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7th Rangers: Operation Gonzales, my brother and a young dead Communist - 1974

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Operation Gonzales, my brother and a young dead Communist - 1974
Monday, August 08, 2022
Representative Image

Apart from that we spent our days lazing, sleeping and doing sentry duty when it was our turn. Occasionally a NAAFI truck, dropped by, it was a day to look forward to. There were beers, ice cold beers sold from the truck, tidbits, toiletries and canned food to supplement the food we were getting. It was a cushy job indeed, life was good.

At this time when I was well stocked with beers, my eldest brother from the Recce Regiment choose to drop by to visit his “little” brother. He knew where we were encamped after all there were only 5 of us, Engineers. He came with his long strides and grabbed me, enveloping me with his body, I was the shortest male in my family.

The rest of the soldiers were staring at us. We asked each other how we were. He was asking me news about the family. The was no telephone those days in my house. Only “slow mail” kept the news flowing. Of course introduced him to my mates, one of them quickly fried 4 eggs, opening two cans of beer, His reaction was “wow, you guys are living it up”. We looked at each other with unspoken thoughts, me praying that he would be safe. The time passed quickly, maybe an hour or more. 

River Jalong (supplying water to the Brigade Tac)

One of his mates came down to call him as his convoy was about to move back to Ipoh and he was part of the escort. Told him to bottoms up and gave him another can of beer which I told him to do likewise. He did, I walked him to the Ferret Scout Car, he hugged me saying the good byes with unspoken words. He climbed abroad his scout car and took his place in the driver’s seat. I could see his face. The convoy slowly moved out, I waved to him until he was out of sight.

One day there was an announcement saying that 7 Communist terrorists were shot dead in a skirmish. On another day we heard, a tracker dog was shot dead in another firefight resulting in another 5 Communists shot dead.

Another classic was an ambush party from the 7th Rangers, the ambush party was taking a break after 3 days in an ambush position, leaving behind a young soldier to sentry the ambush position and also to take care of the claymore mines left behind.

Claymore mines are like small transistor radios on stilts, they have 700 ball bearings on the front, backed by C-4 plastic explosives. They are normally laid in a series of six. They can be triggered by a switch, or for instance by a trip wire or a M-57 firing device. The direction to be placed is clear, raised bold letters in green say “FRONT TOWARDS ENEMY”.

When it is triggered, 700 ball bearings fly out, in this case, there were 4,200 bearings. Five armed communists, decided to have an orders group right in front of these claymores, the young sentry fired the M-57 (firing device) resulting in 5 dead enemies. Classic, meaning a classic case of a fluke. Great luck for the ambush party who were jubilant and elated over their fluke success. The end justifies the means.

One evening there was a buzz in the camp, that a dead Communist was carried by an infantry patrol into the Tactical Hq, my friends told me that they had seen the body. I had never seen a dead Communist terrorist, curiosity overcame me. I put on my webbing and took hold of my rifle and made my way to the HQ, the rest of the curious were there, not many though, it was actually morbid curiosity. There beside the dead body, leaning against a canvas screen was a Czechoslovakian .22 semi-automatic rifle along with a few hundred rounds, a cylindrical object which looked like an improvised hand grenade.

An aluminum container with a dried up and very hard tapioca, that’s all he had for food. The dead commie was identified as a seventeen-year-old by army intelligence. His arm was shattered above his elbow barely attached, hanging on to the rest of the body by slivers of flesh, where two rounds from the Heckler & Koch 33 rifle penetrated. He looked starved, which I believe he was, because of the relentless pressure by fighting patrols on our part to deny them rest or food.

I spoke to the patrol commander who downed this guy, he told me the following: They had received information from a native aborigine that a group of Communists had visited the village earlier and cleared out all food. This aboriginal settlement was on the fringes of the rubber plantation on the edge of a primary jungle.

The patrol saw this young Communist probably a straggler from the main group. It challenged him, from about 15 meters away, he swung his rifle around bringing it to bear towards them, the lead scout let loose a burst of fire hitting him above the elbows.

The enemy fell on the ground, the patrol commander was upon him in a rush as he was groping for a hand grenade with his good arm, the patrol commander placed a neat round through his throat and another into his belly, killing him instantly, those were the gunshot wounds I was curious about. It was a gaping big hole and the exposed viscera.

It was a mistake for me to come and take a look, at the body, I felt funny, I knew I had to get away, I mumbled something unintelligible and quickly made my way to my tent. The truth was I was feeling nauseated, felt like throwing up or passing out on seeing the body. I made it and lay myself on the bed, I did not say anything to my companions. I was afraid of passing out in front of my mates.

I did not tell anyone about this incident as I would not have lived it down. Later on I did not go the way I did the first time, still I could never get used to the blood and gore, as it always troubled me thinking about life and death, I could be as cold blooded as the next guy, but it must be me doing it, then I would not feel squeamish at the end result.

Normally when I need to see things like that, I prepare myself as I really would not like to repeat it like the first time.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 8:59 PM  
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