In 1965, I was an eighteen year old PFC with third platoon Mike3/7. We were on an extended sweep-and-destroy way out in the bush. The whole company was together and headed back to our base camp around the airstrip at Chu-Lai. This was an unusual happenstance, as most trips to the bush sent us out with Battalion or short trips platoon or even squad strength.
The word had come down that Fred Seda had been granted "solesurviving son" status, and would rotate back to the world as soon as we made base camp. We were also told that we would get a "timeout" in the war, because it was Christmas, we were going to have a "ceasefire". Everyone thought that these were just wonderful, and it couldn't happen at a better time.
We were having breakfast Christmas morning (C-rations heated on Trioxanetabs) when the word came that first platoon would take the point that day. It was told that Freddy had begged to be the pointman just once before he left. We were allowed to take our time and sauntered off about 7AM. This was unusually late, as we got some slack because it was Christmas.
Two hours on the trail, we break out of the treeline and are crossing an open expanse of rice paddies. It was all quiet and peaceful back where we were at the tail end charlie position, then all Hell let out! There was automatic weapon fire and a series of explosions that, at first we couldn't identify.
The Lieutenant gets on the radio and is screaming to find out what the hell is happening. The next thing I know, my squad and the second are ordered to sweep left and go through the village to try and flank the hill in frontof us. The next 20 minutes or so are a blur of running, stumbling, and worrying as we hot-footed it around that damned hill.
Our usual reaction to this type of situation is to call in artillery or air, we all wondered where it was. If we got up there and support came in ontop of us, we were gonna get creamed. As it was, we found out later that we had been refused support because there was a "ceasefire". Just as we reached the side of the hill, we got the call to hit the dirt and stay down. We got some artillery from somebody the Skipper had pull with and none too soon. When the shells stopped, we went up the hill and foundzip, nada, nothing was left as a trace. These guys had hit us and gone before anything could get to them.
It was a disheartened bunch of marines that went down that hill to help clean up the mess they had made of our friends. I saw Guerini with a hole through the side of his face and out through his neck and would have sworn he was dead. It's a damn good thing that we weren't the kind to leave even our dead behind, because I saw him four months later in the base camp mess hall, serving chow and sporting the damnedest scar. I thought I'd seen a ghost.
We picked up our wounded and dead and then the rest of us humped back. We did not believe in "ceasefires" after that. Never in my life will I ever give that kind of advantage to anyone. The worst of all, we heard on our return to base camp, Freddie Sedahad bought it with the first round fired. A fifty cal through the head they told us, though I didn't see him. I lost the urge for Christmas for a good many years, my children and my grand-children have finally given it back to me. I hope that after reading this they will understand some of my reticence in years passed.
Thirty-two years later, I wish all of you a very MERRY X-MAS! To all of those who were there, and those who died there, my most heartfelt bleesings, and best wishes, where ever you may be.
Ernest W. Spagnuolo
3rd sqd 3rd Plt M/3/7