My Viet Nam
by: Garland Davis
“That strange feeling we had in the war.
Have you found anything in your lives since to equal it in strength?
A sort of splendid carelessness it was, holding us together.” -Noel Coward
I spent a total of 39 months serving in the rivers and waters of the Republic of South Viet Nam and a week in the waters of the Peoples Republic of Viet Nam (the North).
I was never in the boonies, or humped a pack and an M-16 or been in a firefight. I did spend almost two years of my life as a cook in an Ocean Going Tug, towing barges in and out of the ports of Saigon, Vung Tau, Da Nang, Bac To, Cam Ranh Bay, Qua Viet and up and down the rivers of South Viet Nam, often coming under fire, working sixteen hour days, months on end, without a break.
I later spent two one hundred day periods at sea in an old Forrest Sherman class destroyer, doing ground support gunfire missions. We would sit a couple of miles off the coast and provide gunfire support to Army and Marine Corps units engaged with the enemy.
When the North Vietnamese walked out of the Paris Peace Talks, Nixon got pissed and raised the ante. My Destroyer spent a harrowing week running into the North Viet Nam port of Haiphong three times a night and shooting up the shipping. Rearming and refueling during the day and shooting at night. I can still hear the sound of North Viet artillery projectiles exploding in the air around the ship.
Still, I had a dry bed to sleep in, except for the sweat from the ninety-degree heat in the berthing compartments and then there was the constant noise of generators, ducting and the guns firing.
I remember a period when one of the evaporators was malfunctioning. The fresh water being made by the other evaporator was needed for boiler feed water. So the crew was on water hours. We were getting showers infrequently and the ship’s laundry was shut down. We were using paper plates and plastic utensils in the mess decks because there was no water for washing dishes. The cooks were limited to a minimum amount of water for cooking and washing pots and pans. It got a little stinky and uncomfortable.
I was just screened by the VA because I was in areas where I could have come into contact with Agent Orange. I’m good, guess I dodged that bullet. A couple of shipmates from that time are suffering from the effects of that crap. The ‘Big Orange” is a bad mother.
Authors Note: The above was written about six years ago. I have since been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, screened for Agent Orange and am now categorized as 100% disabled by the Veteran’s Administration. I now know firsthand that the “Big Orange” is a really bad motherfucker.
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.