I survived the attack of a ruthless swarm of bloodsuckers and a grenade tossing maniac

Sometime in 1966, for a few days, some Marines from my battalion, including me, were sent to a hill on the perimeter at Chu Lai to watch over an infantry company’s equipment while they were in the hills chasing North Vietnamese ghosts—intelligence said a regiment of NVA had slipped into South Vietnam.

There weren’t many of us—just enough for two Marines to man each of the small bunkers near the base of the hill that was surrounded by coiled barbed wire and then rice paddies.

As daylight faded, the hum of a billion mosquitoes greeted our ears warning us of what was to come as we waged war with the bloodsuckers and lost.

Looking for a way to escape, several Marines scrambled into the largest bunker at the top of the hill—it stood two stories tall with a thick slab of cast iron for a roof offering protection from Vietcong mortar rounds.

Those Marines thought they would be able to escape the bloodsuckers by moving inside the bunker. But as fast as they went in, they came out—screaming like schoolgirls. The bunker was full of rats and when the first Marine’s boots landed on the dirt floor, the rats climbed his legs in a frenzy.

I watched the few who had gone in come shooting out like rockets—eyes wide with shock; faces pale. These were all men who had fought in combat without showing fear when confronted by an enemy who wanted to kill them. Before the cast iron hatch at the top was slammed shut, one Marine tossed a fragmentation grenade in the bunker and it went off with a muffled blast.

Hours later, during my watch between midnight and four, I heard a rustling noise near the wire. There would be long stretches of silence (if you didn’t count the sound of distant firefights and the glare of flares along the division perimeter), then another rustling as if someone were crawling up the hill. I couldn’t see anything and thought it might be a small animal.

When my watch ended, I visited the only latrine that was close to the top of the hill. It was a screened, plywood box with a four-hole plywood bench. Inside, it was black as ink and smelled of urine. Under the bench were four half-empty, fifty-five gallon metal drums with several inches of diesel fuel in each one. In the mornings, the drums would be dragged out from under the plywood bench and set on fire. When it wasn’t raining, hundreds of columns of black smoke could be seen drifting into the morning sky over Chu Lai as the shit was burned.

I had stomach cramps—probably from the twenty-one-year-old canned rations I’d had for my evening meal.  Or maybe from the water we drank that had a strong taste of chlorine to it.

I leaned my weapon just out of reach against the three-foot high plywood wall in front of me and sat. Above the plywood was a screened in open space that allowed air to flow through while keeping the mosquitoes out.

There was a tin roof and the shitter was probably the only place to escape the mosquitoes. If it hadn’t been for the stink, I’d have slept there. On both sides of the shitter was a line of tents where the grunts (infantry) kept their gear and slept when they weren’t in the field.

That’s when the grenades started to go off.  I glanced to the left and saw a shadowy figure running fast along the line of tents tossing a grenade through each opening. I reached for my weapon but a wave of cramps doubled me over as the diarrhea gushed out.

For an instant, I thought I was going to be dead when a grenade was tossed in the shitter.  But from the outside, it must have looked empty and I was spared that fate.

No one died or was wounded on that hill that night. The tents were empty because the grunts were in the hills hunting an elusive enemy, and most of us were in the smaller bunkers near the concertina wire. I was closer than anyone to the lone killer who had slipped inside the wire.

That was just one night out of hundreds during my combat tour in Vietnam.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Is the U.S. too Fat to Fight?

In 2012, fifteen times more troops were discharged from the US Army due to obesity than five years prior, and over the last 15 years, the numbers of obese people actively serving in the US military more than tripled. Source: rt.com

And The Hill.com says, “Spiking rates of childhood obesity are a threat to a nation’s security and demand government intervention, according to retired military leaders.”—In 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents in the United States were overweight or obese.

In fact, “Combined with other disqualifying factors—including criminal backgrounds and poor education (whose fault is that?)—excess weight means that an estimated 75 percent of young adults could not serve in the military even if they desired to.”

In addition, according to the Trust for America’s Health.org, “The number of obese adults, along with related disease rates and health care costs, are on course to increase dramatically in every state in the country over the next 20 years.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.” In fact, two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.

But the National Center for Constitutional Studies says it is the voluntary duty of the citizens of a country to enlist in the army in time of war … and support the President in an hour of crises.” In addition, the Founding Fathers of the United States assumed that American citizens would undertake responsibility for the ordinary functioning of the civil social order—that included defense of country.

However, there is a solution to this weighty problem, and the U.S. Marines already successfully used it in 1965-66.

When I served in the U.S. Marines (1965-1968), there was a recruit at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego who was so fat and out of shape that he couldn’t perform the simplest exercises without fainting. He was sent to what was known then as the book camp’s fat boy platoon where he spent more than a year exercising ten-to-sixteen hours a day to lose weight and build muscles before he was sent to combat in Vietnam where he was landing in DaNang the day I was leaving.

Therefore, if America needs young citizens of military age to defend the country, those fat boys and girls may find themselves in a boot camp for a year or more exercising their fat off—the ultimate weight loss, cannon fodder machine.

Discover Eating out in Vietnam in 1966

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”