Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Series of Rambling Memories

As I go along, all these miscellaneous, memories pop into my head and I keep telling myself that I need to put those down on paper. Most are meaningless to readers out there but they were part of who I am and what I did and from these I learned.

One thing that I enjoyed was learning how to shoot the various weapons used by the Marines. The M16 was okay but the M60 was the most fun of all. It was great watching that grenade go flying off to the target. Our M60 guy was really great with that thing. We would float things down the river and he could lob a grenade right on top of the item. I never got to try the machine gun but that was a fantastic piece of firepower. Felt sorry for the guys that had to lug that heavy thing around. Was that what they called the BAR? The other weapon I got to use a couple of times was the LAW. This was a shoulder mounted rocket launcher and made a BIG bang when it hit.

1967 was still early in the Vietnam War and I do not think the VC were used to our tanks. At the mountain base, Camp Zamora, we had one tank and there was a trench dug for the tank to sit at a slight angle upwards. The tank faced south and on the south end of the base was a hill that looked down on the base. One night, the VC decided to set up mortars on that little hill. As soon as I heard that first mortar leave the tube, I was in our bunker. After the second or third mortar hit, the tank guys were in the tank and had a round loaded and with one shot blew the top of that hill up. The tank was aimed right at the spot the VC setup their mortars so they must not have known what it was or what it could do. There was plenty of blood but no bodies.

Another nice defense we employed was on the wire. All around the base was rolls of razor wire and inside of the wire was placed claymore mines. The guys in foxholes that were on security watch could activate them. The claymore mines would blast out toward the perimeter. Another added security measure, probably designed by the engineers, were barrels of jet fuel that were wrapped in detcord (spelling?) with one claymore on the backside. That baby going off was just like a napalm bomb.

Continuing with this rambling, I will go to the subject of water. Being a Corpsman, I wanted to keep my group healthy so I made sure they drank plenty of water everyday and took their malaria pills. We were issued a new malaria pill because of the new type of malaria we ran into in this part of the jungle. Turns out that pill causes cancer so I am sorry guys for being such a mother to you and making you take that pill everyday.

We got our water from the river near the base. It was pumped into “mules” and we had a couple on the base so we could fill our canteens. One day, someone on the water detail, said, “Doc, check out the water in the river”. The water was foamy and had a darkish muddy look. We were either being poisoned upstream or they were spraying defoliant upstream and the rains were washing it down to us. I hope that we did not drink that contaminated water too long before it became visible. We had to have our water brought in by convoy after that. Now, I do not remember if we called it Agent Orange or just defoliant at that point in time.

Okay, I am probably going to get a lot of static on this one, but the Army guys were pigs. Let me back up and explain something first. We had wooden shitters over there that had an opening in the back that contained a 55-gallon drum cut in half. Some shitters were two holers up to four holers and were fancy outhouses that did not have a hole under them. Everyday, someone would be assigned to shit duty, literally. The half barrel would be removed, oil and a little gas would be added, and we would literally burn the shit. That smell sticks with you a long time. Well, when the Army pulled out with the big artillery, it was up to the Marines to clean up their mess. I do not think they every cleaned or burned their shitters. It was crawling with maggots. I told our guys to pour gas and oil on the whole building and burn it to the ground. It made a great fire.

Because the heavy artillery was removed, the base was not really needed anymore. We had to start breaking apart our bunkers and cut the sand bags. Two B-52 pilots were flown in and they surveyed what they needed to do in the middle of the night. The engineers strung detcord (spelling?) all around the base. When we were a distance away from the base, we heard the loud explosions of the engineers clearing the place out. I hope that the VC would go to the area to pickup what they could and would be there when the B-52 dropped there big bombs on the place.

We took a few AK-47 rounds on the road as we were leaving but we gave back a lot more rounds. They always told me, “Doc has his 45 on automatic again”. I tended to empty a full clip when I started shooting my 45. I had strong wrists so the 45 did not kick much for me and I could pull the trigger as fast as I wanted and still hit the target. The only casualty was a burn from a hot cartridge of an M16 that went down a Marines shirt. Oh, by the way, I was ridding in the back of the 6 X 6 with the other Marines. No more explosive trucks for me.

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