BIMI

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James God in Vietnam gauge wire over them to prevent a North Vietnamese soldier from throw- ing a hand grenade into the bus from the roadside. The driver drove fast and furious along the dusty dirt road. We passed through the elephant grass and jungle until we finally arrived at Bien Hoa. was trained in the Air Force and I served as a crew chief work- ing on jet fighters and preparing to launch jet fighters for air strikes against the North Vietnamese. We were constantly launching air strikes against the North Vietnamese on a dai- ly basis. In addition, we would receive calls from the field from U.S. ground troops (Army and Marines) asking for immediate air strikes against the North Vietnamese to assist in their ground assaults in the war. The calls from the field were urgent and our assistance was vital for the survival of our fellow soldiers engaged in battle. When a call came in from the field, our planes I 14 • NATIONS had to be ready to go for an immediate launch. No time could be wasted. The lives of fellow soldiers out in the field depended on us to provide that neces- sary air cover. n May 12, 1967, I reported for work on the flight line to pre- pare jet fighters for air strikes. Planes had to be refueled, tires and brake assemblies replaced, all main- tenance completed, and a full load of bombs, napalm, and 20 MM cannon shells loaded for strafing. It was late that afternoon, and as usual our non- commissioned officer (NCO) met with us to brief us on all work that needed to be done. Our NCO informed us that intelligence personnel had intercepted information that the North Vietnamese had planned to launch a ground assault that night against our base and that we were on alert. We worked until a little before midnight. Afterward we went to our little dining facility for breakfast. My two bunkmates, Gary and Eddie, O and I ate breakfast together. The mood on the base was tense because of the impending North Vietnamese attack. After we finished eating, we walked out to an MP outpost. The MP was armed with his M-16 rifle. We needed a ride all the way across the base to reach our hut where we slept. Gary, Eddie, and I stood there for a moment talking to the MP when an- other MP pulled up in a Jeep with a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the back. He asked us where we were go- ing. We told him we were going to the other side of the base—and Bien Hoa was a huge base. The MP told us to get in the Jeep and he would give us a ride. Gary and Eddie climbed in and said, “Jim, get in so we can go.” I hesitated for a moment and then asked the MP if he were going all the way across the base. He replied, “No, I am only going half way.” I told Gary and Eddie we should wait since he was only going half way. They said, “No, let's go that far and then walk the rest of the way.” For some reason, I knew I should not get in that Jeep and I didn't. As they drove away, I waved and said, “I'll see you back at the hut.” I waited for a min- ute or two and finally caught a ride that took me all the way across the base. I had only been in the hut a couple minutes when the North Vietnamese began their assault with a barrage of rockets and mortars. We took cover in a bunker. Sitting in that bunker, the ground felt like it lifted up several feet each time a rocket or mortar would explode. I could hear the groans, the cries, and the screams of grown men who were badly wounded by shrap- nel—some had died. s I sat there in that bunker with my knees pulled up to my chest, my head down be- tween my knees, and my hands over A