George Worthy

What if they started a war and nobody showed up? These words went to a paper I wrote about 40 years ago while stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. I was an instructor with the U.S. Army Institute for Military Assistance. I attended an evening class taught by professors from the University of North Carolina. 

Along with a few other instructors, we had to write a fictitious story or situation that we would then translate into Vietnamese. Don’t ask me why we were doing this. I didn’t know much Vietnamese. Probably about as much Spanish as I know today, which isn’t very much. But that’s OK because I have only been trying to learn Spanish for the past 15 years. I’m sure I will get it right soon.

Anyway, I told the instructor that I really couldn’t write much about the Vietnamese language since I had worked with the Montegnard People during my first tour in Vietnam and their language was quite different than Vietnamese. The Montegnard People were paid by us to be our soldiers, American mercenaries so to speak. 

The instructor told me to write a paper about the Montegnards and she would see if she could give me credit. I thought about that for a minute and decided since the Montegnards I had worked with were the real warriors of that conflict, they were close to me and the others on our “A” Team. I was pretty sure I could bend the paper in such a way that the teacher would be impressed.

I changed the name of my paper as I started writing because a better idea came to me. “What if soldiers wore nothing during the battles they fought?” Now if you think that is dumb, that’s fine because I wanted it to be different than whatever the other students were writing.

It had occurred to me that casualties could be cut way down if the soldiers wore nothing. I mean how often would you jump up and run if you had no clothes on? First, you would have to decide how to wear the gear that every soldier wears, like the bandoleers of machine gun ammo that every soldier had to carry. You see, we had a machine gunner that would carry a machine gun, and machine guns are pretty heavy by themselves. So each soldier would carry a little ammo to make sure we had firepower when we needed it. 

Since the soldier wore nothing, they had no reason to be swashbuckling or anything like that because the smoke grenades covered them up and the “C” rations covered all the rest. I may have told you earlier that “C” rations are the food we ate. It could either come in a can or a plastic pouch. The cans (think can of tomato sauce) were the worst because they made too much noise banging against each other and they were heavy. The pouches were OK, but you needed to have lots of water to rehydrate them. Water is very heavy, and the water has to have something to be carried in. 

If you are keeping count, these are just a few of the things a soldier has to carry when they are in a war. Don’t forget the helmet and the boots they wear. There is nothing light or handy that you carry while on patrol in the jungle. If I am successful in convincing you that wars should be fought in the nude, my questions concerning survival in a nude theater of war make more sense. 

I haven’t even touched on the question of bragging. If you have ever been familiar with a soldier, you know they love to brag. Sometimes this gets to be a struggle for you to listen to. Nobody brags when they are not wearing clothes, or at least I have never heard anyone. Of course, I haven’t been around too many guys that brag about themselves or fight wars wearing just a smile.

One of the problems I faced in Vietnam is that the Montegnards loved to smoke. They started smoking when they were in kindergarten. This can be a problem if they smoke when they are on guard duty or walking down a dark trail, so you have to stay after them to put out the cigarette. 

My idea would preclude that happening while on patrol because there is also no place to carry your cancer sticks, much less the matches. Since, in the jungle, cigarette smoke can be smelled a mile or so away from the smoker you may have to inspect the soldiers when you are in command. How do you do that? 

I had just sent off to the United States to ask for some of the flyers that the Cancer Society used to hand out with all the photos inside that illustrate a cancerous lung or tongue or some other gross-out photo. I handed these out to the Montegnards, but they thought I was just trying to get them to put on clothes and all I wanted was for them to not give away our position by smoking.

I had written that paper many years ago and I got a good grade for my imagination in the paper I wrote. Of course, there were many misspellings and the tenses were in the wrong place, but she gave me a break. Sorta like the editor of this paper. He may not like my subject matter or my tenses, but he still hasn’t fired me.

I think I have some good parts of my manuscript. Maybe everyone will not be in favor of my idea, but there are no long words or profanity. Do you think that we should send our suggestions to the War Department? Oh wait! They don’t call it that anymore. Now they call them the Defense Department. (Have you ever heard of someone winning a war by being defensive? Neither have I.)

Anyone who has humped up and down the trails of Vietnam knows that my suggestion has merit. If you think, as I do, that it would save countless lives and cut down on cancer threats too, I ask you to keep it to ourselves. I don’t want to hear about a new branch of government that deals with this sort of thing. I don’t want to let them know about this idea as they have a habit of taking all the good ideas and keeping them hidden or even taking credit for the genius of my suggestion.

***

I know we are experiencing a lot of terrible things, but please allow me to send my thanks to a very nice young lady who stopped at the Gonzales American Legion Hall and helped me fold the American Flag.

I know you were busy with your friends, but it was so nice of you, I got a little emotional. I just wanted our town to know there are young people like you helping when you can.

Jaylen Islas, thank you for being so nice and caring about our flag. 

God bless you!

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Gonzales columnist George Worthy may be reached at [email protected].

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