Occasionally, they allowed us to ride on our “confiscated” 6X6 down to
Once I got water blisters so bad that I could hardly walk, but since it was a courts-martial offense to damage “government property” I hid my agony under the bloused and rice starched fatigues and reported for work!
We also rode the “duce and a half” to the firing range, yes, we still practiced shooting even in a war zone! This truck actually belonged to the Army, but our crazy Lt. Col. (Phillips), dressed in fatigues, walked onto a C-141 that was off-loading the heavy truck for the Army. Phillips began yelling “It took long enough for ‘my truck’ to get here,” and intimidated the Load Master into signing the truck over to him. No one ever noticed the subtle differences between an Air Force and Army officers uniform!
The vehicle was brought back to the Security Police* Compound, painted Air Force blue, and given a fictitious serial number, which was painted in yellow on both sides of the truck. It was ours from that moment on!
As frequently as possible, we had a party! We got steak or hamburger from our contacts at the mess hall, beer from Marine beer dump, which we conveniently guarded within our bomb dump, ice from the mess hall or NCO club, if either had it, and we got the liquor ration cards from all the non-drinking NCOs!
The party was on…everyone showered and shaved (just made you feel better), and planned to be up all night eating, drinking, and playing cards! These parties provided the few departures from reality available. I thank God that the VC never attacked the base during one of these parties. We would have been useless!
Card playing was about as far out there as you could get from reality. Your belly was full, your mind was numb from beer and/or whiskey, and your concentration was solely devoted to winning the next hand. There was no room for thoughts of where you were or about home.
There was one troop in our outfit (you can see the back of his head in the next two photos) that was on his third tour in
It just so happen that ol’ Mushy once sat in on a game where he dominated play. However, ol’ Mushy had a secret weapon – alcohol! With my mind numbed, I could put on the best “poker face” ever to stare back across a table. Somehow, I bluffed him and won a $300 pot! To this day, I do not remember the sequence of events, but I have never come close to duplicating that feat again! Oh, and that guy never liked me anymore after that, probably because I raked in my winnings and went to my bunk. He never got the chance to win it back!
Then, of course, there was the Army’s NCO club. From the outside, the club looked like a command bunker, the roof stacked high with sandbags and everything painted a dark brown, but inside, it was as nice as any sports bar I have ever been in since. There were all sorts of brightly colored flashing lights, pin-ball and poker machines, pretty little Vietnamese girls parading around in American style dresses and short-shorts, and a stocked bar from hell! Everything a GI could possibly imagine or ever wanted to try.
I do not remember how I got invited to the Army’s NCO Club, but there I was and I was celebrating with someone (his face is blurry now) who was “short” and buying drinks for his friends. I suppose I was one of those – who knows!
I remember starting the day off in the dayroom sucking down a few cool, cooler than air temperature, brews, and then going across the base to the club. By then I barely weighed 150 pounds soaking wet, having become too paranoid to eat the grub from the chow hall, because the Vietnamese that worked there might poison it!
I am sure my tolerance was reduced by my weight loss, but that did not stop me. On top of the beer, I had at least 3 bourbon and Cokes, then someone popped a bottle of champagne and gave me a couple of glasses. Someone else got the bright idea to introduce me to Scotch – red label Johnnie Walker no less! Probably the worst Scotch I have ever tasted.
Sometime later, I remember hanging over a roll of concertina wire and praying, “Please God just let me die!” I do not know who poked my stomach back down my throat, but I do know they had been rough in doing so.
The last thing I remember is that two guys lowered me somewhat and pitched me into the lower bunk I called home. Keller, my cubicle mate, looked down from the top bunk, shook his head and went back to sleep.
The next morning I woke to Keller banging the side of the metal wall locker, shocking me awake, but not yet sober! I crawled out of my bunk through the bunk area behind our bunks, which was the opposite way I was supposed to go. I stood there looking for my wall locker until one of the aggravated guys took me by the arm and led me around to my cubicle!
Every time I took a drink of water that day the world began to spin again. It was horrible! Not only was it hot and humid, but I was sweating out the alcohol from the night before through rice starched fatigues. Huge salt and/or rice starch rings formed under my arms, around my neck, down my chest and back. However, I survived to fight another day!
Luckily for me, Boyce was on the Area Patrol that day and the team kept coming by filling my water bottle and offering salt tablets. Had it not been for that, I might have passed out on post and either died, or been court marshaled, or worse! Until long after the sun had gone down that evening, I was still wishing I had died hanging in the concertina wire.