Perkie and the Emolition Demonstration Team

Early in 1963 I was assigned to the Demolitions
Demonstration Team.  The 1st Group gave demonstrations for
VIPs at the quarry adjoining our DZ.  The demolitions were
just a part of the demonstration because mountain climbing
and rappelling were also included.  Other skills were
demonstrated also, but I can’t remember which ones.

Master Sergeant Richard Perkins was in charge of the
rappelling demonstration.  Perkie was one of the best damn
soldiers that I have ever known-maybe the very best.  Perkie
was an expert in just about any military-oriented exotic
skill that you can name such as, SCUBA, mountaineer-ing,
snow skiing, survival, and self-defense.  That’s why we
referred to Perkie as “Mister Special Forces” which we
shortened to just plain, “Mister SF.”

When rappelling for VIPs, Perkie would coil up the slack rope
on top of the demonstration tower and then just step off the
tower and fall until the slack ran out and the rope
stretched to its maximum.  Perkie then released the rope and
dropped about two or three feet to the ground.

Perkie could name a knot, then fold a rope a certain way and
throw it against a wall.  When the rope hit the floor, it
would be tied in the knot that he had named.

Once on a Field Training Exercise [FTX] Perkie encountered a
hostile german shepard that attacked him.  Perkie broke the
dog’s neck with his bare hands.

Perkie also had a very rare sense of humor.  One night
Perkie and a friend played a prank on the movie crowd at
Sukiran.  There was a storm drain near the movie and the
large pipe ended just a short distance away.  Perkie’s
friend positioned himself at the mouth of the drain pipe
while Perkie positioned himself near the drain grate.  The
friend yelled into the pipe, “Help!  Somebody help me!  Get
me out of here!”  Perkie rushed over to the pipe, “Hold on
down there.  Stay calm.  We’ll get you out.”  The friend
yelled, “Help, somebody please help me!” a couple of more
times.  Perkie continued to try to calm the “trapped man”
and assure him that they would get him out of that drain.  A
Marine Colonel pushed his way to the front of the crowd that
had gathered at the drain and told Perkie to stand back, he
was a colonel and he would take charge of this situation.

This was the perfect opportunity that Perkie had been
expecting.  The colonel took charge of the situation and
started talking to the trapped man and giving orders to the
bystanders.  Perkie and his “trapped” buddy disappeared when
the firemen and military police began to arrive.  Afterward,
Perkie and his cohort laughed until they hurt every time
Perkie told that story and  Perkie was a great story teller.

[Many different versions of the following story involving
Perkie have been told.  But this version is supposed to be
the way it actually happened and was related to the late
Henry “Hank” Hansard by Dick Perkins himself.]

The Top Three NCO Club on Oki had very rigid dress codes and
many SFers considered most of the rules to be silly.  To
emphasize just how silly the codes were and hopefully get
them changed, some of the SCUBA team members decided to pull
a prank on the club manager.

Perkie was elected to carry out their plan.  They dressed
Perkie up in a wet suit complete with flippers, diving mask
and snorkle.  Perkie also carried a clip-on bow tie with
him.  They then transported Perkie to the club where they
sprayed him down with a water hose just before he entered
the club.

They had deliberately chosen bingo night when the club was
usually packed with dependent wives.  They knew that the
dress codes required a tie on bingo night.  That’s all the
dress code said about bingo night: “a tie is required.”
Perkie marched right in and straight to the table where the
bingo cards were stored and begin perusing the cards.  The
ladies were so busy searching for just the right bingo card,
not a single one seemed to notice Perkie’s strange attire.
But someone finally noticed it, because a short time later
the manager appeared on the scene and his jaw dropped down
to his chest when he spotted Perkie.  He told Perkie that he
was in violation of the dress code and he would have to
leave immediately.  Perkie then slipped on his bow tie and
said, “Now I’m Okay.”  As Perkie made his way towards the
ballroom a drunk navy Chief Petty Officer stumbled out of
the stag bar and spotted him, “Where the hell did you come
from?,” said he.  Perkie replied, “I just swam in from
Yokohama.”  The chief staggered back into the bar to get
some more of his buddies to come see this dumb-ass frogman
who had just swam all the way from Yokohama.

When Perkie was stationed at Fort Bragg, it was not unusual
to see him going around Smoke Bomb Hill harvesting wild
plants to fix for his lunch.  He plucked the plants from
beneath barracks, along the sidewalks, around headquarter’s
buildings, and the parade field and after preparing them, he
would eat them with great relish.

[Perkie was one of SF’s favorite characters.  Perkie is also
a great guy and one helluva soldier.  Perkie retired and now
lives in Fayetteville where he teaches karate.  Perkie
recently was tested in Japan and awarded the title of Shihan
in his style of karate.]

I remained on the Demolition Demonstration Team several
months.  In fact, I was on that team longer than anyone
else.  During each demonstration, the Officer In Charge
[OIC] would give a short welcome and introduction speech and
then turned it over to the enlisted demo-men.  Each man was
stationed behind a table and each table contained two
different types of charges and he had to give a canned
spiel on each charge.  The demonstrator would then detonate
his charges out on the range by using a small hand-held
blasting machine and electrical wiring.

Most demo men tried to avoid duty on the demonstration team.
The spiels were what caused most demo-men to avoid duty on
the demonstration team.  That’s also why I, a commo-man, had
lasted so long on the team because I had learned how to
overcome stage fright a long time ago.  Besides, I
considered the spiels to be a cheap price to pay for all of
the experience I gained from working with the demolitions.
During my assignment on that detail, I had voluntarily
switched from table to table until I had learned how to make
all of the charges and I had also memorized and presented
all of the canned spiels several times.

As I recall, we demonstrated a claymore mine, two different
shape charges, foo gas, a diamond charge, a saddle charge,
and an ear muff charge.  There were some other charges that
I can’t remember.  We used C-4 [Composition 4] explosives
because C-4 is about the safest explosive that you can work
with and also one of the most effective.  C-4 is commonly
referred to as plastic explosives.

The claymore mine is an anti-personnel mine that fires
shrapnel directly into the enemy.  The diamond, saddle, and
ear muff charges are used to cut something such as railroad
tracks, piers or trees.  Foo gas was an anti-personnel
charge.  Shaped charges were used to “penetrate” a target
such as a motor block, it would burn a hole right through it
in an instant.

We had to make new charges for each demonstration and we got
to experiment quite a bit between demonstrations so I tested
different size charges.  We also experimented with different
items that could be used for shrapnel with the claymore and
I tried glass, nails of all sizes, rocks, bits of barbed
wire and several other items.  Very large nails worked best.
I made shaped charges out of plates, cups, and tin cans of
all sizes.  For the foo gas I just dropped a ball of C-4
armed with det cord in a can of gas.  We added a little
something to the gas to thicken it so it would stick to the
target, like soap powders or oil.  Once, I made a very large
claymore; I used about two and a half pounds of C-4 and
railroad spikes for shrapnel.  When I detonated that
monster, rocks landed clear back in the bleacher area and
some even landed beyond the bleachers.  Needless to say, a
lot of folks were ducking for cover.  The OIC and I were
just as shocked as the VIPs.  He had no idea that I had been
“experimenting.”  The OIC advised, “Val, I suggest that you
put a tad less C-4 in your claymores from now on.”

On one particular demonstration, I was the only “old-timer”
on the team.  This demonstration was the first for everyone
else, including the OIC of the team.  After the
demonstration, the OIC critiqued us, “I know that you are
all demo-men and know your business, but you should practice
your spiels more so you will sound and look like you know
your business, like Val here.”

That caused such an uproar of laughter from the guys, he
asked, “Val, you are a demo-man aren’t you?”  I told him,
“No sir.  I’ve just been on this detail so long I’ve done
all of the spiels several times and have them all
memorized.”  Just goes to show you that everything isn't
always as it seems.

Don "Val"  Valentine