At night the Marines manning the defensive perimeter of 881S would roll into their trenches to prevent night time attacks of the NVA. At the same time another war commences inside the perimeter.
One night HM2 James R. Mathis was awakened by a rat on his chest. It was a bold rat, just stood there and stared at Mathis until it was shooed away with a sweep of the hand. A few nights later another rat wiggled into Mathis' hair. "Enough!" said Mathis. He fashioned a blowgun and began waiting in the darkness of his bunker for the scurrying sound he knew to be the enemy. At the proper moment he would turn on his flashlight, aim the blowgun and whooosh, another rat bites the dust. Darts were needles from used morphine syrettes - Corpsmen had plenty of them from treating the wounded. He took out many of the rodents an had numerous "probables" as the enemy was seen fleeing with a dart in its side. Mathis demonstrates his technique for Dave Powell, a UPI Freelance Photographer.
Other Marines were summoned to battle by baiting rat traps with peanut butter they received twice daily in their C-rations. They mixed the peanut butter with ground up heat tabs - the denatured alcohol would kill the rats - slowly. Mathis was overheard saying, "That's an awful waste of good peanut butter.
The following photograph indicates this ingenious Marine fashioned another way of dealing with the rat population.
One day when Captain Dabney and Gunnery Sergeant DeArmond were touring the trench line they came upon a Marine in one of the "rabbit holes" dug into the back of the trench for shelter from incoming. The Marine was sleeping with his feet sticking out into the trench line, and they noticed brown crud between his toes. Fearing infection, they woke him up and the Gunny asked him what was wrong with his feet. He replied, "Nothing's wrong with 'em, Gunny. That's peanut butter." "Why in hell are you putting peanut butter between you toes, lad?", asked the Gunny. "Well", said the Marine, "I figure rats like peanut butter and maybe one will come along and bite me. If he does, Doc will send me down for a rabies shot series. Seems like a cheap way to get off this damn hill for two weeks!"
Dave Powell, UPI Freelance Photographer
William H. "Bill" Dabney, Colonel USMC(Ret)