C Battery Stories

The 1/92nd Field Artillery
Association - Vietnam

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You Dirty Rat

by (then)
Sergeant Steven Ollerton

"Charlie battery moved many times while I was with them, and every time we went into an established base, the fight was not with the NVA, it was with the rats!"

We came up with several types of rat-rounds to fire from our M16s. One we called a soap round. The slug was taken out of the cartridge, and replaced with soap, or candle wax. This could kill an average rat, but didn't remain lethal for a mile like a regular round. Red, my section chief, developed a round out at FB Blackhawk that involved taking BBs out of an M79 canister round, and fitting them into the M16 cartridge. This could take on the largest of vermin (Blackhawk was famous for its trophy rats.) It turned your M16 into a semi-automatic pellet gun. You had to be careful where you aimed. Plie M'Rong still stands out in my mind as the all time buffalo-sized, sandbag chewing, run-down-your chest, King Rat Heaven! I hit a rat with a soap round, and just barely got its attention. Our XO shot a rat with his .45, and I thought it was over-kill until I saw the size of the beast, and then I wondered why he didn't put a second round into it just to make sure.

We built a mess hall while we were out there, and it was our pride and joy. As you all know, a mess hall needs a cook, and one was sent out to do his duty. We gave him his own hooch to sleep in, but there was a problem, it was over-run with rats. He came up with a plan. One night, while I was on guard in the gun pit closest to his hooch, I heard a muffled bang. It was a little louder than most rat rounds, but not too much so. Soon, the cook emerged to tell me of his triumph. He had made a cheese ball out of left-over cheese, and peanut butter from the mess hall. Into this delicacy he stuck a blasting cap from a claymore mine. The walls of his hooch were lined with psp, and he stuck his lure between the steel plating, and the red dirt of Plie M'Rong. Soon there came a scurrying, and the cook waited. Twenty, or so, rats took the bait, and still he waited. When fifty or more were at the feast, he hit the detonator, and sent them to rat hell! In the morning, he stood in the mess hall and basked in the glory of his triumph. Outside the temperature rose to over a hundred, with the humidity at ninety percent. It was then, that a slight flaw in his plan began to appear. The psp had been placed in the hooch in such a way that it could not be taken apart. Several of the attendees of the massacre had gotten into the sandbags and died. In two days the smell was overwhelming. In three days the Special Forces camp downwind wanted to know just what the hell we were up to! The cook found a gas mask, and went in, and retrieved his gear. We all worked together, and buried that hooch under about six feet of dirt. As far as I know, that mound remains as a monument to the Great Plie M'Rong Massacre.

My final tale concerns our return to Artillery Hill, and good old Firebase Kelly. This would be in October of 1970, and we needed sandbags for a section hooch after we returned from Duc Co. There were some nice hooches down the hill that nobody was using(a 105mm unit that had gone home and left us with their dregs!) I had been in country for almost eleven months, and had seen about everything. As we tore down the hooch nearest our gun, we encountered the usual vermin. We would smash them with a shovel, pour a little diesel on them, and torch them off to kill the fleas. As we worked there were always three or four of these little bonfires going. We had received about three new second lieutenants, and our captain was showing them around, and introducing them to the NCOs. It looked like it was my turn. As they approached, I took a pair of pliers out of my back pocket, grabbed a burning rat by the tail, and casually lit a cigarette, and even more casually flipped the rat over my shoulder. The look on those faces was priceless! The captain swung them away from my detail, and it wasn't until later that I was introduced. None of them seemed to want to shake my hand!

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