The Art of Shit Burning

By Robert  “Bob” Kickenweitz

The Army has always amused me, and how it manages to keep it personnel busy. Just about everybody knows what KP means, (Kitchen Police). You help the chefs in the mass hall, peel potatoes, keep the coffee go, keep the milk replenished, and clean the pots and pans. Another detail is Policing the area, what this means is you get all the enlisted man and make a line. You walk through the company area and pick up cigarettes butts or any pieces of paper that may have blown into the company area. But unless you’re a Vietnam veteran you would not know the detail of shit burning, and yes it is exactly what it sounds like. You burn shit! There is no reason to call it anything else. Excrement, fecal matter, crap, or feces, believe me it’s all the same, its shit! Here is the way it works; first let me said that Johnny on the spot, or some of the other waste removal systems had not been invented yet.

Lets start with the outhouse. A lean-to with four walls, and a shad type roof. The structure was about eight feet wide and six feet in depth. The front wall being the tallest at about eight feet, with a door entrance.  Across the top of the front wall from one side to the other and about one foot wide is a screened area for ventilation. The back wall was about six to seven feet high. Inside across the back wall was a bench about two feet high closed in front. Two toilet seats were attached to the bench with a hole beneath each of them. Half of a fifty-five gallon drum would be beneath each of the holes in the bench. Around the rear of the outhouse about three feet high was a hinged door that ran the width of the outhouse.

You would start by opening the hinged door. With a pole you would pull out the two fifty-five gallon drum halves to an area about ten to fifteen feet away from the outhouse. You would then place two new fifty-five gallon drums into the outhouse. The outhouse was now ready for use again. You still have the two fifty-five gallon drums to deal with. You would start by pouring diesel fuel in both of the drums, mix a little with a pole. You would next get some toilet paper, roll it up a bit, lit it and drop it into the drums. The toilet paper would act as a wick and heat the diesel fuel to a point that would ignite it. And that my friends is what we Vietnam veterans call shit burning detail.

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