How many of those suckers did I fill during my Vietnam vacation? Thousands! Sandbags are a soldiers friend and they protected me so I bear no grudges.

Filling bags started the first day we created a FSB and it did not stop until it was time to move on and fill bags at a new place. If the FSB was being abandoned we had to empty all the bags we had filled. If the bags were filled with moist laterite soil when filled we had to cut them off as the laterite fill was now a brick. Stacking the empty cloth bags was a comedy scene as they took up 10 or more times the space than when they arrived new. We reused those, if the bags were the new plastic variety we burned them as their no way to reuse them.

During the first part of my tour our sandbags were made of densely woven cloth but over time more and more plastic ones showed up and cloth ones became a fond memory. Tying the ends of the cloth bag was easy and the string tie stayed where it was wrapped; not so on the new plastic ones on which the ties slipped. The plastic bags were woven at a simple 90 degree warp and weft with loose broad threads and leaked when sand was the fill of the day. The cloth bags were made with a tight small thread that leaked only water. The cloth sandbags had a more tolerable smell when they got wet than the plastic ones and the fill dried faster.

Stacking was our worst problem with plastic bags; their surface was slick and they wanted to slide when stacked. Plastic bags did not hold their intended shape as well as cloth bags. Plastic made each added sandbag layer less stable so constructing a vertical wall got riskier the higher up it went. Seven layers of plastic bags would not stand without something to lean on, for example stacked 105mm ammo boxes filled with sand (dirt). Because we lived in bunkers dug into the earth tall walls were seldom needed.

Vic Cooper was my sandbag filling partner, he liked to get away from FDC and I was likely on punishment detail. My boss Ralph Thompson allowed me to sample most punishment details in depth. Living in a bunker especially during the wet season is depressing  so getting outside was a reward. Being in a bunker with seven or more people was oppressive; when Ralph was there it was worse.

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