A Hootch Is A House Is A Home


Merriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary   [Contributed by Daniel Spires, 4th/20th Mech Inf (deactivated) 193rd Inf Bgd (CZ) Republic of Panama]

HootchMain Entry:  hooch
Variant(s): or hootch /'hüch/
Function: noun
Etymology: modification of Japanese uchi house
Date: 1960
slang : a usually thatched hut; broadly : DWELLING

Hootch is the name we used for the typical Vietnamese dwelling in which rural farmers or peasants live.   Their construction is simple yet amazingly durable.  The peasants begin by digging holes for the upright bamboo posts placed six-to ten-inches apart.  Thicker bamboo posts anchor the corners and door-frame, while the uprights for the walls between them use smaller poles.  A lattice of thin, supple bamboo or other sticks, woven through these upright posts, makes a lathwork to hold the mud which is applied next.   The finished walls are from six to eight inches thick.  There are usually two doors and occasionally some windows.  A bamboo framework, peaking along a central ridge pole, is erected to hold the roof, and then grass bundles are tied to it to form a thatch roof, which hangs well out over the walls to protect them from the rain.  The mud walls dry and age to a grey/cocoa color.  The roofs become pale yellow.   Unfortunately, because of the war, most hootches we visited also had a family bunker built inside, about five feet square and three to four feet high, with one small entrance facing into the center of the hootch.

I had a chance to study the construction methods of one hootch closely - as we took it apart piece by piece with a tank.  The method of destruction is almost as interesting as the method of construction.  First the mud is shaken from the walls with repeated howitzer rounds.  While the shell leaves only a modest hole in the front wall, the spall from the exploding shell takes out big pieces of the rear one.  Any remaining upright poles are flattened as the tank rolls over them.  This particular demolition technique was also fatal to the inhabitants.  We only used it when we were taking heavy fire from a hootch, and the alternative was a suicide assault out into the open to take it hand-to-hand.


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A Hootch Is A House Is A Home:  Tales Of A War Far Away
Copyright © 1995 Kirk S. Ramsey
Picture Copyright © 1995 Bob Lindgren
Last modified: March 02, 1995