I was with the 4th
Squad, 4th Platoon of the 513th Eng. Co. during 1969, and we were in Nha
Trang Province living in tents, several miles from nowhere, and clearing
the triple canope jungle foilage for a trail. The 173rd Airborne Bridgade
was there too.
One morning one of the men in my squad was
given a stray dog by another unit passing through, whose Sargeant made
them get rid of him. Naturally, we made him a pet to save him from a local
barbecue as guest of honor.
The dog had a Heinze-57 pedigree, and was
the usual common little black and white mutt. Everyone liked the friendly
pooch and made a place for him and allowed the run of the camp. We decided
to keep him as our mascot, fed him whatever we had ourselves (C-Rations,
mostly), and generally had fun playing fetch.
He was named Smack because the guy that
gave him to us said someone had just fed him some smack. After a
week or so, old Smack became more aggressive and down right unfriendly
with us. He started nipping, and biting us and became very mean.
Somehow a squad leader Sargeant noticed how
weird Smack was acting, had him leashed and transported to a nearby Air
Base. An Air Force Vet examined Smack, took blood tests, and then did an
autopsy on his body. This is when it hit the fan. The Air Force Vet said
the dog had rabies and was destroyed. The Vet then ordered a dust off to go to the field and pick up the dumb GI's who had the dog for
Out LT. called our squad to fall in. We
were wondering what was up, especially when we saw dust off landing. I knew that we did not have a firefight last night, and knew of
no wounded. The Lieutenant gave the order for all members of 4th Squad,
4th Platoon of the 513th Eng. Co. to board dust off for medical
Most of us did, but some did not board the
Huey. When the LT. said we had rabies, I just knew that I would end up on The
Island with the G.I. who had the incurable disease we all heard
about in boot camp, and be reported missing in action.
We landed at an Air Base
at Nha Trang, and were taken to the Air Force Hospital. A young Air Force
Capt. MD had us assemble in a room. He proceeded to tell us the terrible
rabies death that we would all suffer. He told us how we would go stark
raving crazy, bang our heads into walls, foam at the mouth, curse God,
have terrible hallucinations, and gut pains so bad we would beg to be
shot! I was setting there thinking this is a crock! After all the
doom and gloom, the doctor said, "Of course I will not let that
happen to you. I swore to up hold the Hippocratic oath. I guess that even
applies to dumb grunts who feed a dumb dog dope." I
remembered hearing the dog had been fed drugs before we got him, but
decided it would be a waste to try and convince the Air Force Captain that
we hadn't mistreated the dog. The Vet continued, saying, "I should
let you dumb grunts die, but of course I will not allow that. You will
have a shot in the stomach every day for three weeks. You will become
somewhat sick and crazy, but the Air Force will take care of you.
The Captain was right about feeling sick.
Twenty-one painful shots in the stomach, and three and a half weeks later,
I was glad to get back to the sticks and my tent, determined that if I
never saw another Vietnamese dog again it would be too soon.
The story did make the Stars
and Stripes newspaper, as an example why GIs should not have local
animals for pets.