THE "SPINNING MOSQUITO"

This net caught a very BIG mosquito!

It happened sometime in the fall/winter of 1966.  (Letter to home indicates 4Dec66)

I was fairly new in-country.  While assigned as the FO for A-2-35, I went on an endless series of "search and destroy" missions in the central highlands.  It was a real treat to stop once in a while, catch your breath, and eat those delicious field C-rations (yeah, right) before picking up and moving on.

It was not uncommon to spend the night with a unit such as an Engineering outfit that had time to improve and develop their position.  Generally, they were on the edge of -or- outside of the "hotter zones" where we went searching for "Charlie" and his buddies.   Now, by "improved position" I mean that they had cots and mosquito nets whereas we humped the jungle with tent halfs or whatever shelter we had available.  The mosquitoes considered us blood donors.

While settling in this one fine night, I was performing the first and foremost task of the FO, and that was to set up the "defcons" (defensive concentrations) around the unit perimeter.  These are pre-planned, pre-plotted artillery concentrations that could be fired with the absolute minimum of cannon preparation.  "You want it, you got it!"

Following standard procedure, I called for a "first round smoke" to order to "mark" desired target zone before calling for an HE round.  It verifies your bearings and insures you've got artillery arriving where you want it.  One small problem.  The firing battery is supposed to tell you when you or a friendly unit is under the "G-T Line" or gun-target line.   When firing a smoke round, the shell casing containing the three smoke canisters possesses all the characteristics of an HE round, minus the high explosive.  It comes down like a heavy rock from the sky.  Kinda like firing a pistol in the air; the slug will return to earth.  As fortune would have it, the engineering outfit was not only under the GT line, they were also in the likely "impact area".  They would come to learn that this is not good news.

Sooooooo, I didn't get very far into the mission after the first smoke round arrived.  Instead, I got shouts and screams of "Check Fire!"  Oh-oh, something has gone wrong here.  I was immediately summoned to the Engineering tent and cot area and invited inside for a look.  Lo and behold, it was the strangest thing I had ever seen in my life.   There it sat...the smoke shell canister had punctured the tent, hit the mosquito netting over the cot, and, with the high-speed, right-hand spin characteristic of every 105mm shell, it wrapped itself into a cocoon of mosquito netting and lay right in the middle of the cot.  It looked like a little baby wrapped up in swaddling clothes.  Thank God no one had retired to that cot just yet.

Quite humbled by this event, I try to explain what it was and how it got there.  However, since I was the "FNG" (not to be believed or trusted until proven otherwise), I didn't make much of an impression.  "Call the EOD Team", shouted the HMFIC (that's the Head MF in Charge).

So, a chopper shows up and out comes the EOD Team.  They are guided over to the tent and told to look inside for an explosive.

That's when I heard the shouting: "What the F#*K?!  G**-D it!  This ain't nothin' but a G**-D empty shell casing!"

Boy, were they pissed!  Geez, they were pissed!  I dunno....maybe when the call came in, it pulled them away from some real food in order to fly out and meet us.  Maybe they had already had a long day and they didn't need this kind of false alarm.  Whatever.  Off they went in the direction they came.

I just stood back and said nothing.  What else was there for me to say?  The EOD Team had already said everything in their own colorful fashion.

Ah, well...another day in the boonies.  Another day closer to DEROS.

Lt Dennis Dauphin

 

Footnote: Little did I know at the time that expended smoke shell casings, along with spent illumination shell casings, were to be an ongoing hazard unless you were away from the GT line.  See other stories on this site.

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