Don't Drop the Load
by
H F Jansen Estrup
An Excerpt


"Alpha Four this is Assassin, over."

"Alpha Four this is Assassin, nothing heard, out."

Still nothing.

"Damn!" the Ops Boss said glumly, hanging the handset in its cradle. "It's been what, two hours?"

"And ten," the chief radarman added.

The skipper nodded and made a smile he hoped was reassuring, large white teeth in his dark skinned face. Two hours and ten minutes had elapsed since the spotter had called out, "On my position. Give me all you've got on my position. Company size unit. On my position! My position! Out."

The destroyer had fired more than two hundred fifty rounds of high explosives and white phosphorous. Now the gunners paused for a damage assessment, but either the spotter was still too closely surrounded by NVA or he hadn't been able to get deep enough in his hole. Likely, in that case, he must have taken a direct hit. It would have been over quickly, horribly for him. A squad from Alpha One, the gunfire liaison officer's compound, was working its way toward the site."Maybe we just knocked his radio gear out," the Tactical Action officer said hopefully.

It was well after dark. Assassin, the United States Ship John R. Craig, a modernized long hull Gearing type DD built in the last days of World War II, lay motionless just off Vietnam's Demilitarized Zone. She'd been assigned duties as a floating artillery barge for about a week this time around. It was old hat. 'Jolly John' had been one of the first U. S. destroyers to bombard Vietnam's shoreline. That was back in '65. Now, after four tours and more than a dozen stints on the gun line, it seemed that nothing new could happen. But they'd never killed their spotter before.

"I'll be on the port wing," said the captain, refilling his outsized coffee mug.



Thousands of curious readers have accessed this story for its value as an eye-witness account of one of the Vietnam war's most infamous, hushed up incidents. Its characters, even as they are embroiled in a very real 1969 mission, reflect upon that deadly night more than a year before. Some of them were there, others involved afterward as part of investigative teams. They try to piece together the truth of what happened. Not the official 'case closed' version, 'Load' attempts to define the lay of the land, the attitudes and excesses, political pressures and intelligence lapses which so confounded our efforts there. It also examines our enemy's motives, character and capabilities, allowing a brief clear glimpse through the fog of war. Many readers were angered by what they read, others dismayed or hopeful that perhaps we had learned important lessons from so much confusion. You will have to decide that for yourself.


"Don't Drop The Load" is now available in both print and e-book versions as part of the newly released memoir, WAR STORIES FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN. I hope you will follow the link and choose one of the formats for yourself, or perhaps you prefer shopping at your favorite bookstore.

In that case you might need to accurately identify this work under ISBN 978-0-595-43098-7

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Updated 02Jan2017