In terms of illnesses, Malaria was probably our biggest threat. We swallowed a small, white anti-malaria pill once a day and choked down a huge, pinkish horse pill once a week. Considering the number of mosquito bites I endured, the pills must have worked. I didn’t get malaria, nor did any of my teammates.
Other dangers included poisonous snakes. There was talk about the so-called “Cigarette Snake.” Supposedly, if bitten by this snake, the victim had time for one cigarette before he died. Perhaps that was a myth, but we did know that there were poisonous snakes around. I recall seeing some snake tracks right under my cot once. Kind of “S” shaped. Glad he kept on trucking. I know there were poisonous banana snakes. Green in color, blending in with the bananas. We kicked the snot out of banana bunches before indulging in the fruit.
Water-borne cooties abounded. I got a royal case of ring-worm from some well water while based at an ARVN infantry camp. It invaded the injuries on my back from the tower accident. Also, ringworm invaded a lesion on my right fore arm. It seemed to take forever to go away. The lesion didn’t go away until after I returned home. I was never absolutely certain what it was. I was just glad that it eventually went away.
Another time, I came down with a severe case of the trots after using some local ice in a Coke. I basically crapped water for over 2 weeks, yet somehow never missed my duties. When on radar duty and nature called, I slipped out of the radar van, dropped my boxers and did my chores in the near pitch blackness. I made it a point to pick a new compass heading on each excursion so as to avoid previous deposits. My biggest worry was if my lily-white moon could be seen by the bad guys. I mean, I had a great sun tan, but only to my belt line. I had nightmares about the bad guys possibly having starlight scopes mounted on their AK-47’s. Perhaps they should’ve been called moonlight scopes.
And then there was AO (Agent Orange). Of the four Corps areas in South Vietnam, our area (III Corps) was the most heavily sprayed. We occasionally saw low flying cargo aircraft in the in our region, but weren’t always sure what they were doing. Some of my teammates recall being directly sprayed, but I’m kind of drawing a blank there. In any case, at least 2 of my teammates are drawing VA benefits for health problems resulting from contact with Agent Orange. They are also receiving VA benefits for PTSD, but that’s another story…