The White Plain

by Richard Dieterle

AUGUST 5, 1967 — After the Great Hump over the mountains, we started up the valley where we arrived at a large pale plain, colored by a ubiquitous white sand. It looked like an ancient beach abandoned by the sea in a geological epoch long before human memory. It hardly counted as "soil" at all, and it was a wonder that anything could grow in it. But it did have a compactness that beaches lacked, and was far easier to walk on. On the other hand, the sand was not spread out nice and flat, but was oddly clumped in miniature mounds. The soil was not quite sterile, as it supported a tough brown kind of grass and scrub mixture. While we were walking along, overhead an odd looking spotter plane appeared.

A U-10 Skymaster Dropping Propaganda Leaflets

It was out to make aerial propaganda appeals to the enemy up in the mountains, and was therefore equipped with huge broadcast speakers. We watched it fly slowly overhead, then much to our surprise, they began to play music for us. It was suitably programmatic, an old brassy Civil War tune to accompany us as we tramped along on this strange plain.

"Tramp, Tramp, Tramp the Boys are Marching"

We didn't trudge too far before we came to where they wanted us to set up. It was odd to quit early in the day, but I suspect that they were seriously thinking of constructing an LZ at this locale. When we halted and cast off our web gear, it started to get hot, as it was a sunny day with a few wispy white clouds high in the sky. So we snapped together some of our ponchos and made flat-topped tents that we could crawl under for shade should we have nothing better to do.

Shade Tent with My Bipod Rifle and Webgear in the Foreground

And we were fairly idle, so I snapped some pictures. Someone, of course, had to dig a sump, and since I had committed no conspicuous foul, it was not me who had to do the digging. What digging we had to do for the night was pretty easy, as the ground was hardly more than sand. While the day was still young, Charlie-Charlie stopped by to reveal what brilliant plan had brought us here to someplace that consensus held to be no place at all. However, Nowhere is always a good place for an LZ.

The Visitation of Charlie-Charlie

As the Battalion Commander and his entourage deboarded the chopper and walked out hunch-backed beneath the swirling blades, our CP people stepped out lively to greet him. They saluted and spoke in loud voice as the huey's engines slowly wound to a whining cadenza. Field officers put a husky Pattonesque growl in their speech — not that of the real Patton, of course, since he had a squeaky voice — but the still more real Patton of the movie, the one who brought out the inner Patton in every officer of ambition. After a suitable powwow, the Big Brass retired from the scene with the same ritual in reverse.

Red Smoke Popped to Direct Choppers for Our Departure

After a couple of uneventful days wandering around the An Lão Valley, on 7 August we popped some red smoke for a flight of hueys that was to come in and pick us up. Our next destination was to be LZ Sandra, which was a good deal better than the field.

Sgt. Larry Douglas and Ed House
on the White Plains in the An Lão Valley


In the "Odyssey" series, see the maps for 4-5 August 1967 and 6-8 August 1967.