Dark Holes In The Jungle Floor
By Daniel S. Brown
Enlisting in 1969 1 had dropped out of school discontented with home life. With a parents permission, I started basic training at the age of 17. Basic and AIT was an awakening for me. Life wasnít as easy as I thought.
After 11Bravo training, I was sent to Panama for duty in the canal zone. That was an experience in itself. We were trained in survival, jungle warfare, recon, and jungle expert. Then we started training the Officers bound for duty in Vietnam. Fort Sherman was the training ground for jungle expert school, one of the hardest experiences any person could go through. This is where I went through demolitionís school and gained other knowledge about life and living in a tropical forest.
I spent 8 months in the jungles
of Panama trying to keep my clothes and boots from rotting off me. I (1049)
volunteered for duty in Vietnam after that. They sent me to serve with the
11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
Just as any new guy your first duty was usually busting trail. Three months later my other talents became apparent. Our LT. started ordering explosives for me, armed with blasting caps, shape charges, det-cord, C-4 and other paraphernalia my work was just beginning as a Tunnel Rat.
One of the first tunnelís I searched was good sized. It had two floors and went on it seemed forever. It felt as if I spent dayís in there searching for booby traps. When I came out on the other side of the bunkers there was a Sheridan sitting just 15 feet from the entrance. We all stared wide eyed at each other scared. Iím sure glad I have blue eyes. The crew didnít even see the opening to the bunker, until I came out. Returning to the APC for explosives, det-cord and fuses, it took another hour or so to set charges. I blew the Bunkers from the inside because it was so large. That became my ďtrade mark.Ē
One of the things that always amazed me was the engineering of the tunnels and bunkers. From the top it was difficult to see anything at all, only paths and small openings. It was inside that a person was awed.
Stout log ceilings reinforced with log pillars. Some of the bunkers were more simply constructed yet effective. Some of them had more than one level. I feared these types the most, going down into the next level put me on edge. They were harder to destroy than the others. When linking the charges together, it was important to rig a delay so the upper charge went off first.
The different types of bunker complexes were used for both -combat fortifications and other purposes. Things like bomb and mine factoryís, others were medical, such as a dentistsí office made out of bamboo, surgical and some were training.
The job of a Tunnel Rat never got any easier, very tedious thankless work. There was another instance when we made contact and a large Bunker complex was found. The CO was hot to get going again, but you just donít crawl into a tunnel and start tossing 15 Lb. shape charges around. The tunnelís were searched, disarmed, charges set, the fuse lit, then I went back to eat lunch. The CO, still impatient demanded when was I going to be finished. I looked at my watch and told him with a smile, two seconds. One bite of C-rations later the charges went off, showering the COís APC with dirt, weeds, branches and one very big log. I walked passed the CO to check all the charges to make sure they went off okay. I gave him a knowing sideways glance, the CO and I understood one another from that point on.
During my tour of duty I searched and destroyed 30 or so bunkers and bunker complexes. I still have dreams about the tunnelís and have a hard time in crowds and closed in places. I think this is because in the dreams the walls seem to breathe and know Iím there.
Today I feel lucky to have lived through the ďdark holes in the jungle floorĒ!