Who Has The Donkey?
Contributed by Jim Burke
From Delta Developer November 1, 1967
(36E): Those people who have seen "the donkey" proudly standing on his pedestal in front of the 36th Engineer Battalion Headquarters at Vung Tau have probably wondered at it. The local population certainly has, judging by the assortment of amazed faces.
The Story begins at Fort Irwin, California immediately after the battalion was reactivated after being inactive for 13 years. The vigorous Post Commander, who was very interested in desert folklore, had uncovered the remains of an Arrastre, which is a very crude ore crushing device consisting of a centerpole and a huge rock to act as a crusher. A donkey is used to provide the power. The Commander decided that he wanted to restore the Arrastre in an appropriate park located on Post and, being the only "engineers" on Post, the 36th Engineer battalion got the job. After several weeks of hard work, the Arrastre was completed - or so they thought! Upon inspection of the completed job, the Post Commander casually mentioned how nice it would be if they could also build a donkey. After much grumbling, wire and plaster, the men of Bravo Company came up with what they thought looked like a donkey. Unfortunately, it did not look like the donkey the Post Commander had in mind. After several more tries, the gray donkey finally took his place in the Arrastre, and with bands playing, distinguished guests, and speeches the Arrastre was dedicated. The men breathed a sigh of relief and things in the battalion returned to normal.
Several quiet weeks went by until the first unit on post, an Artillery Battalion, deployed overseas. That next morning Fort Irwin arose to find a red donkey in Arrastre Park. From that day on no one was ever sure what color the donkey would be. Meanwhile, they experienced a shortage of gray paint. Finally, it came time for the Engineers to deploy. Several weeks later, after arrival in-country, the Engineers were surprised to find their donkey bruised and battered, but otherwise in fine shape, in one of the Conex Containers. (As they could find no one who admitted to taking it, they could only assume that the donkey came with them of its own free will.) Meanwhile rumors were heard that the enraged Post Commander back at Fort Irwin was mumbling something about how the Engineers got his donkey. The Advance party, however reported that things were smoothed over, tempers cooled and their only obligation was to send the Post Commander a picture of "his" ex-donkey. This was done and the donkey now is back home with the 36th.