View Full Version : You Idiot!

October 26th, 2015, 07:29 AM
From "Letters to the World", 1969

My first experience with hand grenades came when I was a kid. Somebody figured out that a small crook necked gourd (a green and yellow striped one) would make an excellent grenade. You bored a hole in the side of the gourd and then hooked the neck under your belt. When you saw the neighbor's cat, dog, or maybe even the neighbor's kid, you unhooked a gourd, pushed a flash cracker into the hole, and lobbed the sizzling thing high into the air over your intended victim. The resulting explosion would cover about a quarter acre with wet seeds and gourd slime.

In the fall of 1969, I was in basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The drill sergeants of the 101st Airborne were trying with indifferent success to turn me into a soldier. When the time came to teach us how to use a hand grenade, they trucked us out to a wooded area and demonstrated the technique - by the numbers:

1. Stand with your left shoulder toward the bad guys.
2. Identify your target.
3. Grasp the grenade in your right hand with your thumb holding down the "spoon".
4. Put your left index finger through the ring.
5. Pull out the pin.
6. Extend your left arm toward the target.
7. Throw the grenade at the target.
8. Look to see that the grenade is on target.
9. Take cover while the grenade, in Army parlance, "undergoes energetic disassembly".

First, we were given "dummy" grenades with which to practice this procedure. These were totally inert versions of the cast iron "pineapples" that you see in WWII movies. We trained, lobbing these dummies "by the numbers" from standing and kneeling positions behind various forms of cover.

When we had learned the proper procedure, we graduated to training with "practice" grenades. These were real pineapple grenades except that, instead of being filled with high explosive, they contained a small black powder charge.

After we were used to handling something that would actually go boom five seconds after leaving our hands, we were ready to try it with the real article. For this, we were escorted, one at a time, to the "pit" by one of our drill sergeants. The pit was a concrete box approximately ten feet square, with walls about three feet high. The floor of this box was built on a pedestal, like a big, square mushroom. It sloped downward from the center on all sides. This floor didn't extend all the way to the walls. There was a five-inch gap all the way around. The construction was such that if a live grenade got loose on the floor, it would roll down the incline, fall through the gap, and explode harmlessly below.

When my turn came, I entered the pit with my trainer. We faced each other and he handed me a grenade. This was a modern one. It was smooth and spherical and about the size of a baseball. It still had the familiar fuse mechanism on top and the spoon that extended down the side. I began the throwing procedure by the numbers. At No. 7, I flung that puppy into the woods. I whipped it out there at a pretty good clip. Got a little loft on it too, as I recall. I was just getting started on step No. 8, when the drill sergeant yelled, "Get down!!!" He pushed me down behind the wall and fell to the floor beside me, yelling, "What the HELL do you . . .


. . . think you're doing ???"

I sat up and said, "Well, Drill Sergeant, we trained all morning to throw the grenade and then watch where it goes . . ."

He yelled, "You idiot!! Not with a REAL one!!!"

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