Fisherman’s Fate

Richard Denne
‘A’ Company 2nd Bn/327. 101st Airborne.
“No Slack” 1966-1967

Sorry about that; Fisherman’s Fate: hook line and sinker.

Slope. Strip. Slope.
“Please, Mr. Custer
Right, Centre, Left.
I don’t want to go.”
Road, Track, Cross.
“I had a dream last night,
about the coming, fight.”
“Somebody yelled attack.
And there I stood with an
arrow in my, back.”
Blest sister wife of God
Give me the might and
courage to become,
the killer of the day.
Thock, Thock!
Bang! Bang, Bang!
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!
“Forward, Ho!”
“What am I doing here?”
What was I thinking?
I mean the first battle- scene of Homer’s Iliad vs. Larry Verne’s song, 1960, “Please Mr. Custer?”
What?
That ditty kept playing over and over and over in my mind.
Jesus. H. K. Rice; what’s going on?
Fate: 101,
Murphy’s Law,
Dumb luck?
Within my first 72 hours in Vietnam, I had made my first kill. Over half of my company was, wiped out. Moreover, I was scared strait. Had it not been for the leadership and inspiration of my commanding officer, Capt. Tom, I never would have made it. After several weeks, I surrendered my fate to the winds of war and life in the jungle fell into a pattern. I made up my mind that I would survive or die trying. I was ‘volunteered’ to become a Radio Telephone Operator  for my platoon’s new replacement leader, First Lieutenant, Pete Pepper whom I befriended and we went on to survive booby traps, helicopter crashes, numerous ambushes and face to face firefights; one of which was truly a miracle.
That time it was the ‘Sixth’ month of the year 1966, in Chinese astrology, it was, ‘The Year of the Fire Horse’, which meant; bad luck in general, any way you cut it. 666? Yikes! Please Mr. Custer…..
Our company strength that morning was 125 men and save for about 80 percent who were new replacements these were seasoned warriors accustomed to stalking Charlie by night in any terrain. In fact our company and the rest of 2/327th of the 101st Airborne, spent more time hunting down the Viet Cong in more varieties of terrain than any other infantry outfits of the war. Always in the boonies, as much as 57 days non- stop. More time in the field than any other combat unit of the war. That’s why our battalion earned the reputation of an outstanding combat unit because of our “No Slack” fighting spirit.
However this search and destroy was an act of sweet revenge for the losses we took in the hamlet of Trung Luong in the fields of bamboo earlier. It was there our company walked into a nest of 3500 hard core North Vietnamese Army & the Viet Cong/ Charlie.
There-in, pursued, a forty- eight hour siege and cost our company fifty-four men. My company had faced the supreme test of a United States rifle company in the Vietnam War.
Hell, braver than that nut, Custer.
Why the company wasn’t overrun, is still a mystery to me.  Fate: 101?
This time we had the element of surprise and wanted payback big time. We started out on this patrol in single file, wading across the rice paddies heading to the coast loaded for bear. Each man humped 300 M-16 rounds, 4 frag grenades, 4 smoke grenades, 5 canteens of water, 10 sandbags, 1 claymore mine, 3 days rations, 1 sleeping roll and our personal equipment bag. That worked out to be 70 pounds extra and a, 130 degree day to come.
So off we go on a mission of certain death and destruction. We had no illusions about our objective.
With all our firepower, being, paratroopers, wearing the Screaming Eagle, patches (in full color not subdued) on our shoulders and silver wings on our chest, we foolishly believed this morning that we were Gods, good Christian soldiers charging into the fray.  It took hours of creeping, crawling, slithering, stealthy walking to get into our battle attack position. There was still around ten minutes before first light. Peeking up over the sandbar we were laying behind, I could make out a fishing boat between us, and the sleepy coast village we were soon to light up like a Disneyland firework exhibition. Of this I know as I worked at the theme park on the Jungle Cruse ride in Adventure Land as fate would have it. What a revolting development this is.
Our orders were to sweep the entire area and kill everyone and everything period. If any V.C. escaped, the ‘ROC’ {Korean} units, on our left flank, would cut them down. If they ran to the north, they would meet their fate with elements of our own battalion, set waiting in ambush for them. Word came down the line to wait for the C.O.’s signal. We were all now suspended in the equinox zone; that special time between dark and light, a twilight zone to be sure.
The time came and we all rose to our feet, with one motion, we flicked the safeties off our weapons and faced the kill zone. All of a sudden, something unexpected happened, “Murphy’s Law!”  “Fate: 101”?
Just as we were about to attack, an image appeared before our eyes, from behind the boat halfway between us and our objective, a boy, a man, Charlie?
All 125 of us instantly opened fire. The dogs of war broke loose. The fusillade of 2500 rounds turned into a giant ball of fire, which came from our line of attack, to the same place in front of us. The roar of our weapons was deafening. All of our bullets hit, around the same place; the boat, the man, the ghost? Then the entire image disappeared into a cloud of smoke, dust and sand. It seemed as if time, stood still. You could hear the sound of the beach we were standing on, let out a long, long sigh.
Then silence.
We were, frozen in time.
As the cloud of dust and smoke settled down around the boat, we could make out an image of a man, an angler, unscathed, holding what was left of his net. He was standing up straight, looking right at us in disbelief. Nothing scathed him. In a flash, we came back to reality. Someone yelled, “Charge! Open fire!” We all snapped out of it and before one could say, “what, the?”
We were reloaded and moving forward, firing our weapons past the lucky son-of-a-bitch.
As we came abreast of this fisherman, one of the paratroopers passing by him said, “Sorry about that.”
There it was;
that statement,
coming from the oblique.
For some crazy reason, that statement covered this whole God Damned War.  {The indifference in chaos}