US Infantry in Vietnam; Jungle Critters Part 2. The recollections of a Veteran of the 1st Infantry Division, RVN.


Hey Mike, no offence at all! We used to laugh till we had tears in our eyes way back then at the unbelievable place we found ourselves in, at the incredible situations the US Army used to place us in, and at the fantastic events that unfolded around us on a daily, almost hourly basis! 

Those lizards would do a "push up" every time they shouted out "FUCKYOU!" which when I finally saw what scared the crap out of me the first time I heard it, made the situation even funnier later to me and everyone else. 

My first encounter with a "Fuck You!" lizard was on a night op about 50 meters, maybe a 100 meters at most, outside the NDP on the very first operation we went on. I was still a SP4 E4, with no authority over anybody, and was sent out on the op with 2 guys who had been in country for almost a year. The battalion assigned a few guys like this to each platoon in our company to help us get straight, since nearly everyone (including officers and NCOs) was in the RVN for the first time and it was new to nearly all of us. 

Well, as soon as we set up, these two characters looked at me and said, more or less, "Wake us up if anything happens, or about a half hour before sunrise. Whichever happens first." 

Then they laid down, got comfortable, and settled in for about 12 hours of sack time (LOL! Were they ever in for a humongous bad news surprise!). They knew that being a new guy, having been in country about 10 days, 5 of that in jungle devils school, and having been rocketed and mortared for about 6 hours as a welcome from the local VC around Phouc Vinh base camp, there was no no no no way I was gonna lay down and go to sleep on them while on op, regardless of how tired I was after the days sweep. 

And they were right too! I was exhausted, from the heat, the humidity, the struggle through the elephant grass, wait-a-minute bushes and tangle-foot vines. I would have sold my soul for an air-conditioner, a cold beer, and a soft bed - to hell with Raquel Welch and Ann Margaret curled up in it to ready to play! All I wanted was sleep! Alone, safe and dry! 

Well the darkness came like it does in the jungle; daylight, always dim, subdued, shadowy, seems to vanish instantly, being replaced by a black so black that you, I, anyone with unaided eyes cannot see their own hands at arms length... 

And with the darkness come the normal jungle noises, from unseen bugs, birds, whatever. 

Also with the darkness comes the illusion of movement; I had known about this since basic 2 years before I found myself in the jungle, but in the jungle it is much more sinister than in Germany or the States. Actually I had known about it since childhood when my Grandpa, a WWI First Infantry division grunt, told me about how the barbed wire posts, and trees would move at night as he strained his eyes on watch from the trench or LP or whatever he was doing, in the periods of darkness between flares. And my dad had mentioned the same thing once about the Pacific Islands, and moving trees. Also heard it from the other men, combat vets, in the family during the big get together bullshit sessions they always had (after I was considered old enough to hear such stuff by them) at family dos. 

But this was the RVN and it was scary and real now in a way it had never been before! There might be a gook or gooks out there, razor sharp knife ready, to rush me, slit my throat and kill my buddies if I let my guard down, if I relaxed for a minute! 

So the hours passed as centuries, with me struggling to get up enough balls to wake these clowns up and insist they carry their share of the load, and with me struggling to stay awake. Hours like centuries, hours like millennia... 

Breaking squelch on the prick 25 when asked for a Sitrep, taking a leak down my pants leg as I lay in the dark. Centuries passed. 

Then suddenly, I was aware of a change out there! What was it? Something was wrong, but what? Straining my eyes and ears, I suddenly knew what was wrong. All of the night creature noises in front of our LP had suddenly and totally stopped. There was someone or something out there that had not been there before and he, she or it had scared the night critters into a dead silence.... 

Then the trees started to move around a bit more, coming closer, closer, I would have to blow the Claymores soon! As I reached out to wake up the vets, directly in front of me, this high-pitched gook voice screamed, "Fuck You!!!! Fuck You!!!!!" and he started to run right at me with a levelled AK. 

Well, I did what any other scared shitless, new guy in country would have done! As soon as his buddies jumped up behind him and ran forward, well, I blew all 3 Claymores on them: BOOM-BOOM-BOOM!!!!!!!!!! Then I emptied my M-16 in one long burst of auto fire, hosing down any survivors! 

Needless to say, I did not have to wake my sleeping beauties! They never even asked what the! They just cut loose too, then scooped me, the prick 25 and themselves up and lit out for the NDP, one shooting to the rear and yelling for me to do so, the other babbling on the radio as we ran, tripped, stumbled throughout the dark toward the NDP and safety. 

This also woke up the rest of the battalion, as there is nothing quite like the boom of Claymores and bursts of auto fire in the jungle night to get your attention!!!!!!!!!

We were damned lucky we did not get wasted by some jumpy FNG from my platoon or company as we retired to the NDP with blazing weapons. Well some were blazing; mine jammed on the second magazine, so I was armed with a short plastic club and bad language!!!! 

Once back in the safety of the NDP, as the battalion settled down to intermittent H&I fire from grenade launchers, with parachute flares lighting the night sky as the mortar boys earned their combat pay, we got to explain what had happened out there. 

Actually, I got to explain what had happened out there...... 

I wondered at the incredulous looks, gaped mouths, pop eyes, and snickers that accompanied my somewhat breathless report at the Company CP, and later at the Battalion CP for the Old Man. And the Sergeant Major... 

Well, it was a long spooky night for everyone. Shortly after first light, a patrol went out to look for bodies or pieces of bodies near the op site. They brought back about half a lizard; weight about 3 or 4 pounds. My gook!!!!!!! 

The squad leader of the patrol also recounted how we had killed a good half dozen trees with Claymores and small arms fire. We were in deep shit. The snoring beauties had sworn that they had seen muzzle flashes or gooks during our retreat. So, the whole world knew that they had gone to sleep and left me with it all night long. As an idiot, I was forgiven. As idiots (and vets) they were never forgiven. Life is hard in the jungle. They became universally known as the sleeping beauties, Dopey and Dummy. 

I am just glad that my official RVN nickname became '********', and not 'Lizardman'. '********' I could handle; 'Lizardman' or 'Fuck You' would have been too much to live with for a year... Or maybe for the rest of my life. 

Well Mike, there is a true-life, long-winded war story from the 'Nam. 

Have a good weekend and a good week! Take care! 

DM2, Out!


1st Infantry Division TAOR (1969)

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