Copyright (c) 1980, 1987, The Vietnam War Library


Ray and Early were already gone when the day shift got up at five o'clock. One of the landline techs who lived in their hootch said their cots hadn't been slept in.

For those of us who were on campus the night of the bombing, going back to work today was the first time we'd seen the comcenter, and in my case the RTT rig, in two days. After wheeling up to the comcenter door we were greeted by Kim who was all smiles. He hadn't been able to purchase any booze or cigarettes for almost two days. His ARVN customers were beginning to run short and needed new supplies.

"GI go to PX today?" he asked me as I jumped off the truck.

"No Kim, GI no go to PX today.....or any other ----ing day."

His smile faded. I had never sold any goods to Kim or any other ARVN. and under no circumstances was I going to feed their habits after some of their cousins tried to kill me. But Kim was insistent. He flashed a wad of MPC in my face. I told him to shove it up his ass. I had all the ARVN contact I'd need for the rest of my life.

Hugh was all smiles when I walked up to the RTT gate. Sticking his arm through the barbwire gate he shook my hand.

"Man, am I glad to see you, I've been in this mother for two days."

"Sorry about that. We had a little trouble on campus."

Unlocking the gate for me, we walked into the shack.

"Anything been happening in here?"

"Happening? Look at these!"

He handed me a two-inch stack of messages. Flipping through them, almost every RTT man in South Vietnam, and few from Thailand, had radioed in their concerns about the campus. Pulling out one of the messages from the middle of the stack, he placed it on top.

"I had to stamp this one Top Secret so you're gonna have to destroy it after you read it. He broke radio silence to send it."

It read,

"Sorry I couldn't be of any help to you as you were to me when I was in Song Be. But if it's any consolation to you, we're getting revenge for you guys. Mr. Thieu is going to be short a couple ARVN battalions by the time we get back.

Stay cool dude."

The message was signed, "Situation Terminated".

"Look at the callsign." Hugh grinned, pointing to a eight-letter word on the bottom left corner of the page. It read, "EPSILON-8".

"What's the deal with that?"

Taking the log clipboard from the wall, he flipped over the first page and showed it to me. Reading it, it stated all flash messages received from any Epsilon station were to processed without delay. The orders listed several transfer stations where they were to be routed to.

"They're something big going on near Cambodia, dude! I've been monitoring Nha Trang for the last 27 hours and everything going over the air to them has been either priority or flash."

I walked back to the rig. It was completely lit up.

"You've got all three systems on line."

"Yeah, they're using ten different frequencies. We can only monitor six but I picked the most active ones. From what I can make out they've got about four two-hundred man teams on the ground doing recon in the Parrots Beak and the Fish Hook. This looks like its as big as the MPC conversion, if not bigger!"

"Then you'd better not say anything to anybody about this. Nha Trang would have us shot if a leak got traced to this station."

"----! we've been in Cambodia as long as we've been in Vietnam."

I looked at the message again.

"Yeah, but not on this level."

Just then a loud thud hit the side of the shack. I stuck the message in my shirt pocket and hung the clipboard back on the wall. Both of us walked outside.

Flip was standing outside. He'd thrown a rock to get our attention. His face looked concerned.

"What's up, dude?" I asked.

"Can you leave and come to the comcenter. Ray and Early are back."

Excited, I said, "Sure."

"What's going on?" Hugh asked.

"Nothing, I'll tell you later."

The truck was about to leave so Hugh hopped aboard. I put all the equipment on standby and locked the shack behind me. Waving to the guys on the truck as it sped off, Flip and I walked to the comcenter.

When we got inside, Robert was waiting near the inside door. Crossing his lips with his forefinger, he beckoned for us to follow him to the crypto vault. Rome, Randy, Boyd, Bill, Jeff, and Allan were already there, leaning against the counters. Jimmie stood outside to make sure no one else tried to listen in.

"Good, you guys are back." Rome smiled. His arms were crossed.

"Where's Ray and Early?" I asked.

"We couldn't let 'em in here, an asshole from Brigade might show up and ---- a brick if they see a landline tech in the comcenter." Randy answered.

"We sent 'em back to campus to get some sleep." Boyd followed.

"So what did they find out?"

"They found the ARVN unit the 25th checked out the night before last. We gave Ray and Early a PRC-25 and a tape recorder. Listen to this."

Rome reached to his side and removed a towel covering a cassette recorder sitting on the counter.

"There's a lot of static in the beginning but you can hear the voices real clear."

Turning it on, everybody listened intently.

The first few seconds sounded like the recorder had fallen on the ground. Next we heard a lot of scratching.

"That's Early sliding it in his pants pocket." Rome informed us.

Then we could hear whispering.

"....Recon Two....I want you, Recon One, and Four to head around the back....on the other side of the and Recon Three'll walk straight up on the mother----ers....if they cut loose on us, blast 'em....and names!"

"Alright!....give us a minute....or get around...."

The second voice sounded out of breath.

After a few moments of rustling noises we could hear Ray speaking again.

"Hey you! Hey you on the cannon....what the ----'re you boys doin' out here?...."

An ARVN responded in broken English, ."

"Hey GI....what's up GI....what you do here GI?"

We could hear the smile in his voice.

"Those dink bastards grin every time they see an American." Boyd chuckled.

Rome raised his hand indicating not to interrupt.

"What you do here?" Ray asked again, imitating their pigeon-English.

As Ray got closer, the ARVN's voice got louder.

"We kill VC, GI....we kill beau coup VC....see gun?"

"Get those other guys over here....hey you!....Get over here!....Di di mao!"

More rustling. Ray's voice sounded hyper.

"What the ---- you boys up to, huh?....You kill Americans?"

The first ARVN began to sound nervous.

"We no kill Americans, GI! We kill VC....over there!"

"What about Americans over there! You shoot at Americans over there?"

It sounded as if the ARVN's had pointed some place other than the direction of the campus.

"No, no GI....We tell other Americans....we no shoot that way....we shoot over VC....we killed VC....lot of VC dead.....we no kill Americans."

Suddenly automatic fire rang out. The recorder sounded like it fell again. Everyone in the vault jumped. Rome calmly raised both hands. "It's okay, Ray just dropped to his knees. Listen."

After more rustling, we could hear somebody in the background yelling.

"Get out here you mother----ing gook....get the ---- out...."

"What's up, dudes?....what's up....?" Ray shouted.

"We got a dink officer over here....a Lieutenant....he's got a .45....he's hiding behind some bushes...." Early's voice was hyper and short.

More rustling.

"He must be in charge....bring 'em over here..."

"He's hit....I got 'em in the leg...."

"Then drag the son-of-a-bitch over!"

Everyone in the vault smiled. Randy raised his fist in the air.

We could hear Early and someone else pulling the ARVN over. His moaning sounded like he was in a lot of pain.

"Drop 'em here...."

More rustling.

"Gimme your knife....sit 'em up....Okay mother----er, you wanna shoot somebody?....Gimme his gun...."

"What're you gonna do with it?" Early asked.

"I'm gonna give it to gimme his gun!....okay's your gun....take it...."

"What're you doin' man?"

"I'm gonna play some Russian roulette....let's see if he can pull the trigger faster than I can cut his yellow head off!"

One of the grunts in the background laughed. It was a weird, raspy, laughter.

"He-he-he. He-he-he."

The other grunt yelled, "Do it dude, cut it off!"

Several of the other ARVN's began screaming.

"Hold those assholes back....Get 'em on the ground....It's just me and this mother----er...."

More rustling.

It sounded like the other guys were forcing the other ARVN's to lay on their faces.

"Check the recorder in my pocket....make sure its still goin'....I'm not taking my eyes off this asshole."

We could hear a pair of hands touching the recorder then move away.

"It's still sweat...."

Then Ray spoke to the recorder."

"You should see this mother----er, dudes....he's scared ----less....let's see if we can get him to sing for us...."

Just then we could hear the sound of a chopper approaching from the distance.

"Hey dude....a chopper....coming over the trees...."

Several of the guys in the vault began to look nervous. Rome smiled. "It's okay, Ray and Early have got their ---- together, listen.

Everyone appeared to relax.

"No sweat!" We could hear Ray yell. "Stand those ----ers up....we'll make it look like nothing's happening."

Early yelled the chopper was coming straight for them.

The blades got louder.

"It's gonna pass right overhead."

"No sweat....just keep those ----ers on their feet and wave to it when it passes."

The chopper seemed to be right inside the room as it passed overhead.

"It's goin' away!" Early yelled.

"No wait!'s turnin''s comin' back!" One of the grunts yelled.

"No sweat!" Ray yelled. "Just wave to it again."

Again the noise filled the room. Jimmie stuck his head between the curtains.

"Better turn it down. Some of the guys on the teletypes are looking back here."

Rome adjusted the volume. "Just keep 'em away. We'll tell 'em about it later."

We could hear Early again.

"They're circling....what's goin' on?"

"Just watch those dinks....I'll watch the chopper!"

"He's dropping something!" One of the grunts yelled.

"Now they're taking off!" Another one yelled.

"One of you guys go get what they dropped....hurry up....I wanna get this over with!"

For a few moments there was nothing but rustling noises and heavy breathing. Then a voice in the background.

"It's Miller time! They dropped us a sixpack and a machete!"

"They must want us to cut off some dink balls!" Ray shouted.

Then again the weird laughter could be heard.

"He-he-he. He-he-he."

Everyone busted up. The grunts weird laugh seemed to solicit laughter.

"Okay....get those dinks on their faces again....let's get this over with...."

One of the grunts could be heard walking toward Ray.

"I'll hold ' use the knife."


"We didn't kill no Americans!" The ARVN answered.

"Oh! So you speak good English, huh?"

"I speak English....and we didn't fire at no Americans. We told you that two days ago."

"Then how come you ----ers were firing when the Americans got hit over there?"

"It wasn't was the Americans....who shot them."

Everyone in the room appeared agitated.

"What??? What the ---- are you talking about?"

"I told was the Americans....over there....they left wasn't us I tell you."

"Who'd you tell this to?"

"The American Colonel....I told the Colonel and his two Majors....two days ago I told them."

"Where did you tell them the American gun was?" Early walked up.

"Over those trees."

"What kind of gun did they have?"

"A big one....a ours....but it was new....brand new."

"How do you know it was them that fired on the Americans?" Ray asked.

"They were pointed that way....look....we're pointed the other way."

"We should check this out!" Early yelled to Ray.

"Take one of the guys over. See what's there."

After hearing hands on the recorder again there was a click.

"What happened?" Several people asked.

Before Rome could answer, we could here Early yelling to Ray. Rome put the recorder on pause.

"They turned it off while Early went to check out where the ARVN pointed to. They didn't want to waste tape."

Everyone nodded. Rome turned the recorder on again.

"He's right! Ray yelled, out of breath. "There was another rig over there but now it's gone. By the way it's wheels were pointed, it looks like they could've been aiming toward the company....but I don't know....those tracks could be two weeks old."

"Well these dinks have only been out here a coupla days....they wouldn't have known about a rig being over there unless they saw it." Early came back.

"Yeah, but it could've been the rusted rig the Cav Major told us about. We don't know." Ray answered.

"These dinks said it was new."

"We'll have to get back to tell...."

"No names!"

"I was gonna say "tell the guys"."

Then one of the grunts yelled to Ray.

"We're gonna have to get out of here, we've been here too long already."

"Yeah," Early agreed.

"What about this dink....he's still bleedin'."

"Gimme his gun."

"You gonna kill him?"

The ARVN yelled. "Wait! Don't shoot me....I won't talk..."

"Shut up, asshole!" Ray yelled back. "We're not gonna kill you. You're one of our friendly allies, remember?"

Then we heard a single gun shot.

"What'd you shoot in the air for?" Early asked Ray.

"To get rid of one of his bullets."

The weird laughter could be heard again.


"You shot yourself in the leg, didn't you?"

The ARVN replied. "Yes....I shot myself in the leg. Oh thank, thank you."

"---- you!" Ray yelled back.

Next, we could hear a lot of rustling.

"You dinks got a radio?" Ray asked.

"No radio...." The first ARVN answered.

"Get on the in a med-evac for this guy...."

The ARVN thanked Ray again.

"Oh thank you sir....thank you....I shot myself....oh thank you!"

"That'll teach you not to pull another gun on an American, mother----er. Next time you die!"

"Oh thank you...."

"Somebody get this dink off my leg....I don't want no stinkin' dink kissing my boot!"

Then more rustling.

Next we heard one of the grunt's PRC-25 sputter. Giving the coordinates, he called for a med-evac to pick up the ARVN.

"Okay, we're set!" Ray shouted. "Everybody pull out your dogtags....make sure you got ' check your wallets....the only thing we're leaving is the bullet in this dinks leg."

"Let's get his case he decides to fink...." Early told Ray.

"A fink dink, he-he-he." The grunt with the weird voice said.

"Good idea....remember asshole....we know who you are....if we hear about this we're gonna put you and your ------- family on ice...."

"Yes sir....I won't talk!"

"Here, you can keep your money."

Just after that, the recorder was turned off.

Everyone in the room had sweat rolling down their foreheads.

"Whew!" Boyd wiped his forehead. "I'm glad Ray and Early are on our side. I'd hate to have those two after me."

Rome took the cassette out of the recorder and called Jimmie.

Breaking the cassette in his hands, he ripped out the roll of tape and handed it to Jimmie.

"Bunch this up and drop it in the shredder."

Jimmie began unreeling it as he left.

"What about that other rig?" Jeff asked. "We've got to find out about it."

"Daryl and Allan are doing that right now." Rome answered, looking at his watch. "They should be back in an hour or so."

"Where'd they go?" I asked.

"There are three unit's with armor around here, the 11th, the 199th, and the Cav. The Cav's got a couple of rigs they move around from day to day."

"Then all we can do it wait." Flip folded his arms.

Filing out of the crypto room, everyone went back to the teletypes. I walked back to the RTT rig. About an hour later I got a call to come back to the comcenter. Daryl and Allan had returned.

Everyone was back in the crypto room as before, Daryl had already begun reporting what he learned. I hadn't missed much.

"....and the first place we went was chaos. They were getting the place ready for a massive hit on Charlie out by the Beak. But one guy I talked to said all he heard was that an Australian unit had fired toward Bien Hoa the night of the 17th."

"That's bull----!" Randy yelled.

Calmly glancing at Randy, Rome dismissed it.

"I think we can discount that. There's nothing to support it."

"Yeah, that's the way I figured too." Daryl agreed, continuing. "The next place we went to was down. They were all on their way...."

"Down?" I broke in.

"Yeah, the entire unit is breaking down it's headquarters in Bien Hoa. They've got most of their guys in the field. The whole camp is moving toward the border. Something's brewing over there."

I didn't mention what I'd learned about Cambodia.

"And the last place?" Jeff asked.

"We got some info there, but again, nothing conclusive. We talked to a guy I knew from Long Bihn. He said one of their artillery officer's was brought in yesterday afternoon by some military intelligence dudes. He said the Lieutenant looked like he'd been crying all night. He said they took him in an office in the back of the Orderly Room and started interrogating him."

"Did he hear what was being said?" Rome asked.

"He said all he could make out was that the MI dudes were telling the Lieutenant to take it easy and that it wasn't his fault. He also said he heard the Lieutenant say something about a light Colonel being pissed-off because of a lost message."

Everyone looked around at each other.

"Do you think it was because of that Flash we lost last week?" Boyd asked.

Rome shrugged his shoulders. "Could be, I don't know."

"Somebody tell me, what ever happened to message, seriously?" I asked, looking around at each one.

After a pause, Rome answered. "We never got it."

"But all this time everybody's been saying it was lost."

"It was, but not the way Brigade thinks. It wasn't misplaced, it was never received. The teletype went off-line just before it came in. We tried to get it back up, but by the time we did the message was already sent."

"Why didn't you guys just tell the sender to re-send it?"

"We had a breakdown in communication. When we got back on-line the sender was asking us if we were getting him five-by. We answered Roger. We thought he was asking us if we finally got our machine working, but he was verifying whether we got the message okay. It couldn't have been more than a couple of seconds when we figured out what he meant. We jumped back on the wire and asked him to send the message again but he'd already turned off his machine and gone. There was no way we could get him back."

"Then why didn't you guys just tell it to Brigade that way?"

"If we'd done that we would've had to say who was on the machine. Then they would've had an ass to burn. They always try to burn somebody, whether he's innocent or guilty." Randy stated.

"This way they couldn't attack anybody in particular. The only thing they could do was growl and threaten everybody." Jeff followed.

"What was the message all about?"

"It was an artillery strike and med-evac request from the field. A company of grunts were pinned down about fourteen miles from here." Rome answered.

"Did they get out in time?"

He shook his head.

"How many?"




"And we lost six and thirty got hurt. What d'we call it, an even trade?"

"Not when they're all Americans." Flip lowered his head.

"That's what I meant."

Nobody spoke for a few moments.

"-------!" I shouted. "Everyone of you guys here in this room either *----ed up a machine or knew of somebody who did. Now the ---- came back to haunt us. We're guilty, dudes....we're guilty!"

Everybody remained silent.

"I would've been just as pissed-off if somebody lost my message and my guys got zapped." I told them.

"We all would." Flip raised his head.

"Yeah, but Americans firing on Americans? It just doesn't sound right!" Boyd stated.

"This is the 'Nam, dude." Rome stated back. "Anything can happen. and it wouldn't be too difficult for the dudes who hit us to pin the blame on the ARVN's. They screw up so much its a wonder any of us are still alive."

"What about the Lieutenant, did you find out who his unit was?" I asked Daryl.

"Nope, they were way ahead of us. Three battery crews were disbanded the day after we got hit. Every man in them was transferred to a different unit. It's my feeling they broke up three so no one could figure out which battery was the one who hit us."

"Or hit that grunt company up north." Jeff stated.

Everyone turned to Jeff. He explained.

"What Daryl saw may have had to do with the grunt unit that got hit up north, not ours."

Rome turned to Daryl. "Is that a possibility?"


"Then we're back where we started, we don't know for sure that it wasn't an ARVN unit." I suggested, looking around the room.

"Not unless we consider the effect of our getting hit. That would shift it back to the Americans." Daryl replied.

"How do you mean?" Rome asked.

"Just something I was thinking about on the way back. Do you remember how everybody was really excited when we heard Nixon was going to start the bombing again?"

Rome nodded.

"What're you getting at?" Randy asked.

"I guess what I'm suggesting is that the end may have justified the means?"

"Explain." Rome told him.

"Look at how everybody on campus feels right now. They're all pissed-off and ready to kick ass. Ever since we were hit everybody has been rooting for the war instead of bitchin' about it. Morale has gone up. All the frats are starting to work together. Nobody's talking about acing the machines. All the deserters we let shack-up on campus have split. and be honest with yourselves, how many of you guys have wanted to get loaded? Flip had a jay last night but nobody else smoked it with him. I haven't gotten loaded in over 24 hours. Don't you see, everything fits. It doesn't matter if it was the ARVN's or some of our own guys who hit us. Either way, the CO, Brigade, and MACV, benefit. They get their soldiers back.

"So what you're saying is since the Army couldn't get the company to go to the front in order to change some military attitudes, they brought the front to the company?" Randy asked.

"I'm not concluding anybody on our side did it. I'm saying they're probably not gonna be too pissed-off that it happened if everything starts to get better around here and on campus."

"Makes sense." Rome agreed.

"And what if the CO and First Sergeant had something to do with it?" Jeff asked. "Do they get off?"

"We'll never know it that's true. We'd have to be General's to find out what really happened. But even though it looks kinda strange that neither of them were around, if somebody in the Army was behind us getting ripped-off, wouldn't they want to make sure the CO and First Sergeant were still around to put the pieces back together? and if they're innocent, do they deserve to be accused of murdering their own guys?"

"And what if that light Colonel you heard about ordered somebody to fire on us for revenge?" What happens to him? Does he walk away scot-free?" Boyd asked.

"He's got his conscious to deal with. Plus we've got to think about our part in it...."

"How's that?" Flip asked.

"It's like Phill said. The message was never received because the teletype broke down. Maybe we got paid back for all the times somebody broke a teletype on purpose."

"Well I can just imagine what those guys parents are gonna think knowing their guys got killed and we came out okay." Flip looked at Daryl.

"Hey, I'm not saying the comcenter should take all blame. A lot of mysterious bull---- was going wrong in microwave, the landline office, and the Orderly Room. There wasn't one place or one guy to blame. But that doesn't mean any of us who aced a machine on purpose shouldn't feel guilty. We should."

"Are you suggesting we should all go out and commit suicide to clear our conscious?" Boyd asked, his tone cynical.

"No. It may have been the ARVN's who zapped us. If we waste ourselves we'd just be raising their body count."

Daryl paused to look at everyone's face. When he looked at me I smiled my encouragement. He went on.

"The story's not over dudes, it's just beginning. Don't forget, we've been here. We've seen the beginning and the end. If we crap out what are the guys who are crawling around in diapers gonna say to us when it's their turn to fight another ----ty war? We've gotta be ready to help them."

"So what do we do in the end?" Jeff asked.

"What ever the end is, we've got to remember the guys who didn't make it out of here and live for them, the way they would've lived if they made it out themselves. The best thing we can do is make something out of our lives and tell people all about why they died, the same way we would've wanted them to do if we bought the farm and they were the one's who got out."

"Daryl's right." Robert stated. "Ain't nothing gonna change until this ----ing war is over with. We've just gotta make it out of here and tell people."

Both Daryl and Robert were right. and everyone walked away from the meeting that day with a new resolve. But despite their change of attitude and performance, the Army didn't change. Ten days after the bombing everyone was notified that the name of the company was changing to the 269th Signal Company. It was obvious MACV wanted to place us out of reach from journalists still curious about the incident. Whenever one would inquire about the location of Co A44 they would be told at 1st Signal Brigade level that the company had disbanded.

For a couple months after the incident things got worse for the guys who tried to turn over a new leaf but weren't given the same courtesy by the Orderly Room. In an attempt to break up the fraternities over forty-percent of the original guys were transferred out. Rome was gone. So were Randy, Flip, Boyd, Bill, Jeff, George, Norman, Lincoln, and Allan. By mid-May the campus was full of newbies. The shortimers who escaped the CO's witch hunt formed newer, more radical fraternities.

After returning from my spec ops in Cambodia, Robert, Jimmie, and I were the last of the old group. Jimmie left for home a few days later. Robert would stay a month after I left. He volunteered to extend his time so he could qualify for an early discharge.

When my turn came to leave, Robert made my last day on campus my best. He and some of the other guys arranged for a special jeep to drive me to the airbase. They even said a prayer that Charlie wouldn't toss a few 122's on my bird.

They had my driver park just outside the door of our hootch. They wanted me to remember the door-to-door service we got when the comcenter truck picked us up and dropped us off. It was a nice gesture on their part. I appreciated it.

Robert was standing near the jeep when I walked out of the hootch for the last time. Smiling, he raised his hand and gave me the black power handshake. Slapping my palm three times, we clasped fingers, shook wrists, clasped fingers again, then butted knuckles. He knew the handshake as well as any brother, probably better.

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