YOU CAN TAKE A SOLDIER OUT OF VIETNAM-YOU JUST CAN’T TAKE HIM VERY FAR!
Michael Bradshine opened his eyes to the benevolent gaze of the Mysterious but strangely familiar rescuer who had snatched him in mid air during an explosion that had been caused by himself and had catapulted him from the Corvette driven by some nightmarish creature looking like a man in every detail except when it chose not to.
Michael studied the face before him with strained and fatigued interest.
He was noting the size of the face: apparently that of a man of about six-foot-five, and very broad at the shoulders, blonde hair…
Suddenly another face appeared along side of the one known to him only as John Ray
Another face equally familiar .
“You!”, Michael rasped in a whisper, ” They are looking for both of you!”
Michael fainted again and slipped back into the waters of unconsciousness and swam toward the edge of the earth, but this time, instead of leaping over the edge as he did when he first lost consciousness, he headed up a river connecting to the South China Sea where he returned and visited and revisited and revisited.
mentally he had gone over every plant, every insect, every viper, every spider, every monkey, every waterway and village; Every step of every trail; everyone in every jungle, every Farmer in every rice paddy, every monsoon…And why? Looking for what? Each time his focus returned to the same place
-A place not far from Cau Song Be ( cow song bay).
He swam this river.
He swam until he was back-back in time to a place he would never forget if he lived a thousand years and a place certainly not ready to find rest in forgotten pages of History:
A place every Veteran his age returned to-the vapors, veneers and vales of Vietnam!
He was a Special operations soldier on loan to the special Forces from the 82nd Airborne Division.
He was a jungle expert cross trained as a Medic – as well as holding several skills known only to him, his team and his Commanders.
He and fellow Soldier, Sergeant Ralph Finnegan had led a platoon of South Vietnamese LRRP ( long range reconnaissance patrol) to assess the damages after a B52 bombing.
Astute reader! you May be whistling right now and allowing as to the clue that this information gives away -, that Michael “Maccabee” Bradshine is near- or over- the Cambodian border?
What you might have also learned in your studies, is that, B52s were designed to carry Nuclear devices, but were rigged during the VietNam insurgency to carry bombs weighing 500-750 lbs?
Where would you like the next crater?
The bombs may as well have been marked:
“To whom it may concern: Greetings from ‘Uncle’ Henry, aka “Mr.K”
Friend,What you do not know- And you are not getting this from me– is:
No one but a few alcoholics at the Pentagon,(and NASA) knew what these soldiers were really there to engage.
As God would have it, an intervention was forthcoming. Let us rejoin the ambushed and the doomed.
Michael is kneeling over his friend Sgt. Finnegan:
” C’mon,Man! Stay with me! Stay with me here!”
He then talks into a mike:
“Battalion! This is Bravo Two. We are under fire! Repeat, we are under fire and taking heavy casualties! We need extrication! Now! we also need a dustoff! ( jargon for MediVac).
The shocking response that crackled over from the other end, reeled Michael’s senses!
” Bravo Two, this is Command One. The area you are in is clean!
No enemy activity noted in your area! You will complete your mission as ordered.DO YOU COPY?”
Michael sat stunned for only a second. He threw the mike aside and checked the two bleeding wounds on his buddy’s chest caused by small arms.The enemy was just that close! small arms!
Michael knew that most soldiers died on the field because they bled to death.
If bleeding could be stopped and the soldier could get to a hospital within an hour, the chances of living were greatly increased.
Michael looked at his watch, then to his buddy, the “golden hour” was coming to a close.
DAMN! THEY ARE LEAVING US HERE TO DIE!
Michael looked around:
30 yards away three VC were coming through the Bamboo into view and waving to others to follow; It was Charlie,He preferred wearing Black Pajamas: Farmer by day, VC, or VietCong at night. What were they doing out here in broad daylight? Behind Charlie came three more soldiers in uniform-NVA- North Vietnam Army. Armed only with .45 cal. Handguns
What is going on here?
They look toward Michael and a barely breathing Ralph Finnegan.They rush toward them.
” It’s been an honor to know ye, Finnegan, ye Old ‘ Heelander!”, Michael said to his unconscious friend,
” Looks like we both take the low road this time, ay?”
Michael takes a grenade from his belt.
Suddenly the sounds of a chopper reach Michael’s ears along with the sound of a .30 cal.Machine gun rapidly belching out fire and death, punishing all in its path. The V.C. fall in their tracks: instant death.
Michael’s radio suddenly crackles to life:
“Bravo Two, this is Socrates, stay low, I am coming in to get you! copy?
This is Socrates , Bravo Two, Stay low! I am coming in to get you!”
Michael grabbed the mike and returned,
” I copy, Socrates. Get the hell out of here!
This bamboo is 25 feet tall. Your Huey is not designed to chop bamboo!, copy? Get out of here!
A whole Battlion of V.C .will be pouring out of the bush like angry hornets any minute! Get out of here!”
NVA, along with Farmer Charlie, were hastily retreating and taking up a position to set up a fire perimeter .They would snipe anyone exiting that chopper, a sleek and fast slick, should it possibly get through the bamboo and set down to rescue the two soldiers. Even with just handguns the sniping should be successful if there are enough of them.
The rest of the South Vietnamese LRRP were lost:
Half were dead from ambush and the others soon would be, but not by enemy fire.
Michael waited for a well placed bullet to slam into his exposed body, crippling him and baiting the chopper to come in and rescue their wounded comrades He prepared to pull the pin in that event. The bullet never came.
Unbelievably the chopper cut down the bamboo as it descended straight and sure; not unlike a lawnmower cutting grass.
Shreds and splinters of bamboo were swirling in the air and actually swallowing the Slick from the view of the NVA, from the view of Charlie, from the view of nearby monkeys chattering and from the view of other unseen yet interested parties.
As Socrates expertly landed the craft, the two men then exited and ran toward Michael and the dying, Sgt. Ralph Finnegan.
The larger of the two, a blonde Swede with powerful shoulders and equally powerful arms, administered something to Finnegan’s wounds saying quickly to Michael , ” He’s gonna make it, trust me!” and then swung Finnegan up onto his massive shoulders as if he weighed only a few pounds. Michael watched amazed as the giant blonde ran back toward the Chopper with long and sturdy strides carrying his patient to safety.
The sound of small arms chattered and popped through the jungle but were soon mingled with hideous screams, followed by an unnerving silence.
“Are we safe? Or Is this it…finished?” Michael wondered.
” Your time now! “, Socrates said with a smile that indicated something quite beyond Michael’s grasp.
What was in it…that smile…Confidence? That was probably it: confidence.
No, it was more like:
“I’ve got a secret!”
” Let’s get back to the aircraft and vacate this AO. Whaddaya say, buddy? C’Mon let’s double time, Di di mau!”
( AO. Area of Operation )
Michael detected a motion in the Bamboo that was unmistakable.Someone was coming through the jungle…a lot more than just one or two. What th’…?
” C’mon, buddy! Let’s move out!”, Socrates added with that I-have-a-secret smile.
“You don’t want to know who is coming out of that jungle right now! okay, buddy?”
Socrates winks and leads the way.
Back in the Chopper, Michael looked around.
HEY! THIS IS NO CHOPPER! WHAT IS THlS?
” Relax, Michael”,
“you are in an F-111. I will have you and your buddy back toCau Song Be in two shakes.”
Michael protested, ” I saw you land in a chopper, man! A chopper mounted with 30 cal. Machine guns in both doors!now, I am not the one wounded and I am not hullucinating! What in th’..who in Th..”
The craft landed just then and Medics scrambled to take Michael and Ralph to the Army Hospital.
” How did you walk all the way carrying your buddy?” The Doctor asked Michael emphasizing his total unbelief. ” and where in the heck did you walk from?”
“Walk?” Michael answered in astonishment, “You saw us arrive in an F-111″
” Waaah ha! ha! ha! Only we Americans can joke in the face of danger”, the officer laughed, “I admire you guys! I mean that!
Ha! Ha! Ha!
An F-One-eleven ! Haha!
” I am not joking, Sir!”, Michael corrected the medical officer, “Your men saw ‘Socrates’, the pilot land with me and Sergeant Finnegan on the helipad, just outside this hospital!”
The Doctor stared briefly at Michael and did a complete about face and left the room returning with another Medical Officer.
Corporal Bradshine,our staff saw you arriving on foot and carrying your wounded buddy, now, it’s okay! It’s okay!
We are accustomed to delusions experienced by soldiers in combat, and it is no shame for you to suffer under these circumstances, but tell us again about this ‘Socrates’ You saw
Can you describe him?
Michael recounted the events of the last few hours; the ambush, the hopelessness, the decision to pull the pin on a grenade,then the rescue.while he spoke another high ranking officer walked in.
Well, Corporal Michael Bradshine, you are one of the rare, lucky ones!
In one way, the other way spells big trouble
The Intelligence Officer says this crunching his eyebrow.
” Why is that, sir?”
” one is:You have been lucky to have seen Colonel Leo Guelph, better known as ‘ Socrates ‘ and. Ghost Captain, John Ray Williams; Both Missing In Action!
The bad part is that what you saw is a Phantam!
I assure you it was a phantom! including the F-111 you think you saw, or flew in, as it were, as hard as it is to believe, you carried your buddy here.”
Michael sensed there was more here than what met the eye.
“Fine! I accept the fatigue-delusion bit, But
I am five days short! I rotate back to Stateside in Five days, and my Command violates protocol by sending me…short… on a mission that no one was expected to return from; I am sent to assess the quote-enquote ‘damages of a B52 bombing’, We are attacked by Charlie and some NVC… who are carrying nothing but small arms- meaning they are leaving a village in a hurry…barely pulling their pajamas on!… and though they ambushed us, they were really quite surprised to find it was not who they expected, And now you are here from MI!
Tell me , sir, were you just at the officer’s mess?
Do you have a field desk here? You were just passing throughCau Song be? Just what is MI doing here in these jungles and more importantly: What is the real bad news?”
The MI officer looked sternly at Michael and was about to speak when another officer, a Colonel from the South Vietnamese Laison
entered the room.
The Colonel stood at Five-foot-elevan, unusual for Vietnamese, he wore his uniform in a very starched and professional way. Michael saw the Silver wings of a Jump Master and an aviation medal pinned on his chest.Michael noticed his right hand was missing a finger up to the first nuckle-The trigger finger. Michael studied him carefully as
The officer looked at Michael and studied him carefully.
” We want you to go back in,Corporal, I mean, lieutenant!”
Michael took a minute to take all this in: He had just received a battlefield commission to go back and be killed as a lieutenant.
” Tell me, Colonel, the VC and villigers, I presume, were leaving erratically and hastily through jungles heavily mined because of the French and now B52s have scattered jungle soil, rock, trees, bamboo and who knows what all, for what purpose? Let me play with an idea here, Colonel.
The French left thousands of landmines behind intentionally…and not because they intended to return triumphantly. They left them for some future enemy. And Charlie was actually fleeing when they encountered us, the question is: fleeing from whom?
The Colonel listened to Michael and then spoke quietly, ” We know who is in the jungles of Cambodia, but we don’t know who made the craters you saw.”
” Sir? You mean something as in rogue B52s?
” No lieutenant, it was not B52s, that did that damage, but we don’t know what blew those craters, the pentagon wants to keep a lid on this unil we know more”
“I see!”, Michael mused,”The brass at Disneyland want to build their own theme park! When do I leave?”
“Your Chopper ETAs at 0400. Get some rest!”( ETA. Estimated time of arrival )
Michael starts for the door. The Colonel calls after him.
” Oh, and one other thing!”
” If you are caught, pull the pin!”
” Looks like I am already caught, Colonel!”
Michael opened his eyes again. The two faces were still there.
” I remember You Socrates! Colonel Leo Guelph and you!, Ghost Captain John Ray!”
Michael closed his eyes once more and waded out to the open waters of the sea again; the soft lapping waves of The South China Sea!
To be cont.