Never Trust a Nice-Looking Report

It is 1966, Vietnam, an Infantry Sergeant, let’s call him Thomas, is assigned by the Lieutenant to patrol around a lake. It takes all day to circle the lake. Thomas has to call in checkpoints as they arrive on his PRC 25 radio. The checkpoint reports are received by the Platoon Leader and sent up to the Company CP.

After a few weeks, the patrol notices that nothing ever happens around the lake. Nothing happens, day after day week after week.

On day Sergeant Thomas stops at the little cove at checkpoint 1. The troops ask ‘why the hell do we have to keep doing this’? Their logical is impeccable. Sergeant Thomas never moves the patrol from checkpoint 1. But about every hour or so, he calls in checkpoint 2 all quiet, checkpoint 3 all quiet…etc. etc. etc.

Every day the patrol heads out the the lake. Every day, the patrol takes off their equipment, goes for a swim, eats their C-Rations, drinks a few beers, roaks a little schmie and Sergeant Thomas dutifully calls in the checkpoints. First days go by, then weeks, then months.

The Lieutenant compiles the reports from the lake, puts them in order with little tabs in a nice green binder and he sends them to the Company Commander. The Company Commander views the reports from the lake every week. He sends the reports up to Battalion. The Battalion Commander is happy and he sends the notes up to Brigade. Eventually the pretty reports go up to Division. Everyone in the chain of command is happy. Even the Division Commander is happy, so he decides he will meet the Company Commander and go out to the lake.

The chopper lands at LZ Bravo which is at Checkpoint 3. No patrol. After an hour they hear over the radio.’Checkpoint 2 all quiet.’ No patrol. So they wait, hidden in the trees for about an hour. Then they hear on the radio: ‘Checkpoint 3 all quiet.’ But no patrol. Then they hear ‘checkpoint 4 all quiet’. No patrol. Are they mistaken about the location of the checkpoint? Could they have passed right by the LZ? The chopper takes off. The co-pilot notices some activity at checkpoint 1.

The chopper lands and there is Sergeant Thomas’ Platoon swimming in the lake-uniforms hanging from trees, weapons neatly stacked, empty C-Rations and beer cans strewn everywhere. Needless to say, Sergeant Thomas is turned over to the MPs back at base.

At the Court-Martial of Sergeant Thomas, the Battalion Commander says: ‘well we were getting these really nice reports!’


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