My 324 days in Danang by Sgt. Jay D. Wackler, USMC

Jay-Wackler-Photo-1-300x207My 324 days in Danang, Vietnam. June 28, 1965, I and 11 other United States Marines landed at Danang Air Base, Vietnam. It was hot and humid and we carried everything we had on our backs. After loading on a “6-by“, we drove to the outskirts of the Airport to a Vietnamese village referred to as Dog Patch. This seemed an appropriate name because it was too miserable for a dog to live in yet we were right next to a Marine Dog compound. Rows of barbed wire protected us from them and their handlers soon informed us that the dogs were in charge, not us. We were then introduced to our home. It consisted of several 8 man tents on an Island in the middle of a swamp. The only access to the tents was over a bridge made from Airplane landing strip metal strung over some barrels. This was adequate but one made sure they didn’t fall into the swamp. It was full of critters I don’t think have been named yet.

Jay-Wackler-Photo-2My purpose in life seemed to be that of a telephone/teletype engineer. My group immediately upon arrival took over the job of establishing and maintaining the Communication Center for General Walt. At that time he was the USMC Commanding General in Vietnam and this Communications Center was his way to communicate to the Pentagon. The technology was very different then.

 

Jay-Wackler-Photo-3There were no computers or cell phones and the normal communications back home was write a letter. The Top Secret Krypto equipment made it possible to use the radio back to the states for official use only. This Command Center was created in one of the old French buildings. This building was originally a French Officers quarters. This is the one that the Viet Cong (VC) tunneled into in the middle of the night and murdered many officers. That event was the beginning of the French leaving Vietnam. The VC tried to repeat this tunneling trick while I was there. Fortunately, some very alert Guards heard the noise and they were buried in the hole they dug.

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70 Miles from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and about 50 miles from Hue, Danang is a large and heavily populated city. It was living in a spot with every possible threat to humanity. One night we got hit by a very large and capable battalion of VC. The next morning I was informed that one of the VC killed was our laundry boy. This is a picture of a Viet Cong. There is no way to tell what they do with their time off. This one was drawing maps of our compound and counting Marines in preparation for a strike when we were sleeping. He should have stayed with cleaning clothes. He lost.

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On rare occasions, we were able to take a day and go into the City for a little sightseeing. These are typical scenes. There was a constant odor of uncleanliness. They chewed a nut referred to as a beetle nut. I think it had a drug component. It made their teeth red and looked awful.

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Our eating and dishwashing facilities were back at the French compound. I’m still not sure why we didn’t all die of dysentery. There wasn’t any way to get clean or dry. I don’t remember much about the food. It must have been hot most of the time. During the monsoon, we were literally wet for months. Jungle rot was a common complaint. I had it on my face. The corpsman gave
me athletes foot cream and it went away in a few days. My job was to keep the teletypes running in the communications center. Most of the time we had a workshop that we could keep relatively clean to do the work at hand. The teletype I am working on was a new model and made out of something soft. They were not reliable and didn’t stay in adjustment. Bernie and I waded into the swamp for this sick looking bush. I remember it being very hard to cut loose and I have no Idea where we got the decorations. Everyone got their picture taken with it. New Year’s Eve was a real hoot. Being around hundreds if not thousands of Marines with loaded M14s at midnight is a unique way to bring in the New Year.

Some Memories of Vietnam by, USMC Sergeant, E5, Jay Wackler, 28 July 1965 to 14 June 1966. Written  by Jay Wackler, March 29, 2016.

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