MCARA Sea Stories

Gizmo Goes To War

Gizmo was a good ole Japanese dog minding his business as the mascot of VMCJ-1 at MCAS Iwakuni until the call came in April, 1965 for his skipper, Lt. Col Corman, and his other masters to head down to Danang, Vietnam to take care of some professional matters. Although everyone expected the war to be over by Christmas that was a long time to be separated from your best friend so what to do but pack up Gizmo for a little TAD. The S-4 reported some difficulties in manifesting him to fly in on the troop transports so plan B was immediately put into effect… fly him down in one of the EF-10Bs. And so Gizmo became the first dog known to have flown into the war zone in a tactical aircraft. According to the crew he did quite well on his fam hop getting an occasional breath of pure oxygen from the RO’s mask and when his aircraft came to a stop bounded out of the cockpit ready for action .. or in desperate need of a fire hydrant!

Gizmo quickly adapted to his new cultural environment although like his masters he turned his nose up at the B-rats that were offered instead of fried rice to eat. He dutifully stepped into the role of the squadron morale D- NCO and made daily rounds of all the squadron spaces visiting his busy squadron mates and calmed their fears of incoming mortars by showing them he could take a carefree nap anytime he chose. Later that Fall his own morale took a hit when he got the word that his tour was going to be extended indefinitely and he was going to have to break in a whole new squadron as Lt. Col Opeka’s cadre was taking over. Badder news followed as he learned the squadron was moving into new quarters in the middle of a swamp across the street from a village called Dog Patch!

Gizmo - VMCJ-1As one of the new guys I for one can truthfully attest to Gizmo’s ability to adapt just like all Marines to changing situations. First of all he handled the squadron transition nicely but I saw that he was apparently “conflicted” about his rank and seemed to want to split the middle between officers and enlisted by sleeping in CW0 Jim Doyle and Toje Wheeler’s hootch… or maybe he found out that they had the only refer that would run on 80-90 V AC for more than a week, so they gave him better chow. Then too, Giz was no dummy as I know he feared being hauled off by a monstrous mosquito if he slept in the swamp tents with the troops. Jim recalls him being banned from the O’club for begging for ice but then who wouldn’t???

Despite all our warnings he also took it upon himself to boldly patrol the MAG-11 compound from time to time and wouldn’t you know it those dumb groupies treated him with no respect like he was just another one of us squadron pukes. To make matters worse several of the hungry locals from Dog Patch managed to get through the wire and the group medicos convinced the staff that some of them were likely VC spies spreading Ho Chi Minh’s revenge or some other pestilence around the compound. Of course drastic measures had to be taken so the group guard was instructed to round up all dogs and execute them by firing squad. Luckily, we got the word and pointed out to them that Gizmo was one of us and had US dog tags to prove it. Unfortunately our pleas fell on deaf ears and shades of the holocaust we had to take turns hiding Gizmo from the “group Gestapo”.

Things came to a “head” so to speak a few days later when one of our officers was subjected to a hail of buckshot from the 12 gauge riot guns used by the firing squads. The guards had decided to use the open ground adjacent to the officers 6-holer to stake out their victims and naturally lined up their target in a direct line with the head. After the first volley, one of the innocent bystanders or sitters if you will, hung his skivies on a stick and waved it out the window to get the guards attention. Wrong move as the guards remembering their rifle range training assumed they got a “Maggie’s Drawers” and let go another round!! Now this set off a lot serious discussion at the club later on as we debated whether or not you should get a Purple Heart for being blown off the shitter. Most felt in favor and discounted the mere thought of that being labeled “friendly fire”. But, the thoughts of your mom or dad getting a notice that their son had been decorated for being wounded in action in that manner killed the medal idea. Then again maybe the victim could have beat out Forest Gump to show LBJ his “war wounds”!

So back with the story, it was decided that we had to do something drastically to protect Gizmo. One of our troops had a good friend who was a crew chief in a Huey squadron at nearby Marble Mountain and it was decided to get Gizmo a transfer to his unit. So, we all bade farewell to Gizmo and wished him well with his new assignment. We got feedback from time to time that all was well with Gizmo and in fact he had taken to flying missions in the Huey. Then we got conflicting word as to his fate. One story was that he had gone down in a blaze of glory with his crew, another that he decided to retire from active duty, and wound up shacking up with a female friend named Pea-aster in a remote village. Guess we’ll never know.

(by Col. H. Wayne “Flash’ Whitten USMC (ret).)