Three Stitches in the Forehead – A Story

American and Australian soldiers generally got on well with each other overall. Sure we spoke differently, had different uniforms and weapons but tended to he as mad and wild as each other through the common bond of youth and recklessness.

I remember once inviting a bunch of US helicopter pilots from the Vung Tau air base over to our boozer for drinks and a barbecue. I don’t remember how we got to know these guys, but it was probably through trading supplies such as Aussie hats and boots.
There was no tomorrow for these guys and part of their assignment specification must have been incipient insanity, because some of the missions they had to fly to further the war effort defied comprehension.

Jimmy Jones from Montana, used to fly a Kiowa (I think he called them “loach”) helicopter over the canopy in order to draw fire from Charlie. Once he had been successful, ie, bullet holes in the Perspex, the Apache gun ships would brass up the area. I wonder what master tactician thought that one up!

Image11.jpgAnyway-, these guys had obviously had a few aperitifs and canapes before they joined our barbecue and arrived bearing armloads of Schlitz and Bud. As the beer started to take effect and the gentle banter got louder and louder, the pilots came to the general opinion that anything an Aussie could do, they could do better. So Frank Ellis (Aussie) downed a Bud in one swallow and smashed the can on his forehead and said, “Beat that!” throwing the flattened can on the floor.

Victoria Bitter BeerThe pilots looked at him as if he had just asked them to recite the alphabet. One of them picked up a can of Victoria Bitter (VB); a fine Aussie refreshment often called “Green Death” the morning after. He downed it in record time and then proceeded to emulate the very adult actions of Frank in flattening the can on his head.There was a hollow thud and a pained expression of bewilderment passed over his face. Tiny rivulets of blood began to form under his scalp, transforming into torrents that looked like a crimson Mekong Delta over his forehead, with major tributaries flooding over his cheeks and down his nose.

Young blokes who have been quaffing the singing syrup can be particularly unsympathetic at times like this, and most of us, Yanks included, were rolling around, holding our sides, pissing ourselves laughing. We did, however, eventually settle down, remove the slops towel from the bar and apply first aid to our injured comrade. Unfortunately he had an inch-long cut across his forehead, just under the hair line, and a Band-Aid was not going to stem the flow. Our unit was across the road from the hospital and a couple of guys were dispatched to accompany him to the triage, holding the bar towel on his wound. He had three stitches inserted by a friendly Aussie doctor and returned to the party, feeling no pain.

Why did all this happen? Well Australian technology tended to lag significantly behind that of the USA before globalization and whereas Americans had the technology to make soft aluminum cans with ring pulls, ours were still made of good old Aussie heavy gauge steel! Ouch!

PS If anyone knows where Jimmy Jones is, please contact me. He lived, as he described it, “a six-pack from Butte”.


Paula KnudsenApril 24th, 2007 at 10:32 am

I loved it that a friend sent this to me (thanks Marijka). I worked for Frank in his last posting before his illness (Director, State Development Centre, Brisbane). A big man with an even bigger personality – the best manager I have very worked with. I live in Saigon and have been to Vung Tau and the Long Tan 40 year memorial – it’s nice to hear stories on the lighter side.

jim mc danielSeptember 30th, 2007 at 3:59 am

Hi Buddy there,s at least 2 jimmy jones in butte.
1) James Jones
3717 Augusta Ave.
Montana 59701-4305
tele 406 494-7016

2) James Jones Jr.
220 Clay Ave.
Montana 59701-3110

tel 406 494-4859

BTW I,m retired US Merchant Marine . Kangaroo Bar in Singapore was one of my favorite places in the early seventies.Jack and Judy always treated us great. I remember when it moved from the Clifford Pier area to the new location . My ship(tanker) spent alot of time in Vung Tau in 1974.

Rick DodsonOctober 28th, 2007 at 2:38 am


I’m sure you’ve mellowed since Vung Tau. You didn’t seem that deranged when serving as the liaison at the LOGC at Ft. Lee, VA. I never had an opportunity to serve with your mates outside the US but the ones I’ve met while representing the US on the ABCA QWGLOG were top drawer (and knew how to party). How you and Ruth are well. Still working on a space A hop to OZ.

Rick Dodson

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