Or-Don’t do what the hypnotist says, for God’s sake


I spent my last several months in Vietnam in 1968 assigned to Task Force X-Ray, a brigade sized headquarters spun off from First Marine Division which was headquartered in Da Nang. We were located in Phu Bai and were responsible for combat operations north of the Hai Van Pass. Having lived the depredations of life in the bush as a rifle company commander before coming to X-Ray, life in Phu Bai was almost plush. We could relax at the officer’s club in the evenings when we were off duty and enjoy a drink or two with ice, which beat the two warm cans of beer we sometimes got in the field. Every meal was hot, and eaten in the local mess hall. Sometimes they had movies in the club, and once there were some girls from a USO show, although they didn’t perform. It was enough that they were just there sharing a drink with us. Sometimes we’d just grab several six packs of beer and shoot the breeze in our quarters, which were Southeast Asia huts. These edifices were built of plywood and screen with corrugated steel roofs, and were elevated about 2-3 feet above the ground on some kind of stilt arrangement. Our hootch was home to six to eight officers depending on new arrivals and rotations home.

One of the denizens of my hootch was Lieutenant Earle “Spike” Dashiell, Dental Corps, USN. We became fast friends, and remain so to this day. He hailed from Severna Park, Maryland, just around the corner from my alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy. One of Spike’s many talents was that of hypnosis. By applying his powers to a willing participant, he could bend that worthy’s behavior to his will. It worked almost every time. I was once “hypnotized” by Spike myself. During my time at Phu Bai I only saw Spike fail one time. Thus the genesis of this tale.

Spike’s hypnosis routine went like this. It usually occurred after an evening of imbibing beers or other concoctions at the club. He would find a willing participant and explain that after he had been hypnotized, the volunteer would be unable to perform the act that Spike demanded. The willing participant usually scoffed at the idea and told Spike that he would prove him wrong. The subject would then be directed to lie on the deck on his back. A towel was then placed over his face. Spike would then walk slowly around the subject chanting hypnotic phrases such as, “Listen carefully to my words. You are slowly coming under my spell. You are becoming very relaxed, very sleepy.” He would prattle on like this for maybe four or five minutes. Then he would say, “In a few seconds I will pull the towel off your face and give you a command. You will not be able to perform the act that I will command.”

At about this time a second member of the hypnosis team would appear. He would have taken his trousers and skivvy shorts off, or maybe he would be naked. He would quietly move to a spot just north of the head of the subject and place his feet on the deck just above his shoulders. He would then squat down so that his ass and other male accouterments were about a foot above the towel. After the other team member was in position Spike would say, “I am about to remove the towel…SIT UP!”

Of course when the towel was jerked away and the subject saw what was hovering just above his face, he froze, unable to perform the act that Spike had commanded without some very unpleasant consequences. Thus he was hypnotized. This performance could only be pulled on an unsuspecting soul once, of course, and all observers howled with laughter every time it happened.

There was, however, one exception to the rule as there usually is. Also assigned to the Task Force-X-Ray staff was a Lieutenant Colonel Young. I no longer recall what his job was. He was a bear of a man who had played fullback for the University of Illinois during his college days. He was loud and obnoxious and drank too much. He roamed around the club or the hootch area with four beers in his hands, holding two cans in each hand…gripping the top of one can and the bottom of another.

One evening when we were sitting around our hootch drinking beer and shooting the breeze, LtCol Young burst through the screen door with his four beers. As I recall he was loudly berating us young captains for various failings, when Spike decided that he would try to hypnotize Young. It took some cajoling by Spike and our hootchmate Lieutenant Chuck Rounds, DC, USN, but they finally got the colonel to agree to be hypnotized. Young loudly proclaimed that no damn Navy puke like Spike could cause him to do any damn thing.

The victim was finally laid on the deck and the towel was in place. Spike went into his routine, and First Lieutenant P.J. Mooney, USMC came upon the scene as the second member of the team. A big, strapping kid, he stripped naked and squatted over LtCol Young’s towel covered face. Spike commanded, “SIT UP!” and yanked the towel away. Young rapidly sat up and rammed his nose right up P.J.’s ass, sending Mooney flying across the room. When Young figured out what had happened he flew into a rage and went after Mooney. P.J. ran out the screen door, taking the hinges with him, naked as a jaybird with Young on his tail. We heard cursing and yelling as they disappeared into the night. We saw neither of them again that night. Upon their departure Spike, rubbing his hands together exclaimed “Tonight Colonel Young, tomorrow the Chaplain”.

We didn’t see LtCol Young at all the next day. Mooney escaped but had to run all around Phu Bai naked to do it. When Spike left our hootch to take a shower later that next night he was jumped and roughed up by someone. Colonel Young? Probably, but Spike wasn’t sure. If memory serves me well some forty five years after the fact, I don’t think LtCol Young spent much time with the gang of captains after the hypnosis. I rotated home shortly after this incident.

Spike still lives in Severna Park, and I in Springfield, Virginia which is only an hour away, so we stay in touch and get together when we can. We still laugh about his hypnotizing routine. It is made even more memorable because of the Young caper. And now you know how we spent our off duty hours in Vietnam when we came in from the bush.

   Semper Fi,

  Dirck Praeger sends