Oh Hell, One More War Story

This will be one short one just because I thought of it this morning and I can change my mind if I want to. If you are tired of this shit, go read something else.

During the entire Vietnam War, the leadership looked for ways to justify the expense of the war. One of the ways they thought would give the people back home a good feeling was the macabre body count business. One you stopped fighting any little skirmish, the higher ups would expect you to go out and count the dead enemy bodies. To frustrate the process, I'm sure the North Vietnamese leaders told their people to carry off any dead after an attack. This led us by 1968 to find a lot of blood trails and not a lot of bodies.

Now, what would you do when at the end of each fire mission you had to report the body count. Yes, boys and girls we became the world's best estimators. OK, we made stuff up. That was probably as accurate as guesstimating from the bloody trails. I'm sure that the Infantry would estimate from the blood trails and the Artillery would report at the end of the missions and there was probably a hell of a lot of second guessing and double counting went on.

Each day, an elaborate report was forwarded by each Artillery unit up through their chain of command that would include the body count and rounds expended. I'm sure there was some Command and General Staff College Graduate somewhere that did a statistical analysis and declared our rounds worthy of such expenditures.

One morning, our radio that had been silent for at least an hour, started with a request from one of the Infantry Divisions for a fire mission. It wasn't from the guy on the ground, it was from the Division Headquarters Artillery Liaison. It seems that a Long Range recon Patrol (LRRP) was off the air and they didn't have a clue why. Seemed like a no brainer to me, those guys were out there humping their packs through some pretty tough jungle and were asleep. I contacted my artillery LNO with the coordinates for a fire mission that put a round out in the general vicinity of the LRRPs but no so close that I would hit anyone. Mission approved and one 155mm round of High Explosive with a PD fuse went out. It wasn't very long that we got a message from the Infantry Division LNO that the team reported in and everything was fine.

Now came the problem of how the hell did I report that one mission and that one round. It was clearly just a Harassment round and unobserved but it wasn't on the list of approved Harassment and Interdiction (H&I) fires sent down with the approval of everyone including probably God. Being the good Lieutenant I was, I reported it as a "Wake Up Mission for a LRRP." Well, once my report began to filter up through the system, every headquarters higher than us wanted us to verify what the hell we meant by that. Clearly it was a message that was correctly reported but not a mission type anyone had approved.

Within a couple of hours Helicopters started arriving in our location. Majors came out of the bushes (actually rear headquarters) to find out what really happened. A couple of hours later, a full Colonel showed up and wanted to eat some LT's ass. As the guy that reported the information, mine got served up on the platter. I tried calmly as I could to explain and nothing I said worked until I would ask, "What the hell would they have done?" Most of the time they would mutter and get back on their helicopters and leave.

I'm sure that I had the reputation as being a smart ass and deservedly so. Some where, unless someone changed it, there is a report of a fire mission that was a "Wake Up Mission for a LRRP". I do still wonder how high up in the reporting chain that information made it before it was just lost in the shuffle.

LT Guns...

1 comment: