Sunday, 25th August 2019 - 10:55:32 am
It was a week before Kincaid was able to see Whalen. Bob Douglas finally flew him in. The new landing pad was behind the village, within walking distance of the huts. Kincaid took a jeep out to meet him anyway. When the chopper had set down, he signaled Douglas to cut the engine.
The first words out of Whalen's mouth were: "I can't stay long."
Bob Douglas was right behind him.
"Take the jeep into the village," Kincaid told Douglas. "Come back in?" he looked at Whalen.
"Half and hour," Whalen filled in.
Douglas drove off.
"I'm terribly sorry about your woman," Whalen said. "What was her name?"
"Yes. Phouc. They told me she meant a lot to you."
"That is true. She did."
"Well I'm sorry. That was a terrible thing."
"I've got good news for you," Whalen said.
Kincaid didn't say anything.
"You're in for another silver star," Whalen said.
"That"ll do me a lot of good." Kincaid's tone was sarcastic. "So what did you find out about that ARVN Ranger thing? How is Collins?"
"Collins is back in the States."
"What the hell! How can he testify back in the States?"
"Listen to me for a minute, Steve. Now give me a chance to talk, okay?"
"I'm not interrupting you."
"Well I want you to hear me out. Let me finish before you say anything, will you?"
Kincaid was getting impatient. "Okay. So go ahead and talk."
"We're going to have to drop this." Whalen put up his hands as if to block and interruption which never came. "Now hear me out. We're going to have to drop this and here is why; we're getting into an area on this that we don't want to get into. The deeper we dig into something like this, the more we get into the question of, do we want people like this as allies in a war? That is a question which is not in the province of the military to decide. You see, that is getting into the area of politics. It's not up to us to choose the war and the allies, it's up to the politicians. It's our job to fight the war that the politicians give us with the allies they give us." Whalen paused.
"Is that it?" Kincaid asked.
"That's the logic behind not pushing for an investigation."
"I never heard so much horse shit in my life! Do you really believe what you're saying?"
"I know it sounds silly to people in the field. Things are a lot simpler out here. But right now, things aren't all that stable in Saigon. If it got out that South Vietnamese Rangers attacked US Army personnel, it could bring down their government. And the American newsmen would have a field day with it. They blow everything out of proportion as it is."
"Maybe the government should be changed."
"To what? If we had anything better don't you think we'd jump at it? And don't forget this, there's always the chance that a VC sympathizer in ARVN arranged for those Rangers to attack just so the Saigon government would be embarrassed. So we figure it's better not to rock the boat. The South Vietnamese might not be such good allies but..." He shrugged and didn't finish.
"So that's going to be the end of it?"
"Not quite." Whalen shifted his feet and wouldn't meet his eye. "There's more. The South Vietnamese government is in a bad spot. You've caused them to lose face. Word got out that you wiped out a crack Ranger company."
"We had to make it seem like you were the aggressor. I told you why. It looks too bad if we tell the truth. Now..." Whalen let it hang. He shifted his feet some more and looked away.
"Go ahead," Kincaid said. "Now what?"
"We've got to make it look like we're taking action against you. Punitive action."
"Christ!" Kincaid said. "This is hard to believe. Go ahead. What kind of punitive action?"
"You are not making this easier for me."
"I hope not. What kind of punitive action?"
"Well, we talked it over."
"Who is we?" Kincaid interrupted.
"Believe me, this goes all the way to the top here and back to Washington. A lot of people in high places are aware of your problem."
"That's comforting." Kincaid was being sarcastic again.
"We decided that the best thing would be a B-29 raid. That way no one would get hurt."
"Where are you going to bomb? Hanoi?"
"We're going to bomb right here. This village. Day after tomorrow. 1700 hours." He checked his watch. "You've got about fifty five hours to move out."
"You can't do that. That represents everything they own."
"We've already thought of that. We"ll pay everyone for their losses."
"There's more to it than that. These are their homes that you're talking about. They've got religious shrines in there too. The shrines can't be moved."
Whalen shrugged. "Can't be helped now, Steve. It's all agreed upon. This will help the South Vietnamese save face. They guarantee that this will be the end of it. The incident will be history. You make sure that everyone gets well clear, Steve. Tell "em we"ll pay double or triple damages. Hell, pay 'em triple. How much could it cost?" He came up close to Kincaid as if he didn't want anyone to overhear. "Oh yeah, by the way. I just heard on the grapevine that it looks like I may have a star in my future. Huh? What do you think of that?"
"Great," Kincaid said absent mindedly. His thoughts were elsewhere.
"Well, it's no secret that I owe it all to you. I just supply the ball that you carry and it's your team too. I wanted you to know that if I get a star, you get an eagle on the same orders. I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, what do you think of that?"
"Great," Kincaid said absent mindedly.
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