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Thursday, 24 July 2008

The ammo dump provides a firework display.

The airfield had a battery of ARVN 155s. This was situated near the entrance to the camp. One evening about nine o’clock during a VC mortar attack the ammunition dump was hit.

This resulted in quite a firework display. I remember grabbing my sub-machine gun and taking up a defensive position by a low wall. I had no helmet or flak jacket. For some reason they had not been issued.

I looked at the repeated explosions reaching hundreds of feet into the air. I was completely unconscious of the debris and unexploded shells falling back to earth. I calmly lit my pipe and enjoyed the spectacle. An hour later our sergeant, whom I outranked but who was responsible for organizing our defense, decided we should all move to our bunker and get under cover.

This went on until about three in the morning when we went to sleep. I remember forgetting my pipe in the bunker and going back to look for it in the morning. Somebody had been smoking it. I am no expert on drugs and couldn’t tell if it had been used for marijuana or opium. I had to throw it away.

There was an increasing use of drugs by the American army which later was to become an acute problem. On my previous posting at Van Kiep we had been with an advisory team mostly composed of hardened old fashioned regulars. These drank heavily, mostly beer and smoked. There was no use of drugs though.

Fear is a funny thing. It comes in all shapes and sizes. The thing is not to show it. It can become contagious very quickly. Alone I had been fine. In the bunker everything was not OK. I got out and stayed on top.

A day or two later we built a decent bunker with defensive positions just outside our door so in future we would not have to stay out in the open or share a hole in the ground with one small entrance. Our old bunker had been dangerously claustrophobic to share.

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