Story 41 - Short Stories from1969/70

By John Hunter

These are just a few lighthearted yarns from my tour of duty with 104 Sig Sqn at Nui Dat in the Vietnam 1969/70.  Line section, the hardest working least appreciated gang of the most enterprising, bunch of soldiers that were dedicated to the task at hand, come rain or shine.

Liney: Impossible done straight away, miracles a little longer, especially at night.


COMING ATTRACTIONS

Pick Me, Pick MeWe were expecting new arrivals any day now, the wet season was upon us and we were miserable from all the rain and the same old routine every day.   If you weren’t wet from the rain you were soaked with sweat from the humidity and very uncomfortable.   I was sitting in the signals center doing nothing in particular, just talking to the operators on the telex-printers getting the messages for the various units for the SDS run in the  morning.   So with a bit of help from the operators we decided to print up a message for the new arrivals, just a bit of harmless fun we thought, sounded good anyway.   The message read as follows, or something similar as I can’t remember the exact message, as this was a combined effort.

"WELCOME TO BEAUTIFUL DOWN TOWN NUI DAT.

YOU’RE UP COMING ATTRACTIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS AND ALL MEMBERS WISHING TO TAKE PART ARE TO SUBMIT THERE NAMES TO THEY’RE RESPECTIVE ORDERLY ROOM CLERKS.

1.  The Hoa Long dance held every Saturday night, for those not on duty.   Dress is civilian, all troops
     to wear Helmet, Basic webbing plus rifle and  Raincoats as required, i.e. (CONDOMS).   Members
     wishing to take part will RV at the main gate.1900hrs sharp.   To be transported to said reception.
     Plenty of female company will be provided!  Admission, One dozen cans of soft drink or beer,
     supper will be provided.

2.  The Dat Do Dog’s.   Local currency only.

3.  The May Tau Gym Carna Festival.

4.  The Warby Mountain Hike, for nature lovers.   Camera  optional, mossie repellant advisable

5.  And lastly but not least, the Blow Fly swatting contest.  The participants will provide fly swatter.
     Winner will be judged on ingenuity of swatter, plus kills.

All names through the usual channels, basic webbing and weapon to be carried at all times."

This was the basic message or similar.   How did we manage so many copies, easy?

By typing the message in one continuous length, leaving spacer at either end, we then taped the two ends together forming one continuous message.   We then printed it out on a spare telex-printer.   Thus making several copies of the same message then put into envelopes and sent around the various units, by our SDS with some amazing results.   The joke had been leaked but you throw enough bait you’ll always get a bite.   It would seem the only ones that kept the joke going was 104-Sig Sqn as we caught four.   All brand new replacements.   Even the MP's were in on the joke.

Any way these poor souls were driven down to the drop off point dressed in civvies, helmet and webbing to wait for the transport to take them to the upcoming festivities by one deviate liney driver who’s name I’ll leave out - no I wont, his name was John Proctor as he was the only volunteer in the hat.   So with the unsuspecting souls in the back and all the boys giving them a big wave off, they had no idea what was to take place.  Even the nightly APC clearing patrol gave them a big wave.   Of course they all waved back, non the wiser.

Well dropped of and standing there all by their lonesome, when up pulled the MP's!  And where do you think you going?  What!  Your going to a dance?

Just where do you think you are, do want to get your-selves riddled with the pox.

Get into the vehicle and we’ll have a word with who ever were responsible.   When the four were returned, red faced and in front of the Duty Officer and Sgt, who found it hard to keep a straight face and the MP's ready to burst into laughter, whilst these poor bastards were being read the riot act!   All the boys crept up with camera’s to get a picture and to capture the moment.   Then all present burst into laughter.   It was one of those moments when a bit of insanity brought a bit of lighthearted sanity to an insane place in time.

And down come the rain and we all got wet and retired to the boozer.   There was much laughter and even the unsuspecting four will never forget their intro to a unit in Nui Dat called 104 Signal Squadron on war service in South Vietnam.


WHAT A BALL TEARER

Ball TearerThis is a true story.  It happened one evening on a stroll down to the 104 boozer.

I was walking along the duckboards down to the boozer, when a certain young chap thought he’d have some fun at my expense.   Accompanied by a couple of his mates I was to become the butt of this prank, a prank that backfired to the dismay of the perpetrator of the prank.

Now the perpetrator thought it would be a great idea to tip me upside down and have me walk on my hands, by grabbing the scruff of my shirt, also grabbing me by the crotch and lifting me upwards thus upending me.   At this he was successful but he also knew that he was hurting me as he had more than a handful of pants.   This was, as they all thought; was a huge joke at my expense.   I said ok! you’ve had you fun now put me down.   To no avail, and they just kept laughing as they were having a great time at my suffering and humiliation, not to mention every thing was falling out of my shirt pockets and down between the duckboards. Cigarettes, lighter and money into the water between the boards. (The duckboards were only old pallets).  I repeated my plea, still no release and this to them was getting funnier by the minute.   The stupid things that grown bored men do!

IT WAS TIME TO END THIS TOMFOOLERY

So I propped on my left hand, twisted my body to the right, thrust my right hand upward and GRABBED a handful of the perpetrators BALLS and screwed very tightly with a left twist and yanked at the same time.  The result was that I got dropped - very quickly followed by a earsplitting scream, followed by one doubled over perpetrator with tears in his eyes and me being called all the lowdown dirty bastards under the sun.  So I picked up my wet cigarettes, lighter and money, continued down to the boozer feeling a bit sore and leaving the offending party to console the perpetrator.  'Switches' always got to be the clown; he was warned!

No doubt he was in a great deal of pain and after a short time they too came into the boozer, sat down and started on the first beer until he looked down at the site of blood, trickling down his leg, he had to be taken to the RAP to have his scrotum sewn up.

He was now wounded but what war story could he tell and with the scares to prove it.   I never meant to damage him so much, but that boys at play.   

In memory of Kerry Sloan, EBONY Switchboard Operator  at  Nui Dat, South Vietnam 69/70 104 Sig Sqn.


SNAKE and the LINEMEN

KraitThere was this day when one of the cable head boxes needed attention, which was located down near the Yank, Husky Bravo 155’s, that’s a mobile gun platform that looks like a Tank.

So a couple of the lads went down to check it out and to find out what the problem was.   Well surprise, surprise, they found a snake, a very poisonous one, which just happened to be a krait and you don’t muck around with them.

One bite put you head between your legs and kiss you arse good buy, but like I said, these linies are an enterprising lot.   No Names, no pack drill, one of them has the initials, N.G. a blond headed fellow from memory, took this little slimy bastard prisoner, put it in a cardboard box and delivered to the  RAP at 8 Field Hospital.   That’s when the fun started.   They opened the box to have a look, not knowing it was still alive and the bloody thing jumped out onto the floor.   Which was supposed to be funny, but the medics too were enterprising, so armed with one enormous hypodermic and one bass broom, subdued the escapee and was immediately put to death. The lads were thanked for their co-operation and the specimen, as they are hard to get in such good condition, as they are mostly smashed up or mangled in some way.   Even till now I couldn’t tell you, who had the better end of the yarn.

Footnote: These poisonous snakes, vipers and other various insects are kept in large jars filled with pure alcohol for identification purposes, if one is unlucky enough to get bitten. Then the medics know what treatment to apply. I.e. anti- venom.


SMITHY "THE CANADIAN"

"The worst of ours are going north, and the best of theirs are coming south"
     (Unknown marine quoted in Leatherneck magazine)

Introduction

Smithy "The Canadian"Clyde Smith was one of those characters that could always get you going.  A real asset to any unit.  He  was a Canadian and joined the Australian Army after doing a stint in the Canadian Army,  where he had served in the Middle East, Cyprus, I think.   Smithy was discharged with some problems (see below), after serving in Vietnam with 104 Sig Sqn, and returned to his beloved Canada. 

Note:  It is estimated that there are over 4000 Canadians Vietnam Veterans, that served with the US Forces.   Our Smithy maybe the only one that served with the Australian Forces.

The Peanut Turd

We all new him as Smithy and could he spin a yarn.    Whilst serving his time at Kapooka, he was put in charge of the toilet block, for cleaning purposes.

Now Smithy decided to play a practical joke on the Platoon Commander.  This was to be carried out on morning inspection.  Smithy got some chunky peanut butter from the mess and just before inspection placed the same, piled up like a turd on one toilet seat after they were all spit and polished awaiting the inspection.

With the inspection under way and Smithy on the heals of the inspecting Officer, keeping a straight face following the Platoon Commander on his inspection of the toilet block.

Now at first glance the toilet block looks first class until the Officer spots the "turd" on one of the seats.

What is that!   What says Smithy!   "THAT" says the Officer pointing at the offending item, now the plot thickens.  Smithy boldly steps forward, looks at the offending item and comments that looks like shit Sir!   Now the bait is set and the Officer is waiting for an explanation.   Smith plunges one finger into the item and takes a whiff of the item, then calmly says, smells like shit Sir, I’ll check and proceeds to taste it.

The Officer said no need for that, but Smith being Smith carried on not to be denied his victory, tastes it and spits it out.  Yes Sir that’s shit.

The Officer then bolts for the nearest bowl and throws up his breakfast and going green under the gills, Smith your mad.  Now Smithy just replied no Sir, CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER.  Smith was relieved of being in charge of the toilets.  Just made to scrub them.  No more practical jokes.

Bear Story and the Rain

BearIt was one night in October and we were sitting in our tent listening to the rain.   You all remember the f89king rain and the sweaty nights, the humming of the mozzie and the crotch rot, the endless use of foot powder and the constant itch and the scratching.  Plus we won’t mention the cursing and general all round feeling of being pissed off with the wet season in the miserable bloody weather!

Ha says Smith; you call this miserable weather.  You don’t know what miserable weather is.  I remember one time back home in Quebec, me and some of the guys were coming back from the canteen to our lines and it was blowing snow and so cold you rattled as you walked.   He looked at me and just gave a sly wink, hu hu hear it comes - another one of Smithies yarns.

Now as we were passing the mess hall, we hear this rattling around inside and we decided to investigate, as there had been a lot of meat and bread going missing and the cooks had been complaining about the blokes knocking off the tucker.

So now the gallant troopers decide they would catch the guilty party and get their well-deserved pat on the back.   We might even get a hot brew while we were there and we could use it.   So the intrepid few led by Smith crept into the mess and all come to a sudden stop at the outline of the figure before them.   I wonder who it is comes a whisper from behind; it looks like the RSM, as he has a big bearskin coat he proudly wears, according to Smith the RSM had killed it and had a coat made out of the hide.   Now is decision time, they were going to catch the guilty perpetrator and justify their presence and get that hot brew.   Like lightening Jack Flash they moved into position to grab the offender, until it stood erect all seven feet of him.   Christ it’s a real bear!

And no one was going to tackle him.   So Smith and his troopers disappeared into the night with great haste, the bear getting such a fright it to took off.

Smith and his bunch would live to fight another day, but Smith and his motley bunch had discovered who had been having the midnight snacks and were commended for their attempted apprehension of the guilty party.  

Now you might be tempted to ask, what has this got to do with the rain?  Absolutely nothing! Its only another yarn you spin when among mates.

What a Shamosle - The Discharge of Smithy

Discharge in VietnamSmithy was due to be discharge from the Australian army and wanted to take his discharged in South Vietnam.  The reasoning for this, was so he could arrange transport back to the to the United States of America whereby he could arrange a flight back to Canada - Free!

All this would entail, was a simple letter from the Australian Army, Stating that he was not a deserter and was being allowed to take his discharge in country for the purposes of obtaining a flight to the USA and such a request was being requested for the transportation of the said member, or words to that effect.  No way this was going to happen.

Now Smith hadn’t taken any R and R for this sole purpose, being so he could arrange transport home.  So bloody easy to arrange, especially if you know how the yanks worked.   A flight to Saigon or Long Bin, with his discharge papers and a letter and he was home free.   How much simpler could it get.

So Smith applied to the Task Force Commander, who in turn applied to the Australian Force Commander in Saigon, who then passed it to the Dept of the Army,

The Army Legal Eagles in Australia, did not know how to action such a request.   Where were they during WW1 and WW11?   So back down the ladder came the request request more details, etc, etc.   Not that this surprised anyone except Smith and he was bloody angry, so angry he even thought of deserting and making his own way home.   This was not the way to go Smithy!   However why not leak it to the press; they would have a field day with this story.  All things being the way the public is performing against the War.   It soon leaked out around the Sqn of the planned action and the OC started to get angry, not on my watch will this happen, no bloody way.

Who in turn took it back to the Task Force Commander, who in turn sent it down the line again?  You could hear the wheels turning in Saigon, what to do now.   If the press got hold of this situation the shit would hit the fan.

No doubt heads would role and no one wanted to put his head up.  So a plan was formed to solve this problem and this is where it goes all Ape-shit!

Smith is to be discharged in Butterworth Malaya: which was a British base.

The RAAF had a base and hospital there and our wounded came home via this route.   From there Smith could be taken to Singapore and go to the British embassy and get a flight to England or Scotland and then onto Canada.

This was the "master plan".   Now in theory this all sounded pretty good and solved the problem but even the greatest plans of mice and men go wrong as this plan would.  Apply Murphy’s Law - Any thing that can go wrong -Will.  And this proves to be the case with Smith!

So with this in mind Smith was to pack his gear and be flown to Butterworth, Malaya.   Transport to Malaya was arranged for him to fly there and so on.

But all was not as it seamed, as no one forwarded this Information onto the British Embassy in Singapore, or the British Red Caps (military police).  As it turns out, all went well until the Red Caps picked up Smith and that’s when the fun started.  The military police wanted to know just what sort of fool did Smith take them for. You think we’re fools.

Well you must admit; A Canadian in Australian uniform, wearing Canadian United nations ribbons from the Middle East, Australian Vietnam ribbons and Canadian parachute wings, would look a little bit out of place.  To the MP’s they had themselves an imposter and Smith was taken into custody.  Then the real fun started with signals between Singapore and Saigon.   Who was this fellow they had in custody and was he who he said he was, and under what circumstances had he arrived in Singapore.  Are ha, the questions are many; the answers are embarrassing to the Australian Participants.   Who thought up this plan?   I don’t know who but some ones arse is going to get kicked.  After much communications between the warring parties Smith finally got his release.  Yes he finally got home via Edinburgh then Canada.

All this just for the sake of one letter, but we did gave him a great send off! 

John Hunter
coyote2k@bigpond.net.au

Note:  John served with 5RAR in Vietnam before transferring to 104 Sig Sqn in Sept 1969 during his tour. 


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