We were heading for Chau Luc rubber plantation in the northern part of Phuoc Tuy Province, not far from the Courteney rubber. You may remember it was in January/February where Killer was killed about two months ago. We were going back to do some more ambushing. This is much better than stumbling around the jungle and finding Nigel waiting for us in his bunker systems. We are apprehensive because we only have six weeks left in country; but ambushing is good.
“Saddle up Knackers we move in five,” whispered Moon.
Shit, something must be up. We are in a harbour come ambush setting, it’s still dark and we are going to move? I checked my watch, it was 0430. I slid out of my silk and pulled on my boots. The boots are laced with one single long lace – all I do is pull them on and tighten the laces – ezy in the dark. I quickly roll up the silk and groundsheet and stuff them in my pack, took a swig of water, had a leak; and I was ready to go.
We don’t normally move at night, it’s too risky. Not only could we get ambushed, but it is also quite easy for us to lose contact with each other and become separated. In the dark all shadowy figures look alike; and scary.
After about twenty minutes of slow progress we are lined up in a ditch, dawn is not far away. I peer into the blackness and I can make out a couple of huts about 80 yards ahead. Must be a village. I can see smoke drifting ever so faintly from inside the village, but I can’t see any activity. I make myself as comfortable as I can and wait.
Suddenly, over to the left is the tell-tale sound of mortar primaries going pop, pop, pop. Seconds later the rounds are landing on top of us. A combination of blinding light, deafening explosions and trembling earth unleashes its fury. Dirt and debris is raining down on top of me. Moon gives the order to move forward, we certainly can’t stay here, but where the hell are we going to go?
Instantly we are on the village. “Keep moving, keep moving” Moon yells. Then it happened. I felt a wave a hot air pick me up and fling me into the air. There is a buzzing in my head. The flash of brilliant light has killed my night vision. I am aware that I am hurtling through the air, yet I am not afraid. Am I dead?
I smashed into one of the huts, it collapsed and buried me under a pile of rubble. My hearing and vision return as my brain tries to comprehend what is happening. It only lasts for a fleeting moment, then I black out.
I’m awake. I dunno how long I was out to it, but I am aware that there is sunlight about, but not directly shining onto me. I am lying on my back. I feel a lot of weight pressing down on my body. I am having difficulty breathing because of the weight on my chest. My whole body is still. I try to stretch. I can feel my fingers and my toes. A good sign. I twist and turn, and roll over onto my belly and try to get up. I feel the rubble on top of me give way and I stretch up onto my knees. My back aches but I am in one piece.
As I step out of the rubble I can see that the scene around me is very bleak indeed. I smell a mixture of smoke and cordite. The whole area is devastated. The trees and vegetation are flattened and singed, but not burnt. Everything is coated in black. Some stumps are emitting smoke, but there are no flames.
Where is everyone?
I check myself out. My greens are ripped and torn. My right upper arm is scratched but the bleeding has stopped. My greens are mostly black now rather than green. My boots are OK but I have no rifle, no webbing; and no bloody radio!
Where is everyone?
I hear a murmur over to my right. It’s coming from another collapsed hut. I move towards it, oh, my right leg hurts a bit too. There’s someone trapped in the rubble of the hut. I pull the dried reeds away and I can see a body of a women dressed in a white blouse and black pyjama pants, a typical South Vietnamese dress. She is struggling. I notice her eyes are covered by a blind fold, there is another piece of material around her neck. It must have covered her mouth and she managed to pull it free. Her hands and feet are bound tightly.
I remove the blindfold. A pair of piercing black eyes stare up at me in terror. Her mouth opens to speak but she says nothing as if her brain is processing something. Her eyes start to crinkle, “Kevin? Kevin?” she shouts.
I stand there just looking at her.
“Kevin, me Lin, you me, number one boom boom, Vung Tau.
(You will recall that Lin could not pronounce my name, the best she could do was ‘Kevin.”)
“Lin? Is that really you?” I enquire. What in the hell is she doing here? And why is she tied up? So I quickly untie her hands and feet. Lin jumps to her feet, throws her arms around me and gives me a big pash on my lips. She never did that last time we met and besides I can tell she had garlic with her last meal.
Lin went on to tell me that she was a sex slave in Vung Tau. Her parents were very famous people in North Vietnam when she and her mother were kidnapped for ransom money. Her mother was kept under guard at Baria and she was made into a sex slave. She couldn’t escape otherwise they would kill her mother.
“So how come you ended up here?”? I asked.
“My mother die, so me escape from Vung Tau. Me hitch ride north but White Mice catch me, hold me here.”
“Well maybe I can help, come with me.” I take Lin’s hand and head east towards the main road. “We should be able to flag down a passing military vehicle.”
“Dứng dừng lại!” A male voice rings out from behind us. We turn and face two men both with AK47s about 50 yards away. Their weapons are pointing right at us. I pick up a lump of wood, face the two men; and push Lin behind me.
The men are dressed in khaki uniforms. They are NVA. They are both in their twenties, one is tall and one is short. They move in closer, a smirk covers the face of the shorter soldier.
“You drop stick, GI.”
“I’m not a GI you dumb piece of shit. Me Uc da loi.”
“Ah, Uc da loi, drop stick, now,” he demands shaking his rifle in my direction.
They came in close, weapons pointing at me. The taller soldier is facing me, the shorter guy is off to my right.
“Quay lại.” I did as Shorty demanded – I turned around. Stretch grabbed my arms, pulled them behind my back; and tied my hands together.
I turned back around and faced Stretch. He was nearly my height, unusually tall for Vietnamese. He had acne scaring on his face. His eyes were bloodshot and he had a smirk on his face. He was an ugly son of a bitch.
We locked eyes, then I smashed my forehead into his nose spreading it across his face as blood splattered all directions. He fell like a rock. Before Shorty could bring his AK up to fire I stabbed my right leg out, my foot was parallel to the ground as I hit the side of his right knee. His leg collapsed inward. He yelped, dropped his rifle; and he crumpled to a heap on the ground. Stretch was on his elbows and knees holding his face in his hands. I kicked him in the guts to open up his body, he half rolled away from me and as his hands dropped away from his face I drove my boot into it.
“Take that Nigel you ugly prick!” His body flattened out and he was still. I spun back to Shorty and kicked him again. I collected his face with the heal of my right boot as I swung my leg with plenty of power and a good follow through, just like a footballer kicking a goal at fulltime to score the winning points against Manly. He sprawled onto his back. He was out cold.
“Quick Lin untie me.”
I grabbed both AK47s and we ran east to the road. The road was deserted. Normally there is plenty of traffic about. We sat down on the side of the road and waited. I suggested we head south to Nui Dat. Lin said she wanted to head north, back home to her father.
Soon a motorcyclist appeared from the north, he was travelling at a fair clip of speed. I walked out onto the road and pointed the rifle at him with my right hand and held my left hand up with my palm facing towards him – the universal halt sign. The rider pulled up quickly. I motioned for him to get off the bike and sit in the ditch on the side of the road. “Í’ll trade your bike for this AK47,” I said as I removed the magazine, took all the rounds out, placed it back on the weapon and threw it down beside him. I grabbed the bike, tossed the crate of chickens off it and said to Lin, “Hop on Lin.” I gunned the 125cc Honda and we headed north towards the coast.
Pretty soon we came to a coastal township, somewhere unaffected by the war. Lin urged me to stop and she disappeared into a shop. She emerged seconds later and headed to a phone booth. She spoke on the phone for about ten minutes while I sat there on the Honda admiring the women passing by in their Ao Dais
“I get picked up tomorrow at dawn,” said Lin with a gleam in her eye. I looked at my watch and it was 1500, dawn was at 0600.
“I need some food and water,” I said as I motioned towards a hotel. We entered the foyer. We were both extremely grubby and dirty and I had the AK47 slung over my shoulder. I told Lin to trade the AK47 for a room and some food as I slumped down in a chair. I was totally rooted. A few moments later Lin returned with a smile on her face and the keys to a room in her hand, “This way,” she said.
Room 79 eh? Wooly would be pleased. Hey the blokes? I didn’t know what happened to them. How did we get separated? Were they out searching for me? “Kevin need shower.” Lin removed my greens and noticed the wound on my arm. “Poor Kevin.”
“It’s only a scratch, Lin,” I said as she led me to the shower and started to wash me. She gently massaged my body, dried me off; and made me feel a whole lot better as only a woman can do for a man. I fell asleep before room service arrived.
Lin woke me at 0500 with a hot breakfast of toast eggs and coffee. I demolished the lot. Then we made love again and I took another shower. I emerged from the bathroom and there on the bed were my greens washed and ironed. I picked them up and I could see that the torn pieces were expertly sewn and repaired. My boots were black and shiny and there was a clean pair of socks laid across the top of them.
“Take me to beach?”
“What’s happening Lin?”
“Me ring father, they pick me up at 6.”
“Who’s they? What does your father do?
“My father he king of North Vietnam.”
“King? What do you mean King?
“Me part of North Vietnam royal family, me Princess Lin.”
“A bloody princess? You’re joking. Right?”
“You save my life Kevin. Come with me, you will be rewarded.”
“I can’t leave my mates behind – they need me Lin. I must find them.”
“You take me to beach?”
“OK, I’ll take you to beach.”
The Honda was stored out back. It fired up easily and the headlight worked OK. Not a bad trade for an AK47. We rode down to the beach, got off the bike and walked to the southern end of the beach. We sat down and Lin cradled in under my sore arm. She looked up into my eyes and gave me another great pash on the lips. What in the world did she have for breakfast? More garlic?
Then I heard it. The unmistakable sound of a helicopter, a large helicopter. It was coming in from the east, heading straight for the southern part of the beach. Lin flashed a light a couple of times and it loomed out of the darkness; a bloody giant Russian helicopter!
It landed on the beach. Lin asked me one more time to go with her. I told her it was impossible. Lin looked into my eyes, gave me a tender kiss and said “Me never forget Kevin, Lin love Kevin.”
“Kevin love Lin too,” I whispered. She turned and ran to the helicopter. The engines roared, it lifted off, turned and, with it’s nose down, flew back out to sea. I paused there on the beach for a long time. What the hell was that all about I wondered. Then reality kicked in. I returned to the hotel, room 79, ordered more food and, when my belly was full, I took a nap. I woke at 1000 and began my journey back to The Dat on that great little 125cc Honda.
The CSM, mother couldn’t believe it when he saw me. “We thought you were captured Knackers, there’s still a group, your old mates from 6 section, out looking for you.”
“Well I’m here now. What’s for dinner?”
The boys were happy to see me. Should I tell them about Lin? Would they believe me? I doubt it. So I left out the bits involving Lin. I went back to the Q store and got some new gear, we were due to deploy again in two days. I’d better get my shit together.
The next day the OC called a parade. This is unusual we thought, Capt B is not one to stand on ceremony. So at 0900 we marched down to the company parade ground. The CSM handed over to Capt B who stood there with his hands on his hips, a big beaming smile came over his lips. “Men. The war is over.”
There was silence, just a company of dumb grunts standing there with our mouths open.
North Vietnam has instigated a ceasefire. They are withdrawing their troops back north. There will be no more fighting. Well the company erupted into hoopin’ and a hollerin’. Bush hats were thrown into the air. Troops danced around each other, backs were slapped, but there was no kissing.
“OK men settle down. I guess you want to know how this came about. It seems that the King’s daughter was rescued by Australian soldiers, probably those elite SAS boys.
“He was so pleased his daughter was returned safely to him that he pressed the government to introduce an immediate cease fire and end the war. The war is over!”
“Your time for picquet mate…..”
Reproduced with permission from FUN, FEAR, FRIVOLITY – A tale by an Aussie infantry soldier in the Vietnam War – which is now also available in ebook format. See here to order.
Hi guys. I am a good-looking, opinionated old fart who relishes a spirited debate on any topic regardless of how much I think I know about it.
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