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Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
Monday, March 17, 2014

(After playing Recon with Logan Scott, Kyle Matheson, James Brown, and James Williams Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

In the spring of 1967, a small, newly-formed recon team was sent on a dangerous mission into the bush. They had been on recon missions before, but the one this time was much more dangerous.

This is their story.

Ghidorah San was from South Vietnam, a member of the army there. He had been leant to the group as a local scout and medic. He was 5 foot, 10 inches tall and weighed in at 150 pounds. At only 21, he was not terribly strong or alert, but quite agile. He carried a bolt-action rifle though he was not well-trained with it. In addition to his regular gear, he was armed with a .22 semi-automatic pistol with a suppressor. He was called “Possum” by another private in the squad because he always went to ground when trouble happened.

Private Colt Texas had seen about six months of action in Vietnam and was the one who called Ghidorah San “Possum.” He was, unsurprisingly, from Texas, though, unlike that state, he was very small. Standing at only 5 foot, 3 inches tall, he was very skinny. He was 24 years old and was very skilled in several areas, but as he was so tiny, he was never up for promotion because he was always overlooked. He had a large nose and his brown hair was crew cut. He was armed with an M16 and also secretly carried a 12-gauge shotgun. He also carried a picture of a baby elephant as he loved the animals and was even proficient at riding the beasts. He was the group’s grenadier. Ghidorah San called him “Longhorn.”

Private John Jackson was a demolitions guy, originally from Louisiana. He was short but fat, being only five feet, two inches tall, but weighing 191 pounds. He kind of looked like a pear. He was weak but very agile and was 30 years old. His weapon of choice was a grenade launcher, which he had named “Brenda,” though he also carried a .357 magnum he’d named “Reginald” as his backup weapon. He never shaved and had a thick beard and mustache. He was very skittish and nervous. Some of the guys called him “Gravy train.”

Sgt. Jack Johnson was tall and blonde with a crew cut. He hailed from Savannah, Georgia. At 23, he’d just gotten out of sniper school and had gotten promoted very quickly. He was tall, standing six feet, two inches in bare feet, and weighing in at 210 pounds, all of it muscle. He was a sniper and armed with an M-14 scoped assault rifle. He carried .45 semi-automatic pistol as his backup weapon. He was law-abiding and a pretty boy who stuck to the rules. Ghidorah San called the man “Blonde Joe.”

They were assembled in a hot little Quonset hut for the debriefing and were talking when Captain Harris arrived. He glanced at Jackson, who had not shaved again, and rolled his eyes. He tacked a map up on the board.

“Gentlemen, we have hard intelligence that General Nguyen Poon Binh will be inspecting the 324-C battalion headquarters, here,” he said, pointing to a spot on the map in North Vietnam, “the day after tomorrow. Your mission is to snatch General Binh for interrogation.”

He handed off a grainy photograph of a man in a North Vietnamese Army general’s uniform. It looked like any other Vietnamese to them.

“The guy in the general’s outfit,” Sgt. Johnson said. “Gotcha.”

“The guy surrounded by guards,” Ghidorah San said. “I understand.”

“You will insert by chopper here,” Captain Harris pointed to another spot on the map, “about 20 klicks from the headquarters to avoid arousing suspicion. You will move up the Hai Thung valley and be in position by 2000 hours. Patrols will be light as intel expects the 324-C to be making an assault on Firebase Zebra to impress General Binh. Weather will be cloudy with an 80% chance of rain.

“The nearest LZ for extraction is five klicks south,” he pointed to another point on the map, “but is probably watched. Use only if in close contact. The extraction choppers will be standing by at dawn. Your call sign is Red Cobra Four. Are there any questions?”

“Where’s the food?” Jackson asked.

“Shut up, Jackson,” Captain Harris replied. “We’ll give you a radio rig. You can decide amongst yourselves who’s going to carry it. You’ll be leaving within the hour. Now get out of my sight.” He pointed at Jackson. “Get a shave.”

“I will carry the radio,” Ghidorah San said. The skinny man picked it up. “It so heavy.”

They geared up, Jackson taking out some of what he considered the less important items that were part of his kit and replacing them with food that he’d gotten on the black market. He also had a colostomy bag he’d gotten somewhere, filled with gravy, which was attached to the side of the helmet. When he wanted a snack, he just sucked a little gravy through the tube.

They loaded up on the slick, a Bell UH-1B helicopter. A couple of them manned the M-60 machineguns mounted on it. The slick was escorted by a single Bell UH-1C “hog.” That helicopter was armed with rocket tubes, twin M-60 machineguns mounted on either side, and a 40mm grenade launcher mounted on the front.

They flew over the jungle for less than an hour before their bird settled down in a cleared area in the jungle. They quickly debarked and ran for the edge of the bush where they flung themselves down under cover. The slick dusted off and both it and the hog headed back south. They all got together in a few moments, Jackson already short of breath. He pulled something out of his pack, ripped it open, and munched on it.

“Where’d you get a candy bar?” Sgt. Johnson asked.

It was a Mounds Bar.

Ghidorah San licked his finger and held it up on the air.

“Southeast that way,” he said, pointing.

Pvt. Jackson checked his compass. The man was right. Only Sgt. Johnson had noticed he had looked around a little before claiming the direction.

“I been here long time,” Ghidorah San said.

They headed out, Sgt. Johnson taking point on the mobile overwatch. He was well out in front of the rest. The rest came along in a single file, strung out far enough apart so a mine or grenade wouldn’t get more than one of them. The second guy in the line, Jackson, the overpoint, watched the trees for snipers and the left side of the trail. The third, Ghidorah San, watched overhead and to the right of the trail. Pvt. Texas followed up in the rear as the sweep or tailgunner, watching the back trail and covering up signs of their moving through the jungle.

As they made their way through the jungle, Texas started telling Ghidorah San stories about his home state. After a few minutes of that, Sgt. Johnson walked back and told them all to shut up. Then he took point and they moved through the jungle again.

After a few hours, Sgt. Johnson found what looked like it was a good place for an ambush. He signaled the squad to stop but didn’t see anyone. He crept off the trail and the others saw him move. Ghidorah San jumped into the bushes and went prone as the others moved off the trail as well. A few moments later Sgt. Johnson made his way back to the others. Then he climbed a tree and surveyed the area using the scope on his rifle. Pvt. Texas headed up to the spot and looked around but saw no one in the area. Pvt. Jackson looked around for mines.

While they waited, Pvt. Jackson took out a bag of potato chips and noisily opened it. He started munching them down. Ghidorah San licked his finger, and put it up in the air.

“I don’t see no ambush,” he said.

“Shoot a grenade up there,” Sgt. Johnson hissed to them.

“What?” Pvt. Texas said.

He found a solid rock and flung it into the clearing. It crashed through the brush near where the ambush site was and a few birds flew up into the trees and disappeared from sight.

They ended up going around the ambush sight and continuing on their way. They spotted signs that someone had been in the area: tracks, crushed and broken grass and leaves, and even a few cigarette butts. Nothing looked fresh, however.

In the afternoon, the cloudy skies darkened and finally rain started to pound down upon them. The humidity went up and, though the rain was at first cooling and refreshing, they were all soon soaked through to the skin and miserable.

Some hours later, the noises in the jungle ceased.

“I ain’t had rain like this since Texas!” Pvt. Texas said during the ensuing silence.

They all dropped to a crouch as Sgt. Johnson moved back towards the others off the trail where they had all taken cover in the brush. Ghidorah San jumped into the mud and went prone. Pvt. Jackson moved up the trail looking for traps and found a claymore. He signaled haphazardly to the others of his find. Then he disarmed the device and tucked it into his backpack. It appeared to be of a Chinese make and he guessed it had been there for a few days.

“Watch for traps guys,” he said to the others.

They moved along the trail again, guessing that the jungle life had been startled by a jungle predator or some other animal.

They reached the headquarters camp by that evening, coming to the latrines of the place first and soon finding the main encampment.

It was a small camp with three decent-sized bamboo huts; a small, roofed area with no walls that they guessed was an indoctrination center; and a couple of other small outbuildings, smoke coming out of one. A river ran near to the encampment and there were numerous sentries around the place.

“Lookee here, possum, this is like one of them hootenannies I had back in Texas,” Texas whispered to Ghidorah San.

“What kind of food did y’all have?” Pvt. Jackson said.

“Down in Texas, we don’t like any burger that don’t have at least two kinds of meat on it.”

“Here, we lucky to get meat,” Ghidorah San said.

“That’s why I like you, possum, your way of living is just so weird to me.”

“I eat the roots!”

They moved around the encampment and started watching the place. The larger bamboo huts appeared to be barracks and they guessed there were probably 50 or 60 North Vietnamese soldiers in each. The small building on the west side of the encampment smelled of food and they guessed it was a kitchen. After observing the camp for a while, they conferred and tried to figure out where the general might be and what to do. They discussed some plans for finding the general and getting him out of the camp.

Sgt. Johnson had spotted a man in a nicer uniform. He took food from the kitchen hut and joined men at the fire in the center of the encampment for a while. Then they lost sight of him. They were not sure if he had gone into the barracks or another outbuilding.

In the end, Sgt. Johnson planned to kill one of the NVA coming to use the latrines alone by breaking his neck. He went off.

“I used to have a calf named Betsy,” Texas told Pvt. Jackson while they waited in a hollow they’d made not far away. “She broke one of legs, so I went up and …”

He pantomimed snapping the calf’s neck.

It was a little while later, just starting to get dark, when Sgt. Johnson returned, dragging the body of a dead NVA. They stripped him of his uniform and helmet and handed the MAT-49 submachine gun and a couple extra magazines to Ghidorah San. The South Vietnamese put on his uniform.

Minutes after they stripped the man, they heard a commotion at the camp. They headed that way, Pvt. Jackson quickly setting up the claymore they’d found under the body so that if anyone disturbed it, it would go off. Ghidorah San got separated from the rest so hung back.

The camp was in action as NVA soldiers assembled in the center of the place, all of them armed. Then they set off to the south as a group and soon disappeared into the jungle. A few sentries remained on watch around the camp. After a few minutes, they could see that there were five NVA soldiers still on sentry duty.

Sgt. Johnson went back to their little encampment and got Ghidorah San before returning to Pvt. Johnson. Pvt. Texas had gone off to get a better vantage point and the others were not sure where he was. Rain continued to pour down.

They conferred quietly and watched the sentries, trying to determine their paths. When there was a gap between the sentries at one point, Ghidorah San slipped into the encampment, crawling under the northernmost barracks and putting one of bricks of C-4 under it. He led the wires to the edge of the building and then waited for a sentry to pass again. Then he snuck back, digging a shallow trench for the wire and dumping the mud back into it until he reached the edge of the jungle, where he flung himself prone again. Once a sentry passed again, he led the wire to the others.

The three moved closer to the western barracks, trailing the wire behind them. They crossed the trail to the latrines, burying the wire as they crossed it. Texas found them at that point. He asked what they were doing and they told him they were planting charges. Then he crawled away again.

This time Sgt. Johnson took the charge and crawled under the barracks. He set the charge and then crawled back, digging and refilling a trench for the wire. By that time, Pvt. Jackson was running out of wire. After a short discussion, Pvt. Jackson set up a 20-minute timer on another brick of C-4 and Sgt. Johnson snuck it under the small hut that smelled like cooked food. He was back in a minute or so, the charge having been placed.

Pvt. Jackson waited by the kitchen area with the detonators. Meanwhile, Sgt. Johnson went around the south side of the encampment and found a tree to climb up to give himself a sniping position. Pvt. Texas crawled around to the northeast side of the encampment, saying “Texas” when he went by each of the others. Ghidorah San found himself prone in the jungle on the south side of the encampment.

They waited 20 minutes; then the timed explosives in the kitchen went off just as sentry passed by. The man was flung against one of the barracks by the explosion and killed instantly. The other sentries stopped and looked around. Sgt. Johnson fired at one of them, going for a head shot, but hitting the man in the calf. The soldier fell to the ground, screaming. Johnson put two more bullets into the man and he stopped moving.

On the other side of the camp, Pvt. Texas opened fire on another of the sentries, the bullets striking the man in the thigh and the groin. The man fell down to the ground, dead.

Hidden in the bush, Ghidorah San fired his suppressed pistol at one of the sentries. He hit the man in the chest and he went down.

The only remaining sentry was screaming in Vietnamese. There was movement and yelling from inside each of barracks. Sgt. Johnson shot the lone sentry who was still out in the open and struck him in the chest. The man stumbled and fired blindly into the jungle in Johnson’s general direction. Then he saw soldiers start to come out of the western barracks. He shot the first man out, the bullet striking his target in the nose. The man screamed in pain and stumbled forward.

After less than half a minute, Pvt. Jackson set off the charge under the northern barracks which blew apart. Debris and body parts rained down around Pvt. Texas, who was closest to the barracks. Then Pvt. Jackson set off the charge under the western barracks, blowing it and the men coming out of it to pieces. He started winding up the wires from the charges and quickly changed the pellet shell in his grenade launcher for an actual grenade shell.

Sgt. Johnson fired at the first man coming out of the eastern barracks, shooting him in the head. The others backed into the darkness of the building. Ghidorah San could understand their screams. They were calling “Sniper! Sniper! Sniper!”

Pvt. Texas moved by the demolished northern barracks and heard a great deal of movement in the eastern building. He parted the bamboo of that building’s wall and was able to make out several figures rushing towards the eastern wall, opposite the door, and starting to tear out the far wall in an effort to escape. He took out a phosphorous grenade, pulled the pin, and then rolled it into the room. It rolled across the floor and actually up against the foot of one of the NVA soldiers. It suddenly burst into hot, white flames and the soldiers screamed as the fire engulfed him.

Pvt. Texas had averted his eyes from the initial blast and then looked into the hole he’d made in the barracks again. The man who had caught on fire was lying on the floor, engulfed in flames. The others had probably been injured and were tearing at the eastern wall of the building.

He went to the corner of the building and looked around at the men who had escaped the burning hell of the barracks.

Pvt. Jackson, meanwhile, had retrieved his wire and was crawling towards the only remaining intact barracks. There was a bright light coming from within. Someone inside opened fire and bullets tore through the thin walls. Pvt. Texas looked to his left, back towards the rest of the camp, and was horrified to see Pvt. Jackson stand up from where he’d crawled over by the northernmost build and level his grenade launcher at the burning eastern barracks.

Texas ran for the tree line.

Meanwhile, Ghidorah San spotted a heavyset man following another man who had blood on his chest from the southeastern outbuilding and towards the river. He thought he saw the gleam of metal on the heavyset man’s chest. He guessed it was the general. He stood up, holstered his pistol, and followed the tree line while prepping the MAT-49.

With a hollow “blook,” Pvt. Jackson fired his grenade launcher into the eastern barracks. Shrapnel blasted several holes in the bamboo and the floor was blown out of the building. More screaming came from within. He cracked open the grenade launcher and put in another round. He fired the round at the little house on the southeast side of the encampment. He was aiming for the window but overshot the building. The grenade exploded somewhere on the other side.

Pvt. Texas pulled himself to his feet. He saw three men running for the river and opened fire, hitting one of them.

Pvt. Jackson could see, in the holes in the front of the barracks, that there were some holes in the back of the barracks. He reloaded his grenade launcher and set himself to fire a grenade over the barracks at the fleeing NVA he assumed were on the other side. A bullet struck the ground near him and he shrieked and fell to the ground, the grenade launcher going off and setting a grenade going almost straight up. It came down on the other side of the northern barracks.

The bullet had come from Sgt. Johnson, who has seen what Jackson was up to and didn’t want to see friendly fire take out his own men. He shook his head and watched Jackson, who reloaded, turned, and fired a blast back towards the trail that led to the latrines, obviously thinking the bullet had come from that way.

Across the encampment, Ghidorah San braced himself against a tree and fired at the man who led the general towards the river. One of his bullets struck the man in the hip and he went down without a sound. Then he ran towards the general.

Pvt. Texas headed for the fleeing NVA and continued firing at them. More sniper fire also cracked from the tree line and the two remaining NVA fell to the ground, dead.

Ghidorah San turned and fire blindly towards the trees.

“Run general!” he yelled in Vietnamese.

Pvt. Texas dropped a magazine and slapped a new one in its place. He only saw one man still fleeing and so headed across the river to cut off his escape. Once he got to the other side, he started heading downstream.

Sgt. Johnson fired a shot at the feet of the man fleeing towards the river that he didn’t think was Ghidorah San. He heard the man scream and then saw him splash into the water. The man went down into the water and started to float downstream. Ghidorah San also ran into the water and tried to get to him, but Pvt. Texas reached him first.

“Welcome to Texas!” the private shouted at the man as he reached him.

He grabbed him by the lapel of this jacket and jammed the M-16 into his ribs. The man jabbered in Vietnamese, holding up his hands. Another NVA soldier approached but he was pretty sure it was Ghidorah San.

“You better take off that uniform,” he said to the man, who nodded.

* * *

Pvt. Jackson loaded a shotgun shell into the grenade launcher and went looking for trouble. He slung the grenade launcher and drew his .357 magnum. He went around the back of the burning eastern barracks and saw a small group of people. One of them kicked the other’s legs out from under him, put his foot in the man’s back, and put down his rifle. He did something to the man and then lifted him to his feet, arms behind him. The other man was stripping off his clothing.

“Hogtied me a pig!” Pvt. Texas laughed now that the handcuffs were on the Vietnamese general.

The three got together and were then joined by Sgt. Johnson. They headed back into the jungle where they’d stashed the extra C-4, the radio, and Ghidorah San’s clothing. Ghidorah San wrapped up the general’s injured foot. After a brief discussion, in which they realized the closest LZ was the same direction that the soldiers had gone a half hour before, they decided to make for the original LZ.

“I carried a calf more than 20 klicks before,” Sgt. Texas said.

They headed out, Sgt. Johnson taking point once again while Pvt. Texas lugged the badly injured general with him. Ghidorah San had gagged the general as well. When they got to the place where the claymore had been before, Sgt. Johnson signaled them to stop. He moved ahead alone and spotted a little old Vietnamese woman carrying a bundle of firewood. He dropped back and they went around the area, avoiding the old woman. Sgt. Johnson thought the others made so much noise that there was no way the old woman couldn’t have heard them.

At some point after that, they radioed in to alert HQ to the LZ that they hoped to be picked up at. Ghidorah San made the call and, when he gave the wrong call sign, Sgt. Johnson took the microphone and gave the correct one.

“LZ is hot,” he said. “Not in contact. Going to original LZ.”

A few hours later, Sgt. Johnson called for a stop again. He’d heard noises up the trail. He crept up to look around but found nothing. The others spread out to see if they could find something in the area, but they could find nothing. They crept around the area and continued on their way.

Johnson was still on point an hour after that when he spotted two unarmed men on the trail. They appeared to be picking up something off the ground and were dressed as civilians. They carried small bags that were too small to hold a rifle or submachine gun. They moved about the clearing and picking up something off the ground.

He drew two knives and flung one of them at each of the men. Both of them struck the men and one of them fell to the ground, the knife embedded in his skull. The other blade struck the second man in the nose. He screamed and fled. Sgt. Johnson unslung his rifle and shot the man in the back, killing him. He retrieved his knives and the two privates arrived.

“What just happened?” Pvt. Jackson asked.

“Couldn’t let them get away,” Sgt. Johnson said.

“Why does this guy have no nose?” Pvt. Texas asked.

Ghidorah San arrived at the edge of the clearing.

They examined the bags and saw that they were filled with mushrooms.

“We killed mushroom farmers,” Pvt. Texas said.

Pvt. Jackson took the bags of mushrooms.

They arrived at the LZ in another hour. All was quiet.

“Oh thank God,” Pvt. Texas said.

They called in with the radio and learned their transport was on its way. Two slicks and two hogs appeared within 20 minutes. The birds landed and they got aboard with all due haste. As they were loading into the helicopters, they heard gunfire from the jungle in the distance. One of the gunships headed off in the direction they had come and started lighting up the jungle with missiles, M-60 machinegun fire, and 40mm grenades. The two slicks dusted off with the recon team and their prisoner and headed back for base.

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