Just Another Day in the Nam
by Joe Soga/ Bill burdick
Just another Day in Nam.
By Joseph Soga and Bill Burdick
Well it started like any other day in Nam. Wake up, take down your hooch, pack it up have some C rations and move out. We were on a search and destroy mission at the time and had traveled about a klick, when we stopped around noontime.
Orders came down to stop and set up a defensive perimeter. We were told that we were going to send out platoon size patrols in the shape of a three-leaf clover.
Each platoon would go out one at a time and make a big sweep in the shape of a clover leaf, returning back to the starting point. On this type of patrol, we would be leaving our packs behind. Taking only our ammo and a canteen of water.
After the first platoon moved out, a situation came up within our perimeter. One of the men had a hand grenade with a broken spoon caused by bending the spoon to attach the grenade to his pack. Our CO quickly stepped in with a solution. He had his RTO contact the first platoon and tell them to disregard the noise from an exploding grenade. The CO then told everyone to hit the dirt, as he pulled the pin on the grenade and then threw the grenade far outside our perimeter. As it exploded, I thought if there were any NVA in the area they would surely know our location.
After about an hour the first platoon returned having had no contact with the NVA. Now it was my platoon's turn to go out on patrol. We were accompanied by a scout dog and handler. As we moved out, we found a trail that was heading in the direction that we needed to go. As we moved down the trail, we came to a stream that ran alongside of the trail. It had a good flow and the water was very clear, but was low because it was the dry season.
We continued to move down the trail following the stream. We stopped on the trail and one of the guys near me said, look at that snake. As I turned to look, there resting in the stream on some flat rocks was an 18-foot-long Burmese Python.
Common sense would tell you to leave well enough alone, when it come to an 18 ft. snake. Well that was not the order of the day.
I don't know why one of our Sergeants took the following action, but he proceeded to look for a large rock. Having secured a sizable rock, he proceeded to within five feet of the snake's head. The snake at that point was not aware of his presence. As the snake looked to be sleeping with its head and most of its long body out of the stream. The sergeant was in a good position to launch his primitive weapon. There was no time for a practice shot, which may have helped to secure a direct hit. We were all watching as the rock left the Sergeant's hands and traveled toward the snake's head. The shot was a little off and hit another rock, missed its target and hit the snake's body about a foot from its head.
We all yelled as the snake reared up it's head to a height of about 2 feet, as the Sergeant retreated to a safe area.
Now the snake was awake with its mouth wide open exposing it's mouth full of teeth. The story does not end here. The scout dog hearing all of the commotion broke away from his handler and ran out into the stream. The dog stopped about a foot from the snakes wide open mouth.
We all watched as the dog barked in excitement not knowing that the snake was close by. The snake was very still and did not move at all. We all were wondering what would happen next as the handler tried to call his dog with voice commands. For sure the dog would be grabbed by the snake and we would have to shoot both of them.
In what seemed like a life time, but only took less than a minute. the dog was back with his handler.
We stayed in that position and watched as the snake relaxed and sought out the protection of a deeper pool in the stream. The snake was unable to move it's whole body to the pool because it had undigested food in it's stomach. This bulge caused the snake to get its body stuck between two stones in the steam. After the snake was no longer a danger to our patrol we move on.
We returned to our company's location with a big snake story to tell. We stayed at that location that night and moved out again the next morning as usual.
That was the only live snake I ever saw over in Nam. I saw some dead snakes, but none of them as large as the one we encountered that day.
I heard at one of the reunions that the CO wanted us to bring the snake back to the perimeter and that he was met with a few choice words from our Sergeant.
To get my facts straight, I consulted with one of the participants in that conversation. There was a radio call from our platoon sergeant, who was the acting platoon leader to our CO.
It went like this:
6, this is 26.
26, this is 6.
6, we found this large snake.
26 this is 6. Why don't you bring it back with you so we can see it.
6 this is 26. Go to hell.