The Clowns of War
I never saw Bob Hope in the combat zone, never heard his zippy one-liners and never gawked at his starlets and beauty queens in hotpants and skimpy blouses. He never came to my corner of the boonies. But we had comedy enough of our own, though it may seem a little crazy to some. But war is crazy, isn’t it?
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The hero of my favorite comic story is Lt. Alfa Bravo – that’s what I’ll call him – who misread an azimuth by 180 degrees and fired six howitzers east, instead of west. Blew up the basecamp fuel dump! Stuff burned for two weeks. Pillar of smoke by day, fire by night. Grounded jets across the Central Highlands. I think he got an Article 15 for that. Had to pay back $100 a month for the rest of his abbreviated military career. When the flame and smoke spurted over the horizon, we out on patrol knew what he’d done and we laughed. Oh, brother did we laugh. Basecamp! Where we boonie rats were scorned by the guys with starched fatigues and full stomachs. Where the commanding general had a ranch house with his wife in there with him. Basecamp on fire, by our guns – oh, it was great.
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We were dug in on a mountainside. Tall grass all around – figured if we couldn’t see the enemy, he couldn’t see us. We felt safe. Rain. Cold. But we slept easy. Then purple bursts of mortarfire shattered the dawn, cracking all around us! My recon sergeant asleep through it all. Couldn’t wake him! We rolled him into a foxhole and tucked him in with sandbags. He came up sputtering we were trying to bury him alive. We laughed so hard we nearly forgot to dive into our own foxholes.
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I don’t mean to say I’ve anything against helicopter drivers but they always seemed to me to take a very superior view of the grunt’s war. Chopper pilots working the DMZ in Korea asked for a few weeks’ TDY in Vietnam for a “holiday break” away from the rigors of piloting VIPs along a DMZ full of North Korean anti-aircraft fire. After a few days diving into hot LZs and seeing their buds knocked out of the sky, they whimpered to be sent back to Korea. Gave us a lot of satisfaction to wave them off with a one finger salute. I still smile thinking about it.
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Lt. Charlie Delta claimed to be a cowboy women couldn’t resist. Wore a pencil mustache and an outlaw gun belt. He got drunk in basecamp and broke into the Red Cross hootch to offer himself to the girls who couldn’t resist him. A WAC master sergeant beat him silly – broke some ribs – and threw him out into the mud. Where he sat whining lovesick country western songs until he passed out. Then she hauled him into her hospital and made his recovery long and painful. Yeah, well, a few weeks later he stepped on a mine. Blew off a leg. That wasn’t so funny.
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My favorite comedian was Lt. Echo Foxtrot, a great guy who was even more scared in the war zone than I was. Which meant he was very, very scared. He solved that problem with booze. But he was solid and only got drunk when his mech infantry platoon was buttoned down safe for the night on a firebase with lots of artillery all around. Never drunk on patrol. Of course it had to happen – one night, all comfy on a firebase, he got the call: Trouble out there on the highway! GIs under attack! He was sloshed but mustered his tracks roaring out to fight. Fight over, the tracks with steaming guns returned to the firebase. He wasn’t with them. Missing in Action. Good God. Next morning, the highway minesweep team woke him snoring in the middle of the road. He’d fallen off his track and slept the night there, overlooked by prowling Chucks and tigers. Best night’s sleep he had in the whole war, he said. But it put him off drink for life.
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I wonder what zippy one-liners old Bob would’ve made of stories like these? They’d be funnier coming from him, I’m sure. Especially with those leggy teases prancing beside him to spice things up. Yeah, that’s what we needed to make our war funnier – starlets in swimsuits.
(c) 2014 Steven Hardesty
http://www.forgottenwarstories.com/2014/03/01/the-clowns-of-war/Op-Edcomedy,vietnam warI never saw Bob Hope in the combat zone, never heard his zippy one-liners and never gawked at his starlets and beauty queens in hotpants and skimpy blouses. He never came to my corner of the boonies. But we had comedy enough of our own, though it may seem...stevenhardestySteven Hardestyforgottenwarstories@gmail.comAdministratorForgotten War Stories