Authors: W.E.B. Griffin
“Yes, sir,” Lowell said.
“Why is it, Colonel,” General Boone said, “that I feel I have just put a loaded pistol in the hands of a ten-year-old?”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, General. All I can say is that I will try to justify your and General Jiggs’s trust in me, sir.”
“My confidence, at the moment, is in General Jiggs, Colonel, not in you.”
“That is all, Colonel,” General Boone said. “I’ll have a word with you, General, if you please.”
“Permission to withdraw, sir?”
“You are dismissed, Colonel,” General Boone said.
Lowell saluted, did an about-face, and marched out of the office, closing the door behind him.
“I wasn’t kidding about that loaded-gun business, Paul,” Boone said. “I’m sure your Colonel Lowell, who is a guardhouse lawyer if I ever saw one, is fully aware of the power I just handed him.”
“He’ll get the division on-loaded, General,” Jiggs said. “There may be some bruised feelings, but he’ll get it moving.”
“I hope that’s not auld lang syne speaking,” Boone said.
“No, sir,” Jiggs said.
“I felt sorry for Hanrahan,” Boone said.
“Triple H Howard has been off planning the Airmobile Army, and has left Ken Harke in charge of Bragg while he’s gone. Harke let Hanrahan go off hunting without a word about what was going on about Cuba,” Boone said. “And Hanrahan’s deputy commander, who is Harke’s man, just turned over Special Forces to XVIII Airborne Corps. He then did not consider it necessary to get in touch with Hanrahan.”
Jiggs had a lot of respect for Lieutenant General H. H. Howard, XVIII Airborne Corps Commanding General, one of the Army’s most intelligent—and most colorful—officers. Howard was already being talked about for Chief of Staff. Jiggs thought rather differently about Major General Kenneth Harke and Colonel Roland Minor who was Hanrahan’s deputy.
Harke had one priority, the advancement of the career of Major General Kenneth Harke. Since his career was tied to Airborne, Harke regarded the “threat” Special Forces posed to conventional parachute troops as a threat to him personally, and would do anything he could to reduce that threat. If he felt he needed to stab Paul Hanrahan in the back, then he would stab Paul Hanrahan in the back. Harke was a prick. Worse, Jiggs thought—an intelligent prick.
Colonel Roland Minor was something else. He had early on decided his path to advancement lay in attaching himself to a superior’s coattails. Since he now had his nose way up Harke’s rear end, he would easily convince himself that his loyalty was due to “the Army,” that is, to Harke, and not to his immediate commander, Hanrahan.
“You’re sure it was intentional?”
“Goddamn right it was intentional,” Boone said. “Except for Triple H, those Airborne bastards want Special Forces, and if they can hang Hanrahan in the process so much the better. Christ, how I wish E. Z. Black hadn’t gone to the Pacific. Do you realize that he and I are the only four-stars who don’t jump out of airplanes?”
“I never thought of it, but it’s true, isn’t it?”
“And only the Secretary of Defense thinks I should be here,” Boone said. “Everybody else is muttering it’s an Airborne operation and should be commanded by an Airborne officer.”
“Maybe that’s why you got the job,” Jiggs said.
“Unless your Colonel Lowell can get the 2nd Armored moving, it’s going to
an Airborne operation. And when they get all shot up, as they will if we can’t get the 2nd Armored there in time, I’ll take the rap. Not personally, but because I am not Airborne, and Q.E.D. not really bright.”
Jiggs was surprised by the bitterness of this speech. Boone had a reputation for being closemouthed.
“You think we’re going?” Jiggs asked.
“Yeah, don’t you?”
“It was twenty, thirty miles across the English Channel,” Jiggs said. “It’s ninety from Key West. And the Channel was ours. So was the air, for all practical purposes. I hope we don’t have to go.”
“I think we’ll have to go,” Boone said. “I think the Russians will call Kennedy’s bluff. He backed down at the Bay of Pigs, and he acts like he never heard of the Monroe Doctrine. We had every right, under the Monroe Doctrine and international law, to stop those Russian ships months ago, but we didn’t. We didn’t open our mouths until they had their damned rockets nearly operational. I don’t think the Russians are going to give them up without a fight, and if they succeed in knocking out the 82nd, or maybe the 82nd and the 2nd, that’s the ball game, Paul. It’s either kiss their ass or blow the world up.”
He looked at Jiggs and then seemed to realize he had said more than he should have.
“Talking about minding the store, have you talked to home lately?”
“And you’re sure Army Aviation is not now under XVIII Airborne Corps?” Boone asked.
“We have Bob Bellmon and William Roberts guarding our interests in Washington,” Jiggs said.
“Sir?” Jiggs asked.
“I just paid the both of them a left-handed mental compliment,” Boone said. “I thought, ‘Well, those two are pretty good politicians.’ Isn’t that a hell of a thing to think? Christ, I hope they’re not telepathic.”
Jiggs laughed. Brigadier General Robert Bellmon was the second general officer of his name to serve as a cavalryman. He had been captured at the Kasserine Pass in Africa in War II, and spent a terrible period as a POW. William Roberts had done more than any other single individual to provide the Army with its own aircraft. A West Pointer, and a lieutenant colonel at twenty-four, he was one of the Army’s brightest officers. It had been a long wait for his colonel’s eagle, but he finally got it, and soon after that he exchanged it for a general’s star.
Bellmon and Roberts were what Jiggs thought of as fine officers: They
the business about officer’s honor and duty, no matter what it cost them. They would be offended to be thought of as politicians, but the fact was that they
very good at politics.
“Who’s your deputy?” General Boone asked.
“I don’t really have one,” Jiggs said. “Jack Martinelli is at the Aviation Board
, so Bill Roberts had him put on TDY orders to the post. That made him the senior colonel present for duty, and he’s acting commander.”
“He’s all right? He’s not a closet parachuter?”
“No,” Jiggs said. “He’s one of the few Regular aviators. If anything, he’s more of a danger to Airborne than they are to him. When he gives his speech about the way to put men safely on the ground is with helicopters, he makes Billy Graham sound tongue-tied.”
“Go back to work, Paul,” he said. “I’m going to get on the horn and call Stu Lemper at Hood and lie through my teeth about the faith and confidence I have in your man Lowell.”
“May I use your typewriter for a few minutes?” Lieutenant Colonel Lowell asked the chief clerk of the J-3 Section of Headquarters, U.S. Joint Assault Force (Provisional).
The chief clerk, a man in his late thirties, stood up.
“Colonel, I’ll be happy to have anything you want typed up, I’ll type it myself….”
The chief clerk wore the insignia of a Specialist-Seven, six arcs and a representation of the national seal. The enlisted ranks of the army were divided into noncommissioned officers and specialists. A Spec-7 drew the pay and allowances of a master sergeant, and enjoyed just about as much prestige.
“If you don’t mind,” Lieutenant Colonel Lowell said, smiling, “I’m the best clerk-typist I ever met.”
“Yes, sir,” the Spec-7 said, and reluctantly got up from his chair and stood to one side.
Lieutenant Colonel Lowell sat down.
The Spec-7 leaned over and pulled out a drawer. Lieutenant Colonel Lowell took a sheet of paper from it, put it in the typewriter, and rapidly typed three lines.
U.S. ARMY SPECIAL WARFARE CENTER AND SCHOOL
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Then he ripped it out of the typewriter, snatched a pencil from an array in a Planters Salted Peanuts can, and counted the letters in the second and third lines.
“I’ll need serial numbers,” Lowell said, handing a sheet of paper to General Hanrahan. “Yours, Mac’s, Wood’s, and Whatsisname’s name plus his serial number.”
He reached for paper and carbon and second sheets, stacked them quickly together, and rolled them into the typewriter. He looked at the Spec-7.
“I need a Special Order number,” he said. “Today’s.”
“We started numbering when we were activated,” the Spec-7 said. “Let me look for somebody else’s.”
Special Orders are numbered consecutively, starting 1 January. They are not normally issued on Saturday and Sunday.
“Here’s one from Benning,” the Spec-7 said. “Dated 20 October. The number’s 233.”
“That’s close enough,” Lowell said.
He moved the carriage of the typewriter to the center of the page, backspaced six spaces and rapidly typed HEADQUARTERS. Then he consulted the page on which he had counted letters, backspaced accordingly, and finished typing the heading. By then Hanrahan handed him the serial numbers and names he had asked for.
Lowell’s fingers flew over the typewriter keys. When he was finished, he jerked the interleaved paper and carbon out of the machine, handed it to Hanrahan, and reached for more paper.
U.S. ARMY SPECIAL WARFARE
CENTER AND SCHOOL
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Special Orders 22 October 1962
1. VO Commandant USASWC&S 22 Oct 62 confirmed and made a matter of record: COL MINOR, Roland G. Inf 0-345611 Hq USASWC&S Ft Bragg NC is placed on TDY and WP Hq XVIII Airborne Corps Ft Bragg NC eff immediately for an indef period. Off will rpt NLT 0530 Hours 23 Oct 62 and hold himself in readiness for further orders to follow.
2. VO Commandant USASWC&S 22 Oct 62 confirmed and made a matter of record: Following off Hq USASWC&S Ft Bragg NC placed on TDY and WP Hq US Joint Assault Force, MacDill AFB Fla for an indef period.
BRIG GEN HANRAHAN, Paul T 0-230765
1/LT WOOD, Charles Jr Inf 0-236454
CWO(2) WOJINSKI, Stefan T W-330078
PAUL T. HANRAHAN
Brigadier General, USA
“You better sign all the copies, Paul,” Lowell said. “In case one should get lost.”
He took more paper and carbon from the drawer, stacked it, and typed rapidly again.
U.S. ARMY SPECIAL WARFARE
CENTER AND SCHOOL
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
General Orders: 23 October 1962
The undersigned herewith assumes command of the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School.
RUDOLPH G. MACMILLAN
Lieut. Colonel, Infantry
“Unless you have to, Mac,” Lowell said, “don’t let that assumption of command get out any sooner than it has to. Send it over to the XVIII Airborne Corps in the last message center pickup tomorrow. Or even the next day. Say it got lost.”
MacMillan looked at General Hanrahan for orders.
Lowell took one of the copies of the first order and handed it to the Spec-7.
The Spec-7 read the orders. He was an old soldier and reading what was not written down came automatically to him: Colonel Minor, whoever he was, was getting his ass booted out of Headquarters, U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School.
“Yes, sir,” the Spec-7 said.
“Just go to Colonel Minor, Mac,” General Hanrahan said, “at his quarters if necessary, and hand him one of these. Don’t talk to him about it, and for Christ’s sake, don’t let your mouth run away with you. Just give it to him, salute, and leave.”
“OK,” MacMillan said.
“I’ll call you in the morning,” Hanrahan said. “You better get going.”
MacMillan saluted, and marched off.
“Well,” Lowell said to Hanrahan, “Mac finally gets to command something larger than a platoon.”
Hanrahan looked at him and saw that Lowell was not being sarcastic.
“I’m still a little worried about this,” he said.
“You couldn’t leave Minor in command,” Lowell said. “How many times do you want to get stabbed in the back?”
“You going to Hood tonight?” Hanrahan asked.
“As soon as the Air Force fuels, ever so reluctantly, the Commander,” Lowell said.
“You almost went to the stockade,” Hanrahan said.
L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace, mon général
,’” Lowell quoted.
,” Hanrahan said, laughing, and then: “Craig, I want you to take Ski with you to Hood.”
Lowell’s eyebrows rose in question.
“He’ll be useful to you,” Hanrahan said. Lowell nodded. “And I want to keep him as far out of the line of fire as I can.”
Lowell nodded again.
“I may lose this battle,” Hanrahan said. “There’s no sense in taking Ski down with me.”
Lowell turned to the Spec-7.
“When you get around to cutting orders sending me to Hood,” he said, “put Mr. Wojinski on them.”
“If I were you, Paul,” Lowell said, “I’d get on the horn to Felter. If you don’t want to call him, I will.”
“I think Felter’s got enough to keep him busy right now without worrying about Paul Hanrahan,” Hanrahan said. “I’d like to keep him in reserve for something more important than my problems.”
“Don’t close out that option,” Lowell said.
“Have fun in the mud at Hood, Craig,” General Hanrahan said, and put out his hand.
He left the room. Lowell got on the telephone and asked for in-flight weather across the Gulf of Mexico. When the Air Force forecaster started reciting the known weather at thirty thousand feet, Lowell had to stop him and tell him he was interested in low-altitude weather, nothing over twelve thousand. He was flying an Aero Commander. not an F-101.