constitution, so the government cannot fairly be called a junta or a

dictatorship. King Bhumibol, incidentally, is also head of the armed


Buckley continued to talk, explaining that documentaries, travelogues,

informational pieces, and VD films would be broadcast over the

closed-circuit channel for the next several days, but he was certain

that most of the crew were no longer listening. He’d been on the other

end of such broadcasts more than once, going all the way back to his

days in Nam, and he knew that by now the sailors would be more

interested in the stories being told by the old hands who’d been to

Bangkok before. Those stories would have less to do with Thailand or

its culture than with favorite bars and sexual exploits.

Bangkok’s rep as a sin city where anything could be had for a price made

it one of the Navy’s all-time favorite liberty ports, and nothing he or

any DOD instructional film had to say about it would change that one


He glanced at the clock on the wall and saw that he was down to his last

few minutes of scheduled broadcast time.

“That brings me to Jefferson’s mission in these waters, men. Our ship

has been ordered to the Gulf of Thailand to show American support for

the present government in Bangkok. The insurrection in the northern

part of the country has been getting worse in recent weeks, and there

have been rumors, unsubstantiated, of a possible coup–like the one by

the Young Turks in ’81–by officers who feel the government should be

reacting more decisively to the rebel threat.

“As most of you know by now, our operations with That military forces

began this morning, when we started flying joint missions with them over

northern Thailand. By this time you’ve heard the rumors that some of

our planes tangled with unknown aircraft this afternoon, up near the

Burmese border. I can tell you categorically that, while strange planes

were intercepted, they were turned back at the border and no shots were

fired at or by American aircraft.

“Our intervention in Thailand is intended as a gesture only, a show of

support for the Bangkok government.

“So tomorrow, Jeffersons, we will be anchoring at the That naval base at

Sattahip. If conditions ashore remain peaceful, liberty should commence

for all hands on a rotating basis, beginning at 1700 hours tomorrow


The director signaled with a slashing motion across his throat, and the

camera dollied in for a parting close-up. “Well, men, I see my time is

up. A reminder that water conservation is in effect, so remember your

proper Navy shower technique. This is Master Chief Buckley, signing off

for What’s the Gouge?”

The battery of lights dimmed and the director stepped past the camera.

“Good show, Master Chief.”

“Thanks, Pete. You think anybody was listening?”

The other chief laughed. “They heard ‘ten days in Bangkok.”” I think

the ship gave a little shudder just then. Hey, you ever get a real,

honest-to-goodness Patpong massage?”

He grinned. “Many times, Chief. Very relaxing.”

“So what do you think, Master Chief? What are the chances for things

to stay quiet for the whole ten days?”

Buckley smiled as he unclipped the microphone from around his neck.

Every man aboard was probably wondering the same thing. If the students

started throwing rocks again, liberty would be canceled so fast it would

make the collective heads of the Jefferson’s crew spin. “I don’t know,

Pete. The word is the That army has things in hand.”

He hoped it would stay that way. He wondered about those Chinese

fighters. Every man aboard knew that the Burmese didn’t have Shenyang


So where had they come from? And why? There was no way in hell that

anyone could convince him that those planes had been flown by Communist

That rebels!

Master Chief Buckley was a naturally optimistic man, but he had a bad

feeling about this one. Too much was unknown … including the identity

of the enemy.

He just hoped the Jefferson wasn’t sailing into something she couldn’t


2010 hours, 14 January

Crew’s lounge, U.S.S. Thomas Jefferson

Most of Jefferson’s crew had heard Master Chief Buckley’s broadcast.

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Categories: Keith Douglass