“As you were,” instructed the Admiral, ”Everybody has been asking what the hell an obsolete seaplane tender and her equally obsolete seaplanes are doing here in Vietnam. The answer is plenty. We have a critical part to play in bringing this conflict to a quick and decisive end. Mister Burrell will fill you in on the details.”
“Good morning gentlemen and aviators.” He smiled at Jerry and Psycho. “For any fighting force to function effectively they must be provided with supplies. These include food as well as munitions. Cut the support chain and you eliminate the combatant’s ability to fight.
We have long ago severed all major transportation arteries to the north. Vietnamese logistics support is now down to this.”
A bicycle with large baskets on either side flashed onto the projection screen.
“And this,” a battered junk under full sail appeared.
“This small boat can easily carry as much as two deuce and a halves. It can deliver goods anywhere on the coast and a significant distance up any of the major rivers. Stop these boats and you stop the North Vietnamese. Stopping these boats is what we are all about.
Fast patrol boats are being used on the bays and rivers to stop and search suspicious traffic.”
“Excuse me,” interrupted Jerry, “Just how is suspicious traffic identified?”
“We have developed a profile of conspirators.”
“Once you start stopping every boat matching a certain profile, don’t you think they will change their profile?” Jerry suggested.
“Leopards don’t change their spots.”
“But people are smarter than leopards, that’s why leopards don’t go around wearing people skin coats,” said Psycho.
“May we stick to subject matter?” requested the Admiral.
“Previously the P5M’s participation has been limited to locating alleged supply craft on the high sea and then directing surface craft for search and interdiction.
In spite of all our efforts, supplies are getting through. We must tighten our net. We must make better use of our resources. One wasted resource is the attack capability of the P5M Marlin.”
“Ain’t she beautiful,” Psycho whispered to Jerry when the seaplane appeared on the screen.
“Marlins equipped with two hundred fifty pound bombs are now authorized to destroy enemy supply vessels,” continued the Major.
“Whoa just a minute, sir,” exclaimed Psycho, “I think there’s something you need to know before you go on. The P5 was designed to drop guided torpedoes where close is good enough. Trying to hit one of those tiny boats will just be pissing in the wind. And then if you do hit one, those wooden pieces of shit won’t even slow the bomb down. We might as well throw rocks at them.”
“Our analysts show the probability of successful bomb runs with the P5M are sufficient to make this a viable mission.”
“I’d bet those analyst have never flown a P5,” cracked Psycho.
“And you, sir, have,“ countered the Burrell, “That is why you are Special Weapons and Tactics Officer for this operation. If our ideas don’t work, it is your responsibility to come up with alternate means to eliminate enemy supply vessels.”
”Oh shit,” said Psycho quietly.
“You will begin patrols today. The regular squadron will arrive in a couple weeks. By that time we expect a complete encounter scenario.”
“Are we expected to land and search these boats?” asked Jerry.
“No. That’s where other the special capabilities of the P5M come into play,” explained the Major, “In regards to waterborne contraband we have some experience. Along with extended patrol capability, target identification was immediately recognized as the chief stumbling block for air interdiction. By recalibrating the P5M’s anomaly detection equipment we have solved the problem of identifying wooden craft carrying large amounts of munitions. When one of those boats set’s off the metal detector we send it to the bottom.”
“What if they’re just taking a new refrigerator back home to grandma?” asked Psycho.
“You win some, you lose some,“ Burrell stated flatly, “You’ll begin operations today at twelve hundred hours. Critiques will follow your eight-hour mission. Patrols will be modified according to your findings. Good luck and good hunting.“
“Ten hut,” the aide called as the Admiral left the room.
Jerry sat staring at his coffee cup. Psycho’s brow was furrowed in deep thought.