A Rat Tale

"A Rat Tale"
By Lee Dixon

Lee spent 15 months on Hon Tre Island, from Nov 67 to Feb 69 and worked in a radar site as a controller. He retired from the USAF. Other places served were Luke AFB near Phoenix, the Pentagon, and Langley AFB in southern Virginia.

When I got to Hon Tre, they had just moved out of 10-man tents and into SEA huts. As the newbie, everyone was telling me how bad the rats were, and I took it with a grain of salt. I had to see for myself. They told these stories about how the rats came to the island when the place was part of Madam Nhu's private game preserve; and that since they couldn't get off of the island, they just masticated each other until only the strong (read huge) survived. Anyhow, they claimed that, while in the tents, everyone had to use mosquito netting to keep them off at night. "Yeah, Yeah, Sure."

On one of my first nights working at the top-site, it got slow after midnight. These guys got into the break room and put the chairs into a circle and invited me to sit down. Somebody opens a can of choke (peanut butter) and throws it on the floor in the middle of the circle. Everybody sits around with a rolled up newpaper and stares at the choke. I'm thinking WTF is going on? Finally this rat comes into the circle and starts to eat. My god, I've never seen so many people trying to hit a rat all at the same time. I think more people got hit than the rat. The rat scurried away with part of the peanut butter, and they started all over again.

About six months later I was working nights and sitting at the scope drinking coffee (I know you're not supposed to, because maintenance screamed when somebody would pour a cup of coffee, cream, and sugar into the electronics, but we did it anyway). I get a call from somebody (maybe Sharkbait, or a Yellowbird, or Magpie) and I sit my coffee on the floor.

When I finish with the bird, I look down and this damned rat is drinking my coffee. I screamed and everybody laughed. Someone got a rat trap and put it next to my scope. A while later this thing goes off and the rat starts squealing. He pulls the trap off the top dais down to the next and the next, and he's still trying to leave when someone nails him with their #10 combat boot.

I go down to look at this creature, and he's stretched out on his back. I couldn't believe my eyes; this fellow had equipment that would make John Holmes look small. Then I realized why the rat population was so large on Hon Tre. This rat must have serviced every female rat on the island at least once a night. :-)

PS. I don't know for a fact, but the guys with the HAWK missiles said they used to catch rats alive and hang them in front of the acquisition RADAR. They would explode like a baked potato in a microwave. Yeah, of course we had HAWK missiles on the island. Never knew when the VC were going to fly over and bomb us! No, wait . . . maybe it was the Cambodian Air Force?

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Copyright 1994 Lee Dixon, All Rights Reserved