Talking about drowning proofing, remember our training about crossing a river? I know how it should be done even after all these years, however; it seems like in Viet Nam we got across as fast as possible. Which always made sense with all those “things” in the water. I recall one time when we were getting ready to go into the river. We lined up with me behind the Marine carrying the M-79 (the blooper—the sound it made when fired) and that heavy bag of rounds. We called this Marine Barney (Rubble) after the character on The Flintstones because that’s who he looks like to us. He was one of the smallest men (about 5’6″) in the platoon and was built like a square block of wood with a great easy laugh. Anyways, Barney jumps into the river with his weapon and ammo bag over his head. All anyone could see of him was his helmet going across the water like a turtle. He made to the other side just in time to breath again. He explains that he couldn’t actually touch the river bottom so he had to tiptoe his way across. We all had a laugh at the sight of watching that helmet going through the water. Barney was laughing the loudest of us all after we explain what he looked like. Thanks he didn’t head in the wrong direction once he got into river otherwise we might not have seen him again due to how muddy the water was. I can’t wait until Marines learn how to walk on water. That should make the process of river crossings easier for those Marines who stand closer to mother earth.
The Platoon Lt. told us that if we zip-up our flack jackets then it would keep us afloat. We guess that he didn’t realize that most of us had the flack removed from our jackets because it was too heavy and hot to wear. Besides, what was he worried about crossing this river—-he stood somewhere over 6’5″.
Footnote: The company made a river crossing and was told that Mountainyards (not sure about the spelling) was following us and would provide security as our “tail-end Charlie”. We were all cross and on the way to our next position when we could hear a firefight at the river. The last platoon passes the word that Mountainyards were using boats to cross instead of following our example. They got caught with everyone in the middle of the river. They were wiped out by the man and not a thing we could do to come to their aid. To be honest, I can’t recall how many there were in this outfit or how long the ambush took to lose these men but it was not long—-it was just sad to hear.