MARINE CORPS TANKERS VIETNAM HISTORICAL Foundation's
Vietnam Personal Accounts
TANKERS DON’T DRINK (MUCH)
by Lloyd "Pappy" Reynolds ©
As we all know tankers don’t drink, but if they do, they don’t get drunk, but if they do, they don’t fall down, but if they do, they fall face first so they can’t be identified.
With the above in mind this is a story of broken ammo racks, booze, the army, raisin jack and a grunt Lieutenant.
Confused? Well let me start at the beginning.
In Vietnam sometime in the latter half of 1967 when my tank had to be towed into Dong Ha to our Battalion forward maintaince for mine damage repair we became aware that near us the air wing had a club. We also discovered that for an outrageous fee we could obtain some booze. A collection was taken up from the crew and the purchase made. Being sharp eyed tankers it was noted during said transaction that the air wing did not provide proper security over there over priced liquor hoard. I’m sure that was remedied after we procured (late one night) the balance of what we thought we should have gotten for our hard earned money.
As most of us know the M-48 had ammo storage for 62 rounds of 90mm. Well if an ammo rack is broken, a 5th of liquor wrapped in a towel fits just perfect (except for those weird shaped Crown Royal bottles).
A few days later after we returned to our position at Payable we were out of our tank slot and took up a position one evening on the perimeter. At this time there had been very little hostile activity in the area (that would change soon) and we thought it was safe. Besides someone had comshawed a #10 can of grapefruit juice and we thought it would be nice to have a Greyhound. Now I was in the tank traversing by hand and going through our liquor supply looking for a bottle of gin. When after about the third bottle I had unwrapped and put back I heard a weak voice say “Don’t you carry any ammo on here?” I look up and there is this “Doggie” looking down at me from the TC hatch. So I say, “hell no we just throw the empties at them.” The face disappears. After I find the gin I get out of the tank and the crew is just cracking up. They asked me what I said to the “Doggie” and I tell them. I ask what happened. They tell me that this Army artillery out fit that had set up in the field behind us had sent some one over to see if we could range in on the hills in front of us for them so they could set up there guns for the night as they did not have any range finders. We were also supposed to be there security. He was told by the crew that I could do it for him. Big mistake. Any way he had gone away muttering about crazy Marines and having to stand there own security. So as the sun set, there we were drinking our gin and grapefruit juice watching the Army putting out security between us and them and mumbling to themselves about crazy Marines.
Well it wasn’t long before all the booze was gone (we did share it among the Platoon) and some how I got the idea that we (I) could make some raisin jack, (I had had some very unsuccessful attempts at this as a teenager, but figured by now I knew what not to do). I really do not recall where I got the raisins, sugar and yeast (the grunt Battalion we were attached to did have a mess hall, so it must have been the victim). So now with the convictions of a mathematician and the composure of a mad scientist I mixed my secret formula in a 5 gallon water can (mixed about 4 gallons) shook it well and let it sit. And let it sit. For about a week out in the sun.
It was decided it was time to open it when we noticed the sides of the water can starting to bulge out. It opened with a vengeance (almost took my hand off), and the smell, some one suggested that we might be accused of chemical warfare. I held my breath and looked in the can. I couldn’t see any thing but foam and rotted raisins. Well after waiting this long I wasn’t about to give up, I pronounced it a success and said it was now ready for straining and then drinking. Steve Baker and I got a empty #10 coffee can, punched some holes in the bottom, packed it with battle dressings and strained through about 3 gallons of the concoction. When we looked into the mixing can we noticed that all the baked on enamel from the 4 gallon level down was gone.
The stuff tasted terrible, but about
of a canteen cup (with that special aluminum taste) would knock you for
a loop. It wasn’t long before we learned to cut it with almost
“C” ration fruit was a favorite, made a nice flavored cocktail. I
traded a canteen full to our local “witch doctor” (Corpsman) for an
tube and made a siphon out of it so I could lay in my cot and get a low
buzz without falling down.
Celebrating my brew in water can in background.
Steve Baker and I straining brew.
Using the IV Tube.
One night as we were sitting around the bunker having an evening cocktail when a grunt lieutenant came over to pay his respects. He was invited to have a drink with us (as he had a canteen cup we suspected that is what he wanted). His cup was filled about three quarters full and he proceeded to drink with us and elaborate on his grunt exploits. After about an hour he said he had to leave, and he left the bunker.
A few minutes later one of the guys had to go to the head. He left the bunker and came back in right away laughing like hell. Our curiosity aroused we asked “what’s so funny?” He said that “the grunt lieutenant is laying in the mud about ten feet in front of the bunker.” He was laying face down in the mud. Guess when the cool night air hit him he hit the deck. Because he was face down he must of thought he was a tanker. We knew he wasn’t, but we took pity on him, picked him up and propped him up on the side of the bunker. He could sleep it off there without drowning in the mud. He was gone in the morning.
We really nursed that stuff after that.