no supermen and damned few heroes almost no live ones.
More wounded started coming in, some limping, some carried. Most were already bandaged, but a lot of blood splattered around.
Sgt. Thompson from the Delta In-telligence section walked in, hunkered over and sad-looking. He had no visible wounds.
"Glad to see you're okay," I said.
He sat down, saying, "Haw! I got two slugs in the chest."


Sucking Chest Wound


The medics went to work around us, cans of albumin blood-expander coming out, hypos going in. Two guys brought in a Marine helicopter pilot and laid him beside me. The remnants of his flight suit were blood-splattered, and his face was waxy, yellow and blank. Doc Taylor put in the albumin.
Thompson dug a cigarette out of his pocket. Now I could see the blood on his shirt. "I hold the world's record for the 40-yard low-crawl with a sucking chest wound," he said, starting to chuckle. The chuckle ended in a wheeze and grimace of pain.
I shook my head in disbelief. "Don't tell me," I said, "it only hurts when you laugh."
"It hurts all the time," he replied. "It hurts bad when I laugh." He grinned again, careful not to let his body shake.
Meder returned, saying, "That red-headed guy you were trying to pull out was John Link. The other guy was named Merriman."
"Did you get them up?" I asked anx-iously.
He nodded. "Yeah. Link's got three slugs in the back. He's unconscious. Merriman's got three in the legs."
"Oh Jesus! Are they gonna make it?"
Meder unbuttoned Thompson's shirt to see if his bandage was still airtight. "Merriman will" he said. "We're not so sure about Link."
I leaned back on my good arm and shook my head, then sat up again to fish a cigarette out of my pocket with my left hand.
"Lemme give you a light."
I shook my head. "Naw. I can do it myself."
Ken Nauman strolled back into the little grove, more cheerful than usual. His radio operator chugged along behind him, scared and winded.
"You wounded too, Jim?" he asked, sitting down to light a cigarette.
"Uh huh." I replied, leaning up. "Where you been?"
He looked over his shoulder. "Check-ing the perimeter," he answered.
I could imagine what a hellish project that must have been in this mess.


 

"You mind if I make a suggestion?"
He grinned. "Shoot!" "The next time you have to use multiplelifts like this, use more than one LZ and link up on the ground."
He laughed, reached for the radio and said, "Falcon Two-two. Crusade Zero-six. Over."
I couldn't sleep that night. It wasn't the B-40s falling, because none of them were coming into our little pocket. And the other wounded were quiet. It was the pain in my right arm only a dull ache but when I tried to relax enough to sleep, the pain was all there was. "Awwwww dammit!" I muttered, thrashing around in frustration.
After a while, Doc Taylor materialized at my side. "Sir, I better give you something for that pain. You got any morphine?"
I took the small box of morphine syrettes out of my ammo pouch and gave him one. He jammed the needle straight into my leg and squeezed the tube dry. I barely felt it.
Three hours later pain woke me up. It was dark, but in the moonlight I could see Doc working on the helicopter pilot. I didn't want to bother him so I just watch-ed. He worked for a long time, feverishly. Then he stopped and sat down in the darkness, his arms draped over his knees. He lowered his head and shook it slowly.
I didn't want to bother him then either, but the pain was getting worse. "Hey, Doc!"
He didn't want to give me morphine yet, so I got a shot of Demerol. A few hours later he gave me enough morphine to last through the night.
In the morning, my right hand was swollen up like that of a three-day-old corpse. I lay looking at it for a while, then started to get up. The bandage came loose and bright red blood mixed with the dry maroon already on the bandage. "Hey, Meder!" I shouted. "This mother broke loose!"
He cinched up the tourniquet and started to rebandage the wound.
"Ush!" I said.
Meder looked like it hurt him worse than me, "Sorry, sir."
"S'okay," I replied. "You do what you gotta and change that bandage, and I'll do what I gotta and whimper." I started whistling, toneless and dirge-like, while he worked once I'd made up my mind it didn't hurt so bad.
"Hey, Ace," I said, "Am I gonna get to keep this arm? I've sort of grown at-tached to it."
He looked at me levelly and replied, "If we get you out today, probably so; if not, probably not." He finished rebandaging the wound. "Want a shot?"
"Not if we're going to move," I replied. "As long as I'm doing something my mind is off the pain."
We needed an airstrike to cover our withdrawal,  but  it   was  to  overcast.   B-
 

40s kept coming in and Charles ran probe after probe on the companies on the perimeter. We took more casualties.
Nauman was on the radio the whole time, checking with the FAC on fighters, checking with the companies. About 10 o'clock he looked up from the radio with undisguised glee.
"Hey, Jim," he said, "we got a prisoner." The project for three weeks had been to look for a prisoner who could supply information about this valley.
"Listen," Nauman said into the micro-phone, "if anything happens to that prisoner, you're going to have to answer to me."
A few minutes later we got another call. Preliminary interrogation of the prisoner indicated that our two companies had been engaged by two companies of NVA troops and that another battalion was on its way. Oh joy!
It was after 11:00 by the time Nauman could bring an airstrike of 500-pounders and napalm in on the NVA positions. One napalm hit the spot where the machine

24    SOLDIER OF FORTUNE 

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