When I first arrived at Udorn Thani Royal Thai Air base in May 1970, my chaperone Ron (NLN) introduced me into how to make extra money. Nobody kept track of M-26s. Why would you? Hand grenades were a dime a dozen and we sure weren’t paying for them.
Ron was an entrepreneur of the first order and naturally found a way to make money off anything. He was the squadron scrounger-a modern day Radar O’Reilly. He was the squadron orderly and knew where all the bodies were buried. He collected the styrofoam containers for MK-82s and sold them to the local fishermen for disposable boats. For you who are not bomb aficionados, an Mk-82 was an iron bomb of several different sizes, the most common a 500 or 750 lb. version. They were shipped in huge styrofoam wraparounds with the two pieces conforming to the shape of the bomb. Naturally they were hollowed out in a perfect curve and would support a small-statured oriental. They were supposed to be returned to the port at Sattahip for reuse. “Supposed to” is the inoperable verb here.
Enter the M-26. They were made by E.I. Dupont Nemours and Company of Wilmington, Delaware fame. They’ve been making hand grenades for several wars and are getting quite proficient in it. Ron was quite a fisherman and had used dynamite down in Alabama as any lazy fisherman has. He called the M-26 a Dupont spinner, named after his favorite Mepps spinner. We caught a Baht bus up to Nong Khai which was the border crossing into Laos. This is the Mighty Mea Kong River like our Mississippi. We were graciously greeted with many bows and the hand grenades were fondled and pointed to. The local Buddist priest was called out to drive the Phee (ghosts) away from the boats and the hand grenades. This cost 10 cents per boat and the same for hand grenades.
Ron argued the price with them because he’s a natural Milo Minderbinder. We arrived at 2,000 Baht ($20.00 U.S.) per person and a minimum of 6 hand grenades per person. They provided a “boat” and tied ours to theirs. Out we went.
When a fish experiences the detonation underwater, their flotation bladder decompresses and they tend to do the chicken. They generally float to the surface and the fishermen scoop them up in nets before they recover. Twelve hand grenades nets an inordinately large amount of fish. We accomplished this in 3 hours and were rewarded with a liter of ice cold Singha beer each and several skewers of roasted water buffalo. MMMM.Water buffalo are harvested where they keel over and die from old age, so you can imagine how tough that was. Soom tam from raw papayas with Kow neo sticky rice was included. Desert was cow neo sakaiya (I don’t even want to know what it was). A good time was had by all and we did this on succeeding Sundays until someone blew the whistle.
Turning large quantities of Baht or MPC into greenbacks was the trick. I’ll save that for another story.