by Sailor Bill
A Navy Corpsman with SEAL Team Two, captured in Vietnam, escaped after 25 years.
|Gunther (Part One)
A Novel by Bill Scott
The story centers around Jerry Gunther a Navy Hospital Corpsman assigned to the Bravo Platoon of SEAL Team Two. Jerry, known as Doc, is 21 years of age, and married to Mary Beth Wolf. The team is scheduled to deploy for Vietnam in June 1970, and return the following December. This is Jerry's first combat tour.
Mary Beth is pregnant, and expecting her first child in December. Jerry has hopes of returning home in time to see the baby born. Jerry and Mary Beth visit Jerry's home in Utah prior to Jerry's deployment.
The platoon of 2 officers and 12 men arrive at Binh Tuy, S. Vietnam on Wednesday, 26 June. Over the next six months, the platoon operates along the Mekong and Bassac rivers on seek and destroy missions. With 43 confirmed, and 13 probable kills, the team was near ending its tour. The men were getting their equipment ready for stand down when they were informed that the platoon will pull one more mission.
The two squads were taken by PBRs (Patrol Boat River) to the mouth of Canal 38 on the Bassac River near the Cambodian border. A full moon with little cloud cover gave some concern to Lieutenant Massoni; however their movement was easy going. About 13 kilometers down the canal the men could smell burning charcoal. This surprised Lieutenant Massoni as intelligence informed him of an area about 25 kilometers that may be a Viet Cong supply point. The squads divided, and approached the two thatch roofed buildings from each side. Seven Viet Cong were squatted next to a glowing fire. Their rifles were stacked against the hut. Lt. Massoni sent Doc and Goosey Snyder to the other building to clear it when they heard the first gun fire. The men made their way along the waters edge moving slow toward the hut. Sweat was running down Doc's face as he set his M 16 on full automatic. They approached the back of the hut, and Doc looked through a small crack in the door. He saw a silhouette of a person sitting in a chair next to the wall. Only one Viet Cong in the room. Then a loud sound of gun fire rang out. Doc knew the familiar sounds of the Stoner and M 16s. Doc gave a burst with his weapon. Snyder scanned the room. Doc went over to the body slumped over the arm of the chair. He stood frozen as he looked at the body. A young girl was breast feeding her baby. The baby's head was smashed in the woman's chest. Doc felt the baby. There was no life. Tears swelled into Doc's eyes. Snyder came over to Doc. "Looks like you got two for one, Doc. Let's get the hell out of here
Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Virginia
Lieutenant Massoni was about ready to finish his last jog around the parade field. Eight laps were enough. Sweat was pouring down his face. He stopped , looked up at the blazing sun, and with a sweat rag, wiped the burning beads of moisture from his eyes. Geez it’s hot. It was high noon, Friday the 13th. Massoni was not superstitious. In fact he gave little thought to the date except it was Friday, and a weekend coming up to spend some time with his family. In June he deploys to Vietnam with his newly formed platoon of SEAL Team Two. Each weekend becomes more precious as the days keep rapidly moving toward deployment day, the 22nd. Running was a ritual that he took very seriously five, sometimes six days a week. He is concerned about his weight, and his 36th birthday last week didn’t make him feel any better. His previous years of tough assignments with the Underwater Demolition Teams, and later with the SEALs, are beginning to show on his ruddy face.
His green shorts and T-shirt were soaked with sweat as he walked into the training Office. Massoni is the Assistant Training Officer for SEAL Team Two, and will be relieved in two weeks in order to spend full time with his platoon. Above the swinging doors to his 12 by 12 cubby hole for an office, he noticed someone placed a crude, hand written sign: WOP SHOP. It drew a smile.
“Good afternoon Mr. Massoni. Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Bull shit Maggie. It’s too damn hot for this time of year.
Maggie gave her usual smile as she placed several folders on his desk. Massoni raised his arms in an effort to cool down, then gave Maggie a wink. Maggie turned her head to avoid the repulsive odor.
“Wow Boss, go take a shower before the Commander shows up.”
Maggie worked in the Training Office for the past six years. She saw many officers come and go, but Lieutenant Massoni was one of a kind. Although serious minded, he seemed to flirt with his small black eyes. Maggie liked that. She has three months to put up with his B.O and foul mouth, but she will miss her Italian Stallion when he deploys.
Massoni glanced at the memorabilia on the far wall. A torn Viet Cong flag with dried brown colored blood stains below the yellow star, and a Russian AK-47 assault rifle reflecting his combat duty in Vietnam. He seemed pleased, but showed more interest in the photos on the wall behind his desk. As he looked at the pictures, he felt a deep satisfaction at the progress he made in the Navy. The pictures epitomized his career from a Boatswain Mate serving with the Underwater Demolition Teams in Korea to his present officer status with SEAL Team Two. At his desk, he frowned at the stack of records placed for his signature. He shoved them aside. The six folders on his left drew his immediate attention. The two squads were up and ready except for a Hospital Corpsman. It was time to pick and assign one of the six.
Massoni slowly fingered through the folders. One had combat experience. He was concerned about the make-up of the 1st Platoon. Seven of the thirteen have no combat experience. Massoni opened First Class Hospital Corpsman Fielders’s folder. It was impressive. His last assignment in Vietnam was one of meritorious service. His many medals included the Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. His life saving abilities were proven during his last tour. Massoni set the folder aside, leaned back in his chair, and lit up another cigarette. He felt relieved. Fielder will fill the slot.
“Maggie is the Boss in?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Kirby. He was complaining about the heat, but seems to be in a good mood. I’ll tell him you are here.”
Ensign Bob Kirby is popular with the office staff. Unlike Massoni, he always had a ready smile. This was one of many differences between the two officers. Ensign Kirby received a degree in pharmacy from the University of Nebraska prior to entering the Navy. At six feet two and 195 pounds, he had a runner’s build of smooth, rippling muscle. On the other hand, Lieutenant Massoni graduated from the school of hard knocks while growing up in Brooklyn. Standing five feet ten at 230 pounds, his barrel chest and short arms gave him the appearance of a longshoreman from the docks of his native city.
Ensign Kirby stuck his head in the door., and stared at Massoni with a grin.
“Come in Bob. Have a seat. We need to assign a Corpsman, and I believe I found a good one. Take a look.”
Ensign Kirby sensed that Massoni had made up his mind, but enjoyed the thought that the Boss always brought him in on all the decisions concerning the Platoon. He thumbed through Fielder's folder.
"Boss, I see a problem with Fielder."
Massoni sat up, and leaned on his desk giving a burning glare at the young Ensign.
"What the hell do you mean a problem with Fielder?"
"This guy just got back from Nam six months ago. He's married with a couple of kids. Don't you think he ------"
"Damn it Bob, there's a war gone on. We need a good corpsman who can kill gooks, and patch our bloody rear ends. Fielder can do both."
Massoni could see that the young Ensign wasn't satisfied with his pick. There was silence while Kirby stared at the folder. Finally, Massoni tossed the remaining folders on the floor next to Kirby's feet.
"Here look over the rest of the folders, and see if you can find one better than Fielder."
Kirby half hardly thumbed through the folders. What's the use, he thought. The Boss made up his mind. When he got to the last folder, he was surprised to see the resume of a classmate during SEAL training. He remembered Gunther's enthusiasm and athletic ability. It was Gunther who encouraged him to hang on when he was about ready to ring the bell during Hell Week.
"Take a look at this one, Boss."
Massoni grabbed Gunther's folder. Gunther served on the USS Guadalcanal with the Marines during the Dominican Republic crisis. He had good field training prior to joining the SEALs. He is a qualified Navy parachutist. His record shows a man who finished near the top of his class, and he earned expert in his weapons qualifications.
Massoni lit up a cigarette, took a long drag, and blew a couple of smoke rings at the ceiling. Ensign Kirby relaxed in his chair. He felt the Boss had seen something he liked.
"Bob, why do you have to throw shit in the game? I still think Fielder is our man, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Have Gunther report to me first thing Monday morning."
"OK Boss, Gunther first thing Monday morning. By the way, the men are shaping up in good fashion. They will be ready for the trip to A.P. Hill."
"Good enough, Bob. We're gonna have some fun up there."
Maggie looked up at the tall young sailor. He stood erect next to her desk holding his white hat neatly by his side.
"Good morning Mam, I was told to see Lieutenant Massoni this morning."
Gunther was in his dress blues. He wore the newly authorized gold Navy Special Warfare insignia which represents the three mediums of which the SEALs operated..the trident for sea, the eagle for air, and the cocked pistol for the land. Below his four medals was the gold parachute wings.
"You are in luck. The Lieutenant just got in from the field. Step inside the Wop Shop and introduce yourself."
Gunther went through the swinging doors and stood at attention in front of Massoni's desk. Massoni leaned back in his chair, and without expression said, "My names Wop, what's yours?"
"Hospital Corpsman Second Class Jerry Gunther, sir. I was told to report to your office this morning, sir."
"Who in the hell told you to come see me?"
"Chief Robinson did, sir."
Massoni had the sailor on the defensive, a tactic he enjoyed, to see their reactions when under a little pressure. He stared at the young sailor while lighting up a cigarette.
"Have a seat. So your Corpsman Gunther, eh? I see from your folder that you did a good job in training. Do you think you are ready for a trip to Nam?"
"Yes Sir. I've been waiting three months to get assigned to a platoon, Sir. They tell me that the 1st Platoon needs a corpsman. I would like to be the one, Sir."
Massoni gave a half hearted smile, and shoved his cigarette pack across the desk.
"Have a cigarette, Gunther."
"Thanks Sir, but I don't smoke."
"Maggie, bring me and Gunther a cup of coffee. What do you take in it, Gunther?"
"Sorry Sir, but I don't drink coffee."
"Cancel that out Maggie. Make it one cup of coffee and a glass of water--ah, you do drink water don't ya?"
Petty Officer Gunther was beginning to feel uncomfortable at a time when he knew this interview would make or break his chances of being accepted.
"I appreciate your offer sir, but I don't smoke or drink coffee. I'm a Mormon. Water will be fine."
"Well I'll be damn. I'm Catholic, what's the difference between a Mormon and a Mickey?"
Gunther forced a smile as he looked at the small, dark eyes of the brazen Lieutenant.
Massoni was pleased. He had the young sailor in a trick.
“I guess one difference, I'm married for ever, and you are married till death do you part.”
“Well kiss my royal rear end, I'm luckier than I thought. I'm not so sure I'd want to be married to my old lady that long. You are married, eh?”
“No Sir, but the wife is due in December.”
“I guess you know we are deploying in June. You will probably be gone when she drops the kid. How do you feel about that, Gunther?”
“I would like to be with her, but I'm a SEAL. She understands, Sir. I sure want to serve with you, Mr. Wop.”
“Mr. Wop, eh! I like that, Gunther. I'm probably makin a mistake, but I'll put your name in the hat, and see what comes out. Go see Chief Robinson and ask him to introduce you to the gang, and be at muster in the morning. Now get the hell out of here.”
Petty Officer Gunther did an about face, and left the office on the run. Massoni got up from his desk and looked at the status board. He grabbed a grease pencil and filled in the empty slot under the first squad, HM2 JERRY GUNTHER. The Platoon was finally at full compliment.
“Maggy, I'm gonna go to the club for a short one. If anybody is lookin for me, tell em I'm at the range. If it's important, give me a call.”
“Gotcha covered, Boss.”
More to be added soon