Our Showers and Washing Machine

The Marines of HMM-364 not only fought a war, they also fought for even the smallest comforts of an everyday existence.  One of the pleasures of life was the first "MK-1 Shower" produced by the ingenuity of Cpl. Thomas E. Curtis and Sgt. Ron Knight.  This shower was  a barrel supported above the ground by an old almost inoperable forklift.  The forklift was another "unauthorized" piece of equipment that the Marines of HMM-364 had "acquired."  It required a crew of two to operate it, one person to operate the clutch, brakes and throttle but it took two to turn the steering wheel.  The lift mechanism was fouled up and it required one of the operators to loop a chain over the frame to hold the forks in the up and tilted position.  Never-the-less the "Purple Foxes" were always capable of moving their heavy loads while the others had to wait for the heavy forklifts of MABS-36 to get their gear moved from the logistical receiving point to the squadron area.

A ladder (of sorts) was constructed which allowed water to be carried up to the barrel.  Each user was then required to bring  five gallons of water, which he carried up the ladder and poured into the barrel, to guarantee his eligibility for a "douche".  Dave Magee states, "I recall walking through the monsoon mud with my 5 gallon fee to get a shower and then walking back through the mud to again wash my feet before getting dressed.  This, and other memories, remind me of how much we loved and helped each other . . . even closer than brothers."

"MK-1, Personal Hygiene Aquatic Dispensing Unit"
Photos by, Sgt. Tom A. Peevers

A short time later the "MK-2 Shower" was engineered by the Marines and is shown below constructed from a fixed wing aircraft fuel drop tank and bomb racks.

Photo by,  Sgt. Jimmie L. Harris
Barney Espinoza recalls, "My first experience with running water was my GP tent in Ky Ha, the water ran right through the center of my tent then around my "rubber lady" air mattress which had lost its zest for life as soon as we off-loaded from the USS Princeton.  At this time I was assigned to MAG-36 and I was envious of the "Purple Foxes" because they had "hardback tents" in an upscale neighborhood known as the "The Point."  During May of '66 I was transferred to the "Purple Foxes" and was assigned a space and cot in the hootch which had previously been occupied by one of our fallen brothers.  The occupants of the hootch had set up a 55 gal. drum on stilts outside the door.  The drum was on its side with a half inch pipe protruding about 4 or 5 inches with an on-off valve attached.  Hey, you couldn't ask for more comfort!  The one small problem was that the inside of the drum was so rusty the water dispensed was RED in color!   However, when did a Marine ever get upset over the color of the water he showered in?  We took care of the problem by tying a rag around the spout.  We did have to change the rag frequently because it would get clogged with rust, but we were grateful for the shower."

"Upon returning to Ky Ha in July '66, after three months aboard the USS Princeton, HMM-364 did not fare so well in billeting.  We were assigned general purpose tents in the area close to the "new" mess hall.  The good points to the area were, we were close to the flight line, the mess hall and we had a delightful ocean view.  We also had wooden pallets for flooring in the tents.  The second community shower in the picture is as I recall it.  There was a water buffalo close by and the fee for the shower was at least five gallons of water to be hauled up onto the platform and poured into the drop tank.  It was not a pleasant sight - a bunch of naked guys scrambling atop the platform paying their dues, but it was a great shower."

Another "unauthorized" piece of equipment was an old washing machine.  It would not work as originally intended from electrical power because either there was not sufficient power available or the electric motor was inoperative.  Marine ingenuity again came into play and the men from Ground Support Equipment, with the help of the Metal Shop, rigged up a 115/145 (fuel used in UH-34) gasoline auxiliary power unit to operate it.

Sgt. Ronald A. Knight
Photo by, Sgt.  Ronald A. Knight
SSgt. James "Jim" H. Bryan
Outside SNCO Quarters at Ky Ha
Photo by, Sgt.  Ronald A. Lay

Information provided by:
    Dave Magee, MSgt. USMC (Ret)
    Ronald A. Knight, GySgt. USMC (Ret)
    Ronald A. Lay, SSgt. USMC (Ret)
    James G. Hall, former Sgt. USMC
    Jimmie Harris, former Sgt. USMC
    Barney Espinoza, former Sgt. USMC
    Tom A. Peevers, former Sgt. USMC
    '65 - '66 Cruise Book

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