“As a mortarman you rarely get to witness the fruits of your labor. You fire your rounds, and listen for the sound of the impacts. It’s not a glamorous job, but a necessary one.
We were dug in on this hill in northern south Vietnam. The hill overlooked a valley and there were about 150 of us up in this little base. We dug our mortar pit and spent most of our time waiting for fire missions from the guys in the holes lower down the hill.
One night we got attacked, and the infantry in the holes requested flares and HE mortars. We fired our flares, and then 4 mortars. As each mortar dropped, I listened for the sound of the explosion.
‘That was only three. What happened to the fourth? A dud?’ Our mortars helped repel the attack and we waited the rest of the night in our pit. In the morning, a bunch of the infantry went out onto the base of the hill to check out the enemy dead and wounded the VC had left behind.
As we were looking over the bodies we came to the area where we fired our mortars. I saw three little craters in a circular pattern, and next to one of the other craters was a dead VC with one of our 60mm mortars sticking out of his stomach.
The round nearly cut him in half. It had entered his right shoulder and traveled down his body and protruded out of his belly button. ‘Holy shit. It was a dud, but still killed the guy. Divine intervention or what?’ After that some of the rifleman started calling us the Trebuchet squad.”
– Private First Class Jerry O’Donnel, US Army. Vietnam 1967
This interview was conducted by Battles and Beers (TM) Every soldier has a story, and every story deserves to be told.