MAG-11 at  DA NANG.

Please don’t burn the outhouse down, Mother said she’d pay!

Father is on the ocean blue, Sister’s in the family way!

Brother dear has diarrhea, things are really hard!

If you burn our outhouse down, We’ll have to crap out in the yard!

One decoration I never wanted was a Purple Heart. But, I think my ass deserved at least a Commendation Medal for duty above and beyond the call of nature. Maybe even the Purple Heart Medal for injuries indignantly suffered. The scourge of Da Nang was Dysentery! My rectum would hang open like a ragged net on a basketball goal. The pucker factor was zero. Not only could I not hold off a terd, I couldn't slow the southward movement of any type of fecal matter. I remember a Navy friend asking, "Do you know why terds are tapered?" Naturally, I had no idea. The answer was, "So your rectal orifice won't slam shut!" I had no such problem. My fecal particles were not tapered and my rectum would not shut. It was too sore and overworked to shut.

Trying to find the cause of the dysentery seemed impossible. The weekly Malaria pill was blamed by most Marines. However, I skipped the malaria pill for three weeks and my ass still hung open. I stopped drinking the reconstituted milk. Nothing was working! I knew one pilot who was medivacked to CONUS because of the condition of his rectum from continuous loose stools. What a humiliating way to escape Da Nang and miss the Vietnam conflict! I was not going to leave that way!

The Mag-11 compound twelve hole crapper added more misery to the intolerable fecal dilemma. Six abreast on each side of the crapper, we would defecate into the fifty gallon barrels that had been cut in half. The wooden toilet benches with appropriately sized holes had a hinged wooden lid over each hole. We raced at top speed to the crapper, loosening our belts as we ran, yanked open the door, raised the wooden lid over a hole not in use, and plopped down. "Ah, just made it!"

You would hear someone urgently yell, "Make a hole! Make a Hole!" People made way for the poor devil in distress. Many Marines suffered blistered testicles and had a huge red circular area covering their buttocks from lifting the lid and shoving their ass over the hole without realizing that the shit detail had just finished the burn and the barrels were still at 500 degrees. Wow! Burn, baby, burn! Such was life in Da Nang.

A green Bamboo Snake (a two-stepper on the viper scale) would slither along the rafters occasionally. More than once, the compound went into alert status because a pilot tried to blow the snake away with his bullet launcher. Pilots recoiled when, upon lifting a toilet lid, a rat would leap out of the hole. The crapper users would shoot at rats as well as snakes. The shooting usually took place in the middle of the night while everyone slept fitfully waiting for Charlie to mail us some incoming. The shots coming from the twelve holer sent us to the sandbag bunkers beside our hootches. "Out rats, out! Our bunker!"

Not only were the rats bad in our crapper, they were equally bad in our hootches. The squadron Sergeant Major felt a pain in his nose while sleeping, and reaching to rub it grabbed a rat sitting on his mouth eating his nose. The maintenance officer felt a pain in his right index finger and awoke to a rat chewing on his finger. Both of the men had to have the twenty-shot stomach rabies treatment! Those damned rats were big enough to mate bobcats flat-footed.

I finally isolated the cause of my liquid stools as Coffee! It seems the pots never really boiled the water enough to kill bacteria. From then on, I drank mostly canned drinks from the good old U.S.of A, and straight liquor without ice or water from my own plastic throw-away cups. Thus was the revenge of Ho Chi Minh versus Montezuma.

I sure hope the Corps has invented a better solution for "Duty in the Field". We actually practiced making our lives as miserable as possible. The Marine Corps has always done so much with so little for so long, that it can do anything with nothing-- forever. In the book, "Pettibone's Law", the author called the MAG-11 compound a "Hobo Camp!" An apt description! Anyone want to ship for six? Maybe a three month extension?  No?  How about the Rose Garden?


Back to Back We Face the Past

Donald Cathcart LtCol USMC Ret.