Big Whoopee

Back during the Vietnam War, the Secretary of Defense asked the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Services if we really needed to draft only the cream of the crop.  I seemed that there needed to be people to empty the trash and do some of the grunt work (No Pun intended to my Infantry friends -If I have any left)  This idea evolved into McNamara's Project 100,000.  This allowed as a test under wartime conditions to allow some of the Category 3 enlistees into the Military.   I can't tell you the exact standards that were lowered, but I suspect that it was mostly the lowering of the IQ scores not the physical standards.  It probably prohibited the sick and lame but it snared the Lazy big time.

The first soldier I met that clearly met this status or membership in that category was called "Big Whoopee" by the soldiers in his howitzer section.  He could easily played tackle on any college team but I am pretty sure he could not graduate from High School.  The nickname came from his using the term "Big Whoopee" anytime he was told to do something he didn't want to do.  Most of the time he would do the assigned task but now without comment or grumbling.  Did I mention that he was not the smartest knife in the drawer?  He was so easily tricked that it was very easy to get him to do our bidding without him realizing it was something he didn't want to do at first. 

On a fire support base in the middle of the hills in Vietnam, the helicopters would sling load in our ammunition and generally the landing pad was over on the side of the fire support base and we has to hand carry the powder and projectiles (Joe's) over to the guns.  Most of the guys would pick up one projectile and carry it over to the ammunition bunkers by each gun.  We would get anywhere from 100 to 200 Joe's each day so you can imagine the sweat that went in to this job.  Guess who got that job - a lot.  Big Whoopee...

One day I saw a bunch of the howitzer crew members hauling the Joes and did not see Whoopee.  I asked the Section Chief where he was and the reply was that Whoopee had a sore shoulder and could not lift a Joe for a few days.  I had one of the guys go trick Whoopee to lift two Joe's at the same time.  Sure enough he did and Whoopee could.  End of that malingering for a while.  In fact, the projectiles had a lifting ring in their nose and Whoopee could carry the Joe's two at a  time.  He would consume a gallon of water but had an aversion to washing.  The guys said that his snoring would not let them sleep o they built him his own small bunker.  I'm sure that the smell was a serious contender for that as well as the snoring. 

In the rainy season, it rained almost night and day.  There was one unit that seemed to get into a lot of problems especially at night and one night we fired at least 400 rounds in their direction.  The next morning, the howitzer that fired all those rounds was so mired down in the mud that we had to dig it out.  Right there in the parapet there was a soft spot that it was little more than a mud hole.  One day I was out by the gun when a fire mission came in and it was that same unit that needed support.  Usually at least two crew members got on each trail (or leg) of the howitzer and would swing it around to the direction it needed to be.  Big Whoopee was there and he grabbed one trail by himself and started moving it to the needed direction.  He stepped in that hole and started being driven down into the mud bog.  He started hollering that we needed to save him, that damned gun was going to bury him in the mud home.  "Whoopee, you dumb shit, drop that trail."  Sure enough he did and he was forever my friend that saved him from being killed by a howitzer and a mud hole. 

Several days later, a helicopter landed on the landing pad and I went over to meet it.  Off the helicopter was a Command Sergeant Major that looked like a recruiting poster.  I swear someone not only washed his Jungle Fatigues, they ironed the damn things.   He had spit shined Jungle boots for Kerist sakes.  I met him and he saluted me and asked to see the Battery XO.  I guess I forgot that I didn't have my rank on anything but my helmet.  I told him who I was and he thanked me for saving Whoopee and explained that he was his son. We both had a good laugh as I retold him that story  He told me that he was pleased that Whoopee was out on a fire base and far away from trouble.  Whoopee had ben in a base camp earlier that year and someone sold him some spiked Marijuana and he had started a fight in the enlisted men's club that put several guys in the hospital.  He had spent 6 months in what we called LBJ or Long Bin Jail and none of that time counted towards his time in Country.  The Sergeant Major pleaded with me to do my best to see if we could keep that big stupid son of his out of trouble and jail.  I had someone go get Whoopee and he and his dad had a nice visit.

Long story short, we kept Big Whoopee busy doing the things we needed done and him out of trouble.  Shortly before I left to come home, Big Whoopee was due to finally go home.  I spent over an hour talking to him and doing my best to put the fear of LBJ in his mind.  We even sent the unit First Sergeant back with him to keep him clean and sober for the trip home.  At least when he left Pleiku he was OK.  Never did hear any more about him. 

That was one thing I hated about the Vietnam era Army.  We came and went with no fanfare or celebration.  From 1969 to 1980 something, It was only a mark on my service record that I had been to Vietnam. When one of our Air Guard Units came home from the first Desert Storm deployment, they invited all of the Topeka Vets to march as a unit in their Home coming Parade.   I hope Whoopee had his day in the sun.  I did.


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