Home Sweet Home

We experienced a wide variety of living conditions during my 12 month tour. Our best was a 2-week stay in an actual house at an ARVN basic training camp with a Green Beret Team. The worst was no shelter at all. We slept under the stars.

In most cases, we managed to squeeze into an existing bunker when assigned to FSB’s (Fire Support Base). Typically, these bunkers were partially under ground with low sandbag walls above ground level and PSP (Perforated Steel Plank) and beam supported sand bag roofs. I recall sleeping in a very cramped bunker at FSB Buell, near the base of Nui Ba Den. The bunks and floor were constructed from wooden Howitzer ammo boxes. The bunks were 3-high and basically just wood slats with no mattress.  I pulled the top bunk many times. When I rolled over, my shoulders rubbed against the PSP roof. It was that tight. This was no place for anyone with claustrophobia.

Ventilation in these bunkers was extremely poor, as in, virtually non-existent. Consequently, it got very hot and stuffy. And there were many smells: mildew; mosquito repellent; body odor; rotting wood; wet dirt, plus burned gun powder during action times. Also, there were usually other occupants including rats and cockroaches. And man, was it dark. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. But looking down in a corner, I could see the faint glow of a coiled, burning mosquito repellent. Room rates were decent, but they didn’t take reservations. Front desk folks were grumpy as hell. Room service truly sucked. No tips. I slept on the boards and in the stench because I was exhausted.

My next duty shift would be in four and a half hours. My buddy on radar shift found me and quietly poke my arm until I was somewhat awake. Hey Staff, you’re on in 10 minutes.

I groped around for my flashlight and then swung my legs over the edge of my bunk. I could not sit up straight because of the low ceiling. I was extremely careful to be quiet and move carefully so as not to disturb the other off-duty exhausted soldiers. I kept my fingers over my flashlight, only exposing a sliver of light as I found my way out of the bunker and into the night, heading for the little radar van a hundred feet away.