In 1965 and 1966 there was little talk about Tigers in Vietnam. We were instructed on the dangers and trained to recognize the poisonous snakes of Vietnam, but no one ever mentioned anything about Tigers.
After our float from San Diego on 05/01/1965, 2/9 underwent Marine Raider training in Okinawa for two months prior to
going into Vietnam on July 7th 1965. Before our unit was split up by
the transplacement program, we got some very interesting combat
Marine Raiders are trained in the art of rapid deployment,
were very stealthy "hit and run" group of Jarheads. Hence, we pulled some 3 months of special assignments, before being broken up. Most of these assignments were performed at night or very early in the morning, before daylight.
We would sneak into
position under the cover of darkness, dig in, and wait for the enemy to stumble across us. This worked
pretty good because the enemy could not pin point our position in
darkness. When daylight came, we would be waiting for Charlie in places he
thought were safe, and actually were safe the afternoon
In early August 1965 Golf Company 2/9 went into the "A Shau Valley" on a 3 day recon patrol. On our last night in the valley we had finally made our way up Hill 806 by following one of the legs of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and found ourselves in some of the most dense Rain Forrest in Vietnam.
reaching our designated position, about two thirds up the Hill, or better described by those of us
who actually climbed it, "Mountain 806", our CO, Captain Osborn,
to set up an ambush, so we setup our perimeter inside the forest, just off
the trail, which had been our main mission. In effect we had established a company size ambush,
intersecting the Ho Chi Minh Trail in several locations, .
It was on
this patrol that I first developed an immunity to "Ham & Lima
Beans" more commonly and appropriately referred to as "Ham & Mutha Fuckers" the only meal that came with "C" Rations that was
never used as a bargaining tool. By
the time we stopped humping that that day, I devoured an entire, unheated can,
and actually enjoyed them.
When nightfall hits the jungle, it gets so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your
face, and the Jungle comes alive at night. You hear the constant droplets
of water falling from the trees, tree frogs galore, and the occasional
sound of small ground animals foraging for food. All of this helps to keep
you awake on watch but can, and almost always does, play tricks with your imagination, but
you don't hear the Jungle's natural sounds, that you are in big
pulled the 0400 to 0600 watch, but between the constant rain and the
leaches crawling up your pant legs, it was difficult to get much sleep. We were all posted
approximately 20 yards apart and 20 to 30 yards from the Trail. We probably covered an entire half
mile of the trail. My squads position was a listing post at the farthest point up the
trail. At 0400 Jim Stead woke me for my watch.
As I was
settling into my first hour on watch, suddenly the jungle became very quiet and I heard a very strange sound coming from close by. It sounded like a snort, a very guttural snort, someone or
something was clearing its nostrils. I couldn't tell if it was animal or human, it sounded like a pig but I was prepared for human, I feared it was the Enemy marching down
the trail, probably a point man.
positioned in such a way that if anyone came "ditty bopping" down the trail, we would
have them boxed in with no way out.
My orders were "not to fire unless we
were fired upon" (this was one time this order made sense to me). We didn't want
to hit any of our own guys, so there were specific points in the ambush
where there was a clear, free fire zone. I was at one of these points.
Forward of our position, was no mans land, but we were instructed to post as
a listening post and pass on any enemy movement to the CP
"Command Post for you civilians out there".
listened, and again I heard a snort, this time it sounded as though it were
right in front of me, but I still couldn't see a damn thing. One more time I heard the sound, but it was different
and very close, this time it was the
shuffling of brush or ground fodder, a noise someone would make when
running through the jungle. I was now certain that the enemy was advancing on our position, I couldn't hold out any longer, I
keyed the radio "two Pings for alert"
and waited for the conformation Key
"one Ping one Ping only" then I woke
up Jim Stead.
pissed, he had only been asleep for a half hour or so and he awoke to find
that his legs were crawling with leaches. This distracted Jim's concentration for a few moments while he pulled off those
"damn slimy worms from hell". You just can't pull a leach off of you, if the head stays in the wound you'll get an infection, and infections in the jungle can lead to
some very serious medical problems. A lighted match head will force a leach to pull out, but we couldn't light matches while posting at night, so we used salt from our C Rations, which worked real
good on those buggers.
So Stead is still pulling off leaches and I'm trying to find a target, a few moments had gone by, when
all of a sudden we heard one
hell of a scream, I had never heard a sound like this before. First there
was a high pitched scream and than a loud squeal, the squeal was kind of like the sound a pig would make
when it was in serious pain, but this would have to be a very large pig, it
was a loud, deep pitched squeal.
after the squeal, and again along with another loud squeal, there was a another sound, a loud guttural, growling
sound. This whole thing lasted for only a minute or two and then there was
silence. By now the entire 3rd platoon was awake and on alert, trying to figure out
what the hell we had just heard.
until daybreak that we figured out most of what had happened. While many of
the other guys were relieving themselves of leaches (the leaches had
gotten almost everyone sleeping during the early morning hours), a few of
us decided to see if we could find out what all the ruckus had been. We
ventured out and forward of our position, following the trail further up
the hill, but we found nothing.
So our Platoon Sgt decided
to go back to my position and fan out and search the jungle, which proved
to be a good plan. Approximately 30 meters from my old position we came
across a small, open platform, with a thatched roof.
It appeared that this platform
erected by the VC for rice storage in preparation for an offensive. Approximately 5 feet off the ground
there was a bamboo shelf that contained several 30 lb burlap bags of rice. Under
this store there was a lot of blood, A Lot of BLOOD, a partial front leg
that was mostly hoof, and fur everywhere. We
surmised that a wild Boar had been killed by something, something big, powerful,
and very hungry!
After an entire morning of searching the jungle,
we had located several of these rice stores, so HQ decided to confiscate
the rice and give it back to the villages in the valley. Late that
afternoon we were heli-lifted out and no one ever confirmed what actually
happened under that rice store, in the early morning darkness.
is certain, I definitely heard a wild pig squeal, it is clear that the pig
was feeding on the rice that had fallen to the ground (there was loose
rice on the ground under every store we located, which made a natural
feeding ground), and I also heard
something else, and it was clearly a large predator killing that pig.
Colonel John Ripley's Tiger Tale I have come
to the conclusion that it most likely had been a Bengal Tiger "the Beast
of the night" that killed that wild pig only a few feet from my position.
****In the dark
we smell like prey, and where there are many of us, we send a very strong
scent to these night hunters. It was probably attracted to our area by our scent and fortunately for us, it found the poor pig eating rice.
It is sad that the Bengal tiger is almost
extinct, I am sure that there weren't many in Vietnam in the 60's or more
of us Vets would have succumbed to this
expert night hunter.
If any of you have Tiger
stories that you would
like to share with us, email me and I'll post
them here. I would also like to hear more from the Tiger
Bite 67 Patrol members.
title of the background music is "Dazed
and Confused" how appropriate !