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The State of the Union

February 5, 2006


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  • George Custer McSmith February 17, 2006 10:11 am

    Ghost Town
    The sandbag-covered, wooden bunkers were circled like Conestoga wagons braced for an Indian attack; except there was no one around, as if a massacre had already happened. The 80-some troopers of Alpha Company humped into the abandoned L-Z Ike. There were sheets of Chieu Hoi papers sc-ttered everywhere, littering the ground. They had been dropped from the sky, offering the enemy instructions on how to surrender.
    There was something eerie in the air, like the grunts were moving into a cleaned-up crime scene. This was supposed to be a battalion-sized firebase, but just a lone, line-company was now occupying the premises.
    “What the fuck happened here?” Said Peterson to Davis, as the troopers walked in column next to each other.
    “Second of the Seventh,” said Davis. “They always hit the shit.”
    “What?” Said Peterson.
    “Custer’s old unit,” said Davis. “They always hit the shit…they got overrun here so many times, the battalion just pulled out.”
    Davis and Peterson stopped in front of a bunker that part of their squad would call home. There was a human liver lying in the dirt, by the fortification’s entrance. Peterson looked at Davis, “don’t tell me that’s gonna be dinner.”
    Davis grimaced, “I don’t like liver without onions.” He picked up the detached organ and hurled it out toward the rolls of concertina-wire that wound a perimeter around the base.
    Sgt. Brooks came by, “we’re just gonna guard every other bunker,” he said to Peterson and Davis.
    “What the hell happened here?” Said Peterson to Brooks.
    “NVA overran it and stuck around for a couple days…beau coup fucked-up mess…Pulford knows a guy in Gerry Owen…he has pictures of gook bodies being taken out on mules and deuce-and-a-halves,” said Brooks.
    “So another battalion’s goin’ back in?” Asked Davis.
    “Dunno,” said Brooks. “This is like a recon.”
    “More like we’re fuckin’ bait,” said Davis.
    “S-1 says they’re no gooks around,” said Brooks. “At least sizeable forces.”
    “And we’ll find out how many,” said Davis. “When they come our way.”
    “Don’t worry,” said Brooks. “We have Arty from Jake and Grant triangularizing 155s on our position.”
    “Oh yeah…I’m gonna sleep tight tonight,” said Peterson. Peterson looked around at what used to be a firebase. There was just a large, empty space in the middle of the huge circle formed by the bunkers. There were sc-ttered sandbags and remnants of hootches and structures that used to be. “It’s a fucking ghost town,” said Peterson.
    “In more ways than one,” said Davis. “If the Second of the Seventh was here…so was Custer’s ghost…expect fuckups.”
    By afternoon, Peterson, Davis, Hamilton, and an FNG had settled in by the bunker they would guard and were lounging and eating C’s. Davis had upturned a howitzer-shell-ammo-box and was throwing his bayonet at it. He worked an almost hypnotic ritual—aim, throw, two spins, stick, walk ten feet up, pull out the knife, walk ten feet back, aim, throw, two spins, stick, walk ten feet up, pull out the knife…; Davis must’ve stuck the knife twenty times in a row without a miss, but no one was counting.
    When the first shell crashed with a big boom, everybody hit the ground before even one shout of “incoming” was heard from anybody on the re-occupied base. As more shells came in and crashed inside the wire, cries of “incoming” erupted from all over the company’s perimeter. They were 155s landing way too close; six shells fell before the misplaced fire-mission was aborted.
    Davis got up from his position of lying face down in the dirt and plucked out his knife from the ammo-box. There was a large, metal fragment from the howitzer barrage wedged in the wood, beside the bayonet.
    “That’s our fuckin’ cover?” Davis said, walking back to continue his routine, “triangling fire…my ass.”
    “Maybe Custer called in those coordinates,” said Peterson, picking himself up.
    Davis threw the bayonet again, sticking it. “Yeah, the sorry sonuvabitch,” Davis said.
    It was a moonless sky that night, clouds blotted out the stars creating an exceptional darkness that greeted Davis as he climbed to the top of the bunker for his four a.m., two-hour guard duty. He relieved Hamilton, who climbed off the bunker. Davis sat on a seat of two piled-up sandbags. He placed his M-16 to his right after detaching his bayonet and then putting the knife next to his rifle. He found the PRC-25 and broke squelch twice, when the company net made a condition check. He found the bunker’s M-79 and some area-flare shells and popped one off. The sky lit up like it was noon.
    Davis liked to watch the flares burn. His pyromania was the reason he was in the Army and the ‘Nam after getting caught by police while speeding between barn fires he had set ablaze.
    When the light of the flare faded to darkness, he remembered he had six more days until R-and-R, when he would go to Hawaii and see his wife of seven months for seven days. He reached between his legs and felt the erection he had gotten from watching the flare burn and wondered if he would be able to “git it up” for her, and finally consummate their marriage.
    He heard the slightest rattle of a can on the concertina-wire below, and shot off another flare. The sky lit up just as Davis could see a body slide over the perimeter berm and enter the empty bunker next to him. Davis was going to whisper into the PRC-25 when the sky erupted with the illumination of many area-flares and screams came out of the radio, “gooks in the wire…gooks in the wire.”
    Small arms fire opened up on the other side of the perimeter; sixteens and sixties were talking, with the exploding booms of 79s mixed in. Davis didn’t see any gooks in the wire to his front; but he kept an eye on the bunker to the right of him. The other men of Davis’ bunker scrambled awake and Peterson climbed up beside Davis.
    “What’s goin’ on?” Whispered Peterson.
    “I think we got a live-one next door,” Davis gave a glimpse at Peterson and a nod at the next bunker.
    The GIs on the other side of the perimeter continued to pound out lead and Davis turned down the chatter on the radio. Davis attached his bayonet to the end of his M-16. “You cover me,” said Davis. “You see anything peek outa that bunker…fire it up…and don’t blow my shit away.”
    “Take a frag,” said Peterson, who gave Davis a hand-grenade that was one of four wedged between some sandbags.
    Davis put the grenade in one of his pants-pockets, crawled off the top of his bunker, and snuck along the berm toward the other bunker. Davis never took his eye off the target bunker; he moved slowly and silently while the sky was still lit by flares.
    Suddenly the sky went dark as Davis approached the entrance to the bunker. A figure lunged at him, but was greeted by the sharp blade of Davis’ bayonet. Davis fired three quick shots into the skewered figure that was blown back into the bunker, off of the knife.
    Davis kneeled by the outside wall of the bunker, pulled out the frag, pulled the pin, let the handle fly, held the grenade for “one thousand-two” that he said in his head, then tossed it into the entrance of the bunker. Davis scrambled to the side of the bunker, before the frag blew in a deep boom and a cloud of smoke and dirt that came back out the bunker’s entrance.
    Another set of flares lit up the sky, and Davis peered inside the bunker. He could see part of a bloody torso, and decided not to go in.
    In the morning, eight gooks were found in the wire at various points outside the GI perimeter. Davis’ kill was the closest to getting inside the green-line and was body number nine called into battalion, before Alpha Company was ordered to be ready to charlie-alpha out. Bravo Company had hit the shit a couple clicks away and needed reinforcement.
    Alpha Company left L-Z Ike in a hurry that morning, in a flurry of three fast chopper lifts of six slicks apiece; leaving the former firebase more haunted than it had been the day before.

  • Robt February 11, 2006 1:54 am

    Just want to say thanks for the B & B book and site for it.

  • Robt February 11, 2006 1:48 am

    Dollar bill,
    Robert Riech was labor secretary. Your above post makes no sense. If it were an illegal emptying trash who came up with a plan to start addressing the American worker being out of work by trade agreements, etc As Riech did. It still would make the best sense. Aren’t you going to tell us that Robert Riech is to short to listen to?
    George Bush was never awarded any full professorship with tenure. His Ideas seem quite nutty and dangerous. George never had the Texas Rangers out of the cellar when he was given the Rangers as a Chritmas present from Dad and Mom.
    Dollar bill? Get a name. Or maybe do what Prince did. Become a symbol. How about ” $ ” instead of dollar bill? Yes the dollar synbol.
    At the least Robert Riech had the American workers in mind instead of Ken Lay and the good ‘ole boys. You have any suggestions PROFESSOR on the American work force? Besides not buying someones Gasoline. You know we are addicted and have no self control not to buy it.

  • Dollar Bill February 10, 2006 11:27 pm

    >Robert Riech, Clinton’s labor secretary touched >on this and in my opinion has the most >constructive solution. It had alot to do with >retraining the American work force as >technologies surface and job market changes.
    Robert Reich has never, to my knowledge, been awarded a full professorship with tenure. His ideas seem quite nutty.
    We have lost, from an article I read recenlty, 5 million manufacturing jobs in America under Bush. Yet I see no politicians on either side screaming about it.
    Who will make our tanks and munitions when the time comes. While the world might one day turn its swords into plough shares, now is not that time.
    p.s. Don’t buy Citgo gas. It is 100% owned by Venezuela. And that nut job Chavez is calling for the overthrow of the United States next to Cindy Sheehan.
    p.p.s. thaller is what the term “dollar” came from. I can’t place it in my e-mail as “3…D” responds with a prohibited message.