Copyright© 2010 by Terriblethom
The usual disclaimers apply such as the names and locations have been changed to fit the story. This is all in first person and UN EDITED. I hope you enjoy this one as it is a little unusual.
We were sitting in the middle of a big ass swamp, cold, wet and mad as hell. It was almost dark and we could hear VC moving all around us. We had been running full speed almost all day with Charlie keeping the pressure on. We couldn't even swat at the swarms of mosquitos around us for fear of giving our position away. Almost all of us had bullet grazes somewhere on our bodies, the fire fights had been so intense at times. We were all damned lucky that none of us had been seriously wounded. This had been a big mess from the time we left Ben Het camp. We had traveled north into NVA territory strictly to monitor NVA movement. We hadn't been in the bush four hours when we were spotted by an NVA outpost. We had blew the hell out of it, but the call about our presence had already went out. Instead of going south we swept to the west toward the big Air America base to resupply. We had started seeing patrols within an hour of destroying the outpost. To me it seemed like every short man who could wear black pajamas was out there looking for us. I hadn't seen this many VC patrols in months. I could see a rise of what looked like dry land to our rear so I signaled for us to move that way quietly. We made it but the hillock wasn't dry, but the marshy ground felt better that the prune I was turning into sitting up to my neck in stagnant water.
We carefully crawled to the back and pulled ourselves out of the water. I could hear Jenkins teeth chattering above my own. We lay there for about ten minutes until the sounds of the swamp started back up. Chung was the closest to me and as soon as the noise started he whispered in my ear.
"Where all VC come from. They should not be so many this far north. We in NVA territory. I no like this at all Sarge."
"I don't either Chung, it makes me wonder what they are trying to hide. Check the men on your side and see how the ammo's holding up?"
I turned and whispered the same to Jenkins and checked my own pack. I still had plenty because none of the firing we had been doing was sustained but just spotty return fire to keep them off us. I filled my pockets again and hung a couple of replacement grenades on my pack straps to replace the ones I had used. When Chung and Jenkins got through checking, they both said that we were still ok, but if we got into a serious firefight we could be in trouble. I had pretty much already figured our situation out but that wasn't worrying me. I was more worried about why they were trying so hard and had so many patrols out trying to keep us from moving west. I just had a sneaking suspicion something big was going on and wondered what it was.
"Ok, every other man sleep for two hours then switch. Jenkins you take the first two hours. Get whatever rest you can because come light we are moving out again. We will continue west but off the trails. There's just too damn many VC out there to suit me."
We were able to sleep even with all the mosquitos but it wasn't a restful sleep because we were wet and cold. It was enough for me to build my reserves up a little. We didn't dare cook any food because the smell and the light from the burning C-4 would give us away. That would have to wait until we got into some deep cover where we could stop and I could get a compass and map read, to give me some idea of where we were at. I knew we were way off the usual traveled trails, and I wondered just how far off the beaten path we were? With all the running we had done today we could be anywhere, because I hadn't been able to take a reading all afternoon because of Charlie being on our asses. I didn't sleep much and I don't think Chung did either cause every time I looked over at me he seemed to sense and looked back at me. I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried but to be truthful this had been the tightest situation we had been in since my first tour in Laos.
Jenkins my second on this mission had come from another group, where his first had been transferred to Germany. He didn't want to go, so started asking around for someone who needed an experienced second. I was just finishing my 30 days of R&R, and was drunk and sitting in Chung's hooch with the rest of my yards when Jenkins had asked to come in. I told him he could, but only if he liked rice wine. We all ended up passed out until the Captain had come looking for us two days early. When he came in he just looked at all of us laying around and said; "Saddle Up Sarge." We all got a ride back with Jenkins puking over the tailgate of the truck all the way back to base. For the first time since he had been my CO the Captain had conducted the briefing. When he left we all dived for the coffee pots that had been brought in for us to sober up.
We were sitting around waiting for dark to go to the armory, when Jenkins stood up looking at me and asked did this mean he was in my group?
"Well since you been briefed I guess you don't have a choice. If you tried to leave now you would be shot for desertion. Besides, the Captain didn't say anything so I guess you're in, like it or not."
I introduced him to my yards and that's when I found out he was 6 months into his second tour. He had been working for I Corps out of one of the Marine posts his first tour. He had just come off a forward post when his first was transferred. He was cross trained in small arms and was a certified paramedic. I was happy about that last part cause he would definitely come in handy in the bush. We seemed to get along and as the mission progressed I realized he didn't waste time or motion like he had every thing all thought out ahead of time. Chung said he liked him and that too just sealed his position. I didn't need any friction between team members.
When it started getting light out, Chung said he was going to scout and slipped back into the water heading out at an oblique angle. I got everyone awake and we lay in the mushy grass waiting for him to return. About an hour later Chung whistled the all clear, and I led out heading for where he was stooped waiting on us. When I got on solid ground again I was happy as hell.
"I see nothing Sarge. There be lot of smoke from fires two mile north of here. I think that where all VC are. I find good place to wait, and let all dry out for few hours while we decide which way to move."
He moved out on the trail and we went into our usual marching position. We traveled a mile or so when Chung went to the left. I sent Jenkins in, and waited till the rear men came up telling them to make sure there was no sign of our passing, before I followed. We moved through some thick bush before we came into a small open spot under a bunch of trees. There was a little stream running through it, and nothing but thick bush all around. We set up in a circle pattern and settled back to dry out and have a bite to eat. Before I did anything I took my boots off and put dry socks on. Chung gave me and Jenkins some kind of plant he picked and told us to rub it on our feet to protect them against becoming too soft. Since we had been in the water several hours I immediately did as he asked. Jenkins watched me then did it too. My feet within a few minutes started feeling almost cool. I got my boots back on washing my hands in the stream being careful not to stir up any mud that could give away our position.
We were fairly dry and I was feeling a lot better about our situation when the lookout by the trail whistled enemy sighted. Chung immediately moved in that direction while I got me and Jenkins packed back up and ready to move out. We waited for about fifteen minutes and when Chung came back I could see the excitement on his face. He came over to me and stooped bak on his haunches between me and Jenkins before speaking.
"I send man to follow VC. They have four white men prisoner. I also have other man out watching back trail to see if they followed by other VC. Sarge we can take prisoner if you want. They only small patrol and one is woman. They head back to where we take out NVA yesterday. I think they have tunnel there or maybe big cave they live in. I see signs but no have chance to scout."
"Sarge, if we get a chance to rescue some of our men I vote we take the chance. We seem to be in the clear and it would be a shame to let them torture our people."
"I would have went after them whether you liked it or not Jenkins. I think there are probably more but they are splitting them up so they can't be rescued. Chung, send Ling to the VC camp to see if there are any more. I just figured out where we are at, and we are within five miles of that big Air America camp. We will rescue all we can if there are more. We should be able to make it to the base if they are still in decent shape. I won't let any man stay a prisoner if I can free him."
We immediately set out back to the trail where the other yard said the back trail was clear as far as he could see. We told Ling where we were headed and what was expected from him and headed out. Chung was on point and we started trotting to catch up to the patrol. We came trotting around a bend and Chung was squatted in the middle of the trail with his fist held up for silence. We crept up to him.
"They take that path and stop. Men are tied together with rope around neck. Damn VC not in hurry, stop to whip prisoner with cane. They taking turns and laughing. They only six of them Sarge. Let me and my men kill with bow. That way no noise, and we turn around and head back to meet Ling."
"Go Chung, they are all yours. We will slowly move up and wait for your signal to come in."
He smiled and called the others in and they took off up the dim path that I would have missed if he hadn't pointed it out to me.
"We will give them five minutes then move up Jenkins."
"Sarge, do you think they will be able to kill those VC without giving themselves away?"
"Jenkins, I have seen Chung take out three or four by himself. Believe me when I say six is no match for him when he's killing VC. Besides we will be able to get them moving, and find out if there are any more at that camp. Ok, let move and do it quiet and slow."
We hadn't moved fifty feet into the bush when the all clear signal rang out. I ran full speed and came upon a wide spot in the path where there were five VC dead. The sixth was a woman and Chung had her by the hair slitting her throat as we came up. There were four Americans laying with their hands tied and a long rope around each of their necks. When they saw me they all started shouting at me to turn them loose.
"Shut up you damn fools! Do you want to draw more company down on our position. Now we are going to free all of you, and you can gather up their rifles and ammo. You will keep totally quiet while your doing as I ordered."
They immediately shut up watching as Jenkins cut their ropes one at a time. The ranking man was a Marine Corporal so I let him gather an AK and called him over to me so I could talk to him.
"Corporal, are there any more of you prisoners I need to know about?"
"There are five more at the camp we just left. They were getting ready to move them out too Sir. My Gunny is with them along with the Lt., and he has a bad shoulder wound. We all got captured yesterday when our platoon got hit while on patrol. I thought we were all dead and I am sure glad to see you. That bitch over there loved to beat us, and kept stopping to do it at every opportunity. I think they were taking us to their cave if I understood what they were jabbering about."