"But the one time we did that, it was just a matter of survival. It was the Tet offensive. I sent my teams over to Nha Trang to get some people out of trouble: they got caught in some houses over there, so we sent some men over to get them to bring our own people home, y'know?"
  "You guys had the plushest setup: your garrison facilities there, your compound, that NCO club, all that stuff you had going in there when I left. You know you had that big, padded Delta-shaped bar in the NCO club, and you had your rock garden in the officers' club, and the fountains and the paintings.. ."
  Allen smiled at the memory. If Delta had lived a spartan existence in the field, its garrison facilities had been La Dolce Vita. "I would hate to say how much money went into that compound. A lot of it, of course, was material that was procured down at Cam Ranh Bay. We had a couple of NCOs who'd go down there and take paint and a stencil with them and walk into the truck park where all the new trucks were. They'd stencil the bumper numbers on the truck and get in it and drive home, but only after they'd taken it to some other depot and filled it with air conditioners, cement, tin roofing, or whatever we needed. The stuff was readily available. It was there for the asking, so to speak, so we took advantage of it."

Going A Little Too Far

  "The hot rumor when I left was that you were going to build yourselves an Olympic-size swimming pool so you wouldn't have to go the two miles to the beach for scuba and small-boat training. Did you ever get it built?"
  Allen leaned forward. "Well, we had all the equipment cement, steel rebars and we'd purchased the diving board in Hong Kong. We had everything we needed to put the pool in, including the tile. We had the hole dug right out behind the mess hall. Then somebody thought that was going a little too far in a war zone, so we had to trade off what we had.
  "The sad thing about it all was that the day after the Project closed and they turned it over to the Vietnamese, they came through and ripped it apart, pulled the plumbing out of the walls ruined it in one day. They tore the buildings down, sold the lumber, the tin and everything. About the only thing that I salvaged out of it was do you remember the brass plaque on the pole in the officers' club: it said, 'The Ether Zone, built by the Officers of Project Delta,'  and   listed  them  all?  That was

 

mysteriously sent to me in a package about five years ago. I really don't know who got it or how, but it showed up in my mailbox one day with a note that said, 'Bruiser, if anybody should have this, you should.' Signed 'A Friend.' I have it at home in my bar.
  "Our concept required that everybody give in the field. It was easy to say, 'Give me your all,' because when we got back to camp it was, 'Don't give me anything. Take it easy; enjoy yourself. Have fun today, because tomorrow you're going back at it again.' I think a lot of them lived like it was their last day on earth. They had parties we provided the best in food, the best in entertainment. We had the best morale of anybody around anywhere.. ."
  "That's right," I agreed. "Your guys were superstars, the best individual soldiers in Vietnam."
  "They knew it too."
  "When you think about it, it was really a super military organization. There you were, a major, and you had an American Air Force lieutenant colonel and Vietnamese lieutenant colonel working for you."
  Allen chuckled, "Hangin' around anyway."
  "At one time you even had a Marine Corps major general working for you."
"Yeah," Allen replied. "Jesus, that was surprising. General Anderson. He reported in and said, 'Major, I'm op-con to you and you do what you want with me. I'm here to help you. General Cushman said to give you every bit of support we've got. So you have the 1st Marine Air Wing at your disposal.' He said it kind of jokingly, but he played the game. General Anderson moved right into the TOC with us and stayed there about two days. He slept and ate with us; he was one of the boys, and one hell of a help. Because, migod, we must have used a hundred-and-some odd sorties during that operation."
  We broke it up about 10:30 that night. Allen's wife had called to say that the war was over and his supper was waiting.
The next morning, he picked me up in his new car. He is the only man I know who makes a Mark IV look like a Toyota. We started talking about awards and decorations and, in illustrating a point about impact awards, Allen told me one of the few combat stories that has raised the hair on the back of my neck.
  "Coffey? You remember Ed Coffey, coffee-colored Coffey?"
  "Yeah, I think so. He was a kind of skinny, good-looking guy, and he really was coffee-with-cream colored?"
  "Weapons man. He was with me at Khe Sanh." (Allen commanded the first USASF A Team at Khe Sanh in 1963.) "He     was    with    me    several    places,
 

including here at Bragg.
  "Coffey was on the ground with a Ranger Company; he was a Ranger adviser. They got into all kinds of hell; they probably got inside of two or three battalions. They had gone up a long L-shaped ridge and made contact and then were gonna come down the remainder of this ridge into low ground where we could pick 'em up, to get them out of there. And they ran into more.
  "So we started putting air strikes in, which were very effective, because the lower portions of both sides were manioc fields, and you could see them running around there, all over the place.
"We put in god knows how many flights cleaned off the bottom portion of this ridge and the spine and



 

the entire top portion. And in the meantime, Coffey and his crew cleared an LZ on a little saddle, and then we started taking them out. We probably had everybody out except 15 or 20 people.
  "And do you remember Herb Siugz-da? On Okinawa he was a real wild cook; he was Lithuanian or something like that. He came to Delta as a cook, but ended up later in recon. He got wounded two or three times, pretty badly jumped out of a chopper one time, right into a pungi, one of the big ones, that came up through his nuts and into his stomach. They put him on a hospital ship for three months, and he came back to Delta and begged me to let him go back out on patrol.
  So we got him retrained, and goddamn, he wasn't on the ground five minutes before he caught one right in the middle of the chest. He was on the ground 20 minutes. After he got back from that one, he was medevack-ed home.
  "Anyway, we'd got 'em down to probably 15 or 20 people on the ground: Coffey and Siugzda and the little guy who helped you with Link. You remember?"
"Merriman?"
 

50    SOLDIER OF FORTUNE 

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