Discussion in 'Vietnam Stories: By John H. Wilborn' started by Guest, Feb 25, 2003.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    J. Wilborn
    Posts: 32
    (2/8/01 4:27:31 pm)

    What is it that prompts a memory--a recollection. Something
    ‘tweeks’ and long forgotten events, places,
    or people come flashing into a sense of reality that those
    things happened only short moments before. It
    is not only alarming at times, but confusing. The last
    several days in the national news, there has been the
    story about the young actor, Robert Downey Jr. being
    arrested again for illicit drug use. Alarming
    news--not really for he had done it numerous times before.
    This time however, and for some reason, that
    ‘tweeking’ occurred. It happened in my sleep and I seemed
    to be driven to get up and tell the story. I
    attempted to place all the remembered events onto the
    April of 2000, NBC has provided for the Vietnam War’s
    veterans a place to tell their stories or whatever.
    Tonite the story wouldn’t post, however I still felt
    compelled to tell the story--I think it is about a killer--a

    miltary person, who for whatever reason, enjoyed
    killing--boasted about the lurid details of death
    inflicted on another human being--went into painstaking
    detail that would alarm or sicken any normal
    person, even another fighting man that must face up to death
    lot of times.
    It was around Easter time 1968. About as far up north into
    the divided half of South Vietnam as
    American forces would go. Dong Ha was the name---QuangTri
    Province and further described by those
    American as the I Corp Area. I was a senior enlisted
    navyman attached to a Naval Mobile Construction
    Battalion--our mission was to provide construction support
    for the U.S. Marine Corp division in that
    assigned area. Most recently our battalion had provided
    tactical as well as logistical support for
    OPERATION PEGASUS. That unique undertaking was to relieve
    the besieged Marines at Kha Sanh with
    troops of the First Air Cavalry. I worked for Lt. Palmer
    Sell in battalion S-2. That S-2 is intelligence and
    training and a whole lot of other ‘catch-alls’. This
    particular morning, Force Recon Niner was briefing us
    on the locations of search and destroy opertions to be
    conducted that evening near the river--we had to be
    set up to provide illumination with our 81 mike-mike mortars
    if ordered. The Marine Force Recon
    Captain was accompanied by this person. He was introduced
    to Lt. Sell and myself simply as
    ‘Sticker’--that’s it--no military rank or rate--just
    ‘Sticker’. The two officers departed to go brief our
    and that left “Sticker’ and I alone in the S-2 office. We
    plotted the wall maps with coordinates--made
    notations on unit call signs in grease pencil--read and
    confirmed in military fashion those details.
    His uniform, if you want to call it that, was very
    worn--clean but almost threadbare. No insigna or collar
    devices --no hat devices--and working close to the man, I
    noted his smell or lack of smell--most men smell
    of after shave--hair tonic--cigarettes--bad breath; as near
    as I could describe the man smelled like
    nothing--wild grass maybe--a warm breeze--not unpleasant at
    all--just strange--. The plotting was
    finished and ‘Sticker’ set his grease pencil and coffee mug
    His right hand suddenly flashed down toward his combat
    boot--in a blurred like motion he withdrew
    from his boot this thing--this long blade looking thing that
    just for the slightest moment, reminded me of
    a long silver icicle. I must have stopped breathing--I was
    so very alarmed--it all had happened so quickly
    and still I had sense of what it meant. I was soon to find
    out--explanations to be offered up by this person
    would actually frighten me. Not more than three feet
    separated us as ‘Sticker’ started to speak.
    “This is the pig-sticker”, he exclaimed proudly--”I made it
    myself and that’s where I got my name--I made
    this myself, just like old Jim Bowie made his blade he
    called his ‘Iron Mistress’--he knew how to use his
    and I sure kin use this’un”! He was holding that stange
    looking weapon out in front of his face like he
    was saluting it or something--no, maybe worshipping it. Not
    even looking away from the ‘pig sticker’ he
    continued, “this blade is from the bayonet off an SKS
    rifle--killed it’s owner with my KAYBAR--he put up
    one hell’va fight so I just decided to honor the little
    @#%$-head--see there Senior Chief, you can still see the
    blood-letting grooves on the blade--” I was still too
    alarmed to look but I must have nodded my head for
    he continued. “This handle if off my old Kaybar--good blade
    but it’s too thick to slide ‘tween a rib easy
    like I want it to--a metal buckle or a piece of web will
    deflect it --can’t have that @#%$--gett’cha killed by
    someone who can get inside your thrust and parry--like
    little @#%$-for-brains who just about snagged me
    with this SKS bayonet that time--”. I hadn’t spoken--was
    I still nodding for he acted like I was ready for
    more as he went on. “You sneak up back of a Gomer on sentry
    duty--cut his throat and he’s like a damn
    hog squeeling--don’t want any screaming--here’s what’cha do
    now--you looky here Senior Chief---pay
    attention--” I wouldn’t have taken my bulging eyes off this
    man named ‘Sticker’ for all the tea in
    China--”you’re back of the Gomer now--angle the sticker
    this’a way and shove it right up into the base of
    his damn noggin--this corpman told me it was called the
    medullae oblongatae--but what the hell, just
    shove the blade up and gomer will wilt like a wet paper
    bag--dead ‘afore he hits the ground”.
    Since ‘Sticker’ had begun to tell me about his exploits, I
    noticed his eyes--they litterly glistened--his
    breathing was rapid, as if he had been running--white,
    thread-looking spittle formed at the corners of his
    spouting mouth--and now he began to smell--like the sweaty
    smell around a working gymnasium. There
    seemed to be no need for questions--even if I’d have wanted
    to ask him something--what would it
    be--what else would I even want to find out. I had never
    knowingly killed anyone--perhaps sometime
    when I had ordered the 81 mike mike to fire a mortar mission
    using high explosive instead of the normal
    illumination round, just perhaps--like I said, never
    knowingly. I waited as ’Sticker’ fondled the blade
    lovingly--gathering his thoughts. I pondered to myself if I
    felt threatened by this strange person or just
    alarmed at his delivery of information I didn’t even want to
    hear about.
    “If you can’t surprise Gomer--hit him fast and hard”--the
    words come tumbling out---more loud and
    forceful now--’Sticker’ moved around the S-2 office in a
    catlike fashion--up on the balls of his feet--like a
    ballet dancer--”hard and fast” he repeated--”no screams ever
    to alarm the whole herd of Gomers--get the
    sticker up under his chicken-boned little chest--into his
    diaphram --then he can’t scream--only make
    gurgling sounds--messy as hell though--into his heart is
    like dumpin’ a bucket of slop--and that @#%$ dries
    on you--it’s like your clothes been starched”! ‘Sticker’
    giggled to himself.
    “I don’t like to do it this way--’specially in the day
    light--gotta look in Gomer’s eyes sometimes and I hate
    that--” a far-off look rendered itself across ‘Stickers’
    now glistening face--a conscience-twinge on this
    brutal person I thought to myself. A slight shake of his
    head like to jar himself back to the present, the
    killer continued, “a low parry and then a high thrust with
    the blade can get you right up to eye-ball level
    with most fighters--even the Gomers who are little
    shits--don’t aim for the eyes but an oblique into the
    temple---bone is thin there--take ‘em out in a flash--no
    screams--not even a gurgle this time”.
    I found myself feeling exhausted listening to this person
    rave on--I wanted to be someplace else--doing
    something different, than listening to this horrible
    diatribe about killing. Perhaps he sensed my feelings
    because in a now rather moderate voice he told me that a
    ‘slick’ was due to pick the captain and him up
    down by the hospital tent at 0930.
    “I’m from Iowa” ‘Sticker’ volunteered --”Fort Madison,
    Iowa---that’s where the State Penitentiary is
    located--Grandpappy used to work there--in the 1940’s he was
    the hangman--only time in American
    history they ever hung a father and a son at the same
    time--Grandpa said when you hang a fella, it
    stretches their necks twice as long”----the man named
    ‘Sticker’ paused midsentence and tilted his head as
    if listening--animal like--yes, I did finally detect the
    tell-tale thumping sounds of the Huey slick he had
    mentioned was going to be their transportation.
    Around the S-2 office was various enemy weapons the Marines
    had brought in to show the navy Senior
    Chief --usually for a cup of coffee and a few kind words
    about home--there were some 47’s, a couple of
    SKS, some disarmed ChiCom grenades--pith-helmets and hard
    hats, web gear--hell, there was even some
    Montagnard Tribesman’s bows and arrows scattered amongst the
    junk--those cought “Sticker’s’ attention
    and when he looked at me inquiringly I told him that he
    could have them. With that gesture of giving
    him something come an open ended offer of bringing just
    loads and loads of the captured junk in --he said
    the only thing he couldn’t get was a 130 mike-mike field
    artillery they had just knocked out up near the
    Trail. I thanked him and told him no, my S-2 boss would
    ride my ass worse than he had been doing if I
    turned it into a Vietnamese armory and museum.
    With the same blurring motion as when he had withdrawn the
    stange knife, he thrust it back into it’s boot
    sheath--thrust out his hand and pointedly remarked “never
    take a knife to a firefight Senior Chief--it don’t
    reach out there fur ‘nuff--you’ll get soiled”.
    I never saw the man named ‘Sticker’ again--I have dreamed
    about him--now with a face attached.
    John H. Wilborn USN (Retired)
    Limbo Jimbo likes this.
  2. whymememe

    whymememe Former Guest

    Oct 29, 2011
    FEMA Region IV
    Chief, I don't think that Sticker and Bumgardner were the same guy. Bumgardner was from The Carolinas. At the time I met Bumgardner 1977 he was pretty close to 50 years old. Actually he was a kind of a father figure. There were rumors about him and what he did in Nam. He had been a Sargeant Major as rumored, was busted for the stuff he did. He was an E-6 Staff Sargeant in 77. We called him pop. I never heard talk about Nam, I considered him a good guy. I only learned about him in the books that I mentioned earlier, which I read last year.

    Sticker sounds like a scary guy. That guy just liked to use a knife. You could take someone out a lot cleaner with a good old fashioned rear stangle take down.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2011
    Limbo Jimbo likes this.