W3 Company - Assault Pioneer History
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anyone able to write their story...?
|Pioneer who Destroyed
a Longdrop - Bruce Young
In keeping with the story on health in Vietnam [see link here] is the tale of the W3 Assault Pioneer who destroyed a Nui Dat 'long drop' toilet with a grenade. Pioneers were infantry field engineers, considered very capable around tools, using explosives, and when doing field engineering tasks. This story has all these elements but doesn't add to their reputation.
The typical Nui Dat 'longdrop' was a wooden building with screen windows and a concrete floor, covering a very deep trench [see illustration here]. A row of around six toilet stands with lids were attached to the floor so those using the facility had a degree of comfort while discharging into the depths below. A steel basin and plastic ‘jerrycan’ of water by the door provided for hand washing afterwards. Basic and not private, the typical toilet also suffered from an over-issue of bog flies.
Bog flies were tiny little winged insects that lurked in the depths of the trench, but chose to rise in a cloud to the sunlight whenever the toilet lid was raised, meaning the occupant of the seat was tormented by a multitude of bugs small enough to resemble crabs among the pubic hair and fast enough to make chasing them around the groin while seated an exercise in despair. Many occupants of the toilet would consequentially burst forth from the daily constitutional swearing revenge; the usual response being to return and throw a non-lethal M18 coloured smoke grenade into the trench. Coloured smoke of one hue or another would then burst out of all the trench openings and the next occupants would need to first wipe the seat or retire with a coloured ring of smoke residue around their buttocks. The retribution was satisfying to the male ego and not damaging to anyone or anything other than the environment. It certainly wasn't damaging to the bog flies.
M18 coloured smoke grenade usually reserved for signalling to helicopters [internet]
Unfortunately, on the occasion the W3 Pioneer was tormented, he was so incensed that in his desire for justice he chose for retribution to use a M26 high explosive hand grenade. The choice was unfortunate; using an explosive in this way was irresponsible and likely to be career-ending. It might also have been life-ending, all over in one moment of stupidity. By way of mitigation, it can be pointed out that the pioneer forgot to remove the safety pin from the grenade before he heaved it, in anticipation of great bog fly carnage, into the depths of the shitty trench. So no explosion. But while no damage was done to bog flies, or pioneer, or facility, one big issue remained for every other soldier using the facility; no one was willing to relax their bowels while sitting on top of an unexploded high explosive M26 hand grenade.
M26 high explosive hand grenade [internet]
The authorities wisely demolished the toilet structure and buried the trench and grenade under a truckload of earth; so the bog flies were dealt a fatal [albeit temporary] blow by the pioneer's actions. The authorities also decided on a punishment fit for a dopey pioneer: the hapless offender was required to dig the trench for the new toilet. Perhaps someone could enlighten us on how long that task took..?
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