"A similar event happened at an
airfield infirmary in India during WWII. Our latrines were dug
by local help, and the pits were amazingly deep. Flies were a
problem, but new insecticides were just appearing, and they
took care of the situation.
Unfortunately, someone decided that the best solvent for the
insecticides was gasoline. This mixture was regularly sprayed
into the pit. NO SMOKING signs were posted, but eventually
someone tossed a lit cigarette into the pit. It went off with
a hell of a bang, and lit up the sky.
Miraculously, no one was killed; the ten-hole latrine simply
unravelled faster than the seated gentry, many of whom spent
time on their bellies in the infirmary." -Ellicott
(North Carolina) In the late 1980's I was part of an Engineering
Squadron stationed at Pope Air Force Base. One of our wartime tasks was to
build a tent city in the field that was capable of supporting several
hundred troops. We often practiced creating such a city. One of the needed
facilities is, of course, a latrine. To serve hundreds of people, it must
be large, and we usually built an elaborate plywood structure. After the
field training, we would dig a big hole and bury the wood, since couldn't
be used again for sanitation reasons.
During one exercise, the structures people built a particularly large
latrine. At the end of the exercise, we dug a hole with a backhoe and
pushed the building into it. But after it toppled into the hole, the Master
Sergeant in charge of the detail realized there was too much wood to bury
easily. There were at least 10 full sheets of plywood, and lots of
The Sergeant obtained permission to burn the wood before burying it. He
sent an Airman to get some diesel fuel, but all that remained of the fuel
supply was a 5-gallon can of gas. The Sergeant decided it would work fine,
and dumped the entire five gallons on the pile of wood down in the
He pulled out his "trusty" Zippo to light a piece of paper to throw into
the pile, and spent several minutes trying to get the Zippo to work, with
no luck. Finally someone produced a book of matches, and he lit the
paper. The entire detail of seven or eight Airmen stood ringing the hole as
the Sergeant threw the burning paper into the hole, declaring ominously,
"Fire in the hole."
He wasn't kidding. When the flame hit the accumulated gas vapors under
all that plywood...KABOOM! A fireball rose thirty feet into the
air. Plywood and 2x4s went everywhere. Rolls of unused toilet paper flew up
into the trees like party streamers. There were actually pieces of plywood
and 2x4s stuck 50 feet up in the limbs of the pine trees.
The airman had scattered, but the Sergeant still stood at the edge of
the hole in exactly the same position as when he dropped the flame. His
uniform was scorched, his eyebrows were gone, and all he had to say was,
"Whoops." We never laughed so hard in our lives, although our Commander
didn't appreciate the humor. Thankfully no one died. I guess the Sergeant
was wearing his water wings in the pool of life that day.
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