Friday, February 21, 2014

The Embarrassing Second Amendment

The Embarrassing Second Amendment: Reprinted from the Yale Law Journal, Volume 99, pp. 637-659

This treatise, authored by Stanford Levinson, who describes himself  as a "a card-carrying A.C.L.U. member who doesn't own a gun", argues that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution limits the government's authority to regulate private gun ownership.

The author seems, at times, to be almost embarrassed to find himself presenting an opinion that, when compared to the other Constitutional Amendments in the Bill of Rights, patiently and determinedly proves that the Second Amendment confirms a right for the individual to possess a firearm.

This opposes the general "liberal" interpretation that it allows the states to field a militia.  And then he explains why the constitution would not have been established to support "states rights" as opposed to an "individual right".  (Essentially, if the Federal government was prohibited from restricting 2nd amendment rights .. or any other constitutional right ... to the individual, then the States must necessarily be similarly restricted.)

Why am I presenting this here?
A few years ago, when the "Old Blogspot" software was in effect, I included a number of links on my sidebar which I considered important to readers who were interested in Second Amendment resources.  Upon the advent of the "New Blogspot" software, all of those links went away.  Since then, through a combination of ineptitude and lethargy, I have been unable to re-implement those sidebar links.

Recently, I've decided that most readers might benefit by having some of these intellectual resources being brought to their attention, so perhaps a few might wish to visit the references and, if they decide that the information might be personally significant, they can bookmark the reference links for themselves.

Personally, upon rereading Levinson's writings, I discovered that some of the principles which I had written in these spaces had been strongly influenced by his 2005 statements of opinion.

Here are just a few of them, paraphrased:

*  "A lot of murders are committed by guns; the cost of social disorder is too great, wouldn't we all be better off if there were no guns?"    No, guns are often used by individuals to defend themselves, their homes, their families.  Despite the 'social disorder', the value of private ownership of firearms far over-rides the costs.  Some things are just to valuable to dispense with them.

* (going back to a previously cited question): "The constitution specifically forbids the Federal Government from 'abridging' the right to own firearms; it doesn't say anything about the states."  Again, other amendments are generally considered to be binding on states as well as Federal government.  Those functions which are forbidden by the Federal government are equally as binding on the State governments.  (As Levinson points out, there is a philosophical dichotomy at the municipal lever; witness the "Morton Grove" ordinance.)

* "The Miller Decision; didn't it established that 'short barreled shotguns' are clearly illegal?"  Direct quote from the Levinson:  "Miller might have had a tenable argument had he been able to show that he was keeping or bearing a weapon that clearly had a potential military use."  In fact, short barreled shotguns were used during WWI; they were called "Trench Guns", and since the fact that "military weapons" were at the time deemed an acceptable defense to the legality of owning a specific firearms .. well, but Miller skipped town and presented NO defense, and lacking any defense at all, the court was obliged to find for the plaintiff.  In that single case was established a precedent which succeeding courts were required to consider.  That's why we ended up with the "Ruby Ridge" fiasco.

As you can see, many of the points which Levinson discusses are seminal in Second Amendment debates even decades after the fact. 

I won't bother you with too many examples.  Take the time to read the original source document about why the Second Amendment is "embarassing" ... not the least of which is that, in the minds of most Constitutional Scholars, they really don't much care about it.

But you do, and I do.

Read the whole thing.  You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Union Thuggery"? Who knew?

Philadelphia union members indicted in '12 Quaker house arson | Fox News:
 (February 20, 2014)
Ten Philadelphia union members have been indicted for allegedly using illegal means of coercion, including the torching of a Quaker meeting house, to force local contractors to use organized labor. The federal indictment, which was unsealed Tuesday, accuses members of Ironworkers Local 401 of several crimes, including racketeering and arson. Other alleged crimes include incidents in which union members allegedly threatened or assaulted contractors and damaged construction equipment and job sites.
“While unions have the right to legally advocate on behalf of their members, my office will not tolerate the conduct of those who use violence to further union goals,” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a press release. “Union officials and members who commit arson, destroy property, use threats of physical harm, and engage in other acts of violence to extort victims on behalf of their union need to be criminally prosecuted."

I can hear the screaming from here.  "Unions are Brother helping Brother!"

Okay, I get that.

But Brother, if any part of these charges are true ... there's no "Brother helping Brother" involved in torching a church!  Can anybody recall the torching of Southern Baptist churches in the Deep South?


There's the rub; the question of Big Labor vs Big Business is not entirely in the past, but at this point, and under these conditions, who's the "SCAB" here?  Is it the man who just wants to feed his family, and takes over the job which a Union member abandoned ... willingly?

Everybody knows that the UAW destroyed Detroit.   There comes a time when the balance shifts from Union Righteousness to Free Market Enterprise, and it looks like the balance has shifted.

Working at a no-future, mind-killing job?  Think you should be paid more money because you are WILLING to work on an Assembly Line, where there is no 'intellectual stimulation'?   Fine, I can understand that.

But when you come into a job with no skills, and seem to accept that this is the best it will ever get for you, I'm wondering why you don't channel the American Spirit and learn new skills on your own time.

A Computer Programmer who is earning ... oh, say, $26.50 an hour has invested in improving himself.  Maybe he will go to night school and learn more technical skills.  He can go as far as his determination to be a better man will take him.

A sheet-metal man can learn cad-cam.  He can do something more for himself, and for his family.  That's the way to improve your lot, and to provide for your family, and to make yourself proud of your achievement.

Burning a church?  Are you PROUD of yourself?  Shame on you, and shame on the Brothers and the culture which convinces you that YOU are Making America Better.

Remember the SEIU riots of a few years ago?  Service Members International Union Brothers, beating up on people.  Now, THAT is an image to cherish.

This is why I have not joined a Union since 1965, when I was working in a lumber mill during summer vacation from high school, and then from College.  Not saying that I am the best example of a "Self-Made Man", just saying that it's not that hard to improve yourself.

Okay, so you have to give up beer.   It's not a path without its down-side, but anybody can do it, if they want to be more than a freakin' "Union Thug"!

If "The Union" is such a wonderful thing, it shouldn't require members to intimidate "The Opposition" (independent contractors).  Want to prove that you're worth the money?  Do more, be better, and prove yourself to be responsible employees.    Don't go beating people up; that's not Union, that's Barbarian.

Why do employers hire scabs?  It's because the Scabs are just like you, 50 years ago.  They want to work.  They're not all political, and 'gooney'; they just need a paycheck.  They want to feed their kids, and maybe buy their wife a pretty dress.  Is that too much to ask?

Why aren't they Union?  Maybe they're standing off to the side, watching Union Goons beating up on people and burning churches, and think:  "Hey, I don't want to be part of that!"

Union People, go back to your history.  Think 1930-1950, when you established the right to form a union.  And then think about today, when people are trying the right to work!

Shame on those of your Brothers who think they need to protect their status quo by violence.

You know what?  I think that YOU are the "goons" of the 21st Century.

What do you think of that?

Are you "Union Proud"? 

Remember Detroit!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Night Ambush Part 4

(Read Part 1 here)
(Read part 2 here)  

(Read part 3 here)

After-Action Report

After the patrol had completed their initial sweep of the Kill Zone, they had found two bodies in the KZ and one wounded man in an ARVN uniform in the rivine south of the KZ.

The Tanks were there, and they dominated the area. Everybody was ready to pack it in, but Sarge said "NO!"  They had performed an initial sweep of the KZ, but they had not performed a detail search of the Ambush area.  Sarge knew that he had allowed the initial elements to pass through before initiating the ambush, and he wanted to insure that the lead elements had not been overlooked, and that there were no members of the VC force left hiding in the area.

First, they searched the bodies of the KIAs in the KZ.  The dead man had no arm, to their surprise, but the woman had a Tokorev pistol in her waistband.  It was new .. so new that she had not even bothered to clean off the preservative grease!  It was decided that since Chief had obviously killed her, the pistol belonged to him.  Spoils of war.  (Later, he was required to turn it in to the First Sergeant, who locked the gun in the Company Strong-box back at the Base Cam in Dian.)

There were a few AK47s strewn about the KZ; these were retrieved by the support troops aboard the Tanks.  The patrol never knew where they went, nor did they bother to ask.

Johnnie found his helmet where he left it on the ground, next to his Aid Bag.  Both had been well perforated by incoming AK47 rounds, so the patrol assumed that our initial Mad Minute was not so overwhelming as they had assumed.  Somebody had found the time to shoot back, but never actually hit anybody!

They found the VC Point Man hiding under a bush on the 'far side' (West) of the KZ.  He offered no resistance at all, and after he had crept out of his hiding place and knelt with his hands behind his head, Sarge offered him a cigarette .. which he gratefully accepted. Sarge was just so damned glad that the point man had not opened fire on the patrol while they were sweeping the KZ and killing other members of the attacking force, he would have given the point man his first born ... if he had any.

The tankers drove their behemoths around the area for a half hour, completely intimidating any other members of the VC attack force .. if there were any left ... while Sarge talked it over with the Battalion Commander.  The Colonel wanted the short squad to resume their ambush position, perhaps move it a couple of hundred yards in any direction.  Sarge wasn't "comfortable" with that.

Looking around at the detritus of the battle area .. claymores expended, and his men with lemur eyes reflecting the biggest fight any of them had been in.  It was clear to him, standing in the middle of the Kill Zone, that he couldn't get any single man to go back on the offensive.  They were frightened, and still trying to come to grips with what was probably the most one-sided fight anybody had ever experienced.  He asked himself:  if this is Victory .. what does Defeat look like?

"No sir", he replied.  "My men are exhausted, everybody in miles knows we are here, and we haven't any Claymores left. We're low on ammunition, energy, sleep.  My men would continue fighting, but I cannot ask them to search for a new ambush sight when everyone in the neighborhood knows exactly where they are and what they have just done."

The Colonel offered to replace the claymores.  Sarge dismissed the proposal.  The Colonel did not insist.

The patrol mounted the tanks, and were carried back to a new Laager.

 Sarge?  He crawled under the nearest tank to sleep.  The Tank Commander offered the suggestion that this was perhaps not the safest place to sleep.  A tank was the biggest target Charlie could find!

Sarge replied:  "Tonight, I will sleep with a roof over my head.  Your tank is my roof.  I earned it.  If you let Charlie blow up my roof, I will kill you.  So shut the fuck up, and post a good watch tonight because me and my men are going to crash!"

And they did, and rode down The Road past the village to the NDP, where they had a hot breakfast and spent the rest of the day cleaning their weapons, resupplying their expended rounds (Including the Claymores), and  every man took a nice cold shower.

Night Ambush Part 3: The Ambush

(Read Part 1 here)
(Read Part 2 here)
(Read Part 4 here)
"I hear voices .. someone's coming in!"

There's this cruel dichotomy about an ambush.
Yes, you like hearing voices as Charlie is moving toward his objective.  It means they're coming into the ambush kill-zone feeling fat, dumb and happy. It means that they have no idea that they're about to get their ass kicked.

The down side is ... they are so confident that they bring overwhelming firepower with them, there is no way (in their mind) that they can be overwhelmed by whatever firepower might be brought against them.

And the third thing is .. the patrol was positioned under the assumption that they could spot an attacking force at a distance, and be able to act as spotters.  Their could call artillery into their movement, and never reveal their own position.

Now .. Charlie had obviously cut the corner on the too-precious trail junction, and were coming in behind the American Patrol!

They had assumed that Charlie .. if he ever had the nerve to enter the AO .. would stick to the trails.  Obviously, they had much better understanding of theterrain, and their Point Man had lead them into the slightly much shorter route to their objective.

Two assumptions were immediately obvious to Sarge:
  1. Charlie knew where they were and where they were going, and we did not.
  2. There were so MANY of them that they assumed they could immediately and with little effort overwhelm whatever firepower we might have available.
The Bad News was that they were probably right.

American Forces set out as Spotters have a distinct advantage, in that they can call in artillery and Charlie has no way of knowing where the Spotters are.  The disadvantage is .. they were too close to call in artillery!

Sarge immediately realized that he didn't know which way Charlie was going to turn.  Was he going to the Village, to the East?  The ARVN Compound, to the South?  Or toward the NDP, toward the South West?  He had over-thought his position.   Seduced by "The Perfect Ambush Site", he had neglected to consider that he had left himself with insufficient perspective to determine the probable course of Charlie's movement.  There was a hole in his defense.

Worse, they were so close that he could not call in artillery on their CURRENT position without accepting the 100% probability that his entire patrol would be killed by their own guns.

Worst, Charlie was so close that even the smallest lapse in light or sound discipline risked discovery by the oncoming VC.   The choices were few, and each more fatal than the other:
  1. They could call in artillery on their projected course (bearing South) and risk the consequences of a wrong estimate; if he called in a barrage to the South, Charlie might move West toward the village;
  2. They could call in artillery on their alternate goal, West, Charlie might end up moving South toward either the ARVN compound or the NDP
  3. Worst case:  Somebody in his ambush might cough, or otherwise give up their position.  In that case, artillery (assuming they had time to call in a fire mission) would perhaps kill Cong, but would most assuredly kill Americans, too.
Faced with no viable artillery solution, Sarge made the only remaining viable decision:

The short squad would attack.

The line of VC in single file just kept getting longer and longer.  This was obviously no harassing attack.   Whatever their goal, Charlie (now there were at least ten men visible in the starlight) had invested a significant number of fighters.  They had not yet bent much to the South, but who knew what they would do when they hit the North/South Trail?  And they were moving through the South .. to the rear of the patrol's position.

Most of the Claymores were oriented toward the trail junction, to the North and West of the Ambush Position.  Only a few of the Claymores were directed toward the rear.  Sarge had made a tactical decision, and it was the wrong one for this situation!

So .. make a 'new' Tactical Decision!

The VC had still not made a 'significant' appearance; because of the high spirits of the VC unit, the patrol knew where they  were and their rate of approach.  There were still a few precious seconds left when Sarge could direct his men without the VC likely hearing him.

To Ernie:
"When I give the word, move your MG pointing SOUTH instead of NORTH.   Have your Assistant Gunner help with moving the ammo when you move the gun. Be quiet, be quick, and when the Claymores blow, shoot your whole ready load moving from left to right.  I don't care about the point man, I just want everyone behind the lead element to see their people die!"

To Brent:
"I'm going to blow this ambush. First, radio TOC and tell them I want maximum artillery flares over our position as soon as they see our tracers.  Light us up like the Fourth of July!  I know they can't  reply before we blow the bush, but as soon as they can is not too soon. Then I want them to bring in support .. tanks, preferably.  But keep everyone away from the South of our position, because that's where the fire is going. And Brent, when we blow the ambush, everyone is going to be pointing South.  You're Rear-Guard .. I want you pointing North, with your rifle, and if you see any thing move ... kill it.  Don't wait for me to tell you, it's a free-fire zone everywhere you can see tonight."

General instructions to everybody else (huddled together .. everyone knows what's happening, but not what's about to happen):
"Listen!  Be quiet!  Charlie is moving through our rear, from left to right.  Everybody point their gun to the South.  Don't make any battle-rattle! When the Claymores blow, I want Johnie and Teddy to open on full auto; sweep the line!  Then reload.  Ernie will be rockin' and rollin'.Then  reload, and Chief, Stehman ... you'll take up the fire on semi-automatic.  As soon as everybody has gone through one magazine and reloaded, take targets of opportunity.  We are in deep shit, so make it count and follow my lead after the claymores blow!"
Everybody, not expecting anything 'bad' to REALLY happen, has doffed their helmets in favor of boonie-hats.  We can't afford the risk of a "CLANK!" if a helmet bumps a gun, so we're blowing this bush the way we are.

Then, to Brent, Sarge says:

"Look, we have four Claymores generally pointed in the right direction.   Toward the enemy.  You take East/Rear and I'll take West/Rear.  Fill your hands, and when I blow my two, you blow your two!  Then I want you to  advise TOC, and pick up your rifle.  You are the new 'rear security.  Face North.  If you see anyone moving there, kill them.  But keep talking to TOC, and for God's Sake, get us some light!"

Brent doesn't waste time protesting that he has already heard most of these instructions. He's unflappable .. Sarge at that moment wants to bear his children.  Brent just picks up the appropriate 'clackers', and waits for the signal to kill some Cong.

There's a few moments, which seem like hours but actually are seconds, and then everyone has move so their weapons are pointed toward the rear.  Brent has his headset between ear and shoulder, and two Claymore Initiators (clackers) in his hands. Sarge is ready.  The men have moved their weapons so they are pointed south.

Sarge gives Brent the nod, and they both squeeze the Clackers ...



Dust flies up from the Claymores, even the two which aren't really pointed South .. East and West Claymores just add Sound and Fury to the mixture.

Two men, who are already pointed South, open up with their M16s, the rest roll over to point to the South.
Ernie takes two seconds to actually move his gun .. and it's not important whether he's quiet about it or not, because there is a fountain of 5.56 moving south and the echo of the Claymores and the dust they kick up obscure the battlefield!

Brent is online with TOC, calling for back-up and Illumination Rounds.

Sarge is servicing the battlefield with his onboard HE round, and quickly switches to the first StarLight round he finds, and then seeks for and loads a Parachute Flare.

The light from the local illumination round shows a couple of people down in the Kill Zone.  Can't tell where the point man is, and the followers are rushing back toward the woods.

What happens next can only be described as a "Mad Minute". EVERYBODY shoots their initial load.  It doesn't matter what Sarge said, everybody shoots.  They are scared to death, they have a ton of Victor Charlie within spitting distance of them, and all they want to do is to put every body down and then go home!

The best laid plans of mice and men ....

Ernie .. does not run out of ammunition.  He has 300 rounds of linked 7.62 and he is taking nicely timed short bursts.  But they go everywhere that someone is still standing in front of him, or everywhere he thinks someone may be still standing up.  Or where-ever it is dark, and someone may be hiding there.  Or where-ever his barrel may be pointing.  He doesn't care, he's just putting rounds down-range, and that's all that really matters.  Sarge takes a moment, no more, to admire his discipline and his aim.

Ernie's Assistant Gunner (in this case, Johnny, because he ends up on the left side of Ernie) feeds the gun.  Johnie is not an experienced AG, but he has an ammo can in reach and he's doing the best he can to link the new belt with the old.

Thankfully, by the time Ernie runs out of ammo, there's nothing obvious left to shoot at.  The rest of the patrol does an automatic reload, and all are left with the realization that their jaws are dropped and they are looking at a field of nightmares .. but it's not THEIR nightmares.

In the meantime, in the sudden silence, Sarge is shouting.

"RELOAD!  Everybody, Reload!  I don't care whether you need it or not, RELOAD!"

Instinctively, everyone who is still alive obeys.

Thankfully, every American is still alive.

"Okay!"  Sarge shouts.  "We're all locked and loaded.  Everybody UP!  We're going to sweep the kill zone.  Anybody still alive, kill them!  Keep going until I tell you to stop!  Attack!  Attack!  Attack!  Now, Up and At 'Em!"


Brent doesn't move.  He's sitting where he started, except he's facing North, where Sarge told him to pull rear security.  He's talking to TOC, asking for artillery illumination.  He's calm, he's fully aware of the tactical situation, but that's not his job.  His job is to (a) get some light on the kill zone, and (b) get tactical support to the battleground ASAP, and (c) let Command what is going on in this most beautiful, most perfectly exquisitely executed ambush anyone has ever seen .. a thing if beauty it is!

And he is STILL watching to the North, in case any tail-gaters try to flank the unit.

And while Brent is doing his job with joie de vivre and Great Aplomb .. everyone else is doing THEIR job with savagery and the greatest adrenalin rush they will ever experience.

Their job, as they sweep the battlefield, is to kill everything that moves.

There is no other way to do it.

EVERYONE caught in that limited scope of dead ground, is .. dead.  Nothing less is acceptable.  Anyone found there is assumed to be armed and dangerous.    There is no time to separate the Quick from the Dead.  If they are there ...  they should be dead.  If they are not dead, it is our task to make them dead.

The alternatives are too horrible to consider, even more horrible than shooting wounded soldiers.  They are the enemy; they want to kill us.  That's why we call them "The Enemy".

The Woman:

As Sarge rushes down his lane across The Killing Field, in his peripheral vision he sees a woman in black pajamas, on her back, squirming.  Writhing.  She is assuming the "Dying Cockroach" position .. limbs in the air .. but not yet dead.  In some back part of his mind, he wonders what this woman in black pajamas is doing in a Killing Field?

His wonderment lasts only for a few seconds.  Chief, with his M14, is in the next lane to his left.  The woman is in Chief's lane.  Chief drills the woman with a half-dozen rounds from his M14, and suddenly the woman reverts to dead meat.

Sarge peripherally wonders what the woman was doing here.  Was she a guide?  Was she a captive of the VC?  Was she .. who knows what?

It doesn't matter.  She ended up in the Kill Zone, and now she's dead Dead DEAD.  Who she was, why she was there .. that isn't important.  What is important is that she is now nothing more than a mound of meat.  She will have no effect on the outcome of this battle.  She cannot hurt his men.  That's all that matters.

Sometime, in future years, Sarge may regret her death.

Sometime, in future years, Sarge may wonder at her role in this   ... this "action".

But for now, she's just a target, caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.  For now, she is dismissed.   Target Down; that's all that matters.

Given a choice between here and Chief, Sarge will choose Chief .. every damned time, for now and forever.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Night Ambush: Part 2 - The Set Up

(See here for Part 1)

PART 2:  The Set Up
For the next few days after pulling Road Security for the mine detectors, Lima generally stayed in the NDP during the day, resting and performing equipment maintenance.  At night either. they pulled guard duty in the bunkers, or went on small roving patrols on the Village side of The Road.  Sometimes they just walked around familiarizing themselves with the terrain, sometimes they set up an ambush and stayed hunkered down until daylight.
One night, Sarge and a small squad ware on a night reconnaissance patrol in a clearing which they had seen earlier to have three dry wells dug in an open area between the NDP and the Village.  There was a treeline between the base camp and the wells, and the ground radar couldn’t always get a good look at that small spot.   Daytime recon didn’t see any sign of movement, but about 9pm they got a radio from the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) informing them that radar had picked up a body of men walking along the treeline.
No, that’s just us” the Sarge reported.  TOC insisted that they not only saw the patrol, but also “two or three other figures” as well.  
Lima platoon had issues with the electronic surveillance;  more than once they had received frantic warnings that there was a “VC Patrol” moving toward them, once even insisting that the VC were now moving through their night ambush position!   The view from the ground, however, was that there was nobody there but themselves.   And so they were dubious about the 20th Century advances in Electronic Warfare.
The patrol on the ground having no choice in the matter, TOC announced that they were going to have the 105’s work the area over.   Sarge moved the patrol toward The Road, found a shallow drainage just big enough to put the six man patrol in it.  There was no overhead cover except for their steel helmets, so they did their best to crawl into their helmets.
Then the barrage began.  For five minutes, round after round of 105mm HE shells walked across the five-acre opening,  the shrapnel spattering the patrol like iron rain.  When the TOC announced that the fire had been lifted, Limping Lima crawled out of their dubious shelter and performed a sweep of the impact area.

All they found was the impact craters of a few rounds; most of them had been air bursts for maximum dispersal, so there were only a few craters at that.  There were no bodies, no dropped equipment, no sign that anyone but American troops had been discomforted by the #10,000 worth of artillery shells.

Clearly, Artillery was no match for boots on the ground.

During New Years Eve, the base was on 100% all night.   The fear in the heart of the Battalion Commander was that the VC would attempt an attack similar to the Tet Offensive of January, 1968.   Given the evidence that Charlie was resuming large-scale attacks in the AO,  the Colonel decided to try a recently developed infantry tactic:  Shotgun Ambushes.

Previously, overnight infantry patrols were ‘heavy’.  That is,  each platoon would break into two elements, with two squads in each element.  That gave one of the two machine guns to each patrol element.  The Platoon Leader (the Lieutenant, or “LT”) would lead one element, and the Platoon Sergeant (“Sarge”) would lead the other.  Each squad had a squad leader, each squad leader had a radio carried by his Radio Telephone Operator (RTO); that means each element had three radios, allowing night ambushes to be complex and could cover a large area.   It also allowed for two men to be on watch at all times, and since everyone except for the RTO carried a Claymore Mine, each night  ambush (known by the troops as “hold your ass ‘till daylight”) could provide a full 360 degree ring of command-detonated mines to launch a devastating initiation of an attack coming from any direction.

Under the new “shotgun ambush” protocol, the platoon would be broken down into not four, but six patrols.  Four would be led by squad leaders, but with a couple of men broken out of each squad.  The “excess” troops would man two “short squads”,  lead by the Platoon Sergeant and the Platoon Leader, respectively.
Since the short squads would have fewer men, they go the machine guns.  And … ominously … the medics.
The idea, of course, is that the patrols would find a likely spot in the bush (covering a trail, or preferably a trail junction near the NDP, the village, or the ARVN compound) and merely act as spotters for the artillery.  When they sighted movement, they would call for a fire mission and the artillery battery would fire on the reported movement.

During his operational briefing the LT made it clear what colonel and the captain expected of the patrol leaders:

“Before you leave on your patrol tonight,  you will inspect every man in your patrol to ensure that he is fully equipped and aware of the significance and goal of this mission. You will start out from the NDP an hour before dusk, and be seen by any observers to be searching in the general vicinity of your individual AO but well away from your final objective.   Just before dusk you will appear to go to ground, and then just at dusk you will mask your movements to your final objective. 
“As you approach your final objective, you will leave your men in a staging area 100 yards away from your final objective. .  Ensure that every man  urinate or defecate as necessary.  Eat and drink BEFORE you do your final recon, and then perform a recon of your objective.

“You will take one man with you as a scout.  The remaining men will remain at 100% alert.  At that time you will select your ambush position, taking into consideration terrain, cover and concealment and most importantly, coverage of an important tactical feature.  Look for trails ... and there are a lot of them this close to so many vital locations.  
“Having chosen your ambush position, you will leave your scout in place in ‘overwatch’ position, and go back for the rest of your patrol.  Lead them to the final objective, picking up your scout on the way.  Remain at 100% alert for one hour.  At the end of that time you can allow your men to spread their ponchos for bedding, but remain at 100% for another hour.
“What we are trying to do here is to provide Charlie with as much dis-information as he can handle.  He will know that you are in the general area, whatever you do; they will be watching from the woodline to the East, so you will make them think you are setting up in the West.   You will get inside their thinking, you will lull them into self-confidence, and when they move .. you will be where they know you cannot possibly be.
“There are few of you in each patrol.   Deploy your Claymores wisely.  You will be carrying extra ammunition for your MGs … those of you who have them.  Those units without  MGs will not have to hump thirty caliber ammo cans, but will have more men. 
"Be prepared to defend yourselves if necessary.  With luck, you will only have to place yourself so you can call in infantry in case of an attack.

“But do not rely on luck.  Be smart, be aggressive, but make sure you have your final objective registered with artillery as a ‘do not fire’ zone because you may be calling in artillery very close to yourselves.  We don’t want any ‘blue on blue’ casualties tonight.”

As the Platoon Sergeant, “Sarge” drew the short straw; only seven men on his team, including the RTO (who did not carry a claymore).   But HEY!  He got an M60 Machine Gunner, which would dramatically improve his FirePower!

 The final objective for his team was on the East side of The Road.  He chose his staging area as the immediate east side of the road, behind the berm. There was a terrain feature … a slight roll in the terrain .. which would hide his staging area from the woods a mile to the East.  The final objective was somewhere about 100 -200 meters east of that point, but it had not been scouted before.   He didn’t know exactly where they would be, the objective had been chosen strategically based on maps. 
  It had NOT been chosen "tactically" .. based on an intimate knowledge of the terrain. Which they did not have.  He knew there must be trails there somewhere, and it was his job to find them during his ‘scout’.
They left on schedule, departing the NDP through the Eastern main gate, and veering immediately north toward the Village.  They spent some time schlepping around the ‘deception’ area, and on schedule they started jinking through the occasional clumps of “shrub” (large bushes, often as tall as head-high) until they crossed the road.  Men started urinating, as ordered .. he had to admonish them to kneel down because if they stood up to pee, their heads could be seen from the woods.  When everyone had eaten, it was getting close to full nautical twilight so he started his sneak-and peak with his designated scout, Stehman.  

Stehman had been his RTO when he first joined the Division, and had proved to be a steady, reliable man.  They had got to know each other pretty well, and had full confidence in each other.   He knew that Stehman would be a reliable guide.  Stehman yearned to be a 'grunt', not an RTO.  He wanted to fight, not talk!   Sarge had only a few weeks before allowed Stehman to be transferred from his role as an RTO, and become a fighter. This might prove to be the opportunity to fight.

As they moved silently through the scrub, Sarge was looking for trails.  Stehman’s job was to provide security.  Sarge had already decided that when they found their ambush, he would send Stehman back to pick up the rest of the patrol;  he wanted the extra bit of dusk-light to observe the immediate area and scout for the best position within a few yards.
Luck was with them … at that moment and for the rest of the night. They were exactly in the middle of the assigned ambush area when they spotted a well-trodden trail,  moving from East to West.  Just a few dozen yards East of the trail, they found another crossing trail, which ran from North to South.

A Trail Junction!  

It was the perfect place, with one small exception; there was no cover at all, other than a very slight rise on the south side of a small swale 20 yards east of the N/S and 20 yards south of the E/W trail.  Also, they were in an area of knee-high grass, between two lines of scrub.  To the north, and to the south, their view was entirely unobstructed.  They could observe any movement along the N/S trail for a couple of hundred yards; but if they got into a fire fight, they could only hope that Charlie could not spot them.

As Stehmen made his way back to the staging point, Sarge crawled into the slight swale to fully evaluate the tactical position.
It wasn’t as bad as it had first looked.  They could set up Claymores to cover the trail junction, and both the North and East trails. And .. with careful thought, they still had a couple of Claymores to cover the rear of their position.  (This turned out to be more fortuitous than expected.)

 The East trail led West toward the Village; the North trail led South to the ARVN compound.  Either trail would serve as access to the NDP, eventually.

So, yes, as far as being able to monitor movement in their AO, this was the ideal place to set up.
For Defense .. maybe not so much.  They would have to rely on deception and logic.  It was a crappy place to set up an ambush.  The small swale offered them no more than six inches of depression, and there was no way they could improve their position.  They  couldn’t dig in .. nobody carried their shovels, or their gas masks; they were “light infantry” in the purest sense.  They relied on fire and movement, not cover.  

For now, and for this mission, “concealment” would have to suffice.  After all, they were suppose to be spotters, not fighters.   All they had to do was know the map coordinates and see Charley.  The very very good part was, they could see for a couple of hundred yards to the north and the south.  Anyone who tried to attack the tactical positions had to pass within their sight .. if they were alert.

So he reasoned, and hoped that Luck would be a Lady tonight.

He carefully ignored the LT’s admonition that they should not count on luck tonight.

Ten minutes later, Stehman brought the patrol back to him.   Sarge was accustomed to setting up a night ambush on a line, but tonight he had to have eyes looking in every direction.  Instead of a line, he set the men up in a very very small circle.  No more than 15 feet across, every man was bumping shoulders with his neighbor as they sat down to watch.  

Suppose someone had seen them come in?  Suppose he wasn’t as sneaky as he thought he was?

(See below for more of Part 2)

(Read Part 1 here)
(Read Part 2 here)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Night Ambush: Part I

(Read Part 2 here)

PART 1:  The Road
They called the highway Thunder Road.   On the maps, it was called "Highway 13".   In truth, it was a rude gash through the outback of Viet Nam, meandering north from Saigon to the Song Be river.    The men of  Lima Platoon, Charley Company, 1/16 1st Infantry Division (“THE BIG RED ONE”) didn’t know where it went from there, because they never crossed the river.  That part of the country was outside of their Area of Operations, and they didn’t care about it.

In fact, they didn’t much care about the road, one way or the other.  The only thing they cared about was getting fed, staying dry, and not getting shot or blown up.  

Vietnam in January of 1970 was existential for American Infantrymen;  as long as they still consciously existed, they were okay.  They didn’t do anything that they didn’t absolutely HAVE to do (as far as their orders were concerned).  They walked, hid, ate what the army called “food” (which is to food as military music is to music), slept when they could and they were dressed in ‘uniforms’ which were rags that the REMFs (“Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers”) wouldn’t deign to steal from their duffel bags … which in turn were locked in not-very secure containers somewhere in the Division Base camp in Dian.

On the map, Thunder Road was a red line.  In fact, it was a shallow depression in the plains north of Saigon, which was epitomized by the two seasons (Monsoon, when it was mud, and “Not-monsoon”, when it was dust).   Sometimes the tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers of the 11th ACR or the Second of the Fourth Armored Battalion (“two-quarter horse”) would charge back and forth on their way to a mission.  Their mission was rarely to support the infantrymen of Lima .  “The Big Red One” was, as far as the infantrymen were concerned, both the Division and The Road.

Sometimes ... rarely ... the platoon was transported on those magnificent war machines.  They would huddle on the hull, sometimes holding onto the barrel of the Main Gun while they moved.  They liked it when they drove on The Road on the way back to our base, because it saved them hours of walking.  Of course, during the not-monsoon season the tracks kicked up a lot of dust.  When they got back to base, they would have to do an especially thorough cleaning, which usually involved a dip into a tub of solvent, such as gasoline.  But that took less time than walking ‘home’

They especially liked riding on armor in the bush, which was at waking pace and with very little dust. Except when they would go through The Woods, when the trip almost invariably led to brushing a tree and dumping a nest of stinging, biting ChiCom Ants in their shirts.

It is customary to refer to forested areas in Viet Nam as “Jungle”, but in truth “Three Zone” didn’t have much jungle.  What it had was something that looked like Alder thickets, and bamboo clumps, and Rubber Tree plantations.   So they just called it “The Bush”.

The Infantry man’s view of Viet Nam also included deadly snakes, deadly centipedes, deadly booby traps, deadly Viet Cong, deadly North Vietnamese Army (rarely, there), and sometimes deadly ARVNs.

ARVNS?  Army of the Republic of Viet Nam.  ARVNs were nominal allies, but in the actual event American troops learned to never turn our back on them.  When they were assigned to work with ARVNs, they set up in a circle; the ARVNs took one half of the circle, Americans took the other … and always had as many armed and alert troops watching the ARVNs (on the inside) as were watching for VC on the outside of the circular position.

Along Thunder road … at least in the immediate AO were three communities and a special “area of interest”.

THE VILLAGE:   The village was called ”Phuc Binh” and was home to perhaps 150 souls.   It was east of a straight portion of the road which had been graveled … recently, which was uncommon.  The villagers had an amiable relationship with American troupes.  They would sell us cokes and short time sex during the day, and entertain and feed the roving VC at night.   None never truly believed that they had killed any Americans themselves, but had no doubt that they were giving aid and information to the enemy who had killed Americans.

THE ARVN COMPOUND:  The Army of the Republic of Vietnam had a walled compound across The Road from the village, and a couple of miles further south.   There were approximately 50 ARVN soldiers there, but they usually had their wives and families living with them.  It was a “permanent duty station” in that respect, and the presence of their families presumably encouraged the soldiers to defend its walls enthusiastically.   It’s hard to work with the VC to overwhelm the compound when your family will die with the soldiers.

NOVEMBER2 Night Defensive Position:   The American position was ill-named as a “Night Defensive Position”.  It was actually a Fire Support Base, housing behind its bunker line and barbed wire and mine fields a battery of 105mm mobile guns.  Also, there were positions dug to provide berms for visiting armor units, both tanks and Armored Personnel carriers.    There were latrines with actual sit-downs and walls!  There were shower points; in this case privacy was not important.  It was just a water bladder hanging out in the open, with a shower nozzle on the bottom and a rope you pull to dump the water on you.  Sometimes the men would be taking a shower, totally nude, when a group of nurses or “donut dollies” (female volunteers who would set up temporary stalls where they would hand out pastries and hot coffee and cocoa and sodas to the troops) came into the NDP.   Modesty and shyness were the first civilized aspects to be ignored by infantrymen;  on patrol, there was even a buddy system … one of the other men would come watch over us when we defecated, like bears, in the woods.

The NDP was on the same side of The Road as the Village (the east side) but further south than either the Village or the ARVN compound.   Lima Platoon was currently using the NDP as its base of operations. and had been for just long enough to understand they didn't yet know the terrain as well as they should.

 (click below for more)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Revolvers .... YECH! (response to comments)

I've very much enjoyed the feeble defense of Revolvers by the 12 people who actually read this blog.  My question is .. I've only had five comments, what are the other 7 of you doing?

Here's the story:  I'm a 911 Snob. Always have been, even when I tried to compete in IPSC with a S&W 659 (9mm).

I also tried to shoot ONE IPSC Match with a revolver, and that was in a December "Concealed Carry Match" at TCGC.  (I use my race gun in the annual "Concealed Carry" match the year before.  I didn't understand why the match staff decided to discount my scores; after all, I started each stage with my Open Pistol with my coat completely concealing my 12" pistol and all the 170mm magazines!)

In short, I'm just not man enough to shoot Revolver Division in IPSC.  AI admit that freely.

However, I object to the suggestions that I'm not qualified to be critical about Revolvers.  I think they're just fine!  I just wouldn't want my sister to carry one.

I currently own five revolvers.  There's a .357 4" N-frame and a .38 special 5-shot stubby in two rooms, and in a third there's a Ruger Blackhawk (Single Action) in .41 magnum tucked away.   The other two revolvers are not appropriate for home defense:  One is an ancient .22lr and the other is another Ruger .41 with a 2-1/2x scope mounted on the top.

Frankly, I think revolvers have their place, and that's stashed in the home.  There are no springs to weaken over the years, because there is no tension on them; for example, a magazine spring (which could cause miss-feeds in a semi-auto, or even the tubular ammunition spring in a pump-action shotgun).

In my own defense ... I use revolvers in "My Own Defense".

(PS: For the humor-deprived ... which does not include any of "The Usual Suspect" readers and certainly not those who offered comments ... the video in the original post was, um, satire?)