MARINE CORPS TANKERS VIETNAM HISTORICAL Foundation's
Vietnam Personal Accounts
Fire In The Hole
By Robert "Bob" Peavey
Time was something that came in prodigious quantities exceeded only by the amount of boredom we had to on the same sand dune for six weeks, long enough to think we had become Legionnaires surrounded by a sea of desert dunes. During the day we would watch the New Jersey fire salvo after salvo into the DMZ which, after all, was why we were where we were―providing security for naval gunfire directors. When the Jersey was not firing my bored crew played Hearts under the woefully sagging roof of a rickety bunker. One look at this “bunker” told you it was not built by any group of grunts. Its 5-foot walls, made of empty, dirt-filled 90mm ammunition boxes, were more of a threat to those inside than any enemy outside.
Supporting the roof was anything that could be scavenged to hold the weight of a couple of layers of sandbags―rusty barbed wire stakes, drift wood, a broken stretcher pole and half a dozen other less sturdy items. A spent AK bullet may have been all that was necessary to bring down our daytime house. We only used it for shade and it was the only place an ocean breeze wouldn’t disturb our cards or wagered military script. Its less than sturdy construction was the butt of many an Oceanview joke and was something that only people who didn’t need a fighting hole could have constructed. Tankers obviously had a hand in it.
Monotony was affecting my crew’s morale and I decided to spice things up one afternoon. I had been keeping score during our game of Hearts with a 3-inch stubby pencil with a chewed down eraser when the idea hit me. I decided to make a run on the hearts with a hand that I knew couldn’t win. While I had come pretty close, it was my loader, Bob Steel, who said, "Sit on this, asshole!" as he snapped down the card we both knew would end my run and set me back several points. I feigned anger and stormed out of a bunker that was too low for anyone to stand up in. I took the pencil with me.
The pencil had given me an idea of how to break the boredom. The eraser, once dug out of its well, looked to be the perfect fit. I then took the silver foil out of a pack of C-rat cigarettes and rubbed it with a fingernail to make it metallic-smooth. I wrapped the foil around the stubby pencil and held it in place with a tiny piece of C-rats chewing gum.
I walked up the dune to "Pray For Slack," dug into one of the sponson boxes where I kept my favorite tankers’ tool―C-4 and several yards of time fuse. I unwrapped an Engineer’s block of white C-4 and proceeded to push the pointed end of the pencil into the putty-like block. I then cut off a short piece of time fuse and found that it fit snuggly into the eraser well. I had outdone
myself! The foil-covered pencil look exactly like a blasting cap with a ridiculously short fuse and it all protruded from a one-pound block of C-4.
I trotted back down the dune with the block in one hand and my Zippo in the other. At the doorway to the bunker I lit the fuse, ran in and yelled, "Sit on this, assholes!" and threw the block on the table, smoking fuse and all. For an instant no one moved. They just looked at it, their eyes seeing what their brains refused to comprehend.
I ran out.
What had started out as a 4-second fuse was now down to two when my three crewmen tried to fit through a doorway barely wide enough for one, resulting in the collapse of the entire structure. Three bodies exploded through falling ammo boxes and tumbling sandbags diving for the ground, face-down, hands over their heads, convinced they were about to be caught up in a powerful explosion.
I had all I could do to stay on my feet, doubled over in laughter. After several seconds, three sand-covered faces slowly turned towards me, still not certain that they had been had yet wondering where the laughter was coming from. They slowly rose and brushed themselves off while making references to my mother. It was then that my loader, a large well-developed weight lifter, said, "I’m gonna kick your ass!" and started for me. The rest of the crew joined in the ensuing chase as I led them over and around all the sand dunes inside Oceanview’s perimeter.