Southlands Snuffys

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 39 (v.1) - Une ville pécheresse.

Submitted: August 06, 2016

Reads: 201

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Submitted: August 06, 2016

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Une ville pécheresse.

 

 

“Yes, it goes beyond doubt that some of us will end our time in South Vietnam as a corpse, and we will most probably count our dead using tens, but unlike many at least we will have done our duty for the national ensign. But to a Marine the Nam is nothing but a free-fire zone, so let’s kill them all, Semper Fi!”

Bullshit words forced upon our tender ears by a higher-higher asshole NOT going to the Southland of Vietnam, 1967.

 

 

Nothing annoyed a Marine, a snuffy, more than a “drafted” Marine, for the Corps prided itself, and still does, on being a force compiled solely of volunteers. So others who were not running or hiding, but still seeming to lack the balls to step forward and volunteer for the Marine Corps, waiting instead to be drafted into it, or used the selective service option and joined the Coast Guard in an attempt to ward off any of the trigger-time in the shit.

Unfortunately, for many of those newfound Coast Guards they were not about to be designated for guarding the coastline of the USA as they expected. Instead, after initial training at Cape May they found themselves dispatched to the “Nam” in complete disregard to their great expectations of defending the American seaboard.

I was going on a “72”, a three-day liberty that complimented the four-day out-country break, and both were a deployment entitlement. So for the time being there would be no more of my norm of living with ragged-assed guys smelling of musty jungle funk, and stale tobacco smoke, and whose soiled and torn attire made them look like flophouse bums on the lam. In addition, those guys emanated that strong fried-onion smell of body odor, accompanied by breath that stank like dog-shit.

However, after a while, you learned to ignore such smells, and with time even managed to get used to them, hell, you get used to most anything if given enough time. Also for the time being, no more dawns of ghostly milky-white and low drizzly cloud, that in alliance with a mist –shrouded jungle always gave a depressing start to the day.

My liberty also removed the breathing in of a dank atmosphere made up from rotting vegetation and stagnant mud, and looking at guys in those ghostly dawns with their beard-stubble grimy faces swollen from the bites of those unbearable insects the mosquito, a whining misery that increased a thousand fold with the dusk.

Wherever our skin was exposed those flying fuckers zeroed in on it, and the most painful place to get bitten by them, and for that matter by the ticks and insects that laid eggs under the skin, was on the testicles or penis. In an uncomfortable attempt to save their crank from playing host to those bugs some guys wore a condom all day in the jungle, but that didn’t save their ball-sack from being a bug’s ready meal hot-spot. 

At other times, the faces of my fellow bush-beasts would be dotted with spots and boils from infected hornet stings, ant bites, and poisonous thorn punctures. It somehow upset me to know that I was looking at them with my face in the same state as theirs, which did not help any to lift my spirit.

In our particular group no one used toothpaste, only salt to clean their teeth, and none used scented soap or the scented bug repellent either, for going into the jungle smelling like a Kansas City drag-queen put you on a suicide–by-Charlie ticket. The SEAL guys were proven correct, as they always seemed to be, when they told us that if you smell like the jungle then you become part of the jungle, and so we did. For Charlie, as if half-hunting hound, could detect by sniffing the air someone fresh to the jungle at a thousand yards or more, and anyone smoking tobacco grown in the fields of Virginia even farther.

A trick the SEAL smokers used to mask that tobacco smell, if desperate for a puff, was to make a little camphor wood fire, for the odor of camphor wood burning was common in the Vietnamese jungle as the locals harvested the lumber for selling to the furniture makers. However, their satisfaction of the nicotine craving was not down to a relaxing smoke; it was at best two quick gulps from an already half-smoked cigarette extinguished nearly as swiftly as had been lit.

Instead of that unpleasant human made, and natural smelly bug infested norm I lived with, my three-day in-country furlough would find me sitting in the rain on China beach, the American section. At first, I thought of trying to bum a ride into Da Nang on a north bound Slick, but my newfound nervousness of flying in helicopters got the better of me. Then I heard that a convoy of Rio trucks would be heading for the City, but Charlie mined and ambushed convoys on highway 1 regularly, so in the end I opted to bum a ride in a jeep for the driver I knew well, he was a mad bastard of a life’s cynic and drove a jeep like the wind.

That guy was the optimum of the “I don’t give a fuck about anything” type. His in-country nickname was “deuce dude” as it was his second tour, had been twice divorced, and twice survived when everyone else had died. First time when a Slick flying at treetop height crashed, and he being its only survivor, walked away from a tangle heap of scrap metal with nothing more than a broken wrist. The other time was when his squad ended up shot to shit by Chuck, and that time he crawled for well over a klick on his hands and knees to safety with a round through each leg. Yep, that dude may have been unlucky in love, but surely was lucky as fuck when it came to death. Moreover, that latter part meant he was not frightened to take a chance.

So with the hammer down and motor screaming the jeep had rocked, rattled, and skidded its way to Da Nang, while all the way scaring the crap right out of me. We shot passed speed- blurred, black clad peasants that looked like gatherings of crows on a Midwest power wire, narrowly avoided a head-on collision with an oncoming M48 tank, an angrily shouting red flag waving ordnance crew out on a road-mine clearing mission, and the occasional rifle or mortar pot-shot from Charlie.

Then there it was in all its military occupied glory, my chosen and claimed as secure downtime resort of Da Nang. A city of crazy neon lit signs, houses with verandas, large hotels, bars, and whore houses, yep it was an enclave of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. However, as with Saigon there was another Da Nang, and possibly the real one, a city within a city. One made up of sleazy shanties, dockyards, and dangerous dark alleyways that had no doors or windows. A place where scrawny kids and prostitutes prowled around prompted on by unscrupulous black marketers to proposition, and when given the chance do robbery upon the “Yankee invader”. As with Saigon, there was very little difference between that Da Nang, Hong Kong’s Kowloon district and Bangkok when it came to corruption, sleaze, and clap-packed whores.

Da Nang's China beach, a sandy paradise of rolling surf on white sand backed by palms and scrub pine, was a segregated beach, and that reminded our Southern boys a little of home. But it was not segregated in the way of back in the world white and black America, for it more intended as such to keep the average South Vietnamese away from us, the US forces.

The Southern gooks had their own section of beach termed “the litter box”, due to the fact they used it as a toilet, but any of our sun worshipers still had to check out where they wanted to sit on the US section. For among the South Viets there were some who rejecter our Coca-Cola Colonization and had a novel way of letting our forces know what they really thought of them by taking a dump on the US side, effectively leaving turd mines, which they camouflaged with a light covering of sand.

Therefore, after carefully checking that my chosen spot on the beach was turd mine free I donned a pair of sunglasses, lay face down a beach towel and began pondering. I began thinking back on a tragedy that had taken place on the day I departed for my liberty, and it was all down to one of our guys receiving a “Jody letter” from his wife.

It had happened when the sunlight dimmed and the shadows lengthened, and the guy had gone off by himself to sit under a tree and read the letter for a third time. After that reading, he calmly tore the letter into small pieces then lit and smoked a cigarette, and when finished his smoke pressed an electronic clicker that detonated a claymore mine he was sitting on.

Unfortunately another guy, about fifty meters from the mine explosion, had been reading a happy letter from home when he was killed instantly by some of the claymore mines steel balls, his blood had flowed from him like a river. On the other hand, the “Jody letter” guy didn’t die, but lived on as a shattered and unthinking mass of flesh that was destined to live out what was left of its life being fed through a tube.

So that was that, it had been war at its goddamn strangest when a dude who wanted to die by blowing the fuck out of himself with a mine lived on, and another dude who wanted to live had died, as a result of an action by the one who wanted to die.

The general consensus among the snuffys was that the “Jody letter” guy had taken the idea of going out ass-first from another suicidal depressive in Saigon, who, after receiving his own “Jody” letter, had de-pinned a grenade with a fuse of just three seconds delay, then dropped it into a crap-bowl in a Saigon hotel’s heads. That gave him just enough time to sit on the bowl before the grenade exploded, and spread what was left of him and the heads-stall he was sitting in, all over the place. Lucky for some the stalls on either side of him were empty at the time he decided to depart for elsewhere.

In all truth, those deaths did not really matter a fuck to anyone in the Rung Sat special zone other than any close buddies who cried the tears of loss. For a background noise of thumps and crumps from distant explosions, the occasional faint rattle of machine-gun fire, and the whump-whump of helicopter rotors as the Slicks brought in new guys to get fucked-up, and removed those who had been, meant the meat grinder juggernaut of war just kept on rolling along without them.

When the rain came it came with a roar, slanting down in such large droplets they left tiny bomb like craters in the beach sand. But a hot sun shone through the thundering downpour warming it, and that warm tropical rain pounded on my bared back like a Turkish masseur during my pondering.

However, unlike the guy who had used a mine as a seat and killed a fellow snuffy, and the one who had dumped a grenade into a heads bowl instead of a turd, I was still alive. That made it even more pleasant to be sitting in the sun whilst at the same time hoping the winding rivulets of water on my back from that violent “gods shower” would wash away the so far short months of anxiety and strain. But as with all hope in war it proved to be a forlorn one.

If nothing else, at least I was for the first time in quite a long time truly clean and rested, for I had taken the required pubic hair “blonding” peroxide laced bath to kill off any bacterial bugs and other jungle supplied health risks. That was a precautionary but important bath to take, for we lost more guys to disease and illness than Charlie ever killed. In fact, Charlie lost a lot more guys than we ever did to the various tropics diseases, especially from malaria, for the gooks didn’t have our anti-malaria “daily-daily” pills.

In addition, I had donned a recently boiled-to-fade and ironed to perfection set of jungle greens, and to crown it all sported a fresh Marine style “white-sidewall” haircut, instead of the bush-beast semi-matted clump of hair I had prior to the comb and scissors assault when on the barber’s chair. However, all that was for cleanliness of the body and not for cleanliness of the mind, for it would take far more than just new gear, a haircut, and warm water to cleanse a mind soiled by the images and deeds of war, if it were ever to be possible

Once the rain had gone the sun blazed out of a clear blue sky, and as with all the others on the beach I was determined not to waste one ray of it until the heat, humidity, and the sand flies became unbearable. The guys also catching some “bronzing rays”, sunbathing, a few meters from me were Coast Guards, so a genuine shared interest in boats and the sea formed a bridge over the wide military gulf that lay between us and that made the light conversation come easy.

The Coast Guards and I were two different species of military animal, so we never mentioned anything to do with the military, just shied away from doing so and thus avoided any possibility of a clash between us. We also kept it in anonymity, they did not give their names or ranks and I did not give mine, for it was obvious none of us were out for making any friends.

Whilst others risked a visit to the corpsmen with a dose of the clap as they humped a near worn out “ two-dollar-catch” in the surf, for an hour or so we were just a trio of ordinary Joes shooting the breeze in a peaceable atmosphere about a mutual interest, as one waited on his Vietnamese girl to arrive.

So, we lay on our backs and talked about boating and sailing, until a shadowy figure came and blocked out my share of the sun. It was the Coast Guards hooch-maid, a long legged pretty thing wearing a “handkerchief” bikini and who looked by far too young and had that life’s hard look in her eyes; it was a look that said I do what I have to do so don’t dare judge me. But I wasn’t there to be judged either, so we were sailing on a parallel course. Anyway, the "code of the grunt" said do what you have to do to survive.

I spent most of my somewhat uneventful, and what seemed incredibly short days on the beach, getting there early before the “rabble”, masses of randy R&R bush-beasts cruising the sand looking for some pussy. However, once that horny rutting herd became too large I headed for a late afternoons relaxing coffee drinking at the “Pink House”, for I had resolved at the outset that during my liberty I would stay off the booze, remain “C & S”, clean and sober, and adhere to the Marine Corps standing order of prohibition.

At other times, I would be at the Freedom Hill PX drinking root beer and talking to guys with “Short-timer's Disease”, no further interest in duties and regulations. They were all combat veterans, some on their second tour, who were determined to stay out of the shit by staffing the City defenses as they waited until there were no squares left to cross-out on their short-timer calendars. 

Both the star-studded nights and the rainy ones I spent sitting at a stained table outside a bar decorated in the French-bistro style. It had faded striped weather awnings, badly painted risky murals on the walls, and bolted to a high ceiling were cooling overhead fans that constantly, and annoyingly, hummed and squeaked. Regardless of its cool interior the bar was a shoddy shithole, but it was extremely popular among the US military personnel as it offered a very varied menu of food, booze, drugs, and sexual pleasure.

All of the bars and whorehouses in Da Nang City, day and night, always seemed to be packed full of wild men swilling crap alcohol and smelling of sweat and the pungent aroma of marijuana. The “French Bistro” style bar was no different from all the rest in that those desperate for some pleasurable excitement to chase out their loneliness constantly vied with each other to be the next client to one of the girls who regularly passed in and out of a grubby blue painted door.

That blue door, half hidden by a bamboo screen, was the gateway to what they were seeking. Behind the screen sat a fat woman on a chair who collected dollars, pesetas, or military script certificates for the girl’s resident pimp, and after paying the mama-san, each “client” was ushered through the door into a long narrow corridor lit by red bulbs.

However, the gooks preferred the hard currency of the greenback to the MSC, which they considered dubious in value and so exchanged at 40% below value. But then again, if you had something truly top buck to trade, such as crates of booze, a vehicle, or perhaps weapons, then you became a Mr. High Fucking Roller. In which case, you could partake of all that was on offer as much as you pleased until the credit finally ran out.

Other military personnel, drunk and loafing outside irritated the fuck out of me as they leered, waved dollar bills, and noisily harassed and propositioned any woman respectable or not that happened to walk past. Noisy and annoying the bars booze and drug crazed fuckers may have been, a nighttime Da Nang in ’67 was no place to ever go wandering around solo. So, there was safety in numbers, unless as had happened in Saigon a gook rode up on a bicycle packed with explosives and blew the fuck out of the place.

Occasionally a quick lightning like flash reflected against the scrub-line upon Monkey Mountain that overlooked the city. It was Charlie firing the occasional rocket into the Ariel Port and dock area. Those rockets were a noisy omen that the tide of war was slowly moving that ever closer to Da Nang than any temporary resident of the city could have realized.

Then on my last day of trying to bronze my troubles away on the beach, I looked up at a pristine blue sky and watched sea birds playfully jostling in the air. Suddenly there came a smoky streak in that sky accompanied by a whooshing noise, and a large explosion quickly followed both. It was Charlie marking out his territory with a rocket straight into the port area, and that made me wonder how I had ever managed to get through all the crap to that second in time, and I felt very, very tired of it all with a weariness that bit at my very bones. I felt like someone trying to stave off a dreaded disease but was slowly losing the battle, and with the feeling came a sudden rush of panic and a quickening of the pulse.

When having volunteered for the Marine Corps and then traveled half way around the world at its behest, I never thought that I could ever have such an all-consuming craving to escape, to head for an Ariel Port and crawl into the guts of any freedom bird heading back to the world. For just a fleeting moment, I wanted to get far away from that ever-increasing shit-storm in the Southland of a country where figures of men jumped grotesquely under the impact of rounds, and men who shot other men did so without any real sense of having killed, for they were targets, just shapes in front of a weapons sight.

That Southland was no adventurer’s rain-forest frontier, no vacationists eden; instead, it was a lawless land where REMF’s without honor profited by selling everything and anything destined for the bush-beasts fighting in the boonie to anyone with enough cash. However, those greedy rear echelon fuckers, worshiping the dollar sign as a god, were just a corrupt side product of what the North Vietnamese considered our cultural contamination of their homeland Vietnam.

By the time the sun was no more than a red slash in the sky, and Monkey Mountain and Marble Mountain were slowly easing into a purple blackness, I and Da Nang City were going our separate ways into the future. Together with my gear I had packed away any resentment I felt for the profiteering assholes, and it was perplexing to suddenly realize that I was actually happy to be on my way back to a part of the Southland where the paradox of being in mortal danger made a snuffy feel that much safer. Perhaps within that paradox the dead were the lucky and the wounded the unlucky, by having to be humped with their body or mind broken back to a world that didn’t want them, or truly gave a fuck about them.

To any of the fresh-in-country cherries destined for the fighting areas it could be confusing as to why the average bush-beast preferred sitting among the smelly and rotting feet of his brother snuffys, in the stink of a rickety jungle hooch that was flooded with stagnant bog-water, compared to the come easy perfumed like way of a REMFs City life.

Once back in my jungle haven I found that it had been the same old shit during my absence, new fucking guys had replaced the fucked-up guys, and it was strange how those cherries all seemed to have the same keen and eager face, full of questions and desperate for advice. Any snippet of how to go about staying alive, and no matter how small a piece of information it was, they seized upon it with zeal. In the main, experienced bush-beasts tended to keep themselves well away from the cherries as if they were goddamn lepers.

The only initial advice the cherries tended to receive came from the non-coms, and was the standard infantry basics for unit freshmen. Those basics were for them to follow the bush-beast in front and do exactly everything he did, and if he ended up getting shot-to-shit then look for another to follow. Also, they should try to remember that if the gooks are in range then so the fuck are they, so try not to be conspicuous for it would draw down fire on the rest of the squad, and If separated from the others during a fire-fight just empty their magazine at Charlie, and then run like hell. Above all, was never to forget, not for even one moment, they would be fighting the jungle more than they would be Charlie.

 


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