Image credit: World Guns
My father, at least the man who raised me was Army Special Forces. He was part of a 5 man team that jumped on the other side of a hot zone and set up a temporary base camp for troops to resupply and take shelter after a battle through an enemy line. This put my father in the zone where the gas was being deployed.
He told me only a few stories of his time there. Only recently has he been able to really talk about it after years of therapy. He told me of the time he almost died. The Vietnamese Communists had come in guns blazing and they all took shelter in the main bunker built to house the radio and act as the temporary command post. The Vietnamese soldiers surrounded them and kept blasting fire at the door attempting to breach it. My dad knew it was only a matter of time before they did breach the door. They called on the radio for a strike, but they knew it would not come in time. They had taken defensive positions with a point man in the corner near the door. Three set up strategically around the room and my dad with the radio in the back of the room. The door breached and instantly SKS fire took out the point man. Return fire took out the first man through the door. The second dropped as well, but he took one with him. A third and fourth man fired from the door and took out another of my dad’s team. As they entered they were shot by the fourth US team member. The last man to enter killed the fourth team member and then came toward the sounds of the radio. My dad had been hunkered in the back with the destruction device they were given to destroy the radio. It was a small pipe with a spring and a pin and a shotgun shell. The idea being that if they were going to be captured or killed, the last thing they would do is destroy the radio so the jamming technology couldn’t be reverse engineered and used in the conflict.
My dad’s clip was emptied from the previous round. He said “it felt like an eternity to reload my weapon, as I saw him coming across the room for me.” As the man approached, he said “I didn’t think I was going to get my weapon up in time.” Then suddenly the Vietnamese soldier fired at my dad, and his gun was empty. My dad fired killing the last of the small insurgent team sent after them. My dad’s entire team was wiped out in that short battle. He says “I have the same dream, every night. The soldier is coming across the room and I can’t get my gun up fast enough. I’m stuck in that moment for what seems like an eternity, panicked trying to raise my gun in slow motion.
The man who raised me is a war hero. He undoubtedly saved the lives of countless US service personnel by his efforts in Army Special Forces. He almost wasn’t here to tell the story. The difference in that fire fight was last shot hold open on the M16, when the SKS did not have a last shot hold open. The Vietnamese soldier didn’t realize his gun was empty.
Image credit: World Guns
This brings up a valuable lesson of the economics of war. Often we’ve seen the US and it’s allies win wars due to superior weaponry. The M16 is a prime example of that, as something so simple like a notch on top of the magazine’s follower catches the bolt and alerts the soldier of the weapon being empty. This small notch saved my dad’s life that day. With only fractions of a second being the difference between life and death. This small chunk of plastic made the difference.The important take-away here is that the effort and energy we put out to make the small differences in our products and services are what make the difference when it really counts.