already acquired the skill of living with war. Since 1965, since American forceslanded in their country, they had been experiencing it, often from a distance, oftenvery close. Gun shots and bombings seldom made them panic. War vocabulary ‐mortars, shelling, firing, grenades, positioning‐ had already become a part of theirday to day conversation.They were aware of the Ethics of war.
they wereaware. But war works on a different rationale. They were aware of this too. Stayingindoors at home was risky, for there was every chance of bombings. Best they coulddo was to take shelter at the makeshift prayer hall of the village temple. Proximity totheir strange Cao Dai gods, ‐ which included Winston Churchill too ‐ they thought,would provide them better security. Reason had no space in the atmosphere filledwith smoke, scream, gun shots and blood.The battle happening a few yards away from the shelter was continuous for threedays and nights. Some at the shelter were praying for the victory of guerrillas, someof course, for the victory of the military.June 8
, 1972. Drizzling which started early in the morning had just stopped. In thesmoke clad, blood smelling villages, unlike the previous three days, there were onlyerratic gun shots. Military operation against the National Liberation Guerrillas, nick named by the US army as Viet Congs, was successful it seemed. In the paddy fieldsand deserted houses, dead bodies of the guerillas, were still burning. No onebothered to count them. Only estimation was possible, unlike the case of militarymen. There were exact figures on causalities on their side. The deceased guerrillaswere becoming a few among thousands of their comrades who lost their life in themost justified battle fought in the country.It was a joint action by US forces and South Vietnamese military. Successfuloperation demanded better coverage. CNN or BBC had no facility then to telecast theoperation live. It was the seventies. Presspersons had just reached the village oninvitation from the military. A wide international coverage would boost the moraleof the American forces that were on the verge of defeat from Vietnamesecommunists. For the press invited to report the story, there was nothing exciting inTran Bang. They had already done numerous such stories. Unlike the early days of war, reports on Vietnam War seldom came in the front pages of their news papersabroad. But still for some, it was a break from days and nights of gossips, importedwine and pretty local women.Afternoon‐ the same day. The atmosphere was still smoke clad, like previous daysand nights. The people at the shelter, mostly old and children were watching themovement of military in combat uniforms. It seemed the battle was over. Sporadicgunshots in the air by the military were obvious signs of their victory over theguerrillas. Villagers were hurrying to reach home, to assess the aftermath of thebattle. They had just expressed their gratitude to the temple priest for giving themshelter for three days.