Just when thing in the Heartland of the USA start to change in the fall for the pretty, things in Vietnam turn pretty wet. I can remember the day when I was riding in a convoy and the dust from the truck in front of us turned to mud and we were soon chocolate looking soldiers. The dust way down deep hadn't turned to syrup and the dust as it was kicked up was soon glued to us by the start of that dreaded season called the Monsoon. Little did the kid from Kansas even have an idea that I would so soon tire of the rain. For a period of a little over 90 days, it rained every which way it could.
I have seen rain falling down in a light mist, a pouring rain and as described by the term, "In the manner of a bovine urinating on Portsmouth Limestone" (A cow pissing on a flat rock). I have been up to my waist in a rice paddy and damn near drowned by the rain splashing back up into my face. The rain could blow sideways and it didn't take long for everything you owned to get soggy. I soon took to not wearing socks in my Jungle Boots as little pits began to develop and skin began to slog off. After being a smelly mess from the dirt and sweat, we soon all developed a grungy white look and a funky smell somewhere a cross between a mushroom and bathroom mold.
I was on a mountain top fire base (Called a Landing zone or LZ) and the clouds were filling the valley below us. We sat out in the sun and did our best to dry off. I can say that the view was like being on the tops of a cloud and it was beautiful. We made some coffee in an ammo can and it was one of the most glorious times I had in Vietnam. Not long, and the clouds lifted (The clouds, not our spirits) and the rain began anew in earnest. It was frustrating that while the valley was filled with fog and rain, the resupply helicopters could not take off. While the clouds lifted over our position the helicopters could lift off but they couldn't come to our position. Finally about 3 PM the clouds were high enough to let the pilots see where we were and the resupply could resume. Put three or four hundred people on a mountaintop and the number of Helicopter sorties per day was high. It was really frustrating that a water trailer with 300 gallons didn't do much more than supply drinking water.
More than once I grew so tired of smelling like a cross between a wet wool sweater and an old dog. I would try to get out in the rain and using what once had been a bar of soap wash myself off. I generally would start with my jungle uniform on and wash it until it looked more clean. I would then strip off each piece until I was there in my birthday suit. Seldom did I make it to the place where I was completely clean. It was damned cold in the rain after months of 100 degree days. Stateside, I would have taken a towel and wiped the dirt away. Over there, anything that looked like a towel was so dirty that it would add dirt if you tried to wipe yourself off with it. Not to mention the musty smell of anything made out of cloth that would set in with the lack of a washing machine. If there was one memory stronger than any, to most Vets it was the smell of Vietnam. If dried fish wasn't bad enough, the GI's would burn the feces from their latrines with diesel fuel and make a smell that just covered the rest of the smell of the place.
Back in the base camps they would gather pallets and make what looked like sidewalks. It would keep them out of the mud and while they got wet, they could remove the tracked in mud with a shovel and maintain some semblance of order. Out in the field, if you put in pallets, you soon had mice. If you had mice, you had snakes and most of us would rather have mud.
In those trying times, a piece of plastic was worth its weight in gold. If you could manage to have enough plastic to cover the roof of your hooch, you could manage to sleep somewhat dry. I can't even begin to describe the elaborate ways GI's would try to keep the rain out. One unit actually built a sandbag bunker in the dry season and resorted to covering it with a large (known as a GP medium) tent. At least they could make the river flow down and almost away from the insides.
One sleeping tent would keep you dry from the rain, but the floor had standing puddles. The guys began to dig trenches and one guy dug the Panama Canal around his bunk. It wasn't till he began to be bothered by those little gnats we called Dog packer gnats. (You know those little gnats that fly around an old dog's pecker all day in the summer) It was only then did he realize that the guys would rather just piss in his trench than go outside in the rain and do their duty. he soon found the trick was to have enough of a edge to move the water and not too much depth to allow water to accumulate.
Most of my time in Vietnam was spent in what we called the Central Highlands and most of that time was spent with either a Grunt Company out in the mud, the blood and the beer (we wish) or with a gun battery on some hill top firing for the grunts. It was like a yearlong camp out for me and to this day, I have no desire to go to some far away spot and sleep on the ground. Perhaps if I had a bed in a Mini-Winnebago I might see my way clear to at least stay there overnight. In fact, I have this inner desire to have a travel home, or motor coach and travel. I will promise you that I would abandon it like a rented mule if it stopped running or leaked. When it comes to wet, I have this giant sign that says, "Been There, Done That!"