Brian Russell, Vietnam veteran
Pasadena, California, USA
It's early November, 1966, The USS Radford is a half mile off the coast of Viet Nam up in I Corps.
We're firing hot and heavy at NVA positions in a copra plantation village. We can't see them, they're a quarter mile inland beyond the endless, precise rows of coco palms that come right down to the beach. We can see plumes of greasy black smoke smudging the the bright morning sky. I sit in my pointer's seat and keep track of the number of rounds Mount 1 fires with a piece of chalk. Got to account for each round expended. Each time the gun recoils, I chalk up another one. Must have done that at least 120 times that morning.
Occasionally I look into my gunsight telescope for a view of the scenery. In the magnified view I spot 3 figures slowly making their way up the beautiful white sand beach from the south. As they get closer I can tell that it's a woman with 2 small children. The children look to be about 4 or 5. They run around and then ahead of the woman, throw sand or seashells at each other and run down to the water's edge and splash around. Having a generally fun time. Then finally back up to Mother and she takes their hands and they continue their leisurely walk up the strand.
All the while, there sits the Radford in plain sight, large and grey. Both 5" guns blazing. With a resounding boom and a flash, we're sending 55 lb packages of hellfire and white-hot steel, one after another, into the village less than a mile from where they walk. But they pay us no mind. They're out for their morning stroll. It's as if we weren't there.
It was real and it was stranger than anything that anyone could make up.