The Road Less Traveled
April 19th, 1936, 16:35 pm…Industrial District, Hailar…
It had taken an hour for the smoke to sufficiently clear from the warehouse for Major Li and his men to move in and investigate. During that waiting period, all the wounded personnel of Major Li’s command had been accounted for and had been either treated on the spot or taken to the local hospital. Cutter and Nose had been two of the later along with one man from the rear entry team with severe burns on his back.
Li Gathered Lieutenant Chen’s team together to inspect the warehouse as they had come through unscathed as they had been watching the intersections during the fire fight. They moved slowly through the warehouse from one end to the other making sure there was no one left inside, either wounded or rebels. Li had not expected to find any of the later.
Li had Chen position the men around the warehouse to secure the area while he first inspected the truck that was parked at the rear of the building. While he was in the middle of doing this, Lieutenant Chan joined him.
“Well”, said Li, “how would you rate this, a victory or a defeat?”
Chen looked into the back of the truck. “To soon to say sir. Preliminary investigation would lead me to declare this a tactical defeat, but a strategic victory. But, I would wait until we are through with the investigation before making any final conclusions.”
Li looked at Chen with some new found respect. “Exactly. So, lets see what we have here.”
Investigation of the truck revealed two crates of rifles, three crates of sub machineguns, two boxes of grenades, and six crates of ammunition. “Looks like we have grabbed a nice little haul here”, declared Li.
Chen nodded in the affirmative but had a concerned look on his face. “On the surface it would seem that way sir, but looks are deceiving.”
Li eyed Chen. “Explain Lieutenant.”
“Yes sir. If you would please follow me”, as he turned and walked towards the rear entry door. Li’s eyebrow rose momentarily, then he followed Chen.
When the were almost at the door, Chen stopped. “Look here sir. This is where the explosive was placed that incapacitated the rear entry team. Now, from what I heard outside, and what was reported by some of the other men, it was a loud explosion, yet none of the men were killed.” Chen turned and walked a few feet towards the center of the warehouse, stopped and pointed up.
“If you look up here sir, you will see a small balcony. The only way to access the balcony is this rope here. The balcony does not connect to anything related to loading or unloading of vehicles and accesses no equipment. This can only mean one thing.”
Li looked up at the balcony. “And what is that?”
“It was put there for observation purposes. If you look to the front of the building sir, you will see an identical balcony accessed by a rope. I am sure if we were to climb up to these balconies we would find camouflaged view ports to the outside.”
Li’s eyes narrowed as Chen spoke.
“If you will follow me sir.” Chen started to walk to the front of the building, not bothering to check if Li was following. Li turned from the balcony and strode quickly to catch up with Chen. As they came abreast of the oddly stacked crates in the center of the warehouse, Chen stopped and waited for Li to catch up.
“Look here sir”, said Chen, indicating the line of crates that Li and his men had taken cover behind during the fight. “Those crates were place specifically to block your view of the interior of the building until you had split your men and funneled them through the kill zones at either end.” Li’s face was starting to grow red with anger.
“And if you look here sir,” said Chen as he walked into the circle of crates in the middle and kneeled down. Li fallowed him over and kneeled next to Chen. Chen pointed. Li looked up through the perfect firing port between the crates and saw that it opened toward the side he had come around the line of crates. Chen then pointed at the other openings around the perimeter of the crates and realized he was kneeling in a fortified position.
Chen stood and pulled his bayonet. He slowly pried the top off one of the crates. He looked at Li and motioned for him to look into the crate. “Sand sir, and if you open all of these, you will most likely find the same thing. This leads to only one conclusion sir.”
Li looked at Chen, the anger burning inside him. “This was an ambush”, he growled. “They knew we were coming, and thEY BLOODY WELL AMBUSHED US!” he roared.
“Yes sir” Chen said quietly. “But that is not the worst of it.”
Li spun towards Chen. “There’s worse?”
“Yes sir” Chen said. “Look at this set up sir. They had you. Dead to rights, they had you. The rear entry team was incapacitated as soon as they spread out after coming through the door. Both you team and Cutters were in perfect kill zones, and yet only two men are hit with actual bullets. The rest are all cuts and abrasions from flying debris. Look at the front row of crates sir. You can see where their aiming point was.”
Li looked at the row of crates. Most of the rounds had impacted on the highest row, six to eight feet above the ground, and well over the heads of the Imp. Sec. Men that had sheltered behind them.
“Sir,” said Chen, “you are alive, because they want you alive. That truck is there full of weapons because they want you to have it. Sir, do you want my professional assessment of the action now?”
Li’s mouth hung open at everything that Chen had pointed out. He snapped his teeth together and slowly turned to look at Chen. Calmly, “Yes Chen, what is your assessment?”
“Sir, we just had our asses handed to us. Our men are not trained for military operations, and that is exactly what this was. We lost tactically, and strategically. And what concerns me most sir, is that our enemy, whomever it is, can afford to sacrifice weapons to make sure we keep in the game. Sir, can I ask a question?”
“Who the hell are we up against?” asked Chen.
Li slowly looked around the warehouse. “I wish I knew Lieutenant, I really wish I knew.”