A Day On The Ship-Imperfect Recollections
Bruce Binns, Former SP-5, 92D20
00:01: The ship has quieted
down. The LCM has delivered the evening Vung Tau partiers 30 minutes ago,
and they have headed for their bunks. Elsewhere the card games are wrapping
up, letter writing is done, and the hidey-hole drinking is coming to an end.
01:00: The guard mount is
halfway through their 2 hour stint, slowly walking their appointed section,
lugging their M-14s, while commander of the guard, carries his 0.45 pistol
and grenade launcher, looking every inch the warrior. Up near the aft flight
deck, the radio shack monitors the local traffic, while the little patrol
boats make their passes, keeping us feeling protected. Up in the radio
shack, the operators are patching through to the MARS operators stateside,
so we can have those wonderful talks- "HONEY-I LOVE YOU-OVER!!", while five
guys wait their turn for some of that intimacy.
03:30: The commander of the
0200-0400 shift gets to kick the boot of his sleeping relief, happy that
he's done for the night and get some sleep- after checking to make sure all
the 17 hatches and watertight doors are closed.
05:30: Lights on and the
daytime life starts; shave, shower (nothing like showering in distilled
water for luxury), make bunks and head for breakfast. The view is the same;
the fishermen in their sampans, getting close to the ship to see if anything
good is getting thrown overboard. The trick is to punch holes in cans and
see if they can race over before the cans sink. Beautiful sunrises over the
mountain. Did we ever feel guilty eating all those MSTS prepared breakfasts
while so many GIs ate C rations?? Did we even think of it??
7:30: Stand formation
before going to the days work, wondering what news 1SGT Larrivee could give
us to make our life enjoyable for another day. And off HQ company and A
company would go. Off to the shops, offices, labs, hangar and decks for our
ten hour days. Where was this war…… but when the parts were rebuilt,
refurbished, and repaired, they were our contribution to the war.
11:30: Lunch; and if it was
a Monday, we would get our lovely yellow pill to take in case any mosquito
were to attack us; the malaria pill. The sure cure for constipation on
Tuesday morning. Of course before lunch we sometimes would have abandon
ship drills. Go below deck, get your life jacket, and stand around the
decks, imagining what kind of splat you would make hitting the water from 60
feet. Blessed lunch time- time then to got out on the deck and work on that
beach boy tan, or go back to the bunk for a little snooze (Attention in the
military. Specialist X, report to ……).
13:00: The afternoon work
picked up again. By now the life around was busy; on break we could watch
the constant boat traffic going up and down, the fishing sampans, helicopter
traffic landing on the ship, bringing in replacements (someday, I'LL be on
that outbound flight!!!!). Sometimes the war would get closer, like when a
destroyer pulled up, dropped anchor and blasted away for a couple of hours,
or an WWII Skyraider, strafed and bombed away several miles from us. Or a
long ominous rumble on a sunny day with no thunderstorm near.
17:00: Ah, just about time
to lay our burdens down for the best part of the day; mail, supper, and
nighttime pleasures. Mail, wonderful mail, and care packages; cookies,
newspapers from home, summer sausage with only a little green mold on the
17:45 For some it would the
LCM bound for the Delong Pier and NCO clubs or pleasures of places like the
Dew Drop Inn, or others.
18:00 For most E5s and
below, every 10 days would be the guard detail, where if you were lucky,
you'd get the shift where you could get the most sleep. Two hours on and 4
hours off. If you were commander of the first shift, you had better make
sure all the watertights were closed. The MSTS could chew you out as good
as our beloved 1SGT (actually, he was firm but gentle-I can say that 34
20:00: After dinner, time to
watch a lovely sunset, and wait for darkness and Flight Deck Cinema-some
nights it would be double features. Raquel Welch movies were the ultimate,
although the dialogue would be drowned out by howling and anticipation. If
you had a good nose, among the cigarette and cigar smoke, you could swear
there was alcohol nearby. Of course, regulations did not allow such
indulgence…but if you knew where to go, well, it's good to have friends.
22:00: While the movies
went on and the canasta/hearts games continued, we wrote our letters and
thought of home. Below 100 days and the various "short-timer” calendars
came out, some fairly simple and others, anatomically correct. Around us the
Cobra gunships would play in the distance, with their crimson syrup
streaming out on some target, with 6,000 rpm of 7.62 mm sounding like a
buzz. And the flares would go off as part of our fireworks show. We'd look
at the lights of the shore and wonder if our buddies had good adventures.
And the little patrol boats and swift Saigon River currents would give us
security as we hit our bunks.
23:59: Drifting off to
sleep the term "Going back to the World" was the goal for most. For the
career soldiers, it was rotate back to Corpus Christi and back to the Ship.
Whether career or short term soldier, there was no difference in
professionalism. We were good, damn good. We were the "First and Finest"!!