What the hell was in my cant......OH!"

From the Diary of Lt Gary Dean Springer

Tuesday 30 August 1966

As a newly assigned FO attached to B/2/35, I had a huge learning experience on my first day out on a patrol with the company.  We were to make a long sweep along the Cambodian border east of Pleiku searching for PAVN units.  We didn’t find anything.  Just a couple of signs.  We walked about 10-12 clicks.   I about died I was so tired.  I had no idea this would be so grueling.   I took two canteens with me full of water and as it turned out it was not near enough.  Normally we would have crossed at least one or two streams and a chance to refill the canteens but as it turned out on this trek we crossed no running streams.  It was up and down one hill after another at a fairly rapid pace.  I, of course, was not about to hold anyone up but it was clear to me about mid-way way through this patrol that I was not in anywhere near as good of shape as these vets.  By the time we had gone about 8 or 9 clicks (kilometers) I had gone through both of my canteens.  I kept up of course, but was really worried that if we were attacked at any point that I would be so disoriented that I would be of little help.  I tried my hardest to keep track of where we were on the topo map (FO's map) but had reached a point of near exhaustion so bad that all I could concentrate on was keeping up and not falling down.  I cannot describe the relief when we broke through into the clearing where our company base was located.  This actually wound up being a rather good laugh for the CO, one of the platoon leaders and my crew.  

I had snuck out a canteen of whisky (a no-no in the field) and had left it lying next to our hootch made of poncho liners.  Given the exhausted and throat-parched state I was in, I had forgot about it already.  All I saw when I walked up was this canteen lying there.   Next to the hootch Sgt. Swift (my RTO) had a small fire going in order to heat up C-rations.  I grabbed the canteen, twisted off the cap and started to chug a huge gulp of water.  Needless to say the whisky was not "thirst quenching" under these conditions and I felt like I had a flamethrower shoved down my throat at the moment.  At that point, I did my version of a circus fire eater.  I blew the whisky back out of my mouth in a strong, misty spray right into the small cooking fire.  I learned for the first time in my life that whisky (and other hard liquor) is quite flammable, especially if it is propelled in a fine mist.  When I blurted out this exhaled, volatile mist and it hit the fire, there was a loud “whoosh” and a huge fireball.  All I can remember now is Swift’s eyes bugging out in shock and then almost falling down laughing as he realized what I had done!  The Infantry CO just shook his head, making some comment about what I should NOT bring to the field anymore as he walked off chuckling.  I can honestly say that is the last time I ever took any hard liquor to the field.  After that I stuck with the beer rations which we were allowed.  Beer will not ignite when propelled in a mist, by the way. 

I never tried to find out anyhow.

Lt Gary Dean Springer