Jungle was a world onto itself

There were numerous occurrences that were unique to the thick jungle of Vietnam.

Rarely reported occurrence

Every time you left camp on a patrol, you knew that you were going to encounter situations which you had not seen or experienced before. The least desirable of those new experiences was, of course, dying. This was one of those new experiences.

It was spooky...

One of the strangest experiences involved night in the jungle. I have only ever found one written reference to this unique situation. I will provide a link to this reference at the end of this story.

We were out on patrol... in fact, I think it was our second or third night out on this particular patrol. We spent the last few shreds of daylight preparing for the total darkness that envelopes the jungle at night. Because of the 'canopy' effect neither starlight nor moonlight can make it through the thick overhead foliage to the ground. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face.

Strangely, the Vietnamese did not comprehend (or didn't give a damn) about noise discipline. Noise (that is, sound) in the jungle could be heard a considerable distance away. Many times at night the CIDG wanted to laugh, shout, and carry on like a bunch of kids. On this particular night we finally had gotten the Vietnamese settled in... like a mother hen and with her chicks. I strung my hammock between two trees and crawled in... I was exhausted! The physical demands of a patrol were heavy. I closed my eyes, knowing that tomorrow was only a short time away.

I laid there for five or ten minutes... opening my eyes from time to time to look around. Even though this was supposed to be a 'rest' period, somehow your body knew that this was a dangerous time and refused to relax completely. Maybe you were just becoming paranoid. As that first ten minutes neared an end, I began to sense a presence. I don't know... I couldn't explain it. Something was different.

After ten minutes in the total darkness I opened my eyes -- only to be startled half to death. Everywhere about me was a pale, green glow. It wasn't a light, such as a flashlight. It was a strange, eerie glow that seemed to emanate from the ground. It wasn't bright enough to read by, but it wasn't weak enough to ignore as an illusion caused by fatigue. The Vietnamese CIDG weren't stirring. Still, I was uneasy. After fifteen or twenty minutes I accepted this luminescence as benign and drifted off to sleep.

I never again encountered this glow. I thought about it over the years and have concluded that the combination of wet ground, certain temperatures, and the correct mixture of decaying plant matter on the ground created this natural low-level light source. One of the wonders of nature... but I remember how uncertain I was when surrounded by this 'light of the ghost'.

For an additional reference to this glow, visit: http://www.vietvet.org/thuongdu.htm