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Location: DownByTheRiver, Central Iowa, United States

Husband of the world's most wonderful wife, father of the world's four most brilliant children, grandfather to the world's eight most beautiful granddaughters and two handsomest grandsons

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Combat Onion Rings

The year... 1970. The place.... several kilometers south east of My Lai 4 on the peninsula south of Chu Lai, Vietnam. The RRR was the radio operator for a Land Clearing Platoon. We had 4 bull dozers to uncover enemy tunnels and bunkers with and enough personnel to operate, maintain, and protect them. We had established a "night laager" site on top of a hill that we operated from.

We were hungry, desperately hungry for fresh vegetables. For 6 weeks we'd lived exclusively on C-rations, army canned individual meals. We craved fruit and vegetables. Each time I called the rear support area with the lieutenant's daily report and equipment requests I begged for fresh food. Finally the opportunity came to contact the rear "secure". Part of my equipment was what was then a top secret scrambling device for the radio. It was huge, heavy, unreliable and absolute magic allowing me to talk to our company headquarters "in the clear" with out using code and communicate freely. It was a measure of how seriously the secrecy surrounding this equipment was taken that I was issued a .45 caliber pistol and a thermite grenade with orders to destroy it if needed to prevent its falling into enemy hands and to kill myself with to prevent information about it from being tortured out of me. I had no difficulty with the idea of following the latter orders. I'd seen the remains of soldiers who had been questioned by the Vietcong and had no desire to share their experience.

In the clear I demanded over the scrambler that we be sent some fresh food. The First Sgt. got on the radio and explained that there had been a hold up in shipments for the entire division, not just us, but that they would send SOMETHING. We anxiously awaited the next resupply helicopter. Along with our mail, ammo, and bulldozer repair parts, the helicopter crew chief tossed out a wooden crate of fresh onions. It was all they had. The mess Sgt. had included four pounds of butter to fry them up with. We stood around staring at the crate of onions. I peeled the skin off one and began eating it like an apple. But the lieutenant had a sudden idea... "Let's make onion rings!" And make onion rings we did.

Soon two of the men were slicing the onions with bayonets. Another dug through the box of cast offs from the c-ration packs, digging out every powdered cream packet and salt and pepper. We crushed "hard tack", the army crackers and mixed that with water, cream and spices to make a batter. The demolition man opened a case of c-4 plastic explosive and burned a quarter stick inside an empty .50 caliber ammo can to cook the paint out. The ammo can became our french frier. For a fry basket we took a tall quart and a half juice can and perforated it with a clip full of ammo from an M-16. A piece of wire from a c-ration crate made bail for our "fry basket". We sat the ammo can on 4 rocks, put the butter in it and started burning little dabs of c-4 under it to melt and heat the butter. The onion rings were dipped in batter and placed in the basket and dipped into the hot butter. An M-16 made a handy stick to hang the fry basket from.

The were DELICIOUS! The dozen or so of us ate onion rings and ate onion rings and ate onion rings. We devoured the entire crate. We ate till we were as full as ticks. It was 5 years before I could contemplate eating onion rings again, but that night, that one night I ate all I wanted.

That's the way it was... it really, really happened.

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Blogger visithra said...

wow desperate times eh ;)

glad ur daughter is fine - havent been here for sometime

3:10 AM  

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