War Stories

The Unexpected Night Attack

by Joe Soga

The Unexpected Night Attack 1969 -- Humor
By Joe Soga

We had been off the battalion firebase, for a few weeks, working as a company size search and destroy unit, again! In short, we were humping the boonies every day looking for the enemy, again! The routine was get up in the morning, have a little to eat, pack up and move out. Depending on the terrain we would spend most of the day walking from one location to another, always looking out for signs of the enemy. Most of the time the day would end without having any contact with the enemy. Such was this day in the late winter of 1969, in the central highlands of Vietnam.

As we ended the day's walk we needed to setup a night logger. The usual perimeter was made up of the three platoons spread out in a circle around the CP (command post) in the center. The men would cut a field of fire out in front of their fighting positions, which were dug in the ground as deep as possible. We would also fill sand bags for added protection. We would also set up three man hooches to sleep in. This we would do, by first clearing an area of sticks and stones to make a flat surface. We would also find three saplings. Two short ones for end posts, driven into the ground. A longer one was tied on to the tops of the end post so we could drape two ponchos attached together over it to form the roof of our hooch. We would also lay a poncho on the ground to protect our air mattresses from sharp objects. Those air mattresses were the only comfort we had in the jungle.

After having a C Ration meal and setting up a guard duty schedule for the night, we would send out the LPs (Listening Post}. Then we would settle in for the night. In the jungles of Vietnam the nighttime belonged to the enemy.

The enemy that attacked that night approached without alerting the LPs or those on guard duty. They tunneled under us that night and attacked from below. As the morning sun came up the attack was over the damage was done. I found myself laying flat on the ground, the only casualty of the night attack. I wasn't injured in the attack, only my back was sore. My air mattress was as flat as a pancake. Missing all of the air I blew in it the night before. The enemy that attacked was not the NVA or the VC. No! It was a colony of termites that tunneled under the poncho floor of our hooch. As they tunneled they ate through the poncho and then attacked my air mattress. They put little holes in it which let out all of the air. When I lifted up the air mattress a number of them were still running about. When I removed the poncho floor even more of the enemy was visible. As I counter attacked with my boots, they ran for cover, leaving only their half inch long soldier termites to die guarding the rest of the colony as they retreated to their tunnels. The attack and counter attack ended without a shot being fired. The pain that I suffered from this attack would last for a number of days, until I received a replacement air mattress from the rear.

As we all know there were many unseen enemies besides the ones with the weapons in the highlands of Vietnam. This is a story of only one of them. To be continued!