War Stories 1
By: Larry Poss
I remember the biting cold as I stepped from my car. I looked toward the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and walked with the growing crowd. I saw people clustered from one end to the other of the Memorial . . . The Wall.
A mother called out, "Look honey, here he is . . . over here."
Wives, sons, daughters, loved ones, and veterans searching for that someone who had touched their life's. As I approached the black granite Wall, I felt a lump in my throat as the stamina left my legs. I stopped a few feet from the chiseled names and waited as a soldier completed his time with his friend's name and their memories.
With the passing of time memories fade, although some are as clear as my cousins' names this day. Some are too fragile though three decades have passed. The kneeling soldier rose and walked away looking neither left nor right.
I moved toward Panel 03-E. And there he was: Travis O Neal Poss, SGT, Panel 03-E, Line 61. 1st Cav Division (AMBL). Forever age 23, was married, in country a day shy of three months, was KIA on 11/15/65. There is another name I search for, limpsing at the panel number repeatedly though I know it by heart. Panel Number 17-W, Line 40. Nearly four years later, and thousands of names, I found: Gary Steven Poss. KIA at age 20, after only two and a half months in country, on 10/05/69. A bridge of memories span the many panels between their names. I had touched their names, and it was if they in turned had touched me and Proved to soften my heart for the rest of my life. A feeling that a link still existed between us, as warriors of that war.
I sensed the calling of a Heavy Heart from within The Wall . . . We, who were returned to this side came home with the Nation's Flag draped over us. Our Nation and Family put us to rest with a Twenty-one Gun Salute. Our heart went out to all of you. When we saw the hurt that you endure when even as you stepped off the plane. Your welcome home, was seeing the Nation's Flag burning. If you felt a longing to return, that feeling was us standing by your side. . .and even when you felt unworthy and confused about your country.
We were there when our great Nation turned it's back on you. We watched as they put a crown of hate upon your head. We were there and felt the scars take their toll, as anti-war demonstrations flared. We saw the look in your eyes, when you felt that serving your country was meanness and somehow not honorable. We were there, when as your brothers and sisters tried to talk to someone about how your life had changed. . .and when no one cared or would listen. We felt your anger at acts of treason by Jane Fonda, and the hurt, and harm that cast upon you.
You kept a Roll on your side. . .and we on ours. Every warrior who fell is named by us. Every warrior killed in Vietnam, did not die in Vietnam. Names are still called out to this day as new casualties are found. But, the hardest name to say for us is when one of our own falls to drugs, alcohol . . . or just drop out of life. But we are there, even then . . . through tears . . . we were there. Those of you who pick up that crown can bear it with pride.
We watch as you raise from the scars to become our Police Officer's, Doctor's, Lawyer's, Teacher's, and Blue Collar worker's. Most of all, parents of our future generations of children. Knowing we left our nation in your hands is a comfort to us. We have never forgotten you, as you have not forgotten us. We will be with you until you are with us.
To know George Grinnell was to love George Grinnell. Without a doubt he was the best pilot I ever flew with.This little story is about the first mission I was ever on.
I had been working in maintenance for about 2 months or so in the hanger, I was sick of it. I had been a professional athlete my whole life. The excitement was not in that frigging hanger, I wanted the adrenaline rush I was used to. I needed the excitement and pressure to function at my best. I came to Vietnam to fight a war, not duck fucking rockets, bird shit, and them bird sized mosquitoes.
I had bugged Capt. Strong the Maintenance Officer nearly everyday since I had come to Diamondhead to crew, " I want to crew". I was repeatedly told I just had to wait my turn.
There hadn't been anyone killed in the company in like a year, just how dangerous can it be..I thought about it a long while, then deducted at the rate things were going, not much, no worse than getting killed on an LA freeway in rush hour.
I had started to put the inspection panels on 459 , it was late, hot and muggy as hell. I decided to go to chow, let it cool off some and return later to finish the job. I had gone back to the hooch before chow, took a cool shower, went to the mess hall and ate , stopped by the EM club and had one of their famous hot 10 cent beers and alone I headed back to the flight line to finish installing the inspection panels I had been working on earlier.
I had just replaced the last panel, and was putting my tools away. When I see one of our gunships starting to crank up, and the other pilots came running..One leaves and the other is still there . I thought to myself "this is odd"..I wonder what's going on. About that time Dan Farren, the gunner on the ship that was waiting with its RPM already up to 6000 comes running up to me and says you want to go with us?...Why I asked, butterflies running rampant. I can't find my Crewchief and we have been scrambled .Think you can shoot and M-60 out of one of those things, pointing at "Love Generation" , the C-Model Huey gunship with the Sachadilic flowers all over the nose, I thought about it for about 10 seconds, thinking to myself "well you wanted to crew Ron looks like it is right now or maybe never". I told Dan hell yeah I can shoot any thing in there. Well of course I could<I lied>What could they do send me to Vietnam?
Dan got me all situated, safety strap on, chicken board on, hell I was all thumbs. Dan just looked at me and grinned, but never said a word. I know what he was thinking , the kid is scared shitless, but I wasn't about to show it. Yes they knew this was my first trip, so the pilots and Dan were great. George just said "Ron just settle down, aint nothing to it. When I roll in and punch off these rockets, and I break right , just shoot up the neighborhood on the way out. Think you can handle that? I replied Noooo problem. George cuts back in on the intercom just one other thing, "don't fall out", and looked around the pilots seat made eye contact and cracked a huge smile. That in itself put me at least partially at ease. That is the way George is I learned later.
We were in route to Trang Bang to help the 1/27th Wolfhounds who had been pinned down by a sniper in a hole in the middle of this little clearing for the past two hours. It was nearly dark when we got on station. I thought I was going to puke. At that moment I knew this was a really bad idea. I had just overheard the ground commander talking to Mr.Grinnell. I can't remember the real call sign but I am going to improvise, "Cobra 23"..this is Diamondhead 085, please advise your situation. 85 we have popped red smoke you roger, roger the red Cobra 23..That little clearing right to the east has got one dink in there had us pinned down for 2 hours, comments the ground commander. We can't get to him, and we have 2 wounded, but they will live for now. I will get a dustoff for them just as soon as I get this thorn in my ass out of that hole. Can you get that little bastard out of there? Aaaah that's affirmative Cobra 23 I see the hole. Looks like the guy just has an AK-47.
Now this clearing was only about 50 yards across if that. The trees were about 40 feet tall or more, and the hole was dead center. I thought to myself "if he punches off the rockets at about 200 feet we got it made. Nope not George...He pulled that sucker to damn near a hover at 1500 ft, pointed it straight down and commenced to punching off rockets, 1000 feet still punching, 500 the same , 200 more rockets, top of the fucking trees last set. Pull back on collective going 140 knots make a simple right turn take out the top of two trees with the old C-Model straining to make altitude, nothing to it. He broke right so hard it slung the ammo box out the door and the M-60 went with it all the way to the end of the mount. I was asked "Why I didn't cover on t he way out?" George and Dan looked around at me, and they were laughing hysterically. I was white as a ghost , had a death grip on the back of the pilots seat, and barfed up what was left of
dinner. That shit was everywhere. Damn I hated them laughing at me. Never puke in a moving helicopter, with the doors open. It is like puking in a blender with the lid off and the motor running.
When we got back to the hanger, we had grass in the rocket pods, shrapnel holes in the chin bubble, and mud all over the windshield. Word has it that the gook was actually killed by a skid to the back of the head.
I thought afterward what a rush..reality struck..aah shit what a mess... I was hooked. I still can remember the smell of rocket fuel, and I still have the scars from my first encounter with rocket caps.
About George Grinnell. I was glad they got Cobras, he flew them like jets, and I didn't have to go with him very often any more:) It is unfortunate that after 2 tours, he should have had a midair collision with a C and C ship and was killed. Not a fitting end for such a pilot and friend
"We Are LRRP'S"
The sky partly cloudy;the sun showing no mercy, we walk to the waiting chopper. It will again take me to a place I have never been. As we walk, I notice the gun-ships to my left and right, fully armed, ready to go on our distress call, one we all hope we don't have to make, but probably will. Our MISSION, after insertion, is to find a place to stay, to hide, undetected, for 4 nights and 5 days;to monitor and report any and all enemy movement. To effect a "live capture", if possible, and to inflict surprise and pain upon Sir Charles prior to extraction by the Centaurs, in any way possible. Departing Cu Chi, all you can hear are the chopper's blades, as the familiar "whump-whump" carries us out over places pock-marked by artillery and bomb shells. Craters in the earth leading to the woods and jungle areas so frequented by the enemy. At a pre-set moment, the choppers begin a low-level hedge-hop motion to confuse the ever-present field watchers as we approach our designated landing zone. Every eye is searching, scanning the horizon and the land immediatly below us. It seems to go on forever, yet we can see and feel the speed with which the choppers desend, constantly moving forward. There it is, the corner of the hedge-row, our appointed drop-off and infil point. Cigarettes, the last we'll enjoy for the mission's duration, are quickly extinguished upon the floor. "LOCK AND LOAD"."PREPARE TO JUMP"."Go,Go,Go,"yells the Team Leader, only barely audible above the din of the revolving blades. The point man is out and running, making for the tree-line. The rest of the team rapidly following, as the chopper continues to "skim" across the ground, lifting and turning in it's hasty departure. We make it, holdin-up in a rough circle, facing out. The choppers are gone. The silence is deafening. We are alone. Five(5) men, no friendlies, and whatever fate has in store. The tension mounts as does the temperature. No more discussion, no more conversations. Five(5) days of ear-ringing silence, tension, and heat. After a short radio report, while the TL checked the map and compass reading, the point man moves out, followed in silent procession by the rest of the team; each member scanning left, right, left, forward, and behind, always behind. After what seems like forever, the team reaches the chosen set-up point; bushes and trees alongside what appeared, from above, to be a road of sorts, but up close becomes a well-used trail leading from the river west of us, toward some destination known only to those indigenous to this area. As we silently approach this point, we are constantly searching and listening. If WE thought it looked like a good hide-out, then so might have the enemy. We prepare for the possible ambush, but reach the trees without mishap. A quick eye search leads to the TL setting-up up the team in proper position, to best see, hear and encounter enemy movement. "Claymores out" commands the TL, and each man low-crawls forward, one-at-a-time, while his mates keep him covered. Once the OD path-sweepers are in position and wired back to the TL's command board, the waiting begins. The sun continues to climb into the sky, baking the earth and all exposed. Sweat covers each man from head to toe. Finally the sun begins it's descent and darkness rapidly approaches, bringing with it the multitude of nightly airborne pasts. Mosquitos cover all exposed flesh and bite through our tiger-striped fatigues whenever possible. String-lines are attached to the legs of the flankers, leading back to the TL and ATL positons, so that a constant check can be maintained throughout the night. The lines will be checked every so often, on a pre-set timetable, to ensure integrity and awareness by slighly jerking them. This keeps all alert, ready for the night movements of the enemy. One that can only move safely at night, in his own back yard, due to our air-borne supremacy during the day. With the daylight almost gone, all are especially alert, listening and watching, noiselessly awaiting the inevitable. Soon, by plan, two(2) men at a time will be allowed to "doze-off", attended by each one's closest team partner, while the TL, radio operator and flanks keep tight watch. This plan will alternate throughout the night, giving all a chance to ease the tension somewhat by grabbing some z's. As I lay awake on guard, not really able to see through the thick, darkness of night, I listen with the un-impaired sense of youth, hearing only the constant drone of mosquitos and distant calls of the lizards and night birds. The night passes without incident, but the tension and fear of being heard or seen has begun to take it's toll . Accompanied with the day's sunlight and ever-present heat, we feel the effects despite the relief provided by occasionally sipping at our hot,wet collapsable water bottles. The TL sends out two(2) men with instructions and directions. Search for obvious signs of recent use, both on the trail and along it's bush-lined edges. They return and report their findings and this is relayed back to TOC, as is all else. Night two(2) and day three(3) pass in much the same fashion. We are tense and bored at the same time, and de-hydration has started despite our attempts to quell our water loss during the heat of day. Night three(3), suddenly we hear voices and the un-mistakable sound of movement. The sing-song chatter assures us that these are NOT friendlies. The TL passes the word. "WAIT, WAIT" he signals with his hand gestures. The lines attached to the flanks are jerked just enough to ensure that they are advised and aware of the sounds. AND THERE THEY ARE. Black outlines against the stark whiteness of the trail, moving in our direction, west-to-east. The trail/path will bring them right to us. But we struggle to see how many, and how prepared the enemy seems as they approach. That will be the "tell", how the enemy moves, and what they carry with them. Three(3), motions the TL, using his fingers, and the radio man reports to TOC. Still we wait. Now all can see them.Two(2) with weapons shouldered, and one(1) with a full ruck-sack. Good enough. Ready signals are passed. We wait until the enemy are within our ambush perimeters, and BOOM, the TL triggers the first volley of claymores, lighting-up the night. Dirt, debris and noises abound, and the rest of us begin a sweeping motion across the path directly to our fronts, criss-crossing slightly left and right, over-lapping patterns of M-16 fire drawing lines through through the darkness. "CEASE FIRE" commands the TL, and all drop magazines, exchanging for full ones, eyes sweeping the trail to the left and right half-expecting to see enemy reinforcements moving toward us. After many long, dry-mouthed moments, the ATL and point man approach the bodies on the trail. All three(3) are down and dead. They pull them from the trail into the dark protection of our tree line position. Then the bodies are disarmed and searched for all items,and their uniforms are checked to detect unit designations. All pertinent items are bagged for retrieval, and the longest wait in the world begins. Prior to initiating the ambush, the TOC was informed, and requests for extraction ships have been made. The birds are in the air, enroute. But the silence following the immensely loud ambush is UNBELIEVABLE. Covered in sweat, dirt and camo paint, ears ringing like church bells, we can do nothing but wait, and smell the cordite, gun-powder and iron-like fresh blood odors of the ambush. Monitoring the radio, the TL prepares us for extraction. We cover each other as the un-used claymores are dis-connected and collected and placed in our rucks. Suddenly the beautiful "WHUMP-WHUMP" is heard as the choppers approach. Still too dark for smoke markers, the ATL flashes the strobe-light through the empty tube of the M-79 man's weapon, focusing the light straight up, shielding it from ground-level sight, until the pilot declares "WE HAVE YOUR POSITION". Like a practiced ballet, the team is led out into the more level extraction point, and one-by-one, the two(2) choppers turn and glide down into our midst. A quick, short, backwards run and we are all climbing aboard, moving over for the next man, the TL helping each man make the short jump into the chopper, then climbing aboard, and we're in the air, arms and legs akimbo, some still on the skids. The chopper never really having landed, but bumping, and gliding in a stutter-step motion, across the ground as we jump or are tossed in. Within moments we are away, and cigarettes and lighters are passed from the door-gunners to the eager men of the ambush team. The night coolness a distinct pleasure compared to the past days and nights of stifling heat. Sighs of relief can be heard, but little is said. No one can really hear yet, and the rushing air from the open chopper doorways carry away any real attempts to vocally communicate, but hand signals point out the lights below as we approach Cu Chi and the landing pads at 3/4 Cav. Slightly tilting backwards, and a thump,bump and the choppers have us down. We are home. Another mission completed and a verifyable body count with intel add to the success. Our jeeps and trailers are waiting to take us back to our company area, where hot meals, cold beers, wet showers and medical attention await. The mission was a good one. All are safe and the enemy has suffered another set-back, because these men worked as a TEAM. They are professionals."They are LRRP's".
By- Ron Leonard
In the Beginning God created Man, Woman, and Earth, all from nothing. In Vietnam we did that all the time. All the above was grand, but God did not give us a swimming pool at Cu Chi.That we would have to do ourselves...from Nothing with nothing, but ingenuity and cunning.
It was another one of those hot muggy days in Vietnam. Cu Chi was abuzz with activity as usual. The Whop Whop Whop of the Huey helicopters overhead. The thunderous booming of the 105's and 155's pounding Charlie somewhere in the boonies. The jabbering of the Hooch girls, the hustle bustle of everyday life in the company Area.
I had been flying all night, and it was now about 9 AM, as I wandered up towards the operations shack. To the right of the boardwalk there were about 5 Mammasons with entrenching tools digging in the dirt. I was really confused, I had never seen them doing this before. Were we actually going to bury the miniguns we borrowed from the 116th? I thought to myself "We must be on the verge of getting caught.or something".
As I walked into the operations shack, I asked Top.".what's up with the mammasons and the entrenching tools"? He replied, "It's for the new swimming pool." I about fell over with laughter. I replied Top,." look, the war will be over first at the rate they are going. " Why didn't you go over and cut a deal with the engineers?" Top replied, " The officers tried that. "They were told to go fuck their self". "What did you offer them for the
hole.? I asked". "Well nothing", replied Top...".aaaah there is the problem". Let me go over there and have a whack at it. I have all afternoon off. Nothing ventured nothing ventured you know I smiled. I had the CQ drive me over to the Engineers Company Area, and drop me off. As I arrived I had no idea how to approach this. I also had no Idea how much the engineers had been pissed off previously with our arrogant officer. I thought " let me go to the EM club". Most of the men will be around there anyway. I thought to myself I need a dozer driver not an officer, so no need going anywhere else.
The Engineers were on two week stand down after getting the shit kicked out of them in the HOBO Woods. They were going to make it into a park, and Charlie, opted for a junk yard. They lost 6 Rome Plows, 2 tanks, 6 APC's and the retriever, plus got several killed and wounded. So I knew for 2 weeks they really had nothing to do. As I walked into the EM club, there were two 2 E-4's sitting at the bar. I shuffled over and took a seat at the bar next to them. After a moment or two I struck up a conversation with them and casually brought the hole in the ground into the conversation. It seems someone prior to me, some LT. had been quite demanding and overly arrogant with his request. They weren't feeling real great after the ass whipping they took a couple of days previous, and told him to fuck off.
After much apprehensive waiting I finally found the moment I was looking for and maneuvered the hole fpr the pool into the conversation. " What do you suppose it would cost to get a hole dug around here"? The one nearest me answered, Look, I am the dozer driver, and I aint' doing it. I replied," look you got two weeks of doing nothing anyway, we must have something you guys want that you don't have. We are better fed, have ample transportation to acquire most anything anywhere, there must be something. He replies "You can't get Ice". I knew at that moment the hole was a done deal, I smiled. I asked how much Ice? Better yet, how about we supply all the beer and Ice you and your guys can drink until the hole is dug. Will, that work? On that note their eyes lit up. I could tell, thoughts of ice cold beer cans dancing in his brain. When you want this hole he asked? I replied, I will have to get back to you on that one, let's tentatively say 9 am tomorrow. It will give me time to make the arrangements...they were laughing, knowing the Ice was out of reach...They were wrong but didn't know it yet. To us at Diamondhead nothing was out of reach, or safe for that matter if we needed it.
As I walked back to the Company area, I wondered if the idea would fly with the guys , they were gonna have to cough up some cash for the beer and Ice. When I got back to the company area, I approached the guys with the idea, and after a little dickering and horse trading, it was a go. We figured 20 cases of beer and 500 lbs of ice should work. Now the beer was easy. At 10 cents a can that is 2.40 a case it is like 45 bucks. So everyone chipped in a buck for beer and Ice. Now we had to get operations to release a D-Model to go get Ice, at like 8 am. The Maintenance officer had a courier run set up for the next morning. It was a shuttle to pick up parts in Saigon. I approached Cpt. strong and asked If Marvin and I could tag along, go to the PX, so a little shopping and pick up afew bags of Ice. Sure, go ahead, he replied. Just don't get lost. We need those parts ASAP. When we got to Hotel 3 It took a while to locate the block Ice we wanted. We had brought straps to hold it down, and canvas to wrap it in. We commandeered a deuse and a half to go get it and shortly returned. We had acquired 800 lbs of Ice. Figuring themelt factor, we had better have some extra. As we stacked it in and tied it down it was apparent. No room for parts, not only that, the precious cargo would melt if we didn't hurry. We would come back for the parts. The war could wait. At this moment this was much more important than any war.
As we returned the cooks had already obtained something that resembled a watering trough, and all the beer was in place. We added the Ice, and amazing as it was we had only lost about half of it on the trip. It just filled the trough up to the brim. We caught holy shit for misuse of Government property, but we decided...what can they do ? Send us to Nam, any place else or other punishment would be an improvement in our living conditions.
Behind the scenes it had became apparent that the Dozer driver had to touch base with his superiors to come do this job for us. Apparently, their officers figured they could raise the ante abit. They had a conversation with our officers, and negotiated the hole price upward. It seems since the engineers operate in dusty conditions habitually, dust goggles were in short supply. Our officers agreed to get them a dozen or two sets of the badly needed goggles. Somehow out of nowhere, an entire connex box of dust goggles appeared, and was delivered to the engineers. Only in a war zone could this happen. They ordered a dozen or so goggles from supply regular channels, and got dozens of dozens. If you are not sure what a connex box is, it is the big metal container boxes used for shipping that come off ships.They are about the size of a normal Uhaul truck. Needless to say it put a huge smile on the engineers faces.
The Engineers arrived about an hour later, and they were astonished to see the ice and beer in place. We had kind of misjudged how many engineers it would take to dig this hole. He only brought four. It was quite apparent there was way to much beer, so we commenced helping the beer overpopulation out as the hole digging began. It took most of the day, with ample beer breaks. By night fall we had a huge hole, and a hell of a pile of dirt. Not to mention the Company area looked like a disaster area. The ensuing party was one to remember. A good old fashioned dig a pool party, Cookie had even come up with some hot-dogs somewhere. The beer flowed freely, and the stories were rampant. All involved had a hell of a time.
"Now what.", I scratched my head for afew moments. Thinking to myself, now have the mammasons fill sandbags and line the hole to keep it from caving in. I must find concrete, gunnite preferably, and reinforcing wire". After much searching, phone calls, radio messages etc.. As luck would have it, there were no such Items in all of Vietnam at least in the Military Sector. As the sandbag filling continued, I hadn't a clue what to do next. We would be the laughing stock of the Division if we didn't pull this off. The sandbag filling after much arduous work was finally completed. It took 45,000 sandbags and many days, but finally it was finished and ready for the next phase, pool liner.
We got scrambled one morning, afew days later towards Ton Sa Nhut Airbase. After refueling there we were on the way out, and I glanced out the gunners door Whoaaaaaaa...there it is, the answer to our prayers. I clicked on the Intercom "Sir what is that over there ? " That is an A1-E Sky Raider the pilot replied,, no no the black thing. He replied "that is a jet fuel bladder for the aircraft stationed here". Sir I hate to differ I replied, "that there thang sure looks like a pool liner to me". After afew silent moments, he clicked back in, " good point ,you could be right," Sir, Can you park this thing for afew minutes?..He Chucked, what the hell it is worth a shot.
If you've ever tried to bargain with the Airforce for anything forget it. They are better than us. We have nothing they want. They have it already, so we couldn't trade for it, order one, or buy it out right. Sorry to say they left us little choice. We would just have to steal the bitch.
Well, it was quite obvious if we stole that one, we were caught. We must find another one somewhere else, at another Airforce, or any other foreign post that used them, preferably empty. I touched base with the A. Co. pilots, the Mule Skinners, and anyone else that flew out of Cu Chi to any distant bases to keep an eye out for one and keep it quiet. We called it "Operation Black Thing".
Some days later, while on a mission, an urgent message came through on the radio " The black thing has been found, repeat the black thing has been found". This message generated from a Mule Skinner aircraft somewhere north of Saigon. To this day I don't know exactly where it came from but I wasn't going to ask either. I do know these items were located in Cam Rhan, Quin Nhon, Pleiku, Cantho, and yes Bien Hoa. None the less, a ground party in a D-Model was scrambled to accomplish this, and sometime in mid afternoon the "Black Thing" was lowered into the hole of the pool lined with sand bags. The payment for this service is yet another story. No one, including myself, had expected what was about to happen. The rubber fuel bladder was much larger than the pool. It landed in the hole in what would best be described as the worlds largest 40 ton rubber knot. It took the entire company, a week to unravel this twisted 40 ton slimy knot. The rubber on one of those things is about 1/2" thick, and nowhere to grab it. It also had JP-4 on it, giving it the same charactoristics as a greased pig. We struggled with it for days, and slowly but surely we were making progress.
On the morning of the 7th day we were told to fall out to the company formation area, the "Company Commander" wanted to speak to all of us. We were mulling around, making small talk about the importance of this formation wondering what this could be about. Shortly the Major showed up and called everyone to attention.
"Men", the Company Commander started. "It has been brought to my attention that the Commanding Generals diving board has come up missing". He is not a real happy camper at this moment. He has stated in a memo."It is a crime to use sandbags for unauthorized purposes", and further states that ."If, my diving board is returned before sunset today, and there is no visible evidence of the unauthorized use of those sandbags in the next 48 hours, no further action will be taken."
" Needless to say", states the Company Commander there is a sense of urgency here. "Everyone will partake in the pool construction until there is no visible evidence of the sandbags". Those crewmembers that aren't flying, are on pool detail until further notice. Everyone else, that is at this moment not on duty. You too are on pool detail. Now, " whoever took that damn diving board", return it immediately. So let's get this thing done before we are in in deep shit.
At best it went very slowly. While the knot was being unraveled a deck was being built from , if I remember correctly 2.75" empty rocket boxes bedded in the dirt and filled to make a level sub deck. Someone had miraculously showed up with a pallet of 1" Marine Grade plywood and non-slip paint. further evidence of the scrounging committee at work again, as those items are not one of the stock items in our supply room.
We struggled with the bladder all day. After much cussing and aggravation by late that evening we finally succeeded in getting it straightened out. We would wait until morning to cut it to size. Sometime during the night, the hammering stopped, so apparently the decking was in place. We could rest a little easier now. We would be able to complete the evidence hiding tomorrow.
The rubber bladder was pulled up onto the deck folding the edge over and nailing it down with a ledger board. It took several days to clean the bladder of the jet fuel it had contained, and again that was a slow process. During this entire project spare time was spent on the pool project. Now it was time for water. As luck would have it the same engineers, also controlled all the water trucks. For a price they would do the deed. They figured if it would work once, it would work twice. They would step up the ante. This time, they wanted a fish fry, beer and ice. Now how in the hell are we going to come up with enough fish to feed all the engineers and us to. ?
After several futile efforts and fishing with a pole in a secure area near Vung Tau, we had a catch of 4 spindly assed ugly looking fish of which noone could name. It was going way to slow , we needed fish now. It was time for more drastic measures. A rubber raft, borrowed from the River Rats and a case of hand grenades, misplaced from supply. Like the old addage, a proper tool for every job. In this case this was just the proper equipment required for guaranteed success. You could hear the whuuump whuump at the river. Some one yells INCOMING...naaaa it's just them dummies from "Diamondhead" fishing again, they laughed.
In about an hour or two a rubber raft of fish appeared at the engineers CQ. The deal was we supplied the fish, which took much effort, now you turkeys are gonna clean them. What kind are they one asked? That was not on the requisition list, just fish. I did recognize a couple though. One looked like a carp, one looked like a catfish, and one great big thing. Maybe 50 lb with sharp teeth. I had never seen one like that before. When you get done bring them to our company mess hall, I chuckled as I walked away.
Once again the beer from the EM club flowed, the fresh fish no matter what kind were great, definitely not Military. Cookie had made some hush puppies and potato salad to boot.
The next morning the pool began to fill with water. 24/ 7 the trucks ran. It still took several days. No one had thought about it at the time, but we needed a pump. It seemed the only people that had the required item was the Navy. As the pump hunt continued the diving board was being manufactured, after the fiasco of getting caught with the Generals board, we would use the only flexible item we had. Shot up Rotor blades. Since a rotor blade is not flat, the bounce angle is not straight either, you have a tendency to hook to the right some. We also had no idea how springy it would be.. One of the gunners wanted to be the guinea pig, and just as we were afraid of, our fears came true. Our calculations were off. We had it sticking out to far. One big bounce and the flexible blade whipped him nearly the entire length of the pool curving off to the right and splat right on the deck. His arm will never be the same. If I remember correctly he broke his forearm. We shortened the blade up 50 % and concluded it would have to do for now. Meanwhile back in Saigon, the bartering for the pump continued. It seems the Navy had plenty of pumps, plenty of boats, plenty of everything but jeeps. Now that friends was easy. It seems the first Cav had just moved to Tay Ninth. We had no friendship with them. They were the perfect shopping opportunity. So with little ado we boldly flew "Where no man had flown before", straight to the 1st Cav Motor pool. We told the Sgt. we had orders to take this jeep to Cu Chi, and off we went. We never heard a word about it. Several days later,we discovered the only reason the Navy traded us the pump in the first place was because they thought it didn't work anyway. In actuality it was brand new, and was full of Cosmolene to keep rust and corrosion out. It just needed cleaned out.
Within afew days after that we had a huge pool party invited the Nurses from 12th evac, the engineers, the neighboring company, and had a hell of a time. We also all got ear infection, and were grounded for several days. Seems we had forgot chlorine General Westmoreland was not a happy camper.
You know it is always funny, that as soon as us EM did something, and it is really grand, it is time for the Officers to step in and just one up it a stage. The pool was not any different. Once completed they decided, "Hey we are Occifers", we need a patio so we can sit out here and not get sunburned, suck on a beer in a lawn chair, while you EM sit on the deck over there. Never mind that we EM did about 90% of all the work and paid for the beer and Ice, arranged all the shopping, provided the fish, and they only drove the getaway vehicles. The getaway driver is just as guilty as the ..uuuum shoppers. You would think that after all that we had been through that would have been a "Company Patio" as was the pool. I never saw an Occifers only line in the water.
There were also many scoff remarks in the beginning about the probability of it coming together from the officers. Now that it was built, they all had a hand in it. Needless to say. Robin Hood had nothing on the Diamondhead procurement committee. We never left it to one person to scrounge everything, one would surely get caught, with traits like style etc. We all had diverse skills, some were excellent at "armament misdirection and confiscation". " Organizational, Funding, and finding procurement Items". Mechanical Acquisition", along with the necessary clerical skills when required.
If a person were to take an occupational list of Diamondhead EM o,f what did you do before the Army <since most of us were drafted> it would shock you. It was like the who's who of illegal activities. One was a member of the Black Panthers, more than one had the opportunity to go to Vietnam or remain home and go to jail. That in itself brought forth much motivation, a diverse crew we were. So shopping and acquisition fit right in.
Now to make the Patio we were in need of one Item. Sheetmetal roofing. After about a week of digging around looking for it we finally found some. It seems all the sheetmetal roofing in our AO was controlled by the Cee Bee's . We only needed like 10 sheets. So we approached them about it. We got the classic answer, "not in this lifetime". Once again this was nothing more than a challenge and inconvenience. We once again must develop a plan, it was somewhat dangerous, and what were us EM to get out of it? Nada...but we had to keep peace in the family so the roof had to go on. We were going to have to swipe the roofing when they knew who we were. We didn't have time to count out 10 sheets. We just dropped off one individual who got the sling ready hovered in and took the whole pallet. The only negative part is the bastards shot at us on the way out, we had several bullet holes to explain.The Patio was a success, and many sunburns were avoided, so I guess this was actually a humanitarian effort to prevent skin cancer.
So goes the story of the pool:)
After all the trials and tribulations of building the pool, and the ear infections. The battalion commander got involved, and had the 65th engineers drill us a well to eliminate another round of ear infection, and gave us the OK to use the pool if we maintained it properly. He made the testing equipment and chemicals available through normal channels.
Some of the events were a little cloudy after 32 years, but all in all it follows very closely what actually occurred.