Veterans are known for their war stories. What we don’t
often hear are the lighter moments, the happy times and the stories that make brothers out of soldiers.
These stories are told through the viewpoint of retired Army Special Forces veteran Donny Larsen, also known as "the rockstar."
In our B-team special forces club in Quinhon on the south china sea, Colonel Longfellow got tired of the Vietnamese band. He would say, "Don't we have some 'rock-star' out in one of our A sites?" The Sergeant Major said, "Yea, that would be Sgt. Larsen." He replied, "Well get his sorry butt in here on Friday. I want him to sing in the band cause I'm tired of hearing the Vietnamese band sing."
So, I'd come in on a log ship on Friday night and go back on Sunday morning. There I was singing for the B-team. It was not a U.S. Army base. It was a Vietnamese Base. That meant we could fraternize with the nurses and some of the local girls.
That reminds of the time that one of my friends and I decided to go on a joy ride...
Sand in the crank case
One night while I was playing music at the club, my friend Doug, who was a civilian and CIA rep said, "Donny, let's take the girls out to the watering point. We will take a couple of cases of beer and go out there and party."
I said, "That's a long way out and we don't have a vehicle."
He said, "Well, you have one of those green beanies. Just put that on and when we go through the gate, just put your head down and salute the guards."
The guards were Vietnamese and to them, all of us Caucasians looked the same. If I wore the green beret and if Doug was driving the Colonel's jeep, like he usually did, they would just wave us on through. We put the girls in the back seat and told the guards we were taking them home. I saluted them and we were on our way.
We get out to this water point. It was where we would take jeeps and trucks to clean them right outside of Quinhon.
Snipers were known to hang out about 300 meters away on the side of the hill. So, I turned off my lights and started across the river.
That's when it happened.
The jeep fell into a hole about five or six feet deep. I'm holding my breath and trying to drive out of the hole.
We all climb out of the jeep and reach the surface of the water. At that point, all you can hear from us is hysterical laughter.
The only way you could tell a jeep was in the water was by the antenna sticking out and bending with the current.
I said, "Oh my, Doug. We are going to Levenworth." He said, "You are going to Levenworth. I'm not in the Army."
We walk out on Highway 1 hoping that some big army truck would be passing by. Thankfully, we waited about five minutes and saw a five ton tractor driving by without a load on the back. So, I stood and waved him down.
He stopped and pulled a weapon on us to make sure we were American. We then told him our situation which he found humorous.
So he drove down on the beach and gave me a chain. I dove in the water and wrapped it around the bumper.
He pulled the jeep out on the beach and I tried to remove all the water from the inside of it.
We put the vehicle in fourth gear, started the ignition and the tractor started to pull us back into Quinhon while we tried to start the engine.
By the time it started, we were in downtown Quinhon. The smoke that bellowed out of that exhaust was more intense than an actual smoke machine used in combat.
We could be facing jail time, but could not help but keep laughing.
We drove straight through the gate undetected and parked the jeep in its spot.
Then we invited the truck driver in and continued to party. We thought we were free and clear.
The next day around 1 in the afternoon, I was just getting ready to go out on a mission. The Colonel called Doug and I into his office. He says, "Sgt. Larsen, the funniest thing happened. My Filipino mechanics are mad. They said they went to change the oil in my jeep and found sand in the crank case. You wouldn't know how the sand got in there would ya?"
"What? How would you get sand in there, sir? Wouldn't you have to deliberately pour that in their yourself?" I replied. "I'm wondering that myself, Sgt," he said.
"How about you Doug? Do you have any idea how that got in there?"
"Haven't got a clue, sir."
He said, "Well, Doug, you go back to what you do and Sgt. Larsen, would you to go out to Longve."
At that time, Longve was the hottest, most dangerous site in Vietnam. It was scary. Nobody wanted to be there.
So, he wanted me to go out there and see if I could come up with some solution to this sand in the crank case episode.
I went out there and fought. He left me out there for 14 days to stew over it. I had to take a patrol out every day.
The Colonel never brought up the jeep incident again.