At every meal the battery Gunny issued a box of C-rats to each Marine. It was like he was dealing cards, but he could see the labels on the boxes and we couldn’t. Ham and lima beans were universally hated by everyone, and the runner-up was “chopped ham and eggs.” Regardless of personal preference, the rations were edible and could be doctored.
Everyone traded certain food items. “White bread” came in a short stubby can, and once opened, it was a pain to get out of the tin. Someone taught me the white bread secret . . . drip a tablespoon of water on top of the can and then puncture the lid. The vacuum in the can sucks the water in. The bread is heated in the can before taking off the lid. The result is a steaming soft roll which complemented almost any meal.
Consistency was an issue with many of the meals; the contents were sometimes solidified into a thick paste but could be heated and fluffed up. The chopped ham and eggs was flavorful and when fluffed, topped with Louisiana hot sauce and spread on warm white bread, it became my favorite breakfast.
My day was spent installing sections of the rolled concertina wire. We had heavy-duty gloves designed for this activity and a camp mallet for pounding the engineer stakes into place. Smaller (one-foot) stakes were used to attach trip flares and secure the wire. The work was tedious, and the heat was in the triple digits. We took a break in the afternoon, cooling off in the river. Everyone went in naked and rinsed their uniforms. There was a clothesline where we hung them to dry.
A truck rolled into our compound late in the afternoon. A couple of Grunts unloaded a poncho holding the body of a Marine . . . he had drowned after falling into the river. Doc Furman put the corpse in a body bag and filled out the yellow tags for Graves Registration. He was a PFC and looked very young.
The Gunny’s sarcastic antics passing out the C-rats at dinner seemed inappropriate, but no one would ever call him out. His authority was unquestioned; personally I thought he was an insecure person.