The Udorn trots and other quick steps….

Phantom crews during the Vietnam War overseas always had the possibility of contracting local diseases.

Its not that we weren’t prepared, before departing CONUS we had shots for almost every possible disease:  hepatitis, typhoid, small pox,  diptheria, plague, yellow fever, all come to mind.  There may be more — I know I felt like a pin cushion when they were done.   I had shots in both arms and they did a TB test just for fun. And that was before leaving. 

At Udorn, every Monday night as we paid our bill at the O Club for dinner, we picked up a quinine pill to take for malaria.  There were a lot of mosquitoes and it was wise to be prepared.  At least I think it was quinine, some folks thought it was another drug, which could often cause severe diarrhea.    There may have been some truth to that as diarrhea was so common we called it the “Udon Thani Trots,” (although the base was Udorn it was in the city of Udon Thani).

It really didn’t matter where you ate, you were likely to get the “trots.”  I am not sure if they were caused by a bacteria infection such as E. Coli, or something worse.  Popularly we referred to it as amoebic dysentery.   What ever it was it was terrible.  The textbook definition:  Dysentery is an infectious disease associated with with severe diarrhea.  Severe is the operative word.

My roommate once commented to the Thai women who were cooking their lunch on a small hibachi outside on the deck that it looked delicious.  One of them replied, “We like we eat, You eat you die.”  She wasn’t kidding.     You didn’t need to eat their food.   Even if you only ate at the O Club you got it.  If you ate the chow hall you got it. If you ate at the Thai restaurants on base, you got it.  If you ate downtown, you got it.   Sometimes it would be accompanied by terrible cramping.

It was worse if  “the Udon Trots” struck while on a combat mission.   There was no way to deal with it.  Although I heard stories of an AC who used his helmet.

As an aside we had “piddle packs” for relief in the air, which I seldom used as I had an iron bladder in those days and could go 5 hours before needing to  “make water,” as my grandfather called it, but I digress.

I remember landing and literally sprinting from the crew bus to the closest latrine.  I made it but there were times when I wondered if I would.  I remembering running and yelling at everyone to get out of my way or else.   There were pills for cramps,  pills for diarrhea, and pills for both.  Usually taken after you were doubled over in pain or leaning over the porcelain throne.  For the most part they were effective in dealing with your problems.

What you could not be prepared for were the diseases that were more stealthy: Clap and other Venereal Diseases.   For me the worst example of that occurred  in my squadron – the 13th TFS.   We had a WSO, who consistently frequented the massage parlors in the city.  He was known not to be too particular in his choice of  “servicers.”  These places were known in the vernacular as “Steam and Cream” parlors – steam for the baths and cream for the servicing.

I don’t know if the women in these places were inspected, but like everything overseas: you paid your money and, as they say, you took your chances.

Sex for sale was available all throughout SEA not just Thailand.  I remember hearing “hey Sarg want to boom boom my sister,” as we walked downtown.  Now I was too straight arrow to do this, but many did.   As an aside my friend from college who served at Walter Reed once told me that officers did not contract VD, they contracted Non-specific urethritis  and that is what was recorded in their medical records.  I guess the logic is that you wouldn’t want some future general’s career scuttled by a bad night at the local “Steam and Cream” parlor.

And a bad night is what our WSO had.

He was not the most popular man in the squadron (he always thought he knew more than anyone else) so when it leaked that he had contracted 4 kinds of VD, someone wrote on the squadron scheduling board, behind the duty desk: “Lets have a big CLAP for C……”   I don’t remember that happened to him  Perhaps he was shipped off to Clark Air Base, as many were, until his Non-specific urethritis was cured and then sent back to CONUS.

So what is the moral of this story?

As Dorothy put it so succinctly:  at Udorn we were not in Kansas anymore….

About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in 13 TFS, Air Force, Air Force lingo, American History, F-4 Phantom II, F4 Phantom II, F4 PhantomII, Fighter Aircraft, Fighter pilot lingo, Fighter pilot slang, U Dorn RTAFB, Udorn RTAFB, Veterans, Vietnam War and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Udorn trots and other quick steps….

  1. Tom Marsh says:

    I remember there stories of US personnel being sent to Clark before they were allowed to return home after a tour. Not that any of us actually knew one of them, it was always “a friend of mine knew a guy who said that a friend of his”…well you know the rest. I have to admit that the tour in ROK of that time was a bit of an eye opener for a 20 something who had gone to Catholic schools!

    • jenorv says:

      Well I think you are right, I don’t know what happened to him for sure, but the story always was out there of uncurable VD and men sent to Clark. And I was 28 and a kid from a farm area, it was an eye-opener for me too. Cheers

  2. Michael S. Tomasic says:

    I can’t speak for the other branches of service, but at U-Tapao and Kadena, the base radio station routinely interrupted the DJ’s latest Motown disc with a standard info commercial, of sorts. Only the daily numbers were changed.

    I don’t recall whether it was more like the lottery numbers or a parish bingo party, nevertheless the numbers were distinctly pronounced, and repeated, so there could not be a mistake:

    “13, THIRTEEN, 13 THIRTEEEEEN; 81, EIGHTY-ONE, 81, EIGHTTTYYY-ONNNE,” etc. with each call of the fateful. females’ tag numbers followed by appropriate moans and groans in the background along with the boisterous laughter of one SOB’s obnoxious chortling. As this proceeded to the end of this highly important message, the final number always elicited an enormous shout of laughter from the room when the former loud-mouthed antagonist shrieked at the call of his “girl’s ” number, sweet revenge, followed by the usual message to see the flight surgeon immediately if you were a daily winner.

  3. John Wiles says:

    In ’68, we called it the “Ho Chi Minh Revenge” and flew with little white pills that became effective within seconds! And among the shots, you forgot the gamma globulin … worst I ever had!

    • David Adams says:

      John, you will remember the PCOD which counts back from one’s DEROS. P— Cut Off Date. Very, very important to observe before going home.

      • jenorv says:

        I had a calendar and Xed off one day at a time, whenever I wrote home to my wife, I told her 300 days to go, 222 days etc.

  4. Jack Green says:

    At one base the daily clap call numbers were called out to the Johnny Cash song “Burning Ring of Fire.”

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