After the four operatives had pulled the boat into the jungle and covered it with tree limbs and brush, they sat down on a fallen tree to rest. It was getting lighter, and they began hearing the calls of a few dozen birds. By sunrise they saw doves, woodpeckers, and kingfishers flying about the trees and many other birds that they could not identify.
Adam told them that he had been fishing in the Andaman Sea waters since he was five years old; that was thirty years ago. At eighteen, he had enlisted in the Indian army and trained as a ranger. He spent the majority of his four-year enlistment stationed in New Delhi. After he resigned from the army, he moved to Rangoon and started his own fishing business. Just before the Japanese invaded Rangoon in 1942, he sold his business to his brother-in-law and brought his family to the Andaman Islands. There, he was contacted by the SOE and had been in their employ ever since.
He told the agents that he had smuggled a small team of British commandos into Rangoon harbor where they blew a tanker full of aviation fuel. Afterwards, he got them safely out of the harbor and rendezvoused with a PBY. He had worked with the British commandos four other times before this mission.
“It’s a small world, Adam,” Jon said. “I think we met your brother-in-law on a mission a while back. Does he have a forty-foot fishing boat with twin diesel engines behind a hidden bulkhead and go by the name of Captain Ahab?”
Adam nodded and said, “That would be him.”
Jon was glad to have Adam. And his family ties to Captain Ahab put Jon more at ease. His ranger training meant another gun if they ran into Japs. Adam told them that he had been stopped by a Japanese patrol boat and boarded the previous day. And he had seen the boat twice more before the scheduled rendezvous with the submarine. Being extremely cautious, he decided not to fly the green pennant given him by the SOE. Instead, he flew the red one indicating something was wrong and to abort the primary rendezvous.
Jon was hoping that the Jap patrol wouldn’t mean trouble on their exit from the island. But his worry now was getting to Mt. Thuillier. As Miles and Henri were getting the ammunition, grenades, and explosives unpacked, Jon put the shrunken head around his neck and began applying the Kachin warrior colors to his face. When he noticed Miles and Henri laughing at him, he stopped and said, “Hey, I’m the great Kachin warrior, Kaubra,” which only made Miles and Henri laugh that much harder. Jon, slightly agitated, said, “For crying out loud, guys, focus on getting ready. This outfit might just scare the Japs to death.”
Jon set his map on the sand and had Adam look at the planned route. With only a few deviations to the plan to avoid walking through the middle of several saltwater marshes, Adam agreed to the route. It would take them around several miles of mangrove forests and up a nine hundred-foot climb through forested valleys and would eventually end up at the base of the Mt. Thuillier. They would still have to avoid the marshes and cross one small stream, but it was the most direct route possible. With Adam in the lead, followed by Jon, Miles, and Henri, they left the beach and headed inland skirting the mangroves and hacking their way through the ten-foot-high elephant grass.
As they got deeper into the mangrove forests, which were a combination of palm, plumbago, hibiscus, holly, and a dozen other varieties of trees and scrubs, the heat and humidity began to worsen. Every hour they stopped to rest and burned the leeches off of each other’s body. As they walked the edges of the saltwater marshes; they noticed crabs, turtles, water snakes, and the occasional group of long-tailed macaques; which Adam explained was a small, crab-eating monkey that made a great meal. Jon told Adam he had tried cobra, barking deer, and grubs, so, why not monkey. However, if he ran across a wild pig, he told Adam, he would shoot it with his silenced pistol, and they could have it for supper; after they had taken out the Jap spotter location.
Two hours into their trek, Adam put his hand up and signaled for all to stop. Jon came forward to where Adam was crouching. Adam motioned in the direction of the mangrove, where it made a curve and whispered to Jon.
“Japanese soldier,” Adam said.
“How many?” Jon asked.
“Just one. He’s probably down here hunting monkey or fishing.”
“Let me take the lead.
Jon pulled his silenced pistol out of its holster and worked his way forward with Adam close behind. Jon slowly moved from behind the grass and aimed the pistol at the head of the Japanese soldier ten yards away. Still unaware of their presence, the Jap holding a string of fish in his hand finally turned towards Jon and Adam. When the Jap finally noticed Jon’s painted face and the shrunken head dangling from his neck, he began screaming. He dropped his string of fish and his rifle and continued screaming as he stepped backward. He was so frightened that he fell backwards into the mangrove swamp. Jon raised his gun to fire, when a large saltwater crocodile grabbed the thrashing and screaming soldier and hauled him under the water. Jon was too stunned to say anything and kept looking at the place where the Jap went under. Miles came up alongside of him shaking his head.
“I have to admire your technique, Jon. I swear, mate, I’ll never joke about your Kachin warrior getup ever again,” Miles said.
Jon looked up at Miles, “I told you, we needed to avoid the swamps. Did you see that croc? He must have been fifteen feet long!”
Adam told them they needed to move and keep a sharp lookout for more Japs. Soon they were moving out of the mangroves and climbing the four hundred-foot contours into the dense tropical rain forest. When they stopped to rest, Adam moved up the trail to do some recon. Jon handed Miles and Henri several long sticks of pork jerky to snack on.
“Where did you get this, mate?” Miles asked.
“I had a Kachin Ranger make it for me.”
“It’s quite good. Is it sun dried? Henri questioned.
“No, it’s smoked.”
“Good, I was beginning to wonder if I should be looking for maggots before I ate anymore.” Henri replied jokingly.
Adam returned and told the trio that the trail appeared clear, but it would be tougher going for the rest of the climb.
“It’s a steep climb. And I still can’t see Mt. Thuillier. The canopy is too dense,” Adam remarked.
By 1000 hours, they had reached the base of Mt. Thuillier; nine hundred feet above sea level. As the four rested, Jon noticed the outcropping of the igneous rock formed from the cooling and solidification of volcanic lava. Because the rock was so old, it was cracked and loose. The higher they climbed, the harder it became to remain absolutely silent. They had to become even more cautious when the team reached the area where the caves were supposed to be located. By 1600 hours, they had reached the elevation of the spotter location. Cautiously they began moving around to the west and then the south face of Mt. Thuillier. It was there that they found the first cave and signs of human activity. Empty tin cans, rice bags, and sake bottles, had been thrown into the jungle below and littered the side of the mountain. They could even smell the urine and feces where it had seeped downhill.