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By Joseph Giannini
Started to lighten up "Joe's World," our basement. It contains almost all my possessions. Including a complete gym with a professional heavy bag. Most of my surfboards. All my criminal case files. Books, magazines, documents, writings. Marine Corps memorabilia.
I'm finding things I haven't seen in years. Like a 2003 People magazine with Jessica Lynch on the cover. She looks great. A Marine friend of mine, Staff Sergeant Doug Webb, was nearby when she was captured by Iraqi troops. She sold her story for a million. Doug told me the official version — that Lynch fought off the Iraqis until she ran out of ammo — was total bullshit. Propaganda for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In Nam there was not one round eye — an American woman — within 250 miles of our Area of Responsibility. There were plenty of Vietnamese women. Some took up arms against us. In February of 1968 my Marine Rifle Platoon killed a female sniper. She had been hiding in the foothills west of our Combat Base. Once I witnessed a squad of Marines, urged on by our Company Commander, murder an unarmed woman. I still hate that son of a bitch.
It is hard to believe that Jessica Lynch resisted until she ran out of ammo and was then taken prisoner. In Nam, we would kill any unfriendly holding a weapon. Once we took a woman prisoner.
Quang Tri Province
Republic of South Vietnam
Shortly after the Tet Offensive began, I was given a mission for my Platoon, Delta One: A long Combat Patrol through an area northwest of our Combat Base. We advanced through several small hamlets without incident. Then held our position on the edge of the last hamlet.
Our next checkpoint is a large village. Separated from my platoon by a wide, dry rice paddy. We will be in the open for 300 yards. I look across the paddy and notice the steeple of a large Catholic Cathedral. No signs of life. From here the village appears to be deserted. They may have fled because the North Vietnamese are there, waiting for us to walk into their killing zone.
"What do you think, Lieutenant?" It's Platoon Sergeant Head.
"Don't like it," I respond. "I'll call the Company Commander." I get on my radio. "Delta Six this is Delta One, over."
"Delta One this is Delta Six."
"Six, checkpoint four has no signs of life. Might be an ambush. Request permission to avoid. Or an artillery mission to cover our approach. Delta One over."
"Delta One, positive on the fire mission. Get ready to move out. Six Out."
"Delta One out."
"Sergeant Head, tell the first squad to get ready to move across the paddy. Tell the second and third squads to get on line behind this paddy dike, each with a machine gun team."
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Our artillery is rocking the village. First squad jumps off. Quickly moves across the open ground. So far, so good. Maybe our impacting rounds are keeping the enemy's heads down. But they are known for excellent fire discipline. Second squad is nearing the edge of the village. I radio Six to cease fire.
Second squad enters and signals for the rest of the platoon to come across. We move up and join them in the village. It is completely deserted. I walk into the cathedral. Reminds me of Holy Family back in Brooklyn. The cathedral and rectory are not damaged. All the pews have been knocked over. Bibles, documents and papers are strewn everywhere. Who would believe this back in the World? I'm still looking about when Sergeant Head calls to me. "Lieutenant, we have a prisoner."
I follow him outside. Several Marines have surrounded the prisoner. I walk up and join them. It's a young woman, lying on her back in a shallow ditch. She is clothed completely in black. A large piece of her right thigh has been ripped away by shrapnel. A gaping red crater. She is very quiet. Not crying, pleading, or whimpering. Showing bravery and defiance to her sworn enemy.
I'm looking at her. She catches my stare and holds it. Knows I'm in charge. Will be the one to decide. She must be an NVA forward observer. We got her before she called in a mission on us. Lucky for us. Not so for her.
A Marine nearby says, "Let's waste the bitch."
Another Marine responds, "Dude, it's just a girl."
The first Marine replies, "So what?"
She ignores their banter. She is focused on me. Speaking to me without words. A beautiful warrior in her prime. I shout, "Corpsman up!" I turn away and tell my radio operator, "Call in a Priority Medevac." I turn back to her. Again, she catches my stare. I nod. She nods in response. Warrior to Warrior.
Joseph Giannini is a former Marine grunt who fought in 'Nam 1967-68 with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines.