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War Stories

The Case of the Missing Beer (pun intended)

by James "Mike" Vaughn

Disclaimer: The story as told below contains mere allegations…none of which have been proven in a Military or Federal Court of Law. If I were called to testify in either court…I would have to take the Fifth; or preferably, a good single malt.

Sometime during 1967

War can try the very character of men. Soldiers can revert to acting on impulses honed in battle...evolutionary tendencies of “survival of the fittest.”

EMclubBefore I get into the foundation of this story I need to fill my readers in on some of the facts concerning the background of the location of the alleged crime. D Troop's Long Range Recon (LRRPs) guys had recently finished building a nice building for an Enlisted Men’s Club (EM Club). It was a very nice place. It had concrete floors, a bar & a few tables for our troops to enjoy a nice after hours drink with one another. The old EM club consisted of a picnic table & an open top cooler that held canned beer & soda…all of which were under open sky.

Right next to the EM club was located the hooch of a group of fly boys nicknamed “Slick Riders.” They were a rough bunch; dirty, gritty, a foul mouthed lot. This gang of thugs was considered little more than delivery boys by some of their fellow troopers. They flew a lot of ash & trash missions. Probably the only reason this bunch of misfits were even considered apart of the Troop was because they were very good at flying Dust-off missions. They would never, ever refuse to go into a hot Landing Zone (LZ) to pickup a wounded soldier. They were also pretty dependable at going after our LRRPs when they found themselves in a bad situation. I suppose they were all pretty good at their jobs. But, they were not the kind of fellows you’d want to marry your daughter.

The aforementioned “Slick Riders” had strategically placed their sandbag & steel reinforced bunker between their hooch & the EM club. They had also attached the bunker to the side of their hooch. This bunch of misfits also cut a hole in the wall the hooch so they could make entry into the bunker with little effort. Almost every hooch in the unit had their own bunker to protect the troops during mortar attacks.

Our story begins in the evening hours one night in 1967. Most of the contingent of the D Troop force was in base camp enjoying a cold drink of their choice, listening to music or simply writing letters home. Most of the troopers were just relaxing from a hard days work.

All of a sudden the alarm sounds to warn of an imminent mortar attack. The EM club quickly empties, as well as all the other buildings, & everyone heads for the nearest bunker or any place of safety a person might find. During the impending mortar attack the entire base camp goes dark. All lights are turned off to make it more difficult for the enemy to target the base camp.

The Slick Riders scurry into their bunker & huddle together, along with one or two of the LRRP guys, in the safety of their fortified enclosure. One of the crew chiefs, an old Tennessee boy, had grabbed his portable radio & brought it into the bunker. The gang sat in the bunker, lit only by the small beam from a flashlight, & listened to music from the radio as well as the sounds of impacting mortars in the distance. At least one mortar round had hit a generator building some distance behind the D Troop area.

One of the LRRP guys was looking out of the entrance of the bunker at the burning generator building, he noticed the EM club was dark, doors wide-open & no one was anywhere around. He then suggested that someone go over to the club & retrieve some cold beer to make the wait inside the bunker a little more pleasant. No one wanted to volunteer to make the run to the club with the danger of mortar rounds possibly starting to hit the D Troop area. Then someone suggested that we (I mean they) draw straws to see who would make the desperate beer run. A tall, skinny, boy from Western Kentucky drew the short straw on the first beer run.

He low-crawled ever so carefully toward the EM club. You would have thought he was moving through a mine field as he slow crawled toward his target. After what seemed like an eternity, the ol'Kentucky boy finally made it to the darkened EM club. He hastily loaded his arms with as much cold beer as he could carry. Without even thinking about the dangers of incoming mortars he ran, at Olympic speed, back to the bunker.

Everyone in the bunker sat back listening to the sounds of Rock & Roll on the little radio & while enjoying the fruits of their ill gotten booty. Cold beer in the safety & comfort of our (I mean their) bunker while the other thirsty troopers braved their cramped, dark & dreary bunkers. As they say, “War's Hell!”

Soon the stolen stash of cold beer had been exhausted & someone else had to make the run to the EM club. These dangerous missions were continued until almost all of the cold beer in the club had been consumed.

Not long after the last of the cold beer had been finished-off...the all clear was sounded. Soon everyone started to slowly emerge from their bunkers. After a few minutes a group of troopers had converged on the EM club. They were ready to clam their frayed nerves & relax with a cold one.

The barkeep opened the cooler, and to his astonishment, the cooler was almost devoid of beer. The group of warriors started to become agitated & soon they started finger pointing. What kind of low life scumbags would steal the cold beer right out of their EM club? For the remainder of the night they had to drink warm beer or cold soda.

As far I know, the mystery of the stolen beer was never solved. There were many rumors bantered about. Someone started a rumor that it was the gunship guys. It was pretty easy to blame them. Some people thought they had inhaled too much spent cordite & were a little strange. They were a hardcore, tough bunch & could handle the no one ever really challenged the rumors.