some of the same villagers who had been forced toward the compound earlier that morning.
The chopper startled them, and they broke into a run. Suddenly, staccato bursts from the door gunner's M-60 machine gun blasted above the roar of the rotor blades. I turned to see the waist gunner jiggling against the recoil of the gun as it sent a stream of 7.62mm bullets into the group.
"Stop! Stop! Stop!" Colonel Hinson and I both yelled at the startled gunner as we scrambled to divert the aim of the weapon. The firing ceased, and I realized the gunner was a kid, a warrior still in adolescence for whom all Vietnamese were enemies.
He looked confused, unable to comprehend why he had been stopped from killing VC. Suddenly, I was aware of how Tet drew us all into the mayhem of Vietnam.5
The peasants lay sprawled on the dike, and Colonel Hinson ordered the pilot to hover to see if anyone had been hit. We saw the people gathering themselves up, and it appeared none was seriously hurt. We turned and continued our mission, now better illuminated, as well as complicated by the scope of the plan for the enemy's general offensive/general uprising.
Parts of this chapter originally appeared as "The Day 'Big Trouble' Came to Tiny Ly Tin", Army Magazine ( May 1988), coauthored with David P. Colley.