Soldiering This great Nation & Its People War

Did US soldiers experience any encounters with wildlife while fighting during the Vietnam War? by RJ Holland

Yes. We were more afraid of the wildlife enemy than we were of the human enemy.

11th. ACR tank crewman.

LT. Kern used to tell us, “Keep one eye open for Charlie and the other one open for ferocious little bastards.”

Giant red ant nests hanging from trees that a tank’s TC would plow into before he knew it. Thousands of ferocious little bastards suddenly all over him biting and thousands falling into his cupola and the loader’s hatch. We had cans of DDT spray but it worked slowly on them.

If you took your boots off for the night, you had to turn them upside down and smack them in case a scorpion crawled inside. You don’t want to be hurt by one of them.

Fifteen inch or longer centipedes that slithered up to you with a clacking sound with their many feet that had one hell of a painful bite. Back home the longest centipede I saw was two inches. Here, one was very close to me ready to bite. It was about 18 inches long. I crushed its head with the butt of my .45. I can still hear the crunch.

It was the grunts that had to put up with the slimy, swollen, black leeches sticking to them and sucking a lot of blood. Hurt to pull them off.

Mosquitoes, large, hungry and vicious. Swarms of them.

Then there was one of the most weirdest things. A long vine that would catch onto you, hold you and not let you go. The ‘wait a minute’ vine. These vines dangling in the jungle have latched onto tank commanders and actually pulled them out of their cupolas. They are called ‘wait a minute’ vines because when they get hold of you, you yell out to others, “WAIT A MINUTE!” and get someone to cut it off.

Then there are the snakes

The following three paragraphs are excerpts from an answer I wrote before.

We had two weeks jungle training before being shipped to Vietnam. They didn’t really tell us which snakes were ‘friendly’ and which were badasses.

The one we called the Two Stepper was supposed to be bad. After being bitten by it, you took two steps and apparently died. We never really tested that theory, although we knew a few gung ho officers we would have liked to try it on. We did learn the round headed snakes are usually ok and triangle headed snakes are venomous. But if we saw a round headed snake we sure as hell didn’t pat it’s head.

I remember once when we were on a troop support ops in the jungle and a snake had fallen from a tree onto our TC (tank commander). He screamed then yelled through the horn (com), closed of course. “A f——-g snake just fell on me!” I said back, “Does it have a round head or triangular head ?” I was a wise ass. He yelled back, “Who the f—k cares what kind of head it’s got, the slimy ass thing fell on me!”

Tigers have snuck close to NDPs (night defensive positions) where, unknowing what it was, the FOs (forward observers) triggered their claymores and killed them. Tigers have attacked military personnel.

The brown water sailors had to worry about crocodiles.

Here is a paragraph from Dave Avery who was in my unit. It tells what a scorpion bite can do:

“I commanded a tank in Ron Holland’s unit. Every morning after Vietnam that I put on a shirt with a collar to go to the office, I remember Vietnam. I have a mass of scarring on the back of my neck where a scorpion bit me one night when I was on watch standing in the TC’s hatch of the tank. I felt it crawl off my flak jacket and up my neck. I reached to swipe it off and it struck, knocking me to my knees in pain in the turret. Too dark to know if the scorpion fell into the turret or my swipe at it had carried it off the tank.” Not nice.

Lastly, a lizard that would yell out “fuck you” from the darkness of the jungle. Clear as day. We called it, ready for this? The Fuck You lizard. It would get irritating at times.

“Yeah fuck you too you little bastard!” (Excuse the language folks, no other way to do it)

So in this world, we not only had to contend with the VC and NVA sneaking around, we had to deal with these little scratching, sucking, slithering, stinging, biting and clinging freaking things.

Centipede Vietnam

Large Scorpion Vietnam

Wait a Minute Vine


And, the little teaser, the FU lizard.

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