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ABSENCE OF HONOR 
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Post ABSENCE OF HONOR
An excerpt from the book

Chapter Nine

Continental Hotel, Saigon, South Vietnam, Early Fall 1972

Arienne Le Fontaine Webber stood looking at herself in her full length mirror – appraising herself and her changing body. Her blondish hair looked darker than it actually was - because it was still wet from her shower. She wore it long and it hung down and brushed her shoulders.

It had also seemed to darken some since she had been pregnant, but that had been tempered by the summer sun. She was now (in the late summer in Saigon) her normal late summer ‘Palomino’ blonde.

She was just finishing drying herself off and stood totally naked. Despite the hair that hung down to her shoulders being blonde - her secondary hair (that the sun never shown on) was a deep brown - so dark it appeared to be nearly black. It made quite a vivid contrast with her golden brown skin.

The visual effect matched nicely in the reflection in the mirror she was standing in front of. At least Barton said so, Arienne reminded herself (that it was a nice contrast). She was trying to see herself as Barton saw her - otherwise she was too critical of herself these days.

She smiled at the thought of Barton seeing her like this. It wasn’t a naughty smile. It was an innocent one - born of the pure joy of thinking of how much she loved Barton - and that he loved her equally. Her warrior husband, Barton - was her all in all - next to the Almighty to whom she believed she owed everything, including bringing her Barton. He (Barton) was her savior, the love of her life.

She was alone in their (her and Barton’s, she kept reminding herself when it didn’t seem real or seemed like a dream) fourth floor suite at the Hotel Continental - her family’s hotel. She was alone - on purpose - much of the time the last few months when Barton went gone back to Cambodia.

She was not vamping or preening as she stood in front of the mirror. It was just a naked, unguarded moment. She was taking stock of herself and her situation - contemplating her and Barton’s future - and the future of their baby.

She looked at herself with the sort of wistfulness that only a pregnant woman does - and perhaps only a pregnant woman can. She turned herself this way and that, looking at her reflection in the full length mirror. She turned those ways to see the full extinct of her belly - at what pregnancy was doing to her young body. Other than the obviously much bigger belly and breasts - her bottom was bigger, too - among other things.

She was comparing herself in her mind to the shape she had when Barton had come into her life some six months earlier. Then she didn’t show at all - nor should she have - She hadn’t even been a hundred percent sure she was pregnant herself, just before she had met Barton.

She couldn’t have been much further than a month along then, if she was pregnant. Her body hadn’t begun to change much - even when they had married two months later - at least observably. There hadn’t been many signs of her being pregnant – at least none that could be seen when she had her clothes on - nothing more than some hormonal things really were happening to her body then.

She remembered when she had a flatter ‘runner’s bottom’ - as her husband Barton called it - and obviously a much less prodigious stomach. Barton had commented on some of the changes the last time he was home - as she was lamenting out loud about her changing body a month ago.

He said he liked her bottom better this way - patting it and kissing her at the same time. He said it made it fuller, more shapely. It had made her feel even more love for Barton. When she was feeling insecure and needing reassurance - he always seemed to notice and say just the right things - not that she needed it often.

Arienne had always been considered a beauty by those around her. She had been favored with her blonde hair, and prominent cheeks. Her clear green eyes were uniquely shaped - and it all combined into the effect of giving her an exotic beauty even in this exotic land.

Some said it gave her a look that was a cross between an Egyptian and Oriental - despite the fact that she was European and blonde. It was just the right look for a French girl in South East Asia. She had been admired by the older men and desired by the younger men. But her’s was not the beauty you might see in a model. Curiously that somehow had made her even more desirable.

She was five foot-six inches tall and had been 125 pounds - that looked very trim in a muscular sort of way. The proportions looked good on her before her pregnancy - but she would not have been considered statuesque - like a model is usually. She did not have the long neck and long legs characteristic of that look.

Instead she had an athlete’s body with large shoulders for a girl. She had begun lifting weights a couple of years earlier and that made her shoulders even bigger. She even had well developed biceps and thighs. She also had shorter - powerful legs - that models did not have. She was built for action, not just for show.

What captivated men and boys that came near her - was not just her cheeks and eyes that gave her that almost oriental look - but even more so, it was the way she had always carried herself. Even beyond that, it was the penetrating look in those eyes - that gave witness to the intelligence and will behind them.

Now, she told herself, she didn’t carry herself quite the same as then. Her big belly and changing hips were beginning to really affect her balance and the way she walked. She wasn’t so sure her cheeks and eyes looked all that mysterious to her just now, either. Still, she had her smarts - she reminded herself with near amusement - and she had Barton’s love.

Mostly it was thoughts of her husband Barton - that she used to cheer herself when she felt ungainly - and got emotional about it. She thought again of Barton’s soothing and complimentary endorsement of her bottom. It made her feel somewhat better. The fact that he had said it in the first place - and the fact that he said it like he really believed it - meant a lot to her.

Her bottom had changed because she had not been running and working out as much. Most of the change occurred since she had not been running at all the last two months. She had stopped out of respect to the health of the baby. She didn’t want to jostle it too much- but her hips had also begun to spread now - and to ache when she ran much. She was now nearly seven months pregnant.

She half turned again - looking not so much at her stomach or bottom this time - but the width of her hips. She had began appraising them of late, inspecting them as if she could see the slightest change there.

Her mother’s counsel told her than the women of her family - had more unusual physical characteristics - than that of their cheek bones and the shape of their eyes. They also had wider hips and wider pelvic openings than most women. She also said that they tended to carry their unborn children differently and that they showed less.

So far it had been true. She hadn’t shown outwardly when her and Barton had gotten married - but then she had only been three months - and hadn’t shown very much until she was over five months pregnant. Even then all that really showed was just a bump in her stomach area that didn’t quite match the rest of her athletic body. But that might have been taken by some as the beginnings of getting fat.

Arienne turned her attention to her belly. She rubbed oil on it daily to ease the effect of her stomach stretching, making room for the as yet tiny growing life within. Already the stretch lines had began to appear there on her skin.

Her mother told her that the lines would look angry - red and purplish - if she didn’t keep her skin oiled. You could see the stretch marks - but they would have been much more visible if not for the warning and instructions of her mother - and her subsequent obedience to that instruction. She consoled herself that if she was diligent, that what stretch marks that remained would fade in the sun and not be hardly visible after the baby.

Arienne took one last look at herself before she began getting dressed. She sighed. She tried to convince herself that she was still attractive and that Barton still desperately wanted her.

And then the baby kicked her. The viciousness and suddenness of the kick surprised her and she had to laugh. It was a good emotion - she told herself - and wished Barton was here.

Despite her efforts to be strong and keep cheerful, her emotions were harder to handle now than ever before. She found herself fighting against them if she had negative thoughts. She really had to fight the thoughts of being unattractive for Barton.

Being able to direct her thoughts to positive emotions - like now when the baby kicked her - was a good thing for her. What brought it all home - and made it an even happier emotion for Arienne - was that Barton was coming home for the weekend today.

She lived for every fourth weekend - when he was home and her life could be complete - if only for a three days at a time. She realized she was getting hot and wet - down below - just thinking about him being home. ‘Not exactly a motherly reaction’, she thought to herself.

Well, that wasn’t exactly true, she thought smiling. She was musing deep in her mind about Barton telling her that he loved her - taking her in his arms, kissing her deeply - and later making love to her. So, it wasn’t just him being home that she was thinking about.

“Barton, you better not be late”, she said as if he could hear her across the span of distance that separated them. Even now he should just about be on his way. She simply couldn’t fathom him being late, let alone think about him not coming home at all.

She rubbed her breasts absently as she drifted into daydreaming of Barton, and then the two of them together. There were places she could go in her mind and other places she could not. Barton was her warrior although he didn’t act ferocious around her - except the time when he had defended her from being kidnapped - the day they had first met.

Arienne knew she could not keep him from being a warrior - or make him something different - to keep him safe. But she could not bear to think of the danger that he must face every day.

She and Barton had an agreement - she wouldn’t worry - and he would always find a way of coming back to her. Somehow in her young love - her confidence in Barton made that as okay, as certain of coming true - as the sun coming up in what appeared to be the east every morning.

Arienne wiled away the rest of the morning - thinking about the future - wistfully imagining her future with Barton and their child. The baby was doing calisthenics by the time noon came it seemed. He/she had just started getting noticeable in its movements the last time Barton had been home.

She looked down and watched her belly move. It felt as the little one seemed to be reaching up - and grabbing a rib with its hands and pushing as hard as they could with their feet in the opposite direction. It was stretching her skin as she watched, and then it finished with a kick near her bladder that almost made her want to pee. It was still two months until it would be born - and apparently he/she thought it was running out of room.

She hoped Barton would be as thrilled with the wonderment of the new life within her as she was. Their baby’s vigorous movements seemed almost like play time with ‘it’ and it lifted her mood considerably. So she finished getting dressed and went to join her family in the family suite. Her mom might enjoy feeling and seeing the baby, too.

Arienne’s purpose in spending more time alone - was her need to be independent of her mother - not that she didn’t still love and need her. Her mother was supportive and tried to be helpful in every way that she could anticipate, but sometimes too much.

It was as if in her new found relationship with her now married, pregnant daughter - she was trying to make up lost time and opportunities - for the times when she had been too self absorbed, too distant or too detached to have given proper oversight and direction to Arienne.

Arienne could tell that her mother blamed herself for her getting pregnant. But then - that should be all the more reason - why she should now feel some joy from the baby and it’s kicking. As far as Arienne was concerned - all was forgiven of her mother - and she felt like giving her mother that sense.

The fact was that – despite her meeting Barton and everything turning out for the better so miraculously not withstanding - Suzanne did blame herself for Arienne getting pregnant at barely sixteen. In her mind it was due to her lack of training her and supervising her. For Suzanne it was a fact, and one that for once she must face. But - what was true to Suzanne about that - no longer mattered to Arienne.

For Arienne, it was irrelevant now. It was just a bad memory - an unwelcome one that she chose to no longer think about - and to stay away from. She had dwelt on it at first, even allowed it to torment her. But then she had learned the lessons she needed to from it. Since then she had gained forgiveness - from the only two beings in the universe that she needed to in her mind - The Almighty and Barton.

The only fact she chose to think about now - was simply that it had led to how she had met Barton - first in her dreams and then in reality. Then he had rescued her and become the love of her life. That he loved her equally and had married her - was, in her young life (while quite improbable and rather like a fairy tale) just her reality now. That was the only thing that matter to her now.

But at the moment - she had this rather impudent rascal - kicking her against her kidneys. She breezed (nearly floated) into her families’ suite. She nearly breathlessly pulled up her blouse above her belly to show the baby’s movements to her mother. Her mother saw and felt it and they laughed and cried about it. Arienne saw a new look in her mother’s eyes - a look she hoped would drive out the look of guilt and sadness forever.

In a few hours Barton would be here. She would soon go down stairs to greet him. But since she hadn’t spent much time with her family today - she at least wanted her mother to know her and the baby were well - before Barton came home and they disappeared together for at least a couple of days in their suite.

It couldn’t have worked out better she thought. She smiled as the baby thumped her one more time before apparently going off to sleep or sucking its thumb or something.

* * *

From what seemed a world away, Barton Webber wound up some last minutes details - including delegating some duties to subordinates - as he prepared for his monthly flight to Saigon. There weren’t any planned offensive operations for the next four days. But he still needed to finish some details - to give him peace of mind that he wasn’t shirking anything - as he flew home to Arienne.

Aside from his thoughts about Arienne, in the back of his mind he was thinking about his history and his degree of confidence in his boss Braxton Lewis. Braxton Lewis was in all reality his primary lifeline - the one he most depended on to give him the tools to do his job - and it was even more vital than that. He sensed that in many ways - Braxton Lewis would be the difference between whether he lived or died - about whether he made it out of this war in one piece or not, and how well.

Braxton Lewis had come to where he was serving, in An Khe, Republic of Vietnam, over a year earlier. For Webber it was the first time he had ever heard of him, much less seen or met him: For Lewis, it was a homecoming of sorts. Four years previously he had become the 173rd’s commanding general.

In that sense, revisiting the 173rd brigade was coming home, but four years before the brigade wasn’t based in An Khe. It had been in Bien Hoa, or at least his command post was. He had never set foot in An Khe although he had flown over it or near it a time or two.

The change of locale and the fact that now the brigade was split into two locations gave it the feel of it being a shell of itself to Lewis. Now only a fragment of its authorized 3,000 men and support units were still at An Khe. What remained were two recon companies, a small portion of its air wing, and portions of its other support elements.

The bulk of the brigade was based to the east close to Highway One, Vietnam’s coastal highway north and south. But even they were due to rotate back stateside shortly. When they did - only those forces that were at An Khe - would maintain the 173rd’s presence in the Republic of Vietnam.

So in that sense it was not so much a feeling of home for Lewis. He thought of the expression ‘You can never go home again’. In this case it seemed to be so. Still, it was the 173rd - and at least David Weston and his old friend First Sergeant Nathan Billings - were still there. He had looked forward to seeing them both.

Weston was one of his favorite junior officers (Weston was a first lieutenant the first time he had met him) during his time of command with the brigade. Now, he had just risen to the provisional rank of major and was in command of the remains of the unit here in An Khe.

His command was a provisional battalion comprised of the two recon companies, his HQ staff - comprised of the remaining HQ staff of the two companies and himself - as well as the remnants of the base armory, supply and other support elements, including part of the air wing.

As a reward for his service - while Lewis commanded the brigade and for its successes under his command - he had been promoted from Brigadier to Major General. He had also been given orders for assignment to the Pentagon. He had no intentions of going to occupy a desk there.

He had promptly resigned his commission, retired and accepted command as the CIA station chief Vietnam instead. The reasons for his resigning his commission, he practically never discussed with anyone. But he had his reasons, never the less. Now he had been promoted to being over the whole South East Asia Theater, as far as CIA operations were concerned.

His primary reason for the visit to the 173rd (at least on the surface) that day - had been to see that same junior officer David Weston (as well as CSM Nathan Billings, who had been his first platoon’s ranking sergeant so long ago) - and to review a recent joint action and debriefings thereof.

Some of his most significant air assets had been used - due to the initiative of his air operations officer David Pizzari. Pizzari had been flying a patrol - near enough to the locale of where a 173rd LRRP team from F Company had been ambushed and shot up by a NVA sniper - to join the fray and lend assistance when no army or air force units could respond.

After the ambush (during which its radio had been shot out) - the team retreated towards the location of another LRRP team it knew to be operating to its south - hoping to make contact with it and regain communications. Before it came in contact with the other 173rd team, it came into contact with a superior NVA force which blocked it.

The second LRRP team had responded to the sound of gunfire in the area where Bravo team of its sister Recon Company was operating – and came to meet it. They approached cautiously and from high up on a ridge line. Below them they saw the LRRP team was about to be engaged by a superior force of about thirty NVA regulars – but with an NVA battalion coming in behind it.

It was the second team (designated Delta team of E company) that called for air support for its fellow team. Without air support - they would have had no choice - but to watch the other LRRP team die or be captured. But that air cover would be complicated - because there was a thick cloud cover with a low ceiling - above the cutoff team and the NVA units.

As the battle was shaping up Pizzari’s right seater had notified him of the radio communications that he had been monitoring. When no other aircraft of adequate avionics or armament had answered the FAC’s call (forward air controller flying above the action in an OH-1 Birddog, the painted green equivalent of a civilian Cessna 172) - Pizzari had answered the call despite company policy to the contrary.

The teams ranking sergeant, SSgt. Marks had called specifically for the capabilities of a Mohawk, or Bronco. One of those was just what Pizzari was flying - a Mohawk - but not just any Mohawk.

Both Marks and Pizzari knew that only an attack aircraft like the OV-1H Mohawk - fully armed as it was and with the avionics that it was fitted with, including FLIR (forward looking infrared radar) - could see through the low cloud cover and lay an accurate strike on the encircling force of the NVA which was about to engage the LRRP team.

Officially the CIA was not supposed to have such aircraft - especially outfitted as they were, and armed as he was this day - so he should have stayed out of it. But, Pizzari was also a former member of the 173rd (of its air wing) - and wasn’t about to let the LRRP team be killed or captured - without getting a fight from him, consequences be damned.

There were several circumstances that dictated Pizzari’s intervention and initiative in his mind, or at least made it highly convenient. First, even if a military attack aircraft had heard the call, Pizzari gleaned that time was of the essence.

If Pizzari went buster (full military power, ramming the throttles to the firewall) from where he was - after he learned of their predicament - he could make it in time. He could see that no one else could. He had also been itching to lay in some of their new ordinance in a live fire situation, rather than a training run. That morning he was loaded for bear.

Subsequent to the successful mission - since his air assets had been involved in extracting the 173rd LRRP team’s chestnuts from the fire -

(CIA policy was officially contrary to that because officially the CIA wasn’t even in Cambodia much less conducting offensive air or ground operations)

part of Lewis mission was to make doubly certain that his pilot’s good deed didn’t turn round to bite them.

That is to say - that any word of their involvement – had to stay out of any communiqués or debriefing and thus dark. But he was also looking to make something good come out of all this for his command as well.

He had subsequently been told about a friend of Pizzari - in Pizzari’s post action briefing to him - who from a half a world away, had somehow been involved in the fight and played a pivotal part. He had gone to An Khe to interview that 173rd trooper - that he had heard about from his air chief for himself - as much or more than for any other reason.

He had a gut feeling about the trooper as soon as Pizzari detailed his involvement - almost without reason it seemed. But he guessed that is why they call them gut feelings. It was almost as if he had a compulsion to be there and talk to the friend of Pizzari named Webber.

After he interviewed him - he tried to recruit Webber on the spot - primarily at the time as a scout/sniper. His interest increased for additional roles for Webber later as Webber’s service with the team continued and his exploits presented themselves over the course of his tour.

Webber hadn’t been similarly interested at the time. He also let that be known - in respectful, but in no uncertain terms. Lewis had - despite the rejection - communicated a standing offer to Webber, if he were to change his mind.

Later when circumstances changed - and Webber had actually taken the job - albeit, officially he had only initially agreed to take a contract position with the DOD and be ‘farmed out’ to the company as long as he was nominally supervised by David Weston. At the onset he had asked Lewis some questions about what types of missions his snipers were sent on.

Without saying so in so many words, Lewis gave Webber to understand that the snipers weren’t auxiliaries to ambushes by small teams like the LRRPs had generally employed them.

Lewis answered the questions factually and honestly as to how the CIA generally used snipers at the time (despite the fact that his opinion as to how he would use Webber was changing, a fact that he also didn’t mention at the time).

Lewis told Webber that the company’s snipers were instead given what amounted to assassination missions - on high value enemy targets deep inside ‘Indian Country’ - where both his stealth capability and shooting skills would be equally valuable. His skills would determine - not only to the success of the mission - but also his survivability after the mission was executed.

When he heard that - Barton had specifically “requested” a good quality long barrel customized ‘98 series German Mauser - as his second condition of employment when he had agreed to the recruitment. Webber wanted as much standoff, long range capability as possible for that type mission.

It was to be chambered in the 30.06 caliber - with a 3 x 9 Redfield or equivalent scope - and with a 28 or 29 inch barrel rather than the shorter 24 inch barrels of some of the Mauser variants, or the ‘03 Springfield and Garands. The Redfield was fairly hardy and could take normal field bumps without losing its sighting - and it could take the heavy concussions of the 30.06 firing - without getting foggy or losing its crosshairs.

Such a request for this specific - almost exotic rifle - might have seemed strange to some. But rumor had it - Webber had heard on what he had thought was good authority - that the company had more than a few ‘exotic’ weapons in storage.

What made this rifle exotic and rare - was its combination of the strengths of two major rifles from two separate countries - and the fact that those weapons had been produced at the turn of the century, now over seventy years past.

Millions had been made of both. But the Mauser had primarily been made in the 8mm caliber - and the other, the 30.06 caliber rifle - was a US made Springfield caliber. What Webber was asking for was the best features of both in his mind. He didn’t know it at the time of his ‘request’ - but he was to get more than he bargained for.

Webber also had heard of their methods (‘company’ methods) of obtaining whatever they needed that wasn’t standing by. It was extraordinary if not legendary. For him it was not only exactly what he thought he needed - but it was in some degree a test of their ability to produce what was needed - to separate reality from legend as it were, fact from fiction. It was one way of testing if those rumors were true. They had more than fulfilled that part of the bargain as it turned out.

The specific reason that they had more than fulfilled that part of the ‘bargain’ was Braxton Lewis. It was not only because he was a man of his word - but because Lewis knew guns and he knew sniping rifles - especially exactly what Barton Webber had asked for.

He tried not to show it - but when Webber asked specifically for this particular rifle, chambered and equipped just as he asked for it - it was as if he was hearing his father’s words in his ears again. But it was even more than that - it was a bridge to his own youth.

His father had as much to do with the development - up to that time with sniper weapons for the army and the CIA as any other man alive - save two. Webber was asking exactly for his father’s choice was in sniper rifles: One that he had helped develop in the latter part of the Second World War. It was also a time during which Braxton Lewis was a preteenager - and had some familiarity with what was developed.

From that request - from his own experience and from what he already knew about Webber - there was no longer the slightest doubt that Barton Webber was a very superior scout sniper.

For one, he knew ballistics and his weapons. He already had field reports of Webber’s extraordinary skills in the field - from men he trusted - now from what he was hearing, Webber also knew very much about the tools it would take to make him even more effective in one shot, one kill situations.

Barton Webber did not know the history of the weapon given into his hands by Lewis - nor of the rifle’s coming from the Springfield armory - but Braxton Lewis did. He even knew the gun that he requested by serial number. It was a weapon he had shot before and had long planned to use it one day - if the right circumstances presented themselves.

However, Webber did know enough history to regard the Mausers as being without question - the designs that served as the influence (if it were not the very basis) for all primary bolt action weapons of the U.S. Army and eventually the Marines - regardless of what brand was placed on them since the war department (or now the Pentagon) obtained them.

He knew that the bolt action rifles were the centerpiece of the line infantry individual weaponry until the adoption of the M-1 Garand by the U.S. Army immediately prior to WWII (author’s note: The Garand was adopted in 1939 when Europe and Asia were already at war but the US was still over two years from war).

He also believed that the 30.06 was a much superior cartridge to the 8mm cartridge that the Mauser was originally chambered in (the 30.06 cartridge was longer and offered more bullet shapes and weight selections - thus it could be loaded with more powder - which with a lesser weight of bullets would greatly increase its muzzle velocity and range).

But Barton also preferred the barrel length of the Mauser. That is why he asked for a combination - or marriage as he liked to think of it - of the two.

Barton had studied a lot about weapons - especially individual combats rifles - as a boy and as a teen (as a teen he shot a lot of them, particularly his Argentine Mauser and a neighbor’s ’03 Springfield). It was practically a rite of passage for him - since his older brother had first let him pick up what was then his brother’s Mauser (his brother later gave it to him).

He also knew that the American Garand was the forerunner of his own modified Remington 742 (it had a longer 24 inch heavier gauge barrel than the production model among other modifications) - that he would later use as his first sniper weapon with the LRRP. He knew it had been in many ways a quantum leap forward in the standard infantry line weapon over the bolt action rifle as a general combat line weapon - but not as the basis for a sniper rifle.

Legendary WWII General George Patton (who was called Old Blood and Guts by his own troops, some say affectionately) called the Garand “the greatest combat infantry weapon invention of the war”.

The Garand was semi automatic with a gas feed recoil system. It was in turn the basis for many of the commercial and competing foreign semi automatic military weapons to follow - although not so much for the latter as was the German Sturmgewehr 44 that was introduced in WWII (officially introduced in 1944, hence the ’44). The Sturmgewehr was - like the Garand - semi automatic, but had ‘assault rifle’ features and a selector switch and could be fired fully automatic.

Had Patton known about it when he made his statement about the Garand - he may have tempered his remarks. Unlike the Garand it was shorter barreled - and even more importantly had a bottom feeding, detachable clip. It was (all in all) recognized as the first dedicated ‘assault” weapon. It wasn’t much of a sniper weapon, however, not much of a long range weapon period.

Webber knew a lot of countries ‘borrowed’ from each other in weapon’s design. He knew that the Soviet AK-47 was sometimes unflatteringly referred to as a rip-off of the Sturmgewehr. Webber thought it “borrowed” considerably from the German weapon, even its cartridge and caliber.

But it also incorporated ruggedness and a simplified design that was uniquely Russian - every bit as much as the Springfield had in its day been uniquely American - despite its borrowing from the Mauser. But he didn’t like the AK. He considered it crude, but he had to respect it.

Barton Webber was well aware of the history of all the weapons in question (and of their strengths and weaknesses) when he had chosen his Remington 742 to be his sniper weapon with the LRRP team.

He was equally aware of them when he had chosen the Mauser 98 type specifically for this mission - because the mission parameters were likely to be much different than those for which he had chosen his model 742.

He had originally chosen the 742 to be his personal protection weapon, but its role changed when his role changed from medic to scout/sniper. He hadn’t figured to fire it much. But when he became a part of the LRRP team a lot changed.

He knew that for his LRRP team, he might (and it had proven to be the case) need more rapid fire support for his team than what he could get from any of the bolt action rifles that were available. Since his 742 was a 30.06 - he much preferred it to the M-14s that were available as sniper variants (that were 7.62 or .308 caliber weapons) - because he wanted the longer range, so he had stuck with it.

Sgt. Clancy - the armory sergeant at battalion - helped with the rifle a lot as a result. He helped keep it clean and made some internal revisions to the bolt mechanism and gas feed system which made it more battle resilient and hardy than a normal commercial production model would have been.

When his role had changed, the armory sergeant had taken him aside and told him his production weapon wouldn’t stand up in that role, despite the changes they had already made to it. Then he brought out the 24 inch barrel.

For this mission, however, the conditions warranted a different weapon. This was more - one shot one kill - and escape and evade thereafter. That is the reason why he chose a weapon that was a much longer barrel and bolt action.

Yes, Webber knew the history of the Mauser and the 30.06 rifle in general - Lewis had thought to himself - but he didn’t know the history of this one in particular. If this weapon could have talked, it would have had its own story to tell that was unique, unlike any other Mauser but it. Webber did recognize when he first saw it that it was far from the typical Mauser 98 he had asked for - from the first moment he had seen it, picked it up and worked its action.

Barton readily saw this weapon was different from the standard Mauser combat model. For one thing it had a center mounted scope that wasn’t on tip off mounts (so that the scope could be moved out of the way when the weapon need to be reloaded from the top as was in keeping with its design through the second world war) - nor did it have its scope mounted forward of the bolt action as some others he had seen. It also had an oversized (what turned out to be a ten round) detachable bottom loading clip.

It didn’t have a bayonet attachment and the wood didn’t go as far forward as on most Mauser’s, so it was lighter. It had a turned down, recessed bolt. It had a good solid, compact, but smooth action as Barton worked it. He liked it immediately the first time he picked it up.

It felt smoother and tighter than any bolt action, even any other Mauser that he had ever worked. It was noticeably smoother than a Springfield Barton was sure. Lewis thought of telling him the complete history of the weapon - but then he thought - ‘he probably wouldn’t want to use it, if I did. Maybe when this is all over I’ll tell him’ was his final thought on the subject.

* * *

As Barton took off and flew south eastward to Saigon, his thoughts flitted back and forth between what he was involved about here in Cambodia, South East Asia in general and Arienne.

Barton was a patriot. But he was also a realist. If the Marquis de Lafayette hadn’t come along to help the Americans, his countrymen and forefathers at their hour of critical need - he doubted there would be a United States of America - to save France a couple of times since (as well as the rest of the world in WWII).

He thought long and hard about the relationships he was forming with some of the tribal leaders and how important that was to the eventual success and failure of the enterprise.

But he was also a red blooded American boy - and it didn’t take much to turn his thoughts to Arienne - and for them to stay there for the rest of the flight once they settled on her. She was a beautiful woman he thought to himself and he was lucky to have her.


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Post Re: ABSENCE OF HONOR
Chapter Nine

Continental Hotel, Saigon, South Vietnam, Early Fall 1972

Arienne Le Fontaine Webber stood looking at herself in her full length mirror – appraising herself and her changing body. Her blondish hair looked darker than it actually was - because it was still wet from her shower. She wore it long and it hung down and brushed her shoulders.

It had also seemed to darken some since she had been pregnant, but that had been tempered by the summer sun. She was now (in the late summer in Saigon) her normal late summer ‘Palomino’ blonde.

She was just finishing drying herself off and stood totally naked. Despite the hair that hung down to her shoulders being blonde - her secondary hair (that the sun never shown on) was a deep brown - so dark it appeared to be nearly black. It made quite a vivid contrast with her golden brown skin.

The visual effect matched nicely in the reflection in the mirror she was standing in front of. At least Barton said so, Arienne reminded herself (that it was a nice contrast). She was trying to see herself as Barton saw her - otherwise she was too critical of herself these days.

She smiled at the thought of Barton seeing her like this. It wasn’t a naughty smile. It was an innocent one - born of the pure joy of thinking of how much she loved Barton - and that he loved her equally. Her warrior husband, Barton - was her all in all - next to the Almighty to whom she believed she owed everything, including bringing her Barton. He (Barton) was her savior, the love of her life.

She was alone in their (her and Barton’s, she kept reminding herself when it didn’t seem real or seemed like a dream) fourth floor suite at the Hotel Continental - her family’s hotel. She was alone - on purpose - much of the time the last few months when Barton went gone back to Cambodia.

She was not vamping or preening as she stood in front of the mirror. It was just a naked, unguarded moment. She was taking stock of herself and her situation - contemplating her and Barton’s future - and the future of their baby.

She looked at herself with the sort of wistfulness that only a pregnant woman does - and perhaps only a pregnant woman can. She turned herself this way and that, looking at her reflection in the full length mirror. She turned those ways to see the full extinct of her belly - at what pregnancy was doing to her young body. Other than the obviously much bigger belly and breasts - her bottom was bigger, too - among other things.

She was comparing herself in her mind to the shape she had when Barton had come into her life some six months earlier. Then she didn’t show at all - nor should she have - She hadn’t even been a hundred percent sure she was pregnant herself, just before she had met Barton.

She couldn’t have been much further than a month along then, if she was pregnant. Her body hadn’t begun to change much - even when they had married two months later - at least observably. There hadn’t been many signs of her being pregnant – at least none that could be seen when she had her clothes on - nothing more than some hormonal things really were happening to her body then.

She remembered when she had a flatter ‘runner’s bottom’ - as her husband Barton called it - and obviously a much less prodigious stomach. Barton had commented on some of the changes the last time he was home - as she was lamenting out loud about her changing body a month ago.

He said he liked her bottom better this way - patting it and kissing her at the same time. He said it made it fuller, more shapely. It had made her feel even more love for Barton. When she was feeling insecure and needing reassurance - he always seemed to notice and say just the right things - not that she needed it often.

Arienne had always been considered a beauty by those around her. She had been favored with her blonde hair, and prominent cheeks. Her clear green eyes were uniquely shaped - and it all combined into the effect of giving her an exotic beauty even in this exotic land.

Some said it gave her a look that was a cross between an Egyptian and Oriental - despite the fact that she was European and blonde. It was just the right look for a French girl in South East Asia. She had been admired by the older men and desired by the younger men. But her’s was not the beauty you might see in a model. Curiously that somehow had made her even more desirable.

She was five foot-six inches tall and had been 125 pounds - that looked very trim in a muscular sort of way. The proportions looked good on her before her pregnancy - but she would not have been considered statuesque - like a model is usually. She did not have the long neck and long legs characteristic of that look.

Instead she had an athlete’s body with large shoulders for a girl. She had begun lifting weights a couple of years earlier and that made her shoulders even bigger. She even had well developed biceps and thighs. She also had shorter - powerful legs - that models did not have. She was built for action, not just for show.

What captivated men and boys that came near her - was not just her cheeks and eyes that gave her that almost oriental look - but even more so, it was the way she had always carried herself. Even beyond that, it was the penetrating look in those eyes - that gave witness to the intelligence and will behind them.

Now, she told herself, she didn’t carry herself quite the same as then. Her big belly and changing hips were beginning to really affect her balance and the way she walked. She wasn’t so sure her cheeks and eyes looked all that mysterious to her just now, either. Still, she had her smarts - she reminded herself with near amusement - and she had Barton’s love.

Mostly it was thoughts of her husband Barton - that she used to cheer herself when she felt ungainly - and got emotional about it. She thought again of Barton’s soothing and complimentary endorsement of her bottom. It made her feel somewhat better. The fact that he had said it in the first place - and the fact that he said it like he really believed it - meant a lot to her.

Her bottom had changed because she had not been running and working out as much. Most of the change occurred since she had not been running at all the last two months. She had stopped out of respect to the health of the baby. She didn’t want to jostle it too much- but her hips had also begun to spread now - and to ache when she ran much. She was now nearly seven months pregnant.

She half turned again - looking not so much at her stomach or bottom this time - but the width of her hips. She had began appraising them of late, inspecting them as if she could see the slightest change there.

Her mother’s counsel told her than the women of her family - had more unusual physical characteristics - than that of their cheek bones and the shape of their eyes. They also had wider hips and wider pelvic openings than most women. She also said that they tended to carry their unborn children differently and that they showed less.

So far it had been true. She hadn’t shown outwardly when her and Barton had gotten married - but then she had only been three months - and hadn’t shown very much until she was over five months pregnant. Even then all that really showed was just a bump in her stomach area that didn’t quite match the rest of her athletic body. But that might have been taken by some as the beginnings of getting fat.

Arienne turned her attention to her belly. She rubbed oil on it daily to ease the effect of her stomach stretching, making room for the as yet tiny growing life within. Already the stretch lines had began to appear there on her skin.

Her mother told her that the lines would look angry - red and purplish - if she didn’t keep her skin oiled. You could see the stretch marks - but they would have been much more visible if not for the warning and instructions of her mother - and her subsequent obedience to that instruction. She consoled herself that if she was diligent, that what stretch marks that remained would fade in the sun and not be hardly visible after the baby.

Arienne took one last look at herself before she began getting dressed. She sighed. She tried to convince herself that she was still attractive and that Barton still desperately wanted her.

And then the baby kicked her. The viciousness and suddenness of the kick surprised her and she had to laugh. It was a good emotion - she told herself - and wished Barton was here.

Despite her efforts to be strong and keep cheerful, her emotions were harder to handle now than ever before. She found herself fighting against them if she had negative thoughts. She really had to fight the thoughts of being unattractive for Barton.

Being able to direct her thoughts to positive emotions - like now when the baby kicked her - was a good thing for her. What brought it all home - and made it an even happier emotion for Arienne - was that Barton was coming home for the weekend today.

She lived for every fourth weekend - when he was home and her life could be complete - if only for a three days at a time. She realized she was getting hot and wet - down below - just thinking about him being home. ‘Not exactly a motherly reaction’, she thought to herself.

Well, that wasn’t exactly true, she thought smiling. She was musing deep in her mind about Barton telling her that he loved her - taking her in his arms, kissing her deeply - and later making love to her. So, it wasn’t just him being home that she was thinking about.

“Barton, you better not be late”, she said as if he could hear her across the span of distance that separated them. Even now he should just about be on his way. She simply couldn’t fathom him being late, let alone think about him not coming home at all.

She rubbed her breasts absently as she drifted into daydreaming of Barton, and then the two of them together. There were places she could go in her mind and other places she could not. Barton was her warrior although he didn’t act ferocious around her - except the time when he had defended her from being kidnapped - the day they had first met.

Arienne knew she could not keep him from being a warrior - or make him something different - to keep him safe. But she could not bear to think of the danger that he must face every day.

She and Barton had an agreement - she wouldn’t worry - and he would always find a way of coming back to her. Somehow in her young love - her confidence in Barton made that as okay, as certain of coming true - as the sun coming up in what appeared to be the east every morning.

Arienne wiled away the rest of the morning - thinking about the future - wistfully imagining her future with Barton and their child. The baby was doing calisthenics by the time noon came it seemed. He/she had just started getting noticeable in its movements the last time Barton had been home.

She looked down and watched her belly move. It felt as the little one seemed to be reaching up - and grabbing a rib with its hands and pushing as hard as they could with their feet in the opposite direction. It was stretching her skin as she watched, and then it finished with a kick near her bladder that almost made her want to pee. It was still two months until it would be born - and apparently he/she thought it was running out of room.

She hoped Barton would be as thrilled with the wonderment of the new life within her as she was. Their baby’s vigorous movements seemed almost like play time with ‘it’ and it lifted her mood considerably. So she finished getting dressed and went to join her family in the family suite. Her mom might enjoy feeling and seeing the baby, too.

Arienne’s purpose in spending more time alone - was her need to be independent of her mother - not that she didn’t still love and need her. Her mother was supportive and tried to be helpful in every way that she could anticipate, but sometimes too much.

It was as if in her new found relationship with her now married, pregnant daughter - she was trying to make up lost time and opportunities - for the times when she had been too self absorbed, too distant or too detached to have given proper oversight and direction to Arienne.

Arienne could tell that her mother blamed herself for her getting pregnant. But then - that should be all the more reason - why she should now feel some joy from the baby and it’s kicking. As far as Arienne was concerned - all was forgiven of her mother - and she felt like giving her mother that sense.

The fact was that – despite her meeting Barton and everything turning out for the better so miraculously not withstanding - Suzanne did blame herself for Arienne getting pregnant at barely sixteen. In her mind it was due to her lack of training her and supervising her. For Suzanne it was a fact, and one that for once she must face. But - what was true to Suzanne about that - no longer mattered to Arienne.

For Arienne, it was irrelevant now. It was just a bad memory - an unwelcome one that she chose to no longer think about - and to stay away from. She had dwelt on it at first, even allowed it to torment her. But then she had learned the lessons she needed to from it. Since then she had gained forgiveness - from the only two beings in the universe that she needed to in her mind - The Almighty and Barton.

The only fact she chose to think about now - was simply that it had led to how she had met Barton - first in her dreams and then in reality. Then he had rescued her and become the love of her life. That he loved her equally and had married her - was, in her young life (while quite improbable and rather like a fairy tale) just her reality now. That was the only thing that matter to her now.

But at the moment - she had this rather impudent rascal - kicking her against her kidneys. She breezed (nearly floated) into her families’ suite. She nearly breathlessly pulled up her blouse above her belly to show the baby’s movements to her mother. Her mother saw and felt it and they laughed and cried about it. Arienne saw a new look in her mother’s eyes - a look she hoped would drive out the look of guilt and sadness forever.

In a few hours Barton would be here. She would soon go down stairs to greet him. But since she hadn’t spent much time with her family today - she at least wanted her mother to know her and the baby were well - before Barton came home and they disappeared together for at least a couple of days in their suite.

It couldn’t have worked out better she thought. She smiled as the baby thumped her one more time before apparently going off to sleep or sucking its thumb or something.

* * *

From what seemed a world away, Barton Webber wound up some last minutes details - including delegating some duties to subordinates - as he prepared for his monthly flight to Saigon. There weren’t any planned offensive operations for the next four days. But he still needed to finish some details - to give him peace of mind that he wasn’t shirking anything - as he flew home to Arienne.

Aside from his thoughts about Arienne, in the back of his mind he was thinking about his history and his degree of confidence in his boss Braxton Lewis. Braxton Lewis was in all reality his primary lifeline - the one he most depended on to give him the tools to do his job - and it was even more vital than that. He sensed that in many ways - Braxton Lewis would be the difference between whether he lived or died - about whether he made it out of this war in one piece or not, and how well.

Braxton Lewis had come to where he was serving, in An Khe, Republic of Vietnam, over a year earlier. For Webber it was the first time he had ever heard of him, much less seen or met him: For Lewis, it was a homecoming of sorts. Four years previously he had become the 173rd’s commanding general.

In that sense, revisiting the 173rd brigade was coming home, but four years before the brigade wasn’t based in An Khe. It had been in Bien Hoa, or at least his command post was. He had never set foot in An Khe although he had flown over it or near it a time or two.

The change of locale and the fact that now the brigade was split into two locations gave it the feel of it being a shell of itself to Lewis. Now only a fragment of its authorized 3,000 men and support units were still at An Khe. What remained were two recon companies, a small portion of its air wing, and portions of its other support elements.

The bulk of the brigade was based to the east close to Highway One, Vietnam’s coastal highway north and south. But even they were due to rotate back stateside shortly. When they did - only those forces that were at An Khe - would maintain the 173rd’s presence in the Republic of Vietnam.

So in that sense it was not so much a feeling of home for Lewis. He thought of the expression ‘You can never go home again’. In this case it seemed to be so. Still, it was the 173rd - and at least David Weston and his old friend First Sergeant Nathan Billings - were still there. He had looked forward to seeing them both.

Weston was one of his favorite junior officers (Weston was a first lieutenant the first time he had met him) during his time of command with the brigade. Now, he had just risen to the provisional rank of major and was in command of the remains of the unit here in An Khe.

His command was a provisional battalion comprised of the two recon companies, his HQ staff - comprised of the remaining HQ staff of the two companies and himself - as well as the remnants of the base armory, supply and other support elements, including part of the air wing.

As a reward for his service - while Lewis commanded the brigade and for its successes under his command - he had been promoted from Brigadier to Major General. He had also been given orders for assignment to the Pentagon. He had no intentions of going to occupy a desk there.

He had promptly resigned his commission, retired and accepted command as the CIA station chief Vietnam instead. The reasons for his resigning his commission, he practically never discussed with anyone. But he had his reasons, never the less. Now he had been promoted to being over the whole South East Asia Theater, as far as CIA operations were concerned.

His primary reason for the visit to the 173rd (at least on the surface) that day - had been to see that same junior officer David Weston (as well as CSM Nathan Billings, who had been his first platoon’s ranking sergeant so long ago) - and to review a recent joint action and debriefings thereof.

Some of his most significant air assets had been used - due to the initiative of his air operations officer David Pizzari. Pizzari had been flying a patrol - near enough to the locale of where a 173rd LRRP team from F Company had been ambushed and shot up by a NVA sniper - to join the fray and lend assistance when no army or air force units could respond.

After the ambush (during which its radio had been shot out) - the team retreated towards the location of another LRRP team it knew to be operating to its south - hoping to make contact with it and regain communications. Before it came in contact with the other 173rd team, it came into contact with a superior NVA force which blocked it.

The second LRRP team had responded to the sound of gunfire in the area where Bravo team of its sister Recon Company was operating – and came to meet it. They approached cautiously and from high up on a ridge line. Below them they saw the LRRP team was about to be engaged by a superior force of about thirty NVA regulars – but with an NVA battalion coming in behind it.

It was the second team (designated Delta team of E company) that called for air support for its fellow team. Without air support - they would have had no choice - but to watch the other LRRP team die or be captured. But that air cover would be complicated - because there was a thick cloud cover with a low ceiling - above the cutoff team and the NVA units.

As the battle was shaping up Pizzari’s right seater had notified him of the radio communications that he had been monitoring. When no other aircraft of adequate avionics or armament had answered the FAC’s call (forward air controller flying above the action in an OH-1 Birddog, the painted green equivalent of a civilian Cessna 172) - Pizzari had answered the call despite company policy to the contrary.

The teams ranking sergeant, SSgt. Marks had called specifically for the capabilities of a Mohawk, or Bronco. One of those was just what Pizzari was flying - a Mohawk - but not just any Mohawk.

Both Marks and Pizzari knew that only an attack aircraft like the OV-1H Mohawk - fully armed as it was and with the avionics that it was fitted with, including FLIR (forward looking infrared radar) - could see through the low cloud cover and lay an accurate strike on the encircling force of the NVA which was about to engage the LRRP team.

Officially the CIA was not supposed to have such aircraft - especially outfitted as they were, and armed as he was this day - so he should have stayed out of it. But, Pizzari was also a former member of the 173rd (of its air wing) - and wasn’t about to let the LRRP team be killed or captured - without getting a fight from him, consequences be damned.

There were several circumstances that dictated Pizzari’s intervention and initiative in his mind, or at least made it highly convenient. First, even if a military attack aircraft had heard the call, Pizzari gleaned that time was of the essence.

If Pizzari went buster (full military power, ramming the throttles to the firewall) from where he was - after he learned of their predicament - he could make it in time. He could see that no one else could. He had also been itching to lay in some of their new ordinance in a live fire situation, rather than a training run. That morning he was loaded for bear.

Subsequent to the successful mission - since his air assets had been involved in extracting the 173rd LRRP team’s chestnuts from the fire -

(CIA policy was officially contrary to that because officially the CIA wasn’t even in Cambodia much less conducting offensive air or ground operations)

part of Lewis mission was to make doubly certain that his pilot’s good deed didn’t turn round to bite them.

That is to say - that any word of their involvement – had to stay out of any communiqués or debriefing and thus dark. But he was also looking to make something good come out of all this for his command as well.

He had subsequently been told about a friend of Pizzari - in Pizzari’s post action briefing to him - who from a half a world away, had somehow been involved in the fight and played a pivotal part. He had gone to An Khe to interview that 173rd trooper - that he had heard about from his air chief for himself - as much or more than for any other reason.

He had a gut feeling about the trooper as soon as Pizzari detailed his involvement - almost without reason it seemed. But he guessed that is why they call them gut feelings. It was almost as if he had a compulsion to be there and talk to the friend of Pizzari named Webber.

After he interviewed him - he tried to recruit Webber on the spot - primarily at the time as a scout/sniper. His interest increased for additional roles for Webber later as Webber’s service with the team continued and his exploits presented themselves over the course of his tour.

Webber hadn’t been similarly interested at the time. He also let that be known - in respectful, but in no uncertain terms. Lewis had - despite the rejection - communicated a standing offer to Webber, if he were to change his mind.

Later when circumstances changed - and Webber had actually taken the job - albeit, officially he had only initially agreed to take a contract position with the DOD and be ‘farmed out’ to the company as long as he was nominally supervised by David Weston. At the onset he had asked Lewis some questions about what types of missions his snipers were sent on.

Without saying so in so many words, Lewis gave Webber to understand that the snipers weren’t auxiliaries to ambushes by small teams like the LRRPs had generally employed them.

Lewis answered the questions factually and honestly as to how the CIA generally used snipers at the time (despite the fact that his opinion as to how he would use Webber was changing, a fact that he also didn’t mention at the time).

Lewis told Webber that the company’s snipers were instead given what amounted to assassination missions - on high value enemy targets deep inside ‘Indian Country’ - where both his stealth capability and shooting skills would be equally valuable. His skills would determine - not only to the success of the mission - but also his survivability after the mission was executed.

When he heard that - Barton had specifically “requested” a good quality long barrel customized ‘98 series German Mauser - as his second condition of employment when he had agreed to the recruitment. Webber wanted as much standoff, long range capability as possible for that type mission.

It was to be chambered in the 30.06 caliber - with a 3 x 9 Redfield or equivalent scope - and with a 28 or 29 inch barrel rather than the shorter 24 inch barrels of some of the Mauser variants, or the ‘03 Springfield and Garands. The Redfield was fairly hardy and could take normal field bumps without losing its sighting - and it could take the heavy concussions of the 30.06 firing - without getting foggy or losing its crosshairs.

Such a request for this specific - almost exotic rifle - might have seemed strange to some. But rumor had it - Webber had heard on what he had thought was good authority - that the company had more than a few ‘exotic’ weapons in storage.

What made this rifle exotic and rare - was its combination of the strengths of two major rifles from two separate countries - and the fact that those weapons had been produced at the turn of the century, now over seventy years past.

Millions had been made of both. But the Mauser had primarily been made in the 8mm caliber - and the other, the 30.06 caliber rifle - was a US made Springfield caliber. What Webber was asking for was the best features of both in his mind. He didn’t know it at the time of his ‘request’ - but he was to get more than he bargained for.

Webber also had heard of their methods (‘company’ methods) of obtaining whatever they needed that wasn’t standing by. It was extraordinary if not legendary. For him it was not only exactly what he thought he needed - but it was in some degree a test of their ability to produce what was needed - to separate reality from legend as it were, fact from fiction. It was one way of testing if those rumors were true. They had more than fulfilled that part of the bargain as it turned out.

The specific reason that they had more than fulfilled that part of the ‘bargain’ was Braxton Lewis. It was not only because he was a man of his word - but because Lewis knew guns and he knew sniping rifles - especially exactly what Barton Webber had asked for.

He tried not to show it - but when Webber asked specifically for this particular rifle, chambered and equipped just as he asked for it - it was as if he was hearing his father’s words in his ears again. But it was even more than that - it was a bridge to his own youth.

His father had as much to do with the development - up to that time with sniper weapons for the army and the CIA as any other man alive - save two. Webber was asking exactly for his father’s choice was in sniper rifles: One that he had helped develop in the latter part of the Second World War. It was also a time during which Braxton Lewis was a preteenager - and had some familiarity with what was developed.

From that request - from his own experience and from what he already knew about Webber - there was no longer the slightest doubt that Barton Webber was a very superior scout sniper.

For one, he knew ballistics and his weapons. He already had field reports of Webber’s extraordinary skills in the field - from men he trusted - now from what he was hearing, Webber also knew very much about the tools it would take to make him even more effective in one shot, one kill situations.

Barton Webber did not know the history of the weapon given into his hands by Lewis - nor of the rifle’s coming from the Springfield armory - but Braxton Lewis did. He even knew the gun that he requested by serial number. It was a weapon he had shot before and had long planned to use it one day - if the right circumstances presented themselves.

However, Webber did know enough history to regard the Mausers as being without question - the designs that served as the influence (if it were not the very basis) for all primary bolt action weapons of the U.S. Army and eventually the Marines - regardless of what brand was placed on them since the war department (or now the Pentagon) obtained them.

He knew that the bolt action rifles were the centerpiece of the line infantry individual weaponry until the adoption of the M-1 Garand by the U.S. Army immediately prior to WWII (author’s note: The Garand was adopted in 1939 when Europe and Asia were already at war but the US was still over two years from war).

He also believed that the 30.06 was a much superior cartridge to the 8mm cartridge that the Mauser was originally chambered in (the 30.06 cartridge was longer and offered more bullet shapes and weight selections - thus it could be loaded with more powder - which with a lesser weight of bullets would greatly increase its muzzle velocity and range).

But Barton also preferred the barrel length of the Mauser. That is why he asked for a combination - or marriage as he liked to think of it - of the two.

Barton had studied a lot about weapons - especially individual combats rifles - as a boy and as a teen (as a teen he shot a lot of them, particularly his Argentine Mauser and a neighbor’s ’03 Springfield). It was practically a rite of passage for him - since his older brother had first let him pick up what was then his brother’s Mauser (his brother later gave it to him).

He also knew that the American Garand was the forerunner of his own modified Remington 742 (it had a longer 24 inch heavier gauge barrel than the production model among other modifications) - that he would later use as his first sniper weapon with the LRRP. He knew it had been in many ways a quantum leap forward in the standard infantry line weapon over the bolt action rifle as a general combat line weapon - but not as the basis for a sniper rifle.

Legendary WWII General George Patton (who was called Old Blood and Guts by his own troops, some say affectionately) called the Garand “the greatest combat infantry weapon invention of the war”.

The Garand was semi automatic with a gas feed recoil system. It was in turn the basis for many of the commercial and competing foreign semi automatic military weapons to follow - although not so much for the latter as was the German Sturmgewehr 44 that was introduced in WWII (officially introduced in 1944, hence the ’44). The Sturmgewehr was - like the Garand - semi automatic, but had ‘assault rifle’ features and a selector switch and could be fired fully automatic.

Had Patton known about it when he made his statement about the Garand - he may have tempered his remarks. Unlike the Garand it was shorter barreled - and even more importantly had a bottom feeding, detachable clip. It was (all in all) recognized as the first dedicated ‘assault” weapon. It wasn’t much of a sniper weapon, however, not much of a long range weapon period.

Webber knew a lot of countries ‘borrowed’ from each other in weapon’s design. He knew that the Soviet AK-47 was sometimes unflatteringly referred to as a rip-off of the Sturmgewehr. Webber thought it “borrowed” considerably from the German weapon, even its cartridge and caliber.

But it also incorporated ruggedness and a simplified design that was uniquely Russian - every bit as much as the Springfield had in its day been uniquely American - despite its borrowing from the Mauser. But he didn’t like the AK. He considered it crude, but he had to respect it.

Barton Webber was well aware of the history of all the weapons in question (and of their strengths and weaknesses) when he had chosen his Remington 742 to be his sniper weapon with the LRRP team.

He was equally aware of them when he had chosen the Mauser 98 type specifically for this mission - because the mission parameters were likely to be much different than those for which he had chosen his model 742.

He had originally chosen the 742 to be his personal protection weapon, but its role changed when his role changed from medic to scout/sniper. He hadn’t figured to fire it much. But when he became a part of the LRRP team a lot changed.

He knew that for his LRRP team, he might (and it had proven to be the case) need more rapid fire support for his team than what he could get from any of the bolt action rifles that were available. Since his 742 was a 30.06 - he much preferred it to the M-14s that were available as sniper variants (that were 7.62 or .308 caliber weapons) - because he wanted the longer range, so he had stuck with it.

Sgt. Clancy - the armory sergeant at battalion - helped with the rifle a lot as a result. He helped keep it clean and made some internal revisions to the bolt mechanism and gas feed system which made it more battle resilient and hardy than a normal commercial production model would have been.

When his role had changed, the armory sergeant had taken him aside and told him his production weapon wouldn’t stand up in that role, despite the changes they had already made to it. Then he brought out the 24 inch barrel.

For this mission, however, the conditions warranted a different weapon. This was more - one shot one kill - and escape and evade thereafter. That is the reason why he chose a weapon that was a much longer barrel and bolt action.

Yes, Webber knew the history of the Mauser and the 30.06 rifle in general - Lewis had thought to himself - but he didn’t know the history of this one in particular. If this weapon could have talked, it would have had its own story to tell that was unique, unlike any other Mauser but it. Webber did recognize when he first saw it that it was far from the typical Mauser 98 he had asked for - from the first moment he had seen it, picked it up and worked its action.

Barton readily saw this weapon was different from the standard Mauser combat model. For one thing it had a center mounted scope that wasn’t on tip off mounts (so that the scope could be moved out of the way when the weapon need to be reloaded from the top as was in keeping with its design through the second world war) - nor did it have its scope mounted forward of the bolt action as some others he had seen. It also had an oversized (what turned out to be a ten round) detachable bottom loading clip.

It didn’t have a bayonet attachment and the wood didn’t go as far forward as on most Mauser’s, so it was lighter. It had a turned down, recessed bolt. It had a good solid, compact, but smooth action as Barton worked it. He liked it immediately the first time he picked it up.

It felt smoother and tighter than any bolt action, even any other Mauser that he had ever worked. It was noticeably smoother than a Springfield Barton was sure. Lewis thought of telling him the complete history of the weapon - but then he thought - ‘he probably wouldn’t want to use it, if I did. Maybe when this is all over I’ll tell him’ was his final thought on the subject.

* * *

As Barton took off and flew south eastward to Saigon, his thoughts flitted back and forth between what he was involved about here in Cambodia, South East Asia in general and Arienne.

Barton was a patriot. But he was also a realist. If the Marquis de Lafayette hadn’t come along to help the Americans, his countrymen and forefathers at their hour of critical need - he doubted there would be a United States of America - to save France a couple of times since (as well as the rest of the world in WWII).

He thought long and hard about the relationships he was forming with some of the tribal leaders and how important that was to the eventual success and failure of the enterprise.

But he was also a red blooded American boy - and it didn’t take much to turn his thoughts to Arienne - and for them to stay there for the rest of the flight once they settled on her. She was a beautiful woman he thought to himself and he was lucky to have her.


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