In the Cau Viet area, Lt. Puller came to our unit. We knew about it a day or two before he arrived. And in BS sessions, we wondered what he would be like. We all agreed on one thing -- he had to learn to be a bushman just like anyone else.
Would he be one of those foolhardy, Hollywood types that cost lives? Would he be a simpleton? We doubted that! But we hoped he did not think that he needed to earn a reputation with us. The best I remember, the consensus was that he would not be that way. But what would he be like?
I only went on a few patrols under his command because, as 2/1 was moving down south (southern I Corps), I transferred to CAP (Combined Action Platoons). From what little I saw (they do not confide in PFCs), I thought he was a man with a proper attitude. By this I mean that he seemed to lean on the experience of the Sergeants. I liked that because they were bushmen. Of course, I was not in a position to judge him--it was just feelings.
I am supposed to be giving you a bio of myself, and here I am talking about Puller. If you have any specific questions, I'll be glad to answer. Back then, I was a simple grunt. But NOW, I am even more simple.
We were on a patrol somewhere in the Cau Viet area. This was truly the kind of patrol that I liked -- riding on amtracs. It happened once every hundred years. The sun was hot, but we were not humping in it. The best I remember, our platoon, the third, was divided on two amtracs.
At first, we were going through some pretty thick stuff. I was the bloop man for my squad (i.e., I carried the M79 grenade launcher). Since we were in the thick bush (at least, thick for amtracs), I did not have HE loaded but rather a shotgun round.
As the patrol continued, we finally broke out of the thick and were in the sand dunes. You could see for a long way off. If we ever got in a fight, we knew it would be from afar. If it happened at all, the enemy would be "engaging" us, not "ambushing" us. With this kind of attitude, when we broke out onto the sand dunes, I did not even bother to change to HE.
All of a sudden, I saw him. A pig, to our right, and running parallel to our front; but he was about 200 yds. from us. I started yelling 'Pig, Pig;' and I was breaking open the breech of the bloop gun to get rid of the shotgun round. The .50 Cal. on the amtrac opened up; and soon, many Marines started firing.
Our Platoon Cdr. was Lt. Lewis B. Puller Jr., New Guy to the Nam. Puller was half in, half out of a top hatch on the amtrac; and when the firing started, he disappeared down the hatch. It wasn't cowardice -- he was just taking cover. He didn't know what in the world was going on, but he was back up a second later ready to fire.
I finally got loaded up with HE, aimed at the pig, elevated, took a lead, and fired. The round landed right next to the pig's butt and put him down for good. Everybody was slapping me on the helmet and flak jacket and saying 'good shot.' And I ate it up. I never told anyone that it was not a good shot -- it was just pure luck!
The pig lay there, and we drove up next to it. We looked over the edge, and I said I wanted to shoot it to put it out of its misery. This time I was loaded with a shotgun round (as we approached), but no one knew it. The Lt. told me No. Someone took a .45 and did the job.
Who killed the pig? I took him down -- does that count?
In 1998, for the first time since it happened in 1968, I read of this incident. Lewis Puller tells about it in his autobiography, FORTUNATE SON. However, we had no idea that he was quite displeased about it until his book came out. He hid it very well. This was Puller's first "fire fight."
We had done this before, in the Khe Sanh area; but he had no idea. Welcome to the Nam, Lt. Puller. Some things just work out right.
Rod "Chic" Cicchetto
1332 Co. Rd. 55
Berry, AL 35546
I have the E-mail addresses of Sgt. Leslie (he went all the way to Major) and Gary Belden (a machine gunner). They were both in, or assigned to, the 3rd platoon and knew Lew.