THE MISSION

By Charles D. Stokes

An excerpt from Soldier’s Reverie: Vietnam, 2018 Xlibris

Charles D. Stokes is a decorated Special Forces Soldier.  He spent 7 years in Southeast Asia serving on classified assignments in Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. He is a graduate of the United States Institute for Military Assistance, Operations and Intelligence Course; US/Foreign Weapons Course; Static Line Jumpmaster Course; Honor Graduate of the US Army Ranger School, and graduate of the US State Department Laotian Language School.

The Mission

About a week ago an eight man recon team was inserted by helicopter just over the border for what was scheduled to be a three day mission. The mission was to make an area reconnaissance (recon) of suspected enemy concentrations to confirm or deny the presence and location of an enemy base camp or supply routes. The usual practice was to get in, check the area, and get out as quickly as possible. Most excursions across the border were five to seven day missions. Due to the oncoming monsoon season, this particular mission was shortened to three days. Photographs from recon aircraft showed large numbers of enemy troops and equipment moving south along the border. As the enemy troops moved south the vegetation thickened. The triple canopy jungle hid all indication of the direction in which they had moved to continue their travels.

A favorable weather report indicated that the approaching monsoon rain would be late by at least two weeks. In bad overcast or heavy rains helicopter insertion was almost impossible and was always extremely dangerous. With this favorable weather report, the S-2 intelligence officer gave the go ahead for the mission. If the presence of heavy enemy concentrations was confirmed B-52 air strikes would be conducted before the rains started.

Late Rains

In western China on the Tibetan Plateau some 2,175 kilometers away angry black clouds boiled as they rolled over the high mountains. Loud claps of thunder followed by white flashes of lighting signaled that the awaited monsoon rains had begun, and it came in relentless torrents. The saturated clouds unleashed their life-giving water and soaked the high mountain plains. When the rocky soil had soaked in its fill and the reservoirs filled, the runoff formed rivulets that constantly sought release through the paths of least resistance. Riverbeds empty from the long, dry season were now filled like bloated varicose veins racing with alarmingly ever-increasing speed south, seeking other larger tributaries.

As the rain continued, the raging torrents of water burst their banks creating other tributaries where none had been before, sweeping away downstream everything in its path. Life-giving waters now became harbingers of death to all air-breathing creatures that did not move to higher ground. Smaller rivers joined the watery pilgrimage, flooding the highlands and, in turn, the deltas as cold waters and rain pressed relentlessly south through China, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Billions of cubic feet of water now rushed forward with every passing second, coursing its way to lower elevations before emptying into the mighty Mother Mekong River and, ultimately, the South China Sea.

© 2019 Charles Stokes, All Rights Reserved

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