You are on page 1of 190

THE SAVAGE FACE OF WAR UNMASKED

"THE BEST WORK OF FICTION


ABOUT THE VIETNAM WARY-NEWSWEEK

The acclaimed novel upon


which the movie

is based.
THE SHORT-TIMERS
"BRILLIANT."
t

"ARRESTING."

"EXTRAORDINARY."
ÑPhiladelphi Inquirer
Praisefor ' , '

THE SBORT-TIMESS
The S]wft.rImers, a leatherneck version of Catch-
22,1 is a first noveland it is extraordinary2 Hasford
knows Iris subfect.8 The driving and often
brilliant first-person narrative* carries you out
of your chair and deposits yon into the clatter of
a tangle patrol.&The writing is crisp and tough.
There is an eaonnons feeling of horror.6 Arrest-
Ingà disturbing,8 often very funny? honest and
accurate,* chock full of undeniable truths, The
Short-Thnera is a savage, unforgiving look at a
savage, unforgivable time.ll
-
. ..;
Read it if you dam.$+T +Lk-
z=Â¥an.;<'-;y
Â¥

sA''Â¥f^%p
"POWERFUL AND ELECTRIFYING."
THE SPIRIT OF
THE BAYONET
waswhatweiwainssei

Dispatch
TheMarines arelooldngfor a few goodmen.. ..
The recruit says that bSs name isLeonard Pratt
Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim takes one lode at the
immediately dubs 1dm "Goma
z.-;::<.
r-e¥¥y/z*
trying to be funny. Nobody.
laughs*
D am Green Madnm*Tbra3 junior imm* a
screaming, "GET IN LINE1 GET IN LlNl3! YOU
WILL NOT MOVE1 YOU WILL NOT BPEWQ"Red
brick buildings.Willow trees hung thick with Spanish
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
ingtallonyellowfootprintspaintedina,patterna
. theconcretedeck.
Parris Island, South Carolina, the United States
Marine Corps Becruit Depot, an right-week college
fox fbe phony-tough and the crazy-brave,

a suburban death camp.


3
TnE SHORT-TIMERS

Sesgemt Gerhebii steps ovbr d struggEg-bodies,


&omps &gas# ki& ~ b with s &e b e of his boot
qem H.Chi% You maggots are hufbg and pdhg
- the way your momma did the first tixne your old man
THE BAYONET
"^s^--^
- ^'t; -
;* -
<-

Me&
,.
&A.
-
- :
,-'<
%
'
THE SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET
willteachyouhowtopee."
I say, "SIR, THE PBIVATE WOULD PREFER TO
STAY WITH HIS BUNKMATE, PBIVATE COW-
lo?. smr

$par$you &m&e & polep''


G@dJq??# F5 - ? :
s L - &;
.-;
&-2 Ar - -
-NEGATIVE, am :.
.c--k~-4-ssra^"--
"Outstanding. "Inen Private Joker wiU with
PrivateFykPrivate Jokerissilly andlie'signorant,
but he's got guts, and gats isenough."
Sergeant Gerhefan struts back to his Tpahce," a tiny
at the far end of the squad bay. "okay. ladies.
ready... MOUNT!"
W e alljump into our racks (aidfreeze.
"Sing."
w & - h t b h w m
awrn---b*dm
b - w - m h w t w =
~ d ~ ~ b ~ m
a M e h t h % h e b * &
rnm-mhf~dabu
-&wmbwwdw*h
5 m * b ~ a d w w y m & m m b
& h M m M m b M a @ H
kr. Toddamh it, them's ona H a maggot who kmw
Wh~d*hy~ehbrnbY&a
G W M m a H e + t b b a h a g m -
=.-e d "
- Sown into the yellow pool Leonard struggles.Bub-
. bles. P d c gives Leonard strength.Sergeant Ger*
- holdshimdown.
After we're sure that Leonard has drowned, Ser- '

pant Gerheim flushes the toilet When the water


,stops flowing. Sergeant Gerheim releases his hold on
Leonard's neck.
SergeantGerheim'sImaginationisbothcruelmd
comprehensive, butnothingworks. Leonard continues
to fuck up. Now, whenever Leonard m
- take.SergeantGerheimdoesnotpunishLeonard.He
, --punishes on. Be excludes Leonard
, '.ffom &I While Leonard restsà we do
- : Squat-thrusts sad side-straddle hops, many, many of
,,--

,,-- i.--ate.
. --. <

&tmidttouches my aim as we move through the


-,- ~ with our metal trays. "Ijust can't do no&
3 & 6 line
* ingright IneedsomehelpIdon'twantyouboysto
be in trouble. I-"
I move away.
. Thefirstnightofourseventhweekoftrainingtfae
platoon gives Leonard a. blanket party.
Midnight

the dark, one hundred recruits walk to Lean'


.

-+
-

>

^a

5
.
>
7-,. .=-
- --=

.Â¥"

-F+
+
, -:
=-

.---
,
-

f -*-="-

-
- By the end of our seventh week Leonard has be-
'@me a model recruit We decide that Leonard's
- -. sflence is a result of Ids new intense concentration.
- -- Day by day, Leonard is more motivated, more squared
5 ,.- away. His manual of aims is flawlessnow,but his eyes

--- .are inflk glass. Leonard cleans his weapon more than

- - -
Wrecruit61theplatoon.Everynightafterchow
Leonard caresses the scarred oak stock with linseed
SO. the way hundreds of earBer recruits have caressed
%&esame piece of wood. Leonard improves at every-
1' thing,but remainssilent He does what he is told.-.but
..- , he is no longer part of the &toon.
--- We can see that Sergeant Gerheim reseats Leon-
,

a d ' s attitude. He reminds Leonard that the motto of


tike Marine Corps is Semper JFideUsÑaAlway Faiths
u l . " Sergeant Gerheim reminds Leonard that "Gung
&P is ~hinhe for "workingtogether."
.:--.:- = It Is a Marine Corps tradition. Sergeant Gerheim
.'"',says,
--.--
4

that Marines never abandon their dead en*


bounded. Sergeant Gerheim is careful not to come
- - down
- too hard on Leonard qs long as Leonard re-
mains squared away. We have already lost seven re-
-@Utson Section Eight discharges. A Kentucky boy
\'. named P e r k stepped to the center of the squad

e?"ijB
,

c -;.i@y a d slashed his wrists with his bayonet. Sergeant


-*
G:,CAyhefan ¥wa not happy to see a recruit bk~ding
Msp on
rice dean squad bay. The recnrit was or-
-."&mad to police the area, mob up the blood, and re-

--
. . at&- the bayonet in its sheath. While Peridns mopped
the blood, S e r - Gerheim called a school cirde
and poo-pooed the recruit's shallow slash across his
<-wifets with a bayonet The U.S.M.C.-approved
method of recruit suicide is to get atone and take a
%&or blade and slash deep and vertical, from wrist to
18
-
'
THE SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET
elbow, Sergeant Gerheim said. Then he allowed Per-
-
.-^Â¥it kinstodouble-timetosidebay.
4

-,-s^'
-.f. leavesLeonardalonemd&,
2
>*
% ofus.

to Mom and Dad back

tosee(hatweaz6
Marine Corps does
wants IdDers.'Hie
Marine Corps wants to build indestructible me& men
without fear. Civilians may choose to submit or to
~ h & % W ~ ~ l m w d
19
tick. Othon look xared.And Çm look Aooktd.

Nobody moves. Nobody says mything.


tbiiilcLeonardcanhadeitanymore.Ithink
is a Section Eight"
Now guys all along the table axe

Private Bamard nods. Tve been having this


mare. My .. .rifle talks to me." He hesitates.

vosQ. down his throat and out of


crushed.He groans.
The platoon freezes.

=&Not one word." -

Gerheim snaps out Ids last


to mount . ..Readddy , ..
weapons held at port aims.
We say our prayerst
lama Untfed States Marine Corps recruit. I serve
to the forces @hich guard my country and my
way of Ufe. Iamprepwedtogbmy Weinthetr
defense, so help meGod..
HOl GUNG HOl
.GUNGHOI GUNG
Then the Rifleman's Creed, by Marine Corps Major
General W.H.Rupertus:

Leonard is speaking for the first time in weeks. His


voice booms louder and louder. Heads turn. Bodies
shift. The platoon voice fades. Leonard is about to ex-
plode. His words ale being coughed up from
deep, ugly place.
Sergeant ~ e r h & his the right duty. He struts to
Leonard's rack and stands by, fists on hips.
Leonard doesn't see Sergeant Gerhefan. The veins
in Leonard's neck are bulging as he bellows:
22
T H SPIRIT
~ OF THE BAYONET A -
. -
$fY RIFLE IS HUMAN, EVEN AS I, BECAUSE*.<'Xf
IS MY LIFE. THUS I WILL LEARN IT AS A g-
OTHER.I WILL LEABN ITS ACCESSOBIES, . '-

SIGHTS, CTS . .

OF EACH OTHER.

ISNO ENEMY BUT PEACE1


l'H
- - - &YE-AYE, SIR!* -
-+-F^.\---a
2---
3 - 3 3took at flie rifle slun&.oa nay rack. Ifs a beautiful
2 -
'- t, designed,&and symmetrical.
M y rifleis dean, oiled,andworksperfectly. I f s a ,

- . M etool I touch it
-.- -
-
A- -- Sergeant Gwheim inarches down fhe length of the
F
^s~> -. ^bay. i"THE BEST OF YOU ANIMALS COULD
;- -- -TAKE LESSONS FROM PRIVATE PYLE. He%
-s@ared away. Yon are all squared away. Tomonow
-*,*will be Marines.'READDDY.;. SLEEPIR
3 . -

. --,
. .-Â¥
--%.
The Commanding General of Parris Island speaks
into a microphe: "Have you seen dieBght? The
white fight? Vse great fight? The griding fight? Do

sing too;

After the graduation ceremoay our orders are dis-


tributed. Cowboy, Leonard, Private Barnard, Philips,
and most of the other Marines in Platoon 30-92 are
ordered to ITR-tihe Infantry Training Regiment-
to be trainedas grunts, infantrymen.
My orders instruct me to report to the Basic Military
Journalism School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana,
after I graduate from ITB. Sergeant Gerheim is "dis-
gusted by the fact that I am to be a combat cor-
ondent and not a grunt. He calls me a poge, mi
.He says that shitbirds get all the slack
at ease on the parade deck beneath the
to the Iwo Jima flag raising, Sergeant Ger-
m says, T h e smoking lamp is lit. You people are
no longer maggots. Today you are Marines. Once a
explode. The squad bay is

comesat melike amad dog. His

I move my ass. "AYE-AYE, SIRS"


"Okay, you Htde maggot, speak. Why is Private
Pyle out of his rack after lights out? Why is Private
no
Y .-
--,--7.
:
;
-", SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET
Pyle%T3Sa& tnat WeaponP Why ain't : stomping
Private PyWs guts out?"

instructor that Private ... . .


-"SIB, it is die private's duty
Pyle
to report to

due and has locked and loaded, SIR." :-:


has a full mags"
--.. "-

Sergeant Gerhdm looks at Leonard and nods.. Be


sighs. Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim looks more than a
little ridiculous in his pure white sidwies and red rub-
her flip-flop shower shoes and hairy legs and tatto
forearmsand a beergut andaface thecolorof raw
beef, wad, on his bald head, the green abd brown
Smokey the Bear campalgacover.
* - m w * f w m d d b d &
erable powers of intimidation info his best Jofan-
Wa--Suribachi voice: "Listentome.Private P y h
You wiU place your weapon on your rack and-"
"NO1 YOU CANT HAVE HER! SHE'S MINE1
YOU HEAR MEP SHE'S MINE! 1LOVEHERT^!%
Gummy Sergeant Gerhdm cant control hfinseff
any longer. "NOW YOU LISTEN TO ME, YOU
FUCKING WORTHLESS LITTLE PIECE OF SHIT.
YOU WILL GIVE ME THAT WEAPON OR I 'M
GOING TO TEAR YOUR BALLS OFF AND
STUFF THEM DOWN YOUR SCRAWNY LITTLE
THROAT1 YOU HEAR ME, MARINE? I'M GOING
TO PUNCH YOUR FUCKING HEART O W
Leonard alms the weapon at S
..
heart, caresses the trigger guard,
trigger. *
Sergeant Gerhdm is suddenly cahn. Hia a- -'
manner are those of a wanderer who has found bis
home. H e Is a maii in complete control of himself and
of the world he lives in. His face is cold and bww-
tiful as the dark dde surfaces. He
THE SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET - .
THE SHORT-TIMERS
I say, Trepare to mount." Then: "MOUNT!"
The platoon falls into a hundred racks.
I fed cold and done. I am not alone. AII over
Parris Island there are thousands and thousands of us.
And, dl around the world, hundreds of t h o u ~ d s .
Itrytoalq ...#

h my rack, I pull my rifle into my arms. She t a b


to me. Words come out of the wood and metal and
flow into my hands. She tells me what to do.
My rille is a solid b t a m e n t of death. My rifle is
black steel. Our human bodies are bags of blood, easy
to puncture a d quick to dr&n, but our hard tools of
death cannot be bmkm
I hold my weapon at port arms, gently, as though
she were a holy relic, a magic wand wrought with
intdocldng pieces of &er and hen, with a teak-
wood stock, golden bullets, a crystal bolt, jewels to
sight with. My weapon obeys me. I'll hold Vanessa,
my I&. I'll hold her. I'll just hald her for a little while.

B l d ~ ~ o f & e b m l d m y & e m d f f m
up on to my hands. The blood mows. The blood
breaks up into Bvhg fragments. Each fragment is a
spider. Millions and millions of tiny red spiders of
blood are crawling up my arms, across my face, into
my ma&. ..
Silence. In the dark, a hundred men are breathing
in unitxm.
I look at Cowboy, then at ?-ate Barnard. T%ey
faces. They nod.
The newly minted Marines in my platoon stand to
Tet: TheYear of the Monkey.
Bafter Man and I spend theVietnameselunar-
Yen's Eve, 1968, at the Freedom Hill PX ma$-@

- thefreedom

factthatHil1327wastilefirstpermanentpositionw
cum by American forces. Major Lynch thinks1
rate.soxoeslackbeforeIreturntotheISOofficein
Ha~al.~ylastthreefieldoperationswererealshit.
.-
go out into die field. I been in country for-- three
months. Three tllottths. All I do is take hand-shake
shots at award ceremonies. That's number ten, the
worst I'm bored. A high-school girl could do my job."
He gives MFC's to a pretty Vietnamese cashier.
Outside, an apprentice Viet Cong forces me to sub-
mit to a boot shine while his older sister exhibits her
breasts to Bafter Man.
"Relax, Rafter. You owe it to yourself. You'll be in
the field soon enough."
"Come on. Joker, cut me a has. How can I teach
geography if I never see the world? Take me to Phu
BaL Okay?"
"Bight,"I say. "And then you'll get yourself wasted
the first day you're in the field and it'll be my fault
Your mom will find me after I rotate back to the
World. Your mom will beat the shit out of me.Thafs
a negative, Rafter. Fm not a sergeant, Pin only a cor-
p d Fm not responsible for your scrawny little ass."
"Yes you are.I'm only a lance corporaLm
Bafter Man and I stop by the USO and exchange 5
few off-color jokes with the round-eyed Red Cross
girls, who give us donuts. We ask {he Bed Cross g3xls
if they expect us to satisfy our lust with a donut and
they explain that a donut hole is all we rate.
In the US0 there are barrels and bands of letters
which have been written to us by children back in the
World:
Dear Soldiersin Red Alert?
We have learned that m& in Vietnam alive iir
deadatediebravest Wearealltrying tohelp you
ftfl to come home tb your house. Well buy bonds,
43
. T -
-- ^ale <^'ra*.-*y
8 - -t
--

THE SHORT-TlfdERS
ross to help soldie&. WeTlltelp
to come bade. If possible, we'll

From Your Country,


CJld

. -.
Dear Friend in Battle:
. %. \ I am eight years old. I have one brother. I have
*- .- sister. It must be sad over there.
one
Vi
-
.s .-?-'-. Sincerely,
Jeff
zp. Joker!"
*Aye-we,
z.:G:of the rafters at the Thundabird Club, the d s t d
.'-m d s slop chub ba& hi tlw Bht Marhe IMsh
;~headqmutem are& Aii &A 4xndian -mdm
-:fat Korean belly dancers wem entatdhg aii SRO
\

~k2audiencs.Rafter Man was hammered, but rn was &


-<
a -
-:z---
-M
2
I d d n ' t f i t o p h We were b a & n e a r h en-
AQ
-- - trance and Rafter Man decided that the only way he
- was going to get a good look at the seminude belly
.-- dancers was to climb up into the rafters and crawl out
above the mass of green Marines.
General Motors and Ids staff had stopped by to
- catch the show. They did that sometimes. General
Motors liked to keep in touch with his Marines.
Rafter Man fell off the rafters like a green bomb,
-
crashing through the g e n d s table, spilling beer,
- smashing pretzels, and knocking the general and four
of Ids staff officers on their brass behinds.
Hundreds of enlisted men, having assumed that
- -.=- Rafter Man was some kind of unconventional mortal
round, were one mass of green laundry. Then heads
^' -
began to pop up.
The staff officers jerked Rafter Man to his feet and
- -

*startedyelling for the M.P.'s.


. General Motors raised his hand and there was si-
la& Unlike many Marine Corps generals, General
- -
Motors looked exactly like a Marine Corps general,
eyes as gray as gun metal, a face that was tough but
"

, - sensitive-a Cro-Magnon holy man's face. His jungle


,- .-utilities were starched, razor-creased, with shirt-
- .- - sleeves rolled up neatly.
Rafter Man stood there, staring at the general, grin-
? ning like a goddamn fool, He wobbled. He tried to

walk hut he couldn't He was having enough trouble


:, just standing in one place.
. . - General Motors ordered the broken table cleared
x-
' '

, iway.ThenheofferedRafterManhischair.
Rafter Man hesitated,looked at the general, then at
be staff officers, who ¥wer still pissed off, then at
ne, then he looked at the general again. He grinned
md sat down on themetal folding chair.
50 '
BODY COUNT
The general nodded, then sat down on the floor
next to Bafter Man. With a wave of his handhe
ordered the staff officers to sit on the floor behind
him, which they did, still Hissed off.
With another wave o f his hand the generalor-
dered the performersto go on with the show.
The Australian comedian and the sweating &
dancers hesitated.
Rafter Man stood up. . ,3

He wobbled, then sank down to the deck beside


the general. He put his aim around the geneds
shoulders. General Motors looked at him without q.
pression. Rafter Man said, "Hey, bro, I can fly.-&@$
you see me fly?" He paused. "You think
drunk?~mea~am~hammeredoram~hamm~?
am,I ...
He looked around "Joker?W s Joker?"But IWEB-
still stumbling over angry poges. "JoWa my broi?Sife
Weenlistedpersonnelaretight,youknow?Ind$
bitably.1 am hi love with those sexy women. I
&at. . . ."
His face got serious. "Who'll take-fte
through the wire? Sir? Where's Joker?" He w.
around, but didn't see me. TB fafl in the -<@E
blow myself up. Sir? SIR? ni step on a mine. I,gaf,$p
find m y bro, sir. I dodt want to fell into the wire,noi
again. JOKER!"
General Motors looked at Rafter Man and smiled.
"Don't worry, son. Marines never abandon ti^
wounded." , .-
I

~ a t t e r~ a l no o at~ the general &e way drunks-


look at people who say things they don't understm&
Then he smiled.H e nodded. "Aye-aye, sir."
, , The Australian comedian ami the meaty Kelly
dancers resumed their act, which consisted pmnaaaly.
of double-takes fro& the comedian every time- -
51 3 9
-
.
-.
' - .
' , 4
:
. - .. - - - 4 --
z. -
VÂ¥F
- .-
lÈr
BODY COUNT
Daytona Dave laughs. "That kid runs an NVA rifle-
company. Somebody blow him away."
I grin. "You ladies are doing an outstanding job.
You're both born poges."
Chill Vendor shrugs. "Hey,bro, the Crotch don't
send beaners into the field We're too tough. We
make the grunts look badm%.-
You guys getting hit?" -
That's affirmative," says Daytona Dave. "Every
night. A few rounds. Thefre just fucking with us. Of
course, I've got so many confirmed kills I lost count.
Nobody believes me because the gooks drag off their
dead. I do believe that those Bttle yellow enemy folks
eat their casualties. Blood trails all over the place, but
no confirmed lolls. So here I am, a hero, and Captain G G
January has got me doing Mickey Mouse shit with 3-
this uppity wetback." ~2-
"CORPORAL JOKER!"
"SIR1 Later, people. Come on, Rafter?
Chili Vendor punches Daytona Dave in the chest
"Doubletime up to the a l e and souvenir me one
cute orphan, man, but be sure you get a dirty one, a

Captain January is in his cubtde in the-


back of the I S 0 hootch. Captain January is the kind
of officerwho chews an unlit pipe because he thinks
that a pipe will help to make him a father figure..
He's playing cut-throat Monopoly with Mr. Payback
He's playing cut-throat Monopoly with Mr. Payback.
saaffy is our unit Captain January isn't Captain
57
Queeg, but then he's not Humphrey Bogart, either. He
' picks up laSs little silver shoe and moves it to Baltic,
Avenue, tapping each property along the way. - - -
'. - TilbuyBdtie.AndtwoLooses."CaptainJanuary ;-
= reaches for the white and purple deed to Baltic Av& -=

* - b n s tiny greenhouses on *
nue. That's another monopoly. Sergeantw H e pod-
board. "Joker, you've
scarfedupbeaucoup slackinDaNangandIam+
that now you are squared away toget bade into the
. field.Hump up to Hue.The NVA havedo- the
- - --- -
b6-G&
> - .

city. One-One is in theshit" - - -


b
>-
-
m- 6
-, d d &e
.*- ., who
- killed my story on that howitzer crew who - I
- wasted a whole squad of NVA with one beehive
round? In Da Nang some poges told me that a colonel
- shit-canned-my story. Some colonel said that beehive
rounds were a figment of my imagination because the
. Geneva Convemtion chsded them as 'inhumane' and
-- American fighting men ire incapable o f bring to-
:5 -. . -
- W' M a & -grmti~.w t
u z m e? TWS i p&
. word for it Ten thousand feathered stainless steel
darts.Thosefl^chette do convert go&
- lumpsofshittyfags.

killed your beehive story, Jdfeer. What I don't know is I


, who has been tipping off hostile reporters every time .

we get' an adverse incident~likethat* Victor


Charlie recon wasted hst week, the one the snuffies
General Motors is
TOALLWHOUSEETHESEPRESENTS,
KNOW YE THAT BEPOSING SPECIAL TRUST
CTDENCEOfTHESTDEiinOS JAMEST.DAVIS,

STATES MABTOE! COBPS.. .


I stare at the piece of paper. Then I pat
o n Captain January's field desk. "Number
mean, tto way, sir?
Captain January stops Ills Hide silver shoe in
stride."What did you say, Sergeant?"

motion. This is the only war wefw got,

make the world safe for


~MSRS
&y and he t e ni. W& is &d; busfa&!~~nvest
-7
ysiaa son. W NEUXL v^esas:aeverhaving tosay you're
-
ff^
s b y . Arb& Macht FreiÑ"
--.-- >
"S&geant JokerI"
..- -<
"Negative, Captain. Number ten. I'm a &ral.
You can send me tothe bag, +I know that. Lock
-
=- me up in Portsmouth Naval Prison until I rot, but let
.---.- merotasacorporal,sir.YonfcaowIdomyfob.I
.-£

. -.write that the Namis an Asian Eldorado populated by


- = acute, primitive but determined people. War is a
-.-=-noisy
>' breakfast food. War is fun.to eat. War can five
. - _ :p, better checkups. War cores canceI?Ñpermanent
- Tfc I don't hfll.I write. Grants Ml; I only watch. Tm
Z- only young Dr. Goebbels. I'm not a sergeant" I sddt

= ^Sir:
Captain January'ssilver shoe lands on Oriental Ave-
- nue. There is a tiny red plastic hotel on Oriental Ave-
- hue. CaptainJanuary grimaces d f l l e a connts trot
' thirty-five dollars in MFC. H e hands Mx. Payback the
$'-
-=- small colorful bills andthen hands 1dm the dice. "Ser-
:2
,4
geant, you will be wearing chevrons indicating yaw:
. proper rank the next time I see you- or I ¥wildefinitely
jump on your program. Do you want to be a grant?
. ' Hnot, you will remove that unauthorized peace but-
.- . tonfromyourdutyuniform."
- 'Idon'tsayanything.
Captain & m ~ a i ylooks at Rafter Man. "Who's this?
-
- --
,
Sound off. Marine." - '" --'£fis.=;-'j
Rafter Man stutters, --ss :
- Y
2
-
-- .: k
5 '

>%%>:- --v-,*
.ra^
:?.A-
--- -*-&
- - .---.^.,
-~i,--
A-L A

5%. .
I say, '"This is Lance Corporal Compton, sir. The
- --,=
--
. -.-
+ Gay to Photo."
"Outstanding. Weleome aboard. Marine. Joker,
T - make sleeping sounds here tonight and head up to
- fine in the morning. Walter Cronldte is due here to-
.- - .- 4

- --. &^l
- +.- .B*fiYC&NT;
-. *.
-
~ O s s s wso well be busy* ni need C2riK Vendor saS
Daytona here. But your job is important, too. General
Motors called me about this personally. We need some
And some hard-hitting eap
of indigenous civilian per-
sonnelwhohavebeenexecutedwiththeirhoodstied
behind their b a a people buried alive, priests with
their throats cut, dead babiesÑyo know what I want
- Get me some good body counts. And don't forget to

..."
calculate your kill ratios.And Joker.
^, M
"Doa't ewem say naked bodies Ideas-
the/reurntflated,* ;
"Aye-aye, six"

-
' ~ J o ~ , , Ã § " -; -.
"Ye&&F
"Getahaircut." 1 - y,
- "Aye-aye,sir."
As Mr.Payback releases his lit& silver car Captain
Jan@ gaysÃ"TIuÈ houses! Three faousesiPark
ingPIad W s ,* " eaghty doliarsr
Mr. Payback counts out all of his money. "That
breaks me, Captain, I sswe you seven backs."
Captain January rakes up the pile of MFC, a shit-
eating grin on his face. "You do not understand b u s i - 2

ness, Me.Payback. If we had Marine generds who


" understood business this war would be over. The
. secret to winning this war Is in.public relations. Harry
STrumanoncesaidthattheMarineCorpshasa
propaganda machine almost equal to Stalin's. He was
- right. Jbi war, trnA te the first casualty. Correspoas-.
dents are more effective (ban gnmta. Groats medy
IdU the enemy. AH that matters is what we write, .

what we photograph. History may be written with


61
. -. - ..- .,
% - - ...g*- ,.- - - , .- -.: - -5 - - -=- .
-- -- - - - - =.-
- -A-

-- -.-" -
7.
- > -
.
- - THESHORT-TIM~RS
-

-
blood ami iroq but ~ f printed
s wift ~nkmii its ,pm
good show business but we make them what they are.
>
The lesser services like to joke about how every Ma-
rine platoon goes into battle accompanied by a pla--
toon of Marine Craps photographers. That's affirma-
tive. Marines fight -harderbecause JM@w
- -. have big-
ger legends to live up to." h-:~
Captain January slaps a large package on the floor
. by Ids desk. "And this is die final product of all our
- industry. My wife likes to show interest in my
- work. She asked me for a souvenir. I'm s

s so funny
out loud. "
"Yes, Sergeant?"
"Where's the Top?"
"The First shirt went to Da Nang for some in-
country R & R. You can see him after you come back
from Hue." Captain January looks at his wristwatch.
'Seventeen hundred. Chow time." .

Oa to chow Rafter Man and I meet Chill


- Vendor and Daytona Dave and Mr. Payback at the
ISO enlisted men's hootch. I give Rafter Man a
- utility jacket with 101st Airborne patches all over
it. My own Army jacket has First Air Cavalry insignia.
- Iselect two salty sets of Army collar chevrons and we
- pin them on. Now we're Spec-5's~Army sergeants.
- Chili Vendor and Daytona Dave and Mr. Payback
axe all buck sergeants from the Ninth Infantry Divi-
sioa.
We go to chow down in the Army mess hall. The
Army eats real' food. Cake, roast beef, ice cream,
. chocolate milk-all the bennies. Our own mess hah
COUNT
.- serves
a Keel-Aid and sbit-on-a-shingleÑchippe Deer
&:on toast-with peanut butter and jelly sandwidies for
@aeaert,
"When's die Top due backf
Chfll Vendor says, "Oh, maybe tomorrow. January.
- onyourprogram
Inod."Hat g Her, He's crazy. He's just
plain fuckhg crazy. He gets crazier every time I see
him. Now he's mailing a go& stiff home to his wife.^'
Daytona says, 'There it is. But then the Top is a
- Itfer,too."
t ~ o isp d&t
" ~ nthe I main, maybe the crotch
is his home,and he makes us do a good job, but he.
don't harass us with Mickey Mouse shit. He cuts the
snuffies some slack when he can. The Top's not a
lifer; he's a career Marine.Lifers are a breed. A lifer
is anybody who abuses authority he doesn't deserve
- t o have. There are plenty of civilian lifers."
Hie Army mess sergeant with the big cigar spot-
she& &D.'s. -
The Army mess sergeant with the big cigar takes
tile shiny mess trays out of our hands and throws us ,
outofVismesshalL
. We retreat to the M arine mess hall where we eat
shit-on-a-shingle and drink lukewarm Kool-Aid and
- wetalkabouttowtheAnnycouMbveatleastson"
~enireaus some leftovers since that's all the MarineT!

bad: to our hootch. Laugh-


we take a moment to pull
down flie green plastic ponchos nailed on tike outside
o thehootch. ~uringthenighttheponchoswillkeep
light in and raia ouL

.-...
-WE. SHOpTWeRS
We Be on our& and <m;
scuMebxitt. On the :

2. - . &ling, the combat correspondent's motto in six-inch


-2--- . block letters: TXBSTTO GO, LAST TO KNOW, WE WBLL
- -BEFEN& TO THE DEATH OTJB BIGHT TO BE MISINFORMED.
-5.2 . Mr. Payback performs his sea' stories for Rafter
- Man: "The only difference between a sea story and-
: - - a fairy tele is that a fairy tale begins with 'Once upon -
A time .. .' and a sea story he&s with This is no
@f. Well, New Guy, listen up, because this is no shit.
--- .Januaryorders me to play Monopoly. All fucking day.
t'.=- .- Every day of the fucking week- There's nothing lower
- -. -
-thana lifer. They fuck me over, man, but I don't say
2 - a word I do not say a word. Payback is a mother-
*
=-= . fucker, New Guy. Remember that When Luke the
*-.

-: ; $gok !zaps you in back and Phantoms b a y h h in


<-.-
.-
.- . napalm canisters, that's payback. When you ~ h i ton
a . people it comes back to you, sooner or later, only
.'..' . worse. My whole program is a mess because of lifers.
- -
3 - But payback will come, swner or later. I'd walk a
.--, Joile for a payback."
^s
- I laugh. "Payback, you hate lifers because you are
. a lifer." %
&@=
&-
zS
>?
- Mr. Payback lights up a joint "You're the one who's
tight with the lifers. Joker. Lifers take care of their
own."
.
<

-
-
-
,^--W

"Negative. The lifers are afraid to talk to me,I got


so manyops."
-^
-=---1
"Operations? Shit" Mr. Payback turns to Rafter
e -
Man. "Joker thinks that the bad bush is down -the
L -
road in die ville. He's never been in die shit It's hard
- >. to tdk about it Like w Hastin*"
>
-
/.- . Chill Vendor interrupts: "You weren't on Opera-
ton Hastings, Payback. You weren't even in corn-
. fay."
We rest for a while andthen we gather up the bar-
becued rats and take the& outside to hold a funeral
., in
tile dark.
Some guys platoon who live next
door come out of their hootch to pay their respects.
. LanceCorporal WinslowSlavin, honcho of the corn-
- bat plumbers, struts up in a skuzay green flight suit
-.Theflightsuitisragged,coveredwithpaintstains
- and oil splotches. "Only six? Shit Last night my boys
"
got seventeen. cklrifhed."
I say, "Sounds like a stpiad of p o p to me. Poges
@sea. These TsSs are Viet Gong field Marines.
Hard-ooregrunts."
, I pick up one of fhe late. I turn to the combat
&lumbers;Ihold up the rat and I kiss it
Mr. Payback laughs,@& up one of the dead rats,
f aeoff the tip of Its tafl.Then, swallowing, Mr. Pay-
i
.

-
back says, Wnimni ... love them crispy critters." He
grins. He bends owesà picks up of-
fers it to Rafter Man.
- Rafter Man is fro= He can't sp ob
attiierat
Mi. Payback laughs. "Whafs wrens New Guy?
Dm%you want to be a IdUerP"
We buy the enemy rats with hiâmilitary honors
we scoop out a shallow grave and we dump thean
THE &HORT-TIMERS
out of our racks "withour weapon&&-&

the wire, beautiful due-

IwaftforaVm6ofsflmeeandIcrawlouttotake

on? Where's Winslow?"


e> man Is whining. T m dyingl I'm dying!" Ishake
W t b b l d Wedlookatitfor alonghe.
W M m p b & e w d f i d e b m u @
6n~bistmgw,a n d w e ~ W 8 g ~ b v o mIn- it
&ad,he @& his t5& 'I'hf333, closing his l!yC!B,

-Dawn. The h a t of day ames qddy, bum-

uptherbpatthreardtbvi-
and ~ ~ J M M I immediately, any-
stretchers. On the smt&em am bloody
-
THE -TIMERS
~ffitan'vehiclesirebaintffnlb~~mthwmbnfl
from functional designs which make them real, solid;
without artifice. The tank possesses the beauty of its
hard lines; it is fifty tons of rolling armor on trades
hke steel watchbands. The tank our protection, roll-
on a d 0x1 fomerFckmkq i gm
' the dark me
calpoetryofironandguns. -.'
Suddenly the tank shifts tp the left Rafter
aid I are thrown hard {be turret Metal
metal.The task hits a bump, shifting sharply
right and jerking to a halt, throwing us forward.
&an and I hang onto the gun and say, "Son-of-a-
bitch.. ."
The blond tank d a n d e r dtobs out of the tur-
net hatch and jumps off the back of the tank.
The taa& driver has run the tank off the road.
. Fifty yards back a water buffalo i s down on its- ,%
back, legs out straight. The water bo bellows, tosses & F
its curved horns. Qa the deck, in the center of the=
road,I see a tiny body, facedown.
- - Chattering ~ietnamesedvflianà pour out of &a^
nadride hootches, staring md pointtog. The Vietnam-@g
ÇÂ

gsa civilians crowd around to see hoy their Ameri-*i -Â¥~


can saviors have crushed the guts out of a child.
The blond tank commander speaks to the Vietnaxi-'
ese civilians in French. Then, walking back to the
--larik* the blond tank commander is pursued by an aii-
vSsat paposon. There are tear$ in the papasan's eyes. --.z
The withered old man &aha his bony Brie &ts a n d B
thi-ows Asian curses at the tank commande/s back.@$j
Vietnamese civilians grow silent Another child
is dead, and, although it is very sad and painful, they
accept it
The blond tank commander climbs up- onto his tank.?
Y Ã ,%-2
£
1
R* Man ajld I hait fm ihe MAO-*, lvimwty
AssMan= ommdbmet r?mt 2 a q y u d
~ b a b W p ~ * s y s ~- - -M
tz-2 a
,
- -. 'Tt was. It mdly was. h been hem a
for award cxtmmda. G b e i d Ctdunan w&je
=-:- ~ W ~ & b b o k a p i ~ d
2- @ ~ - d ~ M K y m h e , d & h d
: bh&fi@****w
--- over it and a cap witla silver p m a l ' s &bkd$
.~ h & ~ . K y W h e p l ~ p W
- ~a~~ HebWbaJap=@y+
*.

bay*Ee had his ~~squareid away: t h aj


&
%
'
E
~
b & a d in a Viet N ~ f O r & ~ V i e ~ eIg&&se.
struckgrunts who strike combat-Marine poses, pre-
tending to be what they are. They all want Walter
.

Cronldte to meet their sisters. In white shortwsleeved


-
. shirts the CBS cameramen hurry off to photograph
d

death in living color.


I stop a master sergeant. "Top, we waht to get into
the Ait"
-

The master sergeant is writing on a piece of yellow


. - paper on a clipboard. He doesn't look up, but jerks
h i s thumb over his shoulder. "Across the river. One-
'

- Five. Get a boat ride by the bridge."


"One-Five?Outstanding. Thanks,Topm
The master sergeant ¥walk away, writing on the yel-
'- law paper. He ignores four shizzy grunts who run in-
to the compound, each man holding up one comer of
a poncho. On die poncho is a dead Marine. The
gruntsorescreamingforacorpananandwhenthey
put the poncho down, very a pool of dark
blood,pours out onto the &mete deck.
Rafter Man and I hurry downto the River of Per-
'

fumes. We talk to a baby-faced Navy ensign who


souvenirs us a fide on a Vietnamese gunboat ferrying
reinforcements to the Vietnamese Marines.
- - &wesfchndowntheliverRafterManasks,"Axe
these guys say good?*
* Ino&ThebesttheAcvfnsgot.The/renotas
tough as the Korean Marines,though.The BOX'S are
so hard that they got muscles in their shit The
&e Dragon Brigade. I was on an op with them
down by Hoi An."
A shot pops from the shore. The bullet buzzes over.
' B e gunboat crew opens up with a fifty-caliberma-

. aemmdafw*-&,-
Bgfter Man wa- Mth joy in his eyes as the fc$-
lets b c k up thin +dks of water along the river bank.
He holds hispiece at port anus,first to fight
The Strawberry Patch, a large triangle of l e d be-
tween the Citadel and the River of Perfumes, is a '
quiet suburb of Hue. W e get off the gunboat at the
Strawberry Patch and wander around with the Vieb

expensive pump shotgun slung across his back, -a

g^-
*"'
-
---
>-
e x p e g Hue to the-
gray sky is dearing. The white mist is moving,

85
*&-!s5
,<ifr-S'^i
^Â¥*e--2s

'4-
--
,7.:--
f-=*-
- -
-:
the Joker and his New Guy. Lot dai,
4 come on, sit8$d share, sit and share."
Rafter Man and I sit down in the dirt and Cowboy

another of piasters into"


--.
BOB - ..<

lights a cigarette. "About half a million P's. K J . u--~--iGi


-
~ ~
a thousand dollars per man in American money."
-%

.--
- -'Â¥ -y--

Cowboy says. Ton got to write about oar John , .f


Wayne lieutenant." Cowboy punches Mr. Shortrouna - 5 ;
cm the arm. "Mr. Shortround is a mustang. When Ifhs' ---.- ,

Cm& made him a lieutenant he was just a wqmra&.;+.


just a snuffy like us. He's very little, but he is oh so 2
bad" Cowboy tilts his head bade and sucks to a long- ; 2
swallow of tiger pEss. Then: "We were taldng <;-i
railroad terminal.That's where the safe was. We blew, I--:$
it open with a block of C-4. The gooks were coming -:.,;
down on us with automatic weapons, B a s , even a.<,.--. :- 5
->;.
fucking mortar. The lieutenant got six ~nfirmed-~-
Six1 He wasted those
"There are NVA

motivated individuals." - * >?


\: .a<

---
Crazy Earl hdds his bottle by the neck and smashes ,--$
It across a fallen statue uf a fat, smiling, bald:headed".--&
gook "This ain't a war, ifs a series of w e d a m 2 :-?-.,-
riots. We blow them away. They come up bl@$ us --- >.>
. .
before we're out of sight and shoot us in the ass. I ---
know a gay in One-One that shot a gook and then - #&
tied asatchel charge to him and blew him into little'
invisible pieces because shooting gooks is a waste :of':;1
tfaneÑthe 6 back to life.But thesegooh piss yo& ;ii
off so bad that you got to shoot sonietfainfe oiM/tfaingr7 --
Bros, half the confirmed kffls I got are civilians and :.
the other faatf is water buffaloes." Earl passes, burps,-, :-'d -?

drawing the burp out as long as he can. 'You shouldp2d7


have smzn A n b d M~~ wasting m.Ai - --.:&<
--

THE SHORTTIMERS
*for die rear and Animal Mother spit &?,.then
blew &em away."
I miss Stumbling Stewey," says Alice, the black
- giant. H e explains to me and Bafter Man: "Stumbling
w e y was our honcho before Stoke, (he Supergrunt.
Stumbling Stewey ¥vm real, nervous, you know?
Very nervous. I mean,he was nervous. The onlyway
the dude could relax was throwing hand grenades.
He was always popping frags all over the area. Then
bestarted holding onto them light up to the last
second. So (me day ol' Stumbling Stewey pulled the
pin and just stood there, staring, just staring and star-
..
frig at that little oT olive-drab egg in his hand. ."
Crazy Earl nods, burps. "Iwas just a New Guy the
Say Stumbling Stewey blew himself away and Stoke
the Supergrunt took the squad. Stoke made me assis-
tpt squad leader. He could see that I didn't know
nptlhg, and all that good hit, but he said he Bleed
mf personality." Qaay Earl takes a swaflow from an-
other bottle of beer. "Hey, Cowboy, get your
Korsel Quick! My crabs are having a rodeo!"
Dodon, the radimh, says, "I hope we stay here.
This street fighting is decent duty. We can see them
liere. We got cover, resupply, even some areas where
you can cut a few Z's without digging a hole. No rice
paddies full of slope shit to swim in. No immersion
@t. No fun& rot No leeches fallingfrom the trees."
Crazy Earl flips a beer bottle into the air and the
bottle arches down and smashes upon a broken walL
a m a t i v e , but we blow up these shrines and
temples and then the gooks got lots of shit to hide
Under and we have to dig diem out"
Everybody gets a little
a long, detailed sea story
ride. -- .-- -- --
y pots bis aim across the sbooldG&t&e<$
~ r a z TEaoH
man next to him. The man has ft bush coverz&ld 'F
down over his face, a beer inhis hand, a pile of moneyr * -.<'
in his lap. This is my bro," says Owy Earl, reaioviajl-z..s
flie Imsh cower from the man's face. This is his.,w3^1.: ,:=<%
day."
-
He is the guest of honor. You see, today is his-birifc
. - - -. --=-.*-
- *
\%.S

~qfter an looks at me, his mouth apq2- - ,,,--SF


--..
"Sarge..." ' gs

I say, "Don't call me Sarge." , --


- - --. .^&-
The man nest to Crazy Sad is a deadman> & l!&q&
Vietnamese corporal, a dean& Asian kid aboutZI?i:b
-.,--
-
%.-

seventeen years old with ink-black hair, cropped&- :*-2-:


Crazy Earl hugs the North V i e t a m e cprgo^fip J:
He grins. 1 made him sleeps1' Csazy Earl pats li@....-
forefinger to his Ups and whispers,"Shhh. He'sresting :--
now. .-
----*

~ 7-

Before Rafter Man can start asldng questions A^p-: - >s-


teal Mother and another Marine double-time up % - I@
road, carrying a large cardboard box betweenthem. - ).- --
- .
-
They drop the box and reach ins!& They throw.
plastic bags to each of us. "Resupply! Resupplyt Get :-
yww red-hot bemries. Scarf it upf" .-
Cowboy snatches up Ms bag and rips: it open.. --> -

'Tbaag-mta,Outstandin@" .-I
I pick up my bag and I show it to Rafter Maxi.-
-
- -
" --.z
m
.
%
-
8 9
. . *--.
- --
.- 22-
d

= - .
THE ~HQRT-T~.MERS
"This is number one chow, Rafter. The Army eats this
~2;
,
, %hiton humps. Add water and you got real food."
I+ -,.- Lieutenant Shortround says, "Okay, Mother,
'^" -
whereadyou souvenir the chowF"
I

Animal Mother spits. He grins, baring rotten teeth.


- Istoleit."
""' "You stole it, sir." . .
.-
...
/Â¥

- .-
-
? I
<
"Yeah, I stole it sir."
"Thafslooting. They shoot people for thatw
stole it from the Anny ...
&."
>2 <-",; -
--- "Outstanding. It is part of your duty as a Marine to
:*-*- . '2-harass0- sister s d c e g . Cany on."
"--

p. " 9
Cowboy punches the Marine who helped Animal
^

*A:hother cany the cardboard box. "This is T.H.E.Bock.


-Â¥Kz-
, #fake him famous. He wears that rock around his neck
- [ ^ Q that when the clinks zap him they'll know who he
p 5. -:hW"
2-",> ,- T.H.E. Rode grins. "You fucking alcohoEc I wish
- "$ou*dstop telling peqple about my rock." He pulls out
' --.- &rawhide cord sad shows us bis rock, a quartz crystal
c

,'&ounted in brass.
. Animal Mother props his M-60 machine gun
Against a wall and sits down, cross-legged. "Man, I
-.-a
+* >
2;.almost got me someeatin' pussy."
3. -1 - T.H.E.Rock says, That's affirmative. Mother was
F
- . - chasingw a little gook girl with his dick hanging
' out, , ..
-
Ly^-
- Lieutenant Shortround pulls his K-bar from its
3- . sheath and cuts a chunk from a block of C-4 plastic
.-..
^"!--:' explosive he has extracted from a Claymore mine. He
puts the piece-of C-4 into a little stove he has made
-- by punching air holes into an empty C rations can.
r
e ' B e strikes a match and lights the C-4. H e fills a seo-
."
90 , '
-, - *

--
*. ?nf&6bennies?
:
-
.,-;
.*% says Grassy "Jostwhen wewere
::gettin&a
<.+*
Bttle piece of $a& , u 0

.-- yeatmmt Shozkumd stands up d starb put-


A
F
-

* g o Q Ills gear. "Moving, rich kids. Saddle up. Craze,


2-

- -, @your people (HI their feet."


--??
-

- "Movtog, Movitife"
We all stand up, except; for the NVA corporal who
remains seated, a be& in his hand, a pile of money
%
- dvfa='ilap,
--&. .
*his split lips curled back in a death grto.
+zY2 Alice steps up with a machete in one hand and a
?---

G--@h&canvas shopping bag in - the other. Be kneels.


~ itwo blows
& of the ma- Alice chops off the
È"~&&?$~V corporal'sfeet.' ~ picks
e up ^a& foot by the
: .- toe and drops it into the blue shopping bag.
---> ,

%=':Â¥^a gook was a very hard dude. Number one1 Big


^&$@&
-
-,-.
,

- Thegrunts stuff beer bottles, piasters, long-rats, and


---.%&!ieditiuvenirs
. into their baggy pockets, into Ma-
+ --&&-&pet5 field packs, aad into NVA haversacks sou-
- v i @ g d from enemy grtmts they have wasted. The
grunts pick up their weapons.

this atadd ~hitis going to be

-W
e
r see (he great walls of &e Citadel. With zigzag-
. gingkamparts thirty feet high and right feet thick,
<;"- gmmmded by a moat,the fortress looks like an an-
.!dentcastle from a fairy tale about dragons who guard
- -- - = --.., - -..-- --.
.--. . ---- - - *
=----*%%.--e--=

-- - - - - -
;
<
A %
.-., *

--
<
#
.- .
- <

' - THE SHORT-TIMER


A bullet crunches into a walL
- - Somebody starts singing:

MJ.C. ...K.E.Y. ..
The machine guns fixe
aw,like old friends having a conversation. Thumps
ad thuds puncture the rhythm of the bullets.
The snipers zero in on us. Each shot becomes a
word spoken by death. Death is talking to us. Death
wants to tell us a funny secret We may not like death
, .- but death likes us. Victor Charlie Is hard hut he never
, lies. Guns ten the truth. Guna never say, T m only
- d g . " War is ugly 'becanse the truth can be
.My and war is very sincere.
I say out loud: "You and me, God-right?"
I send guard-mafl directives to my personal Tao-
tical Area of Responsibility, which extends to the
perimeters of my skin. Dear Feet,tiptoe through the
tulips. Balls, hang in there. Legs, don't do any John
- Waynes. My body is serviceable. I intend to maintain

-
splf weapons; our weapons reply.
Cowboy is listening to me mutter to myself. 7th
Wafle? Hey, Joker's right. Thfa ain't real. This is just
a John Wayne movie. Joker can be Paul Newman. I'll
bea horse."
"Yeah."
Crazy Earl says, "Can I be Gabby Hayes?"
- "The Rock can be a rock," says Donlon, the w^g,
e g$gk*% -- sfcÑ3

Alice says, TU be Aim-Margret." ----.:


-.;- -. --
- .
# - - A

-.
'
--
- <: .-,..-,
- - - .X.,L..'- 2- --- -
-- .;Â¥;.,,-.
- ^>.\
.sf<^
--*" -""^^*
*>
,
-= ,$<*Y:.
2s COUNT .;-I .:-:--: -:
- - BO .- >
.
&>AT*-'

E5
e +
" &
:
--
Mother on be a rabid buffalo,"
i-^- ten, honcho of the third fire team. , - --
- -:~*r--
-
-
L
e
i
walls are assaulted by werewolf laughter.
. .-.-.
- ,- >
=-- L r

:.-"Â¥Who'lbe the Indians?"


The little enemy folks audition forthe G f la a- -:
chine-gunbullets dp across a wall to starboard.
Lieutenant Shortround calls up his squadc.
with a hand signal-he holds up his sight h a
twirls it Three squad leaders, including Crazy Earl,?
double-time to him. He talks to them, points atthe
walk The squad leaders doubleAne back to QÈ6J .
squads to confer with their fire team leaders.
Lieutenant Short-round blows a whistle and
we're all running like b i g - a d birds.
to do this. We are all afraid. But if you stayed
you would be alone. Your friends are going;
too. You're not a person anymore. You don't
be who you are anymore. You're part
one green obfect in a line of green ob
toward a breach in die Citadel wall, running
Jiad noise ma blmting m@ llmdng, lmmia&--
ning ...
you don't look bade.
We double-time, werewolves with ga
p - +

run as though impatient to sink into


that is opening up to swallow us. Someffaing -Snaps'
and -we're past the point of no return. We're goJEBg - -
through the broken wall. We'remiming fast and -- wb -1
aren't going to stop. Nothing can stop us. s;-
-*-.- ' -
: A ' - :

The air is being torn.


The deck shifts beneath your feet The asphalt .-- - ,.
sucks at your feet like sand on the beach. . --
Green tracer bullets dissect the sky. -. +

---
Bullets hit the street The impact of the bidl@als+,-2
the m o d of a b v e y of qmul toting &&ti &%/'- ----
.-
99 . -
-
- .-^- 9.
--- --
c
.. -%--
A<
-y-

SiSfa^'S'--2r..&-r-
-nvri-ssffiw-,>~Â¥f-2
à -, ,
: - , -z:~:^
''- ----..-a-&
---
> -
theasphalt is a trampolineand you are fast and grace-
ful, a green jungle cat
Sounds. Cardboard being torn. Head-on collisions.
Trah i i a d h g . walls falung btfJthe sea.

... you scream: "DIE! DIE1 DIE, YOU


FUCKERSI DIE1 DIE1 DIE!"
try to swarm Into you-you swat them

you say to yourself,h@e.I_pewith a gun full, . - A


^
%$
*g
^S£
hell are my feet?
Your
BODY
%
'"

&UNT
of bullets. How many rounds left in -this m&gaziae~~:.$=
How many days left to my rotation date? Am I
ing too much gear? W h e ~
A face. The face moves. Your weapon sights ia.--
M-16 automatic rifle vibrates. The face Is gone.
- Keep moving.
^--a And then your feet no longer touch the ground waS:
S y o u wonder what'shappenjfDg to you. Your boffy-re* -:-g
lazes, then goes rigid. You hear the sound of a h~iaair
body erupting, the ugly sound of a human body" &
%being torn apart by high-speed metal, The ptetutes-'--%
35 blinking before your eyes slow dowu-Iikea dent -LC&-$:
on a defective reel. Your weapon float) out of yova -2::
hands and suddenly you are alone. You are floating. 3
@Up. Up You are being lifted up by a wall of'-sound.
gz The pictures blink fester and faster and suddenly the^%
l . % ~
filmstrip snaps and the wall of soand slams Into ywe.
I ~ t o t a lterrible
, sound. The deck is enormous ef ~ Q B
s f a l l , You merge wfth the d. Your Mi faoket ç!iÃ
+ sorbs much of the impact Your helmet falls off yo& 3 ~
^-
-?a

?@head
f.^.
;
and spins. You're on your back, crushed 6ff:--&
sound. You think: Is that the sky?
e^s- "CORPSMAN>omeone says, far away. "CORPS-?%
-.-=
You're OB your back. All around you boots dance
crunc-.
-
+G
.>
- ---
- - -<==

we they? And whesee <S&:+T?

-
:

. - .-- ><

-
- .-- 4A-^..
- 2 ^.^
T '-,

Dirt clods aad pieces of- :=:-


the sky, into yoor mouth, your eyes.. .
stone. You hold up one of your hands, I-:-
to tell the pounding boots: Hey, don't steps, -1-:

101
!& one? +:
are hot Your legs are broken. W
you touch yourself, your face, yiu&-,?:
- <<- -5
* -.-g*<
<+
,
-
.:-,;:~~
;----
>- < %7<
>-:
:

<
- -Â¥.
z*-
--^-c^

-.---
--

=- -

&

e
7
3

-- -

--
--- \ ^ -

- 3e=.

^.- "
--

-
:
--
='
z

-
-

'

3----
-27

-
,- -<eL

--<

's:
.&--
7

G2:
=*.

.%--'.

:*

--.-is,.-*

=%

A ---
2 ?
%

2
'

-
<
hold you down. You a@t. You filing your anas.
hands search for damage in your body.
--*.;.-- .
-
-- 3%You cough up spiders.
T

-.c%. C@x the ground beside you la -a MilAm without a


- head.ExhibitA,formerlyaperson,nowtwohundred
3 ' pounds of fractured meat The Marine without a head
^ - &OB& bade. His face has been knocked off. The
-3

. .top of his skull been torn back, with the soft


kain inside. The jawbone and bottom teeth are in-
,

tactIn{hehandsof the Marinewithout aheadisan


5 : M-60marline gun, locked there forever by rigor mor-
Ss. JSs finger is on the trigger. His canvas jungle boots
- - are muddy.
- . vl- Youlook at the d@edmud on the jungle boots of
- the Marine without a head and yon are stuuned that
jUs feet look so much like your
.
. *Sen teach You touch his hand.
=:-Z^s Something
out
stings your ^EBEÈ
own.

- Suddenly, you are very tired. You are breathing


. . -from the running. Tour heart is beatingso hard
.- =-.. Afltftseems to want totear ifs way out of your bogy.
: -Through the center of your heart there is a star-
- ;: L*ped bullet hole.
&
3 - .-^>I-$- - - -
s¥^^;FBÑ*-@-bc.'
-7- -
'? - ^ - -- - ;<-
-- 7

4%
5-e2>
,---
-i£ - -3
,= a- w-

: e .-
2 - -
@-- - THE ^~o~~T-T@ERs* . - -
:Â¥*:&-
I-. +ot yon. You § W
h q y what à don%
- Mindsays,"Look,you¥saasoa,~'reallinthisto
:1
7-r

,
**& fee
^ttt *w,"
. .."
gether. If he goes, we eS go?
Body can't say the word. Tve go#
-Â¥No,Mind observe., "Not Seiwarily. They play:"-- -,

: .^$@mi% I'm wi fflie we aOo^ed ^o InteECare.'* : -:-


2

2: - B^yIshorrified."WhfttNadof4g~T" p>hc
,. - T m not sure. Somefhinffabout roles. They have ii
-, j&of roles."'
k
-f ,-

'' .Spirit says, "This guy &me~ me off. I'm not going
rback."
. l $ k d says, "You Afiow to go -b&"
.... -. "Oathecontrary,"saysSpirit1doasIplease.
V~~~oha~,119&o^eripa."
.A
"Forget hfin," says Body. ,
.~fadlcuiats,"~ut~pirit~returnwflhus.~
"No. We don't need him."
,
7 Mind considers the situation. "Perhaps Spirit has a
valid argument Perhaps I shouldn't go back ei-
2. &ex!!. ,,"
'
-"Â¥-y
-t

: : Body Is frantic. "NO! PLEASE.


ctually, nothing would be achieved by not
...-
-- %

-
-
>>
,- .Ovaactionswillnotaffecttheirgame
Losing one man won't change the game
-- way or the other. In fact, losing men seems to
be {he whole point of the game. We must be practi-
8

;*,5 ^^d. Come along. Body, vft',


&A
Spirit says,Tellthe man
-*
ym count
,
&

x,:,
w&-&
- > - < & .
\-

Ee wm & -% m # & - j

lain Charlie entertained Marines 61 side bays a d i s - -


tributed spiritual tourniquets to men who were still- - A

alive, but weaponless. To brutal, godless children


Chaplain Charlie spoke about how God is merciful,
despite appearances, about how the Ten Comma&.
ments lade detail because when you're writing on
stone tablets with lightening bolts you've got to be -,

brief, about how the Free World wili conquerCSom-


munism with the aid of God and a few Marines,-and-
about free fish. One day a Vietnamese child booby-
trapped Chaplain Charlie's black bag of tricks. Chap-
lain Charlie readied in and pulled out a brightball -
of death., ..
"Hey,hit (he deck, leatherneck,we're moving."
"What-P" I recognize the rooms Fm in. I remem-
ber the room from an earlier visit to Hue.I'm in the
Palace of Perfect Peace in the Forbidden City.
Cowboy punches my arm."Okay, Joker, stop acting.
We h o w you're not dead."
I sit up. I'm on a canvas med-evac stretcher. Th&
it is. I did it1 Number one! I got my first heart"
Rafter Man says, "A Purple Heart?"
Cowboy laughs. T oug h titty, you poge. No lieartà -
I pat myself with my hands. "The hell you say. -
Where am I hit?"
Rafter Man says, "You been out for hours. Doc Jay
said you got blown up by a B-40. A rocket-propeBted
grenade. But you only got the concussion. Someother
guy got the shrapnel."
Well," I say, "that sounds like a lifer-type thing to
do"
h a 1 Mother grunts and spits. Animal Mother
105
Bight now we got a job to do. We got to

after I took the squad. He's my


Alice double-times up theTO

He's naked, lying facedown on a


skin is yellow. His eyes are dry in
Mr. Shortrod is just another m
in it
Cowboy looks down at Mr. Shortround.
off his muddy Stetson.

uptotherowofbodybasand
-- -
- -
- 9

THE
The squad files by.
-
£-*
" !

I IgneeL I fold the poncho over Mr.


small body. I feel a great need to say something to the
&em plastic lump with the human feet I say, "well,
you're short, sir."
I think about what I have just said and I h o w thai:
-
'making a bad pun was a stupid thing to do. But then
anything you could say to a dead officer who was
killed by one of his own men would have to be pretty
ridiculous.

Rafter Man and I double-time to catch up with the


- squad.
W e hump past scented lotus ponds, through land-
: scaped gardens, over bridges linking delicately struo-
tured pagodas.
All around the beautiful gardens invisible gunships
rip into the peace and quiet like dogs fighting in a
church.
- Cowboy holds up his right hand. The squad stops.

Alice aims an index finger at a street of big mansions.


-

Cowboy looks at me, then at the squad. Cowboy


pulls me aside. We walk ahead for a few steps. 'That
sniper opened up on us in a gook graveyard. Some
- guys in One-One told us they found gold bars in the
: t&apero/s palace. They had all they could hump, so
,-'
- .- was going to souvenir the restRCowboy wipes
= -::sweat
- from his eyes. "The Rock was walking point
- The &per shot the Rock's foot off. Shot it off. The
Eb&ss Squd went mt to get him, me at a time.
.That solper shot all their feet off. We were hiding
-
behind graves, those old round graves like baseball
..
-

mounds, and we had h e grunts down in ihe street


- ." Cowboy pulls a red bandaooa from Ills bade
'3A'"^;-Ègy-:"i : .
. . --
, 42; -
~,..
-.- ~"Shi" *;.-^ - .,
s f
. ,.- - --
BODY COUNT
pocket and Wipes Ids sweaty face. "Mr. Shortrgukd, - -
wouldn't let us go get them. ft made him side, but he
held us back. Then the sniper started shooting off-. i 3---
-
fingers,toes, ears~everything.The guys in the rod :3
were crying and begging and we were all growling --+*>
like animals, but Ms. Shortround held us back. Then ,$
- Animal Mother w ed to go for them and the Skipper Lf
grabbed Animal Mother's collar and hit him in the -,I- - .,
face. Animal Mother was somad I thought he was go- i2;
9

- ing to loll va all. But before he could do anything- '


- the sniper started putting rounds into the guys in the ;gr
. street He didn't miss more than a couple of times., E e y z (
popped. T.H.E.Rock's head off and then he put a -5%
round through each gufs head. They were all moan-,.z3--'
ing and praying and then it was quiet and they wpe -?
. - % *

-dead and it was like we were dead too.. ."


- ," -,-A

-
-" - Idontknowwhattosay. b-
-.A-

: Cowboy spite, his face a sweaty stone. "After (hex*--- ,...


NVApulled out,the liferssent in the Amin Black % = : -

-Panthersto take the Forbidden City. Shit. Nothing- . B.


U t but rear good squads. We stomped the NVA ';::.
and they- stomped us and then the lifers send In the, -;;
- Arvins, like the goddamn Arvins did it Mr. Short- :-:..- --
=
m d said it eastheir count~~, said we was only : -. <3
- heIping Gut, & i t would boost the morale of (he. -:~g
Vitnamese people. WeQ fade the Vietnamese peo-: ?z -+
- pie. The horrible hogs in hard, hungry Hotel Corn- 5:
- pany ran up son American &g. Like on Iwo Jim& - h'

- --But some poge officers ordered than to tafee it down,-

he souffles had to ma up the s t i n l d ~~ietnames6


~ '
flag, which is yellow, which is the right color for these *--,*-
:-
chickenshit people. We're getting slaughtered in thisa - ;
- city. And we can't even run up a fucking flag. I fust, - -
can't ha& this shit, bro. My job is to get nay people; 2%
109 "V -.
- 4.
--- =; .L a -- - -. -- , -- -
-s-
- :->-w
, --
- -
- a-
- . -
. -,
=
.
-
- - , -
- A -
-- -
-----
-
-
- -- <" ---
- I - "Saà JWt of us double-time down an alley and
- - 16Sroad a hundred yards down the street, at the end
. - - 'of-&e row of mansIonS.
.&&he opposite aid of the street sits the tank. The
tankfires a round of high explosives. The upper story
: ef&e&sthouseisblownapartrneroofcollapse.
- - - Animal Mother continues to file from his position
' near the tank.
Cowboy double-times to &e Sat house at oar end
- ,ofrfliestteefc He Weps totherearcornerof
-the h s e , peepeeks around the corner. Cowboy waits
=- for-LanceCorporalStuttentopopagreensmokeas
ftsignalthathisfirete&misinpositionosablock-
- ingforce.
- We wait.
- When green smoke be& to pour from a drainage
& behind the first house at the far end of the
- street Cowboy waves his hand fend we all opea fire
- attfaefirsthouseatourendofthestr&.Oneatatime,
We ion across the street to the first how, joining
. Cowboy.
Cowboy waves his hand around the comer and
- - Lance Corporal Stuttds fire team
opens up with
<<brirweapons can fuB automatic, pouring hundreds of
- high-velocity coppeMacketed bullets into the rear of
- the first house at theirend of the street
- - AnimalMother continues to chew up thefronts of
- allthe mansionswith his blade steel machtoe gun.
--
.
-
-- ---metankfiresasecondround.TheiwaBd,floorof
-4

.
- ,--
1-:.-<&e flcst house Is blown apart. Tbe taflfe grinds forward
-
twenty yards, steps, fires again. The second story of
. -Be second house explodes.
Cowboy leads us into the mansion at our end of the
iteeeL Inside, we leapfrog from corner to comer. Cow-
112
W e drop through the ragged.rectangular bole into
somebody's library. Shrapnel has mangled leather-
bound books. I pick up a small leatherbound book for
a souvenir. The author fs J U Verne;
~ the title is to
Preach. I stuff -the book into m y thigh pocket and

every hallway, every loom. But we can't the


sniper*
-
Thetank fires into the second story of the house
xt door.
I say, "No
Cowboy shrugs. "He wasted (he Hock."
hand "Listen."
Animal Mothers M-60 is rippin
aur heads.
Zsay, IsMother di&-dow? Crazy?"
- -
.- --Cowboy shahChis head. "No. Mother is a prick,
. ^text he's a good grunt." ,.v:\--xy:c >*- - 2, :
s
>

--- :
-2:
-<s

- - - ,z-- .weran bad to the ~b&$r,


*

>- = W e drag a heavy antique desk to the rained sky-


, light and Cowboy climbs
' : back onto the roof,
h e - The crack of a Simon
f.
- *muted rhythm of Mc$mfs machine gun.
Cowboy falls bade through the skylight Alice, who.
.- . 'has climbed up onto the desk, catches Cowboy and
--.-
- eases him down to the desktop.
-%-
I pop à frag. I climb up onto the desk and take
.
.

. =
A$ '4ieM of the roof with my left hand. I let the spoon .
L%* . 114
Rafter Man is standing OWE the sniper'sdecapltstGd
corpse. He aims his M-16and fixes a long burst of an-
tomatic fire into the body. Then he says,Tha^s mine,
Alice." H e takes the $KS from Alice and examines 8
closely. H e looks down and admires his new belt. "I
shot her first. Joker. She'd have died. T W s -con-
finned for me."
I say, "Sure, Rafter. You wasted her."
Bafter Man says, "I did. I wasted her.
blew her away." He looks at his NVA rifle

Alice is down on his knees beside the corpse.


~ M e . m m m ~ h g w y
- b ~ - m ~ h g o n b b & d M w s d . . x +
-

many other h e objects of undetmnined origin-mil - -


b* but O M ~ Yd mt *e ma wt -
" tyandvelyold.
I walk out into the m p m f s magnifbnt gadmi. -
I M M m d ~ M m ~ g a t s m &
critters. It's hpossible to debrmh which m y &a
men were h Napalm l a v a less than bmm S /-

says T h e mama of d f l e s h is, ah -


ltcqubd taste&=
Alice laughs. 'This is such a fu&g waste. I at-
W-pbisbam$ct&e,ymhm?%ga& *

love fliis place. Blowing it away is Ekeyoh, blowing -


away the White House. Except fht nobody g b d a -
&tabmt&embHmmd&phmismh + -

as old."
-
7

Ishw&
"It's crazy: Alice says. "It's just pIaiu fu&g --
IwishIwas backintb World" * .
a

I sayy "Noy back in the World is the -


% , d ~ w I d d s M ~ W i s d w
Cowboy asme3 around later and says that Ddby# 2
company cummander has passed the word to m g m ~.
a t h e ~ a t h h w ~ h * . -- &-

We d. We look at the mbble we have ~~ , , .


W e g ~ W d ~ a t i ~ ~ ~ s m r n u c- h d
1. .lI&er Man take a m of himself.

m p m d y . I look up
ButaUamundmeisthe

tth see,it.The tadc is an objeot ofheavy


nu a wl&shadow, a ghost with substance.
Behindme a man was cursing. Themaiiwasa
Navy corpsman. The corpsmads light hand had
been split open and he was holding his fingers togeth-
er with his good hand and cursing and yelling fox a
CUl'piiUCUUL
Then I uiiderstood Oat the "shrapnel" I'd felt had
only been shattered gravel.
Grunts from {he security squad were crawling into
the bashes, turning outboard,weapons ready.
Still confused about why I was still alive I got to
by feet and double-timed to the little pit that had
been torninto theroad by theexplosion.
Twogrontaweredouble-timingacrossaheadow
towardatreeline.Ifollowedthem,myfineermthe
trigger of my M-16,eager to pour Invisible darts of
destruction into the shadows.
The twogcqts and Ira5 and155 until we passed
throughthetreelineandemergedoGtheekedavast
xioepaddy.Therethefatgunnywdfloatingmhis
bade in the shallow water, sunounded by dark pieces
of do-it-yourself fertilizer.
The grunts spread aponcho under him while I
stood security. Both of {he gunny's legs had been torn
off at the pelvis. Isaw oneof his fat legsfloating
nearlyso Ipickeditupontof thewater and threwit
hunbpQfb
Wealltookholdof (heponchoandstartedcarrying
the heavy load bade to the road I was breathing hard,
and black anger was pounding inside my chest I was
watching the trees,hoping I'd seemovement
And then out of nowhere ii man appeared, a tiny,
ancient fanner who ~ I Mat die same time ridiculous
andwdTheandentfannerhadahoeonhis
shoulder and was wearing the obligatory conical white
ho. His chest TO bony and he looked so old.k$
sturdy legti were scarred. The ancient f a e i didn't
speak to us. Hefust stood there beside the trail with .-
~iceshoots in his hand, calm, his Blind rehearsing &e
hard work he had to do that day. .
- ?
*

The andent farmer smiled. He saw the frantic chfl- 1 -


&en with their fat burden of death and he felt sow
for us. So he smiled to show that he understood what ?
we were going through.Then my M-16was vibrating '-?
and invisiblemetal mi& were snapping through theb- - --
ancient f d s body as though he were a bag of dry A:

sticks. *-
The ancient fanner looked at me.As he fell forward. ,
intothedarkwaterhisfacewastranquilandIcould ,-;-
see that he understood. -.'.
Â¥

AftermyfirstconfirmedIdHIbefsmtounderstand
that ft 'was not necessary to understand. What you do, .IF
you behme. Hie insights of one moment are blotted1 >:
outbytheeventsofdienext.Andnoamountofin-
sight could ever alter the cold,black fact of what I had -2
done. I -was caught up in a constricting web of dark- :.;
mess, and, like the ancient fanner, I was suddenly 2
very calm, just as I had been calm when die mine CT
detonated, because there was nothing I could do. I-5
was defining myself with bullets; blood had blemished .'- -
my Yankee Doodle dream that everything would have .. .,
a happy ending, and that I, when die war was over, -
would retain to hometown America in a white silk- .-'
uniform, a rainbow of campaign ribbons across my
chest, brave beyond belief, the military Jesus.
I think about my first IdU for a long time. At twilight- .
a corpsman appears. I explain to him that Marines* . -
never abandon their dead or wounded., .
-I
The corpsman looks at each of Eafter Man's pup&
several times. "What?",
I shrug.I say. "Payback Is a motherfucker."
"What?" The corpsman is confused. The coipsmari
isobviously a-New Guy.
..
Tanks for the memories ." I say, because I do
not know how to tell him how I feel You're a machine
gunner who has come to the end of his last belt
You're waiting, staring out through the barbed wire
at the little men who sse assaulting your position. You -
see their tiny toy-soldier bayonets and their deter-
& ~ q d a * b ~ ' = a d ~ w b
has come to the end of Us last be& and {here'snothing
you can da The little men are going to grow and
grow and grow~illuminatedby the fluid, ghostly fire
of a star flareÑan then the/re going to run up over
you and cut you up with Imives. Ton see this. You
W ti&. But ym*m a-maddm gunner who has
&me to the end of hia last belt and there's nothing
you can do; In their distant fury {he Bide men are
your brothers and you love them mgce than you love
your friends. So you wait for the little men to come and
you know you'll be waitingforthemwhenthey comebe-
cause you no longer have anywhere else to go.
The corpsman i s confused. He does not understand
.. .
why I'm smiling. "Are you okay, Marinel'!''' Yes,he is a
New Guy for sure.
I ditty-bopdown the road. The copmmii calls after
me. I ignore him.
A mile away from the place of fear I stick out my
thInnh
I'm dirty, unshaveii, ind
6
BODY COURT .
~tarn,thinking~vegotsomeslack,thinkingI've- -
got a ride. -4

A poge colonel pounces out of the jeep, &ches up * 1


to face me. "MARINEI* \

I think: Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me? "Ayes, -" -


aye, sir."
"Corporal, don't you know how to execute ft hand -
salute?"
:
-
-:>-
?
'

*1u. .
\

Yes, aÈr. I salute. I hold the salute until the pge' .


colonel snaps his hand to his starched barracks cover .' 77
and I hold the salute for an extra couple of seconds - +

before cutting it away sharply. Now the poge colonel- - ...


has boon identified as an officer to any enemy snipe+wl - ,-
in the area. - -., -. -.-
-?-
,
"Corporal, don't you know how to stand to oftenr; ,.
(ton?" . -
Bight away I start wishing I was back in the shit. In .
battles there are no police, only people who waflt @ ' --- +

shoot you. In battles there are no poges. Poges try to- S- <

kill you on the inside. Poges leave your body'intact ,


because your muscles are all they want trona you
way.
I stand to attention, wobbling slightly beneath dr
sixty pounds of gear I 'm humping.
The poge colonel has a classic granite jaw. I'm sai
that the Marine Corps must have a strict examinatio
at the officers' candidate school at Quandco designe
to eliminate all officer candidates who lack the granite
jaw.
ffis Jungle utilities are razor-creased, starched to
the consistency of green armor. He executes a flaw&. ,
Short Pause, a favorite technique of leaders of men,.
designed to inflict its victim with fatal
Having no desire to damage the colonel's
Marine ..." The colonel,stands ramrod straight
tins.~ceistheAir,ofCommand,intendedtoin-
Jjmidate me, despite the fact that Fm a foot taller
- andoutweigh himby fifty pounds. The colonel in-
'
.
vestigates the underside of my dde. "Marine. ." H e
fleesthatword."What~sWonyourbod~armor
Siiariae?".
- - --air
-.
The poge colonel stands on tiptoe. For a moment
-

- fm afraid he's going to bite me in the neck. But he


o n l y wants to breathe on me. His smile is cold. His
- #bIstoowhite."Marine..."
-
- - -¥¥Ste
- - I-mked you a question."
. --: .T on mean this peace button, sirP
. - 2"WhatfeftP"
. ."
-%peace symbol, sir. , -
- ^Iwait patiently while the colonel tries to remember
-the. -Ma- h W R&~&ps wid
isUb0ixlinatePersonnel"chapterof hisOCStextbook.
v
'^f
: 'Thepoge coIonel confhqm to breathe all over my
- .-

-:- (ace.= breathmdb of mint ~ a rcmps i ~o f f i c ~ ~ s


- *notallowedtohavebadbreath,bodyodor,acne
. --@t@&s, nor holm in their m$mwear. Marine Corps

. -*
x- ? zr: *officersarenotallowedtohaveanythingthathasnot
= issued to them.
&- .-- - .-:A
'-2
- . a The
. colonel jabs my button with a forefinger, gives
- 3ije &fairly decent Polished Glare. His bhe eyes -
-.-- -.-?@arkle;"That's right, son,act innocent But I know
.
- - kb&t that button means? >

- "ye^*!-
136
-
SHORT-TIMERS
I~ I L

An hour later a deuce-and-a-half slams on its b r a %


I climb up into t h e a b with the driver.
During the b m p y ride back to Phu 3d the aver
of the deucwmd-a&ilf teb me about a mathematid
system he has devised which he will use to b r e d t h
b d ' i n as vegas as m n as he gets back to the
World
As&&mt&themnpsdmdIW:
Fifiy-four days and a wabup*

f i e gat forty-mine clays and a wake-up left in mun-


try when Captain Jmuary hands me a piece of paper.
Captain January mumbk somethhg a b u t how he ,

h o p I have gmd luck and then he g a s to &ow even


though if^ not chaw time,
. The piece of paper orders me to report for daty as
a rifleman with Delta Company, One-Fivq amenfly
based at the Khe Sanh.
I say good-bye to CbB Vendor a d Daytom Dave
adW.PaybdmdIM&emhtrm~bba
- grunt because now I won* h v e to Wte captiom for
amcity pbtographs they just Ne away or tell any
more lies because thtwds nothbg more the Ii£ercan
threaten me with 'What are they gobg to d ~ e n d
, me toViet NamY.
Delta Six mb Cowboy a husi and I'm cdgned to
Cowboy's s q u d as tihe &st f i e team l e a d h e as-
SISW q~d IWI~MUI~~I rve got =- H ~ =-
H
perience to run my own d e squad.
There it b.
clouds float across the wHte EKS,clouds like @eat
metal ships. Black wings beating, enonnous objects
faffing.AmLightintheinoDSoohrain;anairstrikein
the dark Aflight of B-52 bombers dides Ehe Sanh,
-ed----*-
thousand pounds. Each egg knocks a hole Into the
coldeaiA,pimchesacrateirintofheciHistdcting~b
d&-w*m--
meahavedagtovithina handled yank of oar w h
Blade and the earth upIftethedeckofa
'great ship,heaves up towaid the droning death birds.
Even15die
shadows in the
with entrenching took.The holes a% little graves and
holdtherich,dampodorofthe
Themoiiwmnrainiscold nT" heavyandisthrown
bythe w i n d - T h e w haspowoc.
The wind roars,hisses, whispers seductively. The wind
143
THE SHORT-TIMERS
daws at the shelters we have constructed with pon-
chos and nylon cord and scraps of bamboo. ^s"-z: - -a

Raindrops thump my poncho like pebbles falling!"&! , -.--

into a broken drum.Half asleep, my face pressed into*~


my gear, I listen to the sounds of the horror that,^
is everywhere, buried just beneath the surface $ %!
of the earth. IB my dreams of blood I mains love to-%
a skeleton. Bones did, the earth moves, my testicles.'%%?
,/, . i. ;,-?
--a
explode. .-.-is
, T-.
T-'

Shrapnel bites my shelter. I wake up. I listen tea?:


the fading drone of the B-52's. I listen to the breath-r-<&
ing of my squad of brothers, nightmare men in the-?%
dark
.
$9
-
Outside our wire an enemy grunt is screaming ;4 -; *,>"s--
invisible airplanes that have killed him. :.:y -
I try to dream something beautiful. ...
My grand----%
We,".,

. mother sits in a rocking chair on her front porch shoot-


ing Viet Gong who have stepped on her roses. She
drinks the blood of a dragon from a black Coca-Cola
bottle while Goring my mother with fat white breasts
nurses me and drives Germany on and on, his words
cut from {he armor plate of a tank. ...
I sleep on steel, my face on a pillow of blood I
bayonet teddy bear and I snore. Bad dreams are some-
tiling you ate. So sleepy you mother.
The wind roars up under my shelter and rips the
poncho off its bamboo frame, snapping the lines that
seemed it Rain falls on me Bice a wave of icy black
water.
An angry voice drifts in from beyond the wire. An
w i5 saying dirty words I don't under-
man in the dark. ...
stand. An enemy sergeant has stumbled over a dead

144
GRUNTS
GRUNTS
THE SHORT-TIMERS
"Oh, screw yourself, New Guy," says Animal Moth-
er, not looking up. Mother is holding his M-60 machine
gun in his lap and is massaging the black vanadium
steel with a white cloth. You ain't been in country a
week and already you're saltier than shit. You ain't
been born yet, New Guy. Wait until you got a little
T.I., candy ass, and then I may allow you to speak.
Yeah, a little fucking time in."
"Gong ho!" I say, grinning.
Animal Mother says, "Fuck you, Jok
breaking down the machine gun.
I blow Mother a kiss. Animal Mother is a swine,no
doubt about it, but he's also big and mean; he inspires
a certain tolerance.
"Joker thinks he has an outstanding program,"
Mother teOs the New Guy. "Going to Hollywood after
he rotates bade to the World. If I don't waste him
first. Going to be Paul fucking Newman. My ass."
Animal Mother pulls out a deck of poker cards. The
cards are dog-eared and greasy and have photographs
of Tijuana whores on them. The Tijuana whores are
establishing meaningful relationships with donkeys
and big dogs.
Animal Mother deals draw poker hands to himself
akd to the New Guy.
The New Guy hesitate, then scrapes up his cards.
Animal Mother unbuckles his field pack and pulls
out a brown plastic rack of poker chipered, white,
and blue. Mother takes a stack of plastic chips from
Â¥thrack and drops them on the deck in front of the
iMew Qssy. "Whçyou from,you w e Ait?"
"Texas, sir."
"Sir, my ass. This ain't P.I. and there ain't no way
cer. Never happen. Ain't
GRUNTS
evestheassistantsquadleaderanymore..NowTvaa
private~themost popular rank in the Marine Corps.
Gotniorefuddngops,morecoofiimedIdJIs,andmore
TJ.than any grunt in dlls squad-including Cowboy:
AirimalMotherspits,scratchesthedaifcstubbleonhis
chin."Flipped a bird to a poge-colonel at thebig PX
on Freedom Hffl.Got me busted from sergeant3-
thefoddngplatoonsergeant ~ o s l a c kjust&back.
to the World.Back in Queens I tool; me a tide @.this
Lincoln~ontinental~twasa beautifulmachine.~he
fudge gave me a choice between the Crotch and hard
SaaeinastonehotelSoIbecameamercenary.1
should barn gonetoprison.Neyv Gay. T l y d s less
humping." Animal Mother grins. "So don't 4me
Oat W shit Save that lifer sbit Sac pgw Was the
Joker."
I Bin. "Hey, MothCT, I'm big but I'm why, Â
Animal Mother says, "Yeah,I bmw,you're so tot&
....
-bite the headsoff animalcrackera.-Animal
MotherturnstoCowboy:'Hey,LoneRanger,theygot
your little sister ta the Crotch. Here she sits, a lean
Marine in the green machine." Turning back to the
New Guy: "Our honcho Is from Texas,too,fie
maggotDallas.HewearsthatStetsonsodiegoofcs
wiD see that they b dealing wit&a real Texas law-
man.-
Cowboy h k y pokw, other" ow boy pi&
np a B-8 unit, a Htfle can containing John Wayne
cookies, cocoa, and pineapple jam. Cowboy cuts open
the can with a little P-88folding can opener onhis,
"Iwon't say it agate."
WtSave to get hard. Whflt any
Viet NamP Cut me some
IWE SHORT-TIMERS
Cowboy waves his hand and the squad EoveS out
M y gear feels like a bag of rocks, heavier than be*
fore.
Animal Mother tdk Parker, die New Guy, 'Don't
follow me too dose.New Guy. If you step on a mine
I don't want to get fucked up."
Parker steps back.
Is my custom, I salute Animal Mother iu that
say snipers in the area will assume {bat he is an of-
fioeraiidshoot himinstead of me. I have becomea
little paranoid since I painted a red bull's-eye on (he
top of my helmet
Animal Mother retains my salute, the3 spits, then
grins. "You
arealcomedian"
- son&-a-bitch. You're
are funny, you
*Saay 'bout that,'*I say,
' I
Searching for something we don't want to
hump. And hump. And when d m so bone-sore tired
that our minds sever contact with our bodies, we
hump even faster, green phantomsin the twiBgbt
from somewhere, from everywhere, an almost in-
audible snap.
A bird @es iiisme. One bird sputters Overhead
And a great weight of birds shifts across the canopy.
Alice stands rigid &d listens. He raises his right '

ink-rS.t .--
-È-^L*-
--
-I-"-.
>* -. b.

g;$::;<s - - - - ---*&-=
> .

- - ---
\-rf

&
%
+: iA2< -- - *>>-.
* p- -
Alice is trying. to crawl to
Alice extends his gloved light hand
. . -

unhooks the Unit One medical Idt from his web belt
and drops the rest of his gear.
Cowboy looks sick. TDon't fay it, bra That sniper
..
does not miss. ."
T m the corpsman," says Doc Jay. "Not you." And
.- .

--:;before Cowboy can react,,Doc Jay is on his feet


-2 miming. He runs at a crouch, zigzagging.
~ang.
Doc Jay srumbles,
Hie Doc's left thigh has been to15 open. Jagged
one ~rotrudes.The Doc tries to oush himself forward

.
"We've got to do something..." m
The squad bunches up behind the boulder. "Spread
it," I say, halfheartedly. The New Guy Is watching
ith wild eyes, his weapon held at port anus. Animal
[othe/s bloodshot eyes scan the canopy for muzzle
.ycA"-F.c9-..; .:,; . .
- ...?- - . - -
:..-. <?:--:=.:--
- ;
. :-..::. -..
Eiz2fi27 :
;
-;:; ....:...:,,.-
.. -.. ,.,..--.

z --- ;-::-'-:Ty
. -><:-$J-;:+:-,.-..
< . .
. -
2:- , . - -
..,. . ;:;a
.
-
.... ,:. ,- ..L. .-. .
- .
--.-
- ..
.-
h...
-. .>.
. . -
-,, -.:. . . - ..
:
.>
.
. -.. :-= . :
~ -
.a : ' .~
-. -: < : . .
::
; - .
.
.. ..
the dean stroke of
be short-timers will fly
ornetown America. But

tand. Soon they won't be afraid. The c


surface and they'll be like me; they'll be
% shoots Alice through the back of the head.
Bang. Alice's face is blown off by the forty-five cali-
ber bullet Alice flops as though electrocuted.
- . Cowboy raises the pistol and presses the huge bar-
,
: 7
rel tohisright temp&-
THE SHORT-TIMERS
I raise my grease gun and Iaiq it at Cowboy's face.
Cowboy looks pitiful and he's terrified. Cowboy is
paralyzed by the shock that is sotting in and by the
helplessness. I hardly know him. I remember the first
timeI saw Cowboy, on Parris Island, laughing, beating
his Stetson on Iris thigh.
I look at him. He looks at the grape gun. He calls
oats "I NEVER LIKED YOU, JOKER. I NEVER
THOUGHT YOU WERE FUNNY-"
Bang. I sight down the short metal tube and I watch
my bullet enter Cowboy's left eye. My bullet passes
through his eye socket, punches through fluid-@led
sinus cavities, through membranes, nerves, arteries,
muscle tissue, through the tiny blood vessels that
feed three pounds of gray butter-soft high protein
meat where brain cells arranged like jewels in a dock
how every thought and memory and dream of one
adult male Homo sapiens.
My bullet exits through the occipital bone, knocks,:-
out hairy, brain-wet clods of jagged meat, then buries :
itselfintherootsofqtree. ifc^
Silence.Anima1 Mother lowers his Ma. ;+- a

Animal Mo&ez, Ddon, Lane '~oxporal~ t o ~ % '


Harris, and the other guys in the squad do not speak.
- Everyone relaxes, glad to be alive. Everyone hates say,
guts, kt they know I'm right. I am their sergeant,
they are my men. Cowboy was lolled by sniper fee^
they'll say, but they'll never see we again; til be in-
visible.
"Saddleup,"I say, and the squad responds. Packsare
hfifted up. H i e flap and rattle of equipment A grunt,
a growl, and the Lusthog Squad is ready to move.
I study their faces. Then I say, "Man-oh-man,Cow"
- boy looks like .a bag of leftovers from a V.F.W. barbe-
178
THE SHORT-TIMERS
'aSAV&Ef UNFORGMNG LOOK N A
SAVYGEf UNFORGWMLE TIME:
-lOS ANGELES TIMES
FORGET ALL THE MYTHS ABOUT
HONOR AND GLORY.. .THIS IS THE REAL WAR.
Vietnam#1968. A nightmarish landscape blackened by
napalm and littered with once-human debris. Whe,re
victories are measured in mountains of corpses and
ordinary men are transformed into obsessive executioners.
This is the brutally honest story of Cpl. Joker and his battle-
hardened company survivors of months of unimaginable
horror-the crazy-tough and the phony-brave#religiously
counting the days until their release from the green prison-
of combat. But they all know one uh$poken truth-hat.
even though they're on their way out#t h ~ ilastr few hours +'

in Nam could become their last hours on earth.;;:.:


-
T
-HE-
,..d

"FINE AND REAlAND TERRIFYING:


-MWS