What the hell was in my cant......OH!"
From the Diary of Lt Gary Dean Springer
a newly assigned FO attached to B/2/35,
I had a huge learning experience on my first day out on a patrol with the
company. We were to make a long sweep along the Cambodian border east of
Pleiku searching for PAVN units. We didn’t
find anything. Just a couple of
signs. We walked about 10-12
clicks. I about died I was so
I had no idea this
would be so grueling.
took two canteens with me full of water and as it turned out it was not near
enough. Normally we would have
crossed at least one or two streams and a chance to refill the canteens but as
it turned out on this trek we crossed no running streams.
It was up and down one hill after another at a fairly rapid pace.
I, of course, was not about to hold anyone up but it was clear to me
about mid-way way through this patrol that I was not in anywhere near as good of
shape as these vets. By the time we
had gone about 8 or 9 clicks (kilometers) I had gone through both of my
canteens. I kept up of course, but
was really worried that if we were attacked at any point that I would be so
disoriented that I would be of little help.
I tried my hardest to keep track of where we were on the topo map (FO's
map) but had
reached a point of near exhaustion so bad that all I could concentrate on was
keeping up and not falling down. I
cannot describe the relief when we broke through into the clearing where our
company base was located. This
actually wound up being a rather good laugh for the CO, one of the platoon
leaders and my crew.
I had snuck out a canteen of whisky (a no-no in the field) and had left it lying next to our hootch made of poncho liners. Given the exhausted and throat-parched state I was in, I had forgot about it already. All I saw when I walked up was this canteen lying there. Next to the hootch Sgt. Swift (my RTO) had a small fire going in order to heat up C-rations. I grabbed the canteen, twisted off the cap and started to chug a huge gulp of water. Needless to say the whisky was not "thirst quenching" under these conditions and I felt like I had a flamethrower shoved down my throat at the moment. At that point, I did my version of a circus fire eater. I blew the whisky back out of my mouth in a strong, misty spray right into the small cooking fire. I learned for the first time in my life that whisky (and other hard liquor) is quite flammable, especially if it is propelled in a fine mist. When I blurted out this exhaled, volatile mist and it hit the fire, there was a loud “whoosh” and a huge fireball. All I can remember now is Swift’s eyes bugging out in shock and then almost falling down laughing as he realized what I had done! The Infantry CO just shook his head, making some comment about what I should NOT bring to the field anymore as he walked off chuckling. I can honestly say that is the last time I ever took any hard liquor to the field. After that I stuck with the beer rations which we were allowed. Beer will not ignite when propelled in a mist, by the way.
I never tried to find out anyhow.
Lt Gary Dean Springer