2/401368 Keith H. Hasler, "D" Company 2RAR

We have all experienced the hardships, the horror, the terror and misery that war of any description is full of, but do we very often think of the many good times, the friendships that we forged, and do we ever think of the many funny and amusing things that stay forever imprinted in our memories? Here are just a few that come to mind, overriding the many bad thoughts that in the past have filled my every day. It has been said that humour lies basically in the misfortune of others, and to some extent this is very true, but in many cases much of the humour to come out of war, hes in the ability to laugh at ourselves. Let me begin by telling of one such incident.

This story could be called, "the first victim of chemical warfare"....

It took place sometime in May or June of 1953 during my unit (2nd Btn Royal Australian Regiment) involvement in the Samichon Valley on the feature known as hill 159. I was part of"D" Company 2RAR, and along with others, we had the task of patrolling the valley to our front each and most nights as part of either a stand-by patrol, or a fighter patrol. One of our section members was an Aussie guy named Max Conway, who, like myself, was a reinforcement from Japan and new to the terrain and conditions of front-line life. I have previously spoken of Max in an earlier story and how I came within a whisker of taking him for the enemy with what could have been disastrous results, but I digress. On one such night, warm and still, we sat near the valley floor as a stand-by patrol as a back-up to a fighter patrol out front. I hoped, as I guess all of my colleagues hoped, that the night would be uneventful. With the approach of dawn on this warm night, our only contact with the enemy was to be in the form of hundreds of mosquitoes. These pesky critters of Korean origin were most aggressive and to some of us, not even clothing was a protection. One such soul was Max, because he was subject to numerous stings even through his exposed shirt not covered by our "flack jacket".

As dawn was approaching, we received the command to pull back slowly and silently to the relative safety of our Company lines. All the time, Max had been "slapping" sometimes "squashing" as he so eloquently put it, "Bloody Mozzies!" Following breakfast, hastily taken, Max immediately stripped naked and started to apply some lotion he had obtained from the RAP (Regimental Aid Post). He scratched and swore all day, vowing that this would not happen again.

After the evening meal, we were again briefed for our patrol duties, which this time was to be a fighter patrol. Max immediately went into "preparation mode" and called out for the DDT which was usually kept close to Company Headquarters. Locating the five gallon drum (for memory), Max stripped off and liberally began plastering his body with the DDT, both arms, his legs, whatever he could reach of his back, his torso, all the time muttering, "Those bloody mozzies wont get me tonight!" Unfortunately, Max had not taken into account any effect this chemical may or may not have had on his more tender parts, and sure enough, after just a few seconds of this liberal splashing, Max realised that his very private parts were burning. He yelled and yelled, all the time gaining more and more attention. In desperation, he grabbed his pannikin from which he had just a few minutes earlier eaten his evening meal, and filling it with water, proceeded to lower his previously mentioned private parts, in and out of the water. It will not be hard to understand the laughter that this comical action brought upon the many who had been alerted to his cries of pain.

In due course, we went on our patrol but it proved to be uneventful. Many of us put forward theories as to why and they varied from, "The Chinese heard Max yelling and became too frightened to venture out!" or "The Chinese simply could not stand the thought of inflicting any more pain on poor Max and so decided to cancel any patrols for the immediate future!" or " If those Australians can do this to themselves, what might they do to us?" For a long time, Max laughed along with his mates over this little episode!

Me with captured burp gun Keith H. Hasler
New South Wales

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