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Sidney Alvin Lee - U.S. Army Airborne Ranger

That’s the way it was when they opened up on us.  The whole world turned to shit in five seconds.  The perfect ambush, withering gunfire came at us from all sides, and in only moments, they cut us to ribbons.  Everywhere I looked, men returned fire from cover or fell wounded.  The awful noise was deafening, and the air thick with the acrid tang of cordite.  When ambushed, a soldier is trained to face the enemy and attack – move as quickly as possible out of the kill zone – even if it means hand-to-hand combat.  We knew that, of course, and we tried to, but enemy sniper fire from the trees kept us pinned down.

  • Sidney’s description of this firefight implies more than visual and auditory elements.  His olfactory senses were assaulted by the smell of gunpowder, and although he does not mention it, his body and brain would have noticed and recorded vibrations of many kinds.  Bullets passing near him at supersonic speed created innumerable pressure waves, and the ground trembled with the detonation of rocket grenades.  Also, Sidney’s tactile senses were in play, and his brain registered the feel of the ground he lay on.

Twenty minutes of getting the crap kicked out of us, and the CO finally passed the word to get the hell out of there.  My weapons squad was to engage the enemy with machine gun fire until the company got down the hill.  Then, they’d cover us while we made our run for it.  Not much of a plan and a risky proposition.  Three days of heavy artillery fire on the hill had destroyed the vegetation below us, which made getting down easier but exposed retreating troops to enemy fire.  Not much of a plan, but we couldn’t advance, and we sure as hell couldn’t stay there.


1. Racism in the Military
2. Tossed into a River
3. Dad's Death
4. MLK
5. Jump school
6. Rosie Marie
7. A lot of action
8. The world turned to shit
9. Attacked from three sides
10. Green tracers
11. The last day
12. PTSD symptoms kick in
13. Too petrified to move
14. No support from Uncle Sam