I’d like to introduce Joe Campolo Jr., my friend and fellow author. Joe resides in Wisconsin and has published two award-winning books – we shared a booth for a book signing weekend and were also guest speakers during the 2015 Vietnam War Reenactment in Benton Harbor, MI. His books, “The Kansas NCO” and “Back to the World” are highly recommended – I’ve reviewed both on Amazon. I’ve asked Joe to share a story from his website – more information and the link to his website follow this article. Here’s his story:
I was a member of the United States Air Force from 1968 to 1972. I served at Phu Cat Airbase, Republic of Vietnam from January of 1970 to January of 1971.
Because I kept requesting a transfer out of supply into civil engineering, when I first arrived at Phu Cat I was assigned to a civil engineering detail headed by the Red Horse Squadron. The detail involved building a water pumping station by the river near Phu Cat so the villagers would not have to hand carry water from the river in buckets, as they had been doing. A dangerous endeavor, particularly after the sun went down. Unfortunately, because of Vietcong intervention that project ended in disaster and was subsequently canceled. The Civil Engineering squadron soon redeployed to Bien Hoa and as I had no acquired skills as of yet, I was transferred back to supply and remained at Phu Cat.
Within months of the incident, the Phu Cat village chief started pestering the base commander again. The village needed running water. In time, a solution was developed; a well would be drilled by the main gate at the Phu Cat airbase which was on the northern edge of the village. Since the main gate was heavily guarded twenty four hours a day, the risk from Vietcong sabotage would be greatly reduced.
Soon U.S. Air Force maintenance teams were hard at work. They drilled the well, built an open-air shelter around it, tested it and released it for use. A formal dedication ceremony with base and village leaders was planned.
However, the first morning after completion, before the dedication ceremony was to take place, an older village woman walked purposely out to the new well, with several younger women and children in tow. U.S.A.F. personnel on hand watched with curiosity, expecting her to be the first customer to collect a nice fresh bucket of water.
To their astonishment, the old woman entered the shelter, scooted her black pants down, hopped on the well and defecated. About half the men on hand started yelling, while the other half roared with laughter while cheering the old woman on. A call was placed to the engineering squadron, who immediately arranged a meeting with village elders. The elders were ordered to instruct all villagers what the well was intended for, and how to properly use it. A sign was put up with a picture of a person defecating in the well with a large black slash through it, intending to convey what NOT to do in the well.
After getting bleached out, the well was released to the village and soon villagers began using it for its intended purpose, although according to rumor the old mama-san would sneak in at night and use it as her private toilet. As for myself…I made it a point never to drink from it!
Thank you, Joe for sharing this story. I also want to thank you for your service and Welcome you Home!
Photo of Joe and a happy customer at one of his book signings this past fall
Joe Campolo, Jr. is an award-winning author, poet and public speaker. A Vietnam War Veteran, Joe writes and speaks about the war, and is a Veteran’s advocate. Joe also writes about other experiences, many of which are humorous. Joe enjoys fishing, nature, traveling, writing and spending time with his family. Joe loves hearing from his readers. Stop by Joe’s website to look around and read more of his offerings and leave a note. http://namwarstory.com/blog/ Tell him John sent you!
The Amazon link for Joe’s books: https://www.amazon.com/Jr-Joe-Campolo/e/B00K7J3MS6/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
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I have a photo from my year at Phu Cat. I’d like to know more about it.
It pictures man on the moon. Presented to the Phu Cat Chapel Staff 20 Jul 1970.
Lt Col, W. H. Flint, USAF , Manager, Apollo Management Center. Any information is appreciated. Sincerely, Frank Uffner
Neva happen G.I.
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I was at Phu Cat Mar 69-70, perimeter security and mortars. I find this story very hard to believe. Can anyone verify it? The vietnamese may not have been educated but they certainly were not stupid.
Americans aren’t stupid either, but every year thousands of them go off into the woods looking for large hairy men they call Sasquatch.
Thanks for sharing my story on your fine website John, hope folks enjoy it.
As a side note to Phu Cat drinking well…While eating noon chow under mess tent in Chu Lai 1966 we watched this Mamason walk up to the 105 shells 1/2 buried in the sand, we used as piss tubes, roll up one of the legs to her Black P J’s and make every effort to try and piss in the shell as she must have observed all us Marines do before or after chow. We had a good laugh, at her valiant try, see missed badly. Semper Fi.