War and History Fiction posted April 6, 2011

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A glimpse of the closing years in the Nam

In Country

by bhogg

Like many Vietnamese, Tran was a Christian. Today was a good day for prayer.

The Americans sent an Intel message to the South Vietnamese Army (SVM) detailing a B-52 raid against a fortified and dug in North Vietnamese (NVA) stronghold. The plan was then for a SVM force to overrun the position. The theory being that the B-52's would probably kill or demoralize any NVA in the area. Of course, Tran's NVA unit had the communication only seconds after the SVM. Their position was fortified with caves and tunnels.

Tran, his friend Lac and their commander, Colonel Kim, were huddled together in an underground bunker when the bombs fell. Tran and Lac had recently discussed the B-52's. To them, somewhat comical, the American's called them Buff's, Big Ugly Fat Fucker's. They'd seen other planes, but wondered what a Buff would look like. All they had seen were the trails in the sky.

The ground shook for what seemed hours. The noise was painful and the concussions reverberated through the ground. Dust and flying dirt filled the bunker. Bent in prayer, Tran prayed, "Dear God, let me live through this. I so want to go home and see my family again." The raid lasted forty seconds.

Colonel Kim reached over and touched both Tran and Kim'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 alive."

The Colonel then said, "We must dig out and reestablish our positions. The SVM will be here soon."

Tran and Kim then dug upward through the entrance, 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.

Captain Max Lerner was the commanding American officer designated to back up the SVM if required. Technically, he came under the command of Colonel Nguyen Tan of the SVM. On the surface, he offered the Colonel the respect his rank deserved. This was an SVM operation. The Americans were to provide back-up if needed.

Colonel Tan was complaining. "We have gotten great resistance from the NVA unit. Your B-52's were supposed to wipe them out. Instead, they have re-grouped and established a formidable fire field. I've lost two killed and have six wounded. We are going to withdraw until we can get better reinforcements. Perhaps your men might want to try?"

Max looked at the Colonel. "Sir, I put in a call for a dust off to remove your wounded and dead. If you want to exit the area, we will establish a perimeter to allow an orderly withdrawal." Max wheeled away from the Colonel and walked over to where his Sergeant, Dan Benton was standing.

Benton was a lifer, in the Army for fifteen years. Captain Lerner was the best officer he'd served with. Spitting on the ground, Benton asked, "They're didi mau I guess?"

Max smiled. "It looks like it Danny."

"Sir, we can take that hill. I don't think there are any more than 20 regulars up there. The SVM operation was a cluster fuck. They diddy-bopped right through a natural enfilade. We can hump it back through the jungle and flank the positions. What do you want to do?"

"Danny, you and I did a recon of this area yesterday. It was just regular jungle. It's now bombed into tiny pieces. Those guys crawled into holes in the ground and had holy hell unleashed against them. They crawled back out of those holes, wiped the blood and gore off, organized and manned a good defensive position and kicked some ass. Chuck did well today. Sometimes, it looks to me like we backed the wrong side."

"Yes sir, that about sums it up. Anyhow, what are we going to do?"

"We're going back to the burned out church about three clicks back, put a white picket fence around it, flare off some heat tabs and drink some coffee. In two hours trucks will pick us up. If those SVM assholes don't care about their country, I'm not putting any more of our guys in body bags."

Danny, smiled, as he said, "Sir, I've never told you, but sometimes I think you'd make a great Sergeant."

Flash Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


dust off - helicopters coming in to a hot zone
didi mau - Vietnamese slang for "leaving quickly"
cluster fuck - attempted operations that went badly
enfilade - where weapons can be directed along the longest axis of troops. It maximizes the kill zone.
Chuck - American slang for the enemy
white picket fence - surrounding a position with claymore mines
heat tabs - flammable tablet mainly used to heat C-rations
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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