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Trautwein's Marines

Captain Trautwein was the C.O. of Charlie Co., 1/1 in late 1968. I arrived in country in early October 1968 and this story takes place during my first day out in field, Dodge City south of Da Nang. As we were sweeping through knee high grass and bushy tree lines we came under fire from a tree line across a grassy field. Captain Troutwein shouted for the company to move forward to a dike in the middle of the field. That grassy field had 8 inches of water on either side of the dike and we proceeded to lay down in the water behind the dike. For several minutes 5 or 6 Viet Cong raked us with AK fire. Suddenly, Captain Trautwein stood up, calm as a cucumber. Now, you need to know about Captain Trautwein. He was an enlistedman in World War II and Korea. He has been promoted to officer ranks sometime between Korea and Vietnam. From my vantage point behind the ten inch dike laying in 8 inches of water, the Captain was silhouetted against the morning sun. He withdrew his .45 and yelled, “Sergeants, get you men on their feet and prepare to assault!” We all thought, “WHAT THE H___?” But, all the sergeants got up and started yelling and kicking Marines. “Get on you feet!” The Marines around me jumped to their feet and started hooping and hollering like crazy indians, so I followed suit. Then, just as calmly as when he stood up, Captain Trautwein bellowed, “Assault!” We lit up that treeline with everything we had, as fast as we could. When we got to the treeline we found only sandal prints and expended cartridges. Months later when recounting this story to some new arrivals, one of the Marines who was present that day explained what I had missed. As we swept we had pre-arranged artillery missions planned all around us. In particular, if we were hit, we would call in a barrage that rolled towards us upon the enemy. Captain Trautwein knew this, but more importantly so did the Viet Cong. They knew they only had 6 or 7 minutes to give us their best shot before artillery started raining down on them. So, when Captain Trautwein stood up the Viet Cong had already started running to our flanks away from the artillery. That assault was a military necessity and also a moral building stagecraft. Anyway, when we reached the treeline we were elated and high on adrenaline. Thank you, Captain Trautwein!
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