National Geographic : 1966 Feb
in all his men except two flanking parties. One junk sailor said he had been fired on from an adjoining hut. A petty officer and four riflemen searched the building and came out carrying a shiny brass Viet Cong grenade, its casing obviously cast from a mold of an old U. S. grenade. The sailors at first pro posed to set fire to the house. But a militia man objected that he had a friend who lived in the neighboring reed house, and if one burned, the second would, too. Lieutenant Phu ordered us to start back on a cart trail circling toward the beach. Every 20 yards or so along its drainage ditches we saw a deep-dug rifleman's hole. Lieutenant Vincent came alongside. "If they try to ambush us, you know enough not to jump into one of those holes, don't you?" "Booby-trapped, maybe?" "Good girl," he grunted, and again took his place in our rear guard, nearest the enemy. His warning made me so sure we'd be am bushed that a sensation of relief flooded me when we reached Ap An Thuan. The desert ed marketplace, bullet-crossed two hours be- 296 fore, now seemed as secure as the Pentagon. A few minutes later, back inside the base, Lieutenant Vincent stared at my feet in their thonged rubber shower shoes. "We must have covered five miles. Did you wear those foolish things all the way?" he asked incredulously. "That's right," I answered. "You said there wouldn't be any more land operations-re member?" We laughed too much at the joke, because it felt so good to laugh at all. Laughter- and Death - on the Delta But laughter seldom lasts long on the delta, where sailors fight a strange kind of war-as much on land as on the water. Shortly after I returned home, there ap peared on the casualty lists another name: Harold Dale Meyerkord. Audacious, ebulli ent Lieutenant Meyerkord of River Assault Group 23, once of St. Louis. Dale Meyerkord, husband, father, leader and teacher of men, dead of a bullet in the brain on a muddy canal 9,000 miles from Missouri. "Great personal risk... was routine" for Lieutenant Meyerkord, Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze declares as he presents the Navy Cross-its highest decoration-to the officer's wid ow, the former Jane Schmidt. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harold E. Meyerkord of St. Louis, hold the Air Medal, also awarded the officer posthumously on November 9, 1965. Wounded from ambush, Lieutenant Meyerkord continued firing until a second shot killed him.