Like all old men the world over I have forgotten events buried pretty deep in my mind, sometimes a word or a sound, even a smell can bring these events back as if it happened just hours ago.
One such forgotten event was triggered back to life by the recent stories of prisoner abuse.
If you will bear with me and travel back in time to July 1966. Place: South Vietnam and a military base camp named Lai Khe. At this time of my life I was a buck sgt and 2nd Plt sgt, even had two shake and bake E-6s as squad leaders.
We had been back in base camp for several days, mainly catching up on some much needed rest with not much in the way of duty except guard duty and every 3rd night sending out a squad size ambush patrol.
One day I got word to report to the CP and pick up a new man, well this new man turned out to be a person who was originally in HQs company, seems this fellow found life to dull and he wanted to get out in the boonies and fight the leaches and fire ants. Anyway when he got to the company he was assigned to the mortar plt. After a few weeks I guess everyone was tired of his gripping about not being out in the jungle with all the other hero's. Hence he was sent to 2nd plt.
On the way back from the CP this fellow is telling me how bad he is and all he wants is to get out and shoot the hell out of charlie. Well I know what a dud 90mm is, and if you're out of ammo you will try that dud over and over again trying to get it to fire. This fellow was a dud big time, but in all combat zones you use what you got.
Anyway the next night it was my turn to send out a ambush patrol and the new hero's squad was the one due for the duty. That night just before dark we had a short inspection and briefing of the patrol. At dark the patrol moved to and through the perimeter fence. At the fence the patrol leader radioed back that he was missing a man. Seems our dud had gotten lost while traveling in single file to the fence! I sent the patrol on out and notified the CP that I had a lost man wandering about somewhere.
Several hours later I get a call from the CP that said dud was at Bn Hqs and for me to go get said dud. I walked up to Bn Hqs which was about 20 minutes away, when I got there said dud was gone. The OD told me that said dud
had accused everyone in the unit of being against him because of the color of his skin and that I as his Plt Sgt was sending him out on ambush patrols every night and always made him walk point. (this when the man had never left base camp with the plt)
Anyway I went back to the plt area and hit the sack, for those of you who never served on a smaller base camp in Vietnam I should tell you that you kept your weapon with you at all times, and at night everything was a 100 percent blackout. I had did some horse trading for a AK 47 which I carried back in base camp or on short patrols from base camp. Main reason being if you held the trigger down it would empty the magazine, which in 1966 was something our M16s seldom did.
About 2 in the morning the field phone woke me up, said dud was now at brigade hq's, I told them to hold him and I would be right up, I called the CP and told them I needed a jeep and a driver, and perhaps 20 minutes later I walked into brigade Hqs, there was said dud with his field gear and weapon. I took his weapon slung it over my shoulder and told said dud to get in the jeep. On the way back we passed within a 100 yards of the plt area and I had the driver let us off as it was just as short walk through the woods. As soon as the jeep left said dud opened his mouth for the 1st time and started calling me a few choice names, my only reply was to throw a round into that ak 47, Not sure but I think I would have shot that sob but he had enough sense to shut his mouth.
The next day said dud was transferred.
So what does this event have to do with prisoner abuse?
Well you see, said dud ended his combat tour in LBJ (Long Ben Jail) and the stories I had heard about LBJ left me to believe it was not a nice place to be a guest of. I suspect that all military jails are something to be avoided at all cost?