At Sea, North of Danang, 1972
© James Weatherford
The "front"? The
Those words mean nothing here.
A minesweeper is a small ship, with a
hull of wood.
The duty is tough. The camaraderie is good.
Board and search a refugee boat.
From the North they have fled with just what they can tote.
We find planes and ordnance in the water.
Before a year is up, it is going to get hotter.
Some of the ordnance has planes,
and some not even names.
All the planes have crew.
To the ones alive, we are friends that are true.
Phantom takes a hit and falls from the
At full speed we go to it before Charlie can try.
The crew is rescued as the jet into the
water is tilting;
and these airmen are not going to Hanoi Hilton.
Filled up from a civvy tanker, and North
we head --
but it is water instead of fuel, so all main engines go dead.
Patrolling very near the coast of NV,
we lose power, and darkness is all we
One little auxiliary gets us back to
all through the night, grenades go bang.
In the morning sappers float dead in the
We are alive on the ship, to patrol another day.
When Mr. Nixon orders mines laid in
We're on that minesweeper and they're playing our song.
But wait! US ships have hit something.
The explosions were big and gave them a thumping.
American sailors’ blood is spilled.
US ordnance did it, the fragments revealed.
Command says, “Your orders are to find
the damned things.
You’ll know where they are when your sonar pings.
Ordnance is in the wrong place, and we
don't know why.
Your casualties will probably be very
It’s important to remember that this is a
In your watery graves you are to keep it.”
Orders given, preparations made, and last
Then politics precludes our going to the ordnance position.
After in Paris an accord they do settle,
the crews of the minesweepers again show their mettle.
Haiphong is swept in seventy-three --
the last thing to do for honor and victory.
No medals, no ribbons, no recognition.
The reward is meant to be peace, after this final mission.