A fragging: How our battery got a second 1st Sergeant.

Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 25th Infantry Division Artillery (the battery we were attached to) had a “fragging” several weeks after I arrived in country. The news traveled rapidly to those of us out in the field.

An enlisted man asked our 1st Sergeant for leave to go home to visit his ailing father. At least that was his story. The 1st Sergeant turned down the soldier’s request. So, the soldier walked back to his hooch, loaded his M-16 and returned to the orderly room. He shot the 1st Sergeant multiple times as he sat at his desk. The nearby battery clerk dived under his desk, for all the good it would do. The soldier had no interest in the clerk and simply walked away and eventually into a nearby bunker. As the MP’s were trying to talk him into giving up, the soldier committed suicide.

We were aware that fraggings occasionally happened, but this hit pretty close to home. I can still recall seeing some bullet holes in the wall behind the 1st Sergeant’s desk. Oddly, his replacement seemed in no hurry to have the holes covered or the plywood wall replaced.

Troubling behavior signs:

A few months later, we found ourselves living temporarily in a bunker with counter mortar radar team while we built our own bunker. One of the enlisted men on the host team struck me as being a bit odd. He would spend hours sitting on a sandbag wall, sharpening his bayonet while chanting, “I want to kill someone.” The problem was, he didn’t specify friend or foe. He had a crazy look in his eyes. I gave that guy a lot of space.

ARVN’s behavior:

During one of our many resupply trips back to base camp, I spotted a pile of dead enemy soldiers along the road side. They were stacked up like firewood, bloating in the hot sun. I guess that had to be expected in the aftermath of battle. But not what was sitting next to it. The ARVN’s propped up one dead enemy soldier in a sitting position against a fence post. I couldn’t help but see that they had severed his genitals and stuffed them in his mouth. I never ceased to be amazed how ugly war could be.