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.

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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!”

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Vietnam Rations and Nutrition Today

There was a mess hall in Chu Lai, Vietnam inside the company area and, of course, I ate there but not often. That mess hall served three companies. Except for Thanksgiving, the food wasn’t that good. It was powdered eggs for breakfast and similar chow the rest of the day.

Most of the time, I ate C-Rations and heated them with a can of Sterno. If I didn’t have Sterno, I opened a can of crackers or chocolate, took out the contents and vented the bottom, stuffed the can with dirt and soaked the dirt with gasoline then lit a fire and heated the main course on that makeshift stove.

When I was in the field driving a radio Jeep, I’d pop the hood and set the can on the manifold until the food was bubbling. The engine was kept running to power the radio behind the front seats. My favorite C-ration was the ham and limas. Since few in my platoon liked that flavor, I usually ended with more than one can. The chocolate was horrible–not sweet by today’s standards.

Since GIs were eating that chocolate in World War II, there must have been a lot less sugar in candy then. I’ve seen movies where WWII GIs are rolling through towns in Europe or Japan handing out United States military chocolate to kids. That C-ration chocolate wouldn’t sell well today—American kids would throw it in the trash.

Today, the average American eats (156) one hundred and fifty-six pounds of sugar per person annually, that’s thirty-one, five-pound bags. The high school where I taught installed soda machines a few years before I left in 2005. I was told that two thousand sodas were being stocked in those school machines twice a week and there were only two thousand students. I read that in 1600, sugar consumption in the UK was seven pounds per person. In 1850, that was up to fifty-two pounds. In America, diabetes has jumped more than five hundred percent since the 1950s, and kids are getting adult diabetes. Need I say more?

The C-rations I ate in 1966 were stamped on the side of the box with 1945.  Every box of C-rations came with four, free cigarettes. I smoked a few but didn’t like what it did to my taste buds, so I gave the cigarettes away. I imagine many young American men were hooked on cigarettes fighting America’s modern wars until the day came when tobacco was removed from military rations. At nineteen, I didn’t know a thing about nutrition. I’ll bet there wasn’t much health left in those cans after sitting for more than twenty years.

Discover Eating out in Vietnam 1966

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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!”

Eating Out in Vietnam – 1966

Today, many Americans eat horribly and are willing to die for food. The result, lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are killing hundreds of thousands yearly. Those bad habits were in Vietnam too. One Saturday, I became the designated non-eater when several Marines from my company wanted to leave the bunker and concertina barbed-wire safety of our base camp and walk into the nearest village to eat something other than twenty-year-old C-rations, reconstituted eggs and drink the daily ration of warm, canned Budweiser beer.

Before we left Okinawa, everyone in our company watched films about the dangers of having sex or eating native food in Vietnam. We were told there was a risk of being poisoned or having ground glass sprinkled into the food. After all, we were fighting a war with a phantom enemy, farmers by day and warriors at night. The cook could have been a Viet Cong who couldn’t miss the opportunity to kill a few enemies by adding something to what he or she cooked.

Since I refused to eat native food, I was asked to come along. If any Marines eating the Vietnamese food got sick or died, my job was to shoot the Vietnamese that fed them and any suspects. Six of us went to the village and five ate. The five that ate stacked their weapons and sat at the table eating what was put in front of them.

Flies and bugs buzzed around their food and mouths. There was no way to tell what kind of meat they were eating. The Vietnamese near our base camp ate anything that crawled, walked or flew like dogs, cats, snakes, rats, or monkeys. Hygiene was nonexistent. Human waste was added to the paddies and fields to help fertilize the crops. Even if there were no poison or ground glass added to the food, there was always the risk of coming down with dysentery or some other god-awful disease.

I didn’t sit. I stood in a corner with my back to the wall and held my weapon with both hands. I kept my eyes on the entrance and on every Vietnamese in the place. The safety to my M14 was off and my finger was on the trigger.

Chu Lai was not Saigon. The roads were dirt. The villages were small and the floors inside were also dirt. Those five fellow Marines that wanted to eat something “fresh” may have lacked common sense taking such a risk, but no one died or got sick that day. I watched them finish eating and drink the cool, locally brewed beer from glass bottles. I didn’t have to shoot anyone—not that day. I had no regrets.

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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!”

“The Hurt Locker” and IEDs in Vietnam

I went and saw The Hurt Locker, a movie I recommend to anyone wanting to see the reality of war without serving in one. This gritty, realistic movie reminded me of another incident I survived in Vietnam and the fact that Islamic terrorists in Iraq did not invent IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). IEDs have been around for a long time.

One day in 1966, I accompanied a platoon of flame tanks outside the Division area where a forward artillery battery was being located. The flame tanks were using napalm to burn brush off the hills near the site so it would be difficult for snipers to get close enough without being spotted.

The tank commander said, “Drive in our tracks. This road is often mined.”

I put one set of tires in the tank’s tracks, wider than the jeeps. The other two tires rolled in the center of that dirt road. We drove like that for miles into the hills watching the ground in front of the jeep for signs of digging.

The question I have been asked the most over the years from people that haven’t fought in a war has been, “Were you afraid.”

The only fear I had in Vietnam was that I wouldn’t be able to do my job, that I would let my fellow Marines down, that someone in my unit would die because of me. Now, I worry about my ability to protect my family.

It doesn’t help that I live in America where there are dangers besides our government taking away our liberties, which seems to be a constant misplaced fear for many. Over the years, I learned that the real threat to the American way of life comes from extreme idealists and streets gangs—not our government, which has checks and balances.

I taught in the public schools for thirty years between 1975 and 2005. The high school where I worked was surrounded by a barrio filled with violent street gangs. One day, I witnessed a drive by shooting from a classroom doorway. On another day, a student died outside my classroom when he was shot gunned by a rival gang. Every day, when I arrived at school, I resented the fact that I wasn’t allowed to carry a weapon on campus. The only threat to violent teenagers was expulsion, not the loss of a job or jail time.

Discover One Reason Why “we” Wore the Uniform and Put “our” Lives on the Line

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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!”

Ka-Bar Sharp

I do not read newspapers or watch the daily news. The news in America is too violent.

When I read or hear news that reminds me of the statistics that say one out of three Americans will be the victims of violent crime during their lives, that flips the PTSD switch in my head, and I go on uber-alert.

For readers that don’t know, PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Studies show that people from three professions can suffer from PTSD: veterans, teachers and flight controllers.

Since I served in Vietnam in the Marines, then went into the classroom for thirty years teaching in gang-infested schools surrounded by graffiti slimed neighborhoods, I qualify.

The thing is, I don’t have nightmares from the classroom. None of my tough students tried to kill me.

My flashbacks come from the rice paddies where I fought mostly on night patrols and ambushes.

Before I go to bed, I reach for the hidden Ka-Bar (Marine Corps knife) to make sure it was still there. I’d keep a pistol or riot gun close, but I don’t want to wake in the dark and shoot my wife or daughter before I have time to think, so I keep those weapons out of easy reach.

That brings me to what has kept me awake this week.

My teenage daughter broke up with her boyfriend for the fifth time. I hope this is the last time with this boy.

You see, I learned in Vietnam that every human is capable of extreme violence, and strong, negative emotions bring out that violence. When I feel there is any possible threat to my family, I don’t sleep well.

When I’m on high alert, I’m lucky to sleep an hour in one night. Sometimes, I don’t sleep at all. Every noise wakes me.

Before going to bed, I make my rounds. I check every door, every lock. I check all the windows to make sure they are latched. After I get in bed, I make sure that Ka-Bar is still there. Touching the handle of that deadly seven-inch blade reassures me. I also know where the shotguns are, my thirty-eight caliber revolver and the automatic with the ten-round clip. I have weapons salted all over the house hidden and out of sight but easy to reach.

It may sound strange, but I can watch violent movies like Alien or The Terminator and they do not set me off, because I know they are fiction.

However, the TV news is based on real stories, and that keeps me awake nights. I wish my daughter would find guys to go out with who aren’t so dysfunctional.

Discover the Sexual Revolution in China

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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!”

R&R and the Ladies of the Night

It has been said that the world’s oldest profession is prostitution. That is wrong. The oldest profession is motherhood.

The second oldest profession belongs to warriors leaving home to fight in foreign lands. That may make prostitution the third oldest profession. It all comes down to what came first, the chicken or the egg.

When warriors leave home to fight in foreign lands, the hormonal drive to have sex does not go into hibernation. That has been true for thousands of years.

I am sure that Alexander the Great’s army did not become celibate all those years away from Greece while conquering so much of the known world.

Soldiers have two choices to take care of the sex drive: commit rape or turn to prostitutes. Celibacy is usually not the choice most young men in the military make.

The Vietnam War was no different.  For each tour served, the troops were given five days of R & R. It was called rest and recuperation.

Most married men flew to Hawaii for their five days to spend time with the family. The rest went to places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Bangkok in Thailand.

Bangkok was the desired location for most Marines.

I spent my R & R in Hong Kong, and I did not rest.

Another Marine in the communications platoon I was in went to Bangkok and returned to Vietnam with more than one unwanted gift.

He had crabs, syphilis and gonorrhea. When he had to pee, two of us went with him to hold him up. The pain was so intense he passed out.

Another young Marine in the Communications platoon couldn’t wait for R & R. He found a woman while still in Vietnam. He swore that he paid her, but her father caught them naked in a rice paddy and the Marine was on top. She accused that Marine of rape, and he was court marital and sent to a military prison for twenty years.

Going to a foreign land to fight for his country changed his life drastically.

Years later, in 1981, I wrote a short story about one night in Vietnam that has to do with the need for sex and food.

For the next twenty-five years, I worked on that story. Eventually, A Night at the ‘Well of Purity’ was a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. The story is fiction but is based on fact. That night did happen, and I have never forgotten it.

I am sure the male sex drive had an impact on most of the young men that went to fight in America’s foreign wars.

Discover A Night at the “Well of Purity”

_______________________

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.

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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!”