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NOTHING PERSONAL--JUST WAR.
(2/8/01 4:35:10 pm)
Reply NOTHING PERSONAL--JUST WAR.
NOTHING PERSONAL--IT’S JUST WAR
The old prop driven aircraft circled lazily in the early morning sky. To
the onlookers and there were many, it appeared like a bird of prey--like a
hawk or eagle that possesses keen eyesight, trying to spot a meal to dive
on. The cloudless sky offered excellent viewing and occasionally those
viewers on the ground would catch the flash of reflected sunlight off the
About two miles away at the Dong Ha Foward Combat Base, three uniformed men
were sharing a single pair of field glasses. The Marine Captain and
Gunnery Sergeant had stopped by to visit with the Seabee Battalion’s S-2
Senior Chief--actually to get some coffee and breakfast, whatever was left
over to be had. The three men had become comrads-in-arms in their line of
work--EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) and target anaylsis plus sharing
During the night, a combination of rocket and artillery rounds had impacted
onto the Marine base as well as the Seabee encampment. It was determined to
have come from inside the DMZ (demilitarized zone)and counterbattery fire
as well as air strikes were planned. The target analysis (TA) could
determine from the impact crater in the soil, very accurately from whence
the artillery round had originated. From calculations, counterbattery fire
could be directed against the offensive weaponry The same could not be
determined for the 122 mm rockets however, for they were so uncontrolled
and inaccurate in their flight--in fact they could be heard wobbling
overhad as they flew toward a target.
The Captain told the S-2 Chief that the aircraft circling overhead was
attempting to draw groundfire--that there was a suspected arms cache just
on the other side of the CuaViet River--it needed to be taken out with a
special type ordinance--a deep penetrating device because the cache was
thought to be buried deep underground. The prop driven, A-6 Skyraider was
ordered up for the mission. Gunny commented to the Chief “that slow moving
old junky airplane can put a round right in their gawd-damned hip pocket”!
The Captain added a bit more tactfully that they needed target control so
as to cut down on the potential collateral damage as there were a lot of
native hootches nearby.
Almost as if a command had been given to the aircraft, there was a snarling
roar of the single, four bladed propeller powering up, as it lay over on a
sharp angle and dived straight down toward the green earth--the target.
The hunter had spotted it’s prey and it was going in for the kill--nothing
personal--just a war.
Like watching the dive bombers in old World War II movies, the pilot dumped
his weapon--it’s configuration could clearly be seen dropping
away--wait--was there be a second bomb to deliver--the blunt-winged old
plane did not pull up and out of the dive--what was going on? My God!!
It was determined later by the force-recon team that went into the area on
Huey choppers, that the A-6 Skyraider had taken groundfire through the
windscreen--that the pilot had dumped his weapon on target probably the
same instant that he had been mortally wounded.
The sound of the A-6 impacting was an insignificant noise compared to the
detonating weapon--that was to be followed by numerous secondary explosions
indicating that the weapons cache was indeed where suspected. Off to the
side approximately 1.5 K. meters, the black smoke of burning aircraft fuel
mixed with licking flames so hot that the green foilage was started ablaze.
Of course there were no firetrucks rushing to the scene--but in due
course, one of the several Huey’s that had been airborne, landed nearby the
pilots funeral pyre--any attempt other than a damage/casualty survey, would
have been futile.
The Marine Captain and Gunny had to leave for the scene--coffee but no chow
this time. They invited the S-2 Chief to accompany them to the crash site.
Permission was granted by the S-2 officer, so the three men hastily
departed Camp Barnes, in the duece and a half truck Gunny was driving.
When they arrived at the CuaViet River, they had to wait to be ferried
across--normal operations had been replaced by the air show and finally the
shock of seeing the crash--nothing personal--no one knew the pilot--just
the fact of war. The oily looking black smoke column was still rising
into the cloudless morning sky--the smell of it was heavy in the air.
A security perimeter had been set up around the crash site--the sound of 20
millimeter rounds ‘cooking-off’ set the stage for the potential
danger--almost on the threesome’s arrival, a 300 gallon fuel drop tank that
had broken loose on impact, exploded with a fury, scattering burning fuel
over a wide area. The Captain, Gunny, and Senior Chief wandered over to a
grounded Huey--the craft’s rotor was ‘spooling’ ever so slowly. It seemed
that the force recon team had spotted suspects in the area where the ground
fire had come from and now had three male Vietnamese in custody. As the
three men approached the scene, it was clearly evident what was going
on--they could sense the danger--sense that it was a terrible moment--smell
the treat of harm being done to humans---nothing personal--it was war.
The ‘talk-talk’ NCO (the interpreter)was screaming right into one of the
suspects ears. Over the sound of the idling Huey--the cords and viens
bulged in his neck--his blue and bloodshot eyes were wild with rage and
anger. A dribble of blood come out of the suspects ear--his nose looked
broken--like it had been mashed with something--. The other two
suspects(shooters they called them) stood off to one side--a long wooden
stick held their arms tied behind them. Their faces were not damaged as
was the one being questioned, but their eyes had the look of terrified
‘Talk-talk’ continued to scream at the prisoner--the man being questioned
seemed to have resigned to his fate--his one eye seemed not to be
seeing--the other eye could not be seen--a blackened bloody feature on his
bruised face exhibited that the eye may be totally missing.
“Okay Major, show time--this little dink-head isn’t going to say a damn
thing--he thinks we’re picking on him--I told him it was nuthin’
personal--just war time”. With that statement, and the nearby Major’s
affirmitive nod, two of the big sweating team members grabbed the small
Vietmanese with the missing eye and litterly hurled him into the Huey’s
cargo compartment. He lay there, unmoving, like a sack of garbage. The
Major turned toward the other two prisoners and pointed to the older
looking of the two and uttered a single word “YOU”. The retainer stick was
yanked out from behind the prisoners arms and he too was tossed into the
cargo compartment--his screams were not to be drowned out until the idling
Huey began to ‘spool-up’--the heat and the rush of ground debris caused the
onlookers to turn away as the moth-like craft lifted off and into the still
smoke filled sky.
The Captain, Gunny, and Senior Chief had remained standing off by
themselves--the field glasses was still hanging from around the Captains
neck. Now that the air was clear of the rotor wash, eyes followed the Huey
into it’s flight pattern. Off to a slight angle from the onlookers on the
ground, the Huey hovered--about 500 meters off the grounds surface--hovered
and suddenly the door on the cargo hatch was slid open--the‘talk-’talk’
suddenly grabbed the ears of the remaining suspect and screaming in his
ears something in Vietnamese, twisted his ears so he had to look up toward
the hovering chopper. From out of the craft a dark body size shape come
hurtling--no announcement--no foreplay--nothing but the sheer realization
that one of the prisoners was being thrown from the helicopter. All the
while‘talk-talk’was screaming at the suspect being forced to watch the
unbeilivable site. The prisoners screams of terror matched those screams
of anger that ‘talk-talk’ was emitting. The Captain who had directed his
field glasses upward let them fall away in obvious disbelief or disgust-his
face was greyish-pale--his jaw sagged. A comparable description would have
included Gunny and the Senior Chief--ashen faces like shock had already set
in. The impacting body was like a period at the end of a
sentence--compressing time to remember events--first the sounds of the
breaking vegetation in the micro-second before the human body struck Mother
Earth. The thud of the body seemed to cause a vibration in the feet of the
shocked onlookers--so very alarmed that breathing was cought in the
throat--a throat that was constricted with terror.
‘Talk-talk’ continuted screaming--yanking ears--forcing the prisoner’s head
upward again--the prisoner had vomited--the drool laced with smears of
blood dribbing off the pathetic looking chin--the small oriental had
obviously bitten off his tounge for now blood was flowing liberally.
Something was now hanging suspended out of the Huey’s door--dangling and
twisting in the rotors turbulence--a body sized figure--the other
prisoner--the one who had been pointed out by the Major--. My Dear God,
are those screams that can be heard from the chopper--it can’t be--but it
is. The bloodcurdling screams over the thumping sounds of the hovering
craft, filtered downward and caused such terror in the remaining suspected
shooter, that he collapsed in a heap on the ground. ‘Talk-talk’ walked off,
seemingly unconcerned, and took a deep swallow of water from his plastic
canteen. Nothing personal--just war.
The three onlookers--the Captain, his Gunny, and their invited guest, the
Senior Chief-- were ready to flee this ungodly scene--they knew at this
period of time that war and rumors of war were swirling all about them.
The VietCong and their sympathizers had entered peaceful hamlets and
villages and decapitated or disemboweled innocent civilians. They had even
conducted a style of terrorist activities unparalleled in the history of
civilized man’s encounters--by all indications it would continue. The
fighting at Khe Sanh, Con Thien, Hue, and throughout the tiny divided
nation did not appear to have an end. The Huey settled in where it had been
parked previously--eyes again turned away from the flung-up derbis. The
prisoner who had been dangling out of the chopper was now the heap on the
floor--motionless. ‘Talk-talk’ come back over to the man who had bitten
his tounge so severly in a most reverent voice, quired the prisoner in his
language--the prisoner lisped very badly with his swollen tounge and mouth
but obviously saying something that could be understood by ‘talk-talk’.
‘Talk-talk’ thrust up his fingers in the ‘V’ for victory signal--the Major
turned to the group of onlookers and actually smiled as he announced--
“works every damn time”! The Captain made the sign of the cross on his
chest over where the hanging binoculars were still strung and uttered “holy
Mother of God--forgive us--forgive us”. The Gunny and the Chief, though
they did not speak, felt these words and hoped they would come to have some
meaning for someone--NOTHING PERSONAL--IT’S JUST WAR.
A story about war by John Wilborn