Just now, Bill Mulcrevy dug in. The 23 members of Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (3/5) - friends Jim Johnson and Navy Corpsman Gregory Williams - formed the first waves of Operation Hastings, a multinational operation that was to force the PAVN 90th Regiment back across the DMZ and prevent it from taking over Quang Tri Province.
MULCREVY AND MIKE CO. built the perimeter around LZ Crow in a small valley just south of Song Ngan, one of the PAVN's marshaling areas. The second wave of reinforcements for Operation Hastings is approaching.
The 16th of July 1966. McCrevy and the first wave watched the sky. As the sky burned, they watched together.
The LZ was ambushed by an element of PAVN troops the size of a company. Helicopters delivering 3/5's second wave were destroyed. On the radio, Mike Co.'s platoon leader discovered that the other elements of the task force would not arrive in time, and that 3/5 would not send additional reinforcements until the first wave had taken the enemy out.
It was just one wave.
Mike Company was under attack when the lieutenant ordered fire. They assaulted a PAVN machine gun nest. In the presence of this weapon they were able to knock over a heavy, tripod-mounted 51-caliber machine gun, shot one of the operators, and knocked it over without using thermite grenades to incapacitate the weapon.
He watched as an F-4 dropped two 500-pound bombs, taking out machine guns around 50 meters away from their position.
Two rounds of fire were fired into Johnson's throat in a counterattack on the ground.
Mulcrevy loses himself in thought. He appears to be frozen in place, his eyes closed. In his head, it's 1966. Jim Johnson's tracheotomy was performed by Gregory Williams.
Upon returning to consciousness, Mulcrevy apologized that "it isn't easy to recall all the details.".
But he knows he'll never forget this. He will never forget the bullets overhead, the explosions of dirt around them, or Doc Williams' calm, methodic approach to saving Johnson's life.
Williams was the only one who wasn't in a tizzy.
As Johnson was recovering aboard the USS Repose three weeks after Operation Hastings, Mike Company was taking part in Operation Colorado, which consisted of patrolling a series of villages near Tam Quang. The company was attacked by snipers at this time. After the fire, the Marines met an ambush from the NVA.
Mulcrevy was hit four times in the chaos that ensued. In one shot, his grenade pouch received shrapnel, which penetrated his upper thigh.
In the midst of a cloud of dust, Williams recognized his friend and kneeled at his side to treat his wounds. The same thing happened during Operation Hastings. He didn't care about his own safety or the bullets flying by.
The calm and preternaturally calm Williams applied a tourniquet to Mulcrevy's arterial bleeding and pressure dressings to both of his other wounds.
"Bill," he replied, "I think the Olympics are over."
The two friends laughed together for the last time on the battlefield, under attack with rounds spitting around them.
He's lived with the chaos of these memories every night for decades. Over and over again, he has experienced the same firefighting. He has lived through Johnson's brutal injury. He was bleeding from his own arterial system and Williams was continually loading him onto an ambulance. The old man used to drink a gallon of coffee at night because he didn't want to go to sleep.
I didn't want him to go back to Vietnam.
His experiences did not feel like nightmares, but rather like an unending narrative.
Age and other health issues have caught up to Bill Mulcrevy, now 72 [This story was written in 2020], and he's gone back through his 30-year-old self. This experience has led to an uncomfortable realization: this never-ending film does not have a natural ending.
What happened to his friend, Gregory Williams?