War Stories

Bugs Snakes and other Critters

The Republic of Vietnam is an oasis for all types of flying, crawling, swimming, biting, sucking, and stinging critters. Infantrymen have to co-exist with all animals big and small if he is to carry out his mission. These missions can put you in direct contact with insects and animals you never knew existed until you were affected by their wrath.

On one occasion my company was providing infantry security for an ACR unit. Some of the time we patrolled roads, river crossings, rice patties, and closed confines spaces of a tropical jungle. The jungle harbored the number one enemy of solders in tracked vehicles, the WEAVER ANT.

The red ants made their nests in large leaves from the tropical trees. These nests were huge and the ants numbered in the thousands per colony. These colonies hung from tree branches like ornaments from a Christmas tree. Be weary the passer by who disturbs the peaceful home of these fiery critters, because they will come at you non-stop while trying to inflect the most pain possible from both their pincers and stingers.

When riding an m113 APC you ride on top. This precaution is taken in case of mine strikes and you donít want to be trapped in side of a magnesium-burning coffin. So here we are on top of the 113 moving through the jungle at a slow deliberate pace looking for the enemy and the radio antenna strikes one of the red ant colonies. What happened next, you could not have written a better comedy skit on TV?

The ant pod opened up like the spreading of the red sea and its occupants swarmed us like the pharaohs and his chariots. Down came the ants right on our heads biting and stinging their frustrations on us for being disturbed. Steel pots, weapons, shirts, and bodies flew in all directions in an attempt to get rid of the red menace. What was once a well-disciplined machine had now become a chaotic rabble.

Shouts and cruses pierced the green shrouded triple canopy jungle as we tried to repel the red hoards. The NVA would have had a field day laughing at our antics to dislodge the pests if they had spotted us. Insect repellant was broken out and sprayed on the ants with great satisfaction as they began to curl up and die. Dead ants were everywhere. Clothes were shaken and turned inside out to make sure that no more of these ants were hiding in the creases.

While all this was going on the APC continued to break jungle. The APCs following us in trail formation with the rest of the company on the top continued to press forward. The men in the other APCs were incapacitated with laughter as they witnessed our naked escapades. After all is said and done I would have done the same if it had not been me covered with swelling and itching insects bites.

This would not be the only time I had the opportunity to dislodge insects and other critters from my ass. The jungle war was a constant one against bullets and bugs. The story continues.

William R. Hayes.