Who Do They Think They Are?
“I’m so sick of being out here in the Gulf following the same pattern for over thirty days now. This wasn’t my idea of fun when I joined the Navy”. Bob felt so trapped on the ship that he thought he would scream.
Bubba relented, “I’m with you, man. I’d give an arm and a leg to be in port on liberty now”.
“When we get in port, let’s go down to that bar with those gorgeous girls. We can get a couple of cold ones and put this shit out of our minds for a few days”.
Bubba wanted to get back on solid ground and forget about this God-forsaken war. He saw enough carnage and wanted to forget it. He was eighteen years old yet he felt as if he lived much longer. War does that to you – you change into someone you don’t even recognize.
Just then a voice came over the loudspeaker, “General quarters, general quarters all hands man your battle stations, this is not a drill.”
“What the hell is going on now”? Bob couldn’t believe his ears.
“We’ll find out soon enough”.
They no sooner headed for their battle stations when they heard an explosion. “What the hell was that”? Bob couldn’t help himself. He had to go out on the deck to see what was causing the noise. When he looked around, he was shocked.
“Bubba, you have to come and see this. The fucking VC are shooting at us from the coastal defense sights. They are so close to hitting us.” He watched as several rounds hit the water next to the ship.
“Holy shit, that was close”. Bob turned around and ran back to his battle station. “That’s too close for me. I’m getting the hell out of here. I don’t want to be their next target.”
An hour later the “all clear” came over the loudspeaker. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ve never been shot at in my life”, said Bob.
Bubba looked at Bob and muttered, “those damn SOBs, how dare they fire at us. Don’t they know who we are”? He was so upset that the VC even attempted to hit the Mathers.
“What the hell were they thinking? Trying to down a ship as big as we are with their ineffective shots. I can’t believe it. Let’s get back to the line and start firing. We need to get even.”
The next day they were back on Yankee Station doing shore bombardment. For some reason, it felt different this time. They only had a few days left on the line.
The Mathers aligned itself for shore bombardment. Bob felt much different about firing on churches, orphanages, and towns.
Bob turned to Bubba, “Feels good to get back at those darn VC who tried to sink us. I don’t feel sorry for the people in the churches anymore. You know when night comes, they are the enemy and out to kill us.”
“Your right on. We need to get them before they get us.”
From then on, the firing on civilians didn’t bother them. They knew it had to be.
Finally, the thirty days on the line were up. They were headed into DaNang Harbor to pick up the orders for the Captain. Since the encryption equipment was compromised, all orders were given in person at DaNang.
When they anchored, they started to draw water from the harbor to run through the distillation equipment. Suddenly Bubba noticed something different.
“Bob, I just got a glass of water.”
“Okay, so what. We always get a glass of water.”
“Look at the color. Does it look like a normal glass of water?”
“Okay Bubba, you’re showing me a glass of Kool-Aid. I think it’s grape flavored, right?”
“Hell no, Rob. This ain’t no Kool-Aid. And I hate grape.”
“Then what the hell is it?”
“I don’t know but I know it isn’t what we normally drink.”
“What does it taste like? Is it different from our water.”
They shrugged it off as a slight malfunction in the distillation equipment? It wasn’t until later that evening when Rob was taking a shower that he noticed the color of the water. As he lathered up, he noticed a purple tint to the lather.
“What a coincidence”, he thought. “I wonder if the two are related”? “Oh no, it’s just my imagination.”
Bubba was ready to take a shower and put on his brand-new t-shirt and underwear. He didn’t like the stiff feel of brand-new clothes, so he made it a habit to get them washed prior to wearing them. As he lathered down with white soap, he looked at the lather. “Oh God, I’m showering in purple water. What the fuck is going on? Are they trying to poison us?”
It must be my imagination. I’m letting this crazy war get to me.
The words no sooner left his mouth when he noticed his new t-shirt and skivvies that just came back from the ship’s laundry.
“I just bought them right before we got underway. This is the first time I’ve worn them and look at them they’re purple”!
Bob reminded Bubba that the liquid sprayed their ship by the C-123s was a different color. That spray was orange, but this is purple? “You don’t think they are poisoning us with the orange and purple, do you”?
Rob responded, “You can’t be serious. Our government wouldn’t do anything that would harm us. Right?”
With this decision behind them, they never uttered another word but went on to perform their duty.
Instead of heading in port for R & R, they were headed back to Yankee Station and the gun line. One of the other ships broke down and was unable to meet their commitment on the line. With a feeling of dismay, Rob and Bubba returned to their duty stations.
Suddenly the 5-inch/54 caliber guns began to fire at something on the beach. Bubba had to see what all the commotion was. He heard the voice from the single-engine spotter plane calling in the coordinates for the targets. When he looked up, he saw a Vietnamese farmer sitting on the beach relaxing. Suddenly, the guns hit their target. It was the farmer on the beach. Many rounds were used to destroy that farmer. It cost approximately $500,000 to destroy this one possible VC.
Bob asked Bubba, “Hey bud, what just went down?
“You wouldn’t be able to understand. Hell, I can’t even process what I just saw.”
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