The Flirty Dozen

"The Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops … among the plans was one for the development of an 'aphrodisiac' chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other …"—Newscientist.com

"What do you have for me, Colonel?"

"Sir, this is the preliminary report on the field test of Agent Mauve."

"Remind me."

"The aphrodisiac weapon?"

"Right—proceed."

"It's highly sensitive."

"Give it to me straight, Colonel."

"Testing was conducted on an unwitting platoon from the 75th Ranger Regiment."

"Damn fine unit."

"Yes, sir. Rangers lead the way. Hooah, hooah. Each man was administered a single dose of Agent Mauve with his morning MRE. The unit was then instructed to take and secure a strategic objective. A bridge."

"Yes?"

"There were difficulties getting the men to deploy."

"What sort of difficulties?"

"They refused to mount up until they were satisfied with the application of their facial camouflage. The major in command told the colonel in charge … his exact words were 'Cool your jets. I look like Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?' G-2 indicates it was a reference to a movie. One of Ms. Crawford's later movies, in which her physical appearance was not flattering."

"I never liked this whole program. And?"

"Eventually the war paint was to the major's satisfaction. Operation proceeded and the bridge was secured."

"Very good."

"At this point they mounted a—uh—runway show. Sir."

"Ran away? Rangers? Impossible."

"No, sir. 'Runway.' It's a fashion-industry term. The individual—that is, the clothing model—walks up and down on a horizontal platform approximately two meters wide by thirty meters long in a sexually provocative manner. The hips swivel laterally at a seventy-five-degree angle to the pelv—"

"Got it, Colonel."

"Sir. The counterassault was initiated by elements of the 101st Airborne and the 10th Mountain Division."

"And?"

"Counterassault was ineffective."

"Are you telling me the finest paratroop and light infantry units in the United States Army were repulsed by sexually disoriented Rangers staging some, some kind of a fashion show?"

"The Agent Mauve seems to have maximized the unit's esprit de corps. I have the after-action report here. Shall I … ?"

"Yes, yes—read. This isn't the same Army I joined."

"No, sir. 'Counterattack was initiated at 0620 hours. Red Force, consisting of two sticks of the 101, were dropped from a C-130 and took up offensive positions. Blue Force, consisting of two units of the 10th Mountain, opened the assault. Mauve Force—that would be the Rangers—engaged the Red and Blue Forces with (underlined) furious resistance. They were apparently very upset over their uniforms' being hit with paint pellets from the attackers' weapons. It was at this juncture …"

"Out with it, Colonel."

"… Mauve Force began returning fire with live ammunition."

"Good God. Casualties?"

"No casualties, sir. They fired over the heads of the attackers. However, that did cause Red and Blue Force to retire from the exercise with urgent dispatch."

"This is a disaster, Colonel. Of the first magnitude."

"That would be my assessment as well, sir."

"'It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.' Do you know who said that?"

"Robert E. Lee, sir?"

"Yes. Robert E. Lee. Bobby Lee. My God, he was handsome. Mounted on Traveller, with his gray tunic, the buttons, dress sword flashing in the sun. What's that odor?"

"Sorry, sir. There was a loose seal on the sample. Some Agent Mauve appears to have leaked onto the report."

"No, don't apologize. 'Colonel'—is that your first name? You have really nice shoulders. So, are you … regular Army?"

Presented by

Christopher Buckley is the author of eleven books, including the novel Florence of Arabia, from which excerpts were drawn for the September and October 2004 Atlantics.

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