<%@ Language=Inherit from Web %> Beast of the Night, Bangal Tiger in Vietnam 1965

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The Beast of the Night

By;  Bob Neener  G/2/9  05/01/65 - 10/20/65

      In 1965 and 1966 there was little talk about Tigers in Vietnam. We were instructed on the dangers and trained to recognize the poisonous snakes of Vietnam, but no one ever mentioned anything about Tigers.

       After our float from San Diego on 05/01/1965, 2/9 underwent Marine Raider training in Okinawa for two months prior to going into Vietnam on July 7th 1965.  Before our unit was split up by the transplacement program, we got some very interesting combat assignments.

      Marine Raiders are trained in the art of rapid deployment, were very stealthy "hit and run" group of Jarheads.  Hence, we pulled some 3 months of special assignments, before being broken up.  Most of these assignments were performed at night or very early in the morning, before daylight. 

      We would sneak into position under the cover of darkness, dig in, and wait for the enemy to stumble across us. This worked pretty good because the enemy could not pin point our position in darkness. When daylight came, we would be waiting for Charlie in places he thought were safe, and actually were safe the afternoon before.  

       In early August 1965 Golf Company 2/9 went into the "A Shau Valley" on a 3 day recon patrol. On our last night in the valley we had finally made our way up Hill 806 by following one of the legs of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and found ourselves in some of the most dense Rain Forrest in Vietnam.  

       After reaching our designated position, about two thirds up the Hill, or better described by those of us who actually climbed it, "Mountain 806", our CO, Captain Osborn, ordered us to set up an ambush, so we setup our perimeter inside the forest, just off the trail, which had been our main mission. In effect we had established a company size ambush, intersecting the Ho Chi Minh Trail in several locations, .

       It was on this patrol that I first developed an immunity to "Ham & Lima Beans" more commonly and appropriately referred to as "Ham & Mutha Fuckersthe only meal that came with "C" Rations that was never used as a bargaining tool. By the time we stopped humping that that day, I devoured an entire, unheated can, and actually enjoyed them. 

       When nightfall hits the jungle, it gets so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face, and the Jungle comes alive at night. You hear the constant droplets of water falling from the trees, tree frogs galore, and the occasional sound of small ground animals foraging for food. All of this helps to keep you awake on watch but can, and almost always does, play tricks with your imagination, but it's when you don't hear the Jungle's natural sounds, that you are in big trouble.

        I pulled the 0400 to 0600 watch, but between the constant rain and the leaches crawling up your pant legs, it was difficult to get much sleep. We were all posted approximately 20 yards apart and 20 to 30 yards from the Trail. We probably covered an entire half mile of the trail. My squads position was a listing post at the farthest point up the trail.  At 0400 Jim Stead woke me for my watch. 

       As I was settling into my first hour on watch, suddenly the jungle became very quiet and I heard a very strange sound coming from close by. It sounded like a snort, a very guttural snort, someone or something was clearing its nostrils.  I couldn't tell if it was animal or human, it sounded like a pig but I was prepared for human, I feared it was the Enemy marching down the trail, probably a point man. 

       We were positioned in such a way that if anyone came "ditty bopping" down the trail, we would have them boxed in with no way out.

My orders were "not to fire unless we were fired upon" (this was one time this order made sense to me). We didn't want to hit any of our own guys, so there were specific points in the ambush where there was a clear, free fire zone. I was at one of these points. Forward of our position, was no mans land, but we were instructed to post as a listening post and pass on any enemy movement to the CP "Command Post for you civilians out there".

       So I listened, and again I heard a snort, this time it sounded as though it were right in front of me, but I still couldn't see a damn thing. One more time I heard the sound, but it was different and very close, this time it was the shuffling of brush or ground fodder, a noise someone would make when running through the jungle. I was now certain that the enemy was advancing on our position, I couldn't hold out any longer, I keyed the radio "two Pings for alert" and waited for the conformation Key "one Ping one Ping only" then I woke up Jim Stead.

       Jim was pissed, he had only been asleep for a half hour or so and he awoke to find that his legs were crawling with leaches. This distracted Jim's concentration for a few moments while he pulled off those "damn slimy worms from hell". You just can't pull a leach off of you, if the head stays in the wound you'll get an infection, and infections in the jungle can lead to some very serious medical problems. A lighted match head will force a leach to pull out, but we couldn't light matches while posting at night, so we used salt from our C Rations, which worked real good on those buggers.

       So Stead is still pulling off leaches and I'm trying to find a target, a few moments had gone by, when all of a sudden we heard one hell of a scream, I had never heard a sound like this before. First there was a high pitched scream and than a loud squeal, the squeal was kind of like the sound a pig would make when it was in serious pain, but this would  have to be a very large pig, it was a loud, deep pitched squeal.

       Right after the squeal, and again along with another loud squeal, there was a another sound, a loud guttural, growling sound. This whole thing lasted for only a minute or two and then there was silence. By now the entire 3rd platoon was awake and on alert, trying to figure out what the hell we had just heard. 

       It wasn't until daybreak that we figured out most of what had happened. While many of the other guys were relieving themselves of leaches (the leaches had gotten almost everyone sleeping during the early morning hours), a few of us decided to see if we could find out what all the ruckus had been. We ventured out and forward of our position, following the trail further up the hill, but we found nothing. 

       So our Platoon Sgt decided to go back to my position and fan out and search the jungle, which proved to be a good plan. Approximately 30 meters from my old position we came across a small, open platform, with a thatched roof.

It appeared that this platform had been erected by the VC for rice storage in preparation for an offensive. Approximately 5 feet off the ground there was a bamboo shelf that contained several 30 lb burlap bags of rice. Under this store there was a lot of blood, A Lot of BLOOD, a partial front leg that was mostly hoof, and fur everywhere. We surmised that a wild Boar had been killed by something, something big, powerful, and very hungry!

       After an entire morning of searching the jungle, we had located several of these rice stores, so HQ decided to confiscate the rice and give it back to the villages in the valley. Late that afternoon we were heli-lifted out and no one ever confirmed what actually happened under that rice store, in the early morning darkness.

       One thing is certain, I definitely heard a wild pig squeal, it is clear that the pig was feeding on the rice that had fallen to the ground (there was loose rice on the ground under every store we located, which made a natural feeding ground), and I also heard something else, and it was clearly a large predator killing that pig. 

****After reading Colonel John Ripley's Tiger Tale I have come to the conclusion that it most likely had been a Bengal Tiger "the Beast of the night" that killed that wild pig only a few feet from my position. 

****In the dark we smell like prey, and where there are many of us, we send a very strong scent to these night hunters. It was probably attracted to our area by our scent and fortunately for us, it found the poor pig eating rice.

It is sad that the Bengal tiger is almost extinct, I am sure that there weren't many in Vietnam in the 60's or more of us Vets would have succumbed to this expert night hunter.  

      If any of you have Tiger stories that you would like to share with us, email me and I'll post them here. I would also like to hear more from the Tiger Bite 67 Patrol members.

****The title of the background music is "Dazed and Confused"  how appropriate !