Viet Cong Tax Collector

Posted on January 9, 2011

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This story was written by Mike Askew. Mike was a CE and a gunner in the Red Platoon of Charlie Troop from 1967 to 1968. I appreciate Mike giving me permission to post this story.

I’m not much for telling war stories, guess it’s because most people just don’t understand about Vietnam.
 
Up until this day in Vietnam, I didn’t really know my true feelings about my enemy, but by the time the day was over I had no doubt. 
 
 A few weeks had passed since the last reported enemy movement around the An Hoa Lake area.  Our mission that day was to recon the An Hoa Lake and report any new enemy bunkers or movement along the shore line of the lake or in the An Hoa Village that separated the lake from the South China Sea.  The day was hot and the lake water was shining like glass as we made our final turn, heading north-west toward LZ Two Bits.  I was looking out the door not expecting to see anything when I noticed an empty sampan rocking up and down in a reed-covered area by what looked like a small 10 foot by 10 foot island.  I informed the pilot about what I had observed and he rolled the helicopter to the left and returned to the area.  we could see the boat still bobbing up and down as if someone had just jumped out of it.  The pilot brought the helicopter to a hover just over the reeds.  Looking out the door I could see a person hiding under the water as the rotor wash parted the reeds.  I fired my 60 putting tracers all around his body.  He didn’t move at all.  The pilot brought the helicopter up and circled around not wanting to hover too long in any one place.  As we began our second hover the reeds parted again and again I fired a warning burst of tracers, but he didn’t move.  By this time we figured that he must have been breathing through a reed or he would have had to come up for air.
 
As we approached him for the last time the pilot gave the command to take him out.  When the reeds parted I aimed my gun at his head and started to pull the trigger, at that moment he stood up out of the water with his hands on his head.  I secured my 60 and jumped out of the helicopter onto the island to search the captive soldier.  When my feet hit the island, it was like jumping on a floating mattress.  I would go down and he would go up, I could hardly keep my balance.  I didn’t know who was more afraid, him or me.  I looked over my shoulder and could see that the pilot was holding his 38- caliber pistol out the helicopter window covering the soldier while the co-pilot hovered the helicopter. 
 
The island I was standing on was made of thick floating reeds and debris.  I finally regained my balance and motioned for the soldier to remove his shirt, which he did immediately.  I approached him and searched his lower half before escorting him into the hovering craft.  I placed the suspected Viet Cong soldier between my door gunner and me on the bench seat, and then hooked my 60 back into position while keeping an eye on the now very nervous captive.  It was interesting how I was feeling at the time, a few minutes earlier I was ready to take his life without a seconds thought, but now that he was no longer a threat I felt respect and compassion for him.  Of course if he had reached for any of the WP’s stashed in the wooden boxes sitting directly in front of him he would have wished he had been born with wings.  After his interrogation at South Two Bits, it was determined that the VC  was a tax collector for his Viet Cong unit.  His job was to collect rice and other food items to support the Viet Cong. 
 
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Posted in: Missions