The U.S. military tradition teaches that the infantry is “the queen of battle.” Like the queen in the game of chess, the infantry is the most powerful and versatile piece on the battlefield, and it is the only force that ultimately takes and holds the ground.
In 1966, I was an 18-year-old paratrooper assigned to the 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized) in Wiesbaden, West Germany. I was a rigger, the soldier who packs personnel and cargo parachutes, rigs vehicles and artillery pieces for aerial delivery, and inspects parachutists before a jump. It’s a lot of responsibility. Lives are at stake, and the riggers’ motto is “I WILL BE SURE ALWAYS!”
It was last light, and my front scout, Gair Anderson, my assistant team leader, Bruce Cain, and I were each placing a claymore mine facing an enemy trail. It was a well-used trail, four miles west-southwest of Quang Tri City, and only the night before we had heard enemy troops casually talking as they walked along. We were confident that more enemy troops would return. Then, just as we slipped in the detonators, a dark figure suddenly appeared on another trail, a hundred feet away.