Archive for the ‘South Vietnam’ Tag

When Dark Closes In – Chapter X

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WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter X

Scott – Hue, South Vietnam

June, 1967, Hue, South Vietnam

It was nearly impossible to empty his mind of the things he’d seen, and try to write stuff as if he was a boy scout on a camping trip. Yea! Some trip. Every time he started a letter to Jen or his mom, he didn’t know what to write. What he thought they wanted to read, or hear, he could not write. What he could write they would not want to read, or hear. Too depressing. The media covered enough of the grizzly stuff, but how many bothered to read it, or hear it reported on Nightly News?

He wadded up the letter, another hard ball, and threw it at the latrine. Smack! Wadded another. Threw a curve ball. His mind flashed back to the time he was in high school. They were in the seventh inning, their baseball team’s playoff game for the all-state championship trophy. The opposing team was up at bat. He stood at the pitcher’s plate, slamming home fast balls, right into the catcher’s mitt, strike one, two, three. Another one, “out”!


Bases loaded. Runners up, eagerly waiting. I took my time, made them sweat. Slowly raising my pitching arm, arched my back, turned and, raised my left leg, fooling those on bases. Then, quickly straightened, and threw to third base with the runners sprinting for second and third. The umpire called it. ” Out”!

His writing notebook was not entirely empty. There was much of it that was already filled with things he didn’t share with anyone. He’d been keeping the ‘journal’ since he arrived in Saigon nine months ago. Now, he snatched minutes whenever he could to unleash whatever was in his head. When he didn’t know what to write home to Jennifer and his family, he used the journal to communicate his thoughts, express his frustrations, or just rant with pen on paper.

            ____________

“Here I am, nine months into my tour of duty, these last three in Hue. My M-16 remains the only friend I know that won’t leave me, my constant companion. Sleep deprived, I have dreams of hot showers, cheese burgers and fries, the waves of Puget Sound washing over my bare feet, but, I lie back on burlap bags filled with freeze-dried army rations near the latrine, stink like the village pigs here, and my eardrums vibrate from the drone of planes and helicopters overhead.”

“I still see the faces of the dying villagers lying helpless in our wake as we moved in, after the Viet Cong. Their blood soaks the ground. They are the innocent victims of our bullets and shrapnel. Open, gaping wounds fill with swarming flies to lay claim to their remains. Medics cannot help them all. Only the monsoons help wash the earth of their blood. But, nothing washes away the memory. Their fading cries linger in my head. I hear them over and over.”

“There is no time to grieve the death of friends I’ve made here. I just watch the medics wrap them up and send them home in a body bag. My grief, my emotion is an internal kind, because it’s just not cool to watch a big boy cry. But, when, or if I leave here alive, I will feel more ashamed for not shedding any for the friends I watched die.”

“We don’t know where our enemy lurks. The south will do whatever is necessary to annihilate and wipe out all evidence of VC presence, or compromise. There is infiltration in the South’s army. It is hard to distinguish between the two armies sometimes. At times we don’t know who we’re fighting. We just fire. The South Vietnamese Army formed a special unit for the sole purpose to hunt ‘rats,’ (revolutionists and their spies), another name given the VC. SWARM (Specialized Warfare Against Rat’s Movements) are a brutal bunch of boys. Some say the CIA trained them. No reason to doubt it.”

“Reports from home tell about the apathy for the soldiers here. Does anyone care we are dying? Troops have no real commitment to the South’s cause. They were pulled in, with no choice. This has become a political war. Those in WA., DC that decide our fate should be here. We would choose theirs. And they would go home in body bags. With, or without the U.S. help, the South Vietnamese will fight on, to keep their side free from the north.”

“Things are getting intense around Da Nang, and our unit may be heading north. My only momentary relief comes from looking at Jennifer’s picture, and reading her letters from home. I pray I make it back. I never thought much about praying for anything before. Guess I never needed anything so much until now, so I’ve given it a try. Whether or not God listens, at least I’m giving it a shot.”

            Scott Bradley – 1967, Hue, South Vietnam

                        _____________

Suddenly, the sounds of M-16 s erupted everywhere. Another ambush. The screams of troops falling under fire while launching grenades, the chaos from those running, hitting the ground, diving for cover: they were under attack.
Aim, fire, and kill. Scott emptied his cartridge on all he could see in their black pajamas, then reloaded. They camouflaged themselves in the bush, foliage hanging off them as they crawled along the ground. They laid low in rice paddies, creeping along like maggots. They were dropping, but it was too hard to see how many he’d gotten. They could pop up like ducks at a carnival shoot to gain the surprise. Carnage everywhere. The surprise attacks were coming more frequent.

His knees buckled. He lost balance. He felt a stinging, piercing pain, like a hot knife shoved in, then withdrawn. His grip loosened, his M-16 feeling too heavy to hold. He looked down at the growing red stain, the sticky wet blood oozing from a chest wound. He would not go down. Not today! Tightening his grip, he stumbled up, out of his trench and ran into the fray.

“Bradley! What are you doing? Get down, man. You’re going to get…No!” Mac yelled.

______________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson




Fiction, Historical Fiction, Writing, Creating Characters, The Daily Post, Weekly Writing Challenge: characters

The below post is my submission for this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge in The Daily Post.  It is based on a fictional character in my Historical fiction story, entitled, WHEN DARK CLOSES IN.

Character analysis: Scott is a soldier in the Vietnam War, who was drafted into the army while a student attending a college in Seattle, Washington. He writes this letter home to his father about his experiences during the war while stationed in South Vietnam.

Scene – Scott is in Vietnam writing this letter from his base camp.

_________________________

March, 1966.

Hi dad,

I’ve been in Vietnam now for six months and now know the basics in warfare tactics, survival and aggression. My instinct is tested daily when out on patrol with my unit. Those that can’t cut it are easy prey for the VC, and the NVA. My M-16 remains the only friend I know won’t leave me. Fatigue, exhaustion is my constant companion. My eardrums roar from the sounds of planes and helicopters overhead, gun fire, shouts and screams.

Sometimes, I have to force my stomach from heaving its contents when I see the dying lay helpless in our wake. Their blood soaks the ground. Bullets or shrapnel become imbedded inside their bodies, with open, gaping wounds. Flies and vultures swarm in to lay claim to their remains. Medics cannot help them all. Only the monsoons help wash the earth of their blood. But, nothing washes away the memory. Their fading cries linger in my head. I hear them over and over again. There is no time to grieve the death of friends I’ve made. I just watch the medics wrap them up and send them home in a transport.

Reports from home tell about the apathy for the soldiers here. Does anyone there care we are dying here? The guys have become numb to feeling compassionate, or committed to the South’s cause. This has become a political war. Those in WA., DC that decide our fate should be here. We would choose theirs. And they would go home in body bags.

Whether with, or without the U.S. help, the South Vietnamese will fight on, to keep their side free from the Viet Cong. More often the south unleashes its violence on mere villagers with the intent to annihilate and wipe out evidence of V.C. presence, or compromise. Yet, there is still infiltration in the South Vietnamese Army. It is hard to distinguish between the two. At times, we don’t know who we’re fighting. We just fire. The country has gone mad and crazy with war. There was some talk in our unit of an elite group called, SWARM, Specialized Warfare Against the Revolutionaries’ Movement.

I hope you get this. I don’t know when I will have time to write as things are getting intense around Da Nang, and our unit may be heading north. My only momentary relief comes from looking at Jen’s picture, and reading her letters from home. Dad, don’t let her or mom know about this letter.

I pray I make it back home. Give mom, and my kid sister a hug.

love, Scott

___________________

Joyce E. Johnson


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