War Year

War Year

by Joe Haldeman

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497692459
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 12/02/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 72
Sales rank: 656,314
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Joe Haldeman began his writing career while he was still in the army. Drafted in 1967, he fought in the Central Highlands of Vietnam as a combat engineer with the Fourth Division. He was awarded several medals, including a Purple Heart.
 
Haldeman sold his first story in 1969 and has since written over two dozen novels and five collections of short stories and poetry. He has won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novels, novellas, poems, and short stories, as well as the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Locus Award, the Rhysling Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. His works include The Forever War, Forever Peace, Camouflage, 1968, the Worlds saga, and the Marsbound series.
 
Haldeman recently retired after many years as an associate professor in the Department of Writing and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Gay, live in Florida, where he also paints, plays the guitar, rides his bicycle, and studies the skies with his telescope. 
 

Joe Haldeman began his writing career while he was still in the army. Drafted in 1967, he fought in the Central Highlands of Vietnam as a combat engineer with the Fourth Division. He was awarded several medals, including a Purple Heart.

Haldeman sold his first story in 1969 and has since written over two dozen novels and five collections of short stories and poetry. He has won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novels, novellas, poems, and short stories, as well as the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Locus Award, the Rhysling Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. His works include The Forever War, Forever Peace, Camouflage, 1968, the Worlds saga, and the Marsbound series.

Haldeman recently retired after many years as an associate professor in the Department of Writing and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Gay, live in Florida, where he also paints, plays the guitar, rides his bicycle, and studies the skies with his telescope. 

Read an Excerpt

War Year


By Joe Haldeman

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1972 Joe Haldeman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-9245-9


CHAPTER 1

I almost slept through that first enemy attack.

I'd been on KP all day, washing dishes, on my feet from dawn to dark. When it was over, I went to my bunk and just slept like a rock. So I didn't hear the sirens when they went off. I woke up with this big guy shaking me.

"Incoming, man, wake up! Goddammit, incoming!" And he made for the door.

I didn't know what "incoming" meant, but he looked pretty shook. Then I woke up enough to hear that the sirens were blasting the way they warned us would happen in case of an attack on Cam Ranh Bay. I jumped out of bed and nearly caught that guy at the bottom of the steps.

I could hear something going crump—crump off in the distance. I didn't know how far off they were, but at least I couldn't see any explosions. Followed the big guy to the nearest bunker—that's just a big sewer pipe sitting on the ground, covered with sandbags—and crawled in after him.

It was right crowded, and the pipe wasn't big enough for a tall Oklahoman, like yours truly, to sit without cracking his head on the top.

"You fellas are a little late for the party. Decide to catch a few more minutes shut-eye?"

"Man, I was on KP all day," I said. "Never even heard the sirens until this guy woke me up."

"Maybe he should've let you sleep. Those're 122's comin' down—one of 'em hits this bunker and we'll all be blown away anyhow."

"Tell 'em all about it, hard-core," somebody else said.

I got this weird feeling in my stomach. I guess everybody who goes to Vietnam knows there's some chance he'll get killed. But the first week? For Christ's sake!

There was a high, thin whistle. You could hardly hear it over the sirens. Then a loud crump!

"Gettin' a little closer. Like I say, those're 122-millimeter rockets from China; they'll go through ten layers of sandbags just like they weren't there. This bunker's got four, maybe five layers. So if one hits us, we won't even know what happened."

I was so scared I wanted to puke. Wanted to run, too, but I knew there wasn't any place safer than here.

There was another loud one, and then they stopped. The sirens stopped, too, after a while. In about half an hour, a guy stuck his head in the bunker and said, "All clear, boys." We got out of the bunker and went back to our bunks. But I was still too nervous to sleep.

I was still awake, just staring at the ceiling, when they called the first formation of the day. It was about ten o'clock.

There were a couple of hundred of us lined up on what they called the "hot sheet." Sheets of steel soaking up the Vietnam sun and pushing it back through the soles of your boots. You stand at attention while a sergeant yells at you through a bullhorn.

"Following named personnel," he yelled, "line up over in the shade. You're goin' to Play-koo tomorrow morning, 14 January, uh, 1968."

Pleiku, I thought. It's been in the papers.

"Adams, Donald, RA 67948563. Barnes, Abraham, US 23746894. Brown, Leon ..."

I stood and waited for the F's to come up. We'd done this for over an hour every day for nearly a week, and my name hadn't been called yet.

"... Farmer, John, US 11575278."

That's me. I broke out of the formation and carried my gear to the bunch standing in the shade. Off the hot sheet it must have been thirty degrees cooler. A buck-sergeant—three stripes, nothing to be afraid of—was in charge of us. When they finished the alphabet, he led us away. We went into a big white-painted shack, same kind as I'd stayed in the past week.

"This is your billet for the night, men. Tomorrow morning at 0400 you'll be leaving for Pleiku. You've been here long enough to know the rules—if you hear the siren, high-tail it into the bunker next door. If you hear shots and no siren, take the mattress off the bed and roll up in it and pray. No John Wayne stuff, right? You'll get your chance, where you're headed."

He really knew how to make a fella feel good.

I didn't feel like waiting in the chow line, so I went over and waited for the club to open. The club was just another white shack, but you could get hamburgers and beer there. I was getting used to beer—in Oklahoma a nineteen-year-old can't get it, but here, nobody asks how old you are.

There were about a dozen of us waiting when they opened the door. I got a hamburger and a warm beer and sat down at a table. Took out a tablet and started to write a letter to my girl, Wendy.

"Mind if we sit down here?" Two guys; dark tan and shaggy moustaches showed they must've been in Vietnam a while.

"Suit yourself." I went back to writing my letter.

"You a new guy?" one of them asked after a minute.

"Yeah, I've only been here a week."

"Where you headed—got your orders yet?"

I took the orders out of my pocket, unfolded them, and laid them on the table. "Pleiku—Fourth Administration Battalion."

They both laughed. "You poor fucker—you might wind up in our outfit!" the taller one said. "Fourth Engineers—I'm Smitty and this runt's Shakey; we're both in Company C."

"What makes your outfit so bad?"

"Oh, there's nothin' wrong with it—if you don't mind gettin' shot at."

"Come on, Smitty, it's not that rough."

"Sure, it isn't—you tell him how you got the name Shakey!"

"So I get nervous sometimes ..."

"Nervous is the only way to be—" I noticed something a little stronger than beer on Smitty's breath—"be first in the hole and last out. Behind a tree if there's no hole, diggin' a hole if there's no tree ..."

"Cut it out, Smitty, you're plastered. You're gonna scare the poor guy to death. It's not all that bad, buddy."

"Name's John Farmer."

"Way you talk, they'll call you Tex."

"I'm from Oklahoma ..."

"Man, this is the army—they'll still call you Tex."

Smitty got up from the table and walked away, not too steady. "Back in a minute," he mumbled.

Shakey watched him wander out the door and shook his head. "He's gonna go pass out. He'll wake up sick in the morning and be hittin' that bottle again before noon."

"He do this all the time?"

"Nah—for one thing, there's no liquor out in the boonies. Even if there was, Smitty wouldn't get drunk. Not too many people would. Everybody depends on everybody else."

"But Smitty's on vacation—he's headed for Bangkok for R & R."

"R and R?"

"Yeah, rest and recreation—didn't they tell you about that? After you've been in Vietnam long enough, you get a week's vacation. Bangkok, Hawaii, Australia—there's a couple of dozen places you can go. Can't go back to the world, though. Guess they're afraid you'll stay."

We sat for a minute without saying anything. "Shakey, if you don't mind me asking—why do they call you that?"

"Good reason. The first fuckin' day I was out with the company, they ran into an ambush, lost thirty men. I didn't see how anybody could live through a week of that, let alone a year. Things are pretty cool most of the time, everybody told me, but I couldn't make myself believe it. I was pretty shook for a month or two."

He took out a pipe and started loading it with tobacco. "I learned, though. Doesn't pay to sweat it. You'll either make it or you won't. Most people do make it."

He lit the pipe. The warm sweet smoke reminded me of my father. "I've been kind of hoping they'd make me a clerk," I said. "I took typing in high school; passed the army typing test."

"Wouldn't bet on it. What's your MOS?"

Yeah, that was the bad part. My MOS, Military Occupational Specialty. "Combat Engineer."

"Hmmm ... you might wind up in our outfit, at that. But I don't think they'll make you a clerk. Hell, we've got a college graduate out there humpin' the boonies with us."

"Humpin' the boonies?"

"Man, don't you know anything? Humpin' the boonies—that's what you'll probably be doing the next twelve months. You put a monster pack on your back, a gun in one hand and a shovel in the other, and you go out in the woods—the boondocks, man, the boonies—lookin' for trouble. Find it, too, sooner or later."

"Really bad, then?" and he was talking about Smitty scaring me.

"Oh, I dunno." He smiled. "I got through a whole year of it without a single scratch."

"What, you're headed home?"

"That's right, man, I'm a real short-timer. Really short. Two more days and I get on that bird and kiss this hole goodbye. You might even be my replacement."

"That'd be funny."

"No, happens all the time. You figure everybody goin' to Pleiku spends a week here at Cam Ranh Bay first, and everybody leavin' has to hang around here for a week ... a guy's replacement almost has to be here when he's checkin' out. Just a question of running into him."

"You ever meet the guy you replaced?"

"Nah." Shakey drank the rest of his beer in one gulp and set the empty can down carefully. "He went home in a box."

"Sorry; I ..."

"Don't be—get sorry over strangers dying and you'll spend the rest of your life being sorry." He relit his pipe and stood up. "Well, better go check on Smitty. Take it easy, Tex. Hope you have half the luck I did."

"Have a good trip home." Kind of a dumb thing to say.

"No such thing as a bad trip home." He gave me a peace sign and walked out the door.

Going home in a box, I had to think, would be a bad trip home.


I stuck a beer under my shirt—you aren't supposed to take them out of the club—and walked out into the cool night. I swear the temperature here must drop fifty degrees when the sun goes down. You can wake up cold and be frying by nine.

They were fighting a few miles south of Cam Ranh Bay. Something was going on there every night since I landed. They told us not to worry about it. Guess I was in a worrying mood, though.

I sat down on the sand behind our billet and watched the fireworks on the horizon. There were a couple of planes, propeller jobs, and a helicopter shooting up the landscape with machine guns and rockets. Looked impressive, red and orange flames, but you couldn't hear anything. I guess it'd even look pretty if you didn't know what was going on. I watched for maybe half an hour, until I finished the beer, then went back to my billet and sacked out.


Only got a couple of hours' sleep. The buck-sergeant came stomping in, turned on all the lights, and started hollering the most godawful language I'd ever heard—and I've heard some fine stuff. Then he started tipping over bunks when people didn't get up. I squirmed out just in time to keep from getting dumped. The buck-sergeant wasn't happy at being up at three in the morning, and he wanted everybody to know it.

He calmed down a little bit after everybody was up and getting their gear ready. "All right, you fuckers, there's a bus outside the door. Hand me one copy of your orders before you get on. The last ten fuckers gotta stand all the way to the airport, so get a move on."

I was the second one on the bus, but it turned out nobody had to stand. Never trust a sergeant. It was only a ten-minute ride, anyhow.

The airport was a big metal hut filled with bored soldiers, and not much else. It had a refreshment stand and a Stars and Stripes bookstore, but they wouldn't open until 0900. I sat on my duffel bag and started writing letters.

Wrote a long one to my girl and one to Mom. I was halfway through writing my brother when the buck-sergeant made us line up to go out to the plane. He took a roll call, opened the door, and we trotted onto the field. There was a big old C-130, a "flying boxcar," and we got on in no particular order. No seats—we just flopped our bags on the metal floor and sat on them. We couldn't get everybody on at first, but they juggled us around and packed us in tight as sardines, and managed to fit everyone in.

An Air Force guy with captain's bars and a tough-looking .45 in a shoulder holster poked his head in from the front of the plane. "I'm your pilot, Captain Platt. I hope none of you guys get airsick too easy—this is gonna be a rough ride.

"This airplane is older than some of you. It'll probably outlive some of you, too. If you got anything to say to your neighbor, you better say it now. 'Cause once I start these engines, you won't be able to even hear yourself think until you get to Pleiku. It's about one hour's flight. If we land any sooner than that, you better start praying. You can smoke as soon as the light goes on." Then he yelled something out a window and the engines started. The noise was incredible, so loud it made my teeth hurt.

I'd flown lots of times before; my Dad had a license. We'd go out on weekends, out by Turner Field, and rent a plane for a few hours. But we'd always get the little Pipers or Cessnas, nothing that made a tenth as much noise as this did.

We stood still for about five minutes before the plane started to move.

After we rolled down the runway a while, the noise doubled and we were in the air. Without windows you could only tell by the upward tilt of the plane and the fact that the air was less bumpy than the ground. Still, the airplane sounded like it was going to shake itself apart.

After a boring hour—nothing to do but look at the other guys turning green—the plane started to come down. I could feel the pressure in my ears, and there was a loud bump when the landing gear came down. We bounced several times before the plane started rolling on the ground.

The rear door fell open before the plane stopped taxiing. You couldn't see much, except that everything was covered with red clay. All over everything was a thick white fog, bright in the morning sunlight.

We rolled to a stop and the unloading ramp clanked down. Everybody scrambled out of that plane as fast as they could.

Sure enough, there was another buck-sergeant there on the runway. He herded us into a line and marched us over to a bus. As we got on the bus, he checked our names off a list.

The bus had metal screens, like thick chicken wire, over the windows. One of the windows had a bullet hole in it. The bus had a name painted over the fender. It was called "Last Chance."

Two guards, armed with machine guns, got on the bus. One of them spoke up: "All right, listen up! If there's any shootin', just get down under the seat and make like a turtle. We'll take care of everything—right, Killer?" The other guy laughed in a dumb kind of way. "We're goin' through Pleiku City. There's lots of VC there who'd just love to knock off a bus fulla green troops. No sweat, though. We ain't lost a bus all week."

Guess we were supposed to be impressed. But I'd been in the army too long—less than a year at that—and seen too many phony tough guys.

Have to admit I was getting a little scared when we went through the town of Pleiku. It took a long time to get through, too; seemed as big as Tulsa. Half the buildings were demolished. Bullet holes and shell craters everywhere. But there wasn't any fighting going on, just lots of skinny little Orientals who stared at the bus as we went by. None of them smiled.

There were fewer and fewer buildings and after a while we were out in the country. Nothing but red dust and a few scraggly looking bushes on both sides of the road—looked like the worst part of Oklahoma in the middle of the summer. And this was January.

After a while we got to Camp Enari. A sign said "Welcome to the Fourth Division," but I didn't feel too welcome. It seemed more of a prison camp than an army camp—barbed wire everywhere, sentries with machine guns in towers all around the edge of the camp. A couple of privates rolled aside a big barbed-wire gate, and we drove through.

CHAPTER 2

"I'd like to welcome all of you to Camp Enari." The major was pacing up and down, looking at the floor. We were lined up all around the walls of the big plywood building. A private was passing out clipboards and a thick wad of forms to each person.

"... and I'd like to be able to say that you're going to enjoy your stay here. Unfortunately, you won't enjoy it—nobody ever has. And you might as well start getting used to the fact that there's a war going on, on the other side of that barbed wire. Nobody's ever gotten killed inside Camp Enari, though we've been attacked a few times. But most of you aren't staying in Enari.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from War Year by Joe Haldeman. Copyright © 1972 Joe Haldeman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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