Sidetracks: Michael Herr on Lurps

19 08 2008

A follow-up from HERE

Finally found that passage in Dispatches describing Lurps. 

I knew one 4th Division Lurp who took his pills by the fistful, downs from the left pocket of his tiger suit and ups from the right, one to cut the trail for him and the other to send him down it. He told me that they cooled things out just right for him, that he could see that old jungle at night like he was looking at it through a starlight scope. “They sure give you the range”, he said.

This was his third tour. In 1965 he’d been the only survivor in a platoon of the Cav wiped out going into the Ia Drang Valley. In 66 he’d come back with the Special Forces and one morning after an ambush he’d hidden under the bodies of his team while the VC walked all around them with knives, making sure. They stripped the bodies of their gear, the berets too, and finally went away, laughing. After that, there was nothing left fort him in the war except the Lurps. (…)

I think he slept with his eyes open, and I was afraid of him (…) He wore a gold earring and a headband torn from a piece of camouflage parachute material, and since nobody was about to tell him to get his hair cut it fell below his shoulders, covering a thick purple scar. Even at division he never went anywhere without at least a .45 (…)

His face was all painted up for night walking now like a bad hallucination, not like the painted faces I’d seen in San Francisco only a few weeks before, the other extremum of the same theatre. In the coming hours he’d stand as faceless and quiet in the jungle as a fallen tree, and God help his opposite numbers unless they had at least half a squad along, he was a good killer, one of our best. The rest of his team were gathered outside the tent, set a little outside apart from the other division units, with its own Lurp-designated latrine and its own exclusive freeze-dry rations, three-star war food, the same chop they sold at Abercrombie & Fitch. The regular division troops would almost shy off the path when they passed the area on their way to and from the mess tent. No matter how toughened up they became in the war, they still looked innocent compared to the Lurps.








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