VN Tales #2

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Quick Steel
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VN Tales #2

Post by Quick Steel » Sat May 11, 2019 1:25 am

One of the interesting aspects of my VN experience was exposure to unusual terrain.

In the flat coastal areas was the greatest variety of terrain and vegetation. The province (Binh Tuan) where I did maybe 60% of my missions was the driest province in the entire country. Although there were large areas of thick vegetation it was not classical jungle. I would describe it as dense woods.

For classical jungle we had to travel up into the central highlands of the country. My unit spent some weeks there outside the beautiful city of Dalat. Dalat is where the wealthy would go in the summer to escape the heat. Fine homes (mostly French built) peppered the hillsides around the lake in the center of the city. The pedal boats are always a popular attraction to this day as I have seen on YouTube. Young people can ride the boats and talk without parents being present.

Outside the city the forest is darker, trees are higher and thicker. The further west one travels the more true jungle dominates as around Ban Me Thuot. My ARVN division headquarters was located here. This was Hollywood jungle. The wealthy in the late 1800s into the 1900s used to hunt tigers here. I doubt there are any tigers left anywhere in the country now. Maybe there are a couple tucked away somewhere but it is unlikely. Anyway, in the Central Highlands you get monkeys and smaller parrots of the parakeet type.

Back to the lowlands. One day we were paralleling the coast. In the area were huge sand dunes. With a strong wind coming in off the South China Sea there were streams of sand blowing from the peaks of dunes looking like smoke from a chimney. We started climbing some high dunes heading towards the sea. A couple of our scouts peeked over the top. One came running/ sliding down to us. A small group, a squad, of NVA soldiers were having their lunch on the other side, down in a pocket created by the dunes. We came to the top and interrupted their final lunch. The had no cover, were wide open, and the shooting was finished in seconds. Very dumb of them. I guess they thought no one would bother climbing the dunes. Didn't even post a lookout.

Speaking of the coast, in my area there were long miles of the most beautiful beaches you will ever see. The sand was sugar. The water pure crystal. You could see right to the bottom. No one around for scores of miles, no hamlets or villages. Magnificent resort potential.

Another day we were back in the forest. We walked out into a very open area, two or three acres. It was studded with huge termite mounds. You could stand behind one and be completely covered. And they were thick enough to stop bullets. All that was good because we had a brief firefight there. We had bumped into just a couple of NVA, probably supply troops. A few shots and they ran off. We didn't bother to chase them. (I wish I had a photo of myself standing next to one of those termite mounds.)

One day, in a helicopter, we were traveling just a few feet above the treetops. I then saw the most impressive wild animals I have ever seen: a pair of guar. Guar are the largest wild ox in the world. Huge beasts, at least these two were. They used to be hunted. Don't know if they are dangerous. I suspect not.

Another time in the woods, I saw the long line of ARVN soldiers ahead of me suddenly start leaping to the left or right and that rippling effect came right down the line towards me. It was only when the soldier directly ahead of me jumped to the left that I discovered the cause of this excitement. I also quickly lept aside. It was a deer running full bore and bowling over any in his way. Missed me by inches. Undoubtedly a communist deer.

Some other day I'll tell about the cobra beneath my bunk bed.
"Life is good if you don't weaken." AG Russell

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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by doglegg » Sat May 11, 2019 1:30 am

Well written QS. I could feel the sand and see the deer. Thanks. ::nod::

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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by Doc B » Sat May 11, 2019 1:40 am

Another interesting read, QS. Thanks!!!
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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by claywall » Sat May 11, 2019 1:53 am

I enjoyed reading this very much, Quick Steel. Keep it up.

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Quick Steel
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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by Quick Steel » Sat May 11, 2019 3:45 am

Thank you gentlemen.
"Life is good if you don't weaken." AG Russell

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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by zoogirl » Sat May 11, 2019 5:00 am

Very well done!
Now, I must hear about that cobra!
We had a pair of albino cobra at the zoo and they were the animals that worried me the most.
We had a fair number of ‘hot’ snakes including rattlers of several types, a copperhead, Gaboon Vipers and the cobras.
Most of the snakes were pretty laid back, with the larger ones being the calmest. ‘Jelly Roll’, the Eastern Diamondback would barely take notice of us and the vipers barely moved at all. Not so those cobras.
They were quite young when they came in, just a couple of feet long. Their cage was long and almost floor level. They would actually follow you if you walked past.
It was definitely unsettling to have them slither along the cage, tracking your leg and sometimes striking at the glass. I honestly believe that if they had escaped, they would have chased down the first person to enter the building.
We didn’t have them long. They even began to get on the boss’s nerves and as we had public tours happening, he decided they were just to much of a danger to have around. They went to someone he knew who was an expert with hot snakes.
A cobra under my bunk...no, thank you!
I’m too young to be this old!
“Hey Ann, gotchyer knife?!”

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Quick Steel
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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by Quick Steel » Sat May 11, 2019 6:01 am

zoogirl, I remember reading about the young director of a major zoo. Don't recall which one. Somehow he got bitten by a supremely venomous snake. As he was dying he kept insisting that it was his own fault, not that of the snake. Very sad. This is the first time since my teen years that I have recalled the incident. Think it was written up in Life magazine, or some other national magazine.
"Life is good if you don't weaken." AG Russell

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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by Tony_Wood » Sat May 11, 2019 1:43 pm

QS, keep them coming. Good reading.
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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by royal0014 » Sat May 11, 2019 4:01 pm

QS, I commend you for being able to regale us with simple stories
of the 'simpler' times you experienced while in-country.

I hesitate to use the word refreshing to describe your difference in perspective.
I do not wish to lessen to impact of your time there.
I can not imagine the horrifying images that must also haunt you.

As the song goes ... "In a time I don't remember, in a war he can't forget".

::handshake:: Thank You, Sir, for your service.
Chris
i woke last night to the sound of thunder
how far off i sat and wondered
started humming a song from nineteen sixty two
aint it funny how the night moves

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Quick Steel
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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by Quick Steel » Sat May 11, 2019 6:23 pm

Thank you Tony and Royal. I appreciate your comments.
"Life is good if you don't weaken." AG Russell

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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by samb1955 » Sat May 11, 2019 6:38 pm

Thanks for your service! Keep them coming as I find the subject very interesting.

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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by peanut740 » Sat May 11, 2019 9:03 pm

Very interesting QS.Well done. ::tu::
Roger

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Quick Steel
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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by Quick Steel » Sun May 12, 2019 2:40 am

Thanks for your comments Samb and Roger.
"Life is good if you don't weaken." AG Russell

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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by zoogirl » Sun May 12, 2019 3:41 pm

Quick Steel wrote:zoogirl, I remember reading about the young director of a major zoo. Don't recall which one. Somehow he got bitten by a supremely venomous snake. As he was dying he kept insisting that it was his own fault, not that of the snake. Very sad. This is the first time since my teen years that I have recalled the incident. Think it was written up in Life magazine, or some other national magazine.
My boss lost a good friend that way. He had all his cages doubled doored, every kind of security, and then simply had a brain freeze. He made a clumsy move and got tagged. He had time to call for help and say it had been his fault, shut the cage, and then he went for the door. Made it partway down the sidewalk.
I think it was either a boomslang or a fer-de-lance.
A guy i knew had a cobra at home as part of a large collection. He got drunk one night and decided to pick it up and wave it at his partner. Bad idea. It tagged him and he nearly lost his arm. My boss had some anti venom and the hospital wasn’t going to let them use it. I think it was a bit over its date. They finally relented and it worked. Good thing it was a very young snake and I think may have only got one fang in.
I don’t mess with hot snakes!
I’m really looking forward to the next instalment.
Here’s a question. I would imagine that there were times when you had to keep pretty quiet, and not move around much. What did you do to pass the time? I guess there were always small maintenance tasks. If you weren’t actively on watch, did you play cards? Maybe a little whittling?
I’m too young to be this old!
“Hey Ann, gotchyer knife?!”

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Quick Steel
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Re: VN Tales #2

Post by Quick Steel » Sun May 12, 2019 4:27 pm

Ann, To shed some light on your questions: Most of the time, 90%, we were in the "boonies" conducting operations. When we did get out of the field my downtime was largely spent reading which has been my great pastime since my earliest years.

In the field much of the work was conducting ambush and counter-ambush operations and in these there was an absolute need for silence as you correctly surmised. Although we had a couple of large scale battles, battalion size, most were company operations. So in garrison, other than reading, there was the occasional card game, cribbage too which I didn't like, or watch a movie.

Back to snakes. For a while there was a TV program about an Arizona doctor who specialized in treating snake bites. Young guy. Always remember the episode where they brought in a middle-aged man bitten by a rattler. He was alert and talkative; nice guy. The doctor treated him but the patient started heading south and failed to respond ultimately dying. Then too, I recall Marlin Perkins who had a local Chicago show when he was director of the Lincoln Park zoo. The show was live and he got bit by some serpent. Program interrupted by a visit to the hospital. Actually he had been bitten several times and had a pretty good degree of immunity. Later of course he went on to his gig with Mutural of Omaha-Wild Kingdom.
"Life is good if you don't weaken." AG Russell

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