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

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THE SBORT-TIMESS
The S]wft.rImers,leatherneck version of C t h a ac22,1 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.

T e e is an eaonnons feeling o horror.6 Arresthr f
Ingà disturbing,8 often very funny? honest and accurate,* chock full o undeniable truths, The f Short-Thnera is a savage, unforgiving look at a savage, unforgivable time.ll
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Read it if you dam.$+T . ..;
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"POWERFUL AND ELECTRIFYING."

THE SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET
waswhatweiwainssei

Dispatch

TheMarines arelooldngfor a few goodmen.. The recruit says that bSs name i Leonard Pratt s Gunnery Sergeant Gerheim takes one lode at the immediately dubs 1dm "Goma trying to be funny. Nobody.

..

z.-;::<. r-e¥¥y/z*

laughs*

brick buildings.Willow trees hung thick with Spanish
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dm Green Madnm*Tbra3 junior a imm* screaming, "GET IN LINE1 GET IN LlNl3! YOU WILL NOT MOVE1 YOU WILL NOT BPEWQ"Red

a

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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.

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TnE SHORT-TIMERS

Sesgemt Gerhebii steps ovbr d struggEg-bodies, &omps &gas# k& ~ b with &e b e of his boot i s qem H Chi% You maggots are hufbg and pdhg . - the way your momma did the first tixne your old man

THE BAYONET

&A. < ,-' % '

"^s^--^; * - ^t ';
<-

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Me&

THE SPIRIT OF

THE BAYONET

willteachyouhowtopee." I say, "SIR, THE PBIVATE WOULD PREFER TO STAY WITH HIS BUNKMATE, PBIVATE COW-

lo?. smr

G@dJq??# you &m&e & polep'' $par$

"Outstanding. "Inen Private Joker wiU with PrivateFykPrivate Jokerissilly andlie'signorant, but he's got guts, and gats i enough." s Sergeant Gerhefan struts back to his Tpahce," a tiny at the far end of the squad bay. "okay. ladies.
ready... MOUNT!"

-NEGATIVE,

am

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F 5 - ? L& : s - ; &-2 Ar .c--k~-4-ssra^"--

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W e alljump into our racks (aidfreeze.
"Sing."

w & - h t b h w m
~ d ~ ~

awrn---b*dm
b - w - m h w t w
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rnm-mhf~dabu

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

-&wmbwwdw*h

Wh~d*hy~ehbrnbY&a
G W M m a H e + t b b a h a g m =.- d " e

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S w into the yellow pool Leonard struggles.Bubo n bles. P d c gives Leonard strength.Sergeant G r e* holdshimdown. After we're sure that Leonard has drowned, Serpant 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. B excludes Leonard e , '.ffom & I While Leonard restsà we do - : Squat-thrusts sad side-straddle hops, many, many of
,,-

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--ate.

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&tmidttouches my aim as we move through the 3 & 6 line with our metal trays. " just can't do no& ~ I

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'

By the end of our seventh week Leonard has be'@me a model recruit W decide that Leonard's e . 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 every1 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 f -*-="- . " Sergeant Gerheim reminds Leonard that "Gung ul , &P is ~hinhe "workingtogether." for .--.:- = It Is a Marine Corps tradition. Sergeant Gerheim : .'"',says, that M r n s never abandon their dead en* aie --.-. 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 c -;.i@y a d slashed his wrists with his bayonet. Sergeant G:,CAyhefan ¥wa n t happy to see a recruit bk~ding o e "j Ms rice dean squad bay. The recnrit was or? iB o p n -."& a to police the area, mob up the blood, and remd at&- the bayonet in its sheath. While Peridns mopped .. -the blood, S e r - Gerheim called a school cirde 5 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 ++ -F , - %&or blade and slash deep and vertical, from wrist to :
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THE SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET

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elbow, Sergeant Gerheim said. Then he allowed Perkinstodouble-timetosidebay. ,-s^' - -.f. leavesLeonardalonemd&, 2 %
4

ofus.

to Mom and Dad back

tosee(hatweaz6

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

à m ‡

look Aooktd.

Nobody m v s Nobody says mything. oe. tbiiilcLeonardcanhadeitanymore.Ithink is a Section Eight" Now guys all along the table axe

mare.

Private Bamard nods. Tve been having this My rifle talks to m . H hesitates. e" e

.. .

vosQ. down his throat and out of

crushed.He groans. The platoon freezes.

=&Not one word."

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Gerheim snaps out Ids last to mount Readddy ,

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weapons held at port aims. W say our prayerst e

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 i weeks. His n voice booms louder and louder. Heads turn. Bodies shift. The platoon voice fades. Leonard is about to explode. 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 i Leonard's neck are bulging as he bellows: n

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T H SPIRIT ~

OF THE BAYONET

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$fY RIFLE I HUMAN, EVEN AS I BECAUSE*.<f S , ' X IS MY LIFE. THUS I WILL LEARN IT AS A gOTHER.I WILL LEABN ITS ACCESSOBIES, . SIGHTS, CTS .
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OF EACH OTHER.

ISNO ENEMY BUT PEACE1

lH ' - - - &YE-AYE, SIR!* 3 - 3 3 at flie rifle slun&.oa nay rack. Ifs a beautiful took 2 t , designed,&and symmetrical. M y rifleis dean, oiled,andworksperfectly. I f s a
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- . M e I touch it tool
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Sergeant Gwheim inarches down fhe length of the

F ^ i"THE BEST OF YOU ANIMALS COULD ^s~> -. bay. ;-- - TAKE LESSONS FROM PRIVATE PYLE. He% -s@ared away. Yon are all squared away. Tomonow

-*,* be Marines.'READDDY.;. SLEEPIR will .
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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 distributed. Cowboy, Leonard, Private Barnard, Philips, and most of the other Marines in Platoon 30-92 are ordered to ITR-tihe Infantry Training Regimentto 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 "disgusted by the fact that I am to be a combat corondent 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 Germ 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 i Private s
no

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SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET Pyle%T3Sa& tnat WeaponP Why ain't : stomping Private PyWs guts out?" -"SIB, it is die private's duty to reportatoul mags" instructor that Private Pyle has fl due and has locked and loaded, SIR." : : -. . 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 rubher flip-flop shower shoes and hairy legs and t t o at 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 JofanWa--Suribachi voice: "Listentome.Private P y h You wiU place your weapon on your rack and-"
:, ; "

--,--7.

... . .

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"NO1 YOU CANT HAVE HER! S E S MINE1 H' YOU HEAR MEP SHE'S MINE! 1LOVEHERT^!%

Gummy Sergeant Gerhdm cant control any longer. "NOW YOU LISTEN TO ME, YOU

hfinseff

FUCKING WORTHLESS LITTLE PIECE OF S I . HT 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 ' 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 bwwtiful as the dark dde surfaces. H e

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THE SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET

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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 o u . f s And, d around the world, hundreds of t h o u ~ d s . l 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 t puncture a d quick to dr&n, but our hard tools of o
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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 teakwood 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 i t Bvhg fragments. Each fragment is a no spider. Millions and millions of tiny red spiders of blood are crawling up my arms, across my face, into

my ma&.

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Silence. In the dark, a hundred men are breathing i unitxm. n I look at Cowboy, then at ?-ate Barnard. T%ey
faces. They nod. The newly minted Marines i my platoon stand t n o

Tet: TheYear of the Monkey. Bafter Man and I spend theVietnameselunarYen's Eve, 1 6 , at the Freedom Hill PX ma$-@ 98
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thefreedom

cm by American forces. Major L n h thinks1 u yc rate.soxoeslackbeforeIreturntotheISOofficein Ha~al.~ylastthreefieldoperationswererealshit.

factthatHil1327wastilefirstpermanentpositionw

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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 jb" o. He gives MFC's to a pretty Vietnamese cashier. Outside, an apprentice Viet Cong forces me to submit 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 yur in the field and it'll be my fault o'e Your mom will find me after I rotate back to the World. Your mom w l beat the shit out of me.Thafs i l a negative, Rafter. Fm not a sergeant, P n only a cori 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. W ask {he Bed Cross g3xls e

if they expect us to satisfy our lust w t a donut and ih 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,
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THE SHORT-TlfdERS ross to help soldie&. WeTlltelp to come bade. If possible, we'll

From Your Country,
CJld
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Dear Friend in Battle: I am eight years old. I have one brother. I have one sister. It must be sad over there. .Vi 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 m d m -f :a t Korean belly dancers wem entatdhg aii SRO ~k2audiencs. Rafter M n was hammered, but rn was & a I d d n ' t f i t o p h W were b a & n e a r h ene \

:z---< M a 2

AQ

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 o enlisted men, having assumed that f 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 sil & U l k many Marine Corps generals, General a nie M t r looked exactly like a M r n Corps general, oos aie eyes a gray as gun metal, a face that was tough but s - sensitive-a Cro-Magnon holy man's face. His jungle utilities were starched, razor-creased, with shirt,- .- .- sleeves rolled up neatly. R f e Man stood there, staring at the general, grinatr ? ning like a goddamn fool, He wobbled. He tried to walk hut he couldn't He was having enough trouble just s a d n in one place. tnig : , . . - General Motors ordered the broken table cleared

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trance and R f e Man decided that the only way he atr was going to get a good look at the seminude belly dancers was to climb up into the rafters and crawl out

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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.
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BODY COUNT

The general nodded, then sat down on the floor n x to Bafter Man. With a wave of his handhe et ordered the staff o f c r to s t on the floor b h n fies i eid him, which they did, still Hissed of f. With another wave o f his hand the generalordered the performersto go on with the show. The Australian comedian and the sweating dancers hesitated. Rafter Man stood up. . He wobbled, then sank down to the deck beside the general. He put his aim around the geneds shoulders. General M t r looked at him without q. oos pression. Rafter Man said, "Hey, bro, I can fly.-&@$ you see me fly?" He paused. "You think am,I drunk?~mea~am~hammeredoram~hamm~? He looked around "Joker?W s Joker?"B t IWEBu still stumbling over angry poges. "JoWa my broi?Sife Weenlistedpersonnelaretight,youknow?Ind$ bitably.1 am hi love w t those sexy women. I ih &at. His face got serious. "Who'll take-fte through the wire? Sir? Where's Joker?" He around, but didn't see me. TB fafl in the - @ <E b o myself up. Sir? SIR? ni step on a mine. I,gaf,$p lw find m y bro, sir. I dodt want to fell into the wire,noi

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w.

again. JOKER!"

General Motors looked at Rafter Man and smiled. "Don't worry, son. Marines never abandon ti^

~ 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, sr" i. The A s r l a comedian ami the meaty Kelly utain , , dancers resumed their act, w i h consisted pmnaaaly. hc of double-takes fro& the comedian every time 51
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Daytona Dave laughs. "That kid runs an NVA riflecompany. Somebody blow him away." I grin. "You ladies are doing an outstanding job. You're both born poges." Cil Vendor shrugs. "Hey,bro, the Crotch don't hl 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 u . Of s 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 w t 3ih ~2this uppity wetback." "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

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Captain January is in his cubtde in theback of the I S 0 hootch. Captain January is the kind of officerwho c e s an unlit pipe because he thinks hw 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 w t Mr. Payback. ih saaffy is our unit Captain January isn't Captain
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Queeg, but then h' n t Humphrey Bogart, either. He es o picks up laSs little silver shoe and moves it to B l i , atc Avenue, tapping each property along the way. - - TilbuyBdtie.AndtwoLooses."CaptainJanuary ;reaches for the white and purple deed to Baltic Av&

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nue. That's another monopoly. Sergeantw H e podb n s tiny greenhouses on board. "Joker, yuv o'e scarfedupbeaucoup slackinDaNangandIam+ that now you are squared away toget bade into the field.Hump up to H e The NVA havedou. the - - --- city. One-One is in theshit" - - > .

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killed my story on that howitzer crew who - I whole squad of NVA with one beehive round? In Da N n some poges told me that a colonel ag 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.
W' M a & -grmti~.wz e TWS i p& t m? u word for i Ten thousand feathered stainless steel t darts.Thosefl^chette do convert go&
lumpsofshittyfags.

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

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TOALLWHOUSEETHESEPRESENTS,

KNOW YE THAT BEPOSING SPECIAL TRUST
CTDENCEOfTHESTDEiinOS JAMEST.DAVIS,

STATES MABTOE! COBPS..

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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 i n stride."What did you say, Sergeant?"

motion.

This is the only war wefw got,

make the world safe for

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~MSRS &y and he t e n . W& is & busfa&!~~nvest i d ; ysiaa son. W NEUXLa : e e having tosay you're ve savr ^s s b y . Arb& Macht FreiÑ"
"S&geant

"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. W r is a a -.-=-noisy breakfast food. War i fun.to eat. War can five s ' . - _ :p, checkups. Wr cores canceI?Ñpermanent better a Tfc I don't hfll.I write. G a t Ml; I only watch. Tm rns Z- only young Dr. Goebbels. I'm not a sergeant" I sddt = ^ i: Sr Captain January'ssilver shoe lands on Oriental Avenue. There is a tiny red plastic hotel on Oriental Avehue. 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 geant, you will be wearing chevrons indicating yaw: proper rank the next time I see you- or I ¥wil definitely . jump on your program. Do you want to be a grant? . ' Hnot, you will remove that unauthorized peace but.- . tonfromyourdutyuniform."
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'Idon'tsayanything. Captain & m ~ a i y looks at Rafter Man. "Who's this? Sound off. Marine." - '" --'£fis.=;-'j. k ra^ *-& -- : . -->% % :?.A^ , Rafter Man stutters, --ss :>: --v-,* - - .---. . I say, '"This is Lance Corporal Compton, sir. The Gay to Photo." "Outstanding. Weleome aboard. Marine. Joker, make sleeping sounds here tonight and head up to fine in the morning. Wle Cronldte is due here toatr
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~ O s s s w well be busy* ni need C2riK Vendor saS so Daytona here. But your job is important, t o General o. Motors called me about this personally. We need some And some hard-hitting e p a of indigenous civilian personnelwhohavebeenexecutedwiththeirhoodstied 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 , say naked bodies Ideas"Doa't ewem the/reurntflated,* ; "Aye-aye, six" ' ~ J o ~ , , à § " - -. ;

..."

"Ye&&F
"Getahaircut." 1 - y ,
"Aye-aye,sir."

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As M .Payback releases h s lit& silver car Captain r i Jan@ gaysÃ"TIuÈ houses! Three faousesiPark ingPIad W s ,* " e g t d las a hy oi rr Mr. Payback counts out all o his money. "That f breaks me, Captain, I sswe you seven backs." Captain January rakes up the pile of MFC, a shiteating grin on his face. "You do not understand ness, M .Payback. If we had Marine generds w o e h 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
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blood ami iroq but ~ f printed wift ~nkmii its ,pm s good show business but we make them what they are. The lesser services like to joke about how every Marine platoon goes into battle accompanied by a pla-toon of M r n Craps photographers. That's affirmaaie tive. Marines fight -harderbecause JM@w have big-. ger legends to live up t. o" 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 i my n 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 incountry R & R You can see him after you come back . f o Hue." Captain January looks at his wristwatch. rm 'Seventeen hundred. Chow time." .

-

-

.

to chow Rafter Man and I meet Chill Oa Vendor and Daytona Dave and M . Payback at the r 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 t e Ninth Infantry Divih 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
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@aeaert,

& : o n

Keel-Aid and sbit-on-a-shingleÑchippe Deer toast-with peanut butter and jelly sandwidies for

"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." " ~ nthe ~ o is d&t t p I main, maybe the crotch is his home,and he makes us do a good job, but he. don't harass us with M c e Mouse shit. He cuts the iky snuffies some slack when he can. The Top's not a lifer; he's a career M r n .Lifers are a breed. A lifer aie is anybody who abuses authority he d e n t deserve os' - t o have. There are plenty of civilian lifers." Hie Army m s sergeant with the big cigar spotes she& &D.'s. The Army mess sergeant with the big cigar takes tile shiny m s trays out of our hands and throws us , es outofVismesshalL . W retreat to the Mrn mess hall where we eat e aie shit-on-a-shingle and drink lukewarm Kool-Aid and wetalkabouttowtheAnnycouMbveatleastson" ~enirea some leftovers since that's all the MarineT! us

we take a moment to pull down flie green plastic ponchos nailed on tike outside

bad: to our hootch. Laugh-

o thehootch. ~uringthenighttheponchoswillkeep light in and raia ouL

... -.

-WE. SHOpTWeRS We Be on our& and scuMebxitt. On the 2. - . &ling, the combat correspondent's motto in six-inch ---. block letters: TXBSTTO GO, LAST TO KNOW, WE WBLL 2-

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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 ' @. Well, New Guy, listen up, because this is no shit. f .Januaryorders me to play Monopoly. All fucking day. --'=- .- 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 .on .- . napalm canisters, that's payback. When you ~ h i t a . people it comes back to you, sooner or later, only .'..' . worse. My whole program is a mess because of l f r . ies - 3 - But payback will come, swner or later. I'd walk a .-, Joile for a payback." I laugh. "Payback, you hate lifers because you are . a lfr" ie. &= % &S @z Yur - Mr. Payback lights up a joint " o ' e the one who's tight with the lifers. Joker. Lifers take care of their ? own." . "Negative. The lifers are afraid to talk to me,I got so manyops." -=-"Operations? Shit" Mr. Payback turns to Rafter 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*" - >.

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fay."

We r s for a while andthen we gather up the baret 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, fi off the tip of Its tafl.Then, swallowing, Mr. Paya e back says, Wnimni love them crispy critters." H e ofgrins. He bends owesà picks up fers it to Rafter Man. - Rafter Man is fro= H can't sp e ob

...

attiierat Mi. Payback laughs. "Whafs wrens New Guy? Dm% want to be a IdUerP" you We buy the enemy rats with h â i military 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, n d w e ~ W 8 g ~ b v o m i t a In& d he @& his t5& 'I'hf333, closing his l!yC!B, a,

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day ames qddy, bum-

uptherbpatthreardtbviand ~ ~ J M M I immediately, anystretchers. On the smt&em a bloody m

calpoetryofironandguns. -.' Suddenly the tank shifts t the left Rafter p {be turret M t l ea aid I are thrown hard m t l The task hits a bump, shifting sharply ea. right and jerking to a halt, throwing us forward. &an and I hang onto the gun and say, "Son-of-a-

-

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, rollon a d 0x1 fomerF k k g the dark me cmq m i '

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 & its curved horns. Qa the deck, i the center of the= n road,I see a tiny body, facedown. Ç - - Chattering ~ietnamese dvflianà pour out of nadride hootches, staring md pointtog. The Vietnam-@g gsa civilians crowd around to see hoy their Ameri-*i -¥~ 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 aiivSsat 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 i t The blond tank commander climbs up- onto his tank.? 1 ,%-2
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struckgrunts who strike combat-Marine poses, pretending to be what they are. They all want Walter Cronldte to m e their sisters. In wie shortwsleeved et ht shirts the CBS cameramen hurry off to photograph . death in living color. I stop a m s e sergeant. "Top, we waht to get into atr
.
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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. OneFive. 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 into the compound, each man holding up one comer of a poncho. On die poncho is a dead M r n . The aie 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 Perfumes. 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 M r n s though.The BOX'S are aie, so hard that they got muscles i their s i The n ht &e Dragon Brigade. I was on an op with them down by Hoi An." A shot pops from the shore. T e bullet buzzes over. h ' B e gunboat crew opens up with a fifty-calibermaaemmdafw*-&,.
'

'

*

.

lets b c k up thin +dks of water along the river bank. H holds hispiece at port anus,first to fight e
tween the Citadel

Bgfter Man wa

Mth joy in his eyes as the fc$-

T e Strawberry Patch, a large triangle of l e d beh and the R v r of Perfumes, is a ie 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

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gray sky is d a i g The white mist is moving, e rn . e x p e g Hue to the *&-!s5
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the Joker and his New Guy. Lot 4 come on, sit8$d share, sit and share."

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Rafter Man and I sit down in the dirt and Cowboy

another

of piasters into"

--.

lights a cigarette. "About half a million P's. K J . u--~--iGi ~ ~ .-- -'Â¥ a thousand dollars per man in American money." Cowboy says. Ton got to write about oar John , .f Wayne lieutenant." Cowboy punches M . Shortrouna - 5 r ; cm the arm. "Mr. Shortround is a mustang. When Ifhs' - -. Cm& made him a lieutenant he was just a wqmra&.;+. just a snuffy like u . He's very little, but he is oh so s 2 bad" Cowboy tilts his head bade and sucks to a long- ; 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 w a o s B a s , even a<: - ->;. 5 epn, . ,.--. fucking mortar. The lieutenant got six ~nfirmed-~Six1 He wasted those "There are NVA
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- * > ? motivated individuals." --Crazy Earl hdds his bottle by the neck and smashes ,-$ It across a fallen statue uf a fat, smiling, bald:headed".--& gook " h s ain't a war, i s a series o w e d a m 2 :-?-.,Ti f f riots. We blow them away. They come up b @ us --l$ >> .. . before we're out of sight and shoot us in the ass. I --know a gay i One-One that shot a gook and then - #& n tied asatchel charge to him and blew him into little' invisible pieces because shooting gooks is a waste ::;1 of' tfaneÑthe 6 back t life.But thesegooh piss yo& ;ii o 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,-, drawing the burp out as long as he can. 'You shouldp2d7 & have smzn A n b d M~~ wasting m.Ai - --.:<
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--

THE SHORTTIMERS

die rear and Animal M t e spit &,te ohr ?.hn 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? V r nervous. I mean,he was nervous. The onlyway ey 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 o second. S (me day ol' Stumbling Stewey pulled the pin and just stood there, staring, just staring and starfrig at that little oT olive-drab egg in his hand. ." Crazy Earl nods, burps. " was just a New Guy the I Say Stumbling Stewey blew himself away and Stoke the Supergrunt took the squad. Stoke made me assistpt 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 another bottle of beer. "Hey, Cowboy, get your Korsel Quick! My crabs are having a rodeo!" Dodon, the radimh, says, " hope we stay here. I This street fighting i decent duty. We can see them s 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 @ No fun& rot No leeches fallingfrom the trees." t . Crazy Earl flips a beer bottle i t the air and the no 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
*for

..

~ r a z TEaoH pots bis aim across the sbooldG&t&e<$ y 'F man next to him. The man has ft bush coverz&ld down over his face, a beer i his hand, a pile of moneyr * n in his lap. This is my bro," says Owy Earl, reaioviajl-z..s fi Imsh cower from the man's face. This is his.,w3^1.: ,:=<% le He is the guest of honor. You see, today is his-birifc . - - - --=*. -. day." ~qfter an looks at m , his mouth e --.. - ,,,--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-: Cay Earl hugs the North V i e t a m e cprgo^fip rz H grins. 1 made him sleeps1' Csazy Earl pats li@....e forefinger to his Ups and w i p r , h s e s "Shhh. He'sresting : ---.now. Before Rafter Man can s a t asldng questions A^p-: - >str teal Mother and another M r n double-time up % @ aie 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.- 8 9

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"This is number one chow, Rafter. The Army eats this %hit humps. Add water and you got real food." on I -,+ . Lieutenant Shortround says, " k y Mother, Oa, , whereadyou souvenir the chowF" Animal Mother spits. He grins, baring rotten teeth. Istoleit." . . ""' "You stole it, sir." .- . "Yeah, I stole it sir." "Thafslooting. They shoot people for thatw ? I it from the Anny stole &." >2 <-",; --"Outstanding. It is part of your duty as a Marine to :* . '2-harass0- sister s d c e g . Cany o . n" -*Cowboy punches the M r n who helped Animal aie p. -Â¥Kz-:hother cany the cardboard box. "This is T.H.E. *A Bock. , #fake him famous. He wears that rock around his neck - [ ^ Q that when the clinks zap him they'll know who he p 5. -h " :W 2-",> ,- T.H.E. Rode grins. "You fucking alcohoEc I wish - "$ou*d stop telling peqple about my r c . H pulls out ok" e ' --.- &rawhide cord sad shows us bis rock, a quartz crystal ,&ounted in brass. ' . Animal Mother props his M-60 machine gun Against a wall and sits down, cross-legged. "Man, I -.-a 2;.almost got me someeatin' pussy." 3 -1 . - T H E Rock says, That's affirmative. Mother was ... - - chasing a little gook girl with his dick hanging F . out, , w - Lieutenant Shortround pulls his K-bar from its 3 .-..- . sheath and cuts a chunk from a block of C-4 plastic ^"!--: ' explosive he has extracted from a Claymore mine. He puts the piece-of C-4 into a little stove he has made r - by punching air holes into an empty C rations can. e ' B e strikes a match and lights the C-4. H e fills a seo."
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B kneels. e ~ itwo blows of the ma& Alice chops off the È"~&&?$~V corporal'sfeet.' ~ picks up ^a& foot by the e : .- toe and drops it into the blue shopping bag. %=':¥^a gook was a very hard dude. Number one1 Big
--->

W all stand up, except; for the NVA corporal who e remains seated, a be& in his hand, a pile of money %i his split lips curled back in a death grto. dv fa='lap, * --&. . +Y Alice steps up w t a machete in one hand and a z2 ih
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"Movtog, Movitife"

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---.%&!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.

-

-

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

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<;"- gmmmded by a moat,the fortress looks like an an.!dentcastle f o a fairy tale about dragons who guard rm

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- W see (he great walls of &e Citadel. With zigzage r

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A bullet crunches into a walL - Somebody starts singing:
MJ.C.

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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 u. Death s 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 t n the truth. Guna never say, T m only e 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 Taotical Area of Responsibility, which extends to the perimeters of my skin. Dear F e ,tiptoe through the et tulips. Balls, hang in there. L g , don't do any John es - Waynes. My body is serviceable. I intend to maintain

-

splf weapons; our weapons reply. Cowboy is listening to me m t e to myself. 7 h utr t 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, g g *-$k% Alice says, TU be Aim-Margret." -; - -- .: .- . ---

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and -we're past the point of no return. We're gJ B - oE g through the broken wall. W ' emiming fast and wb -1 er -s;aren't going to stop. Nothing can stop u . s -*-. ' 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
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hold you down. You a@t. You filing your anas. hands search for damage in your body.
--*.;.-- . % -- 3 You cough up spiders. -.c% C@x the ground beside you la -a MilAm without a .
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3 ' pounds of fractured meat The M r n without a head aie
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head.ExhibitA,formerlyaperson,nowtwohundred

^ - &OB& bade. His face has been knocked off. The been torn back, with the soft . .top of his skull
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kain inside. The jawbone and bottom teeth are intactIn{hehandsof the Marinewithout aheadisan 5 : M 6 marline gun, locked there forever by rigor mor-0 Ss. JSs finger is on the trigger. His canvas jungle boots
-

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are muddy. . vl- Youlook at the d@edmud on the jungle boots of the Marine without a head and yon are stuuned that

own. out . stings your ^EBEÈ Suddenly, you are very tired. You are breathing . . -from the running. Tour heart i beatingso hard s . =-.. Afltftseems to want totear ifs way out of your bogy. : -Through the center o your heart there is a starf

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feet look .jUsSen teachso much like your hand. *Something You touch his =:-Z^s

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gether. If he goes, we eS go? **& fee Body can't say

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. l $ k d says, "You Afiow to go -b&"
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rback."

V~~~oha~,119&o^eripa." "Forget hfin," says Body.

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.~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' &ex!!. ,," 2 . : : 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^d. Come along. Body, vft', ;*,5 ^ Spirit says,Tellthe man
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lain Charlie entertained M r n s 61 side bays a d i s - aie tributed spiritual tourniquets to men who were stillalive, 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 conquerCSommunism with the aid of God and a few Marines,-andabout free fish. One day a Vietnamese child boobytrapped Chaplain Charlie's black bag of t i k . Chaprcs lain Charlie readied in and pulled out a brightball of death., "Hey, (he deck, leatherneck,we're m v n . hit oig" "What-P" I recognize the rooms Fm in. I remember the room from an earlier visit to H e I'm in the u. 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. Tuh titty, you poge. No lieartà og I pat myself with my hands. "The hell you say. Where am I hit?" Rafter Man says, "You been out for hours. D c Jay o 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

- A

-,

..

-

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 i t C w o looks down at M . Shortround. oby r off his muddy Stetson.

uptotherowofbodybasand

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THE

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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 wt the human feet I say, "well, ih y u r short, sir." o'e I think about w a I have just said and I h o w thai: ht 'making a bad pun w s a stupid thing to do. But then a anything you could say to a dead officer who w s a killed by one o his own men w u d have to be pretty f ol rdclu. iiuos
-

"
!

Rafter Man and I double-time to catch up wt the ih squad. W e hump past scented lotus ponds, through land: scaped gardens, over bridges linking delicately struotured 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 -::sweat from his eyes. "The -

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-

-

the restRCowboy wipes Rock was walking point The &per shot the Rock's foot off. Shot it off. The Eb&ss Squd went mt t get h m me at a time. o i, .That solper shot all their feet off. We were hiding behind graves, those old round graves like baseball mounds, and w had h e grunts down in ihe street e . Cowboy pulls a red bandaooa from Ills bade "

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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 :3were crying and begging and we were all growling --+*> like animals, but Ms. Shortround held us back. Then ,$ Animal Mother w to go for them and the Skipper Lf e d grabbed Animal Mother's collar and hit him in the -,I- ., face. Animal Mother was somad I thought he was go- i2 ; - ing to loll va all. But before he could do anything- ' the sniper started putting rounds into the guys in the ; r g , . 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.. . - Idontknowwhattosay. " ,. .. : Cowboy spite, his face a sweaty stone. "After (hex*--NVApulled out,the liferssent in the Amin Black - a t e sto take the Forbidden C t . Shit. N t i g . B. Pnhr iy ohnU 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 i M . Short- ::.-t r - .= m d said it eastheir count~~, we was only :<3 said -. - heIping Gut, & i t would boost the morale of ( e -:~g h. 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& - --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. W ' e getting slaughtered in thisa - ; er - 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 %
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Cowboy waves his hand around the comer and 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 .-- --, 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-

- 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 ' n a the tank. er Cowboy double-times to &e Sat house at oar end ,ofrfliestteefc He W p es totherearcornerof -the h s e , pe ek around the corner. Cowboy waits epe s =- for-LanceCorporalStuttentopopagreensmokeas ftsignalthathisfirete&misinpositionosablockingforce. - W wait. e - 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.
-

- Lance Corporal S u t s fire team ttd

4

.

.

112

W e drop through the ragged.rectangular bole into s m b d ' library. Shrapnel has mangled leathero eoy s 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
sniper* xt

loom. But we

can't

the

Thetank fires into the second

story

of the house

door.

I say, "No Cowboy shrugs. "He wasted (he H c . ok"

h n "Listen." ad Animal Mothers M-60 i rippin s

aur heads.
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f. e - The crack of a Simon h *muted rhythm of Mc$mfs
. -

Zsay, I Mother di&-dow? Crazy?" s --Cowboy shahChis head. "No. Mother is a prick, ,v \ - y c . :- x : : 2 . ^text he's a good grunt." >*- - , : --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,
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machine gun. Cowboy falls bade through the skylight Alice, who. . 'has climbed up onto the desk, catches Cowboy and down -.- eases himà frag. to the desktop. the desk and take I pop I climb up onto . = '4ieM of the roof with my left hand. I let the spoon .
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114

Rafter Man i standing OWE the sniper'sdecapltstGd s corpse. H aims his M-16 fixes a long burst of ane and 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 -confinned for m . e" I say, "Sure, Rafter. You wasted hr" e. Bafter Man says, " did. I wasted her. I blew her away." H looks at his NVA rifle e 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 m * t e ma w t
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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, a h ltcqubd taste&=
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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." Ishw& "It's crazy: Alice says. "It's just pIaiu fu&g -IwishIwas backintb World" I sayy "Noy back i the World is the n % , d ~ w I d d s M ~ W i s d w C w o asme3 around later and says that Ddby# 2 oby company cummander has passed the word t m g m ~. o 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
+ 7

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take a m o himself. f

m p m d y . I look up ButaUamundmeisthe

tth see,it.The tadc is an objeot ofheavy n a wl&shadow, a ghost with substance. u

Behindme a man was cursing. Themaiiwasa Navy corpsman. The corpsmads light hand had been split open and he was holding his fingers together 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 o my M 1 ,eager to pour Invisible darts of f -6 destruction into the shadows. The twogcqts and Ira5 and155 u t l we passed ni 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 r a I was breathing hard, od 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 M die same time ridiculous at 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 .~ice shoots i his hand, calm, his Blind rehearsing &e n 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 sw o 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 sticks. *The ancient fanner looked at me.As he fell forward. , intothedarkwaterhisfacewastranquilandIcould ,-;-. see that he understood. '. AftermyfirstconfirmedIdHIbefsmtounderstand that ft 'was not necessary to understand. What you do, .IF you behme. Hie insights of one moment are blotted1 > : outbytheeventsofdienext.Andnoamountofinsight 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 detonated, because there was nothing I could do. I-5 was defining myself with bullets; blood had blemished .'- my Yankee D o l dream that everything would have .. ., ode 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.
A:

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CT

I think about my first IdU for a long time. At twilight- . corpsman appears. I explain to him that Marines* . never abandon their dead or wounded., .
a
-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 G y u. Tanks for the m m r e e o i s ." 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 l t l men who sse assaulting your position. You ite 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~illuminated the fluid, ghostly fire by of a star flareÑan then the/re going to run up over you and cut you up wt Imives. Ton see this. You ih W t& But ym*m a-maddm gunner who has i. &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 comebecause 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 tIn hn h

.. .

I'm dirty, unshaveii, ind

BODY COURT

6

.
-4
*

~tarn,thinking~vegotsomeslack,thinkingI've- got a ride. A poge colonel pounces out of the jeep, &ches up 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 -

1
\

-" -

colonel snaps his hand to his starched barracks cover .' 7 7 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?"
+

salute?" *1u. . Yes, aÈr. I salute. I hold the salute until the pge' .
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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- Skill 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 humping. ' m The poge colonel has a classic granite jaw. I m sai ' that the Marine C r s must have a strict examinatio op 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 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
+

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-

Marine The colonel,stands ramrod straight tins.~ceistheAir,ofCommand,intendedtoinJjmidate me, despite the fact that Fm a foot taller andoutweigh himby fifty pounds. The colonel investigates the underside of my dde. "Marine. ." H e fleesthatword."What~sWonyourbod~armor

..."

.

-

-

-

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

Siiariae?". --air -.

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- #bIstoowhite."Marine..." -¥¥Ste - I-mked you a question." . -: .T n mean this peace button, sirP o

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-%peace symbol, sir. , - ^ wait patiently w i e the colonel tries to remember I hl -the. - a M- h W R~p &&s w i d

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isUb0ixlinatePersonnel"chapterof hisOCStextbook. 'Thepoge coIonel confhqm to breathe all over my -:(ace.= breathmdb of mint ~ a r i ~o f f i c ~ ~ s cmps *notallowedtohavebadbreath,bodyodor,acne . --@t@&s, nor holm in their m$mwear. Marine Corps
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*officersarenotallowedtohaveanythingthathasnot issued to them. . - .-- - .:. & -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 . - - k &that button means? b t
'-2
>

. -*
-

"ye^*!136

I~ I L SHORT-TIMERS

-

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 t b me about a mathematid e 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 i munn 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 a ct pbtographs they j s Ne away or tell any m iy ut more lies because thtwds nothbg more the Ii£er can threaten me with 'What are they gobg to d ~ e n d me toViet NamY. Delta S x mb Cowboy a husi and I'm cdgned t i o Cowboy's s q u d as tihe &st f i e team l e a d h e asSISW q~d IWI~MUI~~I got = rve - H ~ =H perience to run my own d e squad.
There it b.

co d float across the wHte EKS,clouds like @eat lus metal ships. Black wings beating, enonnous objects faffing.AmLightintheinoDSoohrain;anairstrikein the d r Aflight of B-52 bombers dides Ehe Sanh, ak
-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 heavyandisthrown bythe w i n d - T h e w haspowoc. The wind roars,hisses, whispers seductively. The wind

nT"

143

THE SHORT-TIMERS
-a

daws at the shelters we have constructed with ponchos and nylon cord and scraps of bamboo. ^": s -z Raindrops thump my poncho like pebbles falling!"&!-, -. into a broken drum.Hl asleep, m face pressed into*~ af y my gear, I listen to the sounds of the horror that,^ is everywhere, buried just beneath the surface $ % ! of the earth. IB my dreams o blood I mains love tf o% a skeleton. Bones did, the earth m v s my testicles.'%%? oe, ,/, . explode. , Shrapnel bites my shelter. I wake up. I listen tea?: the fading drone o the B-52's. I listen to the breath-r-<& f ing of my squad of brothers, nightmare men in the-?% .
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.

Outside our w r an enemy grunt is screaming ;; *,>"s-ie 4 :: .y invisible airplanes that have killed him. I try to dream something beautiful. My grand----% mother sits in a rocking chair on her front porch shooting 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 wt fat white breasts ih 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 sometiling you ate. So sleepy you mother. The wind roars up under m shelter and rips the y 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 understand. An enemy sergeant has stumbled over a dead man in the dark.

dr ak

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144

GRUNTS

GRUNTS

THE SHORT-TIMERS

"Oh, screw yourself, New Guy," says Animal Mother, 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 alw you to speak. lo 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 s i e no wn, doubt about it, but he's also big and m a ; he inspires en 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 w t donkeys ih 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 ¥thrack and drops them on the deck in front of the iMew Qssy. "Whçyou from,you w e Ait?" "Texas, sir." "Sir, my ass. T i ain't P.I. and there ain't no way hs cer. Never happen. Ain't

GRUNTS

evestheassistantsquadleaderanymore..NowTvaa private~the most 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 sergeant3thefoddngplatoonsergeant ~ o s l a c k just&back. to the Wrd Back in Queens I tool; me a tide @.this ol. 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 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 Mtetrsooby'e,oeagrtegt ohruntCwo:HyLnRne,hyo 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 T x s too,f e ea, i
maggotDallas.HewearsthatStetsonsodiegoofcs wiD see that they b dealing wit&a real Txs lawea
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, " won't say it agate." I

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WtSave to get hard. Whflt any Viet NamP Cut me some

IWE SHORT-TIMERS Cowboy waves his hand and the squad E v S out oe

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 offioeraiidshoot himinstead of me. I have becomea l t l paranoid since I painted a red bull's-eye on (he ite top of my helmet Animal Mother retains my salute, the3 spits, then grins. "You are funny, you son&-a-bitch. You're arealcomedian" *Saay 'bout that,'*I say,
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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 inaudible snap. A bird @es iiisme. One bird sputters Overhead And a great weight of birds shifts across the canopy. Alice stands rigid &d listens. H raises his right e

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unhooks the Unit One m d c l Idt from his web belt eia 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 miming. He runs at a crouch, zigzagging. -2

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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

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ber bullet Alice flops as though electrocuted. . Cowboy raises the pistol and presses the huge barrel tohisright temp&-

THE SHORT-TIMERS

I raise my grease gun and Iaiq it at Cowboy's face. Cowboy looks pitiful and h terrified. Cowboy is e ' s 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 " NEVER LIKED YOU, JOKER. I NEVER I 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. Animal Mo&ez, Ddon, L n '~oxporal t o ~ % ae ~ ' Harris, and the other guys i the squad do not speak. n E e y n relaxes, glad to be alive. Everyone hates say, vroe guts, k they know I'm right. I am their sergeant, t they are my men. Cowboy was lolled by sniper fee^ they'll say, but they'll never see we again; til be invisible. "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- a

-

178

THE SHORT-TIMERS

'aSAV&Ef

UNFORGMNG LOOK N A SAVYGEf UNFORGWMLE TM : I E
-lOS ANGELES TIMES

FORGET A L T E MYTHS ABOUT L H HONOR AND GLORY.. .THIS IS T E REAL WAR. H
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 battlehardened company survivors of months of unimaginable horror-the crazy-tough and the phony-brave# religiously counting the days until their release from the green prisonof combat. But they all know one uh$poken truth-hat. even though they're on their way out#t h ~ ilast few hours r in Nam could become their last hours on earth.;;:.:
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-MWS