Note: This is part of a series. You can read part one and part two here.

Back in the transient barracks, Watkins continued crawling toward the end of the hallway. He froze. Silhouetted by flare light in the open doorway, a NVA soldier cautiously peered in to determine if anyone inside was still alive. He was also trying to ignite a satchel charge, but was having some difficulty. The sapper gave up on the satchel and Watkins saw a hand grenade rolling down the hall towards him. Watkins quickly fired two rounds at the sapper and shouted, “Grenade!” Instinctively, he covered his head with his hands. The force of the explosion pushed Watkins backward down the hall, peppering his hands, arms, and back with shrapnel. He figured this was it; he was as good as dead.

In his barracks, Pugh saw a VC sapper wearing tan shorts silhouetted in the doorway. Pugh opened fire and the VC sapper promptly returned fire. “I could feel the round snap the air around my eardrum,” Pugh said. “I raised my weapon just a tad and fired again. This time there was a thud-like sound as the VC fell to the ground.”

The entire compound was now a swirling battleground, with dozens of small but deadly firefights in progress. It was difficult to tell the scantily clad Americans and indigenous personnel from the enemy. And there was no command coordination, just a lot of individuals struggling against uncertain and overwhelming odds. The air was filled with enough chaos to overload the senses: screams, shouts, bullets, dust, smoke, and the smells of cordite, burning wood, rubber, fuel, and seared flesh.