Trip to Da Nang

roadside hooch
Roadside hooch near Dai Loc

February 6, 1968

We received incoming mortar rounds at 0130 in the morning.  Sumo and I managed to get in the bunker together, and it was a tight squeeze.  The 15 to 20 rounds impacted with little damage but caused disruption of sleep; the adrenaline rush would last long after the danger had passed.

My primary goal today was to get a new gas cap for a leaking burner unit.  I hoped Gunny Sampson would help us with this issue.  Also I planned to talk with the battalion supply Sergeant about the process of ordering supplies.

The mid-morning ammo convoy left Hill 65 and rumbled down the dirt road toward Dai Loc and on toward Da Nang.  It was an uneventful trip, and we arrived at battalion HQ before lunch.  The Gunny was in a good mood and agreed to help me with the gas cap.  He was interested in Sumo and promised to send another cook soon to replace Britt.

While waiting for lunch I went out to get the new gas cap and saw the Vietnamese supervisor, Mai, talking with a Sergeant.  She took one look at me and touched my arm . . . “You are skinny.”  I knew I had lost weight (caused by stress) but didn’t realize it was noticeable.  The Sergeant introduced himself, and I quickly put it together.  He was just back from his “recuperation from a bleeding ulcer.”  We talked for a bit and as he gave me the new gas cap, I noticed a burner unit with shrapnel holes in the air tank.  I commented on how I could use the destroyed unit for parts, and he let me have it.

During lunch I sat with my friend from staging battalion in Camp Pendleton, “Tony.”  He was in charge of Supply, and I wanted to learn how to order things properly through the system.  He explained that filling out requests was tedious:  how slow the system worked and the random nature of when and what arrived.  He then told me about the system of “Code X.”  At FLC, it was possible to tag an item as unserviceable and trade it for a replacement (a military version of a department store exchange service) no questions asked.

After lunch I talked our driver into making the trip to FLC so I could try to Code X the old burner unit.  Not only did it work, but it was too easy.  Now I would be able to salvage unserviceable junk for new “in the box” equipment.

We stopped at the dock where the excess food products were available and snagged four cases of green cooking apples, along with two cases of Asian cabbage.  This dock always had products no one wanted, and sometimes we could acquire exotic ingredients.

We arrived back at Hill 65, and I retrieved two letters.  The one from Jenny had a newspaper clipping from the Fresno Bee.  The title was “President’s Son-In-Law, Charles Robb Headed to South Vietnam.”  I showed the article to Sumo, and we had a big laugh about it and speculated how funny it would be if he was sent to command India Company.

The other letter from my mother included a wedding photo of my good friend Doug Reed and his bride, Patty.*  It brought back a lot of good childhood memories:  Cub Scouts, fishing on the Manhattan Beach pier, sand sledding and making our own skate boards from old 2×4’s.  I was happy for them and their future together.

*  See San Francisco Blog

dougs wedding
Doug and Patty Reed – January 1968

Next Edition:  New Lunch Menu



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