A Delta radio operator rode the choppers when teams were inserted and when they were exfiltrated and relayed messages between the team and base camp. They flew two commo flights every day that teams were on the ground. The teams were scheduled to communicate by radio three times a day. The third was by the 162, usually by Morse Code. They had to make at least one out of the three scheduled contacts or we considered them to be in trouble. If they misused their team code name in a message, that meant that they were captured and forced to transmit.
During that tour, I really got sick of helicopters. Deltaís radiomen made many trips on the choppers when inserting and extracting Delta RTs and on our C-47 commo flights. In fact, I had enough flight time during my first six months with Delta to qualify for three air medals. It seemed like the whole world shot at those damn things and I donít know how chopper crews lived as long as they did, especially the medevac crews.
[Years later, after the Cobra gun ships came out, Sir Charles stopped firing at choppers, if there was just one Cobra with them or even if they suspected a Cobra might be lurking about. One Cobra brought pee, but a flock of Cobra gun ships could really smoke their ass. It beat door gunners firing free-wheeling light machine guns all to hell.]
The Delta Commo Section had to develop a mobile base station radio because Delta operated all over Vietnam. We had to communicate with our field teams and headquarters where ever we went.
We used a TR-20 at our FOB [Forward Operational Base] to communicate with the HT-1s on insertions, extractions, and commo flights. Our mobile base station Morse Code radio set had to be protected so it wouldnít be damaged during all of our moving around. Instead of the standard issue field single side band [SSB] radios, we chose the KWM-2A to communicate with our 162s in the field. Ham Radio Operators loved the KWM-2A. It wasnít made as sturdy as field radios, but it was much better otherwise. "Buster" Keaton and the 5th Groups Signal Platoon solved our problem. They designed a plywood box that served as a trunk for transporting the radio and it also served as a permanent radio console because the sensitive equipment was permanently mounted on shock absorbers inside the box. It even had a small fan mounted in the back to keep it cool while it was being used. The top unlatched and raised up to help ventilate the equipment and the front unlatched and hung down horizontal on two chains and served as a desk top. The telegraph key was screwed to the desk top. It worked great. McGuire did the right thing when he finally put Buster in charge of our Commo Section. With my limited communications experience, thereís no way that I would have thought of that rig.
On one night commo flight, the radioman called and called for the recon team. Finally the team answered, but he was whispering and the man in the air could not make out what he was saying for all of his Vietnamese teammates chattering in the background. The man on the ground was using the HT-1 with an earphone. The radioman in the plane radioed, "Speak up! I canít hear you for all of your troops talking." A very slow faint voice came back, "T-h-e-y a-r-e n-o-t m-y t-r-o-o-p-s!."
On many instances, our recon team could not or would not answer our commo flight radio man. Some of them would just "break squelch" by pushing the "Push-to-talk" button. The first time that this happened to me, I told the man on the ground to hit his push-to-talk button three times for "yes" and two times for "no" and then I only asked him direct questions. That flight seemed to last forever because I had to dream up the questions as we went. The next day, I sat down and devised a list of direct questions that a radio operator on the commo flight could use in such situations and get all of the information that he needed, including map coordinates. This became SOP from then on for this type of situation and it was used frequently by Delta Radio Operators on the commo flights.
Larry, Catfish, and Don Hyakawa, who was a Japanese-American from Hawaii, were in a downtown restaurant in Nha Trang one night chowing down and sucking up some cheap Bam-me-ba Beer [Beer-33]. All three of these recon members got as drunk as skunks. At that time, Beer 33 was aged with a lot of formaldehyde and it didnít take much beer to get you drunk out of your ever-loving mind. Two flip-top bottles maybe. When our three warriors got ready to leave, they discovered that they didnít have any money. Not to worry, Larry had a plan. Larry went outside and fired his hide-out pistol into the air a couple of times and yelled, "VC! VC!" Catfish yelled, "Everybody out" and ran for the door. Hyakawa was the drunkest of the bunch, but he had his own plan. He stayed put. Hyakawa was dressed in one of Deltaís sterile Tiger Suits with no insignia, stripes or patches. Well, pretty soon here came the American MPs. The owner had wised up and called them to get his money. They approached Hyakawa and questioned him about Larry and Catfish. They also tried to get Don to pay the bill, but all Hyakawa would say was, "Me donít know nuttiní. Me just be interpreter. Ask GI, dey say dey pay." That dummy got away with it.
[I meant no offense when I called Hyakawa "dummy." That is just my ignorant way of communicating about a close friend. In fact, Hyakawa was quite smart. He retired from the 10th SFGA at Fort Devens. Just before he came up for retirement, he got permission from his company sergeant major to go to school on his own and acquire a civilian trade "before" he was due to be discharged for retirement purposes. The sergeant major agreed and covered Hyakawa administratively. Hyakawa, who was also an SF radio operator, went down to the local telephone company and requested to be trained as a cable splicer. In return, Hyakawa would not expect any pay during training and he would not even expect to be hired after he completed the training. In my opinion, this was absolutely brilliant, maybe as good as his "interpreter" plan. Of course they hired him when he graduated their cable splicing course with flying colors. Why didnít I think of that? He was working in Iran during the 70s for $40,000 per year [tax free] until just before the Ayatollah came back into power and then Hyakawa came home. Hyakawa now lives and works in Winter Park, Florida.]
During my tour with Delta,The Ballad of the Green Berets became popular. Barry Sadler wrote it. Barry was an SF Staff Sergeant at the time and had served part of one TDY tour in Vietnam. He was med-evaced [evacuated due to an injury] when he stepped on a punji stake. Some guys who served with him swore that he was a sorry soldier and filthy because he did not bathe regularly even when in garrison. Others said that he was okay. Also, I heard that the army sent him around the country on tours for propaganda purposes, but they had to assign an SF Sergeant Major as a chaperon to make sure that he was clean and in proper uniform. Barry, I believe, was a one-tour soldier.
Regardless, not many of the old SFers liked that song. Mostly only head & head types [admin and support] played it on the jukebox at the Playboy Club in Nha Trang. The head shed kids [5th Group Headquarters] played that song so much, Delta members started unplugging the jukebox and flipping the young troopie a quarter.
[Now, every business meeting of the SF Association begins with that stupid song. Iím still wondering what the hell happened. Iíll be damned if I know.]
The book by Robin Moore, The Green Berets, also became popular while I was with Delta and Robin Moore even visited the 5th Group after his book was published and became the Number One Best Seller.
Robin Moore and I bumped into each other at the old Playboy Club one night in 1965. I told him, "I donít like your book." He asked me, "Have you read it?" I said, "No! I donít have to read it. I donít like it because of the kind of attention that itís getting SF and the trouble that itís causing us."
That damn book was causing us a lot of trouble. It drew too much of the wrong kind of attention to us and brought us a wave of young volunteers who thought that they wanted to be heroes. It also made other military units very jealous and I believe that jealousy caused generals in other parts of the military, especially the army, to do their best to get their guys "into the action" and get some "glory" for themselves in the process. And all of this had to have helped persuade President Johnson to send conventional US troops into that stupid damn war. [Later, I did read Robin's book and it was pretty good. It was a lot better than the John Wayne movie that was based on it. Actually, I think what made the movie so bad was the location where it was shot, Georgia. Each scene in the movie showed more damn pine trees than were in all of Vietnam.]
Delta was tasked with bringing in a prisoner from a certain area. They inserted several teams. As I recall, Norbert Weberís team got the prisoner. Norbertís team crawled into the midst of a NVA battalion bivouac area and just lay there waiting for a target of opportunity. Finally, one NVA soldier strolled towards them and dropped his pants and squatted to crap within armís reach of the bush where Norbert lay. Norbert eased his silenced .22 pistol muzzle through the brush until it touched the soldierís temple. When enemy soldier slowly turned to see what had him, Norbert said the guys eyes bulged to the size of saucers and he dropped his whole load in one big squirt.
Our RTs did a lot of crawling. They sometimes spent the entire day crawling on their bellies, inching along now and then. They learned to stay away from ridgelines, roads, trails and streams ó everyone else traveled those routes. Many old native and animal trails follow ridgelines in the mountains, the Appalachian Trail is the best example that I can think of. Our RTs chose to travel slowly along the side of steep slopes and through the thickest, roughest brush possible. They slept on the steepest slope they could find while straddling a tree trunk to keep them from sliding down the hill or they slept in the largest, thickest briar patch that they could find. They slept on their lightweight indigenous poncho which they would spread out on the ground to keep the moisture away from their body. In the pitch dark nights they could hear the huge leeches crawl across the poncho towards them. One SF man had to be evacuated because a leech crawled inside his penis and took up residence there preventing him from relieving himself. [This was long ago and this man may not have been on a Delta RT, but perhaps on a SOG RT.] When they were full of blood the giant leeches were six to eight inches long and as big around as your finger. Many a lurp man has awakened to find two dozen giant leeches attached to his skinny ass. You could always tell the lurp men from everyone else when they were in the shower back at base camp because of the quarter-sized scars from their numerous leech bites. These scars were permanent. Fortunately, the army scientists came up with a fantastic tick and leech repellant that worked and we all used it. We soaked our socks, the canvass in our jungle boots, our trouser cuffs, and our waistline with the stuff before going anywhere near the boonies.
If they were spotted and chased, the RT fled up the steepest slope available or through the largest, thickest briar patch or used maneuvers that they had rehearsed over and over to confuse or ambush their enemy. They were more motivated to escape than their pursuers were motivated to capture them. Adrenalin made the difference ó and sometimes, with some guys, a pep-pill made the difference.
Our medics provided "pep pills," I believe they were called "green hornets" to the RT members who wanted them. They were supposed to be used for diet control as I recall, but each RT man was told to save it for emergencies only. A joke soon started around about the recon team that reached the base of another steep mountain and one SF man turned to the other and asked, "Is this a one-pill or a two-pill hill?"
[One new RT member in MACV-SOG took the pills to stay awake from the very beginning. He never slept on patrol, even on seven day patrols. That boy was really scared. Once he refused the pep pills before going on a patrol and when asked why, he said, "One night on the last patrol I saw thousands of NVA coming through the night sky on chariots drawn by horses that were breathing fire. Iíll never take another one of those damn pep pills as long as I live."]
When Delta was experimenting with infiltration methods for our recon teams, we tried using beacons to help assemble the team after they parachuted into the thick jungle. We packed all of the rucksacks into a bundle and rigged a radio beacon to the bundle with its antenna taped to one of the parachute suspension lines. After the teams reached the ground, they were always scattered and disoriented. First of all, they had to survive a night tree landing in very tall trees, which is very risky, then they had to climb down the tree to reach the ground. We issued each man a small civilian transistor radio to help them locate the beacon. We had the frequency range of the radio "stretched" so it would pick up the beacon signal. When you held the radio right side up with its narrow side pointing towards the beacon, the beacon signal was the loudest. Unfortunately, either narrow side produced the same results so you could not tell which way was correct. The only way to know for sure was to walk a good distance and aim your radio again. If the signal was getting stronger, you were okay. If it was getting weaker, you had to turn around and go in the opposite direction. It took three days to assemble an RT using this method. Delta dropped that idea and kept experimenting. Try as we might, we never came up with an effective way to surreptitiously insert an RT into a thick jungle canopy. The lurps had to find open spaces large enough for the chopper to land or blast an LZ with 2,000 pound bombs.
Delta helped develop all of the lurp techniques used in Vietnam. RT leaders from MACV-SOG came to Delta to study our recon tactics and equipment. Delta personnel also established and taught the MACV Recondo School at Nha Trang that was used to train all recon troops for all in-country units, but that was after my tour with Delta.
Delta tried inserting RTs into triple-canopy jungle by conventional parachuting with smoke-jumper suits, they tried low-level [400í] parachuting into the same terrain using smoke jumper suits, and they tried rappelling from hovering choppers. Delta tried just about everything except free fall parachuting.
Originally, Delta was as concerned with how to extract our teams as they were about inserting them. Delta developed a method of extracting teams without the choppers landing, using something called a "McGuireís Rig." The "McGuire Rig" was named after its inventor, Charles T. McGuire, Deltaís Sergeant Major. Mac rode in the chopper and observed while the recon boys tested it. It was a "make-shift" harness that was built into the rope. It beat dying ó but not by much. In fact, if you were really religious and truly believed that you were ready to meet your maker, you would probably have stayed behind and fought to the death.
[Speaking of religion, I know that you must have heard the saying from World War II, "There are no atheists in foxholes." I served six plus years in paratroop infantry rifle companies and during that time I saw several soldiers who appeared to be very religious. I remember one sergeant who always blessed his meal whether he was in garrison or he was in the field eating a can of c-rations.
However, during my ten years with SF, with one exception, I never saw anyone pray, anytime, anywhere, whether in combat or in garrison, in good health or dying. I doubt they were atheists, I guess they just figured a good plan and a clean, loaded weapon would do them more good or maybe they were just too pre-occupied.
When Group lost a member the commander had to call a mandatory formation so they could march them to the chapel for services. Otherwise, his buddies would all be at the nearest watering hole ordering an extra beer for him and then drinking it before it got cold. Priorities are priorities you know. SF showed respect or disrespect while you were alive.
The number one rule in SF was, "Never let your buddy down!" and for the most part, they lived up to that. Now, we have several ex-SF guys, mostly retirees, who are religious. Some are even preachers. The ironic part is, the ones that are now preachers used to be among the rowdiest, roughest, and least religious guys in SF.]
The same basic extraction technique is still used today except they have greatly improved the equipment and now I think they call it STABO. Whatever the hell that means. Originally, each McGuire Rig only consisted of a mountain climbing rope with two loops sewn into one end. One loop was a large fixed loop and the other was a very small adjustable loop. The big loop was at the very end of the rope. You stepped through it and sat in it. The smaller loop was farther up the rope. It was for your wrist so you could lock yourself in just in case you slipped out of the large loop or were shot out of it. Later on, I understand that some teams were shot out of the rig during extraction. The other end of the rope was secured to a D Ring in the floor of the chopper. The chopper had to rise straight up until you cleared the trees or brush. Only then could it carry you dangling at the end of the rope to a safer place so they could land and let you aboard.
To the best of my memory, when they went in to extract a team, each of Deltaís H-34s were equipped with three or four McGuire Rigs. H-34s only have one door. While developing the McGuire Rig, some of our guys were injured, one seriously. Sergeant Frank Badaloti suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung when he was dragged against a stump and he had to be med-evaced. He locked-down his wrist before he had cleared the ground. Jack "Dawg" Long was hooked up to the same chopper, but Dawg was so scared he not only kept his footing, he outran the damn helicopter long enough to loosen the wrist loop and escape. Thatís the truth. Trust me, you did not want to ride this rig back then. It was strictly for life or death situations only.
[Badalotti returned to Project Delta and was killed in January 1966. Dawg and I served together two more times before we retired. How that crazy bastard survived to retire is beyond my comprehension, but he did. Jack "Dawg" Long moved to Northern California where he bought a lounge and thatís where he died in 1997.]
When it comes to Theme Park Rides, the "McGuire Rig" would be #2. The ultimate Theme Park ride would be the Fulton Recovery System commonly referred to as "Skyhook." Never did I volunteer for a skyhook. Come to think of it, I never volunteered to ride the McGuire Rig either. Sometimes you just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to enjoy fun like that.]
For its size, Delta was probably the most decorated allied unit in the Vietnam War and their losses did not even begin to compare to SOGís. In fact Delta received the US Army's Presidential Unit Citation [PUC], the US Navy's PUC, and the Valorious Unit Medal [VUM]. The PUC is the equivalent of awarding every member of the unit a Distinguished Service Cross and the VUM is the equivalent of awarding every member of the unit a Silver Star. All of the Americans in Delta were SF. Delta originated in 1964 and had minimal losses as long as they operated by their original rules. Some of those rules were: lurp members decided who would be lurp members. Members were selected on a personal, one-on-one "I personally know and trust him with my life" basis. No officers were allowed on the teams. Delta lurp duty was strictly volunteer. The most experienced recon man on the team was in charge on the ground, regardless of rank. They also had an agreement with our Delta Commander, Major Strange, which went something like this, "If you donít trust us, donít use us. But if you use us, trust us. If we request to be exfiltrated, donít question it, just come get us. We can discuss it later." The enlisted men came up with these rules and they proved to be damn good rules.
The monsoon season hit while we were still in the old Delta camp. That camp was located in the lowest spot in that area and the water rose about three or four feet. Our sleeping tents had the only floors in camp that were still above water only because they were erected on wooden platforms supported by stilts. Even so, the water was so high it was lapping through the cracks in our floor. A monsoon rain is not just a rain storm. Itís more like a damn hurricane without the wind. If youíre driving a jeep, you might as well drop the windshield because you canít see through it anyway. The wipers just didnít work that fast. Without the windshield, you could at least see as far as the front bumper. Nothing flies during a monsoon. Monsoon season is perfect weather for guerrilla soldiers because you canít see ten feet and tanks, artillery, mortars, and aircraft support are mostly ineffective.
The beginning of the end for the original concept of Delta occurred during the summer of 1965 when we were operating in a very bad area north of the Bien Hoa Air Base near the Cambodian border. For the first time, we were put under the operational control of MACV-S3 [Military Assistance Command Vietnam - Operations] in Saigon. [I later learned that MACV was the same jerks that MACV-SOG came under]. It seems like the name of that area was "Iron Triangle" or "Some-kind-of Forest" or "War Zone C or D," but I may be wrong. Regardless of itís name, it was a very dangerous place for our troops to be. As I recall, we were the first American troops to venture into that area. The ARVN [Army-Republic of Vietnam] units would not go near the damn place.
We inserted one team and it was hit shortly afterward and scattered. As soon as they could break contact with the enemy, the team notified base. They reported, "Sergeant Morley [Staff Sergeant Peter G. Morely] and an ARVN Special Forces Medic missing and I believe that some of the remaining team members had been wounded." The remaining SF Sergeant requested immediate exfiltration. Major Strange informed MACV-S3 and was told, "Major, tell that team to continue its mission. This is just the first day of the patrol. They are scheduled for six more days."
Major Strange told MACV-S3 that he was extracting his troops and he did. We had choppers out every day searching for the two missing team members. I don't think we knew it at the time, but Morley had been wounded. The search went on for a couple of days with no luck.
By the third day, we had pretty much lost hope of finding them alive, but we sent out two more of our choppers to search for them. They needed one more man on one of the choppers and I was not on radio watch at the time so I volunteered to go with them. The other two SF men on my chopper were Sergeant Major McGuire and Master Sergeant Shaw. Shaw spotted Morleyís small emergency panel near a river that flowed towards the Bien Hoa Area. As soon as our chopper started to circle we began to take ground fire from automatic weapons. Our other chopper was several miles away. That loud-mouthed, obnoxious, sorry-ass, S-3 Officer, Captain Thompson, was on the other chopper. Our FOB and the two choppers were linked by radio. I notified home base, "We have found our two MIA. Weíre taking heavy automatic weapons fire from the ground." To avoid the ground fire, our pilot decided to "dead stick" the chopper and send it twirling, straight down to the ground, where, just before impact, he intended to pull up and level out.
I radioed, "Weíre going in after our troops." By that time, I was yelling at the top of my voice to make sure that I could be heard over the sound of our gunfire and of the bullets slamming into our chopper. Thompson radioed, "No, no wait for us to support you." About that time our Vietnamese door gunner was hit in the shoulder. [At least at the time, I thought he had been hit because he jumped back from the door and grabbed his shoulder, but I later discovered that he had not been hit at all. He had been burnt by the leaking hydraulic fluid.] He leaped back from the door and stopped firing so I dropped the radio and started firing at the enemy on the ground. As far as I was concerned the time for talking was over. My M2 Carbine began jamming after the first couple of rounds. After that it jammed almost every round and basically I was then armed with a single shot carbine. Shaw and McGuire were both armed with AR15s and they were working just fine. [Later, I discovered what caused my weapon to jam. I had just got the weapon and magazines and the magazines were already loaded. The problem was, the magazines had been left fully loaded too long and the magazine spring had lost its tensile strength. The spring was simply too weak to push the rounds up so the bolt could push them into the chamber. From then on, whenever I left ammo in a magazine for a prolonged period, I never fully loaded it. The rule of thumb that I used was, "Omit one round for every ten rounds the magazine would hold." Never again did I have a problem with a magazine spring.]
We took a lot of hits. In fact, we took so many hits our chopper sounded like a crowd of leprechauns were pounding on the outside of it with ball peen hammers. Bullets cut the hydraulic lines and the flammable fluid covered us and the floor of the chopper. The helicopter leveled out about four feet above the elephant grass and our two guys slowly began making their way towards us. Morley appeared to be in bad shape. He was slowly hobbling along using his M-16, muzzle-down, as a crutch while leaning on the RVN medic for additional support.
They were moving entirely too slow and we were taking too damn many hits to suit me so I jumped out of the chopper to go help Morley. When my head went below the top of the grass and I was still falling, thatís when I discovered the chopper was about four feet above the elephant grass and that the grass was about 8-10 feet high. Because I was expecting to land immediately, the impact when I finally hit the ground jarred my eye teeth and I was lucky that I didnít break a damn leg. After I ran to Morley, I grabbed his now useless weapon and threw it away then I helped Morely back to the chopper. The chopper had blown the tall grass down by then and it was only about four or five feet off the ground. After I threw both Morley and his teammate up into the chopper, I jumped in also with no problem. Right then I probably could have set a high-jumping record because I wanted to get the hell out of there. You could say that I was extremely anxious.
We were so shot-up, the pilot couldnít get that chopper over thirty feet high so we flew down that river back to Bien Hoa. As we departed the area our other chopper arrived and started firing on the enemy and shortly afterwards some of our fighters arrived and started clobbering them. This was the third day of the patrol. Morley had been shot through the thigh about five minutes after being inserted. He and his medic buddy had managed to break contact with the enemy and made it to the river bank. They found a log and used it to float down the river at nights and hid in the brush during the day. [We heard later that Morely recovered from his wound and was an instructor in the SF Medicís Course at the Dog Lab at Fort Bragg, but I never saw him again.]
While we were at Bien Hoa air base one day, a couple of us stopped at the NCO Club to eat and we had a couple of beers before we left. Several air force sergeants joined us at the table. Sometime during our conversation, the topic turned to rank because the air force guys had noticed that we had more rank for our age than they did. One air force Buck Sergeant in particular complained about how hard it was to get promoted in the air force. I said, "Well sarge, I can tell you how to get promoted fast." "Howís that," he asked. "Next time youíre up for discharge, transfer to the US Army and volunteer for SF duty. From then on all you have to do is survive long enough to get promoted. And, I guarantee that the damn VC will do everything they can to make a few vacancies in the ranks." He didnít like my idea.
During the summer of 1965 while Major Strange was still the commander, Delta was sent to Pleiku in the Central Highlands to support a convoy that was supposed to travel from the coast to Pleiku. This would be the first convoy from the coast to Pleiku since the French had lost Vietnam, assuming that the convoy made it. In 1954, a French convoy tried it. There is a monument erected in a mountain valley near Pleiku in memory of the French Group Mobile 100. That should tell you how they made out.
Somebody decided that Delta needed a radio relay station during this operation. With a relay station, if the patrols got in trouble, they could use their portable radios to call for help instead of the heavy, cumbersome HC-162s. They flew me and Staff Sergeant Donald Hyakawa to a tiny Vietnamese Ruffpuff [Regional Force/Popular Force] outpost on a very steep, bald mountain top just above the valley where that French convoy was ambushed. We could see the monument from our tiny outpost. That is where Hyakawa and I stayed for the duration of that operation. We were the only ones on that very tiny outpost that spoke English. Neither of us spoke Vietnamese and we had no interpreter. That outpost was only about 50 yards wide at most.
Delta put RTs on each side of the route to hopefully provide an early warning of any impending ambush. Staff Sergeant Fred Taylor, a well-liked and very competent radio man, and Master Sergeant Gallant were on one of those teams. As I recall, their team was sent out to the north of the convoy route. A few days later radio contact with them was lost. Delta choppers went out to search for them and finally spotted one indigenous member of that patrol crouched in the fork of the trunk of a large dead tree on the side of a mountain. They finally managed to save him by resting one wheel of the chopper on a tree limb and keeping it there while he climbed up the strut and into the chopper.
According to that survivorís report, their team violated several patrol rules. They chose to follow a trail [WHICH IS A NO-NO], the trail followed the ridgeline [WHICH IS ALSO A NO-NO], and they stopped on that trail to eat [WHICH IS A DEFINITE NO-NO]. While they were stopped a VC unit walked right into them. Gallant was wounded in the first burst and Fred went to the aide of his buddy and refused to leave him. [That was 1965 and there has been no evidence that either were captured. They were both later listed as KIA.]
Delta pitched another party. We held it outdoors across a drainage ditch from the old Playboy Club on the SF Headquarters Compound at Nha Trang near the tents where we slept. There were a couple of concrete picnic tables and maybe there was a parachute canopy strung up as shelter from the sun.
What we ate, slips my mind, but I do recall what we drank ó two gallons of 180 Proof medical alcohol mixed with Hawaiian Punch and fresh fruits, some of which were un-sliced. Larry "The Cook" Dickinson helped prepare the punch and when one ate with Larry, one never dared to inquire as to the specific ingredients of the recipe.
The only outsiders that we invited to this party were our two US Air Force trading buddies, Sergeants Simpson and Tufin. Somewhere during our party, we decided to adopt our two air force buddies and we started their jump training by having them practice PLFs [parachute landing falls] off of the concrete picnic tables. After we finished our "punch" those remaining party members retired to the Playboy Club and PLF training continued from the bar and bar stools. Sergeant First Class Ayers was the one that dreamed up this scheme to adopt our buddies and to include a parachute jump in the initiation.
When the Playboy Club closed, the remaining party members retired to the Bamboo Bar in downtown Nha Trang where the training continued for our new-found brothers until daybreak. At dawn, we took our air force brothers back to camp to awake Cowboy, one of our Vietnamese chopper pilots, for a parachute training mission. Some of the guys picked up the parachutes.
Meanwhile, as the appointed DZ Security and DZ safety officer, I went to the DZ. Somebody had to drive me there because I was too pie-eyed to drive. The DZ was an open field directly across from the main gate to SF Headquarters. Exactly how I notified the jumpers that it was safe to jump, I donít remember. Regardless, apparently I did because they jumped. They had one of our guys jumping first, then an air force dude, one of ours, another air force dude, and then one of ours again. The SF guy to our trading buddyís front was to demonstrate how to jump and the one behind him was to make sure that he jumped. By the time they jumped, I was so drunk, I could not look up and stay on my feet so I lay on my back and watched. How I got it, I donít know, but I had my .45 pistol to secure the drop zone with and under the circumstances, it was an excellent choice because its effective range definitely matched my vision at the time.
All four jumpers exited the chopper as planned but shortly after he jumped, one of the jumpers began churning his arms and legs like a madman. He continued this until he hit the ground and the way he hit, I thought he had broken every bone in his body. As luck would have it, this was the nearest jumper to where I lay so I staggered over to where the jumper lay. He hadnít moved since he landed. It was Sergeant Simpson. I asked him, "What the hell did you think you were doing?" and he told me, "Val, I did just like you taught. I counted to four then I suddenly realized what the hell I was doing and I tried to climb back up to that damn helicopter." Simpson was as sober as a judge and as white as a freshly washed sheet. Simpson never attended another Delta party.
Sergeant Tufin loved it and thereafter attended every Delta party he could. I reckon Ole Tufin was a little touched in the head, but we took a liking to him anyway. We even pinned jump wings on both of them right there on the spot. Now thatís what I call a real party. Like I already said, SF had a very keen sense of humor.
Another of our air force friends, also a sergeant, invited several members of Delta to a BYOB [bring your own booze] dinner at his pad. He lived off post in downtown Nha Trang with a Vietnamese girl. Before going to the dinner Larry Meltzer and I stopped off at the Class Six Package Store on base for some booze. Larry picked out a fifth of Irish Whiskey and I advised him to get something else. He asked why and I explained, "Larry the damn Irish have been fighting all over the world and amongst themselves for thousands of years. I think its because they drink their own whiskey." He laughed and bought the whiskey anyway.
Our host had a very lovely girlfriend and the more of that damn Irish Whiskey that Larry drank, the prettier she became. Larry and I were the last guests to leave the dinner and Larry was pie-eyed drunk and horny for our hostís girlfriend. Larry told our host, "Iím going to fuck that woman before I leave." Our host replied, "No youíre not. You best leave." Our host was about six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds while Larry stood all of five feet six inches tall and weighed maybe 150 pounds, if he was soaking wet. I said, "Larry, you best leave the man alone. Youíre drunk and out of order here. Youíre also out of your league. Letís go home." "Hell, no," said Larry, "Iím going to whip his ass and take that beautiful woman. She has the hots for me." "Larry, youíre making a big mistake," I repeated, "Letís go home."
Larry ignored me and assumed his best karate stance and our big host just stood there and looked at him as if he didnít believe what he saw ó as did I. Then Larry asked, "Are you ready big boy?" Our host said, "Yep," and Larry attacked with a lightning fast right lunge punch. Thatís the fastest that I had ever seen Larry move. Larryís tiny fist caught the big guy in the chest while he was standing flat-footed. Much to everyoneís amazement, Larry knocked our big host right on his butt. However, all Larry really did was piss him off because that big ass bounced right back up and immediately charged Larry and took him down to the ground. In about two seconds our big host was sitting on Larryís chest and arms and was pounding his face into a pulp. After two or three good licks, I squatted down beside our host and asked him, "Hold off for a second and let me see if Larry has come to his senses yet." He stopped pounding on poor Larryís face and I said, "Larry, I told you not to drink that damn Irish Whiskey. Well, have you had enough fun for one night?" Larry peeped at me from one of his badly bruised eyes. "Yes, I believe I have," he said through his broken nose and smashed lips. I told our host, "Let him up. Heís had enough." While Larry staggered to his feet and brushed off his clothes, I thanked our host and his girlfriend for their kindness and then took Larry by the arm and marched his little ass out of there. I left the remainder of Larryís whiskey with our host and advised him, "If I were you, I would pour that stuff out."
At the MASH unit, the doctors straightened Larryís nose and patched up his cuts. While the doctors were working on him, that drunk ass Larry was giving them his diagnosis of his injuries. About a month later, Larry came to me and told me that his father had won a Silver Star during Korea and that he wanted to go to an A Team so he could get more combat time in the field. He didnít want his dad to out do him. I sent him to see Sergeant Major McGuire and Larry was transferred to the team in Ashau Valley. Larry got his wish, they put him on their tiny outpost and Ashau Valley was thick with VC and NVA. [Larry survived the war and got out after only one hitch. Larry works for AT&T in New Jersey.]
Because of the Bien Hoa incident, Major Strange was being transferred out of Delta. At least, that's the reason the rumor-mongers gave. We decided to give him a going away party. He had won our respect when he went against that idiot at MACV-S3 and saved Morleyís recon team.
Earlier, the Delta enlisted men had decided to rent a former French restaurant, home, and hotel that was on Beach Boulevard in Nha Trang. Vietnam is literally covered from one end to the other with beautiful sandy beaches. This was where Major Strangeís going away party was held.
In order to make our club legal, we had to establish written by-laws. One man from each section was selected to represent his people in the club committee. John Miller represented the RTs, Sergeant Dunbar represented Supply, I represented the Commo-Section and thatís the only guys that I remember. Thatís how I know the following details.
Here are some of the actual rules we put into the by-laws:
Uniform Regulation: Something on your feet and something on your ass. Shower shoes and jock straps shall suffice.
Guests: Any female is to be allowed entrance whether accompanied or not but no female shall be allowed to exit the club without permission of a club member.
Associate members were allowed from any branch of service."
All of the tiny motel units were rented the very first day, all to Delta members. The restaurant was open 24 hours a day seven days a week and served food and booze of any kind at any time but Delta Members ate regularly scheduled Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper meals there. Our little "business" thrived and the Delta Club quickly became the most popular watering hole in Nha Trang.
To get food for Major Strangeís party, we organized fishing and hunting expeditions. I volunteered for both. Delta had its own air force. We had two C-47s and four H-34 Choppers, all manned by Vietnamese crews. They were all hotshot pilots, the best the Vietnam Air Force had. We got two choppers for the hunting expedition and they flew us to an area that used to be strictly reserved for hunting by their former King. That was before the French colonized Southeast Asia, screwed everything up and caused that damn war.
We also spotted a tiger chasing a deer that we were chasing and shot it. Not me, I couldnít shoot it. It was just too beautiful and I knew we werenít going to eat it, besides it was just doing what we were doing ó looking for a meal. When we hit the tiger we landed to pick it up. The deer it had been chasing was long gone. The tiger was still thrashing about in the elephant grass the last we saw just before we sat down about 30 yards away. We discussed who was going to wade through that thick grass to finish off the tiger. I asked, "Who thinks that they shot it?" Sergeant Henry Keating said, "I did." He had been stationed in Alaska and had taken up big game hunting while there. I said, "I didnít even shoot at the poor dumb bastard so I suggest you go finish it off." He eagerly accepted the job and hopped out of the chopper armed only with his .45 pistol. That elephant grass was so thick, he stepped on that damn tiger before he saw it. That dumb ass jumped straight up about three feet and fired two or three rounds into it almost before he hit the ground. If that damn thing had not already been dead, it would have had him for breakfast. It was about nine feet long from nose to tail. I donít know how much it weighed, but it took five of us to load it into the chopper.
We also got a huge Mule Deer. It took everyone from both choppers to get that mule deer in a chopper. That was the first time that I had seen a mule deer; we only have white tails in East Tennessee. All the way back to Nha Trang, I stared at that damn big-ass deer. It was difficult to believe it was just a deer. Both choppers were filled with game when we returned.
That was in the morning, in the afternoon some of us went fishing. We took an outboard motorboat, our swimming suits or PT shorts and a case of grenades out into the Nha Trang Harbor. We wreaked havoc on the fish that afternoon. Not one damn fish floated to the surface. We were out near an island that was just off shore from Nha Trang beach. The water was crystal clear and we could see all kinds of fish that were killed from the blast, but they were on the bottom. We tried and tried, but none of us could reach the bottom. If I had brought some large rocks with us, I might have been able to do it. [I had used that trick when I was a kid to reach the bottom of a shallow part of Norris Lake, just to see what was down there.] A boat of Vietnamese fishermen came along and a couple of them were spear fishing. We called them over, pointed down below us and to our grenades and with hand and arm signals we finally struck a deal. We would split the catch, if they could bring them up. This deal worked great because those little shits brought all of the stunned fish up. We really had a great feast.
Hell, as far as I was concerned, I never had a better person than Major Strange responsible for my life in since I joined the army. That was the best party anybody ever got under such circumstances. Maybe the best party anywhere for anybody period!
SF lived like animals when in the field, but they believed in living as good as possible when they werenít. Delta made it their mission to set the example for both field duty and camp life. Most lurp members and some of the ranger advisors stopped wearing underwear and some stopped wearing socks. Underwear and socks tended to restrict air circulation and were always soaking wet, all of which encouraged jungle rot. Some guys put sand in their jungle boots while in camp and wore them that way to toughen up their feet. The most comfortable clothing in the world is loose fitting, light weight jungle fatigues with no skivvies under them. It canít be beat. Many of the SF guys stopped wearing skivvies, especially those that had served on SOG or Delta lurps.