In Vietnam, many people were given nick names that just were spot on. One skinny guy, named Terwiggler, was nick named after that skinny English Model named "Twiggy." That name stuck like glue. One of my Battery Commanders was a huge man at least 6 foot 4 and the other side of 250 lbs. His first name was Albert and while he was white, the monicer "Fat Albert" stuck on him. I don't think I ever heard anyone call him that to his face but behind his back no one called him anything else. I dedicate this story to Twiggy and Fat Albert.
During the first half of my tour in Vietnam, I was mostly a Forward Observer on loan where ever and whenever there was a need. I went places and did things so different that I felt like I was in a different war from week to week. For the most part, I slept on the ground without the benefit of a good air mattress. Oh sure, I had one and if I woke up and blew the damned thing up three or four times a night I kept off the ground. On many nights I was so tired that once it lost air, it was just a ground cloth to keep the moisture from the muck seeping in to my clothes.
When I returned to my unit as the Battery Fire Direction Officer I did my best to locate an air mattress that would hold air for the night. One visit to the Supply Room finally paid off. I got to trade that mattress for a brand new one still in the plastic shipping bag fresh from the manufacturer. I traveled out to the fire base and the first night when I blew it up the bottom seam just blew out. Crap, Double Crap.
I managed to make a swing back past Base Camp and this time I was ready to test a new one out and even brought a fifth of Whiskey with me to ensure I got a good trade. I was given an air mattress that was clean and held air. Hallelujah to God almighty. I took that air mattress with me as I returned to our fire base and was consistently asked to trade with many additional items thrown in for good measure. There was no limit to the value of a good air mattress and I had one.
Later on, I was promoted to XO when the old one rotated home. That meant that I no longer spent my days and nights with the Fire Direction crew that included Twiggy. It meant that I spent my time with a couple of Sergeants in the XO's hooch. They both had good air mattresses so mine wasn't any big deal.
I came up on the list to go on R&R and as I was packing my stuff up, Twiggy came over to my hooch. he said, "Hey LT, you are going to spend your time in a real bed in Hawaii, how about letting me spend some time on that excellent air mattress." What was I going to say but, "Sure."
After my return to the hill top fire base, I looked up Twiggy to get my air mattress back. He went in to the back sleeping area and brought it out. It was flat the bottom seam was blown out and had a size 14 boot print on it. He told the story about the night a couple of nights earlier when he was bringing it in from airing out outside. As he was going through the door of the FDC hutch, Fat Albert was spooked by the sound of a Mortar landing off way across the perimeter. Fat Albert rushed through the door of the hooch, over running poor Twiggy and my mattress. The foot print was witness to the fact that Fat Albert had stepped right in the middle of twiggy and my air mattress. The only saving grace in this story was that when the air mattress exploded Fat Albert fell down like he was hit. It was only luck that kept him from falling on twiggy. I wonder if you can get a Purple heart for being smushed by friendly boots during a mortar attack?
Many nights were full of laughter after that, filled with Stories of that damned air mattress that faux wounded Fat Albert. The only saving grace was that I really didn't have long to serve with that unit and I was soon home, back in the States where I knew the wife had purchased a new Sealy Mattress. It filled the bedroom of our trailer from wall to wall and door to door. LT Guns...