In 1941, the Viet Minh, a communist and nationalist liberation movement, emerged under Ho Chi Minh to seek independence for Vietnam from France as well as to oppose the Japanese occupation. Japanese occupation during World War II caused the Vietnamese Famine of 1945, which caused 2 million deaths, or 10 percent of the population then. Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, Viet Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted independence on 2 September.
France-marked USAF C-119 flown by CIA pilots over Dien Bien Phu in 1954. In the same year the Provisional French Republic sent the French Far East Expeditionary Corps, which was originally created to fight the Japanese occupation forces, in order to pacify the liberation movement and to restore French rule. On November 20, 1946, triggered by the Haiphong Incident, the First Indochina War between Viet Minh and the French forces ensued, lasting until July 20, 1954.
Despite fewer losses, Expeditionary Corps suffered one-third of the casualties of the Chinese and Soviet-backed Viet Minh during the course of the war, the French and Vietnamese loyalists eventually suffered a major strategic setback at the Siege of Dien Bien Phu, which allowed Ho Chi Minh to negotiate a ceasefire with a favorable position at the ongoing Geneva conference of 1954. Colonial administration ended as French Indochina was dissolved. According to the Geneva Accords of 1954 the forces of former French supporters and communist nationalists were separated south and north, respectively, with the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, at the 17th parallel north, between. A 300-day period of free movement was given, during which almost a million northerners, mainly Catholic, moved south, fearing persecution by the communists.
A partition of Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam, and Emperor Bảo Đại's State of Vietnam in the South Vietnam, was not intended to be permanent by the Geneva Accords, and they expressly forbade the interference of third powers. The State of Vietnam's Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem toppled Bảo Đại in a fraudulent referendum organized by his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam. The Accords mandated nationwide elections by 1956, which Diem refused to hold, despite repeated calls from the North for talks to discuss elections.
The pro-Hanoi Vietcong began a guerrilla campaign in the late 1950's to overthrow Diem's government, which an official Vietcong statement described as a 'disguised colonial regime.' In the North, thousands of landowners were murdered by the communists and famine broke out in the 1950s. In the South, Diem went about crushing all opposition and tens of thousands were jailed or killed; dissidents were routinely labeled as communists even if they were anti-communist. Both Vietnams were police states with totalitarian security systems.
In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diem's pro-Catholic discrimination erupted following the banning of the Buddhist flag and the Hue Vesak shootings. This resulted in a series of mass demonstrations during what is known as the Buddhist crisis. With Diem unwilling to bend, Nhu orchestrated the Xa Loi Pagoda raids; estimates of the death toll range into the hundreds. As a result, America's relationship with Diem broke down and resulted in the 1963 coup that saw Diem killed.
Diem was followed by a series of military regimes that often lasted only months before being toppled by another. With this instability, the communists began to gain ground. There were more than a dozen governments before the pairing of Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky and General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu took control of a junta in mid-1965. Thieu gradually outmaneuvered Ky and cemented his grip on power in fraudulent elections last year.
To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the United States began increasing its contribution of military advisers. US forces became embroiled in ground combat operations in 1965 and at their peak they numbered more than 500,000. Communist forces attacked most major targets in South Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, and although their campaign failed militarily, it shocked the American establishment, and caused them to think that the communists could not be defeated. Communist forces supplying the Vietcong carried supplies along the Ho Chi Minh trail, which passed through Laos and Cambodia. US president Richard Nixon authorized Operation Menu, an SAC bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia, which he kept secret from the US Congress
Near Bao Loc, Vietnam
Mai Li Trinh, a survivor of many brutal rapes and of the My Lai Massacre of nine months earlier, was running for her life again, this time from the Viet Cong that had kidnapped her yesterday to force her to become a sex slave to the soldiers at an American POW camp. She had escaped after being raped repeatedly by shooting and killing one of her rapists.
The Viet Nam Cong San (the Vietnamese Communists) were a guerrilla force that, with the support of the North Vietnamese Army, fought against South Vietnam and the United States. These were the men she would learn to hate and hunt. They were ruthless and sadistic. They had begun immediately to round up people who were supports of the south and the Americans. What followed would remain forever burned into her mind, an orgy of rape, murder and senseless destruction. Her father and brother had been shot and her mother and sister dragged screaming to the bedroom by laughing men. Even her tender years did not spare her and she lost her virginity to the first of many rapists that day. The last had been a cold-hearted man who seemed to have more feelings for his prized rifle, an M25 sniper rifle, than for any of the helpless people in her village. He did not even bother to lower his trousers. When he finished and rolled off of her, she had seized the pistol from his belt and shot him once, the bullet entering him under the chin and going through his head, exiting out from the top of his head. She had taken the sniper rifle he had so carefully set by the door, but only for her protection from other Viet Cong, and had escaped into the night, at times dragging herself through the thick underbrush. She had been bleeding badly, and her insides had hurt horribly. Three times she'd thrown up, but she finally reached the small cave where she and her brothers had played as children. She slept then, never sure for exactly how long. When she awakened it was dark and cold outside. It took her a moment to realize where she was and to have the horror of that day wash over her again. She could hear the screams of her mother, of people being machine gunned, the hoarse shouting of the Viet Cong and the grunts of the men taking their turn with her. She cautiously went down to the stream and washed herself, removing caked blood and semen. It was still dark when she cautiously returned to her village. When she got there she found it was gone, a cold pile of ashes and unburied corpses was all that was left.
She now lay still in the dense brush. Her dark green dress almost blended perfectly with the landscape, rendering her nearly invisible in the pale evening light. Now it reminded her of home. Home. Time and horror had so shattered her perception that the very word sounded alien to her.
Suddenly she stopped running. Something was out there. She did not know if it was human or animal. She looked both ways, and when she saw nothing, she hurried along the almost hidden path. The jungle was alive with insects. A noisy chorus of frogs began, loud calls as males searched for females. She caught sight of a large snake, a python making its way from branch to branch. As she moved along the path, a feeling of dread began to grow. She was no longer alone. She was being watched. Stalked. Hunted. She looked around her, paying more attention to the trees above her head, looking for shadows. Suddenly she tripped and rolled to the side.
She saw something moving to her left side. It was a sun bear. When it rushed at her, she stood and ran. When she tripped and fell backward, it bit her and sank its sharp teeth into her ankle, severely wounding her right leg. In intense pain, she grabbed for a branch that lay close by and swung it at the rather small bear's head. It lashed out with a large forepaw, which had long, curved claws, which it uses to tear and dig in its search for insects nests and colonies, especially those of bees and termites. Generally nocturnal, the tree climbing bear, normally shy but quite intelligent, was attacking her. It had raked her calf, gouging out deep wounds that would soon get infected if she didn't get help quickly. Forgetting about her pain for a moment, she swung the branch at the bear's head again. This time it shook its head side to side and ran off into the thick, humid jungle of the Annam Highlands of southern Vietnam.
Panic overwhelmed her, nearly shutting down her brain. Red-hot pain shot through her entire body, the agony taking her breath away. A scream of pain ripped from her throat as she tried to make her way along the trail. A small hut caught her attention. It was almost not visible. How she saw it, she didn't know. In her mind, it was a miracle.
Former American soldier, Daniel Baylor, was out hunting for food in the humid jungle, and was just getting ready to head back to his hidden hut.
He had deserted his platoon during the My Lai massacre, in which he hadn't fired a single shot, but sadly about 500 unarmed villagers were cold-bloodedly machine gunned, even though no Viet Cong were found there. Every elderly man, woman, and child that was found, were killed. It had been in the region of Quang Ngai, an area believed to have been a stronghold of the dreaded Viet Cong soldiers and thus a focus of the U.S. military.
As soon as he entered his hut, he saw something move on his bed.
Mai Li came awake, instantly aware of someone there with her. She dove for the floor, scrambling away, desperate to get a hold of a weapon, anything to defend herself with. A hand grabbed at her, grasping her uninjured ankle and dragging her back toward him. Then he grasped her delicate wrist.
A man loomed over her, blonde and powerful, his face thrust close to hers. "Who are you," he hissed, increasing his pressure on her delicate wrist. His free hand clamped around her throat, his elbow digging into her breast, knee across her thighs. His body effectively pinned hers to the floor with his much greater weight. "Tell me, or I'll break your neck," he threatened. "Who are you?"
Mai Li would have screamed her head off, but she was so frightened that she passed out.
Daniel swore as he felt her go limp beneath him. His hand encountered a warm stickiness. Right away his hand moved farther down her leg. He swore at the discovery. Clamping a hand over the leg, he jerked it into the air.
A shudder went through her tiny body, trembling in reaction to the terrible wound on her lower right leg.
He applied a tourniquet quickly. He couldn't imagine anyone sending her after him. He lifted her with ease, carried her to the bed and set her on it. She didn't look capable of killing anyone, her face was pale and her eyes too big for her face. He shook his head and went to work on the ugly wound. The puncture wounds were deep and had done real damage. The animal that had attacked her had savaged the leg as she tried to escape, tearing deep gouges out of her flesh. He wondered what kind of animal had done this. It was an ugly mess and needed immediate attention.
Because of the pain, Mai Li could barely breath. In the dim light, the man loomed over her, appearing invincible. His shoulders were wide, his arms and chest powerful. His upper body was pure muscle. His face was clean-shaven, and except for khaki shorts, he was naked.
"Stop shaking," he said with impatience.
She glanced down at her mangled leg. A single sound escaped and her world began to blur.
"Stop looking at it, you little fool." He caught her chin, jerking her head away so that she was forced to meet his stare.
Daniel studied her pale face, so tight with pain he could see lines etched around her pretty mouth. Sweat beaded on her brow. The marks of his fingers showed around her throat.
She was floating in a sea of pain, her vision blurred, until she felt at a distance from everything. She made an attempt to indicate that she was listening, but all she wanted was to feel blessed relief from the pain.
"Infections start quickly in the jungle. We're cut off by the river. This storm is a bad one and the river is nearly overflowing its banks. I can't get to the nearest village to help you so I have to take care of this the best I can. It's going to hurt."
"Knock me out," she whispered, her voice barely audible. "Please, knock me out." She pressed her hand to her mouth to stifle the hysterical scream welling up. The man's hand raised and went to her neck. At first she thought that he was going to strangle her.
Pressing a spot behind her ear, Daniel gave her the relief she wanted. It was not going to last, though. He stared down into her beautiful face, hating the idea of what he was about to do to her. He hated the idea of hurting her more, but it might be the only chance he had of saving her leg. He looked into her face, watched as his own fingers brushed damp tendrils of hair from her face, his touch gentle. He jerked his hand away as if her skin burned him. His heart did a weird somersault. He pulled a vial from a medical kit he'd gotten from a village doctor. Opening it, he clamped a hand around her leg, just above her knee, to hold her still. He poured the contents over the gaping wound.
Mai Li screamed, the sound tearing up through her ragged throat to pierce the walls of the small hut. She tried to fight him, tried to jerk into a sitting position, but his strength was too much. He held her down easily.
"I can't tell you anything," she screamed, the words strangled between trying to breathe through the pain and her swollen throat. "I know nothing. I swear. Hurting me not going to do you good." She looked at him, pleading, tears swimming in her dark eyes. "Please, I really don't know nothing."
"Shhh." He hated hurting her. "It's only to kill the germs and fight infection." He found himself murmuring the words, his tone unfamiliar. "I know it burns. Just lie still while I try to repair the damage."
"I think I will to be sick."
"Damn it." He held her head while she vomited into a bucket he dragged out from under the bed.
When she was done, she lay back, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, trying hard to force her brain to work. Weakness crept through her body so her arms felt heavy and she didn't want to lift her head.
"You've lost a lot of blood," he said tersely.
"Who are you?" The words came out as a whisper.
The only sound was the wind blowing through the trees and the rain pounding on the roof. Mai Li held her breath when he turned his gaze on her. He didn't blink. Her heart pounded in tune with the driving rain. He had a needle in his hand and bent closer to her leg.
Involuntarily she jerked away. "Can you not just wrap it?"
His hand clamped around her thigh, pinning her to the mattress, holding her still. "That animal made a damn mess of you. What kind of animal was it? It's all the way to the bone. The lacerations need stitches. There's nothing I can do about the puncture wounds. I don't like the looks of this. It isn't helping with you shaking so much."
"Sun bear," she answered. "It was...sun bear." She closed her eyes to block out the sight of her own blood. In spite of everything, all the while she was very aware of his big hand wrapped around her bare thigh. She flinched when the needle sank into her maimed flesh. As he worked on stitching her wounds, it felt like he was sawing at her leg with a dull blade. She wanted so much to suffocate herself with a pillow, but her hands weren't working properly. She could hear someone making high keening noises, making it impossible to lie still.
Grim-faced, Daniel held her down as he worked. He was grateful when she finally passed out, lying quietly, her breathing rapid, her pulse pounding. Her soft moaning and occasional wail of pain, was annoying. It took him over an hour in the faint light to stitch her up. Straightening, he sighed, wiping sweat from his face with the back of his hands, smearing her blood over his cheek.
He brushed back her black hair, frowning down at her white face. He felt her pulse. She'd lost a lot of blood and her skin was clammy. She was going into shock. He dragged a blanket over her and built a fire to heat a pot of water and added a smaller kettle to make coffee. It was going to be a long night and he needed to stay awake. While he waited for the water to boil he just gazed at the young woman. Seeing the marks on her neck from his fingers, was like a blow to his gut. Why he felt that way, he didn't know.
Taking off his khaki's, he went to make some coffee. He came to stand over her, sipping the hot liquid and studying her face. She stirred, moving restlessly, pain flickering across her face. He brushed back her hair with a gentle touch, wanting to soothe her, not wanting her to awaken when he couldn't ease her suffering.
Mai Li let out her breath slowly, afraid to open her eyes, afraid if she didn't. A rush of cool air hit her. She heard the door hit the wall. Her fingers curled around the blanket, tightening into a fist. She lifted her eyelids just enough to see, working to keep her breathing even. Daniel was standing in the doorway, naked. She shifted position and pain knifed through her.
"Stop moving around. You'll start bleeding again."
Her heart jumped when he moved toward her, his mouth twisting into a frown. "You're sweating." His palm settled on her forehead. "Do not get an infection. We are stuck here without help for the remainder of the storm."
Tears filled her eyes.
"Don't you dare cry." Her tears might turn him inside out. "The morphine is wearing off, isn't it? I didn't give you very much because I was afraid you would go into shock."
She reached for the tie on the piece of cloth that served as a skirt. "The pain so bad. Touch me, please."
Her gaze made his body react as if she physically touched him. She didn't seem to notice the effect she had on him, and he was grateful.
"If you not touch me, knock me out." She was shaking, a sure sign of fever. He had applied antibiotics earlier, but it was obviously not going to be enough. Daniel shook pills into his hand and helped her lift her head to swallow them. She pressed her teeth together, but a sound like a wounded animal escaped. "I'm sorry, but you have to swallow these." He had to remove the desperation from her eyes. She looked so helpless it twisted his gut into hard knots. He gave her another dose of morphine along with antibiotics and waited until her eyes clouded over.
Mai Li felt herself drifting away. The pain was there; she didn't want to move so that she didn't provoke it. Daniel backed away from her, she saw his manhood swinging as he moved. She couldn't keep herself from staring at him, although she tried to think off other things. The wind. The rain. Her lashes drifted down. She listened to the rain and shivered. She forced her eyes open to keep him in sight. She felt dreamy, disconnected from reality. He reminded her of a statue, the well defined muscles and well-proportioned ultra-masculine body. It seemed that he was totally at home without clothing, displaying no modesty whatsoever.
"You have beautiful body." The words slipped out before she could stop them. At first she thought someone else said them. Mai Li looked around to see if they were really alone. She had said it after all, and she meant it. The honesty in her voice didn't even make her blush or turn away when he looked over at her with his intense, focused gaze. She stared at him openly. She smiled dreamily. "It is the drugs talking. I never seen man with body as beautiful as yours."