Blood Trails: The Combat Diary of a Foot Soldier in Vietnam
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BAPTISM BY FIRE
Chris Ronnau volunteered for the Army and was sent to Vietnam in January 1967, armed with an M-14 rifle and American Express traveler’s checks. But the latter soon proved particularly pointless as the private first class found himself in the thick of two pivotal, fiercely fought Big Red One operations, going head-to-head against crack Viet cong and NVA troops in the notorious Iron Triangle and along the treacherous Cambodian border near Tay Ninh.
Patrols, ambushes, plunging down VC tunnels, search and destroy missions–there were many ways to drive the enemy from his own backyard, as Ronnau quickly discovered. Based on the journal Ronnau kept in Vietnam, Blood Trails captures the hellish jungle war in all its stark life-and-death immediacy. This wrenching chronicle is also stirring testimony to the quiet courage of those unsung American heroes, many not yet twenty-one, who had a job to do and did it without complaint–fighting, sacrificing, and dying for their country.
Includes sixteen pages of rare and never-before-seen combat photos
He was nicknamed Dum-Dum or Dumb-Dumb, I wasn’t sure which. He was noted for filing off the tips of his bullets to create flat heads or dum-dums, which were outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Maybe that’s where he got the nickname. But it could have been Dumb-Dumb, because he wasn’t really known as a paragon of mental firepower. He also looked a bit odd. His teeth seemed smaller than normal so that when he smiled you could see a distinct space between each of them, like the teeth on a bicycle
platoon sergeants for one that looked like he was about to ask someone to pop a smoke grenade. It didn’t work. My assistance in this matter was not needed or requested. That day, Charlie Company used every color available except red to mark our position. In the 1st Division’s TAO (tactical area of operations) our commander, General DePuy, had ordained that this color be designated as a marker only for the enemy. Forward observers in single-engine Cessnas and spotters in helicopters used red
mid-200s. There was certainly no shortage of crocked guys with a compulsive drive to inform the FNG, me, what was really happening in Nam. Legends of the jungle were countless. After they killed you, the VC would cut off your dick and put it in your mouth. Our guys cut the left ear off dead VC for souvenirs. The VC were afraid of the ace of spades symbol, so having this card in your helmet band would help protect you. The VC would sometimes put an explosive device under a picture of Ho Chi Minh
type of guy who would run and tell the scoutmaster as soon as I found out. There were rumors about a white guy in our platoon named Henderson. The rumor was that he had been with the Green Berets and done an earlier tour in Vietnam. Now, for whatever reason, he was no longer a green beanie. Despite this, he had volunteered for a second tour of duty in the combat zone. As the story went, he had done this because he liked heroin and knew how to get it in the Nam. Not long after leaving the camp
traps weren’t enough, some tanks showed up to join the festivities. They drew fire and responded with canister rounds, which we called beehives. These 90-mm shells were like Napoleon’s grapeshot rounds, except that instead of firing clouds of miniballs they sent out swarms of little one-inch arrows called flechettes. We had all heard the story of these being used in battle and then afterward dead VC had been found nailed to trees or with their arms stapled to their chests. Perhaps it was just