27 April, 2012
27 April 2012
It took Einar no more than halfway through the breakfast--a meal which he tried his best to eat but without much success--to realize that Liz did not want to go trapping that day. Seemed to have no intention of leaving the cabin and though he couldn’t guess exactly why, figured he’d better respect her wishes, on that one. Perhaps she was simply weary after having other people in the house for several days, and wanted a respite before heading out like that. Seemed pretty reasonable. Hopefully one day would be enough, and they could start out on the following one. Would give him some time to make sure everything was in order, anyway, organize his snares and traps and make a plan for when they got down there. And to do something else, too.
Waiting until Liz’s back was turned, he pulled the tan envelope down from its hiding place in the rafters. If they weren’t going that morning, he had other things to do, and wanted to take care of that one thing, in particular, before working on the traps. Just for a few minutes. Just so he wouldn’t get too comfortable with having that thing hidden away out of sight, and decide to leave it that way for months. Or years. Could happen, and he wanted to get on with it. But not in the house. Went outside, picked a tree and sat.
Einar skipped the part about his capture. Had already read that. Would read it again someday, but not just then. Scanned ahead--past the heading in which was listed his name, rank and unit, the date and location of the interview and the names of the two men who had done the questioning, to a part he had passed over the first time, in his quest to get to the end where they had interviewed him in more depth about Andy. That was one of the reasons he’d skipped it the first time anyway, but not the only reason, and because of that second reason, the one alluded to by Kilgore, he must read it, now. The details of his time in that camp…
Q: Did you see any American equipment in the camp, weapons, uniforms, even small items?
EA: No. Most of them were just wearing “black pajamas” and sandals. I didn’t see any American uniforms or weapons there. They had AK47s and some sort of Chinese pistols with little stars on the handles.
Q: What about when they fed you, mess kits, canteen cups, anything like that that you could recognize as American?
EA: They did not give me anything to eat or drink.
Q: Did you observe any US aircraft during your time there?
EA: Yeah, the Cobras that nearly blew the tar out of me while I was E&Eing. And a couple of LOHs that were with them. That was all, though I did hear Cobras in the distance a couple times from camp.
Q: Which day was it that you had the close call with the cobras? Which day after your escape, I mean. Trying to establish dates, here.
EA: The fourth day, I think.
Q: You think?
EA: Yes, sir. It wasn’t the first, because I was on the move all the first day. So that puts it sometime late in the afternoon of the fourth, I think.
Q: What happened to the second and third days? Are you sure it wasn’t the second or third?
EA: The second and third it rained, and I couldn’t move all day because they were very close and had set up camp near where I was hiding. They were all around me.
Q: Were they the same group that had held you at the camp?
EA: I never saw more than one or two of them, but no. I don’t think they were the same. They were looking for me, though. I’m sure of that. Mostly I just heard them, and could smell their food. And sometimes, their breath.
Q: You said you we there for two days in the rain before the Cobras showed up. What were you doing during that time?
EA: Just laying low. They were only feet from stumbling across me at times. I didn’t move. Tried to drink rainwater from the plant leaves now and then when they were not as close, but it mostly didn’t work. I was thirsty from running.
Einar paused, shook his head. Ha! Yeah, I was thirsty. Was about dead from dehydration after seven or eight days with nothing at all but a quick gulp of that filthy water from under the cages when I escaped… What I didn’t tell them was how I spent most of those two days delirious and hallucinating from thirst and the rest of it crammed under that tangle of brush just listening to the rain falling all around me, and once almost gave myself away when I stood up and started walking towards what I thought for certain was a slick landed there to take me home, only it wasn’t, it was just a big old wet rain-slick boulder with six or seven enemy crouching behind it out of the wind, enjoying their little cooking fire. I remember that, and surely remembered it then, too, but apparently didn’t want them knowing at the time. Probably figured it wouldn’t help my chances of being allowed out of that field hospital in a timely manner, and back into action.
Q: We’ll get to the rest of the E&E later. Back to your time in the camp, now. You said previously that there were between eight and ten men at the camp at all times, and that some of them seemed to rotate in and out. Did any who were not part of that rotating group pass through the camp during your time there?
EA: Yes sir. At one point some men came into camp, two of them, and I could hear a frantic conversation between them and The Russian and some of the others, couldn’t catch many of the words but it sounded like they were talking about moving camp soon, and in a hurry, because they were expecting a raid. After that, their treatment of us changed. More questioning. Longer sessions. Almost never giving us time to catch our breath in between. They were getting desperate.
Q: With how many of the men in the camp did you at any time have direct contact? How many of them questioned you?
EA: Three different men questioned me at times, but most of the serious interrogation was done by only one of them. The Russian.
Q: He was Russian?
EA: No, sir. He was NVA, but his accent was Russian. Like he learned his English from Russian-speakers. His English was pretty good.
Q: How many times did he speak to you?
EA: Every day. Once, sometimes twice each day. He never came to the cages. The others interrogated me, there. They would take me to him in the “big hooch” when it was time for the serious stuff. Tin shed with a table and a stool and a lot of papers. They took Andy--SPC Andrew Allan Beught--there too when his turn came, and also the two ARVN they were also holding, who were already in camp when we arrived.
Q: What did they know about our mission there? Did they talk about your unit, or seem to know why you were there?
EA: The Russian mostly asked questions rather than talking about anything like that, but based on some of the things he asked, they knew a fair amount about it. He wanted details, how many more of us were in the area, where were we headed, and why.
Q: Did you provide him with this information?
EA: No, sir!
Q: Did you provide him with any information?
EA: Four or five times. But none of it was the real deal, never. Worse than useless. I never gave them anything they could use.
Q: You talked because of their treatment of you?
EA: Yes, sir. I broke. Four or five times in eight days. Sometimes just to get a breath of air. One single, stinking breath. Not proud of that, sir.
Q: Did you go back to resisting, after that?
EA: Immediately, sir.
Q: Did SPC Beught answer any of their questions, to your awareness?
EA: No, sir. I never heard him say anything to them, not in the cage, at least. The big hooch was a little further away and I couldn’t hear everything that went on, there. Only the louder noises.
Q: Were there louder noises?
EA: Yes, sir. I would hear them shouting at him. Sometimes he would scream or groan, and once I heard him singing. I don’t think he ever talked to them.
EA: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It went on and on, them shouting and him singing…that kid could really sing…and then I could hear them striking him, shouting their questions but he wouldn’t stop. The Russian was really angry. I thought they were going to kill him. Tried to shout and get their attention, rock my cage but the way they had me tied, there wasn’t much I could do. Couldn’t even croak loud enough to get their attention. Finally one of them knocked him out and he quit.
Q: So he was really out of it most of the time?
EA: He was hurt pretty badly during capture. Worse than me. I think there were a lot of times when he was not conscious, or was barely so.
Q: Did you receive most of your wounds during capture, or later?
Q: What caused these injuries to your wrists?
EA: No sir, string. About the diameter of parachute cord, but made of some very rough tan colored natural material, like sisal or hemp.
Q: They kept you tied with this?
EA: They hung us from the tops of the cages with it. Ankles and wrists bound up behind us and pulled back so tight that we could hardly breathe when they raised us off the floor, and after a while that string really cuts into your wrists on the sides. Day after day, down to the bone in places. And the wounds fester. That’s what caused it.
Q: What happened to your leg? Looks like you’ve got a pretty good chunk missing there, but it’s not a gunshot wound. Did they do that, too?
EA: I don’t remember. That happened on the last day, second to last, maybe, and there’s a lot I don’t remember from those days.
Q: Did it happen in the cage, or outside of it?
EA: I don’t remember, sir. Outside. It happened outside. I was…they were taking me to the big hooch for another session, and I saw them over at Andy’s enclosure and they were doing something to him and I knew he was pretty bad off so I hit the guy in the nose with my elbow, the guard, and made a break for it, guess I thought I was going to stop them and for some reason instead of shooting me the other guy went at me with this bamboo…spear thing he was carrying and ran my leg through. Left that thing in me for the rest of the day, kept twisting it around as the Russian asked his questions again and again. I didn’t give them anything that day, not a word. Finally passed out sometime in the evening after The Russian had enough and pulled out that spear--through the side of my leg--and they took me back to the cage. Yeah, I remember now.
Q: Here, have some water. Do you need a minute?
EA: No sir. I’m fine.
Q: How did you come to escape?
EA: Sometimes they would give me short breaks from being all tied up in that position, usually just before they were ready to take me to the big hooch for more questioning. I think they did it because they knew how much it hurt when the blood started returning to your arms and legs after being suspended like that. Worse than anything else they did, almost. So they’d let me down and untie me for a few minutes to make sure I’d be in the middle of that when they took me to see The Russian. It was something they seemed to have had a lot of practice at. So I’d use those few minutes to crawl around the cage and look for a way out. It was pretty tight, but down in one corner the bamboo wasn’t lashed as securely.
At first I was just hoping to be able to eventually reach a hand through and get some water from below. They never gave us water. Five days is a long time to go without water. For two days I tried, and during that time almost gave up on even getting any water through that corner, because my hands were so useless in those minutes just after they’d let me down, and as soon as I was brought back to the cage, it was right back into that pretzel again. But then I figured out a way to press my hands together so I could get a little strength out of them, and saw that I would be able to enlarge the weak area, eventually push my way out. So every chance I got, I worked on it.
Q: On which day did you escape?
EA: I don’t remember for sure. Seven or eight days after our capture, I think. They were going to move camp in the morning. They had decided it was too much trouble to move us. I got out while most of them were away collecting food. Andy was…
Q: We’ll get to SPC Beught later. Just stick to the details of your own escape right now. Did any of them see you escape?
EA: One of the guards. He was over by the big hooch and heard something, either that final crack when the corner of my cage gave way or me going down into the water, came to check and saw me. There was a big sharp sliver of bamboo that broke loose when I pushed my way out, and I crouched down in the water with it until he was very close, and then stabbed him through the neck.
Q: Was he dead when you left?
EA: Yes, sir. Quite.
Enough. It was all he could do for the moment, longest days of his life compressed into minutes’ worth of reading and all spelled out in indisputable black and white type, and he set the papers aside, turned to face the tree, forehead resting on its rough bark as he fought to catch his breath.