War and History Fiction posted December 3, 2011


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A Vietnam War story from the other side.

The End is Near

by bhogg

Author notes: A few weeks ago, I posted a story about an American's experience in Vietnam. If you are interested, it is called, Fung-one. This is a sister piece, or more accurately, a brother piece, written from the perspective of a North Vietnamese soldier.

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The underground tunnel was fairly small, much smaller than its cousin, Cu Chi tunnel outside of Saigon. This tunnel mainly served as a Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA), communication center and supply route. Air, food and water were always scarce. The tunnels were infested with scorpions, huge spiders, poisonous centipedes, and several types of vermin.

At that moment, none of these things worried Tran. He and his friend, Lac, were engaged in the worst activity possible, throwing lime and dirt on top of one of the indoor latrine ditches.

The two, like most of the other two hundred troops living there, tried their very best to hold the call of nature until night time. That way, they could move out of the tunnels and relieve themselves in the jungle. While that had dangers of its own, it was infinitely better than spending time at the indoor latrine.

Tran complained to Lac, "When I joined the Army two years ago, I thought it was to push the Americans out. Now, here I am cleaning latrines. I shouldn't complain. Perhaps I'm just not a good soldier."

Lac, who had known Tran since they were five, responded, "Well, you weren't a very good farmer either."

"Hunh, you should talk. I suppose you were a pretty good pig farmer, but at the end of the day, you were still a pig farmer."

One of the other soldiers interrupted the bantering. "You are both needed at the communication bunker. We're getting a coded message."

The Americans had sent an Intel message to the Army of Vietnam, (ARVN), detailing a B-52 raid against their fortified and dug in stronghold. The communicated plan was for an ARVN force to overrun the position. The theory being that the B-52's would probably kill or demoralize any NVA in the area. In 1972, America implemented a new strategy to discontinue leading the war in the South, and instead, train and support the ARVN troops. This seemed to be a perfect opportunity for success.

As often happened, Tran's unit received the American communication only seconds after the ARVN unit. Tran delivered the communique to his commander, Colonel Kim. Colonel Kim had time to order the retreat of most of the two hundred men. About forty of that number were wounded or had severe malaria, a common condition in the tunnels. He and seventeen men were to stay behind to buy time for the withdrawal. Since they were communication specialists, Tran and Lac were ordered to stay.

The two huddled together in the communication bunker with the Colonel. Tran thought to himself, at least if I die, I'll die with a friend. I've been with Colonel for two years and he doesn't know my name. Like many North Vietnamese, Tran was a Christian. He couldn't help but think, today is a good day for prayer. He knew well the awesome power of the American planes. The B-52's were the only aircraft that they never physically saw. They flew so high that you couldn't see or hear them. All that was visible were the trails they wrote across the sky.

The first bomb fell at 9:40 a.m. The ground shook for what seemed like hours. The noise was painful and the concussions reverberated through the ground. Dust, flying dirt and other debris filled the bunker. Tran bent to pray, "Dear God, let me live through this. I so want to go home and see my family again." The raid lasted less than two minutes.

After it was silent, Colonel Kim reached over and touched both Tran and Lac's arms. "Are you alright?"

Tran looked at the Colonel. He looked like a devil, his face full of dust, with blood flowing from his nose, ears and eyes. The compression force from the bombs caused all three men to bleed in this fashion. Tran touched the Colonel back. "Yes sir, I am in some pain, but it looks like you have a wound in your chest." The wound was created by a blasted out, large sliver of a wooden support beam.

The Colonel gasped and struggled to issue orders.  "We must dig out and reestablish our positions. The ARVN troops and their American support unit will be here soon. I would like you two to help set up and string the communication bunker with explosives."

Tran and Lac painfully dug upward, lugging their machine gun to the surface. Removing the last of the threshold, they were astounded. Lush jungle, trees and elephant grass were all gone. In its place was an ugly, smoking, mud covered landscape for hundreds of yards.

They quickly set up a machine gun placement, carefully positioning extra ammunition. They then helped establish some other gun positions for the ten men that were left. Miraculously, Tran and Lac were the only two men relatively untouched. Most of the remainder, including the Colonel, were badly wounded. They then assisted in the placement of booby traps throughout the entire compound. Other than pressure triggered detonation, they also installed a simple detonation toggle switch.

All waited for the attack that they assumed imminent. They were astounded that nothing happened for over two hours. It was near mid-day when a forward scout reported that three truck loads of ARVN troops unloaded at a bombed out church near by. So far, no observation of American Troops.

They waited in their fortified positions as they saw the ARVN troop's stage for an attack. Colonel Kim crawled up to a position directly behind Tran and Lac. He whispered to Tran, "If we are lucky, they will advance up that small draw in the middle. If so, they will be subject to a nasty cross fire. If they feint to the middle and attack the flanks, we do not have enough men to repel their attack."

Looking directly at Tran, the Colonel said, "You are a fine soldier. Your family should be very proud." He handed him the detonation switch. "If they breach our line and break through, blow the explosives. I'll greet them all for you in hell."

Tran was surprised and honored. He felt certain that the Colonel didn't even know his name.

They watched through binoculars as the ARVN troops were joined by a small group of Americans. It did not look as though the Americans were going to assist in the mission. All they saw them doing was positioning scouts to secure their own position.

They heard the distinctive thump of mortar rounds. Within seconds, the ground around them was once again rocked with explosions. When the mortars stopped falling, the air was thick with the smell of cordite and spent explosives. It almost created a mist like condition around their position. As they peered over their small, makeshift revetment, they saw the ARVN troops advancing directly up the small draw in the middle. Really just a battlefield anomaly, but two of their machine gun positions opened up in unison. The front edge of the advancing troops was cut down. The ARVN troops tried to rally and return fire. When one of their troops up front, probably a Sergeant went down, the rest of the force turned and ran, many dropping their guns in place.

Colonel Kim reached up and patted Tran on the shoulder. Turning, he saw the Colonel smiling as he said, "It will take them awhile to re-group. If they can't convince the Americans to join in, they will probably wait for reinforcements."

He handed Tran a small communication cylinder. "I want you and Lac to take these last few documents to General Gao. You two are the only ones capable of moving out of here. While there is some confusion going on, you should be able to crawl up to the ridgeline and disappear into the jungle."

Tran didn't know what to say for a moment. Finally, he said, "Sir, we can rig a small travois and bring you out."

"No, Son, my time has come. It is important to get those documents out, but I also want you to convey a message to the General."

"What is that, Sir?"

"I want you to tell him that if the Americans truly withdraw from direct combat, the war is over. The South doesn't have the stomach for fighting. Now, get going before they are able to re-group."

Tran and Lac slung their rifles, and began the long, arduous, low crawl back up the ridge. When they reached the top, Lac rolled over. Tran began to do the same. Before he did, he took one brief look back. To his right, about fifty meters away, he saw an American soldier lying prone behind a downed tree. He had Tran lined up direct in his sights of what looked like an M-16. Tran knew well the accuracy and deadly nature of this weapon. He tossed the cylinder over to Lac and told him to move on.

Turning his head back toward the American, he saw a sight that he certainly couldn't explain, but would always remember. The American had put his rifle aside and gave Tran a brief wave. In an instant, Tran rolled over the ridge top and was gone.

He would never know, but this particular American had an almost Vietnamese sounding nick-name. He was called Fung-one. His Christian name was Eddie Mabe.









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