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The setting of Crooner's Party is the southern Mekong Delta several weeks after the Tet Offensive. Blueswords and Chemist are U.S. Navy river assault divisions supporting Crooner and Langley, U.S. infantry battalions. They are searching for the Viet Cong Tay Do Battalion, the "best in the Delta," trying to prevent it from renewing the Tet attack on the Delta capital of Can Tho. There are low level intelligence reports of an American deserter named Tyree operating with the Tay Do. The voice of the narrative is that of Celery Salt One, a Navy lieutenant junior grade riding aboard Blueswords Mike One, a thirty foot long armored gunboat. Boats is the boat captain of Blueswords Mike One, By a Vietnamese interpreter assigned to the boat. Abominate commands the Blueswords units. Michael O'Hanlon served in the Navy in both the Philippines and Viet Nam, and has lived in the Middle East and Europe. He is currently working on a second novel. FROM CROONER'S PARTY I Michael O'Hanlon IT'S LATE in the day, time to start thinking about where to hole up for the night. Kris Kringle Three Two does the thinking. He has Kris Kringle Three Three send out long coded messages which detail night instructions for Abominate and the Blueswords units. Buddha or Deadly Tracker Three square things away for Crooner. At the junction where Route Kant intersects a smaller stream, there are three Regional Forces-Popular Forces outposts. The junction is a ragged T, one outpost at the top of the T, the other two facing each other across the stream which is the leg, Route Kant. The Crooner elements are going to move away from the water, trying to seal the area behind where Langley got hit today. The river boats need bank security if they're going to beach for the night, so they'll stay inside the Ruff-Puff outposts. Some Blueswords units will patrol all night up one arm of the T, as far as Whiskey Three One, to assist in sealing the AO. Kris Kringle Three Two gave a briefing about the Ruff-Puffs, once, when the river force was new in-country. Gentlemen, the Regional Forces-Popular Forces are organized under the concept of a local militia. They generally have their families living with them inside their outposts, which are usually constructed of mud and logs. They have their own fields near the outposts, which they cultivate for their subsistence. Their purpose is to project a GVN presence into areas where regular ARVN units do not normally operate, and to provide security for the indigenous population living in their areas. The Regional Forces-Popular Forces operate almost exclusively within the areas where they live. An analogy may be made between Viet Cong local force units and Regional Forces-Popular Forces on the one hand, and Viet Cong Main Force units and regular ARVN units on the other hand. Abominate attended the briefing. He said later That was horseshit. Seeing who's still alive in Ruff-Puff outposts is about the biggest post-Tet job, once the cities are saved. The Ruff-Puff outposts are all over the Delta, looking often like Old West forts, flying mustard colored flags with red strips. They're not garrisoned by many men. Who knows? Ten? Fifty? The outposts are always on the riverbank. The women and children maybe count as garrison, maybe not. Depends on who's supposed to hear the figures. They're dead ducks, any given night, and they know it. Any night Charlie wants to bring enough power to bear on one outpost, it's gone. The outposts never move. Charlie's had mortar aiming stakes set in the same place for years. Any given night. The only real hope of the outposts is to hold on for awhile, and count on the wires. The wires are The Missouri Review ยท 9 the only real hope. Concertina wire circles round and round each outpost, making a direct assault impossible unless a path is blown clear. There are stories of VC volunteers wrapped in explosives throwing themselves on the wire. The other wire that gives these outposts hope is the...


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