1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



A Night Mission
Dan Duff

The small group of men crossed the bridge one and two at a time. Some stopped to survey the damage while others slowed down the pace of their walk to catch a glimpse of the damage they had done the night before. All of them had to be gloating within themselves for what they had done. The job had been done and done completely.

There were no casualties. Every man was accounted for. This within itself was the most notable of all the facts about this raid. There should have been casualties and there should be men undergoing hours of grueling questioning by the local constabulary. There was none of this. The men were walking and talking among the towns people as though it were a Sunday stroll after church. The bright sunshine was glistening off the surface of the water below the bridge and there was not a cloud in the sky. One by one the men crossed the bridge and melted into the community and into the country side like a whisk of smoke from a fresh stoked fire coming from a chimney.

Three nights ago this raid had been planned. The scouting reports had been studied until everyone knew them by heart. Each man had his own job plus each one had a buddy. They not only knew their job in the operation, but they knew what the guys next to them were supposed to be doing. This way if any team or team member failed in their task or was lost before the operation got under way their job would be covered.

The rain had beaten down so hard that at midnight the raid was called off until the next evening. This was far too important a task to risk loosing everything in a drenching rain. The rain continued all the next day and into the early evening. The men had gone to the staging area for a second night only to see their hopes of completing their mission dashed once again on the rain.

Early the third morning the men one by one drifted toward the pre selected staging area to meet and go over last minute details. They were able to get a radio and hear that the low pressure system was moving out and that the next three or four days were to be clear. The men agreed to meet at the jump off point at ten thirty PM. Wear dark and if you talk, whisper. The raid is top secret so tell no one where you are going.

Shortly before 11pm the men had settled across the river from the enemy camp. The moon was full and once each man’s vision was accustomed to the darkness it was almost like daylight. The men could see the reflections of the mountains and tree lines on the surface of the water.

They could see the enemy camp across the river and the movement of men around the campfires. They could also see the sentries walking their posts. The leader was whispering to the group that everything was exactly as the intelligence reports indicated. They all knew what it would be like if the intelligence was wrong. If things were not as they expected, they might have to again abort the mission until new intelligence could be brought in and analyzed. Their luck was running well as they surveyed the situation. The men were nervous and some were scared enough to turn and run. All it would have take would be for one man to run. None did.

At the last minute before wading into the water that separated the men from the camp, they decided to strip down to their skivies. If by chance later tonight they were found or caught they would be dry and wet clothes would be a dead give-a-way.

Now almost nude and with only the equipment to do the job the six brave men glided silently into the water. There would be no more talking from here. One uttered word could spell disaster. One loud splash would alert the opposite bank and flood lights would light up the area like midday.

Closer they moved toward the enemy camp. Even though is was mid August, and the air temperature almost at eighty, the men shivered as they were crossing. The current in the middle was running at a good pace and the men had to swim against the force of the water to keep from drifting down stream. At one point the leader wished they had gotten into the water farther up stream so they didn’t have to fight against the current. It was too late for that now. All they could do was work a little harder and get the job done as had been planned.

The men knew something else too. This would be a very small victory in the great scheme of things if they could pull this off. They knew that the enemy who had come in and set up their camp was far more powerful than this small band of raiders. The enemy would be able to recover and undo all the damage these men would do tonight.

The main objective here was to make a statement. A statement that said “we will not be conquered without a fight.” The enemy would be able to walk the streets in the daylight, but after tonight, they would have to stand watch every moment until they left. Every night while the raiders sleep in peace, the enemy camp would have to wait in anticipation of another raid.

The men had reached the middle of the river and the wooden structure that was anchored by cables to the bottom of the river. As several men held to the structure and watched the bank of the enemies camp for movement, two men went under with bolt cutters. Two muffled sounds of the cables being cut and the structure began drifting with the current.

The men again swam silently to the opposite bank away from the enemy camp, donned their clothes and started the walk back down the railroad tracks toward the small town. No one talked as they walked. They knew this was one of those things that happen and you don’t talk about it to anyone else. There would be the usual suspects picked up tomorrow morning and among them would be this six. The local police department would hold a official investigation and each man would be brought in and questioned. The towns people would suspect who the men were who did the deed, but deep down inside they didn’t really want to know who they were. After all, it was the town itself, as much as the men who did the job, who wanted to make the same statement. Would anyone be punished for this deed. Yes in fact there would be.

The next morning twenty five to thirty canoes would drift down from camp Greenbrier and retrieve the swimming dock that would be caught in the shallows just below the bridge that separated the town of Alderson. They would work for a couple of hours to get that dock back up the mile or so of river to the camp, then another eight hours or so to re-anchor the thing in the middle of the river.

There would be whispers in the night around the Snack Shack and the billboard at the end of the bridge through the fall and winter months until it came summer again and another group of young men would plan and work for their time when they too would make their statement to these intruders of summer, by cutting the docks at Camp Greenbrier.