Interested in Creative Writing: Intro. to Fiction?  Anna Lee Walters will instruct an online course at Diné College, Fall, 2021. It will use Zoom and Blackboard.

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Updated July 31, 2021

Soje Publishing is an author website for Anna Lee Walters, who is Pawnee and Otoe Missouria.  Soje also publishes creative writing and work from Native American writers who live primarily in indigenous communities.  These stories are for the classroom or lifelong learning.  Direct, personal, insight and generational experience of indigenous groups as time honored ways of knowing and being is the focus of Soje Publishing.

Please credit Soje Publishing when using any material here.  Individual storyellers, writers, photographers, and artists own their creative works.  Outside of Fair Use, get written permission from owners to use or distribute material.

Quote from Pawnee Song:          " Hurahu waruksti!   Earth wonderful! "

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 Check out the two minute videos on writers found in Artists Profiles.  Manto Thewe Videos is also new. View first in Poetry Circle.

 

"Mother Earth and Father Sky: Teachings" is told by Navajo historian and philosopher, Harry Walters. It can be viewed here (click the link) or on the Soje Channel of You Tube.  "Chagre Wakan, Sacred Shield" is a modern day story told by Anna Lee Walters and it can be viewed on the same channel or click the link here.  We have had a good response to both movies since their release and they have also been used in Native American Literature classes.  Other videos may be found throughout this website. 

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What's your story?

Series Details

Crossing Borders contains stories about people who have crossed borders and changed their (and other people's) lives for the good. Veterans' Stories relate Native American experiences in the U.S. military. Wi-ti-wah is a pen name for William Howell, whose Vietnam experience is shared as a part of the veteran story series. Visit the Archive page for previous stories in these categories no longer on home page. Irvin Morris's "Why I Teach English" (and who is the author of From the Glittering World, published in 1997) has moved to the Archive page. Read "Why I Teach English" by Red Woman now.   Note that there is now a Poetry Circle on the homepage.  "Teach and Sustain Native American Literature" is under the More tab. 

Teach and Sustain Native American Literature

Soje Publishing offers teaching and learning tools or methods to use with the material found here. On the menu tab, go to More.  Click on Native American Literature. We offer suggestions to enhance life learning situations and learning in the classroom as well as learning to keep our communities strong and informed.  While these stories and teaching methods may be used at no cost, please credit Soje Publishing. In the future, we will share outcomes of these teaching suggestions. 

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Wisdom Keepers

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"The mind doesn't care what it thinks.  It has to be trained."

Hatathli Johnson Dennison, 2017
 

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Poetry Circle

Feature Works:

Manto Thewe Video
Poetry - "Maya Suje"

 

For Hintaquamie,

 

Iwasde (Gone)

©Anna Lee Walters, 2021

 

I blow a kiss to you through the ethers.

My kiss sails unblocked by dense or concrete matter.

I blow a kiss to you beyond the ethers.

 

Outside any box of fixed memory

Or those restricted places, you exist untethered.

The cell of all which was, and passed,

Yet goes around again, preordained to be.

 

I blow a kiss to you through the ethers.

My kiss sails unblocked by dense or concrete matter.

I blow a kiss to you beyond the ethers.

 

Now here I stand in a sweeping gravitational swirl.

You are overhead, always moving, an effervescent rainbow.

My kiss finds you in your ethereal space.

It lands on you.  Just like that, we are united again.

 

I blow a kiss to you through the ethers.

My kiss sails unblocked by dense or concrete matter,

I blow a kiss to you beyond the ethers.

Hintaquamie - Granddaughter, connotes singular or plural, Jiwere language

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Feature Work - Non Fiction

Why do I Teach English?

 © 2021 by  Red Woman (Hasdzaan Łich’éé’)

     I recall talking to animals at the corral with my grandmother. I remember putting all the lambs and goats in a separate fenced area. I ran in circles, and they bleated, ran, and bucked besides me as they filled my time. My grandmother and grandfather caught goats to milk in the early dawn. The chickens, pigs, ducks, horse, cattle, and Blue Birds chimed into the morning glory. The sweet smell of sheep, horse, and the vegetable stew added to the beautiful voices of my childhood place. My paternal Grandpa Kaydohyah Hale would talk about how sounds were language when we were Spirit People. He’d sing and tell about how deities had gifted the “Diné language” to the human people when the Holy People (Deities) went back to the Holy Land (Energy Pool of Life).

 

     My paternal Grandma Ahadesbah Hale talked about how my dad used to hide from the Bilagaana in a dug-out covered with dirt.I often wondered who these people were who spoke English; at the same time, I realized I spoke English too. It was ironic to know that I spoke the language, but didn’t understand the history. As a young kid, we didn’t have the luxury of a TV or a radio. I do remember my mother taking us to a Catholic church in St. Michaels, but I didn’t understand the lyrics, readings, or singing. My father never attended church because no one could interpret for him. My father was the last “warrior” of his time.

     My grandmother Ahadesbah (father’s mom) died when I was a junior in high school. My world stopped and I went into depression. I was in a slumber as I attended classes. I enrolled in Native American Literature class, and that resuscitated me. I fell in love with how the English language was used to convey domestic life. It was like a new dawn. I recall a native woman writer was invited to our class to give her presentation about her work. She talked about her work and read to us. I remembered she was so tenacious in her words as tears streamed down her cheeks as she read her story. I too was reminded about the way my grandmother stood by her words in prayer as tears flowed from her face in a ceremony. The new path led to my enrolling at Diné College because I wanted to be taught by someone who stood by their words, someone published, a native educator. More importantly, from our college on the Navajo Nation. This woman put the “light” back into my life, just as my grandma had in my childhood.

     Soon, I was interested in learning how to use English to become a better writer. I began to read native writers and eventually was led to my Bachelor of Science in English, with a focus on Secondary Education at Northern Arizona University. I was beginning to study how to teach English. I wanted to show students that a language is a tool for survival in the Western world, yet, celebrate Indigenous concepts. Meaningful learning can happen.

     As my interest in using English became more apparent, I was turned off to a Medieval Language course I took in my undergraduate degree, because I didn’t have a clue about verses from the bible. The course required knowledge about biblical history and poems.

     Deep down, I wanted to know more about English and why my father hid from it. What was so scary that he hid from it? At the same time, I yearned for native writers’ stories because they resonated with me during my loss. The stories were about everyday events that we could understand, not about “Skip” and Sally. Today, I see native English instructors and writers as the new breed of Healers. They use words to heal; they are caretakers.

     I remember a time my father talked about how the spoken word can heal, if correctly worded. He predicted that in the future when our language is spoken less, our native people would one day be in hiding, coveting a recorded tape/cd or voice recorder to suffice for a “healing” ceremony. One song might be left to suffice for a 9-day ceremony. Today, I know of Healers who use the phone to conduct a ceremonial service for a Diagnosis session. Perhaps, we are near?  As I continued in my studies at the Master level, I began to become more aware of how native communities rely on bilingual programs to suffice for language and cultural sustainability; this brought me back to my father’s prediction.

 

     WHY DO I TEACH ENGLISH?

 

     Reflecting on my 14 years teaching at the high school level and being an Academic Coach, I saw how teachers’ taught to the test and students were over-tested in quarterly benchmark assessments. I saw that schools allowed our Indigenous language to become graveyards because many of the concepts/standards didn’t align with native epistemologies. For example, the Arizona Standards list fire as dangerous, destructive, and harmful. Whereas, in Diné belief, fire is a deity; a Holy Person. The concept has duality for the fire to be understood and appreciated as Male Fire and Female Fire, called Dihidii’eeh Bik’a doo Dihidii’eeh Bi’aad. The concept that fire represents four thoughts:  Nanise’ K’o’ (Friction Fire); Haalk’aal K’o’ (Flint Fire); ‘Iini’ K’o’ (Lightening Fire); and Tsegha’dinidiinii K’o’ (Crystal Fire).

     Now that I work with the Master Program at Northern Arizona University with the Diné Dual Language Professional Development Program, it has opened my perspectives to using the English language as a tool to celebrate indigeneity. As a Researcher and Faculty, the NAU cohort students are taught to reclaim their indigenous language and cultural ways as they embed them in their teaching methodologies and to explain concepts in K-12 schools throughout the Navajo Nation.

     As an English instructor, I like to align indigenous into Western concepts because I want my students to understand they don’t have to relinquish language and heritage ways to be “competent” in the Western world. I’ve taught Indigenous Ways of Knowing in Physics, Biology, Geology, Chemistry, Thermal Dynamics, and Coding courses with the STEM field. I teach students and faculty to respect (in their approaches) the “natural elements” they are manipulating in the name of science or education. When the affective-filter lowers, meaningful learning happens. My maternal Grandmother, Red Woman, taught me to “see” from the spiritual side. She was a Crystal Gazer and a Listener. I use that to understand both worlds.

     I see teaching (English language) like using a cup (tool) to drink water. A container is a tool; decorated, painted, or sculpted, but it is still a cup:  a device.  It, for example, can be a flower pot, a measuring cup, a useful tool.  The details are our cultural ontology, cosmology, and epistemology. I see English as a “tool” to describe our Indigenous ways. However, if we are serious about sustaining our linguistic and cultural ways, we’d have to immerse ourselves within our villages/homesteads. Perhaps, a village school is another possibility?

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Know the power that is peace.

Black Elk

Published June 3, 2020

 Crossing Borders:  The Choctaw and Ireland 
Told by Waylon White Deer

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By way of introduction, I have been involved in representing the 1847 Irish-Choctaw story since 1995, both in Ireland and the States. 

 

Harper's Bazaar and Niles Weekly Register are the two main contemporary sources of the 1847 Choctaw donation to aid Famine Ireland. The story has not been retained through oral tradition.

 

In 1847, the American government organized a voluntary relief campaign for the victims of the Great Irish

Famine (Irish: an Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger).

 

At that time, much of Ireland had been forced to subsist on potatoes. Irish lands and all other crops and livestock were controlled by absentee English landlords who were selling the grain, fruits and other foods of Ireland,

for profit. When the potato crop failed, over a million Irish starved and another million fled Ireland on "coffin ships" and 1847 was the height of the Famine, which lasted for eight years.

 

So, it was that in the spring of 1847, a voluntary Irish relief group calling itself the Memphis Committee

solicited money from the Choctaw in Indian Territory, at a place called Skullyville, where the Choctaw were assembled to await distribution of funds from their final removal treaty. The main Choctaw Trail of Tears had ended sixteen years earlier and with great loss of life. 

 

The Memphis Committee told the Choctaw of a people overseas who were suffering from eviction,

starvation and disease, much like they had endured. The Choctaw listened and afterward donated their distribution monies to help feed the people of Ireland. 

 

The amount of the donation was $170, which is the equivalent of $6,000 today. It was NOT a donation from

tribal government, but rather from the grassroots Choctaw people themselves, to the people of Ireland.

 

The Choctaw donation was recorded by the New York Relief Committee as being from "The Choctaw, the children of the forest" and was used to buy grain for Ireland. The grain was loaded onto a ship that set sail

for Ireland from New York Harbor in the spring of 1847.

 

Newspapers of the day added commentaries, such as the Choctaw were repaying Christian nations for

leading them out of benighted darkness and so forth, but Choctaw teachings are that if someone asks you

for food, then you feed them. We also say that feeding someone is the greatest thing you can do, for you

are extending human life.

 

This little story vanished from public view and was rediscovered by Don Mullan, an Irishman, who

reintroduced its telling during the run-up to the 150th commemoration of "Black 47," which occurred in

1997. Don Mullan involved me in retelling the story and I have traveled to Ireland many times since, to

represent the grassroots bond of the Choctaw donation.

 

The Choctaw donation is taught in Irish schools now, so it wasn't surprising about the Irish response to the Navajo and Hopi (Covid 19) campaign. What was surprising was the way the Western press has framed it, as being some sort of "debt" that the Irish owe the Choctaw, but are somehow repaying to the Navajo, 

because we're all "Native Americans.” There is no debt, and tribal nations aren't all alike. 

 

The Choctaw donation to Famine Ireland is a small and simple story of solidarity and compassion, a tale of

one poor, dispossessed nation reaching out to another. No doubt, the Navajo and Hopi will also reach out to other people and help them in their time of need. And so the light continues...

                                                                           

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Published December 21, 2020

Veterans' Stories: Every Day Is A Blessing

© 2020 By Wi-ti-wah

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I heard stories about soldiers who were getting short "short timers" during their tours of duty in Vietnam and were spending their final two weeks in base camp out of harm's way, only to lose their lives or get wounded because of a mortar attack or some sort of accident. Fortunately I never witnessed any of these occurrences . . . only heard.

Back in early December 1967, as a member of the Mobile Riverine Force (a joint operation of units of the U.S. Navy Task Force 117 and the 9th Infantry Division) which operated on the Mekong River in the Mekong Delta, Republic of South Vietnam, I was assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the 34th Artillery. Dong Tam was our base camp. We provided fire support to the infantry units of the 9th that were stationed in the delta. Our howitzers fired 105mm rounds from barges that had been converted to carry two howitzers, along with necessary ammo. Our sleeping quarters were also on the barges.

Having spent nearly six months going up and down the Mekong River and its canals, I was a short timer, but I stayed out on a fire support mission until the final two days of my tour before heading back to Bearcat, (9th Infantry Division base camp), to await my flight on the "Freedom Bird" back to the World.

I saw too many short timers just about go crazy during their final two weeks "In Country". So I stayed out on operation as long as I could. I figured that if I kept busy I wouldn't worry about being a short-timer. It worked and I was home for Christmas 1967.

I entered service on April 4, 1966, along with a whole bunch of other draftees from Oklahoma. After a day at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City we were sent to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas for induction (more paper work, issue of Army type clothes-O.D. in color, burr haircut, shots, etc.), then waited in the barracks for our orders to our next duty station. We received orders to report to Fort Riley, Kansas. We boarded a four engine prop aircraft that flew us to Manhattan, Kansas, then we were bussed to Fort Riley. We left in a sand storm in El Paso and arrived in a snow storm in Kansas.

Upon arriving at Camp Forsythe, we were assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 11th Field Artillery and told that we were being trained to go to Vietnam as a unit of the 9th Infantry Division which had just been activated for this purpose.

Upon completing our eight weeks of basic training at Camp Forsythe, we were then moved to Custer Hill where we began our AIT.

Our unit was trained to fire a 105mm towed howitzer during the rest of our stay at Fort Riley.

Before we left for Vietnam, we were granted a two-week leave. We were reminded that we had been told at the beginning of our training that we were not to tell anyone of our next duty station, South Vietnam.

Of course, everyone already knew of the 9th Infantry Division's Deployment.

In early December we made final preparations for our Vietnam tour of duty.  We boarded a train at Camp Funston and headed for the Oakland Bay area.

We spent the final two weeks of the year on troop ship headed for Vietnam.  We left the docks on a cold morning sailing under the Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. We even got to see Alcatraz.

After two weeks aboard ship on the Pacific Ocean, we anchored off Vung Tau, South Vietnam on New Year's eve and went ashore aboard LCMs at sunrise on January 1, 1967. We were greeted by the sounds of the 9th Infantry Division Band, and speeches from general officers welcoming us to Vietnam. With our duffel bags and other combat gear we boarded deuce and half trucks and began our journey to our home away from home, Bearcat.

Sitting on the back of an Army truck, we journeyed for several hours through villages and the countryside along primitive roadways (kind of like our county roads) to base camp. That's the first time I ever got sunburned.

Upon arriving at Bearcat, we went to our assigned area and saw a lot of Army tents (GP Medium), apparently just put up in the area that appeared to have been cleared by a bulldozer, recently. It had. A lot of tree roots and other debris remained on the ground.

Our howitzers and other crew served equipment hadn't arrived yet, so we set about cleaning up our area with machetes, cutting and pulling out the roots.

Our cooks, who had been with us since training began in April, made sure we had a hot meal that evening.

By nightfall, we were all tired and ready for some sleep on the cots that had been set up in the tents.

The cots even had mosquito netting on them.

However, for some of us, we were assigned to berm guard duty, which meant we had to go to the perimeter of the base camp where the bulldozers had pushed the downed trees and we set up listening posts amongst the debris, insects, etc. What a night!

The next day, we continued with the cleanup and our equipment began to arrive. After a couple of weeks at sea, the equipment needed to be cleaned, oiled and some of it re-calibrated.

It was an interesting first week in 'Nam. And our area of Bearcat was beginning to take shape.

After calibrating our howitzers, we moved the  guns into gun pits and test fired them to make sure everything was in working order. We were kept busy doing maintenance, sandbagging the gun pits and digging foxholes.

The first couple of weeks in base camp, a lot of test firing was being conducted by the various artillery and infantry units.

One night . . . No one told us . . . The night sky lit up with flares and it sounded like every weapon, machine guns, grenade launchers, mortars, and small arms, opened up.

We grabbed our weapons and jumped into our foxholes, waiting for the order to return fire. We had to wait because the infantry had patrols out on the perimeter.

The flares coming down created some weird shadows and I could see fellow soldiers dashing around looking for their foxholes. I thought I saw John Wayne and laughed at myself for having such thoughts. I was in my foxhole by myself waiting for the order to return fire.

I heard someone (loud whisper) call my name. I thought I was hearing things. I heard it again. 

"Howell?"

"What?"

"Where are you?"

"I'm over here."

"Don't shoot, I'm coming over."

I heard someone crawling toward me and he dove into my foxhole head first.

It was my sergeant. He low-crawled to my foxhole (because as the gunner on the base gun, I had the phone to the Command Post).

It was about this time when the CP called and said this was only a test exercise on the part of the infantry units. They forgot to give us advance warning.

I asked the sergeant if he actually low crawled all the way from the CP (about 50 yards). He said yes and we busted out laughing. The top sergeant hollered at us and told us to shut up.

From that time on, the sergeant was known as "Low Crawl."

A couple of days later, we received orders for our first mission.

We loaded the howitzers and equipment to our prime movers, 2-1/2-ton trucks (deuce and a half) and convoyed through a jungle. The guy in charge of the M-60 machine gun had it dragged from his hands by a low-hanging tree limb. I grabbed it as it almost hit me. I traded my M-16 for the M-60.

A little further down the road, near the front of the convoy a shot rang out. A possible ambush. I don't know how, but I ended up sitting on the side of the road with the M-60 ready to fire. Of course the whole convoy halted until it was determined that someone just got nervous and accidentally fired a round.

After getting through the jungle and a banana plantation, we stopped and set up our howitzers near a cemetery.

We enjoyed some C-rations, then set up listening posts. I traded the M-60 back for my M-16.

That night, I was laying on my back when I heard what sounded like someone running through the bushes. I rolled over and assumed a prone firing position when I heard someone yelling "Stop, Stop, or I'll shoot." I held my fire as a dog came running out of the bushes and disappeared.

There was a group sigh of relief and a few nervous chuckles.

Next day, we continued to our destination. It took most of the day but we finally arrived late in the afternoon. Along the way, we crossed a wooden bridge. We found out later that the bridge had been mined.

After setting up our howitzers, we enjoyed a hot meal, thanks to our cooks.

We put red and blue lights on our aiming posts and settled down for the night. The infantry provided the listening posts so we enjoyed a little sleep.

The next morning I was up early, dawn before sunrise. In the distance, I could see that a firefight was going on or was it test firing? Not sure, but tracers were flying all over the horizon. It was quit a sight to see.

After a cold c-ration breakfast, the Captain sent word for me to report to the CP.

He informed me that my son, William H. Howell, Jr., had passed away on January 22, 1967.

I was granted emergency leave and a helicopter arrived soon to transport me back to base camp for necessary paperwork for my trip back to Pawnee.

The helicopter was small and was used by forward observers. As we left the fire base, we went straight up for several hundred feet, out of range for any small arms fire, then headed for Bearcat. That was quite a ride.

At Bearcat, the battery clerk and I secured a jeep and we drove to Saigon's Tan Son Nhat International Airport where I caught a flight back to the States. I was out in the boondocks in the morning and flying back to the states that evening.

It was culture shock upon arriving in Vietnam three weeks earlier and culture shock on driving through Saigon on our way to the airport.

On our way to Saigon, we passed by Long Binh (approximately 16 miles from Bearcat), which would become the reception/replacement center for servicemen arriving in and departing from Vietnam. It was also a major ammo depot.

One night, while at a listening post, we heard a big airliner in the distance. It sounded like it was coming in for a landing, headed toward Long Binh. The military air base, Bien Hoa, was a few miles further down the road.

The lights were turned off and the power cut back and we could actually see a silhouette of the airliner and it appeared to be landing on top of us. All of a sudden, the engines roared to life and the lights on the airliner came on and it climbed back into the night sky.

I returned to Vietnam in late February.

Getting back to Vietnam was another adventure. We left Travis Air Force Base. About 30 minutes out over the Pacific ocean, the four prop transport had to turn around because of engine problems and we landed in Oakland. We spent the night there then took off again the next morning. We made it to Hawaii where we refueled and we were off again. We went island hopping the rest of the way. Stopped at Wake Island, then the Philippines. Talk about some GIs happy to get to Vietnam.

We landed at Bien Hoa Air Base, then were bussed to Long Binh. Most of the soldiers were replacements and had to process through Long Binh before reporting to their duty stations.

They said I would have to wait until the next day for a transport to Bearcat. I asked if I could look for a ride to Bearcat since I was returning from leave. They said that if could find a ride then I was free to go. I stepped out of the compound and hitch-hiked. It didn't take long. A truck stopped and took me all the way to my unit at Bearcat.

What a change! The camp was all spruced up and the tents were what we called web tops with wooden floors.

The next four months were spend out on operations, up to War Zone 3, Tay Ninh Province, near the Black Virgin Mountain and other places.

Up by the mountain, which is next to Cambodia, we spent a few days.

We were unloading our gear when a tank, coming through the area, hit a land mine. I was on top of the truck unloading equipment and had just jumped off the other side at that instant. The shrapnel hit the side of the truck. Talk about lucky.

However, one of our men who was working on a gun got hit. There was a "dust off" as the helicopter took him to the hospital. We heard later that he was transported back to the states for further treatment.

We received "march order" one day. We packed our gear, emptied our sandbags, filled in our bunkers. and prepared to move. Then we sat and waited  for our orders to move. "Cancel march order" was our next command as it was getting dark.

We unloaded our trucks and set up our guns again, but didn't have enough time to rebuild our bunkers. That's when the mortars started. They were walking them toward us. Then they stopped. What a relief.

After a sleepless night, we received "march order" again. This time, we hooked up harnesses to the howitzers and those big Chinook helicopters came and transported us to our next fire base, north of the Black Virgin Mountain.

After we set up our guns, the trucks finally arrived with all our equipment.

The monsoons came while we were there. There wasn't a dry place to be found.

After a couple of weeks there, we returned to Bearcat for a little down time.

There were operations just about every week. One week, we were stationed at Bien Hoa Air base for security.

After couple more operations, I received orders that my next duty station would be at Dong Tam with the 3rd of the 34th artillery in the Mekong Delta.

Because a lot of replacements were arriving, a bunch of us old-timers from the 1/11th were being re-assigned to different units at that time.

We read the Stars & Stripes newspaper and were aware of what was going on in the Delta. I dreaded the reassignment. Once in the Delta, it seemed that all was quiet and the fighting was going on at the place I had just left.

We had a little air strip at Bearcat and I hitched a ride to Dong Tam on a small cargo aircraft. You know, one of those kind that are supposed to take off and land within 300 feet.

After about 30 minutes in the air, we arrived at the Dong Tam airstrip. First try, we were coming down too fast so the pilot stepped on the gas and we went back up in the air and I could see the trees as we just missed them. The second try, we landed successfully and I was out of that aircraft in a hurry. That was a 300 foot runway.

After reporting in to unit headquarters, I was sent to some bunkers down by the river, where the members of the 34th stayed. The 34th was out on a mission and a Navy boat would transport me to their fire base the next day. The boat was a LCM.

It took about four hours to reach the 34th. The barges with the guns were anchored against the bank of the river.

Upon reporting in I was assigned to the base gun since I was a gunner. It didn't take too long to figure out that we had a problem. Two gunners. Since I was the lowest ranking person on the gun, I became the ammo guy. That was okay with me.

We were still in the learning phase of firing howitzers from a barge on the river. We also had to deal with the tide waters of the South China Sea which affected the accuracy of the howitzers.

The top sergeant assigned me to the radio phone. My job was to relay fire directions from the Fire Direction Center (on another LCM) to the guns in the battery.

I also had to string commo wire from FDC to the each of the guns. With two guns on each barge, space was at a premium. Our sleeping quarters were in the center of the barge between the guns.

We built a small shelter to be placed on the bank of the river near the rice paddies. Ammo boxes were used for the floor, chair and table for the radio phone. We were learning.

One evening, the infantry brought in a couple of captives and set them outside my shelter in the rice paddy. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night. Of course, the infantry kept a guard on them all night, but that still didn't make me feel comfortable.

We later trashed the shelter idea and we set up the radio phone in the sleeping quarters. The problem with this was I couldn't move when the howitzer was firing over my head. The concussion from the guns ruined my ears. Yes, we had earplugs, but it was kind of hard to hear the firing commands from FDC, then relay the commands to the guns.

As time went by on different missions, my duties seemed to increase.

Throughout AIT at Fort Riley, we were taught that each gunner kept the log book for his particular gun up to date, everyday. Maintenance, number of rounds through the tube, at what charge, ammo count, fuse count. All of this information was used to calculate how long the tube would last under combat conditions.

Before I left the unit, I was updating the log books for all six howitzers in our battery.

Ammo count was important because we had to know what our supply was at all times.

One time, around Thanksgiving 1967, we provided fire support for over 24 hours for an infantry unit out in the jungle that was under attack. The battle was only a few miles from where our barges were and we could hear all the racket. Gunships (Air Force) were flying low and we could see the mini-guns in action. We were re-supplied by big Navy helicopters throughout the operation. They looked like flying cranes. They would drop the bundles of ammo in the rice paddies, as close to the guns as possible and everyone who wasn't firing would break each bundle open and haul the rounds to the guns that were being re-supplied.

Each 105mm round weighed 50-pounds and a box included two rounds. Carrying a box was clumsy, so we broke the boxes open and carried two rounds at a time on our shoulders, sometimes four, through the muddy rice paddies and across shaky gang planks to the barge.

The mud we tracked onto the barge was quickly washed away with a bucket of river water.

I was sent back to Dong Tam where I received my orders to report to Bearcat to retrieve my duffel bag that had been stored and for transportation to Bien Hoa air base for my flight back to the world.

While at Bearcat, a friend and I went visiting other friends in another unit. The sun was going down as we approached from the east. I thought the silhouette of a soldier appeared familiar. It happened to be a fellow student from Chilocco and he had only been in country for a couple of weeks. We visited and that's the last time I would see him. He passed away at age 36 at a VA hospital.

As the Freedom Bird took off, I could see white puffs of smoke (white phosphorus marking rounds for the artillery) in the distance. Next thing I knew we were leaving Japan, and I slept all the way to San Francisco.

                                                    Please scroll down.

Quote

It is ourselves we must control.

From Wolfkiller, As recorded by Louisa Wade Wetherill, page 40.

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A Short Story

 

By George Joe