From Firebase Barbara we went back near Dong Ha, to Charlie-1, one of the bases along the DMZ. It was in theory the safest of these bases because it was the southern-most and eastern-most of this line. Those closest to the DMZ were labeled A, as in A-1, A-2, etc. The next line were B bases, and the third and last line were the C bases. The numbering started from the east, near the coast with 1, and went up as you went west. Presumably Khe Sanh would have been the western anchor of this line of bases.
At Charlie-1 we did more shooting during the daytime. Often an Air Force forward air controller would fly up and down the DMZ in a small plane like a Cessna. If he found something big, he would call in an air strike, but if he found something small he would call us. Often he would call a fire mission on “footprints in the sand.” We would start shooting where he said the footprints disappeared, and usually someone would emerge running back toward North Vietnam because they knew that we were forbidden to shoot into North Vietnam. We would try to get him before he could get back to the river dividing the north from the south.
At least once, maybe more times, the Air Force would fly what we called an Arc Light mission. A fleet of B-52s would fly over the DMZ and carpet bomb it. The rumble and shaking was like an earthquake. We could see many vapor trails in the sky, but I don’t remember their being challenged by the North Vietnamese.
As I neared the end of my two year hitch, the Army offered a deal to let people out a few weeks early to go to school. I needed to leave a few weeks early to make it to the first day of law school. I wrote to both the University of Georgia, where I had finished my first year, and the University of Alabama, where I was a state resident. For some reason, Alabama replied quickly and said that they would accept me. I used the Alabama paperwork to get my early release approved. Just before I left Vietnam, Georgia finally replied that I could return, but by then the paperwork for Alabama was done.
When I had first arrived in Vietnam, the officer in charge of the fire direction center had persuaded me to sign for all of the equipment in the section. His argument was that if anything went missing, he as an officer would be personally responsible, while I as an enlisted man would not be. The equipment included our generators, computers, radios, an M-60 machine gun, but also an M-577 mobile command post (an armored personnel carrier with a high roof) and a trailer to carry the generators. On an artillery raid, the trailer axle broke, and I gave it to the motor pool sergeant to repair. He either buried it or sold it on the black market. After I had been in law school in Tuscaloosa for a few months, I got a “report of survey” from the Army billing me about $1,000 for the missing trailer. I went to see an Army lawyer at nearby Ft. McClellan. He gave me some forms to fill out, and I never had to pay, but the Army had followed me to law school.