Anyone that served in Vietnam can verify one fact – shit burns. Those of us
stationed in base camps could smell it burning every morning. Out-houses were
constructed by engineers so that the human feces dropped from the seat into half
barrels filled with diesel fuel. The drums were pulled out and set on fire each
morning. There is no odor like it or way to describe it – diesel fuel and shit
burning together. It is a pungent smell like no other. No wonder Charlie rarely
attacked us during the day.
One of my duties besides being a gun bunny was 548 driver. Probably the most loathsome job that I can remember was when I had to haul those shit barrels to the dump. I guess they reached a point where they leaked or the residue did not want to burn. Whatever the reason they had to be gotten out of the latrine and hauled to the dump.
I was fortunate in that we had Vietnamese that worked for a dollar a day filing sandbags. The responsibility of loading those shit barrels on the back of my 548 fell to them. “Number ten” is a term used to describe something bad. Those poor fellows got the number ten of all number ten jobs. The liquid would splash as they wrestled it up to the cargo area of the 548. I cussed them with every cuss word that I knew when it got in my cargo area. I always thought they were Charlie and I’d be willing to bet if they weren’t that they probably volunteered after that day. Of course Charlie probably wouldn’t want them because they smelled like American shit.
As I write this, I am sitting on a beautiful white sandy beach in South Carolina. The ocean is calm, it’s early morning and I’m the only person out. What a difference, in this morning and one of those mornings in 1968 or 1969. Some radio stations still play the music that we listened to then; in fact I am listening to one now. I have grown children and my hair has turned gray, but I close my eyes and I am right back there in Quan Loi. Not one day of my life goes by that I don’t close my eyes and see myself there. It was the turning point of my life. It was a defining time.
Our generation had the best music ever. We were the best-educated American generation, but the country was split on the Vietnam issue. When I received my draft notice I remember sitting down with my Dad and telling him that I did not believe we were right being in Vietnam, and that perhaps I should go to Canada. He looked at me with his stern eyes and said, “That is not an option son.” So it was, I wound up in “The Big Green Machine,” hauling shit in a place no one ever heard of, in the middle of a country no one cared about.
|Larry Jameson Then and Now|