Candy from a baby, or anything from the Army
Of course, the same rule applied to the Navy and Air Force, but it was a lot more satisfying to steal from our old rivals in the Army. The problem was, the Army had so much materiale they rarely noticed they had been robbed.
It was considered dishonest to steal from individual Marines, but many of us felt no qualms about stealing government-issue supplies and equipment from other Marine units, especially those in the “rear.” Those of us in the bush felt we were entitled to resupply ourselves wherever we found what we needed. No doubt the guys in the rear units had another view.
One time Angel Washington of CAP 2-7-2 returned from a visit to 2nd CAG HQ carrying about 40-dozen eggs. Passing the back door of the 2nd CAG mess hall, he saw a case of fresh eggs sitting there unsupervised. He requisitioned them for CAP 2 and we ate them fried, scrambled, hard-boiled and in omelets for several days. They were a nice break from C-rations.
I believe most of 2nd CAG’s supplies came from USMC Force Logistics Command in Da Nang. They were a stingy resource, judging by the way supplies dribbled out to CAP units in the bush. C-rations and ammunition were plentiful, but it could take weeks to get a new T-shirt or pair of socks. It was a waste of time requesting a jungle hat. However, when I was at 2nd CAG headquarters in Hoi An before rotating home I was nabbed for a working party headed for an Army supply base in Da Nang. There were two or three of us in the bed of the six-by, plus a driver and a guy in the shotgun seat.
We entered Da Nang and drove to the Army base. Once we were waved through the gate, I was startled by the incredible wealth of supplies of all kinds. Rows of pallets and CONUS boxes stretched toward the horizon, stacked 10 feet high. I remember seeing cases of much-desired beer and soda by the thousands. Farther along, ranks of huge metal warehouses stood side-by-side with double doors wide enough for a truck to drive inside — and that’s what we did.
We stopped at an office (with an air conditioner in the window!!!) long enough to pick up an Army enlisted clerk armed with a clipboard. He hopped on the running board and casually directed us to one of the warehouses. We drove right in the open door and down the middle aisle. On each side, cases of canned food were stacked head-high on hundreds of pallets. The Army clerk walked ahead of the slow-moving truck with us Marines. He pointed out items and checked them off his list as we grabbed them.
For example, the list said we should get two cases of canned tuna. Two of us grabbed a case apiece and walked back to toss them into the bed of the truck. By that time, the clerk and the truck had moved ahead. It wasn’t planned, but after we tossed our two cases onto the six-by, we instinctively grabbed another four and tossed them in as well.
That’s the way it went down the long center aisle of the warehouse. The clerk would check off a case or two of peaches or ketchup, and half-a-dozen cases would fly onto the truck. Or we just grabbed anything that came to hand on the opposite side of the truck from the clerk. We didn’t even read the labels.
We were stealthy, but I was amazed the clerk didn’t catch on. I don’t know if he was oblivious to the wholesale theft, or knew and didn’t care. The abundance in those warehouses was dizzying, considering the trickle of supplies that reached us in the bush. Maybe when you have 1,000 cases of peaches it it makes no difference whether somebody takes two or 10.
Regardless, we were pleased with our raid on the Army supply train as we rode back down Highway 1, sitting on several dozen cases of ill-gotten loot.