Soldier 1:“There are no atheists in the foxholes”.
Soldier 2 “There ain’t no gods either.”
I’ve been fortunate enough to never have been in a war zone so I don’t know either way who hauls their ass into a foxhole besides soldiers when the shit starts flying. But, if I was to believe everything the Drill Instructor’s told me at Parris Island, the foxhole was quite possibly the grunt's best friend. Later, when I got to my duty station at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, all of the folks who had seen some action and came back in one piece and made the Corp their career, pretty much said the same thing.
I remember we’d go out to the field for weeks at a time playing war games against other platoons and battalions. Most of the time, we set out on foot and hump our shit for miles until we came to a place where we’d have to make camp and establish some defensive positions and a perimeter. After heating up some C-rats with a heat tab or two, we’d break off in pairs and commence to digging.
We’d bust out our E-tools and dig in. For any of you out there unfamiliar with the term “E-tool” it has no connotations to the modern day world of E-mail, E-trade, E-Bay or any other ‘E” that might come into mind. The E-tool was in fact a small shovel that folded up and was used to dig holes, hammer shit into the ground and if push came to shove, a pretty mean weapon if all hell broke loose and it got down to hand to hand combat.
Naturally, before we dug in we’d look from some old holes to confiscate and re-use but they were usually covered up when another unit broke camp and we’d have to start from scratch. I think the theory behind that was to never leave behind anything the enemy might be able to use.
Ideally, your average foxhole should be about six feet wide and four feet deep and hold two men. I don’t want to say it holds them “comfortably” but if you have to spend more than one or two nights in the fucker, a little extra digging might be worth the effort. They should also been in close proximity to some of the other foxholes that make up your perimeter. One reason is that they could engage in interlocking fire and rip an enemy to shreds should they be so bold as to attack your position. Another is for communication. Gun, rockets and mortars make shitload of noise when they go off and the closer you are to one of your neighbors the better chance you have of relaying any messages down the line.
The dirt from the hole was used a parapet to rest your rifle on and to get a good line of sight against any approaching enemy. If I remember correctly, you were also supposed to dig a grenade sump. The grenade sump was akin to a hole within a hole. The theory was that if a grenade plopped into your foxhole, you just might have enough time to kick it down into the sump and it would deflect some of the blast. If you were really ambitious and it looked like rain, you could spread your poncho over the top and secure it so as to keep dry and out of the wind.
Besides hiding you from bullets, foxholes had the added feature of keeping you low and relatively unexposed from shrapnel should your unit fall victim to a mortar attack or bombs dropped from an aircraft.
Depending on where you have to dig these suckers, foxholes can either be a real blessing or a one huge pain in the ass. If you have soft dirt to work with, it’s usually not that hard and you can walk away with only a few blisters. If, on the other hand, the dirt is as hard as the asphalt in New York City, be prepared to hack away at it for hours. It just might save your life.