Chapter 4


We were close to the Cambodian border now, and thorn bushes were plentiful. The leeches, or whatever they were, made the leaves on the ground give off an eerie sound like many somethings were crawling about (although one could not see them). As we set up for the night, I would take my wet boots off and pull off the socks and wring them out to dry before hanging them on a limb. Sure enough there would be one or more leeches on my foot. I, like everyone else, wondered if they were this bad during the day, what would they be like at night?

However, as it turned out when night fell, the rumbling of the leaves dissipated and I had no more trouble with the problem. To everyone's surprise and delight, our outfit stayed at this location only that night. I don't know if it was for strategic reasons or leeches. At any reason, all of us were happy to be going. I remember saying to some of the men, "This reminds me of being in the twilight zone."

To put the climatic conditions of this area into better perspective, I must note that there are basically two seasons in Southeast Asia: the dry season and the monsoons. I would like to expand on the severity of both to an Infantryman in this way:

During the dry season, it is so hot and dusty that the feet of a GI on continuous marches conducting search-and-destroy missions, ambushes, eagle flights, and so forth would perspire so much that it would leave a clear salt residue on top of one's boot. This was a common sight to the grunts. Also, as a result of getting in and out of the water—the hundreds of times that one did—the black would come off the boot and leave it in a dry used leather condition. Constantly, the boots were either waterlogged or hard from drying.

Now to the other extreme, I remember an incident during the monsoons when water was everywhere, so much so that the helicopter (HUEY) which came to pick us up could not land on anything dry. It ended up hovering several inches above the rice field and we loaded it with all our combat gear on. Water was up to our chest or thereabouts. We had to take our gear and weapons and place them in the copter then have someone pull us in for we were soaked.

A somber postscript to these men who were with you all these months and maybe years in Hawaii before our division (15,000-19,000 men) picked up and came to South Vietnam. These same men who fought beside you and endured the pure hell of the weather, the enemy, the pure physical demands, the terrain, and in some instances, Agent Orange, after having served their time in the Army would, as the Military says, "rotate" back to the States. In some instances, your comrade would leave the field and go back to Base Camp, and, after having found your hooch, tent, or whatever you called it empty, would steal cameras, radios, money, pictures, and anything that wasn't secured by locks. One can imagine the hurt the troops felt after coming from an operation, to realize this betrayal by one of your own.

Copyright © 2000 Marion L. Ellard - All Rights Reserved