May He bless you with understanding of this truth...
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are,
and the things which shall be hereafter...
Chapters Twenty-one - Twenty-five
Friday, November 17, 2006
More practise runs with the big ship. More ho-hum work around headquarters. Then Jona came to Sag and me. We need to talk, Jona said. See me in the morning, my office, first thing.
Of course, both Sag and I thought uh oh we're in deep-do-do. I've always hated it when a person does something like that. Don't drop a clue. Don't give us any idea if it's good or bad. Don't tell us if we're in trouble or not. Sag asked me if it's always in the morning when they line you up in front of the firing squad, or is that just a hanging. Funny, was my sarcastic reply.
When morning finally arrived, both Sag and I hoped it was either the firing squad or hanging because neither one of us slept a wink the night before.
It was five in morning and we decided Jona meant morning, after all, it was morning. We took a chance and headed for Jona's office. This guy doesn't sleep we both thought. Jona was already waiting for us.
We walked in and instantly thought we were right. It's either a hanging or firing squad as breakfast for four was sitting on the table in Jona's office. Uh oh, last meal. Damn, he didn't even ask us what we wanted for our last meal.
Mr. Z meandered in just at that moment. Oh no, the look on his face was not good. That twinkle in his eyes was gone. Sag and I looked at each other, gave each other a nod as if to say, it was nice knowing you, then we both turned to face Jona.
Jona just sat there looking at each of us. What's wrong with you two, Jona asked, you look as if you're headed to the gas chamber or something. I've got a new assignment for the two you, that's all.
Whew! was not the best word for it, but it'll do for now. Sag and I smiled at each other then looked back to Jona.
Jona began by reiterating the information he gave us once before about exactly what an above-top-secret clearance is. Most government or military people will tell you there is no such thing as an above-top-secret clearance. Thing is, they wouldn't know it anyway. It's always a need-to-know thing. If you have no need to know, you won't know.
Jona went on that this clearance is reserved for The Elite and their people only. This clearance will allow you two access to virtually anywhere. Jona continuing, there is a war going on in Vietnam. Sag and I looked at each other with that duh, really?-type look.
"Both of you will be inserted into a special unit the CIA has come up with. It's a nasty little unit," Mr. Z added. "Down and dirty," Mr. Z said.
Jona continued that this unit was set up as an assassination squad among other tasks they perform. CIA calls it 'Phoenix.' Because of your clearances you will not have to be attached to this unit on a permanent basis, you will be free too come and go as you please. Never forget that the leaders of this unit believe you are part of The Elite, therefore making you their bosses. This works out great for you as these men will protect you with their lives. This also means no one will question where you go, with whom you speak or what you do, you are their bosses, case closed. These boys are loyal to the end.
Jona said that his next bit of advice is crucial. It could keep us alive.
The things you will witness and take part in will be heinous acts of out-right murder, mayhem and perversion. This is how the CIA believes this war needs to be fought. Sick, but it is reality for these times.
Jona continued, the CIA has a meeting set with a powerful leader from the area. The CIA is starting to acknowledge the fact that the United States could just lose this war. CIA has now decided to try to enlist the help of those neighbors opposing North Vietnam. Your job will be (if you chose to accept it, Mr. Phelps) to attend that meeting and gather any and all intel about Project Phoenix, the Vietnam War, the government's involvement, as well as those of the other governments involved. Remember, you two 'represent' The Elite in this mission.
"Question," I said to Jona. "How positive are we that we will be accepted as Elite when we get there?"
Jona's answer was a good one that put us a little more at ease. Jona said/thought that we have a contact in The Elite who is helping us gather intel in all matters of our government and foreign governments. This man will not know who you two are, nor will he ever meet you face-to-face, or know your names or descriptions. He says he's had enough of The Elite and their attitudes and feels he needs to stop them.
Okay, maybe we now feel a little bit better.
Sag and I had our own little meeting right after we left Jona's office. We discussed how we would handle this situation, checked the available intel reports, studied the necessary maps, then we asked Mr. Z if he would join us.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Mr. Z joined Sag and me about half an hour later. We asked him why Omega needed this intel and why use Omega personnel. Mr. Z answered that no other intel source could be trusted for these missions. We need people who are loyal to Omega and no one else. We need to know the truth. Mr. Z went on that these covert-type missions will eventually become a major part of your jobs with Omega. Look forward to more of them in a variety of capacities.
We next asked Mr. Z if he felt comfortable with this mission. His reply was you betcha. And that he would never send people into the field if he didn't feel comfortable.
Okay, we're now feeling just a little bit more comfortable with that answer…not completely comfortable though.
These meetings took place April, 1973.
The end of April 1973, saw Sag and I preparing to take our leave to southeast Asia. Oh, joy. We didn't need to pack anything as Jona's contact set up everything for us when we got in-country.
Thursday, April 26, 1973, arrived. The scheduled date for our departure on our first dangerous, covert mission. What Sag and I found really strange was that neither one of us were nervous or anxious. Actually, we were oddly calm.
There was a forty-foot triangle waiting in the hangar. Standing beside the ship were Mr. Z and two other men we've never met before. Jona, Aviel and the other twelve members of The Fifteen were also waiting for us.
We said our goodbyes, got and gave hugs all around, slaps on the back and the usual departure gestures. We got in the ship and were joined by Mr. Z and the other two guys we'd not met before. Mr. Z wasted no time. He just said, "Let's do it," and off we went.
Remember the two Doublemint twins? Well, these two guys were their bosses, the number one guy and the number two. We never got the number two guy's name but number one was just called 'Supe', short for supervisor. These two guys never said a word throughout the entire trip. Of course, the trip didn't take that long.
We landed in the jungle of South Vietnam fifteen minutes later. Mr. Z told us we would be met by a helicopter and taken to our rendezvous point. He warned us to stay low and out of sight. At this point, he gave us each an M-16 rifle with six extra clips each. He also gave us flak jackets, a knife, food rations, backpack and a change of clothes.
We changed into camouflage outfits called 'tiger stripes.' With that, Mr. Z gave both Sag and I a green beret to wear. Sag and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, "What no helmets?" Mr. Z replied that we were tough guys, afraid of nothing, fearless. You don't need helmets.
Okay, so how come we didn't feel afraid-of-nothing and fearless? we both thought.
Mr. Z told us it was time to go. He said he shouldn't stay here too much longer for fear of being spotted. Sag and I stepped from the ship into the hottest, most humid temperatures either one of us ever experienced. We both broke into a soaking sweat in nothing flat.
Were we sweating because of temperature or fear? We both agreed…BOTH.
We found a spot to hunker down and wait. Damn, the mosquitoes here were as big as birds and nasty. There were these roach-type bugs that were about five to six inches long. Great, now all we need is a snake or a tiger to come along. We waited for what seemed an eternity; it was only about twenty minutes. We then heard the whop, whop, whop sound of an approaching helicopter.
Where are they going to land a helicopter around here? Sag asked. I told him I had no idea whatsoever. Then we saw the helicopter descend just about one hundred yards from us. The jungle was so thick we never saw the LZ (landing zone) nearby.
Sag and I ran over and jumped into the helicopter. Inside, we were greeted by four soldiers and a full-bird colonel. They were all pointing guns at us.
Great. We'd made it over here just to be shot dead. DAMN.
The colonel asked for our IDs. We produced the IDs Jona had given us. They were black with white lettering with our photos on them. The heading on the ID cards read…Classified Status. The colonel checked both IDs, checked the both of us, saluted us and told the pilot to get us the hell out of here before we got blown up.
With that, the helicopter took off quickly and lurched into the air.
Friday, November 17, 2006
We landed in Da Nang in central Vietnam right on the coast of the South China Sea. Da Nang was an Air Force base, but housed all sorts of people from all the different branches of the military. And then some.
We landed at the southern-most end of the runway near a small grouping of buildings. We later found out this area was called the "Animal Farm." The name was given to this area because most regular military considered those living in this area to be animals.
There was a nice breeze coming in off the water, didn't do a damn thing for the heat and humidity though. The main part of the base was very active. People, planes, equipment everywhere. It was quiet on our end. We were met by soldiers who secured the helicopter and acted as security to take us to the main building.
We entered the main building to find it set up like any regular office. The only difference was everyone was dressed in the tiger stripe camouflage. When we entered the main room, everyone stood. We headed for the colonel's office. I will not mention his name as he is still among the living.
The colonel wasted no time filling us in about our coming meeting, which by the way, was scheduled for tonight. Currently, it was Thursday, April 26, 1973, 11:40am Mountain Time. I didn't bother figuring the time difference as there were enough people to keep us apprised of the times for meetings and such.
The colonel told us we'd be flying to Nha Trang then out to the jungle to the west of Nha Trang. We'll leave here at 1600 hours he said.
There was a mess tent to which we all walked over and had lunch. Yummy…military food, the equivalent of hospital food. Where were Mrs. C's cookies when we needed them?
We were served hamburgers, fries, salad and iced tea. Hey, it wasn't too bad. As it turned out the cooks had set up a barbeque pit behind the mess tent. The colonel told us the cooks would be barbequing ribs tomorrow night, if we were still here.
Sag and I didn't like the sound of that remark…if we were still here? The colonel saw the look on our faces and said that you gentlemen do not have to stay here with us, your clearances allow you to stay or go anywhere you wish.
Okay, that's better, Sag and I thought to each other.
We ate lunch. The colonel gave us a brief history of what was taking place in Vietnam at this time. He didn't paint a rosy picture, I'll tell you. We talked for a couple of hours with the colonel, just jawing about Vietnam, politics, his men, their mission and so on. He never told us with whom the meeting was tonight.
It was 2:00pm (1400 hours) by my watch. The colonel suggested we take some time for ourselves, get cleaned up and meet in his office at 1550 hours (3:50pm).
Why is it that the military never uses real time? All this 1400 hours, 1550 hours was kind of confusing.
Sag and I were led to our quarters by two heavily armed soldiers. They got us there safely, but stood outside the tent, on guard. We headed for the showers. This was going to feel great. I was looking forward to a cold shower in all this heat. Well, what a disappointment. The coldest the water ever got was probably eighty-five degrees, "cold" by the military's standard in-country was lukewarm to me.
Oh well, at least it felt good to wash off the sweat. That didn't last long though. The second we got out of the showers the sweat started pouring off of us once again. Nice while it lasted, Sag said.
We dressed in fresh tiger stripe camos, dropped our stuff off in our tent and walked around for a while checking things out.
Funny, no one saluted around here I said to Sag. The soldiers guarding us told us we didn't want anyone saluting. Saluting only lets the snipers know who is and who isn't an officer…their preferred targets.
Okay, I can live without being saluted.
It was getting close to 1550 hours so we headed for the colonel's office.
Sitting just off the runway were four helicopters, and some mighty mean-looking soldiers armed to the teeth.
The colonel informed us that we would be escorted to the meeting by these boys. Being prepared is better than being dead the colonel said. He added that he didn't like surprises.
As we lifted off, the colonel started filling us in on procedures for the meeting. If you don't like the food, at least taste it once or twice, don't piss off this guy, he's one mean hombre, the colonel said. Don't talk over this guy. He's the big mucky-mucky and most of his people treat him as if he were a god or something. Don't raise your voice when talking to him, he doesn't like it. He considers it disrespectful. After spending a little time with you two gentlemen, the colonel continued, you'll do just fine, be yourselves, relax while around this guy.
We landed in Nha Trang, refueled, took on some arms and ammo and took off again.
We flew over thick, hot steamy jungle all the way. Nice place, Vietnam (sarcasm). We crossed over into another Asian country and were met by four more helicopters…not ours though. We flew on for about ten more minutes when we came to a clearing in the jungle. Below us sat a typical jungle village, straw huts and all.
Two of our helicopters landed while the other two hovered, then circled the area, as did the other country's helicopters.
We stepped from the helicopter to be met by hundreds of rag-tag men all heavily armed.
What the hell did we get into here…
Friday, November 17, 2006
A small group of these rag-tag guys led us to the 'main building'. It was nothing more than a big straw hut. I hope the air conditioning works, I thought/said to Sag. Funny, was Sag's comeback. He said he was sweating far more than before.
We entered the big hut and were completely surprised. The table was set as if the head waiter from the Waldorf had set the tables. The hut had overhead fans whirling around doing a decent job of cooling this stifling place.
Inside there were six men sitting at the table. Four of those men were Asian. The other two were American--CIA we found out a little later. One of the Asian men was dressed in a military uniform with tons of medals and other things on it.
Sag and I guessed this was the big mucky-muck the colonel was telling us about.
The two American men stood and approached the three of us, Sag, the colonel and me. They introduced themselves as CIA and said they would introduce us to 'the man.'
We walked over to the table. 'The man' didn't stand, he just sat there as if he were a king or something. Or something was an understatement for sure.
One of the CIA guys said, "Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to the fearless leader…Pol Pot."
Talk about weak-kneed, that was us at that moment. We've heard of Pol Pot. Pol Pot became the ruthless genocidal maniac who was the leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Eventually Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge would murder three million Cambodians.
At the time, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge were nothing more than a bunch of outlaws, terrorists trying to instill fear in all those around them. Well, they did for us, Sag and I thought.
One look into this man's eyes sent shivers down my spine. His eyes were as black as coal and seemed dead and lifeless.
Sag and I glanced at each other and thought, this guy has no soul.
He came off as very friendly, was well spoken, well dressed and appeared well educated. Not bad so far.
He welcomed us to his meager home (his words) and asked us to sit and have something to drink. Sag and I both worried because we didn't want to drink the water here. The water in this place results in the 'quick step,' something neither of us wanted in the jungle.
To our surprise, a 'waiter' dressed in white shirt and black pants rolled out a cart filled with top-shelf whiskey, bourbons and vodkas. Sag thought a bourbon and coke would be great. Just then the waiter drew Coca-Cola, Seven Up and a variety of mixes from under the cart. All of it the same as we can buy in America.
I joined Sag in a bourbon and Coke. Although my preference was Wild Turkey and lo and behold, Pol Pot had it and loved it he said. Great. Me and Genghis Kahn here happen to like the same drink, I thought.
Pol Pot talked about how he really enjoys Wild Turkey and how only real men are able to drink it. I looked at Sag and thought, wimp. Sag kicked me ever so slightly in the leg under the table. I grinned.
The waiters, all dressed alike, brought out hors d'oeuvers much like any dinner party one would attend.
Not too bad, I thought. Sag must have thought the same as he was doing a good job on them. Okay, okay, so was I.
We sat, we drank, we talked and we stuffed our faces. This guy was scary, but not too scary. Or so we thought.
The CIA guys changed the flow of conversation. They started by asking Pol Pot for his help with the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong who were giving American troops a run for their money at this time. These two groups hated the Khmer Rouge and wanted them dead also.
We all got into the conversation and things seemed to be going great when the waiters brought out the main course for the evening.
Sag and I just looked at each other with that now what do we do? look on our faces.
The main course was monkey. Actually, it turned out to be three-quarters of a monkey on a plate, supported by the arms of the monkey. It stunk to high-heaven. And its plate-appeal wasn't too appetizing either. Just then, we heard the colonel's voice in our heads as we remembered his warnings of earlier. "If you don't like the food, at least taste it once or twice, don't piss off this guy, he's one mean hombre."
Thanks for the advance warning, Colonel, were both our thoughts.
Okay, ugggh, it turned out the monkey actually wasn't the main course. It was the monkey's brains. Steamed, with the skull cut, you lifted off the top of the skull with a little tuft of hair on the monkey's head. To make matters worse, there was a pair of chopsticks served with the monkey.
Okay, I'm going to have to try it, like it or not. I'm not about to piss this guy off. If this guy's weird enough to eat monkey brains who knows what he's capable of doing.
We lifted off the skull cap. DAMN, the smell was even worse. Of course, etiquette commands you wait for your host to eat first. If this guy really eats this stuff, then and only then, will I try it. He did. I took two tastes and fought the urge to upchuck those two small tastes. My appetite was gone.
Friday, November 17, 2006
With the 'taste-testing' out of the way and my stomach settling some, the meeting continued.
This guy, Pol Pot, was insane. His answer for everything was to kill anyone or anything that stood in his way.
Of course, he wanted to know what the CIA would give in return for his help. The CIA was willing to supply this madman with weapons, airplanes, tanks and personnel.
What he wanted most was for the CIA to help him gain control of Cambodia…for now. He'd want more later.
After spending a few hours with Genghis Khan here we decided it was time to leave. All of us, Sag and me, the colonel, even the two CIA guys. The CIA guys flew back with us to Da Nang.
We all made it safely back to the colonel's office where he broke out some beer and Jack Daniels. The colonel said he desperately needed a stiff drink after meeting ol' Genghis. We all agreed whole-heartedly.
The CIA guys admitted they'd thought this would be a great idea to get some help from people who knew the jungles as well as the Vietnamese did. Boy, they both admitted, that was a mistake.
The CIA never used Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge at all. Good thing, Pol Pot's killing totals might have been much higher if they had gotten their hands on all those toys the CIA guys talked about.
We sat for a couple of hours talking about how down-right scary Pol Pot was. The CIA guys remarked that they had very little conscience when it came to winning a war, but that Genghis had zero conscience it seemed about anything.
Everyone felt better that the CIA would not be using Pol Pot.
We finished our drinks and everyone split to get some rest. The colonel asked us what we wanted to do: Stay the night and see more in the morning or head home. Sag and I agreed to stay and see more.
REST, RIGHT. There is no such thing over there. All night long we could hear the sound of sniper fire as they tried to pick off American soldiers. We could hear the distant thunder of bombs exploding. We could even hear the ships in the Gulf firing their weapons.
Sleep didn't come easy and it was short-lived.
We woke at dawn to the sounds of silence.
It seemed too quiet for Sag and me. We headed to the mess tent. As we stepped from the tent, the two guards were still just outside our tent, alert and awake.
The four of us walked to the mess tent and were greeted with some very fine aromas. Here in the middle of a war? I thought. Those smells turned out to be steaks barbequing on the cook's barbeque pit out back.
We ate steak, eggs, hash browns, toast and coffee. Surprisingly, the coffee was excellent. Maybe it had something to do with the lack of sleep, but it tasted wonderful.
Just minutes later we were joined by the colonel. We exchanged the usual morning greetings, the colonel was served his breakfast, as were we, and we started planning the day's agenda.
The colonel told us they had some "clean up" to do today. He told us we were welcome to ride along and watch…maybe even take part in some of the fun.
Sag and I thought to each other, what's this guy's idea of fun? That turned out to be the question of the century. The answer was the question of the millennium.
This would be a day neither Sag nor I would ever forget…
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