February 28, 1970
Dear Chaplain Miller,

Jim, as I promised in my last letter, I’m going to share with you an experience I had at our brigade briefing.  It was more like a stand up comic session that we had last night at a briefing just before dinner.  I believe it was the Brigade Tactical Briefing.  It took place at 1700 though it was scheduled for 1600.  This ritual of evening briefings has a liturgical form all its own.  It's held in a large room that is half screened around the circumference of the room to let the cool night air blow through.  Most of the time there is no such thing as cool night air.  Humid night air would be more like it.  The entire staff turns out for this nightly show, if they are in base camp.  In firebases, similar briefings go on much in the same manner, but a little less formal.

At 1700 hours, the command sergeant major announced, "Gentlemen, the Brigade Commander."  Chairs clang as the men came to attention.  The scuffling was greeted with "Please be seated."  More scuffling as the men began to try and get comfortable in their hard metal fold-up chairs.  The commander was sitting in a soft, leather desk chair up front, facing a set of panoramic maps and briefing charts that his staff had been preparing most of the afternoon. 

"Good evening, Sir!"  A major-type officer addressed the commander.  He picked up a pointer and approached one of the charts.  There were various color dots of round sticker paper all over the charts and maps.  "At spotter number one," he began, as he pointed to the obvious marker, "1013 this morning Charlie Company, first of the fourteenth, spotted two figures, twenty meters to their north.  Coordinates 35642196.  They were wearing black pajamas, rubber tire sandals, pith helmets, carrying AK-47's, pistol belts and American canteens.  Small arms were employed.  M-79’s were also used, along with 82mm mortars.  Artillery was called in; Bravo battery on the firebase expended fifty rounds of 105 mm.  Ten rounds of 155's mm and ten rounds of 175's mm were fired from Camp Radcliff at precisely 1018 hours.  Charlie Company then swept the area with negative findings and therefore it is assumed that the enemy fled in an unknown direction.  Charlie Company will be extracted from their night location at first light or flyable weather, which ever comes first.  There is no trace or any visible means of finding the trail they were on before the skirmish started."

I was sitting in the rear of the room and I heard some sort of grunting eking out of the soft chair, and the briefer shook his head. "Well, Sir, that's way they gave it to me at higher." I couldn't hear what the commander said.  Then much louder, the commander said, "Go on.”  It sounded more like a sigh than a request.  One of the officers sitting behind me whispered, “The old man hates that s##t about going in an unknown direction."
     

Pointing at marker number two, the briefer continued.  "At this location, right about here," the wooden finger tapped the map.  "Delta Company, first of the twelfth second platoon, came across a small grass hooch.” The commander said something. "No, Sir, it was a grass hooch, not a hooch filled with grass." The audience gave a polite laugh.  The major went on.  "There were no hostile forces in the area.  Upon searching the camp, our men found one AK 47 round, two M-16 cartridges, three pair of black wearing apparel, four pith helmets, five pongee sticks."  The XO piped up, "And a partridge in a pear tree." There was more laughter.  I thought to myself, eight months till Christmas.

The briefing went on for about twenty minutes.  The commander got up to make a few comments. He started by saying, “We need to get out there and get some damn gooks. They can't keep disappearing in an unknown direction.  G##damn it, we bring the whole f##ing war on the heads of two of those little bastards and nothing happens."

Just as he was about finished, a voice from the rear of the room, said, "F### you!"  "F### you!"  “F### you!"  Everyone in the place began to laugh, not just a polite chuckle like they gave to the commander but deep belly laughter.  The commander himself almost got tickled.  "Christ," he says, "We can't even get rid of those damn lizards."  That's right, Jim.  They have a lizard, native to Vietnam that makes a sound that clearly says, "f### you."  I suppose he learned it from the GI’s.  It was the first time I had encountered the infamous Lizard.  The second time was at dinner after the briefing in the MASH Officer’s club.  It seems that these lizards are drawn to the light and speak their mind at what they think about what is happening to their country.

I'm enclosing a news article from the Stars and Strips newspaper as verification that I'm not just pulling your leg.  I'll quote it in this letter as well, even though I don't have a date that the article was printed.  Father Taddy was the priest that wanted the lizard avenged.

LIZARD PLAGUING "SERVICES."

Camp Radcliff, Vietnam (Special)--A 2nd Brigade chaplain assistant is trying to put his outdoorsman's skill to work on a somewhat embarrassing problem at the 4th Inf. Div.'s Highlander Chapel.

The nemesis in this case was the infamous Vietnamese "Insulting Lizard" who lurks in every nook, cranny and bush in Camp Radcliff and emits his limited vocabulary.  From dusk to dark, the lizard would interrupt chapel business nightly with its own version of fire and brimstone.

"It got to be annoying," said Spec 5 Tom Wagner.  "That kind of racket is just not right for our atmosphere here" (at the Highlander Chapel), he explained.

Wagner thought the best way to cope with his antagonist would be to trap and then relocate the noisy reptile.  So he scrounged a few simple materials and began construction of an "Insulting Lizard Trap."

"I used to trap beaver back in Minnesota just for fun.  I'd turn them loose after I caught them,” said Wagner.  In no time, Wagner had finished his trap, made from a few boards, some screening and a coat hanger.  The lizard trap was equipped with a trap door that is triggered by pressure put on the bait hook.  His next problem was how to bait the trap.  The lizard is still on the loose around the Highlander Chapel, still insulting everything in earshot.  Wagner is still trying to come up with a sure-fire lure for the lizard.

The "Insulting Lizard" referred to in the above article was the same species that interrupted the Command Briefing and the same one who, after eating hot cigarettes, expressed his true feeling about the ugly Americans in his country.

Sincerely,

Don

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