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Page 32
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<< 31. We, The People33. "A Happy Moving Party" >>

Operation Egg-Lob: Scrambling with VVAW

By Freeman Hobs Allan

[Printer-Friendly Version]

January, 1973

1. Anti-war contingent
fenced in by DC buses.
2. VVAW Op team makes ready.
3. Mad bomber down range.

It was the Prague Spring of 1968 and citizens of Czechoslovakia were in the streets demonstrating for freedom. Demanding that Soviet troops and political bosses go home. I arrived in Wuerzburg Germany that summer, just as the east block tanks rolled into Prague. The Cold War was already very hot in Vietnam, where thousands of US troops were debarking and digging in for the bloody seven years still to come. Now a hot war in Europe seemed imminent too.

US strategy, Europe, back then: Do not be an aggressor. USAREUR consisted of four line divisions backed by 7th Air Force in Ramstein. Mine was the Third Infantry Division. We were tripwire units tasked to hold ground until backup could arrive. Now, as a 2nd lieutenant, I was division counterintelligence officer. Our mission was tactical nuke and classified document security, while our sister unit, the spooks, was frantically tasking agent sources across the border. We needed order of battle on the Soviets, badly, so we could re-deploy our line units and get ready. We especially needed to know how east block tac-nukes were being redeployed.

For that winter, 3rd Inf Div was quietly preparing for the possibility of tactical nuclear war along the border. Our atomic mines were in place to blow mountains and deny road access to hostile armor and infantry invading Western Europe. Hundreds of divisions, primarily Soviet and East German, were just across the border. It's a forgotten crisis now, but our little NATO umbrella was braced for potential heavy rain.

By March 1969, Brezhnev's iron glove had crushed the Czech revolt. Slowly things returned to cold war normal. Garrison duty. FTX's. Armor and Arty range-firing at Grafenwoehr and Wildflecken, the big, remote training areas. I was assigned to two-man control, the last link in firing division tac-nuke missiles if the balloon went up. But day to day, my agents and I did security clearance interviews. We were also tasked with tracking US soldiers who had begun deserting the Army and going to France or Sweden rather than accept orders to Vietnam.

It was while studying these men's lives and motives that my personal politics started changing. I had trained for Vietnam myself at Bragg and Benning, a newly-minted ROTC butterbar. Now the jungle war was on the far side of the globe from me. Tracking soldiers who were refusing to go there got me reading, thinking, and soul-searching.

My dad had commanded D Co., 28th Marines, one of the five line units that captured Mt. Surabachi on Iwo Jima. I was a Deep South kid raised up to serve our country with pride and dedication. Now, was I becoming one of the very "subversives" whom my intel mission said must be interdicted?

I pushed that thought away and did my job. I had no TV, and little access to the ferment building in the anti-war movement back home. But as I studied SLA Marshall and the actual history of Vietnam, the French colony handed off to the US, I understood a fierce civil war was taking place. We Americans took pride in supporting the ARVN defending South Vietnam's freedom. Right? Here's the slippery slope I was coming up against: in a way, the North Vietnamese demand for freedom and self-determination, it was the same thing — on the other side of the cold war, yeah, but really the same thing — that the Prague Spring had just been about. Get the Masters of War off our home territory, so we can decide our own politics.

Was this traitor thinking? I generally avoided the officer's club. I had no one but my wife to ponder with. As my DEROS approached, we decided to take discharge in Europe. Sort of our own private ex-pat war protest. We moved out on the economy. I found work as a journalist.

The major story I broke was that black GI's were getting ITT'd direct from Nam to Europe. Back home, this was the post-MLK assassination, militant civil rights era. COINTELPRO was in full swing. Black Panthers were targets of the FBI. The US Army did not want men with automatic weapons training returning to ghetto streets. When shortimers from Nam hit Long Beach CA, the white guys were dispersed out to US bases until their date of discharge. But now, black soldiers, many with big afros and militant attitudes, they were flown next day to Ft. Dix. Less than a week after leaving Cam Ranh Bay, they were up at Graf, qualifying tanks for war against the Sovs.

It was called an Inter-Theater Transfer. It was the Army's de facto policy, 1969-72, for damping down black unrest on US streets. Now that unrest, coupled with hash-smoking dissident white soldiers, began contributing to a massive breakdown of order and discipline in Europe. Black GI's were enraged at unofficial Army racism. There was huge disparity between white and black soldiers in making rank. The Cracker lifers refuse to give me my rightful promotion, this was a universal black soldier complaint. There were fraggings at Grafenwoehr.

My stories in the Herald Tribune, the Overseas Weekly, alerted Time and Newsweek. The facts of USAREUR's collapse of battle-readiness and imploded morale became a Pentagon crisis. Vietnam was proving to the Masters of War that unpopular conflicts could no longer rely on citizen soldiers. The US required a professional and all-volunteer Army. Fast forward four decades, and we can see the harsh multi-tour impact of this policy on our soldier-brothers' lives today.

Back then, I finally came home to Washington DC, continuing as a journalist covering military matters. The Nixon era increased my personal polarization. I began hanging out with a small group of VVAW guys in Adams-Morgan, the counter-culture area of DC near Dupont Circle. We all had buddies scarred from Vietnam service. There were street demos, days of rage against the war. I admired Dan Ellsberg, and read how Nixon had used Kissinger to stymie the Paris peace talks that could have ended things back in late1968.

I had served honorably. Now I crossed over. Operation Linebacker II, December 18-29, 1972, would become the culmination of Nixon's promise that "the bastards have never been bombed like they're going to be bombed this time."

Just a few months back, I found myself down in my basement, thinkin' bout the govament. Because that was when some old photos I ran across brought the whole story just above flooding back into my memory. Our President's campaign slogan back then had suddenly taken on an urgent meaning for us VVAW's: Nixon's the One.

While everyone remembers Linebacker II, its horror-show of destruction during the annual celebration of the Christ-child's birth, almost no one knows about "Operation Inaugural Egg-Lob," which occurred eggzackly 22 days after the bombing ceased. It was a tiny, sort of black ops direct response to the Christmas Bombings. Okay, okay. Maybe it was an egg-yolk-yellow ops response.

Five of us DC-Vietnam Vets Against the War (only 2 officially members, at the time) decided to channel our rage regarding Linebacker. Using mortar skills honed in Basic Training (as well as in the Nam, for 3 of us), we each stowed a dozen eggs into our fatigue jackets, assembled in the Protester Zone on Jan. 20, 1973, and awaited our targets, code named Tricky and Spiteful. The DC Tactical Squad had herded everyone with protest signs into one block, just where the parade route turned north off Pennsylvania Avenue.

Bands came by. Lots of patriotic pizzazz. And then, big black limos, targets in sight. The attached photos tell the rest of the story. The gist: 60 rounds downrange, a lot of splatter on two limos as well as a disgruntled gang of Secret Service guys, and approximately 14 direct hits inside those convertibles. We five made a point of standing one line back from the curb, using this screen to mask our lobbing action. In the anti-war protest melee of sound, most folks had no idea what was going down. Except, hmmm... why were those SS guys suddenly jumping up on the limos, frantically raising hands like catcher's mitts?

As the two limousines turned the corner, Bob, Jerry, Erl, Tom and I looked behind us. The Tac Squad, beating clubs on plastic shields, was moving in to disperse Americans practicing their free rights of assembly. Some of us had been clobbered by these fellows over at a Pentagon protest. We ex-filtrated swiftly. The next month I sent the IRS a letter: Put me in jail, but no more napalm-taxes from me. We are legally empowered to escrow them from your bank account, came the reply. See if you can find me, I wrote back. I quit my job, obtained an alias and new ID (courtesy of one of those egg-throwing friend's skill sets), and began a seven-year standoff with Tricky Dick.

Several times he sent IRS minions from Charlottesville out into the mountains looking for me. I did blue collar work: carpentry, farm tractoring, eight months in the Louisiana oil patch, ex-pat years in India and Central America. Then one day, bumping down a dirt road in my pickup, I heard news on the radio: The US government had dropped charges of fraud against Nixon, who had over-quoted the value of his presidential papers by several million dollars. But now the seven year statute of limitations had run out on his tax crime, without those charges being prosecuted.

Light bulb went off. If it worked for Tricky, maybe my own tiny tax-crime also could be nol prossed. In 1980 I called the IRS. Sir, we want you back on the tax rolls, they said. Look, tens of thousands did like you did back then. President Carter's amnesty says all you have to do is just file next April. No consequences. No jail time.

I've been legal now for over three decades. Still protesting. A Vet for Peace. But, in theory at least, using rights I do possess under the Constitution. The story remembered here happened a long time ago. These days out in our quiet Blue Ridge cabin I don't think about it much. Except for once in a while, when making breakfast, I find myself scrambling eggs.

Freeman Hobs Allan has worked as a prep school teacher, professional fisherman in Alaska and Ecuador, rigger in the Louisiana oilpatch and as co-founder of an artisan cooperative in Bengal India. His memoir at www.SacredSourceBook.com shares one man's unusual quest for achieving personal as well as world peace.

4. Stop the war!
5. Men in trenchcoats
spot incoming rounds -
Pat looks nervous.
6. Spiro's guy scrambles
to block an egg.
7. Spiro's limo guns
away around the corner.

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