View Full Version : Mekong Voyage

12-18-2007, 06:12 AM
(Didn't know where else to put this - comments appreciated)

“What in the hell am I doing here? My job is behind a desk not out here on this damned, stinking river.”

The sights and sounds of Vietnam fade with time. The smells never go away. The stench from rice paddies filled with human waste overpowers the nostrils. The rot of jungle vegetation turns the stomach. The overpowering essence of sweaty human bodies crammed together in the dank heat stays in ones lungs forever.

Even being in the middle of the wide Mekong River dud not take one far from the odors. They remained and were added to by the fetor rising from the water. Add the stink from oil and lubricants and the stomach churned and prepared to empty its content -- nothing to do with seasickness.

Bill Sanders stood on the bridge wing of the barge, relieved that the passing air eased the power of the smells. The corporal manning the fifty caliber machine gun next to him avoided most of it with the cigarette hanging loosely from his lips.

The Captain, a Warrant Officer, had welcomed Bill aboard. Having anyone from the Group headquarters on his supply vessel was rare. That Bill didn’t have to be there piqued his curiosity. “Aren’t there easier ways for you to get to Can Tho?” he’d asked.

Bill shrugged. “I’ve been in the Army for twelve years and it wasn’t until I got into this accursed country that I learned we had a navy.”

That brought a laugh from the captain. “You may find it hard to believe but we have hundreds of vessels, more than many countries.” He added that he’d been serving on Army vessels since he’d gone through the school at Fort Eustis. “I just found it fascinating.”

“If you like boats, why didn’t you enlist in the Navy?”

The captain shrugged. “I didn’t enlist for it. They just found out that I’d skippered fishing boats and that was the end of that.”

As a Personnel Sergeant, Bill was all too familiar with how that worked. “The needs of the service,” somehow changed the fortunes of many who’d signed up for other jobs -- himself included.

“What the hell you doin’ on this tub, Sarge?”

The corporal’s voice brought Bill out of his musing. He turned to the man and replied, “I just believe that I need to get out of my air-conditioned office now and then to see what the troops are doing. It also gives me a chance to make sure the guys in the field are doing their jobs and ensuring the troops are getting what they’ve got coming.”

“Well, I sure as hell could figure out better ways of getting around.”

“You ever had to fire that thing?” Bill asked, pointing to the machine gun.

“About every other trip.”

That shocked Bill. “You gotta be kidding?”

“Nope. Charley knows we’re sitting ducks out here. He comes after us with RPGs and eighty mil mortars.” He tossed the butt overboard into the murky green water and quickly lit another. “Lucky for us, their aim is usually shitty and the Swift boat comes up in time to chase ‘em off.”

Bill shook his head. “They couldn’t pay me enough to spend a tour on one of these things.”

“It fucking beats slogging through the jungle trying to avoid booby traps and punji sticks. And I don’t have to carry one of those damned heavy packs and get to sleep in my bunk at night. Hell, we even get hot meals on a regular basis.”

Bill was constantly amazed how various military specialties found their own way to make the most of what the military had given them.

Bill heard the ricochet and was slammed back by the projectile before he heard the sound of the shot. He hit his head hard against the steel bulkhead and saw stars as he crumpled to the deck.

The corporal screamed and fell to the deck beside him. Bill struggled to crawl to the man, swearing when he saw the gaping hole in his chest.

“God damn it! Why don’tcha close your fucking flak jacket,” he groaned, seeing that the bullet had buried itself deep into the man’s upper chest. He tore open his first aid pack and ripped the package of a pressure bandage, knowing it would do no good for a punctured lung.

“Medic,” he screamed. “Man down. We need a medic.”

It was doubtful anybody heard him. Rounds slammed into the steel plating of the barge and a couple of projectiles erupted against the hull. In addition, the other fifty caliber spit out a stream of bullets toward the riverbank.

The boy could not speak, his grey eyes growing dim as the life oozed out of him. He kept trying to point to his breast pocket and Bill soothed him. “I’ll make sure they get it,” knowing the dying soldier was trying to point out where his last letter home was stashed.

Knowing there was nothing more he could do, Bill picked the corporal’s helmet from the deck and put it on after tossing his soft fatigue cap aside. He buckled the chin strap and rose, grabbing the handles of the machine gun. He pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened!

“You dumb shit,” he growled, pulling back the cocking lever, angry that he’d been so stupid. In truth, it was the first time he’d ever fired one of the damned things.

A couple of sampans had been hidden in the thick foliage and were the source of the ambush. Bill fired, inexperienced and not knowing that the fifty tended to fire high. It took him a moment to realize that he was wasting ammo before he lowered the muzzle and drew the stream of tracers into the flimsy craft. Hr got lucky and hit something, watching with bitter satisfaction as the craft exploded in flames.

It was over almost before it started, at least how Bill felt it. The Swiftboat reacted quickly and a twenty millimeter shell blew the second sampan all to hell.

The adrenalin coursed through him as he hung onto the handles of the machine gun.

“It’s too late, Sarge. There’s nothing I can do for him.”

Bill turned to see the crew’s corpsman closing the corporal’s eyes, placing one of his dog tags in his mouth where the mortuary crew would find it. Another crew member relieved him at the gun so Bill staggered into the wheelhouse.

“You handled yourself damned well for a Desk Jockey,” the captain said.

Bill glanced down to the wet spot in his pants and grunted, “Yeah, like a real fucking hero. I pissed my Goddamned pants!”

The corpsman came in and examined Bill, cleaning a nick where he’d been hit by a piece of shrapnel.

“Look’s like you got yourself a Blue Wienie, Sarge,” he said, referring to the Purple Heart he was entitled to.

“And I’m puttin’ you in for a Bronze with V,” the captain added.

“Aw shit! Ain’t none of it gonna bring him back. Hell, I don’t even know his name.”

Added to the reek of the rotting jungle was the acrid smoke from the burning sampans.

12-19-2007, 02:01 AM
Powerful post LV. I can almost smell the stench over the distance and years, and hear the din, and I certainly feel horror. What is it that you'd like to hear from the forum?

12-19-2007, 08:51 PM
Powerful post LV. I can almost smell the stench over the distance and years, and hear the din, and I certainly feel horror. What is it that you'd like to hear from the forum?

Well, at least I got across to one reader what I wanted.
Now, where in the world do I send it to get it published?????:idea:
I've gone through all sorts of sites and can't seem to find a place to submit it. All suggestions would be apreciated.