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Ground Pounder

A Marine’s Journey through South Vietnam, 1968-1969

Gregory V. Short

Publication Year: 2012

In early February of 1968, at the beginning of the Tet Offensive, Private First Class Gregory V. Short arrived in Vietnam as an eighteen-year-old U.S. Marine. Amid all of the confusion and destruction, he began his tour of duty as an 81mm mortarman with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, which was stationed at Con Thien near the DMZ. While living in horrendous conditions reminiscent of the trenches in World War I, his unit was cut off and constantly being bombarded by the North Vietnamese heavy artillery, rockets, and mortars. Soon thereafter Short left his mortar crew and became an 81mm’s Forward Observer for Hotel Company. Working with the U.S. Army’s 1st Air Cavalry Division and other units, he helped relieve the siege at Khe Sanh by reopening Route 9. Short participated in several different operations close to the Laotian border, where contact with the enemy was often heavy and always chaotic. On May 19, Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, the NVA attempted to overrun the combat base in the early morning hours. Tragically, during a two-month period, one of the companies (Foxtrot Company) within his battalion would sustain more than 70 percent casualties. By September Short was transferred to the 1st Battalion 9th Marines (the Walking Dead). Assigned as an infantryman (grunt) with Bravo Company and operating along the DMZ and near the A Shau Valley, he would spend the next five months patrolling the mountainous terrain and enduring the harsh elements. At the end of his first tour, he re-upped for a second and was assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing in Da Nang, where he had an opportunity to become familiar with the Vietnamese culture. Direct, honest, and brutal in his observations, Short holds nothing back in describing the hardships of modern warfare and our leaders’ illusions of success.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-

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Prologue

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pp. ix-xi

For the last couple of years, I have been writing a book about the economic determination of human civilizations and how the people in the past have lived and fought their wars. The idea was to reveal how a society’s economy...

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xix

One of the reasons I had decided to write this book was because as a society and as a nation, I do not believe that we actually learned anything of significance from our Vietnam experience. Even today, our troops can be found patrolling distant lands...

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Chapter One: Journey to Ixtlan

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pp. 1-19

In the latter part of January 1968, I found myself on a bus heading towards the Norton Air Force Base located in California. Earlier that morning at Camp Pendleton, the Marine base situated just north of San Diego, we had been briefed as to what was expected of us once...

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Chapter Two: The Hill of Angels

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pp. 21-40

As a sergeant in Quang Tri explained it to me, Con Thien was the northernmost American outpost in South Vietnam. Situated a little over six thousand meters below the Ben Hai River, it overlooked the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the southern panhandle...

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Chapter Three: Yankee Station

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pp. 41-63

As I was standing watch in the ammo bunker one early morning, Washington came down the stairs to relieve me. After a brief exchange of hellos, I handed him the inventory sheet listing every round in the bunker...

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Chapter Four: Tet

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pp. 65-78

General William Childs Westmoreland (Westy) had not been ill prepared for the job of Commanding General. Nor was he at all ignorant about the many facets of guerrilla warfare and the politics involved. Smart, brave, and conscientious to a fault...

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Chapter Five: On the Road again

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pp. 79-91

On April Fool’s Day, we began to follow the barrages of heavy artillery over a mountain and into the next valley. Since Mac and Chubby were with the four-deuces, they traveled along with the Battalion Headquarters group. At the time...

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Chapter Six: Six Flags Over Nothing

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pp. 93-113

Similar to most distant outposts in Vietnam, the combat base at Khe Sanh started out as a Special Forces camp. Situated approximately six miles east of the Laotian border and about twelve miles south of the DMZ, it was initially...

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Chapter Seven: Dear John

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pp. 115-141

Due to the fact that I wasn’t feeling very warm and fuzzy about myself, my new platoon lieutenant had called me into his quarters for a rap session. After I sat down on a box of C-rations, he and a gung-ho staff sergeant tried to ease my fears...

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Chapter Eight: Gypsy

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pp. 143-160

By the time I had returned from my R&R in Hawaii, the American people were still reeling from the shock over the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. (April 4) and Robert F. Kennedy (June 5). Within two short months...

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Chapter Nine: The Wild Bunch

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pp. 161-192

For the next couple of months, I found myself sloshing through the rice paddies, searching villages, and patrolling the surrounding darkness. Being the middle of summer, the work was hot and rugged. Since I was used to climbing up...

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Chapter Ten: Walking with the Dead

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pp. 193-222

Once the truck had come to a screeching halt, I reluctantly jumped down onto the hot pavement and ventured into the Marine transit building to get my orders processed. The weather had finally cleared up from the typhoon to where I could...

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Chapter Eleven: America’s Finest

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pp. 223-252

One of the truisms that I learned in Vietnam was that a grunt shouldn’t hang around his company’s rear area while he is awaiting orders. The spit-and-polish NCOs would seek him out and put him to work at the first opportunity whether...

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Chapter Twelve: Into the Breech

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pp. 253-272

One dismal morning, the helicopters unexpectedly arrived and took us away in a whirlwind of flying dust and lingering fumes. While climbing above the clouds, the air was so cold and crisp that we had to huddle together...

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Chapter Thirteen: Around the World in Thirty Days

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pp. 273-293

After taking a couple of boring days to fly across the Pacific Ocean, I finally landed at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. As I unfastened my seat belt, I didn’t have any idea who was going to be there to meet me. Deep down inside...

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Chapter Fourteen: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

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pp. 295-324

Our new commander was an older colonel named Woodson, who had worked his way up from the ranks. Stoic, distant, and hard as nails, he was a no-nonsense type of officer, but I had no complaints. He was a fair man...

Notes

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pp. 325-328

Glossary and Abbreviations

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pp. 329-332

Bibliography

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pp. 333-334

Index

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pp. 335-340


E-ISBN-13: 9781574414608
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574414523

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 13 b&w illus. 1 map.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series

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Subject Headings

  • Short, Gregory V., 1949-.
  • United States. Marine Corps -- Biography.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Veterans -- United States -- Biography.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • Tet Offensive, 1968 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • Vietnam (Republic) -- History.
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