Vietnam Medic:
Field Journal

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Selections from Vietnam Medic: Field Journal
Beware Viet Cong. Do not cross this 'sign for death.' We will kill you

Leaflet from jungle floor, roughly translated:
"Beware Viet Cong.
Do not cross this 'sign for death.'
We will kill you."

Feb 26:

Today's patrol through the hot jungles brought us to a VC tunnel entrance. Upon investigation it was discovered that the tunnel contained a putrid dead VC. This dude had been dead for ... a while! But, someone said that he was a VC paymaster, and he possibly had one million dollars in American currency on him! The attraction of loot overpowered the repulsion of rot. So some lucky soul had the misfortune of being chosen to drag the body out of the tunnel.

Most of us have never seen a dead body, let alone a dead VC, much less a dirty rotten dead VC! So when the body finally lay out in the open, we all wanted to get a close look at it.

Way before I could see, I could smell! As I approached the decaying corpse, I covered my nose and mouth with my black scarf, but the smell was overwhelming. The body looked bloated with the skin stretched so tight it appeared to be wax. Flies buzzed all over the corpse. Hundreds of maggots were having a feeding frenzy in the man's gaping mouth. I almost retched. As I looked at this disgusting thing that used to be a man, I heard someone say he had been dead about three days, and I realized that I could look like that after I've been dead for three days. I turned away before I lost it.

No money was found.

After we had our fill of the dead body, several of the guys sat down to eat chow - a safe distance away. One sergeant sat on a log eating a can of crackers and cheese when a sniper shot a round at him. He immediately dove for cover. Then he realized he had left his can of cheese on the log. He stood back up, hurried over to the log, and retrieved the can. He said later that he couldn't believe he had risked his life for a can of cheese - funny the things you do without thinking.

After chow, the patrol started up again. We walked along a trail for maybe an hour after leaving the dead VC. Then the patrol stopped again. It seems someone wanted to get around us with a wooden cart, so I stepped off the trail to let it pass. I had no idea what the wooden cart was for or where it was headed ... and I didn't really care.

However, when I stepped off the well-worn trail, I inadvertently bumped right into a leaf-nest of red ants. These red ants in Vietnam make their nests in trees by somehow gluing a few leaves together. Most of the other leaf-nests we've seen were about six feet off the ground and could be spotted quite easily. The one I bumped into was about knee level, and thus I didn't see it. But in a few minutes I knew it was there!

I felt something funny and looked down at my pants. An angry sea of red was marching relentlessly up my pant legs. In the next few minutes I made Gypsy Rose Lee look like a marble statue! I frantically tried to get my equipment off. In my panic I could not get my belt unbuckled.

As I desperately tried to undo my buckle, the ants discovered the inside of my pants. They found all kinds of things to bite in there! Not any too soon, I had my clothes off all the way down to socks and underwear. (Cliff Roberson now shows off his stylish olive drab boxer shorts that are all the rage this year for the discerning GI in Vietnam!)

With all my stomping around trying to shed my clothes and annihilate the ants, I believe I may have invented a new dance.

When, finally, I rid myself of the last of the red ants, and had all my equipment back on, the patrol was ready to move out again. I wondered if they had been waiting for me. Probably not. We trudged on through the humid jungle, but instead of being rested from the break, I felt exhausted by my ordeal.



The blue cross from the Confederate flag and the red cross pattee symbolize
service in the Civil War.
The green cactus symbolizes service in the Mexican War.
The five-bastioned fort symbolizes service in the War with Spain.
The arrows and quiver symbolize service in the Indian Campaigns.
The bolo symbolizes service in the Philippine Insurrection.
The motto, NOLI ME TANGERE translates: "Do Not Touch Me"

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