The Gunny and the Monkey
…Or don’t bite the face that feeds you.
I joined 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines in Vietnam in late July 1967. At this time the battalion operated South of DaNang in a Tactical Area of Responsibility which was bounded on the east by Highway 1, and on the north and west by the rivers that ran just south and southwest of DaNang (can’t remember their names). I can’t recall what feature marked the southern boundary. The 7th Marines were to our west across the river, and 1st Battalion, 1st Marines to our east across the highway. The battalion had operated in this area for some months and had it pretty well under control. In September of that year we were chopped to the 3rd Marine Division and ordered to move north to Quang Tri Province. So much for keeping things under control.
I was initially assigned as the Battalion Assistant Operations Officer (S-3A) before taking command of Fox Company soon after our arrival outside Quang Tri City. As S-3A I got to know the officers and men of the rifle companies quite well, and was welcome in their company areas both during and "after working hours", if there is such a thing in a combat zone.
Our battalion commander at this time was LtCol Archie Van Winkle, who had been awarded the Medal of Honor in November 1950 while a Platoon Sergeant in B Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. The action took place at Sudong, South Korea just prior to the 1st Marine Division’s march to the Chosin Reservoir when SSgt Van Winkle lead a counter attack to repel a North Korean assault on his battalion’s perimeter. He was a fine battalion commander, beloved by his Marines.
Archie Van Winkle
You might ask, what does all this have to do with a monkey? It seems that Fox Company had adopted this Vietnamese monkey as a mascot and named him Clarence. Not a dog like the one described in the Brown Dog T.I.N.S. tale on this website, but a frigging monkey. Later Fox Company adopted a dog as a mascot, but at DaNang it was a monkey. A picture of Clarence survived the war. Check him out.
Clarence the Fox Company Monkey
Clarence was kept in a fairly large cage, and as I recall the story, the Company Gunnery Sergeant and friends would take him into DaNang periodically to "get him laid". Where you take a monkey to get it laid I haven’t the foggiest idea, nor do I really want to know. If that was really happening then Clarence was doing better than we were. He was not required to remain in the cage all the time and was allowed out while on a long leash. I got to know Clarence pretty well during my comings and goings as the S-3A.
Time moved on and finally we were ready to depart for Quang Tri. The battalion was loaded in trucks and jeeps and was getting ready to move to the DaNang airfield where we would board C-130s for the trip north. I was walking the line of vehicles making a final check before we headed out the gate. When I got to Fox Company I noticed that the Gunny had a large bandage across his nose and was in a foul mood. A little way down the line Clarence was sitting on the hood of a jeep with his upper body wrapped in an ace bandage that encased one of his arms. The monkey was in a foul mood too.
It seems that Fox Company was planning to take Clarence to Quang Tri, but when the Gunny tried to put him back in his cage for the trip, the monkey had taken a large bite out of that worthy’s nose. The Gunny had then broken Clarence’s arm in the fracas. Someone had yelled "Corpsman up!", and the result was the monkey wrapped in an ace bandage and the tape across the Gunny’s nose. FMF corpsmen can do anything.
I asked one of the Fox riflemen what had happened. He said, "You wouldn’t have believed it, sir. Clarence grabbed the Gunny’s ears and latched onto his face and wouldn’t let go. Gunny looked like he was wearing a fur gas mask. In the process of trying to pry the son-of-bitch off, the Gunny broke the monkey’s arm. The Gunny was hopping around like a wild man trying to pry Clarence’s jaws apart. After he finally got him off he screamed something like, ‘I get you laid, and this is the thanks I get!’ It was all we could do to keep from laughing our asses off. If the son-of-a-bitch ape hadn’t been wearing his leash he’d be all the way to the An Hoa basin by now, broken arm and all."
Who knows? Maybe Clarence did it all on purpose because he heard we were heading for Northern Eye Corps, and he knew that gook artillery was just as lethal to primates as it was to Marines.
Shaking my head, I continued down the line, reported back to the S-3 that all was well, and we headed out the gate. Clarence never made it to Quang Tri. Dogs are better than monkeys.
Dirck Praeger sends