Today's keyword is Mars.
We're also linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday/
(A note to the reader - it was not uncommon at the time for Vietnamese men who were close friends to hold hands; it didn't imply homosexuality.)
God of War
Another day, another road sweep, but this one was special, because the Ruff Puffs were coming out to play.
The Regional Force / Popular Force guys had a great reputation for a gentle, peace-loving nature. Unfortunately, their job was to kill Charlie.
They were sure interesting, though. A patrol with them might mean that some chickens and pigs were coming along, and the guys toted the weirdest variety of weapons outside a museum. From old Nazi MG34s to BARs to Swedish Ks to machetes...these guys had it all. Sometimes they brought along ammunition, too.
And some of them patrolled holding hands.
It was a short run, one ville to the e next, but the Rome plows hadn't cut back toe bush as far as they'd been told, so we had the Ruff Puffs with us a foot-mobiles. If one tripped and fell into Charlie's spider hole, we knew we had a problem.
"New Guy tanks's running away again."
I sighed. New Guy tank had point, and it must have been Timex driving, because they were slowly creeping ahead of the Ruff Puffs, who were in turn doing a reverse accordion to cluster around Ship of Fools.
I wondered if the two watches Timex wore, one on each wrist, made him afraid that he was going to be late for something.
"You want me to catch up to him?"
"No, the Puffies can't run that fast. I'll see if I can rein him in." The New Guy TC was about to get a tongue-lashing, and I was kind of looking forward to it.
I flipped to the common preset, and was about to tell New Guy TC to get his head out of his...
A B-40 shot out of the bush, hit the turret of the New Guy tank, and shot straight up trailing a cloud of yellow-white smoke.
There was wailing around Ship of Fools, as the Ruff Puffs were reminded that there was a war out there.
New Guy TC and his loader had been in eyeball defilade, hatches cracked and only enough of their heads showing so they could see out.
Now the loaders hatch clanged shut as he made like a prairie dog...but the TC hatch flipped open, and New Guy TC rocketed upward, arms and legs churning. He literally hit the ground running, and ran straight at the place where the B-40 had been launched.
Meanwhile, his tank went barreling down the road, fading into the heat-haze.
If Charlie had been there, I bet he was crapping his pants, seeing a lone American running into the teeth of whatever fire Charles might choose to offer.
But Charles didn't know that his assailant was in a blind panic.
"Dude, stop the tank, and go get that idiot!". The Dude had the fastest feet in the tank, and he levered himself through the hatch and down the glacis and the tank groaned to a halt. Sonny jumped off the turret and disappeared into the driver's hatch. "Up!" he said, putting on The Dude's helmet and mike.
The Dude was going hard, but the idiot had a big lead, and I could see dust starting to kick up from the dead ground they were crossing. "Gunner, traverse right, hit the treeline!"
"TC, we got cannister in the tube!"
Crap. Biff was right. We were shooting too close to our own guys, and we'd shred them. "Get on the coax, and keep Charlie's head down!"
The thrity started hosing tracer, just past where ou boys were running. Biff was controlling the bursts so he didn't burn out the barrel.
The Dude looked back, then dug harder. New Guy Idiot TC was flagging, and as out rounds crossed with Charlie's in the air around them, The Dude tackled our boy and they rolled to the ground in a cloud of dust.
And then the coax stopped. "Coax is down!"
"TC, I can't!" There was hammering from inside the turret, and Charlie's volume of fire increased. The Dude and The Idiot were not going anywhere soon. Alive, I mean.
"Crap" was beginning to be a useful descriptor for the day. "Sonny, roll toward them, see if we can't..."
We'd just run over a mine, and the end of a severed track clattered sadly off its idlers.
But I'd forgotten about the Ruff Puffs (forgetting about them had been something of a dream...).
Two skinny Vietnamese ran from behind the left side of the tank. One was carrying an MG34, the other, two boxes of 7.92.
And instead of running away, they made straight for where The Dude and The Idiot had gone to ground.
This was not normal behavior for Ruff Puffs.
They ran past our friends, and went prone on a low earthen berm, really just a little mound. The 34 opened up with its characteristic ripped-fabric sound, and as Charlie's fire slackened, The Dude and The Idiot leapt to their feet...The Dude making sure The Idiot went the right way this time.
They reached Ship of Fools completely winded, and as they climbed up onto the rear deck The Dude said, "Who are those guys?"
"Ruff Puffs." They were still firing, but with a broken tank, how could we help them? Charlie had by now realized that the potentially valuable Americans had eluded his grasp, and all he had now was a Ruff Puff machine-gun team on his doorstep.
We couldn't do anything, and in less than a minute a fast flurry of fire made doing anything unnecessary. The guys on the gun were gone, and Charlie abruptly quit playing, and faded into the trees.
The rest of the Ruff Puffs were using the tank as defilade, and when they saw their guys get creamed...they started crying.
And holding hands.
The Dude was watching them, and abruptly turned away, one hand to his eyes.
Funny. Something got in my eyes, too.