28 May 2012

Military and Coca Cola

For God, Country, and Coca-Cola by Mark Pendergrast, 1999, Excerpts

Given the popularity and symbolic weight Coca-Cola achieved during WWII, it was predictable that Coca-Cola would bring a considerable amount of money on the black market and the informal commerce to soldiers. It seemed fitting that Mary Churchill, Winston’s daughter, should christen a new destroyer with a bottle of Coke. During the war years, explicit treatment of Coke-as-religion cropped up. Since the notion of a soft drink being worshipped was disconcerting, these references were often humorous. During the Battle of the Bulge, a priest was supplied with Coca-Cola in lieu of sacramental wine.

The Last Phoenix by Carl Douglass, 1997

In forty-five minutes they were in a helicopter over the South China Sea traveling at about three thousand feet. The moonlight shimmered and sparkled on the calm surface of the water casting beautiful but eerie shadows from the silhouettes of the archipelago of islands. There was a single US Navy destroyer making its way toward Danang and a few sampans sitting at anchor, the lamplights and cooking fires on their afterdecks creating dots of light on the surface of the black water.

The softly whimpering girl lay in the fetal position on the greasy steel deck of the chopper. The Nungs were each armed with a .45 and a cruel looking curved two-edged dagger. There were no signs of resistance, and none of the occupants talked until they were well out to sea. There was only the steady loud rattle of the craft’s engine and rotors to interrupt the silence of that starless night.

“You have one chance to repent and to make yourself clean. Do it now. If you don’t, you alone are responsible for your daughter’s fate.” Mr. Phan begged, cajoled, pleaded, and cried in a stream of nearly unintelligible Vietnamese. DuParrier shouted in the ear of the Nung guard seated next to him. The Chinese man roughly grabbed the diminutive girl by her blouse front and the belt of her blue pleated school uniform skirt. He easily lifted her off the vibrating floor and duck walked to the open door with the terrified girl.

“Tell me!” menaced DeParrier. “Five seconds!” was all he added. He looked straight into the stricken father’s eyes and began to lift the fingers of his right hand methodically.

Phan watched the number of fingers increase in horrified fascination. It was as if he were struck dumb. He dropped his face into the palms of his hands, and his body shuddered with his sobs. DeParrier jerked the captive man’s head up when the five seconds had elapsed. He nodded to the Nung.

The Chinese mercenary sneered at the girl then made a sign crossing two fingers in front of her as a mortal insult. Then he made a sudden violent jerking motion and pitched the hapless little girl into the black void. Her decrescendo screaming trailed off into the night.

Anders had heard and ignored rumors that the CIA backed system had condoned the torture and killing of old people, women, and even children, sometimes for mere sadism, sometimes for petty revenge. This reality he had just witnessed made even the worst of what he had heard about have a deep ring of truth.

First, Mr. Pham’s right arm and leg became flaccid and dangled like wet spaghetti at his side. The left side of his face became slack. He burbled unintelligently, emitting a nearly inaudible syllable salad. Then he slumped to his right. Phan Pho Ngo, the Coca Cola bottler and distributor for South Viet Nam, was dead. When his daughter flew out of the helicopter door, his blood pressure had shot off the manometer; a blood vessel deep in his brain burst from the strain and blew the left side of his cerebrum to pieces.

Duparrier gestured angrily at the two Nungs. They took hold of Phan’s limp body and pitched it unceremoniously out over the South China Sea. There would be no evidence of their night’s work.

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