First Sergeant Farrell and I never hit it off from the very beginning, which was mostly my fault, for questioning his judgment of not utilizing my gunnery skills. Once while walking past First Sergeant he immediately noticed one of my shirt buttons was unbuttoned and put me on a detail building the command hooch. They were always looking for a reason to put us on detail – probably in an attempt to keep our minds busy so we wouldn’t do something stupid. The location of the command hooch was in a flood zone and it would flood during monsoon.
When Sandage and I completed our new hooch, First Sergeant came down to inspect it and said, “I really like this hooch. We might just take it over.” I looked at Sandage and said, “If that SOB thinks he’s going to take this hooch, we’re going to have an issue.” It never happened.
First Sergeant Farrell had a pet monkey that he would walk through the battery on a leash, like a dog. Occasionally the monkey would get loose and climb up on the gun aiming stakes and move them around, which meant that the gun crews would have to reset the aiming stakes to be ready for a fire mission. Once when the monkey was loose I jokingly put him in an illumination canister and wanted to send him into orbit, when the chief of smoke commented it wasn’t a smart thing to do. I’m the only one pictured actually having that monkey by the neck.
Within my first few weeks at LZ Sherry I got a virus where my throat swelled up to where you couldn’t see my chin. The weather was extremely hot, I had a high temperature, and Doc Townley was really concerned. He ordered some medicine from the rear for me and said, “If this doesn’t work, you’re out of here. I can’t do anything more for you.” So while I’m lying in that underground hooch, that monkey came in and got up on the roof and pissed on me. I was so out of it, I couldn’t do anything about it. If anyone had a reason to choke that monkey, I did!
I heard somebody hung the monkey.
He actually hung himself. Nobody hung it, but everyone thought I did. The First Sergeant was walking his monkey when we got a mortar attack. He threw the monkey in its cage up by the Fire Direction center. It must have gotten excited during the mortar attack and when the smoke cleared the monkey was swinging by the leash inside its cage. That was the best news – everyone was celebrating.
When I first arrived at LZ Sherry, there were a few issues; there was kind of a north & south thing going on. There were a few guys from the south that didn’t like the northern guys. But as the normal rotation of gun crews occurred, that group of guys left and that friction dissipated.
Judson and I went out on the perimeter one evening to test fire and aim our weapons. We were green and we wanted to make sure our weapons were in good working order. When we returned from the perimeter a couple of guys from the south asked us, in that southern drawl, what we were doing out there. When we explained it to them, they started giving us a hard time and grabbed at our weapons. I told the one guy, “Look, this weapon is still loaded.” That guy was a little strange and had a reputation for giving new guys a hard time.
While on guard duty in the tower one night, he was drunk and told me he was coming up the tower; I said, “You can come up, but I’ll guarantee you one thing. I got a weapon up here that’s loaded.
He said, “Now Johnny, I wouldn’t hurt you. Come on now. I’m just going to come up there.”
I said, “You just come on up. You make the decision.”
He never came up, and he left for home shortly after that.
We got a new Lieutenant; he was a Field Observer, Hank Parker. Sergeant Bowman assigned me to a detail to help build Lt. Parker’s hooch. I went up to the motor pool and got a five-ton truck and loaded it with PSP so we could put it on his roof, and we got the job done. Lt. Parker seemed to be a squared away guy.
On the way back to the motor pool from that detail, I hit an engineer stake that was sticking out of the ground, which obviously I didn’t see, and blew the front tire out of the truck. The motor pool sergeant at the time was a heavy-set guy from the south. He walked up and said, “You just bought yo self a tire.”
I said, “What?”
He said, “You just bought yo self a tire, son.”
And on payday, when the paymaster came out to Sherry, he took $80 out of my pay and gave it to the Motor Pool Sergeant and handed me a receipt for the tire. I thought, something’s not right about this. I should have had him ship the tire home for me since it was mine – what a souvenir that would have been. But too green to know better or know what to do.
Recently at a battery reunion, I learned that First Sergeant and the Motor Pool Sergeant played cards together; that’s probably where my money went.
That same motor pool Sergeant was up in one of the towers one night and saw a bunch of lights moving out in the tree line. We fired some rounds out there. The VC had tied flashlights to the legs of their water buffaloes and ran them through the woods, just to get us shooting. We killed a few water buffalo that night.