The Rats

Rats were problem for us at most of the field camps (FSB’s and ATSB’s) we were based at. We knew the rats often carried diseases such as the plague and rabies, so we did our best to avoid contact with them. At times we also went a bit out of our way to get rid of them, or at least reduce their population.

We had a particularly rough time with rats while based at the ARVN infantry camp near Loc Giang. I remember one night when I was walking to the radar van to pull my shift when a rat ran across my foot. I was only wearing flip-flops at the time, so I could feel the rats claws. When I arrived inside the van, I sat down and examined my foot carefully for any scratches or cuts. I was a bit relieved when I didn’t find anything.

As the rats became more bold they actually tried to run off with a box of Ritz crackers that one of my buddies had received in a Care Package from home. It was at this point that I went to the trouble to set up a rather elaborate trap. First, I laid a 2′ by 2′ sheet of plastic on the ground near my cot. Next, I placed a mostly empty C-rations can right in the middle of the plastic sheet. I then carefully positioned the plastic so while laying in my cot, a pre-planned swing with my trenching tool would land right on the C-ration can. I would have to do this in virtually total darkness, so practicing the swing was necessary. I chuckled to myself when I envisioned the possible outcome.

Sure enough, later that night I heard a rat crinkling its way across the plastic, in search of dinner. I patiently waited until the rat was making munching noises and then swung my trenching tool with all I could muster. Blam! I heard a squeal. Got’em, I thought. I switched on my flashlight, but no sign of the rat. Oh well, I’m sure he’s at least limping a bit and probably will think twice about coming around here again.

One of my team-mates was also becoming very disgusted with the rats and managed to wangle a huge rat trap from someone back at base camp. It looked like a conventional mouse trap, except it was about 3 times larger and had semi-sharp teeth on the spring bail. He set it up one evening and baited it with a piece of ham and lima beans from the C-rations. Later that night we heard a loud snap. My team-mate let out the most sadistic chuckle I’ve ever heard. Morning light revealed our success. One down and hundreds to go.