We all learned a lesson that day. Don’t stay on the road until you secure the hill tops. My squad was the lead up the hill on the left the next morning. The hill was about 600 feet tall from the maps I was reading. There was a walking path up toward the top and we stuck to that path until we came to a small collection of huts. Another lesson struck very fast when machine guns opened up on my squad. I darted behind some little huts on the right and my squad was behind me and most retreated behind a small hill. I searched the huts to neutralize any enemies and found none. The was an old man about 80 holding a small child between his legs tightly protecting him. The captain started ordering us all to retreat because the mortar company could not give adequate support.
My problem was that I had to run across that path to get to the hill where my squad was located. The enemy was anticipating that some numb skull was going to have to run across that path to get to safety. I did not want to stay behind and possibly be taken prisoner or worse yet, KIA. I mustered my best dodging and jumping and diving techniques learned in basic training and went for it. Fortunately none of the many bullets hit me. I did have a group of members of my squad who were rooting for me and they caught me before I dived over the next hill.
I learned after we returned to base camp that one of my squad who was behind me had sustained a fatal head wound. He was my BAR man and I had a strong attachment to him. One of the hardest things that I had to do was write a letter to the family that would be included in the packet sent to them from the Army.
The captain was very reluctant to take us back up the mountain the next day but he had assurances from the mortar company that we could have the proper support next time we got pinned down. I had a restless sleep that night.
As I heard the artillery bombarding the hill that night I could not help but think of the old man and the child that I had met in an almost friendly way in that small village up the hill.