US Infantry in Vietnam; Jungle Critters. The recollections of a Veteran of the 1st Infantry Division, RVN.


CRITTERS PART I


FOR a while now I have been thinking about telling y'all something about the animal life that was in the jungle with us. So, here goes!

There were small deer, rarely seen but definitely there. I remember them as being reddish colored now, with odd horns, but 33 years and all that has happened may be making mock of my memories.

There were rabbits, small, brown, with the familiar bunny ears, also rarely seen, but most definitely out there in the boonies. When I was walking point once, I scared a rabbit in some brush, he, she, or it bolted, scaring me and I cranked off 2 rounds of 12-ga 00 buckshot into the poor bunny, making bunny junk and goo out of the poor little thing. I had hunted rabbits in The World without any qualms, but somehow murdering this bunny bothered me and still does. At the time I was too high on adrenaline rush and worrying about gooks hearing the boom of that Winchester, but later that night I dream of dead, shotgun mangled Easter bunnies with baskets of corpses and accusing eyes. I still do on occasion.

There were snakes. God, were there snakes! All shapes sizes and colors, and as far as I remember all aggressive as hell and deadly poisonous, except for the huge ones!

Tiny brown snakes not much wider or bigger than your finger called kraits : One Steppers in the slang of the GI.

Snakes from 18" to about 3 foot longer, greenish brown or greenish gray in color as I remember them, with long fangs called bamboo vipers, although we found them everywhere, not just in the bamboo! We called them Two Steppers.

On a jungle patrol once, I was about the middle man of our file, moving through bamboo, when the point man yelled "Snake" and jumped off the narrow game trail (yes this is a NO-NO but we were trying to sneak through the crap, not hack a trail for everyone within a mile to hear could hear being cut). The slack man swatted at the snake with his rifle butt, missed, and tried to get clear of the viper that was making like a Snake Flash as it speed-crawled down the trail. The man next in line hacked at it with a machete, and got the slackman in the leg, swung again, hit bamboo, glanced off and sliced his own leg open to the bone. I tried to beat it to death with my shotgun butt while using the shotgun like a pole-vaulter's pole to leave the ground. The RTO threw his steel pot at it, then jumped into the bamboo and got completely hung up in the crap, and the next 2 guys clubbed each other and chopped each other trying to kill the fast moving viper, who by this time was going even faster than he, she, or it had been ! The last soldier stood frozen in place as snakey death sped towards him, and then between his legs, and around the the curve in the game trail. I know it is my imagination, but I have a clear picture of that bamboo viper, eyes big as saucers in shocked amazement at our chance meeting looking back at us as he, she or it vanished from sight into the gloom......

LOL! As for moving quietly, that was pretty much shot in the butt by the encounter , not to mention the Dustoff that was required to medevac our self inflicted wounded to a hospital for treatment after we staggered towards a clearing big enough for a chopper with same. Or for the slicks that had to come and get the rest of the platoon and fly us out of there before the gooks showed up looking for trouble!

End of platoon jungle patrol mission!

Then there was the time the company was conducting a jungle patrol, and a HUGE SNAKE, kind of yellow/white in color, about 24" wide, with no view of its head or tail in sight, had to be crossed by my platoon file , while the monster was slowly crawling across our path....

That was a giant step I never forgot, and neither did anyone else there that day. We do not know HOW BIG THE SNAKE WAS; like I said, we never saw its head or tail. And no one volunteered to stick around to wait for the tail to come slithering by either! We always thought it was a python or anaconda, but the Army said there were not any snakes like that in the jungle (from the safety of wherever the command authority that made the determination was!).

There were cobras in county too, but we never saw one of them. Just read about how other soldiers and marines encountered them in the STARS AND STRIPES paper. We called these Three Steppers 

The One, Two or Three Stepper alluded to the number of steps the Bitten Party took before expiring from the bite. GI SWAG as to whether the cobra was deadlier than the bamboo viper: we never met a cobra, so it got lower rating until proved different!

And of course the Army never issued any snake bite venom counter agents to the troops in the field. Our beloved and trusted Docs took care of snake bite victims with CBR injectors loaded with ATROPINE, since the local poisonous snakes seemed to have venom that worked like nerve agents. Then we called for a Dustoff to get the bitten GI to a hospital for further treatment.

BUGS!! God knows there were and are still more bugs in SE Asia than the rest of the world combined. Mosquitoes that are bigger than any I have ever seen anywhere else, with a taste for human blood that is insatiable! Carriers of malaria and leaving itchy infected bites, these mosquitoes scorned the GI bug repellent, seeming to thrive on it like a health food!

Leeches! Tiny green things that attach themselves to you, and become huge obscene black horrors that hang there sucking your blood. These damned things seemed to delight in penetrating various body cavities before settling down to a meal (penis, anus, ears, nostrils, ugh!). Wounds. Infected sores. More nasty infected wounds left behind after the leech was removed!

Ticks that got to be the size of grapes almost! More infections!

Huge ants and Huge termites that seemed to relish human flesh and blood at every opportunity!

Spiders, big ones and little ones, more bad news.

Then there were my personal favorite bugs. HUGE 18" - 20" gray/brown or gray/tan armored centipedes with a poisonous bite that as far I as I know never killed anyone, but made them so sick it was medevac time for them! Aggressive giant insects, that would attack just like the warrior ants and the warrior termites. Thank God these horrors were mainly solitary, but upon occasion some lucky soul would manage to find a nest of them!!!!!!

And big black or reddish hairy millipedes to match them in size and ferocity!!! Also poisonous and requiring a trip to a hospital for treatment. Again I do not know anyone that ever died from their bite, but it always made them sick.

Big yellow eyed bullfrogs that would suddenly appear at night scaring the crap out of me and anyone else that was not expecting them to suddenly appear. LOL, FNG's must have killed millions of them during the war ! Hey, they made as much noise as a man moving through the bush at night! And were loud mouthed too!

Rabid rats! Rats, some of them as big as small cats, who were not afraid of men and would come looking for snacks at night, human or garbage! A bite or scratch meant that you were due for the extremely painful rabies shot series that could and did reduce some men to tears, and actually had some guys forcibly taken to treatment by minders.

Fleas and lice, complements of the rarely seen monkeys and birds that lived in the jungle.

And my other favorite, also the favorite of nearly every soldier that went out into the jungle, the lizard (official name unknown to me and zillions of other GIs), that was tiny or huge, with a voice to match, the infamous FUCKYOU! or FUKYEW! LIZARD. This guy, sounded just like a gook with a bad accent, lurking in the pitch-black jungle, suddenly shouting out,

"FUCKYOU!!!! FUCKYOU!!!!!!!"

No doubt in my military or civilian minds, that this lizard was the cause of zillions of dollars of ammo expenditure throughout the war! There was nothing like an unexpected, high pitched or bass "FUCKYOU!!" flying out the impenetrable black of the jungle night to cause FNGs to blaze away, blow claymores, throw grenades, etc, thereby scaring the rest of the nearby GIs spitless, and if the GIs and marines were jumpy enough, provoking a blaze of panic fire in that sector of the NDP as soon as the LPs were in (and believe me, the LPs would blow their mines and take off for the NDP, fearing to become the isolated and soon dead victims of a ground attack!). This panic fire could sweep along the entire NDP until NCOs and Officers managed to restore order and cease firing.

There were reports of tigers in the STARS AND STRIPES, as well as bears, but I never saw these either. 

Somewhere in country there were supposedly elephants but again I never saw one.

Very few cats and dogs were around anywhere except GI base camps as the Vietnamese would eat them.

Well, that's it about the CRITTERS of the jungle as I remember actually seeing them. I am sure there are countless others that I never saw, but just heard at night, that someone else has info on.

DM2, Out!


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1st Infantry Division TAOR (1969)

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