pot strung with rubber spiders


Senior Member
"The medic hits me with a syrette of morphine and washes my face from his canteen. He's bare-chested and sweaty, and his pot is strung with rubber spiders..." from "Heaven's Prisoners" by James L. Burke. Is "pot" a helmet, and what about "rubber spiders"? Thanks in advance for the help.
  • Fabulist

    American English
    My best guess is that this is a Vietnam War story. "Pot" is American soldier slang for "helmet," so the medic's helmet is indeed adorned with rubber spiders. American soldiers in Vietname sometimes decorated their helmets or other parts of their uniforms with items that they thought were considered "bad luck" by their Vietnamese opponents. The ace of spades from a deck of playing cards is one example that I know about. Perhaps spiders were also considered to be bad omens by the Vietnamese, or the American soldiers thought they were.

    American military units before, during, and after the Vietnam War have had various particular symbols or mascots, sometimes displayed in unit insignia but sometimes unofficial. It's possible that the unit involved in the described incident called itself the "black spiders" or "black widows" (the "black widow" being a particularly venomous spider). I don't know whether there was such a unit in Vietnam. If the unit was fictional, the author might have invented such a symbol or mascot for his battalion or regiment.

    There might be something earlier or later in the book or story that would explain the "black spiders." I will be off the Internet for a few days; others will have to follow up if additional context emerges.
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