If Only Franklin Foer Had Been Editing the New Republic in 1969
Cambodia Diarist, by Johnny Forbes
It was a dark and stormy Christmas Eve on the Mekong. We had left Sa Dec a few hours earlier, and were still exhilarated over the adventure of the drawbridge. As we came out of the town we realized that even with the drawbridge up all the way, we'd have very little clearance. But we decided to gun it rather than wait for low tide and made it through with about an inch to spare. The villagers who had come to watch us smash up applauded politely.
We were in that nebulous area between Cambodia and South Vietnam. The CIA spook was applying lampblack to his face. The hat was lying on the table between us. It was big and floppy and camo and I lusted after it.
The CIA man grunted. He was featureless like all spooks; after 4-5 missions they all started to look the same. But his voice was pure Southern farmboy.
"Y'all want the hat?" Before he could withdraw the offer I snatched it up and put it on my head a jaunty angle. He smiled, but it was a cold smile. "Y'all gotta swap one of yours."
I hesitated. The only hat besides my regulation Navy equipment was my old Red Sox cap, autographed by Eddie Yost himself. I liked to think of it as my lucky cap. But it wasn't camo, and it wasn't the hat of a real CIA man. So I handed over the baseball cap.
This was one of those unofficial missions that I chafed at. "Surely Nixon can't be running the government already," I had complained to Elliot when receiving my orders. "He's not the President yet!"
Commander Elliot had winked. "This has been Nixon's war all along, you know that as well as I do."
Gardner poked his head in the door. "Couple PBJs--err, PBRs coming up, Skippy--err, Skipper." I could see him surpressing a grin and wondered why, then cursed and whipped off the camo hat. Later that night I would have to put it in the secret compartment of my attache case. Otherwise Gardner and the other guys would undoubtedly visit indignities on it, which would probably lead to mildew.
I groaned at the news of the PBRs. The f'ing Navy couldn't do anything right. Elliot had assured me this area would be clear. But as the craft approached us, a mortar whistled overhead. "What was that?" I yelled. The second one hit the water only a few yards away.
The PBRs took off and we darted into Cambodia. Again, but not for the last time.
(Note: This was written by me