Life for the soldier in Vietnam, particularly for the infantryman, was a constant battle against not only the enemy but also against the rain, sweat, dust, mud, mould, microbes, insects, reptiles and macropods. Polluted drinking water, skin irritations (such as rashes, acne, foot rot and ring tinea), malaria from the Anopheles mosquito, bites from weaver ants, spiders, wasps, bees, scorpions and snakes (cobras and banded kraits) were all a constant threat. This was especially so for those outside the wire on patrol, where one filled one’s water bottles from unnamed muddy creeks, battled their way through thick jungle and slept on the open ground.
This poem is a light-hearted look at this aspect of life and survival in the jungles of Vietnam.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others!”
- George Orwell in Animal Farm, 1942.
“He can’t be all bad ... if he hates children and animals!” - W.C. Fields.
“Crikey! ... Ya never know what’s down there! ... Do ya?”
- the late Steve Irwin (‘Crocodile Hunter’) just prior to being killed by a manta ray, 2006.
There were all sorts of creatures,
Wriggly wormy large leeches,
Mosquitoes and malaria from those!
And within the jungle of trees,
Swarms of wasps and small bees,
And ‘things’ that crawled inside your clothes.
And no mercy, no quarter,
Shown by bugs in the water,
’Twas disaster for those who fell slack!
Conditions regarded quite hard,
In remaining on guard,
Our enemy not always in black!
And beneath the leaf litter zone,
All potentially prone,
To ‘nasties’ of various kinds.
There were fungi that grew,
On all objects and skin too,
Itchy red rings was one of the signs.
Wild elephants at large,
If confronted they’d charge,
Just like those water buffalo.
Asian tigers at night,
Between last and first light,
Familiar growl we all got to know.
Man o’ Wars swum the seas,
Monkeys swung through the trees,
Banded kraits in the bamboo at night.
Snakes in swamps or long grass,
(No reference to sergeants or ‘brass’!)
Cobras in tunnels and caves, quite a fright.
Abounded various abodes,
For ubiquitous cane toads,
In our tents, in the mud everywhere.
Weaved nests hung from a branch,
In which dwelled vicious red ants,
Common in the ‘rubber’ over there.
And your mind might mistake,
Whilst in a pit wide awake,
Chilling sounds of a ‘creepy’ near-by;
Ubiquitous strange eerie sights,
When fire-flies lit their lights,
Painting spirals in an ebony sky.
Rarely encountered before,
Deadly scorpions galore,
And poisonous centipedes, six inches long.
Yet, if that’s not enough,
To convince you living was tough,
Don’t forget ... there were also Viet Cong!
Photos from various Internet sources