The Highland Centipede

The 1/92nd Field Artillery
Association - Vietnam

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The centipedes of the highlands of Vietnam were fifteen inches of pure ugly. If you saw one, it was something you would not soon forget. If you have a story about a run-in with these critters, please feel free to share with us. You do not have to be a member of the 1/92nd Artillery, and your story, or photos will receive credit.
The Centipede
By David Powell

The Time
Mid Year 1970, Approaching monsoon season

The Place
A Hilltop firebase in Northwestern II CTZ

The Mission
A two to three day hip shoot to fire GSR for the 4th Infantry Division a
nd the 173rd Airborne Brigade

The Situation

They dropped our Platoon at an old abandoned firebase with enough Ammo and Supplies for the hip shoot. The jungle had a good start at re-claiming this firebase. We spent a major part of the day repairing and rebuilding the Ammo and Powder bunkers to make the Gun Pits serviceable. The roof of the hooch was completely unrecognizable. Since the roof was level with the surrounding terrain, the jungle had completed the take-over. The timber supporting the roof was sound, which was more than we could say for the sides and the atmosphere within. Inside it was cool, but also dark and dank. The hooch had a dirt floor and it was so soft it caused the legs of our cots to sink. A single line of bare bulbs, hastily hung from the ceiling, supplied the lighting.

The Setting

This particular mountaintop firebase was encircled by some of the most beautiful countryside I had seen during my tour of duty. It also had some of the reddest soil I had ever encountered. It penetrated and permeated everything. There was a Montagnard Village very close to our location. They dammed up a small stream with a wall of bamboo, which had three or four bamboo tubes coming out of the face and there was a bamboo walkway out front. For our first day of labor, our reward was a warm C Ration meal. Then we took a cool shower in front of the dam while the local native women did laundry downstream.

The Encounter

I was walking back to the hooch in a towel and my Ho Chi sandals, and it seemed my only care in the world was, "How would I keep that red dirt off my clean, but still wet feet?" I did not want to put on clean socks and clothes just to drag that red mud down the inside of my pants, or spread it all over my poncho liner. If nothing else, I really wanted a clean bed. I stopped and had a smoke, and a beer with a couple of the men. By the time I headed back to the hooch, it had gotten rather dark. As I felt my way down the roughly timbered entry steps, I realized I did not hear the generator running. This could only mean I was going to have to fumble my way across our cellar-like living quarters in the dark. I cursed all the way to my cot, where my Zippo would offer some relief in the pitch-blackness. I was almost there when I stepped on a stick. Then at the same time, the generator outside sprang to life, just as I was putting more weight down on the "stick", it also sprang to life. It pushed it's head and tail backwards up and over my sandaled foot until it was surrounded. Both the head and tail met, on top of my foot. Imagine my shock and surprise, when the lights came up, what I discovered when I looked down. There was this Horrible, Huge, Big headed, Multi-segmented, Thousand legged CREATURE, writhing around my foot. It wasn't until later, after I'd stomped it's ugly body into the red earthen floor, when I realized I'd just had a "Close Encounter" with one of the local centipedes.

An Unwanted Tenant

By Steven Ollerton

I t was cool up at altitude heading for LZ Baxter. I was impressed with how rugged the mountains were below. Soon the Chinook descended and came to rest on a narrow saddle-back, that turned out to be the jungle-covered rim of an extinct volcano. Our guns were to the left of the chopper, and we huddled next to ours while the Chinook lifted into sky. We quickly got the gun ready for duty, and lugged the ammo over to it. The next order of business was our personal hootches. It turned out that the dirt was easy to dig, the only thing slowing us up were the large roots that had to be chopped with our machetes as we dug. By morning our hootches were in good order, and the lieutenant allowed us two hours sleep before starting on the ammo, and powder bunkers. We put down a tarp in the bottom of our hootch, unrolled our sleeping bags, took off our boots which we had worn for three days straight, and laid down. I turned to the dirt wall closest to me, and found myself staring at one of the biggest centipedes I had ever seen! It was holed up in a little tunnel in the wall, but as I watched, it crawled out onto the wall, and was over a foot long. It was an almost neon orange in color, and had huge pinchers. I took my machete, and hacked at it , and cut off its head. Head and body fell to the floor, and as the body walked over the head, its pinchers bit into its own body with a sickening crunching sound. We watched as the body writhed, while the pinchers kept crushing segments, making more cracking noises. It seemed like I watched for a long time, but it was, probably, only seconds until I crushed the whole mess with the butt of my M-16. I took an entrenching tool, and threw it all down the hill. So much for two hours sleep!

On the Wall

By Then Sp4 Bill BigfordThere was about seven of us cannon-cockers in entertainment mode one night in our bunker. The ceiling of our living space was really high so we built a platform for sleeping above our heads with pallets. our mosquito nets were combined to keep the bugs out. Nothing went up there but the four of us that shared the sleeping attic. That left the lower area as a living room for the music and chairs. Well, we were all sitting in this room and someone actually screamed like a girl. We looked up on the wall and saw this nine inch, bright orange centipede just about to crawl into our sleeping attic. Outside the bunker a comrade heard the scream and ran into the room. He said "Don't worry I'll save you!" and threw the knife and pinned it on the wall. It was quit embarrassing, but we were all relieved not to have that critter in our sleeping loft.

Ben Het, 1970

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