Peace Corps Writers
War and Peace Corps — Two Corps (page 3)
War and Peace Corps — Two Corps
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     At some point each evening the first body would hit the ground as those on the roof became unsteady and toppled off. Their comrades, at least those who could, would jump down, grab the prone figure by his arms and legs, give a few heave-hos for momentum and toss the person back onto the roof. Then they would climb back up and continue the sing-a-long.
     Now drinking on guard duty was a bad idea, but we had to be careful how we declined so as not to offend. We had an M-60 machine gun, and one evening they thought we should allow them to have “a bit of fun and let us fire off a few rounds, mate.”
     The Aussies wanted to shoot our officers, who they did not like, although it was not personal. They didn’t like their officers either. I don’t think they liked any officers. The American officers knew it and kept a safe distance. The officer on duty, who would ordinarily visit our guard posts during the night, would not come near us if the Australians were present.

AWOL = Away without leave

     One night I met an American soldier with the Australians. He had been AWOL for two months, an offense punishable by imprisonment at hard labor. The Australians befriended him, hid him in their tents in the day, and brought him out at night to party and enjoy their companionship.

wogs = a racial slur

     Unlike us, the Australians were volunteers and expected to be in Vietnam. They were friendly to us individually if we were white, but they ridiculed our armed forces because we had “wogs” in our army.

Race was a continual problem, perhaps because Long Binh was relatively safe. In field units, because everyone depended on everyone else for survival, race was not as significant, or at least not acted on.

M.P. = Military Police

"Charlie" = Viet Cong

     Everyone was armed, and drugs and alcohol were commonly used. Those unfortunate ingredients, plus racism, produced tragedy. For example, down the road from my unit were several entrances into the Long Binh perimeter. M.P.s stationed at the gates to monitor traffic in and out used poles with mirrors to examine the underside of every vehicle because “Charlie” liked to stick bombs in under-carriages timed to detonate inside the compound. A jeep with three African Americans drove up and was stopped. They argued with two white M.P.s and things got out of hand. As the jeep drove away without permission, a grenade was tossed out at the feet of the M.P.s, who responded by shooting the men in the jeep just before the grenade exploded.
  ARVN = Army of the Republic of Vietnam      Verbal and physical hostility were often directed toward the Vietnamese, including young men who were not in the ARVN for reasons besides racism. The American soldiers resented defending the country if the people who lived there wouldn’t defend it.
     There were hundreds of Vietnamese civilian employees at Long Binh doing everything from laundry to barbering to collecting trash. Some of them were V.C. who collected intelligence on the job and paced off distances to better zero in on specific targets. American soldiers, white and black, referred to the Vietnamese as “gooks,” “slopes” or “dinks.”
     The day before I left Vietnam, some of the men in my group were in a truck when another truck with ARVNs either passed them or was passed by them. Who tried to pass whom is not clear, but the trucks began racing and the men in both trucks began firing at each other. There were multiple fatalities.
     More common incidents were comparatively mundane because they resulted in fewer fatalities. One day at the mess hall, a driver of one of our ten-ton trucks got in the chow line. He said he had just had a little problem while driving his truck. A Vietnamese boy about ten years old on a bicycle was in front of him. Either because the boy did not pull over, or for some other reason, the truck driver ran over and killed him. It had just happened, so someone asked, “Are you upset?” He responded, “Nah, it was just a gook.”

G.I. vs. G.I.
Arguments between G.I.s were also common. One involved a card game dispute. Both men were drinking or had been smoking dope, or both. Suddenly, one pulled out a .45 pistol, just like a cowboy in the movies, and shot the other.

The proximity of weapons
TOC = Tactical Operations & Command
I am convinced the reason most of these things happened — the truck-bicycle incident being an exception — was the proximity of loaded weapons. That was brought home one night when we were taking mortar and rocket fire. That night my duty assignment was runner in the TOC Bunker. During attacks, the TOC Bunker was our command post. It was well protected, underground with layers of sandbags supposedly able to withstand a direct hit by a 107 mm rocket.
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