US Infantry in Vietnam - GI Beans and GI Gravy, Food in the Boonies, Part 2


Beans, Incoming & Stuff


I cannot remember - did I tell y'all in the email that a well known brand of USA Louisiana Tobasco Hot Sauce was the most favorite condiment bought by soldiers at the PX to spice up their C-rats? It was MACILHENNEY'S, and although I ate it as a seasoning before I went in the Army, throughout my Army career, I still eat it! I love that stuff! We put it on everything but ice cream!

The First Infantry Division had a good general - I cannot remember his name now - but it was his LAW that his soldiers be fed hot cooked meals and got their ice, beer and soda almost as regularly as we got bullets and water! And our battalion CO believed (rightly!) that soldiers who knew that they were cared for (as opposed to expendable!) would fight harder, longer, and more faithfully than some poor GI that was just there.

I cannot remember the Battalion CO's name either, but he was a soldier's soldier! He probably got 3 -5 hours sleep in 24 hours, and he was in the boonies when we were in the boonies! When the bullets flew, if he was not on the ground in the middle of the shitstorm, he was flying over it in his bubble-nosed Bell C and C chopper (unarmed except for any weapons carried by him and his pilot). He did a full year as a combat officer instead of 6 months in the field and 6 as a staff officer.

The beer and soda and ice was flown out to all FSB, OP, and NDP, daily, gooks and weather permitting. And nothing was less permanent than an NDP - battalion or separate company might dig in multiple times during an operation, or it may dig in just once.

Our hooches (sometimes pronounced with a hootch spelling), Mike, were made completely from ponchos as they were lighter to carry than a shelter half, and buttoned together (snapped actually) making a water tight dwelling that 3 could cram into to get out of the rain.

Hooches as I describe were set up in NDP and at FSB - we had no other barracks.

Ponchos (worn as rain gear and used as a water proof ground sheet in theory), and indeed all rain gear ( including the rain-suits ) as issued for individual wear, were useless in the monsoon season.

Not only did a soldier get thoroughly wet from the monsoon rain, but the airlessness, the lack of "breathing" of a rain suit invited heat exhaustion or heat stroke in very short order! It also restricted movement and was "heavy". Leave them on the ships for the Navy to wear!

A pair of shelter halves came out with the platoon HQ gear for use strictly as a "fridge".

Soldiers soon were issued two ponchos, and one was carried simply to use for a makeshift stretcher.

Poncho liners ( a very light weight cotton quilt, made in woodland/jungle camou colors) were issued and used in the field and at base camps, FSB, OPs, hospitals, etc for "blankets". The jungle got cold at night, especially if you were wet! The normal heavy wool OD blankets were issued to hospitals and rear area units. But most RAMFs managed to acquire the poncho liners, causing shortages in the field until the Army finally got zillions of them.

Toilet paper, cigarettes, gum, beer and sodas were all "official trading goods" - MPC (Military Payment Certificates or Funny Money) was useless to a grunt except to buy the sexual favors of a prostitute during highway clearance ops, and actually got used as emergency TP if the soldier in need was squeamish about using his fingers as ass wipe, and leery of using vegetation!

Log choppers were the daily logistical chopper flights made to the NDP, FSB, or OP; in the Army these choppers were almost always CHINOOKS, but HUEYS were also used as log choppers. Once in a great while, for something really big, a SKY CRANE or SKY HOOK was used. The log choppers were what allowed the Army to operate scattered all over the map in the boonies with no airstrips and no roads.

Look at those maps I sent my friend! There were H and I fires flying all over the place, some with such high trajectories (howitzers, 155s and 175s) that the passing of the shell was unnoticed unless you were near the gun or the target area, or there was a misdirected shoot, or a round was short for what ever reason and you were near or at the receiving end. These rounds came in all calibers, and I suspect that most of the originators for misdirected rounds and short rounds were ARVN in nature. I think that **** can verify that a lot of worn out, but re-barreled stuff (artillery) was transferred to the ARVN for a time. And the ARVN could screw up anything, anytime, with no effort required.....

I am just surprised NOW that it did not happen more often than it did (friendly fire incidents).

From the air, the RVN looked like a green, pock marked moon! Shell and bomb craters everywhere you looked .

If a company was moving through the rubber, across the paddy fields, or even grassy areas that were too large to move around, the company would move in a 2 platoons forward in skirmish line with about 12 feet - 15 feet (less if visibility was impaired by weather or terrain) between soldiers. If the weapons platoon was present, it would form a second line, and the 3rd rifle platoon would form a 4 line as a rear guard and reserve.

Platoons and squads would also move skirmish lines in squad diamonds 2 forward and 1 back sometimes with the 2 M-60 teams placed near the LT and PLT SGT.

The platoons would be in 1 or sometimes 2 lines with 2 or even 3 squads forward, and 1 back as skirmish lines.

If the whole battalion was there, the remaining companies might advance behind this skirmish line as 2 single files.

A company might also do this.

Illumination rounds were always fired in support of the retiring APs and to reveal any gooks trying to close on the NDP during the APs retirement! Illumination was used at base camps, NDPs, OPs, and FSB during ground attacks to illuminate the gooks! Bad light is better than no light when fighting in the darkness! Of course they could see y'all too, and the glare screwed up night vision, but so did muzzle blasts!

The 25th Inf was just up the road from us, and were a damn fine unit of grunts! They came to RVN from Hawaii if I remember right.

APs when blown, were like hand to hand, the most violent, personal, confusing and frightening combats a soldier could be involved in. No amount of practice or training or books or films could prepare a soldier fully for the intense, short lived, and bloody shitstorm to follow. And the action often intensified after it was blown, during withdrawal from the site if the gooks were able to mount a counter attack! Same for them when we were ambushed.

Some day I might talk about this in detail, but it is awful close to the horrors still for me.

Delta Mike Two, Out!


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1st Infantry Division TAOR (1969)

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