Almost Angels Chapter 4
July 12th, 1967. Monsoon takes on a whole different meeting in Viet Nam. The rain had been coming down all morning. I had infiltrated a platoon just a bit east of the central highlands this morning, posing as a replacement that was lost, looking for Charlie Company. Wasn’t difficult, most of the guys didn’t really give a shit, as long as you had round eyes and weren’t carrying an AK.
I watched them trying to slog in the mud. It seemed it was raining both directions, up and down, and maybe sometimes sideways if you got a breeze. I know it was miserable. I really couldn’t feel the heat and the moisture, but I could see despair and frustration written on their tired faces.
The heat caused a misty fog to rise up to meet the down pour. The sounds of the jungle were muted, for a while, as if those creatures were trying to find a shelter, too. The smells were mixed, rotting vegetation, wet earth, sweat from the men, and the lingering smell of exploded ordnance that hung heavy in the air. They had just fought a short battle. No one killed, but a few wounded. The Huey’s had just lifted off about the time I showed up. I stepped back into the jungle, my ‘16 slung over my left arm, my right hand wrapped around the stock. I smiled. The ‘16 was a hologram too, it would never hurt anyone.
I had walked about 20 feet past the perimeter, and leaned against a large mahogany tree. I fixed my eyes on my surroundings. I had been bouncing around the country, from about 1960 thru 1973, trying to get a feel about this most controversial war that America had been involved in in the 20th century. I had even followed some family history of a 10th generation uncle who had fought here. During the earlier years, it seemed like the US was doing some good, then it just fell apart. So many reasons why, but we don’t want to get into that.
There, to my left, a flicker of movement. A small bird, flying from one bush to another. No, there was something else. I watched intently. There! Just a bit closer. Oh, a conical straw hat emerges from the undergrowth. Then a head and shoulders, dressed in black pajama type material, belted, with an ammo belt, a young Vietnamese lady, maybe 25. Hard to tell for sure. Sometimes the women seemed ageless. She moved forward slowly, I turned to face her.
I watched as her weapon came up, a bit of surprise on her face. Go ahead, dear, you are going to be more surprised and it will warn the platoon. She fired at me, not more than 20 feet away. I smiled, then touched my ring, and faded from sight, reappearing about 30 feet to her left. She had a shocked look on her face, couldn’t believe her eyes! When she pulled the AK around, I smiled again, and disappeared again, back in the bush behind her. She turned and retraced her steps, retreating from the sounds of gunfire coming from the camp. Wonder if she will tell anyone that she saw a GI ghost? Probably not. I moved back to the other side of the camp, and appeared beside a stack of boxes that had been unloaded from the choppers. No surprise attack this time.
Two beeps inside my head and Misha said, “Jamie, don’t do that. That is a potential tear, you can’t interrupt the flow of events.”
“I know. But these guys have been hit once today, they look so stressed, and worn to the bone.”
“Still, dear, you cannot interfere at all.”
“Ok. This is hard, you know.”
“I know. Think up something interesting to do when you get back, We will take your mind off of it.”
“We will, hmmmm? Okay, later.”
“Oh, by the way, there is another angel near you there. Maybe you can hook up.”
“Gotcha. I will scan for him.”
I scanned the area for a hundred yard radius. 57 warm bodies, no electric blips. She must have been mistaken. I widened to 200 yards. Still none. I decided to jump, as my shift was about over.
Back at the center I ran some video trying to find a good spot to record. Later that evening I found it, some pictures taken by correspondent Joseph Galloway. The pictures were of a battle that took place in 1965, near the Drang River, the “Ia Drang Valley. I had mentioned a 10th generation uncle, well, he was there. A member of the 7th Cavalry. Family history had perked my interest many times about him. I had seen pictures before, I had even stalked an old ‘movie’ called “We Were Soldiers”. That is, with our technology we can step into a movie and interact with it. But this would be different. This time I would be actually in the bloody battle.
I talked to my supervisor, and told him what I wanted to do.
“Jamie, of course we want this recorded. But after what you did yesterday, we can’t risk having a tear in time. I dunno, many of these people from this battle went on to have important positions, influential positions. I understand it is personal to you, but you screwed up yesterday.”
“I understand, Sir. I could, you know, just remain invisible the whole time. Maybe I would have to miss out on dialogue with the soldiers, miss out on that interaction. It would be better than nothing, and I really want to do it!”
Well, needless to say, I won the battle. But I had to make the jump with another recorder, Ron Clark. Ron was one of the oldest recorders that I knew, he was about 42. Yeah, I know, that isn’t really old. Hardly more than a teenager in 2518. Men now can live to about 130, women, 10 or 15 years longer. And, for the most part, remain active.
Ron and I decided to make our jump about mid after noon on November 14th, 1965. By then, Lt. Col Hal Moore and his troopers would have made contact with the Vietnamese, and hell would have broken loose.
Ron would be visible and I would not. Punishment for being ‘too creative’ the day before in the jungle. Now, understand, Ron can see me, but the soldiers can’t. I found a patch of trees and told Ron to lock in on me, seconds later he was standing by me. It was sounds of battle all around me.
Within a few minutes I had 3 bullets pass through me. I could not see where the fire was coming from, but it seemed all around me. We had appeared at LZ X-Ray. The battle went on sometime after dark. Helicopters were bringing supplies, and taking out wounded. Heroic men flying into certain death, then miraculously flying back out again. Sometime that evening I knew that the man who had taken the pictures I had seen, Joe Galloway, would be arriving. But I missed him. Later in the next morning I saw him, when napalm was dropped close by, he rushed out and pulled another soldier out of danger. The thing that struck me, was all the famous people I was to read about were here, just behaving like men, fighting, struggling to stay alive. Yeah, they got medals, but not near enough. I wondered where my dear old uncle might have been. But in a meleè of this sorts, is not the time for a family reunion. Besides, that is forbidden, to contact a predecessor, at any time. On November 16th, parts of the men marched out, on the 17th,a group broke off for LZ Albany. As they entered a clearing near to the LZ, they were ambushed, the casualties were high. They were finally all pulled , but the NVA would be back, and the war would go on for about 8 more years and about 55,000 young American men would never see their home again. And countless thousands would visit Viet Nam nightly, in their dreams. The nightmare would be saddled up for the rest of their lives, for some.
I was, myself, touched by this visit in history. Ron and I both recorded different parts. Another recorder, of Vietnamese descent, recorded it from the other side. Now students can go to the archives and they can step into the battle and witness the horror, and the heroism, of those two days. Perhaps, if this type of deterrent had been available earlier, wars would not have been so easily entered into. Instead, the public was shielded from war scenes. Hal Moore, Basil Plumley, Joe Galloway, the heroic pilots, and others will find their place in history. I will never forget them, myself.
Now, I have some days off, before looking for more history. I have seen many wars, that seems to be what is most demanded. Maybe next time I will find another place in history, a peaceful place.
Yeah, or not.