Body count does not necessarily specify what kind of body.
|Back in 1968, during the height of the TET Offensive in Vietnam, the Republic thereof, I was platoon leader of the Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon.
We had experienced enough in-country time to fully satisfy our government sponsored homicidal tendencies and satiate our patriotic fervor, therefore most of the men were marking time waiting for that big freedom bird to carry them back to the land of the big PX and round doorknobs.
As usual we were holding up our share of the perimeter at Fire Support Base Buell, located in the shadow of a tall hill called the Black Virgin Mountain, or Nui-Bah-Dinh in the vernacular of the natives.
Brigade always parked my platoon out in the middle of nowhere, because the Command Sergeant Major noted that my men – especially me - were a bad influence on the base camp warriors back at Tay Ninh Base Camp.
Perhaps this could be attributed to the fact that we so seldom got back to the safety of base camp, that when we did, we liked to let our hair down…way down!
You could take this literally, seeing as how we dressed in tiger striped camouflage uniforms, wore long hair, seldom shaved, almost never bathed, and quite often ate the same fish stinking food as the VC (Viet Cong.)
Of course, we had a perfectly good reason for being so "un-military" in appearance and hygiene.
Our looks and smells allowed us to cuddle up with the enemy on his own ripe terms. We were the special operations soldiers that the Army loves to have around, but very quickly hides from public view.
Unfortunately, the fact that my platoon also led the battalion in article fifteen's (non-judicial punishment) simple assaults, thefts of the good stuff or what we called - midnight requisitions, and bar fights, didn't do a lot for our reputation as mild mannered men and pretty much gave the Sergeant Major ample ammunition to keep us away from… far away from normal civilization.
But, that's another story altogether. This one is about the Army's one-track mind when it comes to following orders.
Our latest and greatest order from up on high (Headquarters) concerned the low body count. (Meaning the number of enemy killed.)
We were told that the Battalion body count was way down and we had to do something drastic to bring it back up. Obviously headquarters was comparing us with other units who fudged their numbers and we hadn't turned in high enough body count numbers, real or imagined.
Back to the fire base perimeter now. One of my men, I think it was Bongo Belly or perhaps Trip Flare (we all had very strange nicknames), spotted movement about two hundred meters out.
After close scrutiny it turned out to be a small deer slowly making its way across our front lines.
Fresh venison would have tasted awful good about that time, so I gave the men permission to open fire.
Over the next few mad minutes, several dozen men fired at the small deer with M-16 rifles, M-60 machine guns, and Hercules even fired his blooper (M-79 grenade launcher.) We must have put several thousand rounds down range at that poor critter.
After the smoke and haze cleared, the little deer casually looked up as if we were completely insane, stuck his tongue out at us (for real) and sprinted off into the thick jungle. Well, no venison steaks that night!
When the Battalion Commander called to ask what all the fuss was about, I told him that we had spotted what we thought was one each enemy personnel scouting our perimeter and we had scared him off.
He asked me if it was a VC (Viet Cong) or NVA (North Vietnamese Regular?)
Seeing as how the deer was somewhat khaki colored, I told the old man that it was one each North Vietnamese Regular.
Would you believe it, on the operations report the next morning was listed, "Recon Platoon, one NVA Regular, KIA (Killed in action) add to body count.
According to General Westmoreland’s body count records, I guess we killed about a gazillion of the enemy over there.
(Of course, if you count the mosquitoes that triples.)