August is burning this time of evening, thought Johnny Tremain as he and his squad lay hidden in the four-foot elephant grass watching the little fishing village of Wan Tu.
But, then again, he knew Vietnam was always hot in one way or another. He led his squad into the short grass close to the village. To him, the “short” grass was anything under four feet. Twenty paces or so behind his squad, the grass was well over ten feet tall. Johnny watched helplessly, trying to figure out just what to do now. The VC had beaten his squad to the village, and there was no hope for rescuing the villagers right now. The Kong had sent four patrol boats down the river. Given the numbers of the Kong now, Johnny’s men were outnumbered by at least eight to one. The only light they had to shoot by was coming from the villagers’ huts—the burning ones. Even with that, it was difficult to distinguish the North Vietnamese from the fishermen and their families. It looked as if everyone was wearing black pajamas. . . .
“Can you see ‘em?” whispered Mike Whitt.
The young staff sergeant from Alabama looked back over his left shoulder at Mike. “Slick-sleeved” and fresh from Alabama also, the young soldier was holding his radio like he thought it was a weapon but just couldn’t find the safety.
“Settle down a little, Mike,” whispered Johnny. “We’re not charging into that mess.”
“Let’s get out of here. We can’t do nothin’ with that,” whispered Billy Grube. The tall and lanky boy from Texas pushed the grass back to better see the sergeant’s expression.
“I know. I know,” grumbled Johnny. “But this place is bunches better than north of here. That Agent Orange crap is all over everything up there. Considering how fast it kills
everything green, it’s a wonder we’re still here at all.”
“Screw that orange crap,” whispered Marv Willis. “The way those huts are going up and the amount of snapping pops I heard from those AK 47s, there couldn’t be anyone in that village left alive.”
The Memphis boy’s slow Southern drawl always amused Johnny, but he could find nothing to laugh about now.
“Your Mamma San was from here, wasn’t she?” asked Marv, throwing a quick glance toward Johnny.
Watching the flames, Johnny offered a slight nod. “Mi has been working for me ever since I got to Holloway. He had grown increasingly fond of her, and her family, but had not ventured any farther into the relationship.”
“Where is she now?” came another question from Marv.
“Mi is in my room,” replied Raymond House, a young, sandy-haired corporal from Georgia. “Her parents and relatives are . . . were from here, I’m afraid.”
“Call a strike on this place,” suggested Marv. “Let the ROC’s show ‘em how to burn things. Do it now while their boats are still at the banks.”
The lanky Eufaula, Alabama corporal pointed toward a clearing halfway between the gunboats and the village. “Look at that,” he said, almost standing up.”
Several VCs were herding a dozen or so villagers toward the boats. Amid the shouting, cursing, and shooting, Johnny could hear children crying.
* * * *
And so starts the first novella in a series of Stories from Nam. Influenced by my brother, Ronald M. Williamson, these gripping talse have garnered more fantastic ratings than any other books or short stories I have ever written. Being a recon, sniper there at Camp Holloway, he had a close up view of the horrors of that war. Although based on fact from many of his friends as well as mine, they are linked together and framed by fictional accounts.