After dinner, the soldiers filled sandbags for Army bunkers. The bunkers were built slightly below ground and covered with dirt and sandbags, which were intended to stop mortar and rockets from entering the bunkers.
The soldiers normally went to bed at about 11 p.m. and slept until dawn the next day. They worked from sunup until after dark seven days a week, unless they had finished their assignments.
“Occasionally on Sunday, if we were really ahead of schedule or something, we’d go down there to the floodgates — they’d set up security — and we’d have a little swimming party and cookout down there,” Higdon said. “But I only remember doing one in the time I was there.”
He said the men spent their spare time playing card games, and the soldier on guard duty might try to take a short nap. There was little time for soldiers to reflect on what American soldiers were doing in Vietnam.
Four months into his tour, Higdon and several other soldiers left the base camp one day and drove to another company in the same battalion. The group was supposed to remove any extra supplies from the company area before the next inspection.
The soldiers were not prepared for combat and did not have a radio with them. Seven soldiers in the back of one truck had finished their tour of duty and were heading back to the United States, and they were not wearing flak jackets.
The trucks rounded a curve and entered an open area, and Higdon saw another truck driven by a Vietnamese civilian blocking the road.
“All of a sudden, they started dropping mortars all the way around us, and I thought, ‘Oh, Lord, we’ve had it now,’” Higdon said.
Higdon’s driver approached the truck and started blowing his horn, trying to convince the other driver to move. At the same time, Higdon saw a Vietnamese soldier nearby.