Wednesday, October 26, 2011

VIETNAM FUNNIES

Some of you are aware that various media have sought fit to publish excerpts from the anthology of tales I wrote about Victor 3 in Vietnam concentrating on lighter side of that war. One contributor to this blog has suggested I should do a post featuring one those stories.

So, for what it is worth, here goes with one that many have 'enjoyed' particularly the soldiers who saw their command team wet upon. Please folks, let's not use this as an occasion to relive the tragedy that was Vietnam. But war does have its funnier moments.

TALES FROM THE ‘DARK’ SIDE OF VICTOR 3 – PART 4

This is the fourth in an occasional series of tales relating to V3's tour. It is recorded in my 'battle diary' (which appears to include pages fashioned out of toilet paper from ration packs).

Some unkind people have described Waiouru as “the place God made and never visited”. Clearly they never experienced Fire Support Base Concord. Charlie was expected to attack the Long Binh – Bien Hoa areas during their 1968 mid year offensive. Concord was one of a string of FSBs designed to dominate the rocket belt to the north east of Long Binh Junction (LBJ) as a foil to their plans. It was adjacent to the Dong Nai River (more about that in Tales 5).

Victor 3 deployed into Concord direct from the Horseshoe. First impressions were that Concord resembled ‘Smokey Mountain’ (the Metro Manila Rubbish Dump) and time did nothing to dispel that impression and indeed, there was a rubbish dump just outside the wire where a couple of ‘lady’ believers in the free enterprise ethic set up an establishment to cater for the needs of healthy young men (well, they probably were healthy until they went there) … I digress.

It was with some amazement that we disembarked from the helicopters to be confronted by a series of above ground bunkers, fashioned out of wood and iron scraps and looking like adverts for ‘Junkyard Wars’, occupied by our American cousins who constituted the majority in the FSB. John Hall, our OC, took one look at them and immediately issued orders to dig, dig and dig some more so we all became ‘diggers’. We dug and dug and scrounged and scrounged stopping only at ‘stand to’ when our American friends would come over to look at the sight of soldiers waiting to be attacked. What’s more they had a penchant for congregating in front of our trenches to discuss the phenomena and blinding us with camera flashes as they recorded the strange habits of their allies.

But it was Company Headquarters that features in this story. John Hall was determined to create a ‘real’ command post. Something that General Navarre at Dien Bien Phu would have been proud of. Laurie Bailey, our faithful Assault Pioneer Detachment Commander, managed to acquire a motorized mini digger, from I know not where, and eventually a bunker extraordinaire was constructed deep deep underground, so far deep that the roof of the bunker was at ground level. You could walk across it without knowing it was there and in retrospect that was a major design flaw. To provide ventilation Laurie also ‘found’ a number of pipes which protruded about 3 feet above ground level.

And so it was that with the bunker complete and replete with all mod cons we sat down for our first ‘O’ Group in our new home. The Boss had just started his homily when cascading from the ventilation shafts come a torrent of amber liquid. Many of us were sprayed. John Hall, standing straight under one shaft, got soaked, There was a rushed general exodus. On making it to the surface we could see a bunch of Yank soldiers congregated around the ventilation shafts where they protruded from the ground ‘doing their thing’. They claimed the pipes were standard ‘pissaphones’ on the US side of the base. John Hall was not amused and not for the first time in the tour vented his feelings with passion.

p.s. If you want a guaranteed method of removing writing from a plastic surface I know of a good product.

p.p.s. Laurie B …. Didn’t they tell you what the pipes were being used for when you ‘acquired’ them and does that explain why I have never seen you wearing the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal?

Sunray 5/2

For the record. Victor 3 Company served in Vietnam from May 1968 until May 1969. Originally it was part of 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Bn and later 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Bn. It was the most highly decorated of the 9 NZL Infantry Company's sent to Vietnam winning two Military Crosses (one an 'Immediate Award'); two Distinguished Conduct Medals and a Mentioned in Despatches. Our Chaplain, Whakahuihui Vercoe, later Anglican Primate of New Zealand, also received an MBE for his outstanding work ministering to the troops. Two of our soldiers, Mike Wickman and Don Bensemann were KIA. Another 19 were WIA.

3 comments:

Dave Lucas said...

G'day

Good post

Not so funny, though:

"An Army At Dawn - The War in North Africa 1942 - 1943" by Rick Atkinson, page 446.

'In a phone call one evening the corps commander grew incensed when Ward mentioned his good fortune in loosing no officers in combat that day. "Goddammit, Ward, that's not fortunate. That's bad for the morale of the enlisted men," Patton snapped. "I want you to get more officers killed."
Ward was dumbfounded. "Are you serious?"
"Yes, goddammit, I'm serious. I want you to put some officers out as observers well up front and keep them there until a couple get killed."'

I fear that the the poor old grunt was in just as much danger from the egos of their so-called leaders as they were from the enemy.

The Veteran said...

Hmmmmmmm .... I know that it weighed heavily on the mind of our OC that somehow he had failed when we lost Mike and Don KIA,

Nothing was further from the truth. John H cared passionately about his troops. He had a fine tactical mind and we knew and respected his ability both as a soldier and a commander ....

but you never tried to piss him off.

Anonymous said...

Leadership is when intelligent men will willingly follow. There's not much of it about.