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Whiskey in the Minefield

9/04 - Here’s another story just shared with me by email.

Merwin C Fuller, not sure what his nickname is/was, relates it this way…

I was at Phu Bai from Feb 68 (right after Tet, when the officer's trailer got blown up) to April 69. … I was a 98G2L80, Vietnamese lingie. I worked in the North Vietnamese Cil Section, reading traffic intercepted from their telegraph network, much of it to/from civilians, but also used by government agencies. Also, coded intercepts from the Quang Binh Provincial Unit, located just north of the DMZ.

Here's a story for you: It was New Years Eve, 1969, and several guys were sitting on a bunker close to the mess hall, drinking miniature bottles of whiskey someone sent from home. They were laughing it up and throwing the empties into the minefield. One of the bottles hit a mine, which exploded. I was sitting at the entrance to one of the trailer rows and witnessed this. Hard to believe one of those little bottles could detonate a mine. Maybe they had some larger ones, as well.

Well, a cook came running out of the mess hall, shouting at the guard in the tower that someone was in the minefield. Guess he thought we were under attack. The guys on the bunker and I were cracking up about the mine going off, and the hysterical cook.

Hearing Problems - Nil Heard - The "Strike"

I'd heard this story somewhat differently (than the correction below) when I was in Phu Bai, but it's good to admit how stories can get changed, passed person to person; like the kid's game 'telephone'.

Part of what I'd heard, and remember. . .(my writing)

It started when the commandant began to believe that things had gotten too lax at the 8th, even after the tricks were already on ‘12 on/12 off’ duty, he began to institute ‘Rock Painting’ exercises (having troops pull useless duty after their shifts). --- Remember the old Army saw, “if it don’t move, paint it”.

‘Agency’ members were called the ‘top 10 percent’ because of the intellect needed to do their jobs. The unit lore goes that when an ASA member was ordered to do something his first comment was, “why?” --- Such brains were quick to conceive a ‘creative’ way to get the commandant to just let them do their work; basically get out of their hair. . .

. . . No one I’ve met knows who started it, but one mids trickie called his trick chief over and said that he just couldn’t ‘hear’ the code clear enough to copy. The trick chief, although suspicious, and not unsympathetic, relieved him and ‘the game’ was on! . . .

. . . Having the 8th RRFS shut down was simply not acceptable, so the commandant had to personally go down to talk to the ‘ring leaders’. The ‘talks’ resulted in the commandant committing to cease the ‘rock painting’ exercises and hearing was miraculously returned. Output was quickly restored to pre-painting levels.

Rick Moser, on the '8thRRFS' Yahoo! group replied to my request for more details with the REAL story. --- THANKS Ric! -- and Ron Burkette says it's all true!  

Quoting Ric:

"We pulled a "nil heard" on mids in late '68 or early '69. It was shortly after a certain SFC had transferred in from Karamursel (Turkey). There were about half a dozen of us there who had 1049'ed out of Karamursel to Phu Bai just to get away from him because of his blatant favoritism towards some of his operators.

He came into Phu Bai as NCOIC and started the same old crap. After a couple of weeks of it, we went 'nil heard' starting at midnight. It took until 2 a.m. before the comm center noticed and passed the word.

Shortly after 2, the OIC and others (can't remember exactly who now) came in. We explained that static was bad (must of been sunspots) and with all the stress we had been under with the new NCOIC, we were having a hard time holding concentration long enough to find our targets.

The OIC suggested things might improve now that he was aware of the problem. About that time our targets started transmitting a lot clearer.

About two weeks later, the NCOIC was sent to the 265th."

Tim again:

Was this a real "Strike"? Maybe not, but it certainly demonstrated who was really in charge at Phu Bai, and this was long before those guys refused to get on the helicopters to invade Cambodia.


There was a GIANT rat that lived in the mine field. The MPs would see and hear him at night foraging around. They called him ‘Track’. Some said he was three feet long, with a girth to match. I never saw him, but a rat that big gave me a dream or two over the months I was there.

The MP’s had a bow and arrow they’d shoot at him with. To the best of my knowledge they never killed him, although there were claims to have hit him now and then; possibly MP wishful thinking.

Using my MOS in Vietnam

Only twice was I asked to ‘officially’ perform photographic tasks at Phu Bai. Once was to produce ‘head shots’ of our Signals Officer, a CPT whose name escapes me.

The second was an official request made by the local CIC group for me to accompany them on a drug raid, documenting the booty and ‘other events’.

Other events included . . . <more. . .>

The Head Nurse’s dog

The head nurse from the local Evac came for a visit once. She brought along her prized pet, a dog. Somehow, while she was taking the tour, it got loose and jumped into the mine field, eventually stepping on a mine and blowing one of it’s back legs off. She had to be taken to the club while the MP’s shot it to relieve it’s suffering. BOY, was SHE pissed!

The ledgendary Phu Bai Swimming Pool

When I was getting my assignment at White Birch in Saigon, I heard someone talk about the swimming pool at Phu Bai; horse feathers, I said.

<more. . .>


Updated: 3/26/06


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