Nice Pistol Work Cap'n! (Handguns In Service).
me along to confirm absolutely that he is in fact a Chinese officer and photograph him. He's been seen in this vicinity several times, always in the company of an NVA escort and so here we are."
Haslip brushed a twig absently from the M40A1 sniper rifle lying on the rocks in front of him, then turned once again to Frank, and added, "Well, okay, Sir, if you say so. But, we ain't never tried to take out a guy, then go down to where we greased him and take his picture before. That goes against everything I been taught, y'know?"
Frank smiled thinly. "Yeah, I know, Sarge. But the only way we can prove the guy actually is a Chinese officer is to take a picture of him and get whatever IDs and documents he might have on him and bring 'em back with me. Anyway, that's the job they gave me and, like you, I take orders, even if I don't always understand the reasons why."
Haslip remained unconvinced and continued doggedly, "I guess so, Sir." The night passed with agonizing slowness, accompanied by an endless chorus of insects that attempted with considerable gusto to feed upon them. Although both men were literally coated with GI insect repellent, some of the insects managed to succeed.
At last dawn broke and the sun erupted into the sky. Bleary-eyed from sleeping only in two-hour shifts, Haslip and Roland shivered in the crisp, misty jungle. Nothing had happened during the night, although neither man was surprised. If there were a Chinese officer around here, he'd be treated like royalty by the NVA and they'd take no chance of getting him killed by moving him around at night. After all, U.S. Special Forces teams and LRRP units occasionally operated in the area, too, and the NVA wouldn't take the chance of one of them getting lucky and clobbering their guest in an ambush or something.
No, if he's around here, they'll be moving him around in daylight with only a small security contingent, so they can move fast and quietly.
Haslip took a small, clean rag from a plastic bag in his left breast pocket and wiped the condensation from the objective and ocular lenses of the Redfield telescopic sight atop the M40A1, then checked to insure that the safety was still engaged. Roland ducked down in the rocks and carefully put the AN/PVS-2 back in his rucksack, then crawled back up on the rocks and checked the thumb safety on his M1911.
0700...0800...0900 hours. The sun shone down blistering hot, creating an air temperature of over 110 degrees which, along with 95 percent humidity typical to southeast Asia, made even breathing difficult. A bluish haze hung lazily over the valley below, fading into white near the horizon.
1000...1100...1200. Still nothing. Except for a few villagers below, no one moved about. No one walked the trails. Roland wiped the glistening perspiration from his eyebrows, returned the 7x50 binoculars to his eyes and continued to scan.
1300... 1400...1500. Haslip opened a package of dehydrated LRRP rations--pork with scalloped potatoes--added some water from one of his six canteens, stirred it up and placed it on the rocks in front of him. It would need fifteen or twenty minutes to soak in. Then he could eat. He offered some to Roland, who grinned but declined and with his binoculars continued to search the area.
1600. It began to cool down a bit as the sun shone lower in the sky and below, the jungle floor began to darken in shadow. If the CHICOM Captain was coming today, it had to be soon. It would be dead dark in less than two hours.
1700. The panorama beneath them remained empty, interrupted only occasionally by the sight of a villager stirring in the window of his grass hootch or the sound of a playing child.
1715. It was getting pretty dark now, but Roland made one last scan with the 7x50s before switching them for the AN/PVA-2. Slowly, he swept the area, checking each trail carefully.
Wait! Movement! Someone's coming down the north trail. Roland elbowed the dozing Haslip in the side, whispering, "Sorry to wake you up, Sarge, but there is movement on the north trail. Get ready, just in case."
"Uhhh, umm, right, yeah, er... yes sir." Haslip mumbled thickly and unsnapped the caps from both the Redfield's objective and ocular lenses. Now fully awake, he settled quickly into a firing position.
His eyes still at the binoculars, Roland stiffened. "I've got him! No S---! I've got him! We're in luck. He's with only two NVA security guys. Take him in that clearing about fifty meters ahead of where they are right now. Take him first, then get the other two if you can."
Haslip took a deep breath and added, "Roger that...I'm on him. Look at him. He's stands out like a sore thumb. Six feet tall and definitely not NVA uniform. Yeah, he's a CHICOM, all right." The M40A1' s safety clicked forward slowly under his right thumb. Haslip was now ready to fire. "I'll do the CHICOM first, then the guy in back, then the guy in front, if he's still visible, OK?"
"Okay, Sarge. He' s all yours. I'll spot for you. I'm ready whenever you are." Roland whispered.
One minute later, the trio unknowingly reached their rendezvous with destiny. His SKS carbine in hand, the NVA in front entered the clearing, paused, looked around for a few seconds, then proceeded forward along the trail. Five meters to his rear, the CHICOM officer did the same, but he held no weapon--his pistol was clearly holstered and he was holding, of all things, a small briefcase. Last, the second NVA moved into view, his AK-47 plainly visible. All three men moved lazily, carelessly. Obviously, they felt completely secure.
The CHICOM reached the center of the clearing.
From 200 meters away, the sound of a M118 173-grain 7.62mm bullet striking him in the chest echoed back. As the Chinese crumpled to the damp earth, Haslip worked the M40A1's bolt quickly keeping his eyes on the enemy below. Flashing in the sun, a spent 7.62x51 case tinked off the rocks.
"HIT!" Roland breathed excitedly.
The leading NVA had turned, his eyes searching upward, but he remained in the open.
BOOM! WHOP! A second 173-grain M118 match boattail found its mark and he, too, collapsed, pitching his SKS end over end as he fell. Again, Haslip worked the M40A1's bolt. Another spent 7.62 case flashed in the sun as it spun away.
"HIT!" Roland whispered again, his eyes never leaving the binoculars. The CHICOM and lead NVA lay sprawled in plain sight, the third NVA was nowhere to be seen. Quickly, he scanned back and forth across the clearing. "I can't find the third guy!" he said urgently.
"Neither can I," Haslip replied "Looks like he took off. We'd better get the h--- down there pronto so you can grab his documents and take his picture, Cap'n. That last guy is probably going for help, so we'd better be outta here before they arrive, don't you think?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," Roland said as he rose. "Let's go."
The two men quickly shouldered their rucksacks, the radio and battle gear, then moved briskly down the slope. The villagers would be no problem--they were neutral, just trying to survive a war in which they were caught between the opposing forces.
Halfway down, Roland drew the M1911A1 from its GI flap holster, checked it to insure it was loaded and engaged the thumb safety.
Behind him, loping along through the brush with his M40A1 held at high ready, Haslip grimaced. "I don't like this s--- at all!" He panted between breaths.
They covered the two hundred meters to the clearing in less than five minutes. Though it was normally considered to be bad tactical practice to do what they were doing, speed was essential if they were to recover the CHICOM's documents, ID and personal equipment and get away. Like it or not, they simply had no other choice.
Bursting into the clearing with pistol in hand, Roland saw the Chinese officer first, then spotted his deceased NVA escort. "Sarge! Check the NVA while I take care of this guy!" He hissed excitedly.
"Roger that, sir." Haslip responded, and moved away.
It took only two minutes. Roland had the evidence he was looking for--the dead CHICOM's ID card, personal papers, briefcase full of documents, his pistol belt, handgun (Type 51) and the Chinese copy of the Russian Tokarev 7.62x25mm TT-33.
"Let's go," he said crisply.
Haslip nodded silently, took a last look around, then trotted toward him. "Okay, sir. Let's head out that way." He motioned diagonally upslope.
CRACK-CRACK-CRACK!-CRACK! The distinctive sound of a Kalashnikov shattered the deathly silence.
Both men spun in their tracks, unhit but startled, searching for their deadly enemy now shooting at them. The burst had gone high, through the trees above them, but it looked like that third NVA hadn't gone for help after all--he'd gone to ground and waited. Now, he was back and trying to take them down.
There! Fifteen meters away a Vietnamese in a camouflage uniform darted into view. He stopped, turned and pointed his AK-47 toward them and fired again.
Both Haslip and Roland acted in unison, hitting the ground simultaneously as they struggled to bring their weapons into action.
CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK! Again the AK spoke, but without effect. Again the burst had gone high, passing well over them.
Sure am glad these guys point and don't aim, Haslip thought with grim amusement. He brought the M40A1 in front of him and tried to pick up the NVA in his crosshairs, but unsuccessfully so. Sniper rifles just aren't made for close-quarters battle.
POW! POW! POW! It was Roland, lying on the ground with his M1911A1. He was shooting carefully, spacing his shots and keeping his front sight on the NVA's chest. Across the short distance that separated them, three 230-grain FMJ 'hardball' slugs slammed into the NVA's thoracic cavity and he staggered, beginning to collapse.
But Roland took no chances and continued to fire. POW! POW! POW! Three more 230-grainers struck home and the lurching NVA collapsed in a heap on top of his AK, which then lay beneath him, pressed into the rotting jungle humus.
"OK, let's go!" Roland said, jumping to his feet. "You okay?"
"Uh, yeah, sure, Cap'n." Haslip said, and together the two men run for their lives.
They crossed two ridgelines--nearly 1000 meters--moving east towards the Vietnamese border before they halted to catch their breath. Roland knelt down, took the hand mike and pressed the TRANSMIT switch. "Boomtown., Boomtown, this is Cryptic, Cryptic, over."
The reply was instantaneous. "Roger Cryptic, this is Boomtown. Authenticate, over."
"Boomtown, Cryptic. Authenticator is Navajo, say again, Navajo, over." Roland snapped back.
"Roger Cryptic, have you loud and clear. What can we do for you, over?"
"Need extraction tomorrow morning 0800 at Alpha Hotel one-zero-one. Mission accomplished, over." Roland knew that the brass would be listening and would no doubt be dancing in glee over their success.
"Roger Cryptic. Big Six says nice job, over."
Roland smiled. "Roger, Boomtown, out." Then he turned Haslip and smiled. "Speaking of nice jobs, you did well, Sergeant. Congratulations."
Haslip beamed at the compliment. Roland was known as a guy who didn't hand out compliments lightly, so when he gave one, lie meant it. "Thanks. And by the way"
"Yeah?" Roland eyebrows rose. "That was d----- nice pistol work, Cap'n, d----- nice! Most officers can't hit a bull in the butt with a handgun, but you...."
"Well, I've had a lot of practice, Sarge. What do you say we get going, eh? We've got to travel all night to reach our extraction point by 0800 tomorrow and there's entirely too many NVA around here for me. How about you?"