the action, he said he couldn’t tell whether Barton fired first or the strike aircraft fired first: to him it was almost in the same instant. Big did see things as the battle opened that Barton could not see looking through his sniper scope tracking targets.
At one point he just said "Damn". Although they hadn’t discussed it, he was pretty much of the same opinion that Barton was – that they would get some bombs dropped from altitude, the accurate and effect of, he was at first dubious of.
He too thought they might just be biting off more than they could chew, but there was no fear in him or any back up. What Marks brought it was altogether different that what both of them expected.
In his dreams on later nights he followed the Mohawk as it descended through the clouds firing its miniguns and rockets even before it emerged from the cloud cover as near as Big could describe ‘like an angry avenging angel’ or more like 'a shrieking, tearing, biting thunderbird'. Pandemonium and shock descended on the enemy NVA battalion.
The black clad Mohawk cut a swath through the battalion twenty yards wide in places and easily killed a hundred of the NVA the first pass. It seemed to parallel Barton’s shooting pattern but just north of it, sometimes coming to within five yards of Barton’s targets, but not overlapping up until Barton switched his sights to the blocking force and the Mohawk hammered the eastern most company as he was pulling up to set up for another pass out of the clouds.
Big followed Barton’s progression of shots as he shifted targets, but then shifted back as soon as Barton paused to reload. He took a slower assessment, confirming kills, but also looking for additional threats for Barton to shoot. He also silently counted Barton’s shots, he knew that Barton loaded eighteen rounds in each magazine and carried four magazines, plus the extra cartridge box of twenty or a total of 92 rounds.
He knew when it was time for Barton to reload, and for him to acquire new targets for him. He didn’t mind Barton reminding him of things he already knew. He knew this was Barton’s first real battle, his first time to kill a man. He marveled inwardly even at that. Barton had not flinched, hesitated or wavered in any way.
Of the first seventeen rounds Barton had fired, Big counted thirteen enemy soldiers fall. They were still down, thirteen dead for seventeen shots (most of the targets were also over a thousand yards), some of them double taps. This was top notch shooting, all in rapid fire mode.
There wasn’t time to marvel at Barton’s shooting skill though - not now when the ‘rescue’ was still in doubt. When the Mohawk's second pass began, Big began to select targets for Barton in the blocking group to clear the path for Rives’ team.
Braun had opened up on the main body of the group (the blocking force) that Big had pointed out to him as soon as he heard Barton’s first shot, and Patrick had opened up on the right flank of the platoon at the same time. Braun had killed what looked like about ten of the 34 men, and Patrick had killed three.
The force that had pinned down Rives was now pinned down and being annihilated themselves from higher ground by Delta team. The ambushers had become the ambushed with the air strike and with the arrival of the Delta team. With the five that Barton killed, that left only sixteen of them as combat effectives.
Rives M-60 gunner and the rest of his team had opened fire after Braun – but had mostly shot high as he really couldn’t see the enemy like Delta team could. As the two men left in the front seven closest to them tried to avoid Barton fire, Rives M-60 gunner saw them and killed them.
The path was now open for them to make their break and they began to do so. Braun and Patrick continued to lay fire on the remaining fourteen men and killed them one by one until there was only one left who simply got away running down the valley.
By now Rives team was on the move, carrying their two fallen comrades and running as fast as they could to and up the hill for their lives. It had been less than five minutes from the first shot.
Bighorse was surprised how little fire they and especially Rives team drew - but perhaps that was because their attention was being nearly completely diverted by the air strike. The NVA battalion simply wasn’t allowed to remain focused on the Bravo team. They had lost several of their radios, and many of their officers and non-coms (non commissioned officers).
Many of them were simply trying to find cover now. Each successive pass by the Mohawk descending from a different direction out of the clouds further added to their destruction and confusion. Barton began to concentrate on the eastern most company, killing its officers, machine gunners, anyone with a rocket launcher, going after their communications operators and gear. He had figured they would have mortars too, but he didn’t see any.
By now he had expended the other nineteen rounds that remained in his double clip and in the chamber of his 742. He kept careful count even as he fired because he didn’t want to dry fire his rifle. He thumbed the clip release and passed the empty magazine to Big.
Barton slid his second double magazine in the receiver and felt it clicked into place. He pulled back the bolt and let it slam home, reloading the chamber. His shooting was nearly as furious and fast paced now and he couldn’t let his rifle have more time between shots just yet.
Big pulled two cartridge boxes from his fatigue leg pocket and began to reload both sides of the double clip. He loaded about ten rounds and then used his binoculars to sweep the battle field. He finished the reloading and passed the loaded clip back to Barton, poking him in the ribs with it.
Barton took it, and at once noticed that it wasn’t heavier on one side than the other was as he expected it to be. He paused from his shooting and looked at it, flipped over and looked at the other side, saw it fully loaded and then looked at Big.
Big smiled at him, told him he had taken an extra cartridge box himself. “You’ve shot 36 rounds. You had 92 - and with the twenty I brought - that makes 72 left. I have the last four in my pocket. We need to think about how much ammo to shoot now and how much to save for the move out of here."
Barton nodded, noticing that he said 'we' and had also been counting his shots. He shouldn’t have been surprised Big had taken to looking out for him like a mother hen. That Big would take the precaution of toting an extra cartridge box - and carrying the extra weight of it - shouldn’t be a surprise.
He also wasn’t surprised that Big was also thinking about the order of battle. They both knew that they would be the last two out, just as they had been the first two in.
Big looked Barton in the eye and said, “Sooner or later they are going to zero in on our position, we ought to think about moving while we can. We’ve been lucky so far.”
Barton said, “I agree. There are some more targets I need to take out on the eastern company; then we need to shift and concentrate on the western company. They are the most danger to our team if they flank us.
But right now we need to take out as much of the eastern company as we can because they’re closer. I’ll shoot the next eighteen rounds at the eastern company; then we’ll move and take a position that gives us better visibility to the west.”
With his next eighteen rounds, Barton knocked down 15 NVA, all at over 1000 yards.