ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
Ret. Sergeant, Air Force Intelligence
Pete Mecca was with Air Force Intelligence for four years, two and a half of which were spent in the Vietnam Theater.
Our mission was to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We used seismic sensors, acoustic sensors, and we had rescue missions going in there. The Ho Chi Minh Trail was basically a path for centuries to help with commerce and trade among the native peoples. Because America put up a blockade to cut off ships coming down to supply the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese expanded the trail to bring down supplies. It soon became a very wide road in some places.
Mecca explains why it was so hard to stop the flow of supplies.
Think about it – you’re bombing dirt. You take four F4’s, you go in there and drop a quarter million dollars’ worth of ordinance and you destroy dirt. By the time the F4’s get back to base the coolies have already gone out there and filled the hole up. It’s not a good way to fight a war. I think we got maybe 5 or 10 percent of their supplies and weapons.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail started out in the early sixties with a few tons coming down, a couple of thousand troops coming down, and by the 1970s it was a two lane highway in some places. They had base camps, they had hospitals, and they had rest areas for their troops. They travelled only at night because during the day, we could get them, and they knew that. They had a fuel line that we finally discovered. It was made of plastic, and in some places made of bamboo. The image you see on TV is usually a North Vietnamese pushing a bicycle. In my time over there, we saw trucks coming down. We saw tanks coming down. It was very seldom that you saw human transporters.
He remembers coming home.
For people to turn on the troops, it was a new phenomenon in America. We had never seen that before. It’s a very bitter pill to swallow when your fellow American turns on you like we had done something wrong or that you were the people who started the war.
A POEM SHARED BY PETE MECCA
The Final Inspection by Sgt. Joshua Helterbran
The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?"
The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."