The Charm of Sandbags

Hua – Mama-San’s Adopted Son

Thursday, September 12, 1968

When Hua arrived on his bicycle, his tires were caked with mud.  We helped him clean his wheels at the water buffalo with a scrub brush.  The roads were clear, but it was a wet slick ride in some areas.

The Rhinoceros Beetle was scratching around in the cracker tin as we shared the bug with Hua.  These beetles were prized in Vietnam as pets.  The affluent class used them as “toys” for their children.  A string would be attached to a collar, and the beetle could fly freely (like flying a model airplane).  They were kept in a cage (like a bird) and would live a few years.  Their diet consisted mainly of fruit, especially bananas.  We decided to give the beetle to Hua in exchange for keeping the 50-gallon water barrel full for our shower.

Hua was a resourceful kid.  He was good at mundane chores, and one of his specialties was filling sandbags.  His skill at this job was unusual.  Building a sandbag wall or barrier was similar to laying bricks.  The bags were never filled completely full.  If folded and tucked properly, they could interlock for stability.  Once a bag was in place, it would be “tamped” with a 2″X4″ board to make it level for the next layer.  This process took patience and a special talent . . . it was time consuming.

A well constructed sandbag wall was not only secure, but it had aesthetic value (similar to one made of adobe).  The beauty and charm of a sandbag wall was dependent on the skills of the laborer.

Top Culverhouse and Gunny Pavelcek contracted Hua to do the sandbagging of their new hooch.  It would be built of wooden ammo boxes and wrapped up to five feet with sandbags.

reinforced bunker
The bunker where Private Mott and I fought during TET

Next Edition:  Sumo to Tokyo R&R


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