Monday, April 23, 2018

SOLDIER'S TALES #3


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 all 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 that, in retrospect, 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 US 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

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