Mosquitoes, flies and rats
One thing did change, though. When I first got to Vietnam, I was always trying to slap the mosquitoes buzzing around my ears. I soon learned that behavior was too distracting and noisy for ambushes and night positions in Charlie’s backyard. For the rest of my tour I just waved mosquitoes away when I heard them buzzing my ears.
Bitten or not, we were tormented by mosquitoes at night and flies during the day. Guys would often sleep, night or day, with their heads and shoulders wrapped in their poncho liners to keep the mosquitoes and flies off. It was hot and stuffy, but at least you could sleep.
We used to joke that flies were the ghosts of dead VC come back to haunt us.
I remember one specific incident over an insect. Marine Sam King had been sleeping in the courtyard of a house when he got up and shook out his poncho liner. A huge, angry centipede writhed out onto the ground and was soon stomped flat. It was six or eight inches long, a dark red-bronze color. Later I showed to dead centipede to our interpreter, “Balls.” His eyes grew as wide as saucers.
“Sam het roi?” he asked. Balls thought the centipede had bitten Sam and killed him.
Rats were a less persistent problem. They were rarely seen during the day, but sometimes bothered us at night. I don’t remember anyone being bitten, but many times you would see rats while standing a night watch, or wake up with rats running over your outstretched legs. The Vietnamese villagers often hung their babies’ cribs from the rafters on long cords. I figured that was to prevent rats from getting into the cribs.
Some parts of our ville were infested, so much so that you could actually smell the distinctive musty “rat” smell. Rats were relatively rare in other parts of the ville, though never missing entirely. I used to keep a K-Bar or bayonet near at hand when spending the night where there were a lot of rats. Once I even stabbed a rat. Several of them were running single file along the base of a wall, next to where I was sleeping. I grabbed my knife and killed one.