Just a Bottle of Tiger Piss
By Jerry A.G Ericsson
© Jerry A.G. Ericsson 8/23/00
I guess the truth can be know now, Ralph died last year, Fred is gone too, we left Anderson in Nam, and the Doctor tells me I will be dead this time next week.
It all started back in 71, when we were in Nam. We were assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, out of Bam Me Tout near the Cambodian border. It was our job to cross the border, and raise havoc with the Ho Chi Min Trail. A job that we were very good at, a job we all loved. It was war at it’s best, and war at it’s worst. I swear I did things during that time that no man should have to do. Things that I am not proud of, but that had to be done.
Sgt. Anderson, Ralph, Fred and I formed a team. We worked so closely together, that we became closer then brothers. We knew how each man on our team thought, acted and I swear there were times when we could read each others minds. Back in base camp, we partied together, and we partied hard. Our favorite beer was Tiger 33, known amongst the troops as Tiger Piss. Tiger 33 had to be the worst beer ever brewed, but it became our beer of choice in the clubs both on base and in the village. It quickly became a contest, to see who could drink the most Tiger Piss, formaldehyde preservative and all in the shortest time. I was in the lead for the first couple of weeks, but the Sarge quickly developed a taste for the awful brew. After several months of these visits and contests, we decided that if the Sarge were ever KIA, Graves Registration wouldn’t have to embalm him, as all the embalming fluid from the beer would keep him intact for years to come.
But I digress; it was on one of these missions that something very unusual occurred. We were laying dog, that for the uninformed is a formation where the whole team is highly camouflaged, within site of one of the high-speed trails that together formed the Ho Chi Min trail. We lay so quietly and so hidden that even the birds of the jungle were fooled, and sang their songs of joy. After what seemed to be hours of inactivity, just as Fred was about to roll over and piss, we heard the voices of several NVA troops walking down the trail. They must have been confident that there were no enemy around, as they were making as much noise as a bunch of boy scouts marching down the trail. Now this in itself, is not unusual, and it happened on most of our missions, but what was unusual was the cargo they carried strapped to their bicycles. We were about to find something so unbelievable that we all swore to the death to never reveal what happened next.
We sprung the ambush, and quickly with our deadly aimed fire, the entire group of nine NVA troops were dead. Under normal circumstances, we would do a quick search for documents then beat feet back to Viet Nam and the base, but what we found strapped to the bicycles stopped us dead in our tracks. Hidden in large leather bags attached to the sides of the bicycles were sacks green back dollars. Mostly in twenties and hundreds, all told there was over four million dollars. It was quite a load, but after we dropped our rucks, cleaned out the things we thought we would not need for the trip home, we found room for the entire load. We knew that it would be very difficult to ship the money home, hell it was hard enough to send part of our pay home, much less four million dollars, hell that was a cool million each, and it was tax free.
Now we green berets are known for our inginuintity, so on the way back to the base, we worked out a plan. First of all, we couldn’t bring that much money on base, hell if anyone found out about it it would be all over, and our money would be gone. What we needed was a place to stash it where no one would think to look while we worked out the rest of our plan. Fred had a whore who he visited with on a regular basis, she had a little hooch in Su Chin, a village just outside the gate, so we made a side trip on the way home and stopped at Fred’s whore’s house. Freddie had a good relation with this whore, and she agreed to keep our pack (we had packed the money in an old pack we picked up in a nearby shop) for a couple of days. Freddie really didn’t trust here all that much, so he insisted that he stay with her and the money until other arrangements could be made. We sat back there, at the whore’s hooch, and drank several bottles of Tiger Piss, then leaving Freddie with his whore; we went back to the base.
When we got back, we met with the Lt. and gave him a verbal report as to the mission, omitting any reference to the money. It went off without a hitch, and the Sarge covered for Freddie, telling the Lt. that he was at our hooch, cleaning the equipment.
The next morning, we met with O’Shanassy, the Irishman who ran Graves Registration. O’Shannassy agreed to pack our money in the bodies of dead GI’s, he would keep a list of their names, and home towns, so we could recover the loot once we made it back home. For his part in this endeavor, O’Shanassy was given a cool million dollars, one quarter a mill from each of our cuts. This assured his silence, and insured we would get the list when we had it all taken care of.
That night, we initiated O’Shanassy into the Tiger Piss club, by taking him out to the village for his baptism and a quick lay with one of the hookers in the village. When the initiation was done, I made a quick side trip over to Fred’s whore’s house, I found Freddie there, the money was there, and the whore was dead. Seems she waited until Freddie was asleep, then took a peek into the pack. Freddie woke up, and found her with her hands in the cookie jar, so to speak and without thinking, drove his field knife up under her ribs, and into her kidney. According to Freddie, she never made a sound; just a little gasp then fell to the floor dead. Freddie waited for us, and drank some of the Tiger Piss that his whore kept at her hooch just for him.
Well, the white mice (local Vietnamese police) never did solve that murder, they simply chalked it up to a disgruntled John, they had no idea even who to question, could have been a GI, could have been VC could have been NVA, could have been a local citizen. What with all the death all around them, they really didn’t want to check it out.
A couple of week’s later, Sgt. Anderson bought it, on a mission in Cambodia. It happened along the same trail we found the money on, not his fault, not mine either, just one of those things, just as we were springing the ambush, the Sarge tripped a booby trap, and it blew most of his head clean off. Now we mourned his death for a short while, cause the Sarge, he was an all right guy, but you know that was another seventy-five thousand dollars to be split between the three of us. We met in the village that night at the regular club, had our share of Tiger Piss, and took bets on how long the Sarge’s body would take to rot with all that preservative in it. Guess we will never know for sure how long it took but I can tell you, when I dug it up back in 73, it was still in real good shape, and the small bag of twenties that O’Shannassy stuffed up his ass before he was shipped home was in excellent shape.
Well, the pain in my chest is getting worse. I don’t think I have all that long left, I just had my daughter bring me an old bottle of beer that I smuggled back from Nam in 72. On the label it reads “Tiger 33”, and yes it is still in real good shape, damn that’s some foul tasting shit, just like back in Nam. Sure takes a guy back. I raise my glass to the four winds, to Freddie, to Ralph, to O’Shannassy to the Sarge I will join you soon guys, so here’s to you, one last glass of Tiger Piss.