Just One Gee Pee
.
The Eighty-second guys were always issued Griswold
Containers and Gee-pee bags for their jumps and dropped onto
those sandy drop zones.  The Eleventh always jumped their
individual weapons “bare-back.”  By “bare-back,” I mean we
taped a sock over the muzzle to try and keep it clear for
firing.  We also attached a “tie-down” string to each of the
sling swivels.  The one on the stock we attached to the left
side of our parachute harness and the one on the front
handguard we attached to our leg.  We also stretched the
belly band on our parachute harness around the weapon before
we buckled the belly band.  And they would overjoyed if
somebody would have removed all of the tree stumps from
their tactical drop zones.  On this particular jump, my
weapons squad was issued only one Gee-pee [General Purpose]
bag for two A6 light machine guns, at least one 3.5 rocket
launcher and the ammo.  A fully manned weapons squad,
required four Gee-Pee bags on a jump with full TO&E gear and
ammo.

I volunteered to jump the bag, if we could get our gear into
it.  And with another qualifier, "The other members of my
squad have to be positioned in the plane so they will land
near me to help carry the gear off the DZ.”  I knew there
was no way that I could carry all of that gear off the drop
zone.

We set about trying to stuff the Gee-pee bag with all of our
gear.  We were lucky.  We had been issued only two boxes of
blank ammo for each machine gun and we had not brought the
tripods along so this gave us a little extra room.  We had
decided to go with just the bipods and shoulder stocks
instead of the heavy, cumbersome tripods.  We placed two
machine guns with ammo and at least one 3.5 inch rocket
launcher into that bag, but we could not close the flaps and
snap it shut.  One of the ammo handlers went looking for
something to use to cover the front of the bag to help keep
the gear from falling out of the bag.  He returned shortly
with a mattress cover that he had “requisitioned” from a
nearby barracks.  We laid that cover across the equipment
and then fastened the three straps around the bag and
through the shoulder harness on my pack.  We used some of
our tent ropes as additional straps.  Using the built-in
straps and a couple of ropes for our pup tents, I secured my
full-field pack to the front of the bag.  Let me tell you
right now, that Gee-pee bag was a load.

After I donned my chute, I hooked the bag to my Dee-rings
and tried to pick it up to see how I was going to be able to
walk to the door and then jump out of the plane.  The bag
was extended to its full length and so heavy I could only
lift it about two inches above the floor.  With that bag
attached to my belly, walking and jumping out of the door
was out of the question.  It would be more like dragging it
and falling out the door.  Somebody got the jumpmaster to
put me as the second man in the stick to jump.  That
eliminated a lot of walking to reach the door.

It took three or four of us to get that big-ass bag to the
plane.  It was even more difficult to get it up the ladder
and into the fuselage.  From there I drug it along the floor
to my seat near the jump door.  If I hooked the bag to my
parachute harness, I could not sit back down because it was
so long and heavy so I waited until the six minute warning
to hook it to me.  When the stick leader jumped, I lifted
that damn bag the best that I could and literally drug it to
the door.  When I left the plane, I fell out the door
head-first.  I must have flipped over because I fell towards
the earth lying flat on my back face up, I watched my chute
above me try to open and I saw that rickety-ass One-nineteen
fast disappearing into the distance.  My chute was having a
problem catching air because the lines were badly twisted.
The chute would catch a little air and then close and catch
a little more air and then close again.  When a chute did
this, we said that it was “breathing.”  Because I did not
want to risk my reserve chute becoming entangled in my main
chute, what there was of it, I hesitated popping the reserve
chute.  Maybe it would take a little longer than usual, but
I just knew my main chute would open.  For some strange
reason, I wasn’t the least bit worried about my situation.

Suddenly everything disappeared into a sea of OD: I had
landed atop another trooper’s canopy and sunk so deep into
it I was buried.  The weight of me and that big-ass bag
partially collapsed his canopy.  We fell a little ways and
then his canopy opened again with me still buried in the top
of it near its apex with that damn big-ass bag laying on top
of me.  To be honest, I was very surprised that his chute
had reopened.  Anyway, I spread my arms and legs to spread
my weight out and to push his canopy away from me so I could
get a look at my chute.  It was still breathing, but at
least there was more canopy now than before.  We were slowly
getting there, just a few seconds more and it would be fully
open.

Meanwhile, down below, my host, the somewhat selfish user of
the other chute, was calling me every name in the book and a
few I had never heard of before while ordering me off of his
chute.  He was cursing worse than a sailor.  I yelled, “Hey
asshole, I would gladly get off your fucking chute, if I
could, but I’m weighted down by a hundred-pound damn Gee-pee
Bag and I can’t move.”  That didn’t slow that angry trooper’
s tirade nor ease his wrath one little bit.  Hell, I was
only on his chute a matter of seconds, but it must have
seemed like an hour to him.  Finally, my chute opened enough
to drag me off of his canopy.  Then it immediately closed
again and I shot past him like a blivet [ten pounds of shit
in a five-pound bag], with an “Oh shit” from me and a “Fuck
you” from him, I dropped past him while my chute tried to
“breathe” again.  As I zipped by him, I thought that guy
must be a damn New York Yankee with an attitude like that.
I looked up and watched my chute slowly untwist as it tried
to re-open while I fell several feet below him.  Just before
it finally popped open, I heard a final parting shot from my
unwilling host above, “Why don’t you pull your damn reserve,
you dumb mother-fucker?”  We were so low by this time I didn’t
 have time to trade any more choice curse words with my

not-so-generous host because I had to release that monster
of a bag.  Immediately after I dropped my Gee-pee bag on its
line, it plowed into the ground with me right behind it.

The bag stayed attached to me and the parachute worked — a
little late perhaps — but it worked - and nothing fell out
of that bag.  My chute was twisted more than usual due to me
falling out of the door head-first, but, everything
considered, it was a good jump.  Any damn parachute jump
that you walk away from is a good jump.

After I hit the ground, no one from my squad was anywhere
near me, as usual, so I just sat on that big-ass bag and
waited for them to find me.  If the squad leader wanted
those weapons and ammunition, they would find me and
eventually, they did.  Never again did I do anything that
foolish on a jump.

It seemed like we marched a hundred miles on that maneuver.
Many times, I fell asleep while marching with that damn
machine gun across my back.  Once I fell asleep and kept
going straight on a curve in the road and fell flat on my
face in the ditch.  At the time, I was carrying that stupid
light thirty across my shoulders and it nearly broke my
neck.  That particular march lasted longer than my water and
I was getting very thirsty.  It was summer and hot but it
had rained quite a bit.  Finally, when we crossed a field, I
saw moonlight reflecting from water on the ground, a puddle.
That’s the only time that I ever drank water out of a
puddle.  I was glad it was dark: I didn’t want to see what I
was drinking.

An infantryman learns to sleep and eat anywhere, at anytime
and under any conditions.  Give him a ten minute break on a
march and he can get nine minutes of sleep.  They become
experts at surviving in any situation.  The typical grunt
isn’t interested in being a hero, he’s only interested in
just doing what he has to do and surviving from one day to
the next or sometimes, just from one minute to the next.

Don "Val"  Valentine

return