combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 01 Number 03 Summer ©Jul 2003

Clinquant Armor

"Anyone who first considers the consequences cannot be brave."
ancient proverb

When our reaction force, enroute to the besieged outpost, was ambushed, thus compounding the predicament of the isolated defenders, we were doing more than failing to heed precautions, more than repeating too often repeated mistakes, more than playing the game by the enemy's rules ... we were reinforcing the hidebound conclusions of the traditional military hierarchy. The conventional wisdom was that America, by its evolved superiority, had the right to conduct the war that it was underwriting as it so desired; and that slight Asians wouldn't fight as well as powerful milk-fed round-eyes. It didn't matter that the death tally would eventually disprove this canard, showing that they lost almost six soldiers in national defense for every one of our's, because this myth would become another truism in the refrain calling for no more Vietnams in a world preoccupied with levelized playing-fields. It didn't matter that frail cao boys were flying antique Kingbee helicopters into remote landing-zones without gunship support to rescue American-led recon teams. It didn't matter that one indigenous volunteer after another braved the hail of enemy fire to attempt to lay a directional slant-wire antenna in a tree so the pinned-down unit could call for support and evacuation from its untenable position. It didn't matter that an inconspicuous Asian jet-jockey continued to fly his A1E slow-mover in support of a compromised patrol after he'd run-out of ammunition ... killing some more enemy with the propeller of his airplane! It didn't matter that the training centers at NhaTrang and LongThanh rivaled those stateside, and the military academy at DaLat was patterned on Western paradigms ... with graduates as competent as any elsewhere. While the conventional wisdom was dismissive, the Asian response was suspicious ... and justly so, since they'd seen temperamental allies too often in the past. For us, the major issues seemed to be dedication and courage, but for them, taking the long view, the issues were loyalty and persistence. While they proved their mettle, we proved our lack of devoted endurance. Not only wouldn't the Americans reinforce that besieged camp, but when the surviving irregulars arrived with their unconventional advisors, having walked their own trail of tears from destruction, they were quarantined as enemy suspects. The fact that the American commander was later relieved did nothing to restore broken faith. Treating the obvious symptoms did not cure the deadly disease of hubris. When we lie to our friends, it's their fault, and when we lie to ourselves, it's nobody's fault; but our clinquant armor is still worn by proud hildings.

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.