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Sidney Alvin Lee - U.S. Army Airborne Ranger

At sundown, we dug in just off a narrow trail and set up an ambush.  The bad guys moved brought in food and weapons at night, and frequently, propaganda officers and paymasters accompanied them.  The terrain was thick, triple canopy jungle. To insure an escape route if needed, I ordered the guys to line a corridor through the underbrush with claymores.  If things got too hot, on my signal they’d blow the claymores in succession, clear the path in front of us, and we’d follow them out.

Just after midnight, we heard the enemy moving, and moments later, we saw them – NVA regulars wearing canvas uniforms and helmets of woven bamboo.  We hunkered down and held our breath while they walked right past our noses.  I counted a hundred and twenty-seven.  Our patrol could do nothing against a force that size, so we lay still and prayed they wouldn’t discover us playing.

To this day, I don’t know how they saw us, but they did, and both sides opened up at the same time, and it was chaos.  Outnumbered ten to one, we were definitely in the shit and had no choice but to fight.  Our only chance of survival was to lay down serious lead and hope they didn’t get behind us.

Two things were in our favor, we’d taken them by surprise, and we were dug in and fired from concealment.  They were exposed, couldn’t find cover, and couldn’t pinpoint our position in the dark.  The lieutenant got on the radio and called for air support.  I’d gone over coordinates with him earlier, so I wasn’t worried about getting hit by our own ordinance, but at that point, it didn’t seem to matter how we bought it.  These soldiers were seasoned NVA troops not a ragtag band of poorly trained VC.  We had definitely bitten off more than we could chew. 

The enemy quickly recovered from their surprise and went to work on us in earnest.  Impressive the way they regrouped, broke into platoon-sized formations and spread out.  Then, they played a little fire and movement game they’d probably learned from some Chinese infantry training manual, and it worked, because they flanked us, zeroed in, and we started taking hits.  At that point, I was pretty sure the last thing I’d see on this earth was a green tracer ripping through black jungle headed straight for my heart.

  • Sidney describes an almost universal visual traumatic stressor for Vietnam veterans.  Green Communist block tracer ammunition moving towards him at supersonic speed became an integral part of Sidney’s PTSD.


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