- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The war is a nightmare that haunts them to this day: disgrace, abandonment, retreat. But years before the protests turned the tide of public opinion—before the politicians hijacked the battleplan and ensured ultimate failure—the U.S. Navy SEALs were hitting a once arrogant enemy hard, relentlessly...and right where he lived. No longer could NVA guerillas move unchecked across invisible borders. And no longer ...
The war is a nightmare that haunts them to this day: disgrace, abandonment, retreat. But years before the protests turned the tide of public opinion—before the politicians hijacked the battleplan and ensured ultimate failure—the U.S. Navy SEALs were hitting a once arrogant enemy hard, relentlessly...and right where he lived. No longer could NVA guerillas move unchecked across invisible borders. And no longer were they safe in their own backyard. Before the war in Vietnam exploded in its full fury, a fearless chosen few were already bloodied veterans of a savage secret war.
At China Beach, while the CIA plays shadow games with men all too willing to die for their country, two American warriors wait for the opportunity to prove their mettle. In two years the floodgates of war will burst open at Tonkin Gulf. But for a pair of SEALs—meticulously trained and ready to embark upon an impossible mission behind enemy lines—duty is calling...now!
Thursday, 18 October 1962
Off San Mariel, Republic of Cuba
Lieutenant Arthur Gunn was treading water with an ease born of long practice, feeling very much alone in the wide, rolling expanse of the Caribbean Sea under a canopy of brilliantly glittering tropical stars. The bright moonlight that struck the ocean surface in an ever-changing pattern of light and shadow made it seem well lit, but despite the excellent night visibility, Gunn had to look carefully to spot the rest of the men who surrounded him swimming in the open expanse of water. With only their heads above water, wearing dark rubber wet suits and camouflage paint on their faces, the SEALs of the recon party were hard to spot even if you knew just where to look.
That was the whole idea behind a nighttime beach reconnaissance. With luck no one would be detected as they swam in to study the Cuban shoreline, then back out to sea for a rendezvous with the USS Sea Lion, the submarine that roamed the depths just beneath them.
Close alongside Gunn, a head broke the surface. Pulling away the mouthpiece of his underwater breathing device, the newcomer looked around, taking his bearings, then fixed the cyclopean stare of his face mask squarely on Gunn.
“All right, I'm the last,” the new arrival announced. Lieutenant Steve Tangretti sounded irritable. He'd lost the coin toss with Gunn aboard the submarine when they were deciding who would be first to lock out through the escape trunk. “All of you sons of bitches remember your assignments?”
Chuckles mingled with soft-voiced replies from the waiting SEALs. Gunn smiled. “You're the one who's most likelygoing senile, Gator,” he told Tangretti. “None of the rest of us were on Omaha Beach with your NCDU dinosaurs back in the Big One.”
“Yeah, and I'd still trade the whole lot of you in for Hank Richardson and a couple more of the old gang,” Tangretti growled back. “But you don't always get what you want in this life, do you?” He paused. “Okay, we do this nice and smooth, just like the practice runs. My boys have the beach. You West Coast pukes check the harbor. Go in fast, quiet, and alert, and get the dope we need. Then back out. No contact with the enemy . . . and if they find you, break it off and get back to the rendezvous. I want live SEALs making reports, not a bunch of dead heroes. Right?”
“Right,” someone said. And another SEAL added, “Hoo-RAH!”
“Can it, Jackson,” Chief Machinist Michael Spencer growled.
Gunn spoke up. “Make as much of the approach on the surface as possible. Save the tanked air for when we need it. And keep in mind what Marsh was talking about last night. The more you thrash around, the more phosphorescence you'll kick up.”
Gunner's Mate First Class George Marsh grunted an agreement. “Yeah,” he said. “And I, for one, have no great interest in being a great big glowing target.”
“That's enough,” Gunn told him. Marsh was one of four non-SEALs attached to the operation, a part of UDT-12. Because the Underwater Demolition Teams might well find themselves involved in more large-scale operations in Cuban waters if things escalated further, Marsh and three others'two men from UDT units from each coast'were swimming in with the SEALs. Gunn was glad to have them along, since all four were old hands at this kind of work. But some of the SEALs resented them, even though they'd all come out of the UDTs themselves just a few months before. There was a growing feeling that the SEALs were the best of the best, and that “ordinary” UDT men somehow didn't quite measure up to the standard the new outfit was trying to establish for itself.
Marsh had been harping on the problems caused by the tropical phosphorescence ever since they had started their training dives at Key West two days earlier. It was a valid concern, but the swimmers were just going to have to overcome the problem as best they could. That was all a part of the job, and for the first major SEAL operation in the Teams' short history they couldn't afford to let anything keep them from collecting the information they were required to gather. The SEALs had too many enemies in the service as it was, and this trial by fire was crucial if they wanted to keep the new outfit from being shut down before it had even had a fair chance to prove what it could do.
“Let's get moving,” Tangretti said sharply. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can all crawl back in our racks on the sub.”
The SEALs began striking out in different directions, the four East Coast SEALs and all the UDT men following Tangretti, while the eight men of Team One joined Gunn. The two groups had very different missions to carry out, and the personnel assigned to each group reflected their differing missions. Gunn let the rest of his men forge ahead of him, then signaled Ensign Aengus O'Rourke to hang back with him for a moment. O'Rourke was a thin, wiry native of Ireland who was as zealous in the service of his adoptive country as he was proud of his origins in the Auld Sod. Fiery, stubborn, and a little too impetuous for Gunn's taste, O'Rourke was nonetheless a good officer, well liked by the other SEALs of Team One. He'd been the first man to volunteer when the mission was first being mapped out, and Gunn had picked him even though the unit was really too small to need two officers. After all, if a larger combat mission was warranted later, it would be valuable to have another leader on hand with personal knowledge of the lay of the land.
Posted October 6, 2009