Midnight Visitors

" Midnight Visitors"
By Stephen "Rags" Ragle

(USMC Dong Ha, Phu Bai 12/66-12/67)

The last three months of my tour I was reassigned to the Marine MP company headquartered in Phu Bai (that, for the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the outfit). The time I spent in the MPs was the bane of my military career (only two years as a draftee), a couple of office hours and busted one time (that is another story) and numerous other infractions.

The headquarters and hooches were outside of the main military compound at the crossroad of Highway 1 and some other road of which I cannot remember the name. The command post was in an old Vietnamese quadrangle which also housed the officers and NCOs. The EMs had GP tents out back with floors of pallets with open slats in them. The whole place was built over white sand or near white.

At night, before lights out or during a bright moon, we would go on safaris. Being MPs, we all had a night stick issued to us. We would take our night sticks and try to exterminate the multitude of rats that inhabited the place. They were easy to spot on the light-colored sand as well as being so plentiful. A lot of Marines running around in their scivies and jungle boots, hollering and carrying on and wielding night sticks chasing rats, is a sight in itself.

On one particular night after lights out, I was sleeping in another cot than my own--my cot having been rendered useless a couple of nights before along with the rest of my gear during an early morning wake up call from a mortar attack (the second mortar round landing about six inches from where my head had been 10 seconds before). I was sleeping as sound as I could after that and being short (less than 30 days). I kept hearing a scuffling sound. Not being fully awake, I paid no attention to it at first. Then, suddenly, I felt something on my legs. Well, that got my attention. I was wide-awake now!

I waited in the darkness, and then it happened again. There was more than one this time, and I knew what they were. Rats, running all over the cot. I could not turn on the lights because they were controlled somewhere else. First I considered shooting them but quickly reconsidered--an M-14 is not a good close-in weapon. All I could think about was getting bitten and having to take those shot in the stomach (I hate shots worse than rats).

Then I thought about the night stick. I fumbled around in the dark and finally found it after kicking at a couple more rats. Then I started swinging and hitting at everything. I finally woke every one else; and they started hollering and carrying on, not caring about what was happening to me.

The rats seemed to disappear after all that commotion. I could not figure out why they were only interested in me. There I sat, cross-legged in the dark in the middle of that cot, with the night stick. When things got quieted down again, they started coming back. Well, I said the hell with this and went off stumbling around in the dark to find me another cot to sleep on.

The next day I went back to the cot; and low and behold, some ASSHOLE had thrown a couple of empty sardine cans between the slats underneath the cot I had been sleeping on. I tried to find that fish-breath SOB but never did.


Copyright 1994 Stephen Ragle, All Rights Reserved