Chapter 8: Le fou courir

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

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Le fou courir

“Bro the 1960’s Nam code of the Grunt states:  If there is even a remote chance for survival, don’t go fucking around trying to be a dead hero, just grab at it with both hands!”

Corporal “Bayou” Lejeune , Plain of Reeds, South Vietnam, The Summer of 67.


Oh, how we detested leaving the sanctuary of our "Mike" boat, but it became more and more demanded of us as Charlie honed his guerrilla tactics into perfection. First, he would ambush a boat with a light force, similar in size to a standing patrol, about three or four guys. They would fire a few rocket and small arms rounds at the "Mike", and then withdraw at speed when we dumped snatch squads, made up of South Viet Marines and Mike-boat crews, on the river and canal banks. Forcing us to pursue them deeper, and deeper, into the jungle they would re-group and hit us in force. Inevitably, our casualty rate started to soar, just as they did for Charlie in these vicious and costly skirmishes. However, the VC did not seem to give a fuck how many guys they lost.

Standing orders gave us no other option than to pursue these small enemy groups. Everyone knew it was a dumb fucking idea to go crawling all over the jungle hunting but a few guys, when all the time knowing that a large attacking force was lurking somewhere ready to rip into us hoping to raise their kill tally.


After one such an ambush, we had moved a considerable distance into the jungle so decided to stop for the night. We sent out a listening patrol. These were normally two guys who would quietly walk a track for say fifty meters or so, stop, close their eyes and listen. Then, after a minute or two, move on for another fifty. They would continue in that way for about a klick, and then head back. It took a couple of seconds for your ears to tune into the night sounds but it was extremely effective.

Then in the early light, our tracker found fresh evidence of movement heading to the west of our night harbor, so we quickly packed up and headed off to track them. We had been moving for about three hours when the tracker gave the stop sign and we went to ground. The tracker had found fresh spoor, track signs, converging on his original that we were following. It looked like a large force was building so we sent him and a South Viet Marine scout forward to check it out. They returned about half an hour later to say a force numbering about thirty Viet Cong were just ahead of us. They were heavily equipped with a variety of weapons that included our most feared, the RPG. With an unpredictable burst radius, depending on what they hit, they were deadly when used in the hands of those experienced.

What happened next only took a second to register and it scared the fucking crap out of everyone. For running down the track towards us was the thirty or so VC our tracker and scout had spotted.  All that we had available was a lightly armed six-guy force, made up of the tracker, two South Viet Marines, and three of my boat crew, one of which was I. The shock was electrifying, excuse the pun, for all six of us dived into the jungle and took off in varying directions.

Not exactly a glorified military exit I admit, but we stood absolutely no chance in a fire-fight against so many. Sure, we could easily have done a “Sergeant York” and stood our ground in the face of overwhelming odds, but we would all have died doing it. So working on that time-old human principle of fight or flee common sense ruled the day with flee, in that it was every man for himself. We went crashing off headlong through the undergrowth, with birds screaming in alarm and animals running in fear, just as we were.

I knew that our radio guy would have ignored the normal Morse protocol, and instead be screaming a warning over the radio to the other snatch squads following. For once compromised as we were any radio security was pointless. Once warned they in turn would head for a pre-arranged emergency RVP, rendezvous point. There to set up a strong perimeter defense, and wait for any of us who made it to the RVP. They would wait at the absolute utmost eight hours, but more than likely less. Anyone who arrived after that would have to take their chances, and try to walk back alone, regardless of their physical condition.

Like any of us, our radio guy would not ditch his gear to enable a faster legging, which would simply be like a signed death warrant in the jungle. All you have is your gear, for your gear is your life, loose your gear and then break a leg, or anything else, tear some skin, and with no compass, medical help or ability to make fire then you are just about guaranteed fucked. Better to sit against a tree and blow your brains out than face the inevitable agonizing slow death that would follow. As the risk of being captured was high, the radio guy would only get rid of the radio, by smashing and burying it, and in so doing denying a freebie communication monitoring point to the enemy.

Head down, and with helmet on, I just ran for it, Legging it as fast as I could, trying to put distance between any human being in near proximity to myself. As I ran, I could hear barked shouts of command in Vietnamese. Then, short bursts of automatic gunfire. I automatically ducked as I heard the “Zing” of rounds as they passed over my head. I also knew the enemy would become the hunters in a role reversal. Just like we they would quickly break down into teams of three or four and follow each of the spoors heading off in varying directions deep into the jungle.

Our guys, if they caught any of them, would be beaten bloody then dragged off to some stinking North Vietnamese shithole, and be used like a pawn in a chess game, and if lucky possibly sold back. The tracker and the SV Marines, being local guys, would be killed. If they found any alive, they would dig a hole in the jungle floor, pistol shoot him in his elbows and knees, then place him at the bottom of the hole and piss off leaving him there. Unable to do anything but scream he would just lay there until everything within a reasonable distance of him that could crawl, slither, walk, fly or run, would fast as possible be heading in his direction for a free feast.

If found dead he would be left there, just like any of us, as a food source for the jungle. I knew that armed with a Colt 1911 Auto he would choose the better option. I did not have that kind of courage so spurred myself on by the thought of it and started heading for our emergency RVP, and its safety. I could hear behind my enemy laughing excitedly as they locked onto my spoor. The chase had begun in earnest.

Within twenty minutes of running, I was on my chinstrap as the humidity was literally killing me.  Sweat poured from my pores and my head was swimming, and if I did not change my tactics, and very quickly, I would collapse. Unable to defend myself my pursuers would have me, and the beatings and humiliation would begin.

This had happened before on the training course in Florida. It was the same scenario minus the possible deadly outcome. There I was, confidently bombing along when, without warning, I collapsed and the SEAL training team caught up with me and slapped me about a little in punishment. They emphasized the need to think, to remain in control.

Every blow I received from the training team was to emphasize each verbal lesson in survival. “Don’t run blindly, for we will catch you.  Do not dehydrate, for we will catch you.  Do not be overly defensive, for we will catch you.  Do not assume we are superior, for we will catch you. “ Every statement made had an emphasis and that emphasis was a hard slap. Now it was my time to emphasize, to give the enemy my form of hard slap. This would be my tactical change, attack, and known to those with military service as “the aggressive defense action”.

I burrowed backwards into the soft moss covering the jungle floor beneath some large leaved fauna and waited. Within a few minutes four figures appeared intently searching the track in front of them. A quick burst of fire and two went down, either intentionally to cover, or from being hit by my rounds. The other pair remained standing, another quick burst to disorganize those remaining upright and then I was up and running.

The jungle is not only the impenetrable mass as shown in War and adventure movies, where every step requires a pre-whack with a panga or machete at the foliage. Far from it, for jungles are crisscrossed with a myriad of tracks, both animal and human. Animals are not stupid, unlike some humans, for when animals make a regular track it is for them to make a safe and swift passage, and it was down one of those that I ran.

After another klick I was on the very edge of collapse again, and knew it. I had uncontrollable heart palpitations, my breathing rasped in my throat and the sweat gushed from me as my body made one last brave, and defiant, attempt to keep going by mass cooling. Only those who have been this close to the end of their physical stamina will know as to what I am referring . Then came salvation in the form of our emergency RVP, where I literally just passed out at the feet of a forward sentry. Luckily for me he defied his standing orders and did not fire at the staggering and exhausted fool who seemed to have fallen out of the jungle.

Submitted: February 28, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Sergeant Walker. All rights reserved.


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