~Tom Smith, aka, Cpl. Crusty~
India Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines
It was July 15th, and my birthday, I had survived long enough to see 19. I was about to begin my new assignment as NCOIC of the NVA / USMC Mutual Friendship Society. We had just come off of Go Noi Island and Operation Allen Brook. We had convinced numerous NVA that the American Way was the road to fulfillment, and a meaningful life. One facet of my new job entailed organizing activities that would further their indoctrination toward our way of thinking. MACV had long since realized that the little folks would need extensive Americanization to be prepared for their new lives as Donut makers and Nail Salon proprietors in the Land of the Big PX.
I thought that since about two million of them would be settling in Orange County, California, they should be equipped to deal with the laid back So. Cal. life-style, hence my idea to teach them how to surf. Proficiency on a surfboard is a sure way to gain acceptance in the coastal cities of California, so I knew my plan would work. The day dawned sunny and warm like so many other days in Vietnam, 92 degrees and not a cloud in sight, of course it was only 0600 hrs., and things might change, so I had to get busy!!
My first call was to Special Services in Danang to see how many surfboards they had available. I spoke to a Sgt. who informed me that they had 126 boards, but we would have to supply our own wax, since some silly ass 1st Sgt. had forgotten to re-order !! I knew this would not be a problem since we still had 500 or so of those round chocolate bars that came with the C-Rats. My next call was to MACV for a surf report. The Lieutenant who answered the phone, a well-known surfer back home, told me it was “3 to 4 feet” with a mild offshore breeze and glassy waves, PERFECT !!
We put on our camouflage surf trunks, picked up our sack lunches from the mess hall, and off we went. The trip to Danang took about two hours, and naturally a few P.F.’s attached themselves to our caravan on the way, about seventy of them. When they heard what we were going to do, they insisted on joining our “Surfin Safari.” After a few minutes of basic instruction on water safety and surf etiquette, the P.F. Commander insisted that his men lead the way. Since this was the one and only time I’d heard of PF’s wanting to be the first in anywhere, I agreed. All seventy of them grabbed surfboards, and with child-like glee started to paddle out in an effort to be the first Vietnamese ever to “Ride The Wild Surf.”
Since I had not yet been in the water, I was unaware of an in-shore current flowing south at about 4 knots. I watched as my little pals were pulled south about 100 meters down the beach. This would not have been a problem had the Marines on guard down the beach been told of our intentions, but they had not. I heard later that the Marine Sgt. who gave the order to fire thought that he was witnessing the world's first NVA amphibious invasion, an easy mistake to make given the circumstances.
Fortunately, none of the surfboards were damaged. We cleared up the “snafu,”and went on with our day. We had one hell of good time, and the NVA, while new to surfing, made a good show of it. We didn’t want it to look like we’d wasted 70 servicable P.F.’s, so we made up a really bitchin story about how they bravely died in defense of their country.
The C.O. of the M.P. unit that opened fire arranged for the deceased warriors to be awarded the “Vietnam Cross Of Gallantry w/ surfboard.” I thought he pulled that off pretty well since everybody knows that P.F.’s never did anything “bravely.” I still get a laugh out of it when I try to imagine what the Marine M.P.’s must have been thinking just before they opened fire.
It’s 31 years later, and I finally get to enjoy the fruits of my labor. In about fifteen minutes, I’m meeting Lt. Ping at his Donut shop, and we’re going surfin'. Hopefully, the Meds will kick in before I get there.
In case you think that “Vietnam” was all for nothing, I am enclosing a picture of Myself and Lt. Ping (right) as photographic proof that some good things came out of the War in Vietnam. Semper Fi Y'All ...Cpl. Crusty
Good Stuff, Cpl. Crusty. Keep 'em coming, Bro!
~Brad & Debbe Reynolds ~
Tales of Vietnam by Cpl. Crusty
aka, Tom Smith, India 3/7 1968-69
"How Red Beach Got Its Name"
India 3/7 Picture Page"
India 3/7 flag courtesy of George Sager's
India Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines Vietnam 68-69 website.