Volleyball Vietnamese Style

Thuong Duc Church/School – HaTan

Sunday, June 23, 1968

The Big Foot* breakfast was a welcome change.  Most Marines made coffee from the C-rats, but the instant powder had an “off” flavor for my pallet.  Cocoa powder made a decent hot chocolate beverage but wouldn’t dissolve unless the water was really hot.

The convoy had delivered four cases of oranges from the mess hall, and we put three aside for the picnic.  One case was distributed at breakfast with Reb’s pastries . . . a Big Foot with a fresh orange was enough for me.

After the four-truck convoy left for Hill 65, we walked to the schoolyard across Highway 4 for the picnic and volleyball game.  The Vietnamese had set up the volleyball net and were practicing.  They were mostly teen boys and girls.  A large metal pot was being heated over a dug-out fire pit, and there were baskets of fresh corn on the cob.

The village chief raised his hand and announced the start of the game.  Captain Cavagnol interpreted his words.  Six players per side, and we would eat after the competition.

The teenage players then retreated to the sidelines, and six women entered the dirt court.  They were all young (in their mid-20’s) and wore “bloused” black pajamas above the knee.  Their white shirts were tied at the bottom, above the midriff, and all were barefoot.

We were shirtless and wore our jungle trousers with combat boots.  They won the coin toss and served first.  The woman serving had her top buttons open as she tossed the ball back and forth in her hands.  It was provocative.  She lifted the ball up with her left hand and jump served the ball with a spiraling spike . . . there was no return (an ace).

The points were adding up, and it was obvious we were out-matched.  Captain Cavagnol was laughing at us; he knew all along we had no chance of winning.  After losing three games, the match was over.  All the Marines were sweating heavily, but the women were cool and calm.

As we tried to recover in the shade, the women players offered us sliced Papaya refreshments.  The tropical fruit was sweet and thirst quenching.  We opened the orange crates and distributed them to the Vietnamese.  We were all having a great time, making friends.

Trinh (the peeper at the river)** took my hand and motioned for me to follow her.  Next to the church/school was a cornfield, and we went to harvest a fresh ear of corn.  She found a fat one and twisted it off the stalk.  Trinh then put it in the pot of boiling water.  After waiting a few minutes, she retrieved the corn with tongs and poked each end with a bamboo holder.  I have never tasted corn so sweet . . . it was delicious!

After the picnic we returned to Kilo’s compound and cooled off in the river.  I put on a clean uniform and laid my washed, wet uniform over the canvas tarp on my hooch.  It was dry in no time, and I rolled it into a pillow on my dirt bed.  As I straightened out my area, another downpour drenched the compound.  When the driving rain stopped, I took a nap and slept for five hours.  It was a good day.

* See previous blog “Big Foot”  March 29, 1968

** See previous blog “Losing My Soap”  June 17, 1968

Next Edition:  Punji Stakes

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