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 with an American Advisory Team at an ARVN basic combat training camp. 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 mountain. 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. I slept on the boards and in the stench because I was exhausted.

In addition to the often poor sleeping conditions, we rarely got a full night’s sleep.  At the very least, we got up once or twice during the night to pull our shift on the radar.  Things went downhill from there when our camp was being attacked.  Quality sleep was a precious commodity when we could get it.