Taking the piss: Vietnam and who learns what….

“I remember the moment when I knew we were going to lose the war. Frustrated by our inability to find the elusive Viet Cong, we had developed a top-secret program to locate enemy troop concentrations. It was called a “people sniffer,” a device sensitive to the presence of ammonia in urine; could be hung from a helicopter flying low over the jungle. When a high reading was identified, artillery was directed at the area. One evening in 1968 I attended an end-of-the-day regimental briefing where an infantry captain was describing a sweep through the jungle. He and his men had encountered something they could not explain: buckets of urine hanging from the trees. Patton and his intelligence officer exchanged looks of chagrin as they silently acknowledged that we were firing artillery, at $250 a round, at buckets of urine all over Vietnam. It seems funnier now than it did then.”

p. 37-38. Livingston, G. (2005) Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now. Sydney: Hachette Australia.

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