Monday, March 09, 2015

Fraggin' the Louie.

Some years back I first heard the term "fraggin' the louie" or "looey" or "lieuie". It doesn't matter how it's spelled, it's the intent that counts.

What it refers to is execution. Specifically the execution of one's own immediate superior officer in the military. And where it originated, as far as I've been able to gather, is from our military misadventure in Vietnam.

The "fraggin'" part refers to a hand grenade which is, officially, a fragmentation device. That is, it's a shell of metal that fragments into flesh-ripping bits when the explosive core is detonated. A truly sick and hideous tool of murder.

The "louie" is an abbreviation for Lieutenant. Lieutenants are the bottom rung of the officer corps, just above the enlisted men of Sergeant rank and below.

Fraggin' said louie is what happens when the young officer pisses off the enlisted men to such an extent that he marks himself for death at the hands of the enlisted men. I'd read about such things many times, but I got to hear about it first hand from a soldier some years back.

One day a military veteran happened to show me some photographs. One of them was of a thin, young, very dark-skinned man walking about in the brush with no shirt on and sporting a military cap. "Who is this?" I asked him.

"It's me," he told me.

"What?!" The reason for my complete surprise is that the veteran is not only a white guy, but a very pale-skinned white guy. I peered closely at the photo and decided that he wasn't kidding me. I could see his youthful features on the dark man's face.

"In the fire base where I lived the sun would bake you dark in nothing flat," he explained. "You start to look like the locals after a while."

I asked him what it was like being at a forward fire base (so called because they're at the edge of enemy territory and often involved in active firing of weapons in all directions). And somehow the conversation drifted to the above-mentioned phenomenon of "fraggin' the louie".

"Ever happen anywhere you were stationed?" I asked.

And the floodgate opened up which will sometimes happen when you're talking to a military veteran. Often, these guys don't like to talk about the things they did and the things they saw. Yes, there are rare exceptions, but those folk I have found are assholes whose presence I cannot tolerate and who are more often than not, borderline psychopaths. This guy is not in that league and would rarely bring up the action he saw or faced. The only reason any of this conversation took place was that he had brought those photos in to show to another veteran and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

"Well, I saved a guy from getting assassinated once," he explained. "This lieutenant was new and high on his authority and was placed in charge of the base." He paused. "Now, we had an understanding with the locals--the VC. We stayed inside the borders of the firebase and didn't bother them, and they stayed outside the base and didn't try to kill us. It kept us all from getting killed.

"But along comes this new officer in charge and he was hot to start patrols and find the VC and kill them. We tried to talk him out of it, but he wasn't having any of that shit. So he sent us out and the VC got pissed off and started shelling the base and shooting at us. Some guys got killed.

"One night a corporal called a meeting and we all sat down and it was decided to kill that fucking asshole. Someone would toss a grenade into his hooch while he was sleeping and that would be the end of it. But he was green and I argued that we shouldn't kill him. Not right then. I suggested a warning to see if he'd listen to reason."

"What kind of warning?" I asked.

"Well," he said. "Someone rolled two grenades onto the roof of his hooch. They went off and didn't kill him or even injure him. But it scared the shit out of him in the dead of night."

"What happened?"

"He straightened out. No more patrols. He got the message. We went back to sitting inside the base and smoking reefer and the VC went back to not shooting at us."

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