He sees and experiences things he could never have imagined before Vietnam. This is Vince's story, of how he survived that year in Vietnam, how he coped with the hell he faced, of the friendships he formed, and of the sorrow of lives lost. Prior to becoming a police officer, he was a Military Policeman assigned for a year to the th MP Co. He has earned a B. A in Administration of Justice and an M. A in Public Administration. He has had several trade articles published in law enforcement magazines such as Law and Order, Police Officer's Quarterly, and The Backup.
He is also a member of the Police Writers Association, a very supportive writers' group for anyone affiliated with any type of law enforcement organization. Vincent Torelli saw the interior lights had not been turned off again. Those gooks ain't no good with them mortars. Can't aim 'em for shit, then they only fire two or three rounds before they run off. Never hit anything but open space anyway. You forget so soon what can happen? Vince shivered as the memory of the terrible night five months ago flooded back.
He could once again hear the explosions and the gunfire, could feel the pain of his wounds, hear the cries of the dying. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and forced the memories from his mind. That open door is shining like a beacon, and maybe ol' Charlie will use it as an aiming point. Torelli lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply as he watched the soldiers walking down the stairs from the plane. I guess it depends how lucky they are. Phoung watched the soldiers walking across the tarmac with the binoculars he had stolen from the American deuce and a half parked in front of Three Doors earlier that evening.
A Vince Torelli Novel Book 1 : MP - a Novel of Vietnam by John Schembra (2007, Paperback)
He could not see the unit patches on their shoulders from where he was, but he could at least count the number for his superiors. He thought, It does not matter how many come, we will prevail in the end. One year from now, maybe ten years from now, but we will prevail. As the last of the Americans entered the terminal, he put the binoculars back in their case, and crawled through the brush down the low hummock he had been using as his observation point.
Vincent Torelli stood on the table addressing the newly arrived troops. You're probably wondering what's going to happen to you now. Well, from here you will be bused to the 90th Replacement Battalion where you will spend a couple of days while your paperwork is processed and arrangements can be made to get you to your permanent units. Good , he thought, fear makes a man cautious, and a cautious man has a better chance of surviving here. You do not leave the friendly confines of the 90th until ordered to do so, and starting right now, consider every gook your enemy.
You will be right most of the time. Trust no one who doesn't have round eyes, and be careful of some of them. If you keep your head out of your ass, you just might survive long enough to get back here a year from now. Torelli knew it wasn't his job to lecture these men, but he figured the more they heard it, the more likely they were to take it seriously.
Now, head out to the buses, out that door", he said, pointing to the exit behind him. Watching them walk out the door, Torelli's mind drifted again, remembering when he had first arrived at Bien Hoa. He, too, had been a green 20 year old PFC, scared of the unknown, wondering what the next year would hold for him. He had stood at the top of the boarding platform, squinting in the bright sunlight.
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The heat and humidity were like a damp blanket, covering him and trying to pull him down. Now, here he was almost a year later, still alive, though somewhat worse for the wear. He was a short-timer now, with less than two weeks left until he rotated home. He thought of the last year and how it had changed his life. He was no longer the naive, sheltered, middle-class boy who had grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He had matured beyond his 21 years, and his eyes had been opened. PFC Vincent Torelli couldn't believe how hot and sticky it was.
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As he walked across the runway to the terminal, he felt as if he was walking through a thick, hot fog. It was almost a struggle to breathe, and the smells in the air made his stomach queasy. Don't worry, after a couple of weeks, you won't even notice it anymore. After the short walk to the terminal, Torelli's uniform was damp with sweat. The hour he had spent waiting in the un-airconditioned building only made him hotter and more miserable.
By the time the buses to the 90th Replacement Battalion arrived, he was wishing for a shower and a cold beer, neither of which he would get this day. As he boarded his bus, he saw they were painted the usual O. He sat next to a buck sergeant and asked, "What's with the window screens? The sergeant looked at Vince and grinned, shaking his head. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to Vince, saying, "Well, newbie, it's a favorite trick of the local VC to drive up alongside the buses on their motorbikes and toss a grenade or two in through the open windows.
Those screens have saved a lot of GIs a lot of grief. God , thought Vince, what have I gotten myself into now? He looked out the window, nervously watching the motorbikes as they passed alongside the bus. He was quiet the rest of the trip to the replacement battalion, busily watching the people and countryside they passed along the way. He saw that the buses were escorted by two MP gun jeeps, with three MPs in each jeep. An M machine gun was on a pedestal mount welded to the floor behind the front seats.
The sergeant saw him staring at the jeeps, and, nudging him with his elbow, said "That there is an M machine gun. Perhaps the most effective weapon in use at this time. It fires a 7. It can fire at a rate of rounds per minute, and uses tracer, ball, armor piercing, and armor piercing incendiary ammunition.
It weighs less than 25 pounds, is light enough to be hand-carried and fired, and can be set up on a bipod, and loaded in seconds. The barrel can be changed quickly, and it is the backbone of the grunts' arsenal. He remembered the feel of the gun bucking in his hands, and the sense of power it gave him. He turned away, looking out across the fields on either side of the bus, forestalling any more conversation. Torelli settled back, and returned to watching the landscape as it passed by. It took them about 30 minutes to get to the 90th Replacement.
One gun jeep led the buses, and one followed. The machine gunners rode all the way standing up, manning their guns, as the VC liked to ambush the newly arrived troops on their way from the air base as they drove through the old plantation and marshlands east of the city. They would fire an RPG or two at the buses, then open up with small arms fire or a light machine gun, then break off and fade away into the brush before a response could be organized.
The MPs would always return fire, but the effectiveness of this was never known. A sweep of the area would always be conducted afterwards, but usually nothing was found except some empty cartridge casings. This day, there was no ambush, and the buses made it safely through the main gate of the 90th. The 90th Replacement Battalion was the processing point for all troops arriving and leaving from the huge air base at Bien Hoa. A miserable few days was spent there when arriving in country, and a joyful, though nervous, few days when processing out for the trip home.
The base was relatively safe, the only problems being a few mortar rounds or rockets fired into it a couple of times a week. There was little damage in these attacks, as the base was spread out, and there were rarely any casualties. These attacks were mostly hit and run night time harassment by poorly trained local VC, pressed into service by the provincial VC commander through threats and intimidation.
During the day, these local villagers tended their small vegetable gardens or rice paddies, using tools and seed provided by the U. At night they fired mortars, rockets, or small arms at the American and South Vietnamese military bases, using weapons supplied by Hanoi. Most often, they only wished to be left alone by both governments, to live their lives simply. They held no real allegiance to either side, and did not care who was in control as long as they could live their lives in peace.
The 90th was always crowded with troops, the new arrivals trying not to stare at the old timers with their dirty, faded fatigues and dusty, cracked boots. The shoulder patches of the old timers were varied, from combat to support units from all over the country. Once processing at the 90th was completed, the old timers boarded buses for the air base and flights home, while the new arrivals were shipped to their duty stations by bus, jeep, truck, helicopter or plane.
Torelli handed his records and orders to the personnel sergeant, received his temporary billet assignment along with directions to his bunk area and the mess hall, and was told to check back in a few hours to see if transportation had been arranged to his new unit.
A Vince Torelli Novel Book 1: MP - A Novel of Vietnam
He made his way to his billet, and saw it was an open-sided, canvas-covered area with rows of portable canvas bunks inside. About two thirds of the bunks were occupied. He dropped his duffle on an unoccupied bunk, took out some paper and a pencil, and began the first of many letters to his fiancee back home in San Lorenzo, California. Writing to her made the loneliness he felt all the harder to bear.
They had planned to be married this year, but when he received his draft notice, they agreed to change their plans. Vince had resisted the temptation to have the wedding before he left for Nam, as he didn't know if he would ever return to her alive, and in one piece. He couldn't bear the thought of returning crippled, of being a burden to her the rest of their lives, so he convinced her to wait until he returned, giving her other reasons for the delay. Their last night together was an awkward, difficult time for both of them. Each tried to be in good spirits for the benefit of the other, and each failed.
There were many tears shed, and the sadness of parting was an awful burden to bear. Torelli still felt the weight of that burden, as he had only said goodbye four days earlier. He kept his letter lighthearted, not wanting her to know how miserable he really was. Three hours later, he walked back to the processing point, and was told he would be picked up at hours the next day for transport to his new company.
Torelli went back to his bunk to get his duffle together, and saw that the bunk next to him was now occupied.
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So, who are you? Where you from, T. Right along the Salmon River. Best steelhead fishin' anywhere. Vince saw that T. He had a smooth, pinkish baby face, bright blue eyes, and a thin mustache. He was about 6 feet tall and thin, but looked wiry. Vince thought he would be stronger than he looked. You on vacation, or you planning to settle down. Used to be with the 25th Infantry at Cu Chi northwest of here, but I got hit for the second time, so I'm gonna be an MP for the rest of my tour.
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I'm going to the th at Long Binh. Maybe we'll be in the same unit. You know where Long Binh is?
I'm going to the th, too, so it looks like we'll be serving together. I heard this is a pretty secure area, not too much enemy activity. Sure glad I'm not going to be out pounding the bush somewhere. Being a grunt is the shits.
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Humpin' the boonies all day, never knowin' what surprises Charlie has set for you, sittin' in a foxhole all night hopin' the sneaky little bastards don't shoot your ass or cut your throat, then back to humpin' the boonies again the next day, fightin' the heat, bugs, and snakes. Actually, I'm glad I've been reassigned. Been wounded twice, now, and they say the third time's the charm.
Sure don't want to press my luck. If you don't mind me asking, what happened when you were wounded? I'd only been in country a few weeks. We were on a two day sweep of an area south of Cu Chi. There'd been some minor contacts during the previous week, so our C. We was supposed to look for signs of enemy buildup or activity. Maybe company size or so. We struck a trail a couple a' hours later that showed signs of real recent use, and the L. We moved off the trail a couple a' meters and started forward.
We hadn't gone too far, maybe a couple hundred meters, when Jennings, walkin' point, signaled a halt. He heard some voices up the trail, so we all hunkered down and waited. Sure enough, here comes these four VC walkin' down that trail like they was out for a Sunday stroll. Now, I didn't think that was such a good idea, 'cause we didn't know how many others were in the area, but the L.
We went out onto the trail, and found those four gooks shot to shit, deader'n hell, so we start searchin' the bodies and collectin' their weapons. We're just startin' to move back into the bush when we start takin' fire from up the trail. I seen Johanson go down, shot through both legs.