Yesterday's Magazette

3 – Popular Porker

One Popular Porker


Captain Robert B. Robeson with “Little Dusty,” one of the many unit dogs that helped corral Arnold whenever she escaped from her enclosure.(Photo courtesy of Robert B. Robeson)

By Robert B. Robeson

In our U.S. Army helicopter medical evacuation unit (236th Medical Detachment) in Da Nang, South Vietnam in 1970, many of the officers and enlisted men had dogs as pets.

One day, Chief Warrant Officer (CW2) John Oglesby, one of our unit pilots, came home with a pig he’d procured from Vietnamese locals.

John named the pig Arnold, (even though “he” was a she), after the famous pig named Arnold Ziffel on the popular “Green Acres” TV comedy program of that day. He built a fenced area for Arnold behind the unit water tower and officers’ shower, where water could drain, making it a veritable 4-star pig sty.

During monsoon season, Arnold’s living room resembled a miniature lake of mud and sludge. Here she frolicked in her own little hog heaven with its out-of-this-world aroma.

Every day, John and some enlisted cohorts would bring back mounds of food on paper plates that they snuck out of our compound mess hall. For months, the U.S. Army unknowingly kept Arnold as nutritiously fit and fed as it did all of its soldiers.

About once or twice a month, Arnold managed to dig out or escape from her pen. The cry “Arnold’s AWOL” was usually accompanied by loud barking from our unit dog menagerie that loved to chase Arnold around the unit area until one of the officers or enlisted men could recapture her.

It was one of the highlights for our dogs at Red Beach, when there weren’t rats (that looked like they’d been raised on steroids) to fight.

One night, someone erected a large sign above Arnold’s pen that read: “Officers’ Swimming Pool.”

I believe we officers laughed harder about this than the guilty (and still anonymous) enlisted men who’d put it up. That sign remained intact until Arnold departed our detachment, nearly a year later, in a porker swap with Vietnamese civilians.

A unit hog roast was made necessary by Arnold’s size and voracious appetite. But unit members had become too attached to this swineheart to do her in themselves, so they traded her to Vietnamese locals for a pig without emotional bonds.

To this day, nearly four decades later, the subject of Arnold and that sign still appear in letters written by unit members to each other.

*Robert B. Robeson flew 987 medical evacuation missions in South Vietnam (1969-1970), evacuating 2,533 patients from both sides of the action. He had seven helicopters shot up by enemy fire and was twice shot down in one year. His articles and short stories have been published more than 700 times in 250 newspapers and magazines in 130 countries. This includes the Reader’s Digest, Vietnam Combat, Soldier of Fortune, Official Karate, Sepia, Executive Female, Frontier Airline Magazine, and Newsday, among others. He still enjoys a ham steak, but isn’t hoggish about it.

Vol. 37 No. 1 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Spring- 2010


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