I arrived at Quan Loi, Vietnam, in late August or early September 1969. So this
event occurred sometime after that, but before December. I would guess about
October or November.
If you were ever at Quan Loi and I suppose at most other places in Vietnam, you would remember that rats were a problem. And rats, I think, are the reason for this incident.
I worked in A Battery FDC, (Fire Direction Control) at Quan Loi. It was normal practice, to routinely fire, artillery H & I, (Harassment & Interdiction) and Def Cons, (Defensive Concentrations), at night. When we received a fire mission during the night, the first thing to do, was to call the gun to wake up the crew, so they could get everything ready. This consisted of going down into the bunker by flashlight, and getting the projectiles and powder up to the gun. And then repositioning the gun, if needed. While this was being done we, in FDC, would compute the firing instructions to be given to the gun when they were ready to fire.
Late one night, or in the early hours after midnight, we received a routine fire mission. We called the gun, as was normal, and began working on the firing instructions. After we had begun, but before we finished, we received a call from the Gun. "We have a problem down here, you got to wake up the other gun." If you have ever tried to wake up a gun crew at night it's already a problem, but to wake up two gun crews when you are just using one, is a bigger problem. So before we wake up the other gun crew, "Why, what's your problem?"
"We got a couple of wide eyed soldiers who refuse to go into the bunker." "Why? We don't want to wake up the other crew unless we have to." "They say there's a snake down there, and they refuse to go back in there." "Come on, are you shitting us?" "A snake?" "You just don't want to wake up your crew." "They are serious, they say there is a big snake in the ammunition bunker, and won't go in. You got to wake up the other gun."
Reluctantly, not really believing, we wake up the other crew. Bitch, bitch, bitch, etc., and complete the fire mission.
The next day three brave soldiers go down into the bunker armed with flashlights and a machete. Everybody is standing around waiting. "You think there really is a snake in there?" "Who knows, if there was a snake it is gone by now."
After a while, up out of the bunker they come. Up they come, with a snake. Up they come, with a very large snake. A snake big enough that three guys carried it out of the bunker. And yes it was a very dead snake.
A few thoughts. Imagine in the middle of the night, two sleepy soldiers, going down in the ammo bunker with flashlights, seeing this snake coiled amongst the projectiles. What do you think they thought? It's even dark during the day. Imagine the guys killing that snake. And lastly, that was the only snake I saw at Quan Loi. I think it was after the rats. Where did it come from?
|Reed McDonald Then and Now|