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A Walk in the Dark

by: TJ McGinley
(© Copyright, 2008)

In mid-June 1968 the First Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division was assigned to guard a group of engineers whose job it was to lay a mine-field across the northern entrance to the A Shua Valley. The brigade had walked from FB Veghel, across the mountains south then west of the A Shau Valley to come down on the northern entrance of the valley.  For the first time in three months there was no triple canopy or dense jungle to conceal our location. The valley floor consisted of 8ft. elephant grass but no jungle or cover, so it was imperative that this operation be finish as quickly as possible.

To our north and south-west were mountains. To our west the Laotian border and we where standing in the middle of the Ho-Chi-Minh Trail. Time was crucial and we knew we were being watched from the surrounding mountains. As night was descending the engineers finished there job. As we were getting ready to didi we started getting incoming mortar rounds from the mountains then artillery fire from somewhere in Laos. We had to move and the only direction that was open to us was south, straight down the center of the valley.

It was my turn to walk point. Without delay we took off and not at a slow pace. It was getting dark, fast and moving through the elephant grass we got cut to ribbons but could move much quicker then in the dense jungle. After about an hour we slowed down realizing where we were as we came across crumpled barbed wire and rotten sand bags.

I knew we had found the abandoned Green Beret camp that was overrun in 1966. This put me in my place and I realized what I was doing and where I was, walking point through one of the most dangerous locations on the planet in 1968, the A Shua Valley in the middle of the night.

The First Cavalry  had made a helicopter assault into the center of the valley a month earlier so we thought most of the NVA would be tied up for a while so we moved on.  Firefights raged all over the valley as we slowed down and started to pay closer attention to our surroundings.

By dawn we had reached another unit in our battalion and we were extracted from the notorious A Shau Valley.

TJ McGinley
C, Co. 1/327/101st Abn.Div.
Vietnam 1968-69

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