I have a gem I'd like to share with you. As many of you know, I run a list called the Bunker:
The bunker is a virtual hang-out where VN combat vets get silly & stoopid. Deeper down in the bunker, the Green Berets (Bunker Beanies) gather to get sillier and stoopider.
Usually, we belch-out show tunes or try to fart in colors, but the following gem came in response to a serious question: "What do those ASA guys do?"
LTC Bucky Burruss, former Delta Force XO, said something intelligent on the subject, sending ex-SOG one zero, SSG Bob Jack, dashing for a Funk and Wagnals. Bob sent the following:
In a message dated 96-08-01 19:18:16 EDT, MACVCCN1 0 writes:
>No really, does ASA run spook's even? The only ones I remember >were dealing with radios, secure voice, code equipment intercepts and location >of enemy transmitters, etc..
CSM John Martin (Bad-Eye), former CSM of The Delta Force, waded into this discussion and had himself a flashback which produced said gem. This is in it's rough draft, unedited form, and was never meant for publication. With John's permission, we're sharing.
The ones we had at Devens would go to the field or bury themselves in an urban area. On one Flintlock they saved a few of our teams from being scooped up by the aggressors, but the aggressors were Americans using PRC 25s and ANGRC46/47s. Not a tough challenge when the aggressors don't have secure equipment, the teams were able to beat the dragnets by a hair's breadth because of the intercepts and early warnings.
Running agents -- not likely. That's what 96Cs do -- not intercept folks. Because they were so "special" you never could get them to work _for_ you; you could only hope they would share something if it could save your ass. Other than those unusual situations, their info was just "too special" for us average boonie rats.
One enlightening incident in Vietnam alerted me to the presence of NVA intercept folks. I was running a recon team near Phuc Vinh. We just moved into the area and were within the range of the 175s they had there. We didn't know it at the time, but the area had been seeded with these little butterfly-looking things that would explode when you stepped on them. They were about as powerful as a cherry bomb and sounded like a bullet cracking over your ears. The first one we encountered scared the shit out of me.
The Cambode in front of me stepped on one and it looked like a bullet hit him in the boot and knocked him over. I thought it was a bullet impact, but we never worked this area, and I had heard that the American LRRPs liked to use toe-poppers (F6 rumor at the time). That caused me to hesitate, but when I saw the guy check his foot and not finding blood, I kicked off the ol' peel off IAD and ran the fuck out of there in the general direction of an exfil LZ. I was thinking sniper by now, and I was hoping we would just get the fuck out without running into a base camp or a large unit on the move.
Before the weapons could cool off from the IAD we had stepped on two more. Finally, we saw one and finally figured out what was going on. They were little plastic things about the size of a large match pack but in the shape of a heart. One wing or side of the heart was flat while the other was the bubble that contained the pressure sensetive detonator. Apperently, they were dispersed in bomblets. Since they weren't powerful enough to mame, what the fuck, over?!
About this time I'm on the horn with Billy Wahl at the FOB, and he's gives me the WAIT, OUT. The next transmission from him about two minutes later he tells me to find a hole, he ain't got time to explain, and stay off the air until he gets back to me.
Well, that was seemingly piss poor advice. It was obvious he just didn't understand my need to put a lot of distance between me and this fire cracker plantation. I still wasn't sure we weren't being sniped, but I damn sure new we were prabably detected. Diving in a hole and hoping the trackers didn't step on us wasn't in my original E&E plan.
As all this is going through my mind, I'm finally pulling out the map with one hand, trying to monitor the handset, unfolding the compass, and burning myself on the barrel of my CAR15, nearly fusing my nylon watch band to my wrist. I stifled a scream that would have woken the dead in Phuc Vinh. The result was that the containment of the pain and agony blew my brains and common sense right out my ear drums. The rest of the team was in a tight circle looking outwards so they didn't know why Trung Si was having a shit fit in the middle of this already worsening crisis.
After what seemed like a month or two, Billy comes back on the horn and tells me that 1) yes, those are not mines but sensing devices, 2) there are also tranmitters in the area that picked up the detonations and transmitted said alarms to the 175 battery at Phuc Vinh, 3) and the reason we told you to get down was they didn't know we were working the area and they had slewed the guns around and already levelled up the bubbles when our FAC got them to check fire! We were about to be bombarded by '52 Buicks full of CompB from our very own!!! And I thought Sir Charles was the enemy!
We sat there and cooled it for at least 20-30 minutes while I tried to explain this to the rest of the team in that horsey "whisper" that you guys know so well. The kind you could hear in a wind tunnel. The attempt to remain calm and collected with all that adrenelin pumping through your veins never seems to work when you try to whisper.
Well, back to the intercept story. By now it's late afternoon, and this triple canopy is starting to get dark. We weren't anxious to stay the night even though we had brought our jammies and favorite pillow, but the nearest LZ was too far to make before dark. Besides, this was a new AO and I wasn't going to travel faster than a slither. Not forgetting about trackers whom we start "hearing", we start the zig-zag, double back, plant a trip wire (no explosives), move on, listen a while routine. Pulling out all the Recondo school tricks now -- you get crafty after you've survived stupidity!
Just as we get to a nice thicket of briars, wait-a-minute vines, and deep gulleys the sun set with a thud. Honest to god, it got dark so fast I ran into my point man before I realized I was a blind as a bat. The shit was so thick you couldn't see an artillery flare if the canister hit you on the head. Gathering my senses I says in my thunderous wisper, "Let's hole up here. If they come through this jungle barbed wire for us here we'll hear their "Choi Duc Oi, Du Mami's!!!" before they step on us."
Well, no sooner did all six of us get head to head we really start to hear things. Just jungle noises of course, but we were still a little excitable -- new AO and all. I was thinking about calling in our coordinates and registering a few points with our FOB battery -- you know, just in case. Unfortunately, I didn't get a good fix before mother nature turned out the lights.
I'm sitting there thinking about getting under a poncho with a pen light and a map like we did in Pisgah on my last state-side FTX, but I also know we don't have any ponchos, no fart sacks, no poncho liners -- only a nylon ground sheet. Know what a pen light under a ground sheet looks like at night -- a fuckin' arch welder! Fuck that!
Right when this bolt of common sense hits me, one of the 'Bodes stands straight up. I couldn't see him, but my other senses felt him jump straight up so that when I turned around to see what was going on, my nose was right in his ass. That's when I really knew he was standing up! Like an idiot I think someone is going to see him standing up like that, but I realize I got my nose in his ass and _I_ can't see him.
Now I realize the reason he is standing up is that he sees a light. Not just light, but a flashlight -- then another from another direction -- then a third from yet another direction. Hooooly Sheeeet! And I don't even have a grid coordinate on my RON site! Man, we just sat there and shivered for a while while they moved off. Phew! Lucked out again!
After we got our shit together I told them we won't get much sleep tonight anyway so lets get a grid coordinate and start registering the artillery. This AO is ate up with H&I fire so maybe they will go underground while we walk the H&I right in front of us and put some distance between us while they were sitting out the nightly frag show. I knew we would have to make a break through a gauntlet in the morning if we went for the closest LZ. They probably had campfires all around it by now and were already singing and telling ghost stories while they waited for our dumb asses.
My guess was that after sunup, and if we lasted the day, we would probably come out on a string (STABO rig) if we could find a big enough hole in this jungle.
OK, OK, we got our asses in a crack, but, hey, we'll just crank up this artillery battery we got in the FOB and they will put a ring of steel around us, right? The need for an six-digit coordinate came to me like the thought of a cold beer to an alchoholic. Got to have it!
So under all the ground sheets, rucksacks, extra clothing and a couple 'Bodes I go with map and pen light w/red filter. A couple minutes later I come out with the golden fleece and a set of grid coordinates. Bingo! We've met 'success' on this effort.
If the god of war were not such an evil prick he would have fried my radio so that I couldn't make the next transmission, but he is eeeevil. Remember I said my common sense shot out of my ear drums that afternoon? Now, let me tell you what I meant.
As was our custom, we reported our locations in a CAC code and even reported our location with at least a 1500 meter offset. We had found a copy of our code in a bunker complex once so we always figured our shit was compromised by an insider indig. Well that night of all nights I get a brain cramp. In all the confusion I pick up the copy of the real coordinates, the ones that were not even encripted. By the time I hear myself say the coords in the clear, my American 11 grabs the mike out of my hands. He didn't say a fuckin' word. We just stared at each other, not seeing, but knowing -- our shit is flappin'.
The kid was scared, but he was cool. Probably for the sake of the 'Bodes who had not caught on yet. He just said we need to move or something like that and I just said something brilliant, like, "Yep". I started to stuff my ruck with everything I could lay my hands on, including about 5 pounds of leaves, twiggs, and other jungle floor litter. Didn't take the 'Bodes long to figure out what all the fast stuffing was about. By the time I turned to explain they had their kit on and were standing up holding on to each other's shirt tail. I could tell these guys were used to working with dumb fuck Americans. This was probably all deja vu to them.
Well, we still had our 'ring of steel' plan to put in effect so I called in the first call for fire and told them to wait till I gave them the go ahead. I did a quick head count by running my had over their head, down their back to the hand of the next guy, then up to his head, and so forth. Five ducks, all in a row; we're ready. I jumped into the #3 position with my 11 as #5, interpreter at # 2. Off we go for about 50 yards.
Oh, shit! they're back with more flashlights. This time they got flashlights, candles, and lanterns. And they're on line and lookin' real hard for something about 100-150 yards off to our right. The only reason we could see them is they were down hill from us. Then they started working up the gulley towards our most recent hide site. My original plan would have taken us right through their pickets so we went up an over the side of our gulley to put a ridge between us.
About the same time we got out of that little valley I saw another cordon sweeping down hill in the next valley, but they were quite a ways up hill from us. We could see a light every now an then, but there was a lot of them. I thought, these guys think they are still on the Ho Chi Minh Trail where they own the place, but here we are in the middle of III Corps and they are walking around like they are checking the neighborhood gas meters. These guys are seriously bold!
I'm thinking to myself that these fuckers would not dare to expose themselves so close to Phuc Vinh unless they were pretty sure they could snatch us quick. Without too much of a stretch of the imagination I figured I must have given them everything they needed to find us short of a red string leading into our RON site. The trackers probably had gotten them pretty close anyway, but I really must have given them a plumb with my bone-head sitrep with our location in the clear. Duuuuuh!
I'll spare you the heroics of how imanaged to get our asses out of there, but I did manage to run our own battery low on ammo. While they were taking a breather and I got some distance between me and Chuck, I cranked up the big boys at Phuc Vinh and put a little 'heavy metal' on our back trail.
During the briefback the 'Bodes got wind of my dumb ass attack. I ate a lot of crow every time I ate with them after that. One of them would mimick Chuck like old Ebineezer with his lantern looking for Christmas past. Then the rest of them would bust out laughing while I just sat there and smiled like I really enjoyed their little joke.
Although I was grateful for surviving that dumb ass attack, I am even more grateful nowadays to Mike, my 11, and the other 'Bodes who kept going back out there with me -- undoubtedly out of pure curiosity and a good laugh. One needs to look for humor in war as well as in life, and I think I gave them a good one that time. Hope you enjoyed it too.
Ever since then I have a deep appreciation for SIGINT the way Chuck used it. He fed it right back to the troops who could use it. If they would have followed our model, they would have sent the signals back to Hanoi and waited for further orders. That wouldn't have bother me none, but that ain't the point.