As beautiful as Viet Nam was, there were numerous hazards. One of those hazards could be classified as "4 legs, 1 tail". Although these accounts relate specifically to A-103 at Gia Vuc, they are typical of conditions encountered throughout Viet Nam.
One of the Radio Operator's duties was to maintain the gas-driven generators. One night the generator started to sputter. "Outa gas!", I told myself. I trudged down to the generator shed with my flashlight. When I entered the shed, I used my light to take a quick look around. There -- on top of one of the generators -- was the biggest rat I have ever seen! This rat was the size of a large groundhog. It sat up on its hind legs and barked at me!! I did what any red-blooded American GI would have done. I reached for my Walther PPK, realized I didn't have it on, and left immediately -- the hell with the lights!! I must admit that I did go back (with my .45) later, but the rat had already left. That rat remains the biggest rodent I have ever seen.
One of SF's roles in 1966 was "pacification". Our leadership thought we could win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese through education and civil engineering projects. For example, to improve sanitation, we helped build 'outhouses' for the villagers. And then discovered that they didn't know how to use them! We would find them squatting on the seat in the outhouse. Medical practices in Viet Nam were woefully behind many parts of the world. As I mentioned before, rats were a real problem in Viet Nam. Few Vietnamese were aware that rats were disease carriers. In truth, most Vietnamese were more concerned with surviving day-to-day than addressing the rat population. To encourage Vietnamese participation in our rat control program, Ben Long -- Team Medic -- ordered 300 rat traps. We upped the ante by offering one piaster for each rat they turned in -- sorta like a bounty hunter program. After two weeks we had received less than six rats.
Ben was also tasked with helping the CIDG with their personal health. Our team, through Ben, provided free shots for CIDG and
village personnel. Sgt. Long frequently toured the CIDG huts -- looking for health-related problems. Ben invited me to tag along on one of
his routine CIDG inspection trips. It was during this trip that we learned why our 'rat bounty' program wasn't doing well.
As we walked into the second hut, we found several of the CIDG preparing for a gourmet meal -- rat! They had a rat on a spit and were cooking it - entrails and all. Yuk! We westerners had so much to learn.
Most of the men I met while in Special Forces had a special trait... they didn't get rattled. Regardless of the circumstances they maintained
a cool, even demeanor. One afternoon Ben and I were sitting in the teamhouse. Ben was reading his hometown newspaper when
he remarked: "Damn" (That was an emotional outburst from Ben, even though neither the tone nor loudness of his voice had changed.)
Of course, I asked "What's the matter, Ben?"
"My fiancee' was killed in a plane crash." was his reply. Ben finished reading the newspaper.