Enemies of the Revolution
OBJECTIVE BLUEFIELD, 15 MILES WEST OF DA NANG, SOUTH VIETNAM
Four of the South Vietnamese soldiers had surrendered, shouting frantically in Vietnamese as the shadowy silhouettes of the enemy troops appeared in the rising smoke like ghastly apparitions. The fires from the grenade explosions only added to the hellish scene.
“Come forward! Keep you hands in the air!” a harsh voice shouted in Vietnamese from the enemy lines. “Understand?”
One of the surrendering South Vietnamese soldiers translated the orders into English. JT and the other two surviving members of his team had no choice but to comply, crawling or walking slowly several dozen yards behind their South Vietnamese allies.
“Long live the Communist Party!” several voices screamed, then an enemy machine gun opened up, mowing down all four South Vietnamese soldiers within seconds.
“Jesus Christ,” JT gasped. He couldn’t say that he was exactly surprised at what had happened. The North Vietnamese, like the Soviets who supported them, were a savage, bloodthirsty enemy fighting for an ideology that could never coexist peacefully with Western democracy. He prepared to draw his weapon again, thinking if the communists had intended to kill them all anyway, he would go down fighting and take down as many of them as he could. Then, however, he saw what appeared to be a higher ranking communist shove the gunner away. This time the machine gun was fired in the air.
“Hold your fire! I said hold your fire, Comrade Sergeant!” a high-ranking North Vietnamese officer, Major Troung, said.
“We must kill all of the capitalists and the American imperialists who support them, Comrade Major!” Sergeant Pham, the machine gunner who had massacred the surrendering soldiers, said, “We must saturate this soil with their blood. These are the words of our Paramount Leader. Ho Chi Minh demands it!”
“Do not forget your place, Comrade Pham,” Major Troung shot back, “Are you questioning my orders? Do you doubt my loyalty to the Communist Party?” Pham had the robotic look and mannerisms of a cold, calculating killer while Truong was more of a raging revolutionary thug like most of the other commies.
“No, of course not, Comrade Major,” Pham replied quickly, giving him the communist salute.
“I admire your revolutionary spirit, though,” Troung told him quietly in Vietnamese. “We needed the Americans to surrender. Remember how useful their information may be. After their usefulness to us is gone, of course they will die, and that will be fun to watch, I promise you, Comrade.”
“Yes, Comrade!” Pham shouted energetically in response as if he was a football player gearing up for a game. “For the glory of the Paramount Leader!”
Major Truong smiled and looked at the other two remaining South Vietnamese soldiers. “They, however, know nothing useful. They are only the stooges of the Americans.” He then took out a large hacksaw as a Soviet made tarped truck filled with communists pulled up. The North Vietnamese soldiers violently herded JT and the other Americans onto the truck, spitting on them, jamming their weapons into their chests and kicking and beating them, screaming obscenities and shouting socialist slogans in Vietnamese. JT saw that they were armed with the newest, most advanced assault weapons from the Soviet Union and China.
After two minutes, Truong barked more orders, and the communist soldiers who had been beating the Americans stopped, falling back and standing at attention. Truong took a puff on his cheap Soviet cigarette and blew the smoke into JT’s face, then spit right into his forehead. JT seethed in anger.
“You are now prisoners of the People’s Army of Vietnam. My name is Comrade Major Truong,” the Communist said in halting English. “I know your unit is based at the American base in Da Nang. Is this correct?” Truong demanded. He was met with silence. JT was expecting another brutal beating, but it didn’t come, at least not yet. Instead, the menacing Communist officer simply stared back at him with an ice cold expression that masked a brutal savagery.
“I hope you understand, Corporal Teller,” he said, looking at the name on JT’s uniform, “that there is nothing I will not do to raise the Red Banner over this land and purge it of the West’s poisonous influences. So here is what is going to happen. You will be taken to a position behind our lines, and you will be asked a number of questions. If you and your men do not cooperate, I will now give you an example of the consequences. You know the French guillotine, that is clean and quick. I will now show you the communist way.”
Truong dragged the first South Vietnamese POW over and began sawing into his neck, blood spraying everywhere. The communist officer smiled sadistically as he purposely did it as slowly and painfully as possible. At first, the POW screamed in pain, then JT heard a sickening gargle as he began chocking on the blood. It took more than a minute before the POW’s head was completely severed from his neck. “That is not the worst that can happen, American. You will learn that you will have no choice but to do as we command.”
VILLAGE OF HOI AN, SOUTH VIETNAM
It was another scene from hell as the North Vietnamese transport truck arrived at the small farming and fishing village that the Communists were using for their forward operating base. The terraced rice paddies outside the small town were dotted with Soviet-made tanks, heavy artillery, and antiaircraft guns. JT saw several of the commies firing their weapons into the air and shouting revolutionary slogans and insults as the truck carrying the captured Americans drove past the defensive positions into the heart of the village. Most of the village had been set ablaze, civilians still screaming as the commies went house-to-house, killing the village’s residents at will. At this moment JT was more determined than ever to make these savages pay if he ever had the chance. The enemy soldiers were also ransacking and vandalizing privately owned businesses and setting fires all across the village. A few minutes later, they were waved into a large compound close to Hoi An’s fishing harbor, where North Vietnamese soldiers were busy dousing several boats with gasoline and lighting them on fire. The Paramount Leader Ho Chi Minh had decreed that the civilian population of South Vietnam would pay a heavy price for rejecting the principles of the Communist Revolution and allying themselves with America.
As he and the other Americans were herded off the transport, being prodded like cattle by the sneering North Vietnamese guards, he prayed that somehow those jeeps were able to reach Da Nang and that help was on the way. This far north, the communists could easily take them across the border, maybe even to the infamous torture chambers of the Hanoi Hilton, or even worse hand them over to the Soviets to be taken to Siberia. In that case, there was no way he would ever see Charming again.
AMERICAN COMMAND HEADQUARTERS, DA NANG AIR BASE
Otis Cross forced everything out of the repaired engine as the military jeep sped back to base as fast as the muddy unpaved dirt roads of South Vietnam allowed it to. Nonetheless, an hour and a half had passed before they finally hit the heavily potholed pavement as they entered the town of Da Nang. They knew something was up as they drove through the center of town on the way to the military base. Usually at this time of night, the streets of Da Nang would be packed with American GIs and South Vietnamese soldiers enjoying the bars, brothels, and massage parlors that dominated the town’s nightlife, but tonight the only troops in town were on high alert with roadblocks set up at major road junctions and civilians cowered in their homes, with many businesses shut down early. The festive mood of the Tet holiday was decidedly absent.
Otis immediately reported to his superior officer, Colonel Shawn Adkins along with Sergeant Major Loc Bui of the South Vietnamese Army. They saluted quickly and Adkins got straight to the point.
“What the hell happened out there today? Where’s JT and the rest of y’all?” he said with concern in his grizzled voice.
“Sir, we were caught in the front of a massive enemy offensive. We were attacked by at least two full companies of North Vietnamese troops aided by attack helicopters, tanks, and heavy artillery. We were able to take out most of their equipment but we were overrun by communist infantry. While we were able to inflict heavy casualties on the Red bastards, they also took out most of my men. JT sent us here after our radio was destroyed by enemy fire. JT and at least five or six other Americans were taken prisoner. Sir, we all fought very bravely. God is my witness when I say this. They had us completely outnumbered.”
Adkins nodded with a glum expression on his face. “I know, Sergeant. JT is one of my finest men. We’re hearing about widespread hostile activity and large scale surprise attacks all over the country. If JT was outnumbered by that much, he made a decision to preserve the lives of the soldiers he can. Any idea where they might have been taken?”
Cross motioned toward the South Vietnamese military officer. “This is Sergeant Major Loc Bui. He was able to overheard some of the enemy conversations during the battle before JT had to surrender and we had to return to Da Nang.”
“Please proceed, Sergeant Major,” Adkins said, pacing the room and fanning himself with some papers despite the ceiling fan already spinning at top speed. Despite the fan and the rusty window unit air conditioner that struggled to stay on through the oppressively muggy night, all of them were drenched in sweat.
“Thank you, Colonel Adkins,” Loc said respectfully. “The enemy was bragging about how they’ve taken control of Hoi An and set up their temporary occupation headquarters at the fish market by the docks. They also spoke of taking the captured Americans there and questioning them for information about this very base we are on and our tactical plans for the next few months. Sir, if I may, I highly doubt they intend to ever release JT or the other Americans alive. I saw them murder several of my men in cold blood after they had surrendered, including two who were beheaded as slowly as possible. I heard them speaking of doing worse things to the Americans after they get the information from them.”
Adkins slammed his fist into his table, leaving a dent in it. “Goddamn it! Those fucking communist pigs!”
“I know, sir. We have fought them here far longer than you have. Vietcong rebels in Saigon dragged my brother out of his house and shot them on the street in front of all his neighbors. My sister-in-law was then taken to North Vietnam to be a sex slave for their army. I swear I hate these communists at least as much as you do for what they’ve done to my country. They claim to be liberating Vietnam from Western influences, but they are slaves and puppets for Soviet Russia. I want to be involved in any rescue attempt, sir. My men will be ready and we know Hoi An very well. Many of them are from this area. We will kill the commie bastards including the fucking Soviets.”
Colonel Adkins made a cautious motion. “Whatever attempt at getting those men back has to go through the chain of command. Trust me this is a priority for us and everything the two of you just told me will be passed on immediately. I need some clarification on one thing, though. Sergeant Bui, you mentioned the Russians. It’s common knowledge that the Soviets are bankrolling and supplying the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong but are you saying they have a presence on the ground? The Soviet Embassy in Hanoi has vehemently denied this.”
“Please, sir. We both know that a Soviet cannot open his mouth without lying,” Loc said bitterly. “And yes, there was talk of having the Russians take a look at the American prisoners. We’ve always suspected they have advisors on the ground working directly with and training the Communist enemy including the brigades that are stationed near the border. This only confirms what we have all suspected for a long time.”
Adkins shook his head. “This is not good. Not good at all. It can definitely complicate things.”
NORTH VIETNAMESE FIELD HEADQUARTERS – HOI AN FISH WHOLESALE MARKET
Since the peddlers and fish merchants were engaged in commerce, they were considered enemies of state socialism and had been publicly executed one by one as the North Vietnamese soldiers and communist supporters laughed, jeered, and through objects at them. Their bodies were still laying in a heap in the front of the market for all the passerby to see as an example of the fate that befell them if they resisted the North Vietnamese invaders. Sergeant Pham had all five American POWs lined up in a row along a moldy wall as a half dozen Communists stood guard with weapons ready. All of them had the eyes of crazed killers whose bloodlust was not sufficiently satisfied by their rampage against the villagers.
JT and the soldiers were first led into what used to be a merchants association office, where pictures of Ho Chi Minh and Vladimir Lenin had been abruptly hung upon the Communist takeover of the town. A loudspeaker was playing the Vietnamese rendition of the Internationale, the worldwide communist anthem. Sergeant Pham grabbed JT and shoved him forward in front of all his men so he faced the imposing Communist portraits. At the same time, Major Troung embraced a non-Vietnamese man who looked toward the Americans with an evil sneer. While this man wore unmarked jungle fatigues, his typical Soviet haircut and the Russian vodka bottle he held in his hand gave him away as one of the Red Army advisors.
“You will kneel before the leaders of our glorious revolution,” said Pham to JT.
“Fuck you!” JT said, looking him straight in the eye.
Pham spat. “Even the foot soldiers of the capitalist bourgeois show this arrogance. I must make you humble yourself, Corporal Teller.” Pham ordered two communists to grab JT, holding him tight then began beating him brutally. Pham jammed his jackboots into JT’s stomach, the American doubling over uncontrollably, though he immediately tried to get up through the pain. JT then punched him twice in the face and again in the abdomen. This time, JT was unable to get up. Pham screamed, mustering more of his strength then came upon JT again then kneed him in the chest, backfisting him so that he slid several feet across the floor. Pham then ordered one of his men to bring him a rattan cane.
“Hyaaaaa!!!” Pham screamed maniacally as he brought the cane down on JT several times. “You dare disrespect our Paramount Leader? Death to America! Death to all capitalists!”
“I told you that you will bow before the leaders of the socialist proletariat!” Pham screamed again, grabbing a chunk of hair on the back of JT’s head and slamming his head into the ground. JT was on the verge of losing consciousness, but Pham forced him back to his feet. “You are nothing, Corporal Teller,” Pham said with a deranged look in his eyes. “America is nothing.”
The Soviet man chuckled wickedly, shaking his head at the Americans. “In the Soviet Union, our methods are of course more high tech, but I am impressed at how you make do with what you have, Comrade,” he said in Russian. “The way you are teaching this arrogant American his lesson is more….more spirited. I enjoy watching this.”
“I am honored by your compliments, Comrade,” Troung, who had been overseeing the entire session, responded.
“Take them to the prison! Extract the information from them!” Pham then ordered, but as his subordinates came to move the POWs to the holding area, the Soviet advisor spoke up again.
“One moment,” he said simply in Russian.
“Da, Comrade Gavrilov?” Troung replied, also speaking Russian as he addressed Red Army Colonel Yevgeniy Gavrilov by name. He motioned for Pham to stop and follow the Soviet’s instructions.
“You say the ones who give up the information will be used for slave labor,” Gavrilov continued in Russian, knowing none of the Americans spoke his language. He nodded to the skinniest American soldier, who was also already limping from his injuries in the battle where he had been grazed by a bullet and sprained his ankle while going through the jungle while retreating from the communist assault on their position. Gavrilov removed a Soviet pistol from his holster and took another shot of his Russian vodka. “Then maybe you can spare him as a favor to me.”
“Da, tovarich, of course,” came Pham’s natural reply. After all, the North Vietnamese depended on Moscow for their class warfare against the capitalists of the South and against the West.
“Besides, you can never strike enough fear into the hearts of our enemies,” Gavrilov, said, switching to English, walking over to the wounded American. JT knew what was about to happen and tried to tear loose but the North Vietnamese soldiers holding him down kicked him again then tied his hands together with some rope.
“I want you to look into my eyes, and see the face of the man who will end your life, American,” Gavrilov said to Steve Tucker in his menacing Russian accent. “I am Yevgeniy Gavrilov. I serve the Politburo of the Soviet Union. I cannot count the number of people I have killed for my beliefs. South Vietnamese, South Koreans, Hungarians, and Czechs. Nothing gives me more pleasure, however, than to kill an American soldier. You and I are sworn enemies, American, so this is a moment I will relive, and drink to, and take pride in for the rest of my life. I will look back on his moment, and know that I have performed my duty to the Soviet Union. I will return to Moscow and tell my father about this moment, American, and he will embrace me in his arms, and he will tell me that he is proud to have raised a good son who kills our enemies without mercy.”
Gavrilov raised the pistol and pointed it at the soldier’s head, but that wasn’t enough. The Soviet officer forced the gun into the American’s mouth, shoving it need into his throat. “Long live the revolution,” he said in Russian in a psychotic trance, then finally pulled the trigger, unleashing a shower of blood and brain matter across his own uniform, the other POWs, and the ground. He then told the North Vietnamese to carry on.
Pham then took over again. “I hope this convinces you that you will not be awarded any special treatment because you are Americans. We do not care about the Geneva Convention. We will do what it takes to get the information we need from you.”
“And then, you will work for the Communist Revolution by helping to repair the bridges and roads damaged by your cowardly American bombers.” Of course Pham didn’t add the part where after this, they would be worked to death in the socialist prison camps alongside the South Vietnamese enemies of the Hanoi regime, including anyone who or whose family had ever owned a private business.
Derek Lawson spat on the ground and Truong whirled around, his eyes wide with psychotic rage. “Go to hell, you fucking commie pinko, and your Russian friends too.” Lawson and JT loved the United States with every fiber of their being, and would love nothing more than to be fighting and killing Soviets, but the North Vietnamese, doing to South Vietnam what the Soviets had taught them, were the next best thing.
Troung stepped in front of Lawson and saw the Christian cross around his neck. He violently yanked it off but Lawson didn’t even flinch. “This is why there can never be peace between us, American,” Truong said. “You believe in the Bible. I believe in the Communist Manifesto. Except, American, what I believe in is real.”
Truong barked some orders in Vietnamese and one of the soldiers came forward holding a box that had been set on a metal table. Truong removed the lid, revealing a poisonous green jungle snake which he lifted out of the box. Evidently, he had been trained in snake handling and the serpent seemed to obey his commands. Truong went back to Lawson and the snake lashed out, biting him once on the shoulder, drawing only a bit of blood, but the pain was immediate and intense and Lawson gritted his teeth, being to sweat profusely.
Truong went back to the box, removing a small vial with a syringe and needle attached to it. “This is a slow acting venom,” he said, addressing not just Lawson but all the American prisoners. “Death will come over the course of an hour as the poison makes its way to his heart, his lungs, and his brain. This is the antivenom to the snake. Lawson, I will administer this the moment you or one of your friends tells me the information I demand. You have the power to save yourself, and your friends have the power to save you.”
“I will proudly die for my country, and so will every man here.” Lawson said weakly, “I will be in heaven with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, while you will be burning in hell along with the rest of your army because one day we’re going to kill you and we’re going to lay waste to North Vietnam the way we did to Japan and Germany. You’ll be sorry you ever fucked with America.”
Truong smiled evilly. “God will not save you. But I can save you, if you let me.”
CAMP BECKLEY, SOUTH VIETNAM
Otis Cross and Loc Bui were finally called back into Colonel Adkins’s office more than three hours later. They wondered what had taken their senior officers and the higher ups in the chain of command to response. They knew that with every minute that passed, the chance of getting JT, Piney, Lawson and the other captured Americans from their platoon back from the enemy diminished. They were not aware that the military had just been caught in the largest coordinated enemy offensive so far in the entire war.
“A rescue operation is not realistic at this time,” Colonel Atkins said, “What your platoon went through is now happening all over the country. We have North Vietnamese forces and Vietcong fighters engaging our positions in at least four different areas in Da Nang Province alone, and this offensive is happening everywhere from here to Saigon. In fact they’re reporting street fighting in Saigon only a few miles from the American Embassy and the presidential palace.”
“Sir, if we counterattack, that may help keep the enemy disorganized and delay their offensive,” Otis pointed out. “The commies are going to have to bring some men back to the north to protect their FOB in the village. This will be beneficial to the larger theater of battle in addition to allowing us to get JT and the other guys back.”
Atkins sighed. “There’s another issue, gentlemen,” he said, “As you pointed out, Sergeant Major Bui, there are Soviet advisors on the ground in Hoi An working with the North Vietnamese, and possibly even playing a role in directing and planning this offensive. This confirms what our intelligence reports have been telling us. We do know chatter between North Vietnam and the Soviet Union has gone up significantly in the past month or so, and that the Soviet ambassador to North Vietnam recently visited the border area with a contingent of who we believe are Red Army officers and/or KGB agents.”
“So what, sir? This ain’t exactly news to any of us.”
“If we send a team in and engage the Red Army….”
“It’s only a couple of advisors, Colonel! Advisors that they don’t even fucking admit are on the ground! If anything, we’ll have proof that the Soviet ambassador’s lying through his teeth!”
“You need to watch your attitude, Corporal Cross. And regardless of how many, it will be a direct confrontation against Soviet forces. Washington is extremely wary of the consequences. It could very well lead to an international incident. Plus I don’t think you understand the global politics The Soviets’ current denial won’t mean a thing if we have dead Russian soldiers arriving back in Moscow in body bags.”
“So you and the fucking cowards in Washington would rather see American soldiers in body bags, or better yet American soldiers who are never seen again at all? Just for political expediency? Is that it? Are we hearing this bullshit correctly?” Winston yelled, slamming his fist on the wall so hard that even his commanding officer was taken aback.
“You are out of line, soldier!” Adkins yelled back, getting up.
“I don’t care right now! I came here to kill commies, I don’t give a damn if they’re North Vietnamese, Russian or whatever! You’re saying we’re going to let our own boys rot and die at the hands of those animals because going after them might offend the sensibilities of some latte drinking bureaucrat in Washington who has never even set foot in Vietnam? And I’m sure as hell not going to let the commies take them to Russia so they can guinea pigs for torture experiments. Sir, they sent us over here to fight a war and kill the enemy. Let us do our job!”
“My answer is final. This meeting is over. You’re dismissed.”
The two men quickly filed out of their room, where more of their fellow soldiers were waiting, including another young man from Charming by the name of Clay Morrow. He was a private who had just been transferred up from Saigon. He already was on his way to being a decorated soldier with six kills under his belt, all of them in a large firefight against Vietcong irregulars on the banks of the Mekong River. Clay knew the North Vietnamese Army was better trained, but he felt ready for them too.
“Y’all heard that?” Otis asked in the most aggravated tone of voice they had ever heard him use.
“Yeah. That’s some goddamn bullshit for sure,” Clay replied.
“I do have some ideas,” Loc finally said. “It will be very risky of course, and your superiors will not like it, but it addresses their concerns. I must warn you, though, it can get ugly. More so than you Americans may be accustomed to. But if you decide to follow this path, I and some of my men will be with you the entire way. This was my war before it was yours. I hate the communists with every fiber of my being, and I am still not done making them pay for what they did to my brother and his family or to so many of my closest friends. I will kill every last one of the bastards who put on that uniform, and every Russian I see.”
Both Otis and Clay knew of how Loc’s brother had been violently murdered by the Communists, but they had seen their share of ugliness too.
“Well, let’s hear it,” Clay said with an inquisitive look on his face.
“Damn straight,” Otis said too, “Let’s see what you got.”
Author’s Note: The “Hanoi Hilton” was the nickname for a notorious North Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War. John McCain was held and tortured here for many years after his plane was shot down.