From the beginning of my stay in Kon Tum, every day was periodically punctuated by machine gun and rifle fire. At night, the sounds came from all directions with frightening intensity. I was totally unprepared for the sound of war. Occasionally, there would be a quiet night, which was both unnerving and a blessing.
All that fall, there was war tension in the air. I remember one time, in the Officers Mess in MACV, over drinks officers heralded the coming of a “real fight.” One could feel this tension as a denseness in the air. It is a feeling like no other, a sense of death with every breath. There were many signs of it coming, like the gathering of ferocious storm.
I vividly recall visiting the MACV after a particularly noisy and terrifying night and seeing my first evidence of a rocket attack. The screeching sounds themselves were terrifying, but to have the sound and fury of war wake me from deep sleep, often alcohol-induced, in an instance, again and again and again, is hard to forget. Visitors from Saigon, another city under siege, left Kon Tum “shaking” even after only a 24-hour visit as I helped them on the plane. They had no real war nerves. The sounds of war were a fearsome thing. To survive as anyone who lived during that time did, you armored up: got your “war nerves.” You steeled your body and soul from sound and fury of war.
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