Fire In The Hole

Sergeant Leggins
Sergeant “Leggs” Leggins

Sunday, August 11, 1968

After Sunday brunch Reverend Starling talked about “The mystery of God’s love.” It was a difficult message to understand, and I suspected Starling’s timing was intertwined with Lieutenant Hale’s death. It was an enigma, and the sermon didn’t provide any closure. Our questions were unanswerable.

The central drain in the galley was backed up, and we were sloshing around, ankle deep, in the scrub water after brunch. This happened from time to time, and we would resolve it by running a truck winch cable down the 6-inch diameter iron pipe. Usually the heavy steel cable would break through the blockage, and the drain would clear. There was no “Roto-Rooter” service in Vietnam.

We rammed the cable dozens of times against the blockage in the pipe with no results. I went to find Leggs * for advice. His assessment of the situation called for extraordinary measures to solve the problem. Leggins left for a few minutes and returned with a small 1-inch diameter cylinder of C-4 explosive (about the size of a “D” battery). He attached it to the cable and inserted a blasting cap. Wires were connected to a hand generator, and it was slowly fed down the pipe to the blockage.

Leggs yelled, “FIRE IN THE HOLE,” and we could feel the explosion as a column of water shot from the drain to the ceiling. The water whirlpooled down the hole in the floor, and the blockage was cleared. The Chaplain witnessed this event and asked Leggs, “What about the pipe, wouldn’t it be damaged?” Leggs shrugged and said, “We’ll be gone . . . no one will remember.” We all laughed, and the drain never gave us any more trouble.

* See previous blog, “Convoy Road — Dai Loc” January 13, 1968

Next Edition: Catalina Island

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