Never Go To Bed Drunk
Never Go To Bed Drunk
When I was stationed at Cua Viet, Vietnam in 1968, we were hit almost daily by enemy artillery (ARTY). The shells ranged in size from 85mm to 152mm. An artillery attack was nicknamed “ARTY Party.” Our little base at the mouth of the Cua Viet River hosted numerous ARTY Parties during the three months that I was there.
One of the things you learn early on in combat is to recognize danger signs. One of the signs of impending disaster is the sound that incoming artillery shells make. When a shell is on its way there is a distinct whistle or roar just prior to impact and explosion. That sound is the only warning you get and it is only seconds long. Your only defense is to run for cover hoping that you make it to the relative safety of a bunker before the next round hits. You hope the Arty party doesn’t begin while you are sleeping.
A new officer had just arrived at Cua Viet as Communications Officer on the staff and was not yet accustomed to the extreme warm weather of Vietnam. He began drinking beer one hot afternoon just a day or two after he arrived and consumed a six-pack before retiring for the night.
That night I was awakened by the roar and explosions of incoming arty. I jumped out of bed, yelled INCOMING!, scampered out the door and dived into my little bunker located just at the end of our hooch, the name we called our little cabin.
Part of my job as intelligence officer for Task Force Clearwater required that, at the first opportunity, I had to send a message to Saigon reporting that we were under attack. At the first lull in the bombardment, I left my little sand-bagged hole in the sand and headed toward the communications bunker to send out my message.
That night my route took me back into the hooch and out the other end. I noticed that not all the bunks were empty. The new guy was sound asleep in his bunk. I tried in vain to wake him up. I yelled, “Lyle, get up! We’re under attack!” I even rapped him smartly on the bottom of his feet and on his toes with my flashlight. Failing to rouse him, I gave up and went on do my job. I spent the rest of the night at my station in the communications bunker.
Next morning when I went back into our hooch, I saw Lyle still lying in his bunk snoring away. I shouted at him to wake up. He sat up and looked at me groggily. I told him in no uncertain terms what a foolish thing it had been for him to sleep through an arty attack. I said, “Man, you could have been killed.”
He didn’t believe what I was saying so I told him to get up and take a look outside.
The hooch next door had sustained a direct hit. He just stood there and stared wide-eyed at the damage. Slowly the realization dawned on him that an artillery shell had exploded just a few yards from his sleeping head. Fortunately, it was a smaller one and caused only light damage. If it had been one of the large 152mm shells, it would have had a very different outcome.
Needless to say, Lyle never went to bed drunk again. You never knew when you would be invited to an ARTY party.