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By Pat Lisi – Southern Utah Vets Aid

When you had the time, your foxhole was deep.  If you needed a hole in a hurry, it was shallow.  But, the lower you could get from ground level the better, because all you really need to expose when it comes to firing back at the enemy is a parapet (or lip) to rest your weapon on for support, and just enough height to use your eyes for acquiring targets.  Of course, the top of your head is fully exposed while you are looking over the edge of your foxhole, and many times a lucky shot from the attackers would find its mark.

The trouble with preparing a deep foxhole, especially one fit for two warriors, is that it takes precious time to dig it out.  Pictured here is myself and Ira Stone, and we’ve managed to build a pretty nice fighting position for the night.  We moved on the next day after putting the dirt back in the hole.  The soil is lighter where we dug this hole, and the excess is piled up around the position for further protection.  Our company was out in the “Arizona Territory” which was one of those notorious areas of operation that was simply loaded with Viet Cong and NVA.  Booby traps were very common and easy to install, due again to the lose soil and places to hide the devices.

This day, though, Ira and I were only concerned with staying alive once the sun went down.  So, we took the time to dig a great fighting position.  As it turned out there was some activity that night. The VC snuck up and ‘probed’ our positions by firing a few rounds, and our forward ‘listening post’ (LP) ended up engaging the small band of gooners as they approached another platoon of our main body.  The 3 Marines in the LP were very, very lucky, because none of them were killed, while at the same time they managed to kill one of the VC as the others ran off into the dark.  Seldom is it advisable to turn an LP into an ambush team, but the VC had basically walked right into the Marines’ LP.

Ira and I were good at doing the night positions right.  At times we’d find a cave or cut-out in a hillside.  Fallen trees made good night time fighting positions as did mounds of dirt or hardened sand.  fighting holes needed to be abandoned if necessary so it was important that we all knew where each other was.  Some of the foxholes were behind other foxholes, and these were normally the commanders’ positions.  So, there wasn’t any walking around after dark for obvious reasons.  You stayed put in the hole for the duration of the night, unless your team had to pack up quick and ‘dee-dee’ the area.  That night, after the LP sprung an ambush on the VC, the 3 Marines stayed out in the LP position until morning light.  It was too risky to have them come back into our lines for fear of the VC setting up their own ambush.

We used an “e-tool’ for digging.  An e-tool is a stubby little steel shovel that folds up for easy carrying.  It can be used in various positions desired by the ‘digger’, depending on where you tighten the ring that hold the head of the tool to the handle.  It also was an effective fighting weapon if necessary.

All Marines carried an e-tool in Vietnam, as everyone was responsible for digging their own fighting holes, officers included.  It was like this night after night after night.  Very seldom did we stay in one spot more than one night if we were out in the Arizonas or in any of the lowlands.  Up in the mountains it was a bit different.  Fighting positions were established for the period of time we’d be patrolling out from the LZ (landing zone).  Foxholes were built even better up in the mountains due to the extended stays, sometimes lasting a couple weeks or longer.

But, good fighting holes had one thing in common – they were deep.  And Ira Stone and I always made sure we took the time to do it right, for our very lives depended on it.

 

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