Purple Heart? Nah, Purple ASS...
There are various reasons in entering a
canal. It's the PATROL OFFICER's prerogative to do so. I can honestly say that
the Boat Commanders FROWN on the idea, however, we go whenever and WHEREVER the
other boat goes. If it is HELL, then it's into HELL I go.
"Together we FIGHT, together we DIE!"
This is the unwritten code of the River Rats. Casualties and DEATH are the
given factors of WAR, nontheless, this code helped most of us to stay
A "visit" to one of the local villages
within the patrol area was one of the reasons for the PBR's to enter a canal.
This was not SCHEDULED, but rather, RANDOMLY done. But the FACT that most
villages are situated WITHIN canals unquestionably leaves us no option.
"CHARLIE or NO CHARLIE, into the canal we go."
The Patrol Officers often take the role
of "diplomat". In River Section 532, one Patrol Officer was REALLY up to this
role. Speaking fluent VIETNAMESE highly contributed to this diplomatic role. He
was RHODERICK DAVIS, SM1 USN. To differentiate him from the Boat Captain of
PBR-139 Donald Davis EN2, the SM1 was called "MOT Davis". "Mot" is Vietnamese
for NUMBER ONE.
It was the latter part of November
1967, and the Vietcong's activities were on the rise. It was a DULL afternoon
when my radio sounded with a coded message saying "Village Visit at Lower Cu
Dai". My reply was a simple "Roger out."
My boat (PBR-142) was the first to
approach the pier. I kept the engines on IDLE as PBR-139 made her approach on
my STARBOARD side. When PBR-139 was close enough the Patrol Officer "MOT" Davis
HOPPED to my boat, PBR-142. On this attempt, a SHOT rang out. In an instant,
both PBR's were OFF the pier with PBR-139 opening fire at individuals running
off into the rice fields. "Mot" Davis was left on my boat, PBR-142, with an
AHSHAMED look on his face and the back of his pants wet with BLOOD.
I radioed PBR-139 and informed the Boat
Captian, EN2 Davis, that we had a CASUALTY. We met in the middle of the river,
placed our boats alongside each other and checked if there were any other
casualties. Besides "Mot" Davis, there were none.
EN2 Davis soon radioed My Tho HQ and
reported the incident and the casualty. When asked for MORE details, EN2 Davis
turned to me and said "Huk, I can't find a CODE for this TYPE of casualty." My
reply was " Tell it like it IS." With that, EN2 Davis redioed back and said "He
was SHOT in the ASS."
There was a moment od SILENCE, then a
LOUD "Whaaaaaaat?" echoed back. EN2 Davis again replied and said "Yes, it's
SERIOUS. He was wounded in the ASS."
This message was heard on EVERY PBR's
radio on patrol that day. With this, one of the JOKERS striked again and said
"The "MOT" has a Purple Ass!!!"
I performed the initial "first aid" by
cleaning and placing a cotton gauze PATCH on his butt. Soon, we were homeward
bound for My Tho HQ for more APPROPRIATE treatment. The wound was a SUPERFICIAL
graze on the skin of his butt. Analyzing what had happened, THEORETICALLY,
"Mot" Davis shot HIMSELF in the ASS. The fact that "Mot" Davis keeps his
side-arm (.45 cal) "half-cocked" with a BULLET IN THE CHAMBER most of the time,
the gun's HAMMER accidentally hit one of my boat's stanchions and MISFIRED when
"Mot" Davis hopped to PBR-142. I don't have any idea HOW this incident was
written on the records.
Nevertheless, a WOUND is a WOUND. A
purple ASS could mean a purple HEART.
For the village? Well, I'm sure that
there was one less water BUFALLO that would graze on those green fields of the
lower Cua Dai.
That was the LAST of our "goodwill
visits". In retrospect, I can say that those visits were fun and exciting as
well as educating. It gave me a much wider spectrum of the Vietnamese people
and that WAR. I knew that some of those INNOCENT and SMILING faces could
intantly turn GRIM when the opportunity strikes. Nevertheless, that last visit
gave me a moment of fun and a LESSON as well.
That is: "Never leave your GUN
'half-cocked'. Sooner or later, you might have a PURPLE ASS."
The previous story was an excerpt from
the blog: "Unsung Heros of Vietnam"