Southlands Snuffys

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Chapter 10 (v.1) - Une âme perdue

Submitted: March 03, 2014

Reads: 652

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Submitted: March 03, 2014



Une âme perdue.



“Insects, and botulism bacterium, poison molecules injected when bitten or stung, malaria, typhoid and cholera. These are but a few of your worst enemies in the jungle. Forget  about Charlie, he is tame compared to these little suckers; anyway, bugs bite and kill him, just as they will bite and kill you!"


Riverine survival lecture 8, Florida Everglades, 1966.


The living area on our Mike Zippo was small, adequate, even considered by others as unfairly comfortable. Minimalism in military life is an absolute requirement, just as civilian boat living is. Clutter just gets in the way of efficiency, so claimed the Marine training manual.

One great advantage we had over the land Marines was that we did not have to sleep out in the mud and rain when operational in the boonie. With the exception of when any jungle time came our way, and if that time came when the monsoon season hit, then our life turned into a soaking wet, mosquito biting, insect ravaged, fucking misery!

There is no need for someone to go on a seek-and-find mission aboard a spacecraft, whizzing around the outer reaches of our solar system, or beyond, and boldly go to find a planet inhabited by frighteningly strange looking, vicious and deadly life forms. All they have to do is crawl around in a jungle, right here on this planet called earth, and I absolutely guarantee they will not be disappointed.

Rain! Again! Torrential rain, which dumped so much moisture into the fetid air to be found under the jungle canopy that it felt as if we were drowning with every breath we took! Standing on our boat’s deck stark naked, and taking one of “god’s showers” in warm tropical rain was one thing, but squatting for dubious shelter under a broad leafed plant in the jungle, whilst being pissed on by the very same warm tropical rain, as it cascaded down in a Niagara Falls like torrent from the upper canopy, and bringing with it a myriad of all sorts of nasty, weird and biting bugs, was quite another!

Just as soon as these washed down bugs hit the jungle floor, and recovered composure, their little legs carried them at speed to the nearest available food sources. Needless to say, that those food sources which they eagerly sought after being us, for indeed they proved ravenous.

I was absolutely furious at out latest NFG, new fucking guy. For, acting like a tourist, he had gone wandering off from the boat into the jungle when we had stopped to clear her propellers of river trash, a regular requirement, especially in the monsoon season. One guy had watched him leave, and had not thought the NFG's action of leaving the boat important enough to report it at the time.

Rightly so I was furious with our wanderer, and at the guy who should have told me, for they had not acted in a proper military fashion, and had placed my boat and her crew in an unwelcome, and extremely dangerous situation, by forcing us to remain static for longer than was prudent in an area known to be hot with Charlie's aggressive fighting patrols. In addition, the Vietnamese jungle was, and still is, no place in which to get lost, either in war or in peace. You can wander in circles in any jungle anywhere until you just drop from exhaustion and expire, and you may never be found.

Taking two of the crew along with me, one of whom was the crewman who was amiss in not reporting the NFG leaving, we entered the jungle at the point where the wanderer was last seen. After an hour or so of fruitless searching, and as night was closing fast, I decided to wait until first light before continuing, one halfwit adrift being enough! Anyway, there would be few, if any, spoor to follow. The waterfall like downpour saw to that.

That night spent in the jungle proved to be a living nightmare! We fought what seemed as a loosing battle against an army of bugs. I felt that I was beating myself to death, as if caught up in a form of demonic ritual, for I slapped at myself until near senseless in that bug war. Had any of us been an entomophobic, they would have experienced such a panic blow-out at the sheer size of some bugs that were scuttling around, at times over us, they would have run off screaming in the style of a mental asylum escapee, into the jungle. As it happened, none of us were.

We fought those bugs in a near pitch black environment. However, occasionally a break would appear in the downpour, and allowing silvery beams of moonlight to spear down through the canopy to illuminate the jungle floor in a green-tinged, spectral light. When that happened, the larger of the bugs, would scamper away and gives us a small respite. Unfortunately, those moments of big, bug-less, bliss, were sparse in appearing.

Morning’s first glow forced the vast majority of the bug army to retreat, probably to re-group for another major assault when darkness returned. However, I had no intention of allowing them their will. We were utterly exhausted by lack of sleep, and above all we had no coffee!  There was a critical need for coffee when out in the boonie, just like a drugs dependent smack-head needs their morning fix, we needed coffee! It would instantly start to strip away the tiredness and nervousness. It was a fact of life that grunts could barely function without it. C ration coffee was atrociously disgusting stuff, horribly bitter. However, just breathing in the aroma of it could have a near magical effect on a grunt's morale.

Accompanied by squadrons of mosquitoes, and a black mass of various flying insects, which dived in to attack with glee any exposed skin, we started the search again. A few hours into it, and thousands of bug bites later, I was just about to call off and return to the boat when an excited shout went up, "Hey! Look at this!" One of the crew was holding a “Steel Pot”, a helmet, aloft in triumph. "I told you Sarge, this would be a likely place to look!” He added loudly. I stopped, turned, and said in response to his cockiness, “So what, do you want a number ten mama-san in reward? Knock off the self congrats and keep on looking, with mouth firmly shut!”

Noise in the jungle can be heard hundreds of meters from its source, and there I had an idiot shouting at the top of his voice, probably scaring the crap out of everything that relied on hearing as a form of defense. Worst of all, if Charlie was sniffing around, then that one careless shout would act as a homing beacon. We now had to head for the boat soon as!

Infantry training encourages a commander, at whatever their rank value, to pick the ground on which to stand and fight, thus denying the enemy an advantage. Fighting bugs in the dark on their chosen ground, well, ok. However, fighting Charlie on his home ground in the dark, and with no chance of support, then, no way! The likelihood of loosing more guys in an unfavorable skirmishing fire-fight wouldn't find the one who was already lost by his own irresponsible actions.

The other crewman found an M16 rifle in near pristine condition, and then noticed he was standing beside an indentation in the jungle floor; he looked around and could see another similar to the one he was standing beside. "Hey, guys, what do you think these are?" he asked in a low voice, pointing out the depressions on the ground. “Probably old shell scrapes" said the helmet finder with confidence, but this time he also kept his voice down. "Looks more like graves to me!" said the indentation finder warily.

I looked down with a frown at the grave like indentations on the ground, but instantly dismissed them. For if they were graves, they were too old for one to be holding the guy we were searching for. Anyway, Charlie only buried our dead Special Forces, in an attempt to keep us guessing as to their whereabouts. So I took a grid reference for them, just in case some SEAL team or other had been reported adrift. Charlie never wasted time, nor expended any valuable energy, burying our dead grunts. In normality, he just left them where they fell.

As the light started to fade, the finds of discarded gear grew more infrequent, like the paper trail of a game running out. But that was no game to be played, that was deadly serious. Literally, for the missing guy, as the time I had allotted to the finding of him was truly up. To search longer would have been pressing our luck just a little too far for comfort.

That time our luck had held, for no weapons firing had been heard from the direction of the river. If Charlie had attacked the boat then the remaining crew would have returned fire, opened the throttles and pissed off, leaving us to our own devices. With all that in mind we made one last visual sweep, then I ordered a speedy return to the boat, before a black blanket fell upon the jungle, and its bug army set out on their nightly foraging.

© Copyright 2019 Sergeant Walker. All rights reserved.


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