The Uncles of World War II

I read a post in another bog yesterday by a GI who came back from Iraq with PTSD. He mentioned that World War II veterans didn’t suffer from PTSD. Someone at the VA told him that.

Bull shit! The truth is that PTSD has been around for thousands of years. It is nothing new. The only difference is that we now have a name for it.

Three of my uncles fought in World War II. Two were in the navy and fought in the Pacific. My mother’s younger brother lied about his age and joined when he was seventeen. He worked with radar and submarines and stayed in the navy for thirty-three years. He retired a lieutenant commander.

My dad’s older brother James was on the USS Hornet when the Japanese sunk her early in the war. Along with hundreds of others, he ran along the flight deck and then the hull as the aircraft carrier rolled over. Destroyers picked him up along with other survivors. Uncle James was a drunk. When he was in his seventies, he died a drunk. I’m sure his drinking was caused by the war.

Uncle James came to the house once and told my dad to leave my mother and his sickly son, because we weren’t worth it. My mom picked up a cast iron frying pan and chased him down the street hitting him with it. She told him to never come to the house again if he was drinking. I never saw him again.

Uncle Lloyd was my mother’s younger brother. Since he worked for the railroad, the Army sent him to India where he was put in charge of munitions trains running bombs and ammunition to the Burma Road where trucks carried death across the mountains. On the other side of the Himalayas, the war with Japan raged in China and Southeast Asia.

Uncle Lloyd hitched a ride in one of the munitions trucks and arrived in Burma close to the front lines. At one point, he had to run for his life during a major Japanese assault. To escape capture or death, he waded across what he thought was a rice paddy only to discover it was an open cesspool.


The construction of the Bruma Road

He escaped, flew back to India and came down with a skin disease. His hair, his fingernails and his skin started to come off. He was sent back to the states and spent months in the hospital as army doctors struggled to save his life from the bacteria/fungus that was eating him alive.

Uncle Lloyd lived to be ninety-three. He told me that every few months he had to go to the nearest VA hospital and soak in a tub of purple liquid to control that bacteria/fungus. Most veterans don’t talk about what haunts them. Uncle Lloyd had his combat demons too. He awoke often through the decades remembering wading through that neck-high shit to escape the Japanese.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is 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 trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

Advertisements

Lightning strikes O.P. 39

I went to sleep at 11:00 p.m. and woke to dark listening to the crickets, noisy sentries that say all was well.  It wasn’t raining and there was no thunder or lightning. However, staring at the glowing red numbers on the clock radio reminded of the rainy days I spent on O.P. 39 in 1966. There’s a picture on my Website. It’s about two-thirds of the way down the page. The thirty-nine meant the elevation above sea level.

I have no idea what triggered that particular memory. No one shot at me. No mortar rounds or rockets hit the hill. The fighting was taking place miles away. Maybe it was those red numbers on the clock radio. On the other hand, O.P. 39 offered a lesson on how fragile life was. Such lessons taught most of us veterans not to take life for granted.

There were two of us from the 1st Tank Battalion there. We were working a radio relay during a major offensive north of Chu-Lai. It rained most of the time. There were other units involved in that operation so there were other radio operators. The radios were on folding tables in a tent near my shelter half. There was also an artillery unit that fired support for the grunts fighting in the hills.

Outside that tent was a metal-lattice tower with a bunch of antennas on top. My watch started around six. I woke early when I rolled off the air mattress to flounder in several inches of water. It had rained hard all night and flooded the spot where I had pitched my shelter-half. I’d picked a spot surrounded by boulders that offered protection from incoming fire. That spot may have been safer than most, but it was in a slight depression.

After I stripped off the soaked clothing, changed into something dry, then slipped into my poncho, I heated up a can of C-Rations, ate, and afterwards brushed my teeth. While this was going on, thunder rumbled and lightning strikes blossomed around the hill. Soon, I was on my way to the radio tent to stand watch. I was going to start early.

If I had been ten minutes earlier, I would have been killed. The Marine I was replacing died moments before I arrived. Lightning hit the antenna array, went into his body through the headset and cooked him. The medics were carrying his corpse out of the tent when I arrived.

There was no time to be shocked or ponder why him and not me. Regardless of the fact that the rain, thunder and lightning were still around, I had a job to do. I powered up my radio jeep and used the set behind the front seats. I grounded the radio, turned the speaker loud and did not use the headset.

Discover The ambush; the king cobra and the water buffalo

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is 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 trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

Hearing Loss thanks to the M-48 Patton Tank and the 155 mm self-propelled howitzers

The quiet was almost total this morning at 3:00 AM.

There were no crickets, and there was no sound of intruders.  I lay in bed listening for a long time, maybe an hour before I drifted off again.

The familiar static was there that is the only sound when there is no noise outside my head. I’m not sure I’ve heard total silence since Vietnam.

During early morning moments such as this, I remember one night in Vietnam when I lost my sight and hearing.

In Chu Lai, Vietnam, I was a field radio operator in the 1st Tank Battalion, First Marine Division.

The M-48 Patton had a 90 mm cannon. The M-48 was separated into three compartments: the driver’s compartment, the fighting compartment where the gunner, loader, and tank commander [TC] fought, and the engine compartment.

Above the main gun was a 1 million candlepower Xenon searchlight. This light had both a white light and an infrared mode. It was bore sighted with the main gun and gun sights so that it could be used to illuminate a target at night.

Hearing those 90 mm cannons firing may have contributed to the static in my hearing today.

However, one night, a battery of  M-109 (called the Paladin), 155 mm self-propelled howitzers gets the most credit for that static.

That battery fired a surprise mission.

At two AM, I was standing watch in a hillside bunker above the M-109s, and I was struggling to stay alert and awake.

Without warning, the battery fired.

What little hair I had on my head stood at attention, and the combined flashes left me blind for a moment with dancing spots staying longer, but the loud buzzing in my ears stayed for hours.

My head felt as if it had been stuffed with cotton. All sound was dampened for some time.

By the way, field radio operators did not ride in tanks. We had a jeep with a canvas top. A large radio filled the space behind the front seats.

When we weren’t driving around in old WWII vintage radio jeeps, we hoofed it with a radio strapped to our backs and our old batteries were often dead before we used them.

The radio we arrived with in Vietnam with was a PRC 10. There was no armor to protect field-radio operators in the field. Field-radio operators were usually the first to be shot in an ambush.

The patrol leader was the second priority target.

Discover Children as Soldiers and Weapons of Death

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is 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 trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”