Article Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop . . . .


Sergeant Major
MI.Net Member
May 31, 2004
The VC were less then enthusiastic about our incursion into the Duc Pho area, in fact they were downright hostile. Every village was fortified with bunkers, tunnels and spider holes, every CA was contested. Resupply ships were shot at, every extraction was hot and mortars fell like rain. Dawn patrols revealed local civilians, murdered by the VC, dead in the fields around the villages and often we caught enemy in the open where they were helpless. Getting aircraft shot up and people wounded became commonplace, but miraculously no one was killed as April turned into May and May disolved into June.

Usually most of the aircraft went to LZ English or Uplift every night and returned the next morning. Only those aircraft that were newer, in better shape and not in constant need of maintenance remained overnight. And 863 was one of the newest, and in spite of looking like a sieve several times in her life, she rarely needed maintenance. And for once she was coming through fights without a scratch. It was getting disgusting, after getting a new blade and patches after April 16th, we only returned to English one time between then and June. And April 17th was my last shower. The only water we had at Duc Pho was an occasional jerry can from the infantry messhall, and building a shower was way down on everyone’s list of priorities. I often thought of asking the battalion commander if I could borrow his, but I just couldn’t think of the correct way to phrase the request. Every night I would watch those aircraft that needed maintenance cranking up and headed for English, but still we stayed. Every morning they would return, their crews showered, shaved, sweet smelling (well, comparatively speaking). I got a new platoon sergeant and never even met him, he had rotated out before I found out. Even my pilots were rotated out, staying for one night and then exchanging with another pair the next evening.

When they arrived in the morning, fresh from their trip up from English, the conversation usually went like this, “Hey man, haven’t seen you for a while. How’s the old girl doing, jeez, she’s looking kind of ratty. Say, you’re not looking so good yourself, there Bud, better stand a little closer to the razor - God! You stink, man. Stand over there. Better yet, I’ll go over here. Hey, keep the doors open when we fly, OK?” Guess the sponge baths out of a steel pot weren’t working as well as I thought.

But I had an ace up my sleeve. Every so often the aircraft went in for a periodic inspection where every panel was opened and every square inch of the aircraft was gone over with a fine tooth comb. The inspection usually took 2 or 3 days. I was going to shower three times a day! The time came and at the end of a long, hard day we were finally headed for English. When we landed after dark my gunner grabbed the guns and headed for the shower with a big grin on his face. He was probably going to shower with those M-60's. I started collecting my gear when a herd of people hit my aircraft like a tsunami.

The maintenance officer strolled up and said, “It’s in the fan at Duc Pho, need every aircraft. Big lift at sunrise. Good thing you don’t need anything replaced. Well, just don’t stand there, lend a hand. Good grief, man, when we’re done - get a shower.”

We completed 2 days work in 4 hours by flashlight and feel. Exhausted but determined, I finally headed for the shower. No water. Not a drop, and the tank wouldn’t be filled until morning. Back at the aircraft, I was so tired I fell asleep on the seat. Next thing I knew, someone was shaking me awake, “Let’s go! We’re cranking! Jeez, man, you shoulda got a shower.”

RW :?
:mrgreen: great post RW, when did ya get yer shower buddy?
Phew jeeeesus ya not had one yet? lolb; box;
Next week. No, wait. That's not when I got the shower, that's when I tell the story about getting the shower.

Looking forward to it buddy :D
SHOWER?!! Hell, you fly-boys lived pretty large :mrgreen: . Until I went to Saigon, I thought everybody bathed in a river, stream, bomb crater, or steel pot, and showered in a heavy monsoon rain, or under a mountain waterfall. I sure hope your personal hygiene has improved since then laugh; .
Normally we did have it pretty good compared to you crunchies. I don't think I ever slept on the ground, and we were pretty adept at improving our surroundings. The best part of flying though, was the 90-2 air conditioning in a helicopter (90 miles an hour, both doors open).

Personal hygene??? Isn't that what after shave and deodarant are for?

RW :?
Ahhhhh deoderant!, a Shower in a can :D
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I was fighting terrible fatigue. Every time the aircraft stopped, I was asleep. I lost my appetite and even getting a shower had lost its appeal. And I was getting mean. I was short tempered and making life miserable for any one that would get close. It finally came to a head one day when my gunner woke me up in the middle of the day, he had my platoon leader, Major Coats, with him for protection. I was sleeping on the floor of the aircraft with my flak jacket for a pillow, and I was sweating buckets. They helped me up and we walked to the brigade hospital. A nurse, a real round eyed female type nurse, the kindest, gentlest person that ever existed, probably an angel - and maybe the first person in a month who didn’t tell me I needed a shower - took me in and put me in a bed with real sheets. It was only a cot in a GP Medium with the sides rolled up, but it still seemed like heaven.
“All of your symptoms point to malaria, but we can’t test you here,” was all she said. Malaria. Who cares. Glad it’s nothin serious. I went to sleep.

That evening I was a passenger on one of our own aircraft, not just to English, but all the way to battalion at Qui Nhon. When I arrived, a couple of the guys in my platoon were there, aircraft in maintenance, you know. I couldn’t relate. They were kind enough to check my stuff out of supply, help me get things together, even took a lawn chair down to the shower for me. I sat there in the water for ages. I sort of shaved, but was really weak so didn’t do a great job. When I got back to the hootch, there were about a dozen guys hanging around, and when I shuffled in, all conversation stopped. The only thing I could figure was that they thought the handicapped were fun to watch. After I struggled into clean clothes, they sprang a surprise on me. They had stolen a whole gallon of strawberry ice cream from the messhall, and there it stood on the table, the only thing between it and me was a spoon. I took two bites and could eat no more. Funny, no one else wanted any. I guess they weren’t sure how malaria spreads.

The next morning I made my way up the hill and back down the other side to the flight surgeon’s hootch. In my weakened condition I explained what the angel had told me, but was met with scepticism.
“Nah, you don’t have malaria, you just been working too hard.”
“Don’t know me very well, do ya Doc?” None the less, he presented me with a slip of paper, no duty, complete bed rest. Any other time I would have rejoiced to receive such a note. I could probably sell it for any amount of money. And this was before E bay. I struggled back up the hill and down the other side and went to bed. Next morning, the same thing. Different diagnosis, but something just as stupid.
That afternoon the company clerk came to see me. “You think you got malaria?”
“I don’t know, that’s what the nurse said.”
“They got a quota. If too many people get sick from malaria, the battalion CO gets his wrist slapped or something. I don’t know. But if they won’t take you tomorrow, I’ll get the mess truck to take you in and drop you off at the hospital. A warrant officer was admitted two days ago, you’ll put us over the quota.” Quota. I can’t be sick, I’m over the quota.
Next morning, same struggle. I sat down in the door and said, “Look. I’m staying here till I die, which ain’t going to be long, but I’m not walking over that hill again.” They loaded me in the ambulance and took me to the Evac Hospital at Qui Nhon. They walked me in and told the doc I might have malaria. Blood test. Hours later, I’m still sitting in a chair when a doctor comes out followed by two medics with a wheel chair.
“Hate to tell you this, Son, but you’ve got malaria. In fact, you have two different kinds of malaria.”
“Thank God.”
“What’d you say, Son?”
“Never mind, you wouldn’t understand.”

Rotorwashed finally ber;
Great stuff RW :mrgreen:
Is it true Malaria can come creeping back on ya years later? or is that a myth ?
gas; just incase RW
Smart move, the gas mask. I just changed my grandaughter's diaper, sure could have used one.

Yes, I had re-occurances later on in life. One hit me when I was living in Backwoods, Montana. I went to a local doctor and told him what was happening. He got kind of a funny look on his face and said, "Well, I've never treated malaria, so why don't I just treat you like you've got the flu, OK?"

Great story, RW. I can empathize with you. While doing convoy escort on my second tour I contracted Dengue Fever [carried by the same mosquito]. Made me sicker than a dog, but I guess it's still not quite as bad as full-blown malaria.

Malaria is nothing to take lightly; it CAN kill you. Had a trooper in my company in the 101st die of it. He stayed out in the field too long. They finally med-evaced him almost in a coma. He died a day later in the battalion hospital. He was PFC Robert Barton from NY state. He died 9JAN67 a couple of weeks before we left Kontum. He was 19. Glad you pulled through, my friend.
rotorwash said:
Smart move, the gas mask. I just changed my grandaughter's diaper, sure could have used one.

Yep have one handy for my daughters bottom changes, jeese she can smell the whole house out :shock:
An orderly wheeled me down the hall to a ward where we’re met in the door by a diminutive nurse. Good at giving orders, distant relative of Bonaparte. She won’t let me in the ward unless I shower. Jeez, it’s only been four days, she shoulda seen me a week ago! None the less, it’s off to the shower I go. When the cold water hit me, I passed out and was in a coma for several days. When I woke up, the fever had broken, and there was a doctor sitting on the foot of the bed. Feebly, I whispered, “Am I gonna live?”
He hung my chart on the hook and stood up, “You might, can’t tell yet. Fevers broke, though.” Gee, thanks Doc. Nice bedside manner. Then I remembered I’d been stupid enough to ask.
Later, Napoleon came by to elaborate, “Soldier, we packed you in every bit of ice in this hospital just to keep the fever from boiling your brains. You’re lucky to be alive.”
I wasn’t sure I considered this living, “That mean you couldn’t ice your margarita glasses?” I croaked. Dead I might be, but my lousy timing and stupid sense of humor will remain long after I’m gone.
They set up a screen around my bed - they do the same thing when you die - and Napoleon arrived with a pan of water and a razor, “Shave,” was all she said. Sure, and we’ll take Austria while we’re at it. I fought to a sitting position and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked like a Holocaust victim. Not a survivor - a victim. I didn’t even have enough energy to shut my mouth. It took me two and a half hours to shave that first time, they changed the water four times, it kept getting cold, and when I was done my looks hadn’t improved one bit. Then I discovered there were tubes and bags tied to me. There was a bag up there with yellow liquid in it that ran down to a tube stuck in my arm - must be brunch - , and there was a tube - ow, that musta hurt, that ran down beside the bed to a bag with yellow liquid in it. Somewhere in my foggy mind the thought made it’s way forward, I hope they just don’t swap bags when the lower one gets full.

The next day they pulled my tubes (that was a rush), loaded me on a stretcher, then in an ambulance to the airfield where I was loaded on a C-130, then off to Cam Rahn Bay and the Convalescent Hospital.
When I arrived there, they carried my stretcher in, read my toe tag (placed somewhat prematurely) checked my name off a list and said, “You’re in ward 131, it’s about a hundred yards that way.” I couldn’t remember the last time I walked, I had forgotten how. By leaning on the side of a building I could make my way along it, then gather strength to launch myself into the void between buildings and make it to the next one, repeating this process until I reached my ward. Sweating profusely and totally exhausted, I was hanging from the door when I was almost stampeded under by shuffling invalids.
“What’s the rush?” I asked.
“Lunchtime,” the orderly said. Oh yeah, those unfamiliar pains in my stomach were hunger pangs, now I remember.
“Where’s the messhall?
“About a hundred yards that way, right across from admitting, you just came from there.”
rotorwash said:
Sweating profusely and totally exhausted, I was hanging from the door when I was almost stampeded under by shuffling invalids.
“What’s the rush?” I asked.
“Lunchtime,” the orderly said. Oh yeah, those unfamiliar pains in my stomach were hunger pangs, now I remember.
“Where’s the messhall?
“About a hundred yards that way, right across from admitting, you just came from there.”

:D :D :D :D :D :D

I contracted malaria when I was about 6 months old. I remember getting relapses from age 7 through 12 regularly every year. By god it was bad news. Even though I haven't had a session since then, the bug is still wandering around in my bloodstream. I remember in the Middle East going to give blood and them refusing because of it. In that rich little state they paid very well for blood - they gave me 25% of the going rate and an orange juice just for pitching up! :roll:
I can't imagine having malaria at 6 months old. That must have been hell for a little kid.

I wasn't able to give blood for about 25 years. Now I just don't bother, they treat me like I'm trying to pollute the human race or something. I just stay away and let everyone think I'm afraid of needles. However, they tell me that after twenty five years the chances of it hitting again are slim.

Everyone that looks at my file says I was lucky, but I've looked at it and I can't even tell what it says. Medspeak. Have to get Silky to take a gander.

This story and the two previous about having malaria are currently being edited for entry in a writing contest.

The next few days at the hospital became a routine. As soon as they woke us, I would start my struggle to the messhall arriving just before it closed. I would muster up the strength to take the few mouthfuls it needed to fill my shrunken stomach and then it was back to crawling along the buildings back to my ward. Spiderman had nothing on me. It was my pride that kept me from making the trip on my hands and knees. I would arrive at the ward just in time to catch a short nap before it was time to start the struggle all over again. When my bowels started working again it was another shock to my psyche. I remembered how to run. And it didn’t bother me one bit to sit on the john while the Vietnamese women that cleaned the latrines tapped me on the leg to get me to lift my foot so she could sweep, no sirree. No pride left in this kid, the pride that had kept me from my hands and knees had gone down the latrine with my dignity. By the end of the day I was pooped (little play on words here). But it was paying off, I was getting stronger and it was taking me less time to make the round trip. And I discovered the library. It was much closer to the messhall, after breakfast I would head there and stare at books until lunchtime. After lunch, the same thing. And it wasn’t just closer, it was air conditioned. Small piece of heaven.

Sometimes Donut Dollies, the Red Cross Girls, would come to the library and set up shop. The reaction was amazing. I was embarrassed for my fellow soldiers, after all, to sit around and play stupid children’s games just to be close to a round eyed girl? Where was their self respect, there sense of pride? Had they no shame? I was above all that, besides I didn’t win very often. My motive for playing the games was simply so the girls wouldn’t feel their time was wasted, but sometimes the pushing and shoving from other G.I.’s got to be a little rough.

It wasn’t long before I felt good enough to take walks on the beach before breakfast, and this didn’t go unnoticed. I was scheduled to start physical training, good old Army Daily Dozen to get me back in shape to return to my unit. But I had been having a pain in the left side of my back, and the day before PT, I reported this fact to the doctor making rounds. He shipped me over to X-ray and, lo and behold, I had pneumonia. The doctors, with all those years of medical training, felt this was easy to fix, it fell into the same category as VD. A pound and a half of penicillin the consistency of cold honey, administered with a syringe the size of a fire extinguisher through a needle the size of a garden hose would do the trick nicely. And if I had VD, I would have sworn off sex forever. That was the most painful thing I had ever experienced.

Getting healthy once again, I was really starting to get bored. But I was taking more notice of my surroundings. There were Army, Air Force, Marines and Koreans in that hospital, all in one stage of rebuilding or another. I was surprised to find Marines that had been drafted, I thought only the Army did that. I found Marines that were surprised to find out they weren’t bullet proof. Corps doctrine said bullets would see that globe and anchor and run the other way. I found mad Koreans. The Korean CG had instructed the hospital that all KP was to be performed by Koreans to help them rehabilitate faster. They didn’t like that and at every meal we were subjected to what I can only imagine were the finest Korean obscenities and insults. Soon the Americans started figuring out the Koreans weren’t just complimenting them on the great haircuts, and they started to get mad. I decided Duc Pho was starting to look pretty good, they probably had a shower by now. I put in for, and got my orders for a couple days down the road, and as I sat across from the Doc for the last time, he carefully reviewed my file.
“You’re lucky to be alive with what you went through. Most people who go into a coma with malaria don’t wake up.”
“Well, why don’t you just send me home, back to the world?” The look he gave me brought back memories of the penicillin treatment, “but then, hey, I’d really like to see all of my buddies again.”

In the meantime, there was going to be a movie, and because I was being released, I got a free coke and bag of popcorn from the Red Cross to enjoy at the movie. Events, however, were heating up. The Americans had decided they were going to jump the Koreans at the movie and teach them a lesson. I had spent some time working with the Koreans and had some advice to give.
The GI in the next bunk was spouting off, “Gonna kick some Korean butt tonight.”
My advice, “big mistake, better think about it.”
“Why, what do you know, punk?”
“I just know you better think about it.”
“Get lost, chicken.”
“You better think about it, making a big mistake.”
At the movie I collected my goodies and selected a seat on the fourth row, the highest, at the end farthest away from where the Koreans usually sat. The fun started, very few Americans were still on their feet after the second blow, and many of those were running hard. I had watched the Koreans, in battalion strength practicing Twae Kon Do every morning before breakfast, everyone from the regimental commander down to the lowest recruit. I had watched them put down their weapons and attack an enemy position with their bare hands. This was their kind of fighting. I almost got involved, though. As I sat there alternating between watching the stupid movie and the floor show, a wild eyed Korean came charging around the end of the bleachers and stopped right in front of me with his fist cocked in what I recognized as the “make um into dead cockroach” position. I did the logical thing.
“Popcorn?” I asked as I held out the bag to him. Slowly he uncocked his fist, stood up straight and smiled, taking a big handful and stuffing it in his face. Still smiling, he made a slight bow and took off after the nearest American.

I was a little apprehensive about the next day, but the funniest thing occurred, the Americans and Koreans were the best of buddies. The Koreans were singing as they did KP. And the Americans?
“E thur thowed em a ting ur thoo,” gloated the guy in the next bunk through his battered lips as he tried to focus on me with the eye that wasn’t swollen shut. Normally he talked better but he’d just spit out two teeth.

Class stuff RW!
Can't beat a bit of the unarmed Jap Slapping!

For your competition, is this a military one? I only ask because there a few acronyms, so beloved of everyone's military. Whilst KP and GI may well be understood what is CG? If it's for the general population, will they be able to understand? Just a point, not knocking you or anything.
You are absolutely correct Zofo, changes made as noted. CG stands for Commanding General (or Coast Guard if you are inclined toward web feet)

As I edit the story, I am finding that I have to take too much out to make the maximum word count so I will probably pick another one.

As a dedicated Patrick O'Brian fan, I believe you must be located SW of Mahon, correct? I'm too lazy to consult a map.