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War Stories

Practical Jokes? "The Old Grenade Trick"

Tom "Sam" Dooling


One facet of our life in D Troop that shouldn’t be lost is that most of us were college age guys with the same drives and needs as most college age guys – but with a whole different perspective on how we were living (i.e., in the middle of a war) and a whole different set of opportunities for mischief.

Like most college age guys, some of us had a penchant for practical jokes/pranks. I was not a huge practical joker, but I did have my moments. My favorite one was the “old grenade trick.”

Background: We all lived in hootches which were essentially large sheds about 50 feet long by 20 feet wide. They were framed up where the lower half of the wall was covered (on the outside) and the upper half was screened. The roof was a sloped tin covered roof – e.g., sheds. Around each hootch was a wall of either sandbags or rocket boxes filled with dirt to act as barriers when the bad guys shot mortars or rockets into the camp. Most also had a bunker either attached or right outside the door for us to shelter in when we were under attack.

Some of the hootches were more open bay with perhaps half walls around each individual’s living space. Others were fancier where the occupants had actually built individual rooms and had air conditioners for their rooms, a stereo system, bar, etc.

Each hootch had a common day area for the guys to spend time together watching TV, playing cards, cooking meals, and generally hanging out. I personally lived in Hootch 6 my entire tour – Hootch 6 was mostly an open bay hootch, with our day area in the middle of the floor area.

Hootch 5 was immediately North of Hootch 6 and was one of the better improved units – having all living areas fully enclosed and individually airconditioned. Their day area was located on the South end of the building facing Hootch 6, and was one of several places in the compound where guys played cards. There was a friendly rivalry between Hootch 5 and 6 based on many pilots when first assigned to the unit would be assigned to Hootch 6 (less than optimum living conditions), and many of them moved out to Hootch 5 as soon as a room became available via DEROS or other situation. The true blue Hootch 6 tenets called them wimps!!

The Prank: Hootch 6 had a couple of old World War II Pineapple grenades that had been hollowed out (explosives removed), but still had a threaded top where you could thread in the fuse and flip handle from a smoke grenade. One evening, myself and another Hootch 6 tenant were feeling prankster-ish, so we decided that the card game at Hootch 5 needed a little livening up.

We very quietly moved about six or eight of the rocket boxes filled with sand from the berm on Hootch 5 to immediately outside the South door (right outside the day area). I then went around to the other end of the hootch and quietly snuck down the center hall and once I was pretty close to the day area, I threw the grenade with the smoke grenade fuse/handle into the day area and yelled “Grenade”. The handle (spoon) on the fuse flew off and the grenade rolled around the day area very convincingly. The five to six card cardplayers all rushed to the exit door (remember the rocket boxes) and came to an abrupt stop in a major pile up of bodies when the door didn’t budge!!!

I then ran for my life – some of these guys had guns and all of them had blood in their eyes!!!

Rethinking: Although at the time, my cohorts and I saw this as very amusing, not too many months later our Troop got a new commander who had some policies (perhaps based on his devout religious beliefs) that called for things like no more Play Boy type magazines, barracks inspections, strict grooming requirements, etc. These were a radical change to the previous commanders’ policies, and they did not go down well with many of the enlisted (and officers).

Because at the time I was one of the more senior Warrants, and had a pretty good relationship with many of the enlisted, I learned that there were a number of enlisted who were going to “help” this commander see the error of his ways – with the implication that a “fragging” was not out of the question. I took this information to the then XO to see if he could intervene. The XO went to the Commander and the Commander decided that rather than reach a middle ground, he was going to post armed guards throughout the Troop area, complete with Sergeant of the Guard and Officer of the Guard (his initial idea was to have the Warrants pull guard duty, but the Warrants pretty much rebelled).

Four or five nights later, someone set off a quarter stick of dynamite (these were grenade-like devices used to stun enemy in bunkers) just outside the Commander’s hootch. Of course, there was a big investigation, the outcome of which was that the Squadron Commander (who may have been given some of the underlying scoop by a Scout pilot while he was flying the Squadron Commander in his C&C Loach) had a discussion with the new Troop Commander about some of his policies.