|| RANDOM MEMORIES
History of the 12th Cav in Vietnam 27 Jul 1968
– 30 Nov 1971
CPT Errol D.
Alexander, July-Oct 1968
From: Wally Mendoza
Right, most everybody says diesel fuel, right down wind from the latrines, I can still smell it, sounds, i live right close to disneyworld, they shoot off fireworks three and four times a night, right across I/4 theres a tourist helocopter ride,flies over the house all frigging day put those two together and its flashback city,Nam was queiter than this place,I gota move out of this place..TUNES Steppinwolf,Doors etc, i wish they had CDs back then......Duke
When I first came home, any time I saw shrubbery, I wanted to take a piss! That was one habit I had to put on the shelf ASAP. If a fighter jet streaked overhead, (we have a lot of military flights here in Honolulu) I would duck my head and raise my shoulders involuntarily because, damn, jet noise moving fast overhead sounds just like Incoming to me. Worse, remember that certain odor that large army tents gave off? That wet dog/sharp cheese smell? Running into that smell would give me a sense of deja vu.
Speaking of which, a bunch of years ago, my wife asked me, after watching yet another T.V. show where a deranged Vietnam vet was running amok, "how come you don't have flashbacks?" I don't know, I said, "maybe not enough time has passed, or something." I feel very cheated. I would love a flashback! You know, I would suddenly think I was back riding in the grenadier's seat behind the driver yelling at him to concentrate on staying precisely in the track of the PC in front of us. It would be like a movie or something. I should carry popcorn in my pockets just in case a flashback happens.
I actually do have a recurring nightmare; it has nothing to do with anything I experienced in Vietnam. This is true, I have this dream every few years or so, that I'm back in the service. Somehow, I get reactivated or something, and I'm back in the 2nd Armored Division in Killeen, Texas. Yikes! That was an experience that gave me more trauma than anything that happened to me in the Nam. While assigned there, my talent for avoiding details or army work was stretched to the limit! You can't imagine how stressful it was to hang out at the snack bar, bowling alley, or gymnasium day in and day out and not arouse the suspicion of anyone who outranked me. But then, I was just a humble draftee, who was drafted out of college because he dared to protest the war, that didn't want to be there in the first place.
Looking back, though, the only thing that was worth anything during my service in the Army was my time in the field in Vietnam. Though I hated it with all my heart, I loved it with all my heart too. I never felt = freer and more competent in my life! It was a gas riding around the DMZ, armed to the teeth with "In-da-gadda-da-vida" playing on the eight-track hooked up to the battery. We were ready to bring it down on anyone who tried to fuck with us! I mean we bristled with 90mm cannon, grenade launchers, M-16's, co-ax's, 50 cal machine guns, M-60 MG's, and murderous intent. It was great to be in combat arms. And remember, when we went on R&R, that we discovered that combat soldiers were a rare breed? I didn't run into very many of us while waiting for a flight out in Danang! There was just REMF's. HA! Those bastards were busy shooting smack and making up war stories so they could feel as if they had balls. We have all kinds of veteran plates here in Hawaii. We have several distinctions: Veteran, Combat Wounded, Vietnam Veteran, and Combat Veteran. I chose the Combat Veteran plate. There are hardly any of those plates around. Pineapple
Struggling to Recall
Yea I remember him, I don't know his name he was a green beret, very young. He had been at ft. Lewis with me while we were waiting to get shipped out to the nam... Never saw him again until one day at the dmz he and tow other guys of his lrp team came up to our tracks and asked for a beer. He told us they were the guys that had ambushed the two gooks that we had found dead there where they were. The shithouse incident is funny because up until now i always thought it was a guy named lee that had done it. I was sitting arround with the mechanics, writting a letter home when the frag went off. Sgt petersen (motor pool sgt.) Inmediately blamed lee because he had it out for him. Nothing was made of it. That ranger you are talking about was working the radio right arround the time i came home.
Do any of you remember the evening that we were setting up on a hill top in the "Backyard" southwest of Quang Tri, putting out concertina, RPG screens, trip flares, claymores, Etc, when the Troop CO and the artillery FO were standing on top of the command track. All the guys were busy doing the things that had to be done every night. No one was paying any attention to the two officers who were standing on top of the M-113. All of a sudden there was the sound of a howitzer firing at Quang Tri, and the familiar sound of an artillery round approaching. The whistling of the round got louder and louder. Soon it was obvious that it was coming right toward us, and everyone started looking around. Then came the *BANGeeeeeee* sound of a 155 mm white phosphorous round popping 50 meters directly over our heads. I can't remember which one it was, the CO or the FO, but one of them stabbed his finger toward the map and said, "see, I told you this is the hill we are on!" Everyone else in the troop just rolled their eyes, shrugged their shoulders and went back to work -- —mumbling about what crazy mother f#@kers we had running the Army.
3rd Plt Tanker
I remember that happening. The FO was a guy name Lt Malm. He used to ride on 26 a lot. Had it made. Played a lot of pinnacle. Carried a sand wedge and some shags, called in a little artillary. Basically enjoying the war. Not a bad sort.
Bob was that Sgt in the riverbed with you Sgt Bochelle. He was a second tour guy. First tour with the marines.
Saw your name and I cannot place you. I was with 2d platoon from Aug 68 til Aug 69. I was the loader/gunner on A28. My TC's were SGT Anderson, SSG Hagland, SSG Makela, and SGT Reed. Hagland only lasted a few weeks, he really got messed up when we took a RPG in Cam Lo. That was in Mar 69. I wrote dinycat about a few of the people and we especially remembered a kid nicknamed Judd. He was different. Write when you get a chance.
Glenn, saw your sitrep about the RPG around Cam Lo in March 69. Think I was the Lt., 3rd platoon, involved in that ambush. Were you on the lead tank, attached to my platoon, and was it North West of Cam Lo when we were packing a platoon plus of infantry on our tracks to get them down to the valley, closer to the action? As for the rest of you guys that came later, it is fascinating to read your comments and share your experiences. I transferred to the 11th ACR I think in April, 69 before the trip home July 1.
Everyone knows that Viet Nam is in the tropics, and I expected it to be hot there. In the summer it was. Hot with a vengeance! There were times that I remember that it was just unbearable, god awful hot. One night sticks out in my memory when 3rd Plt was operating alone out by the old, deserted Fire Base Pedro. We were completely out of insect repellant. No one had any, and the supply sergeant couldn't get any more for a while. On this particular night it must have still been 100°F at midnight, and there were a zillion mosquitoes buzzing around our laager position. The only way I could keep the mosquitoes off was by zipping up my sleeping bag all the way. After about a half hour I was soaking with sweat, so I unzipped the sleeping bag. After a half hour with the bag open I was so eaten up by mosquitoes that I zipped it up all the way again. A half hour later, soaked in sweat I unzipped it again. Repeated the zip and unzip drill all night. I swore to myself that night if I survived Viet Nam, I would NEVER go camping again. I've pretty much kept that promise except for a few understandable occasions when really cute girls wanted to go camping when I was still in my 20s.
Even worse than the heat was the rain. For long periods it seems like we were never really dry. At least the Sheridan exhaust made a good clothes dryer for our sleeping bags. You could start the engine, zip up your fart sack, and put the face opening over the exhaust stack. In just about 15 or 20 minutes the sleeping bag was dry. Made the sleeping bag smell like diesel exhaust, but at least it was dry. I remember one night when we were operating near that old S.F. base in the hills about 5 or 10 miles southwest of Cam Lo when it had been raining all day, and most of the night. The guy on radio watch from midnight to 2:00 AM woke me for my shift. At that time the rain had ended, and the stars were starting to show through as the clouds left the area. I was soaked, and my sleeping bag was soaked. I started the engine, and put my sleeping bag over the exhaust and began my 2 hours of radio watch. At 4:00 AM my shift ended, so I woke up the next guy, and took my nice dry sleeping bag back to the sleeping hole. Even though it had quit raining a few hours earlier, there wasn't a dry spot within 10 miles. The 3/5 Cav from Dong Ha had been in contact somewhere not too far away recently, and I didn't really feel like sleeping on top of the tank in case anything happened, so I tossed my sleeping bag back into the sleeping hole and crawled back in. Before I fell asleep the bottom of the sleeping bag had soaked through again, and I was back in my cold wet bed. The things we did when we were young; I'd hate to do that again!
3rd Plt Tanker
There were a few occasions when cold milk was delivered to the boonies....Sooo good.
Also I remember us getting cartons and cartons and cartons of cigarettes: Kents !! Hell you'd throw them out to the kids and they'd throw 'em back of you !! A carton of Salem could get ya the kid's sister for a week's worth of boom-boom, but Kents would get ya fragged by a 9 year old.
And, fellas, please help me confirm to my son that there was a place known as the Phu Bai Steam and Cream !! That's one part of my "Nam Saga" he just can't believe !!
The interesting thing about the chow at Cua Viet was that while it was prepared by the navy stewards, it was the same rations that came out of the army at Quang Tri.
Do you remember the first day Lt. Stiles was in the field with us and I cooked STEEL POT (helmet, C-Ration) STEW? I always used Larry Veatch's helmet. The straps were burnt off and it was black from cooking with C-4. Everyone that was going to eat brought the c-ration they wanted to put in it. I had ketchup, salt, black pepper and ARMY HOT SAUCE that we had stolen from the mess hall to put in it. Well, I cooked it and we filled Lt. Stiles c-ration can half full of hot sauce and the rest with stew. As he was eating, his face turned blood red and he began to sweat. The sweat dripped off his nose and chin, but he never complained or said a word. As we began to finish our meal, we started to chuckle and laugh. Lt. Stiles said, "I knew you all were up to something!" We told him that any man that could eat anything that HOT must be a tough man!! And I think we did this to Lt. Canda also, not sure.
I used to love the pound cakes that came in the C's I would take the cream and sugar packets that were for coffee and add a little water and make icing for my pound cake. Wasn't like mom made but it worked. heehee
Is it amazing what Troopers will do? We used to take that so called white bread, cheese and beef spiced with sauce and make pizza well kind of.
BEEF WITH SPICE SAUCE was my favorite C' food, I traded a lot of beanies with weenies for it.
The next best thing was to top the Pound Cake with the Apple Sauce or Peaches.
I got to the Cav in December 1969, about 2 or 3 months before we got the Sheridans. I'd gone to the 4 week Sheridan school at Ft. Knox after AIT, so I was looking forward to them. The Sheridans had good & bad points in comparison to the M-48. They were new, and required less maintenance, and the track and suspension items were MUCH lighter, so maintenance was easier. They rarely threw a track. It could happen, but they threw far fewer tracks than the M-48s. They were faster, and the 152MM main gun had a bodacious canister round. The HEAT rounds we used at first had a fairly high dud rate, but then they started issuing 152MM HE rounds which were very reliable, and which packed a very good punch. The coax & 50 Cal worked well on them. Bad points included a lack of storage space. They had an extended bustle rack, but still far less room for ammo, food, personal gear, Etc than on the M-48. I suppose the biggest drawback was when they hit a mine. The M-48s could get one or two sets of road wheels blown off by a mine, and a few days later they were back in service with probably no one injured. When a Sheridan hit a mine, someone usually got hurt. Not killed, but hurt bad enough for a medivac. The Sheridan was probably a combat loss from anything larger than an antipersonnel mine. Most of the anti-tank mines, and booby-trapped artillery shells, which is what we most commonly hit, would warp the hull, or cause other irreparable damage. For a while we joked that we didn't ever have to do a Q Service or an S Service to the Sheridans, because we were hitting mines, and DXing the vehicles before they needed an oil change. Also, the Sheridans had fairly complex electronic and hydraulic systems. Some of the technology was not quite up to speed, and we had a lot of turret problems, and a fair amount of power train and mechanical problems. They just weren't all that reliable. In a way I liked the Sheridans better than the M-48s because they were easier to work on, and lighter, and faster, but they weren't perfect.
3rd platoon Tanker, 69-70
Viet Nam was bad for Sheridans. The wet climate and heat screwed over the electrical systems badly. Poor Malan used to sit their waiting and trying to get that ready light! The M73 or M2l9 after many modifications never worked right after 10 years of trying the Army finally scrapped it. Our Sheridans in Nam wore the teeth right off the sprockets in just a short time from the sand. When we cooked on the back decks with C-4 it caused the deck plates to buckle and you couldn't traverse the turret. They swam like a rock with the belly armor on them and although we didn't try it I don't think they dropped too well from aircraft. They were fast when they ran, but flew too damn high when they hit a mine.
First platoon 69-70
The COAX on 26 never worked worth a shit. Though the canister was awesome, reloading was a hassle. I did like playing with the gyro, but it was no M-48
I seem to recall the M 48 weighed about 52 tons and the Sheridan 22 tons. 26 managed toe hit four mines during my time on it. They just replaced the two Sheridans. With a lot of work, the 48 (King Kong II) was back at it in 48 hours. The second mine we hit with the 48 was a small miracle. Sgt D decided to take a bunch of kids for a ride north of the river at Cua Viet. I think Mike Deierling was driving. All that went of was the blasting cap. A real blessing for those kids.
I did not care for the Sheridans, they had to much big gun for their weight, every time you shot it the first 3 sets of road wheels would come off the ground and you landed in a different position, plus they were aluminum and had thin bottoms etc,etc. not good for mines, rpg's etc. too me they were junk compared to the 48's.
Skee here. We must have had aiming stakes and plotting board on 39 - I remember we used it twice in the 12 mo. I was there. Also had a base plate so we could ground mount that puppy - which we did once at Cua Viet. I have no idea how many rounds we carried - just kept the racks full. We did carry Willy Pete on our track - always figured if we took an RPG it wouldn't matter if the little pieces of us burned on the way down or not. Don't know if you guys did this or not, but we always did our best to level the track so we could spin the tube and keep close to the same range all 360. Anything from digging holes for a track to driving part of it up on empty ammo crates - whatever it took to level her. Yes, we usually fired on "O" or "cheese" charge, which meant 9 little bags of powder, came off each round. We usually thru them in an empty tube case and touched it off periodically - kinda fun. At night we'd always have some illume w/ timers & charges set and safeties pulled. Pretty much the same w/ a few HE. Put the pins back in in the morning and re-canned them for the ride. I have a few good pics I'll try to dig out and send you.
I noticed your note regarding the OV-10's. If memory serves, and these days that's a questionable concept, these planes were Beech Aircraft products.....and the only thing I remember for certain is.....these guys were the last people on the planet ya' wanted to piss off. I recall one day, 2nd platoon had just started to pull what was suppose to be a 12 hr. stand down when I got a call from 6 (I forget his name) telling me to take whatever tracks were "up" and thunder-run to a place about 3 clicks away from where we were(Nancy, I think, but I'm not sure) where some gooks were trapped and we were suppose to form a blocking action to first, keep them from escaping and secondly, blow the shit out of 'em and thirdly, sweep the area to find if there was anything left..... after we had finished number two. We took a position up on a ridge line....and 1st or 3rd platoon, maybe both (again, I can't remember) moved in on higher ground than we had and together we kept the little mofo's from going anywhere.....I'll never forget that day....it was the first time I'd seen an OV-10 and the first time I'd seen those guys work, up close. "Barkey" was throwing in willie peter, and after each pass would climb out of the area, smartly....then, what happened next, I thought was amazing.....maybe 30 seconds later (just enough time for the him to clear) in came a Fox-4 Phantom from out of nowhere dropping napalm.....and no sooner had he dropped his ordinance, here came his buddy......seems like they strafed the target only a couple of times when the FAC came back in to take a look, and in doing so drew some ..51cal. tracer fire. Then, if I remember correctly, all hell broke loose......the first Phantoms were replaced by two more.....and then those guys brought two more of their buddies with fresh ordinance.......I remember looking up trying to count how many F-4's I could see and it was just one huge circle they were flying......by the time they were finished there was literally nothing left.....I remember monitoring the FAC's "push" and hearing when they had pulled off the target. Six told me to go inspect the target so several of us went down into the area. There wasn't anything bigger than a toothpick and the stench was unbelievable.
The only OV-10 I remember is Cat thriller 33, He would lead us around by the nose and show us spider holes to investigate. And when we had a promblem he would bring up the fast movers from Da Nang and help us out. I would thank him/her for the protection he/she gave us. Great job!
It appears that the "Cat Killers" were an Army observation aircraft outfit flying O-1 Bird Dogs out of Dong Ha. Single engine, tailwheel, low & slow airplanes. The "Barkey" FACs were USAF blue suit types in the OV-10 twin-engine turboprop observation planes, operating out of Quang Tri. Both had a direct line to god for directing pee & scunion [sic] upon the bad guys. Check out the following link for a story about the Cat Killers in the Dong Ha / Quang Tri area in 1970. http://www.amarillo2000.com/audacia/what-68.html
From Dennis Perrino (Zero):
Miami Herald article written on 25 Feb 1990:
The PX barbershop at Quang Tri Combat Base is shown behind two cav troopers, Chuck Lea and Carter Fuller. Though just another of the standard plywood buildings that were found all over bases in Viet Nam, the shop sported a traditional striped barber's pole out front. In addition to a good haircut, the scalp, neck, and shoulder massage was relaxing. The popping of finger joints by the barbers usually came as a surprise to new troops at the end of their first haircut. All in all, a pleasant experience.
I remember a time out round Con Thien or around there somewhere on a NDP one night we had our one of our claymores stolen and in its place was left a piece of paper with a poem on it about some river up north somewhere, it goes without saying after that we became a lot more proficient in our own booby traps making and for awhile there we would get one of those little sneaks in the middle of the night. Do you remember what tank that got all cleaned up and painted so nice? It was for some visiting senator or something i can't remember' hell I can't hardly remember my own name sometimes. Later.
Does anyone remember when the troop was operating around an abandoned LZ called Angel (I think that was the name) somewhere up near Charlie 2 in late 1969 or early 1970? One day the company dropped off around 8 of us from each platoon to form 3 separate night ambushes. The rest of the troop then went back to wherever and was going to pick us up the next day. I was with the second platoon and carrying a M79. Our Sgt. was one that we called Paul Revere because he always wore a patriot style hat. I can't remember his real name. Anyway we formed the ambushes and had rendezvous locations in case we engaged and had to leave quickly. I remember that the second platoon was just off a well-used trail. Our claymores were placed real close to us. Luckily no one came by that night and we all hooked back up the next day and waited for the troop to pick us up in the afternoon. It was one scary night to be that far from our friends with the ACAVs and tanks.
Ya Bob, seems REAL familiar...but I went on what seems like a lot of ambushes...some were really scary, hell they ALL were scary. Just real lucky they were mostly all just 'camp outs'!!!!!!!!!! I remember we did blow the claymores one night when we heard voices moving into the kill zone and laid there the rest of the night scared shitless until we could get back into the womb in the AM.
John, I remember the night well. I can't remember if I was on the mortar track or another scout track. The mortar track didn't run most of the time. I remember that it was a bad ass place to be after dark. I think that we all hit a mine or two. I was on the Passion Wagon, I think 23, when me Scotty and Dierling hit a mine near Rocket Ridge. We had our scrawny mustaches burned up, but no injuries. That was in July of 1969, one month after I got in country. Because we were short on APC's, I rode on a tank for awhile. I believe it was 26. APC's don't fair well when the mine hits. It sounds like we are going to have a bigger reunion this year! I joined the Society of the Fifth Division and read the article from the chopper pilot but didn't connect it with Wally. I also received the M48 and a ACAV model. It was interesting hearing the story of Capt. Spruill and the War Lord.
If I remember correctly, Taylor was a guy who liked to look good all the time. One time comes to mind, the Troop had left Nancy for a short mission and we took just the basic load of water, clothes and etc. While the short mission turned into six weeks or so. During this time we had to conserve everything including water. So here we are out in the middle of nowhere and had been there for eternity plus a day and our clothes were so caked with dirt they would stand up by themselves. Anyway during this time we had stopped for a break everyone is exhausted so we are just lying around I look up and Taylor is taking his water and washing his hair. Talk about surreal sights; but that was Taylor looking good at time and any place.
Mine (I would assume - and we all know what assume spells - 1st platoon)first time took place up on the DMZ, we had been doing a sweep all morning. We took a lunch break, all the tracks were spread out in a line. I was sitting out on the right front fender of A16, McNeil and Willie P were up top and Troy was in the drivers hatch. What followed seem to happen in slow motion (but it took place in seconds) out front and to the right of the tank the ground started erupting (incoming mortar rounds) McNeil yells incoming about the same time, being wet behind the ears I was amazed by it all. The next moment it's assholes and elbows, with c-rats flying through the air. Being the gunner I had to get in fast so the rest could get in; while this is going on Troy has the Tank going backwards. The grass was so tall unless you were in the TC hatch you could not see shit. The next thing you know we have back off into an old B52 bomb crater, trust me you can lose a tank in one of them, and threw a track as we hit bottom. The rest of the platoon had pulled back, we are sitting at the bottom of the crater at an angel so it is out with side arms (grease gun / 45 pistol ha ha)lucky nothing else came of the incoming. An M88 was sent up to pull us out of the crater; they hook onto one hook and pull us out while doing this the other track comes off. So here we sit one large visible non-mobile bunker. The rest of the platoon is covering us from a distance. I do not remember how long it took to get the tracks back on but I would think we would have been inspired. Were we lucky, someone watching over us, or what?
Guys thanks for the memories (I think).
I think this action took place late '68 or early '69. The Troop was pulling a sweep into DMZ, this is the first time we went up far north into the Z. We were searching bunkers. This guy was from A15 track, he throws a frag into a bunker and goes in and drags out a wounded NVA. He has to disarm because he was not coming out on his own. [??] They medivac the NVA back to the rear. I remember it was early in country time because the B52's were still flying mission. If I am not mistaken he received the Silver Star for this; later on he went on R&R to Hawaii and when he returned to the Troop he was put in charge of the Club at Nancy.
You filled in a lot of information I did not remember until you mention it. I with you on everything but "SSG Makela", I was thinking it was some grunt off of A15. I can not put a face with SSG Makela. I believe some of the medical supplies were from Sweden or something like that. I have Dye(TC A15) mail address I plan on writing him a letter to see if he can clear anything up; his email is disconnected. Which track were you on and when were you in Nam.
Not dead yet. The last time you saw me at the hospital compound I had less than a week left in country. Most people got out of the field 20-30 days before they left...not me! For 7 or 8 days before my DVE date Alpha 1-7 went down and I just knew I would get to go back to base camp. Instead they put me on an APC. I was hot and had the 'pucker factor' to the max. I was riding on the back of the APC when it went down into a depression and suddenly up a rise. I fell off the back, and while lying there looking face up at the sky, decided this was my ticket out of the field. Went to the hospital and stayed until I had 2 days left in country. I figured no way would they send me out with 2 days left so I recovered and went back to HQ. They assigned me to shit burning detail! What a slap in the face. I could not let such an injustice go unpunished, so I pulled the 3 barrels out about 4 inches from the outhouse and filled them with mo gas. The shit burned nicely but 4 inches was not enough distance to prevent the outhouse from burning as well. There is a picture on the 4/12th web site of the outhouse burning...I forgot my camera or I could have had a MUCH better picture. There was a guy in the unit who bought a 38 revolver. He was an APC driver who wore thick glasses. He only had a limited number of 38 rounds, which he made dum-dums of. Were you my co-conspirator in stealing his .38 ammo? What a trip. Bill (William?) Dodds from Portland, OR was on Alpha 1-7 for a while. Talked to him 15 yrs ago. Got his number from directory assistance. Ronald Congleton from Paterson, NJ was the driver for a while. Was never able to contact him. Someone stole my photo albums from my footlocker at Quang Tri right before I left so I have less than 15 pictures of my time there and only 3 of me. Sgt. Robert Barrows the platoon Sgt and TC of A1-7 has hundreds of excellent pictures. If we could find him I would like to get some copies. I have some good shots of the new Sheridans I will try to get on the site. I couldn't ID any of the guys whose pictures are on the web. It's been a long time and very few were 1st platoon people. Do you have pics of 1st platoon during our era?
The Finance major woke me up early one morning, around 3 a.m. He told me to get dressed, bring my flak jacket, my weapon, my helmet and my rifle. I was to meet him at the helipad ASAP. He left to wake another soldier. While I stumbled and dragged all my stuff to the helipad, my brain still befuddled with the lack of sleep, Jerry Malan stepped out of the shadows, "Hey Pineapple, he said, "Where are you going? He was the last person I expected to step out of the shadows to ask me. "I don't know, I honestly said, "I have to go to the airport. "You're going to get new MPC, Malan said. He disappeared back into the shadows as I walked on. Was I still sleeping? How did Malan know? Was it true? I met the major at the helipad and we took off immediately, heading on a southerly bearing. As soon as we were in the air, the major revealed our destination was DaNang, our mission, he said was to pull security and help him with picking up the new MPC. We were going to have a currency change in the next few days. It was top secret.
The people at momma-sans whore/drug house knew about the MPC exchange 3 weeks before it happened. No doubt before your major did, and since I was a frequent flyer I knew too. Do you remember Sgt. Barrows calling in a chopper for me to make a P.X. run while you were with 1st Platoon? I didn't go to the PX, I went to momma sans for the supplies the troopers really needed. I remember Cua Viet Navy Base and leaving there with the turret full of Navy C-rations. We would have been main gun-less had we been attacked because no one could fit in there. .
John, I remember Ferguson well, that night we got hit in Cua Viet; he was crawling around and asking everybody if they needed water or ammo. He was different but he sure helped that night.
Hey John, I remember Weaver, he used to stand at the hootch door so all you could see of him was his top half and roll that grenade of his down the isle and we all would run like hell, then we got smart and painted his toy fluorescent orange or pink or something like that so we would know it was that dummy grenade of his, well he rolled that bright orange toy of his down the floor one night just a laughing his ass off, we took one look at that thing and then looked at each other and then ran like hell.....
Duke, 2nd plat 69
I agree with what you guys are saying and MAN are there similarities. Turtle I understand when you say all else pales...it does. I don't know about that post Viet Nam disorder either. When I see Vets from Nam "traumatized" by their experience I always wonder. My wife's cousin married a Vet that is really screwed up. Total disability from emotional wounds! He SAYS 4000. tax payer and Chrysler Corp.(he did work for several years) dollars a month. As I've gotten to know him I am of the opinion Nam is a great excuse for being #@&%ed up. He didn't see much more shit than we did. We were SO lucky...at least I was/am. We're combat veterans that got a little taste of it all; from the tracks (tanks for some) to foot patois and of course the night ambushes. I can identify with the guys on Rat Patrol and Combat reruns, the history channel (me too, Bob) Darby's Rangers and of course the Rambo movies. I kinda, sorta, just a little bit, had some of those experiences. And because I did I feel much better about me. I realize some guys in the troop died and some took the experience more deeply than I, BUT when I watch (last night!) our guys on Hill 275 or see movies of D-Day, or Tripoli with WWI trench warfare, or any of 10,000 other battles I know I had no clue how brutal war could really be. I've told Diane a thousand times I am so glad Viet Nam was my war. I wouldn't have wanted to be with any other unit in any other war! When I think back about when I was on the Repose (hospital ship) and try to imagine the terror I would have felt if it were part of a sea battle....sheeeeet...not for me. Damn...look at Braveheart or some of that other medieval crap...THAT would REALLY suck! When I came to Nam I had no clue (still don't say some). I didn't know what a joint was or any of that stuff. My first night at LZ Nancy the 'advanced party' had me drinking from Beaufort (their VC skull) Two Black guys...Scotty and Bradford...taught me what a joint was some months later. I liked that better than hot (or cold) beer. And this all gave me the opportunity to come home and do a little "Easy Rider". Yes Bob, I had me a chopper. Partied plenty hard for a few years. Met Diane and have been with her for 30 years. Been in the car business ever since I got off the GI bill and went to work. I don't smoke anymore but I do drink. I too love firearms and have a small arsenal. I collect and make custom knives (mainly switchblades...honest), watch the war movies, the history channel, and do a bit of drag racing. We have a motor home and love camping with a microwave. Life has been good to me ...very good...but I do agree with who ever of us said they felt something when the Dessert Storm boys came home to all the flag waving for a few weeks in the sand and I STILL feel my worst foes in Nam were the people at Berkley and Kent State. And the liberal sons of a bitches that spawned from there!!! Oh well...what do I know or care.
Damn Bob, for somebody who says they don't know or care, you sure said a mouthful. You are 100% correct when you say we got a taste of it all. I went to Nam as an 11Bravo and counted my lucky stars when I was assigned to a Cavalry outfit (even though I wasn't sure what a Cavalry outfit was at the time) but it sounded better than a straight grunt unit. Yes, some times were better than others (I remember Scotty and Brad. I know I liked LZ Nancy way better than Quang Tri base camp. It's like we had our own little corner of the world at Nancy. I liked Cua Viet duty a lot better than the DMZ even though ambushes across the Cua Viet River kind of sucked. I wouldn't trade my experience over there for anything.
Kim Sliwa (Turtle)
I agree too...Cua Viet was good duty...SUPER food....OK bunker guard, and a boat ride to ambush. Except that river seemed awful wide when the boat left. Very lonely out there on the other side of the river. Seemed like it rained almost every night I went out. The drag races on the beach were cool though!!! Nancy was a "homey" LZ. When we went to Quang Tri I felt like we had moved to the big city.)-:
You're right Turtle, my least favorite place was, I THINK, A2. Or which ever one we were at closest to the DMZ. ( C2 was a bit south, right?) It was the rainy season and I never did get warm. Nothing but red mud and sand bags. I always liked the field better than any base camp anyway. I'll never forget WATCHING those 175mm rounds when they fired the ARTY. Unbelievable to me, to be able to SEE the rounds go out..and out ... and out...WAY out! What was their range?
I remember when we went on that big task force operation out by Khe Sahn, then back through the Ba Long Valley in the summer of 1970. They had a 175mm unit inside our perimeter while we were at the old Marine firebase Van der Grift. One afternoon they were using the 175s to do H&I fire. They were shooting into the wooded draws along a ridge line to our west, probably less than a mile away. One of the rounds must have hit right at the base of a big tree. BIG TREE. Hard to say how tall it was, but it looked like a tree that was 3 to 5 feet in diameter and 30 to 50 feet tall. That big old 175mm HE round launched the tree straight up. Looked like a rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral. The tree went straight up in the air about a hundred feet, then sorta hung there for a moment, and started flipping end over end on the way back down. Some of those toys the U.S. taxpayers gave us to play with back then were pretty cool. No idea what the exact range of the 175mm was, probably something just over 20 miles.
Speaking of Cua Viet, I remember in November of 69 that the troop had to go back to Quang Tri for some type of inspection. The three mortar tracks were left behind at Cua Viet. We had to pull fire missions every third night. The nights off were spent at the club listening to Three Dog Night and the like. The only problem, it didn't last long enough.
I was a sergeant by now and we were in LZ Sharon one night for just an over-nighter. We all got cocked and decided to borrow a jeep to get back to our location on the perimeter. We get caught and they lock a bunch of us up. They get a hold of old man Robinson, he's at the Officers Club and really hammered, and he comes down to get us out. The officer of the day was a Capt. Luce. The old man always wore Cavalry crests on his collar and in the dark this Capt Luce thinks the old man is a Major. Robinson keeps calling this guy Capt Louse and is jumping all over this guy's rear end. Robinson says that he ain't about to leave in the morning without us because we are all good men and he needed us. He finally bs's us out of jail and promises this Luce that he will bust me because I was the ranking guy in the jeep we borrowed. We get back from the mission about a week later and the old man calls me in and tells me I'm too good a soldier to be sent back to the states less than a sergeant so he never did anything to me, except I think he got me a beer that night.
One morning, Capt. Kaufman lines up the troop, line abreast on the road between C2 & A4, facing west. It is a glorious sight, but it is raining and we're looking at low elephant grass covering a sea of mud. He gives the signal to "charge. The old 1-2 is slow to move. Everyone else who does decide to "charge gets stuck. The troop spends the rest of the day pulling tanks and tracks out.
One day in December 1969, I think it was around Christmas, HQ platoon set up a memorial for those troopers who had died or left us because of wounds. They had attached bayonets on M16's and placed helmets on the rifle butts. I was astounded at the amount of people that we had lost; most of them were so new at the time of their casualty that I didn't recognize their names. A catholic priest presided over the ceremony. As part of the ceremony, the priest asked if anyone would like to have communion, and if so, he would give us "general absolution. When I asked what that meant; he said that our past sins were forgiven without us having to go through confession because of the extraordinary circumstance we were in. We had a clean slate. I lined up immediately. My last communion was nearly 10 years ago, and I felt that if all my sins were forgiven without me having to confess, it was the best damn thing the church could had done for me, and now I could die as pure as the driven snow, sin-wise. It was still raining. It was still muddy.
While operating near LZ Nancy, Kaufman decides to lead dismounted "night patrols into the jungle. It happens that he picks a succession of moonless nights. No one can see. People have to have physical contact with the person in front of them, and even then, the person in front of them often disappears down unseen bomb craters. It is very slow going. One of these patrols gets horrifically lost and opens fire on an ARVN outpost when Kaufman hears Vietnamese voices and orders us to shoot. When the return fire sounds like M-16's, we flee. The next morning, we discover that we have caused KIA and WIA on an ARVN outpost. The night patrols are stopped, and nobody is the wiser.
The 1st platoon scouts are offered LRRP rations and camouflage fatigues if they volunteer to make long range dismounted patrols out into the bush from Nancy. Our patrol goes out and makes camp as soon as we're out of sight, a few hundred yards downrange. We give fake sit reps of our travels around the AO, while we chow down on that great LRRP dried rations. .
BR: "I dropped off the track like the experienced IDIOT I was (I'd been in-country almost 13 months), took an M79 into a wash-out and ran smack into a GOOK. The '79 chose then to miss fire! (lucky for me really. We were only about 6 or 7 FEET apart!) The Sarg had followed me in ( which I didn't know) and covered me as I ran for my life!!!!"
Was that the day after the new troop commander took over after CPT Smith? Would have been the summer of 1970 sometime. If it is the incident I'm thinking of, the 2nd Plt was on the northwest side of a stream, and sent some people in to check it out. The 3rd Plt was on the southeast side. After you guys ran into the gook(s), I saw 3 of them in the open through the sights of my Sherridan. Unfortunately, one of our 3rd Plt tracks was right in line between me and the gooks, just downhill a bit, and the second platoon was straight on beyond the stream. I wanted to fire up the 3 NVA, but the new troop commander and my TC said not to. That was one of only two times in Viet Nam that I clearly saw gooks in the gunsight. Didn't get to fire either time. Oh well, long time since that happened. I wonder if the gooks ever realized how close to getting waxed they came that day.
Does anyone remember the guy who came to the Troop sometime during the middle of 1970 from the rangers, P/75th? Seems like he had been in some really bad stuff, got stranded above the pink line of the DMZ for a few days when the rest of his team all got killed. He refused to go out with P/75th again after that, so they sent him to A 4/12. The first sergeant made a deal with him, and in return for being the permanent shit burner at Quang Tri, he didn't have to go to the field with us, either. Once he showed up for formation stark naked. I don't know if he was trying to make like Cpl Klinger in MASH and get a mental discharge, or if he just truly didn't give a damn anymore. One night he apparently got tired of burning shit, or perhaps he was just angry at the world. He filled the cut off 55- gallon drums in the bottom of the latrine with fuel, and tossed in a frag. Really made a mess of things. At first it seemed a bit weird, but after that lots of people probably chuckled a bit and wish they had been the one to do it.
Hello from Memory Land,
From the e-mails floating by today I do remember the larceny in the hearts of all 4/12 troopers. I remember a certain summer at A-4 when FO and a group of Troopers went down to C-2 to look into the possibility of improving rations for the troop. The PC was loaded to the gills when the Mess Sergeant of the Artillery Battery caught one of the guys. I can't remember who it was but the Mess Sergeant had us by the short hairs. As we unloaded the PC from the back hatch two cases of goodies were stacked back in through the drivers hatch. (Those Arty guys never were too swift.)
That evening in front of the main bunker at A-4 we had one of the best cookouts ever. Steaks were cooked over an open fire. C-Ration Crackers were made in to the best canapés. Accompanied with sardines, cheese and pickled eggs. Every thing was washed down with the coldest beer that could be found.
Can anyone ever forget the taste of hot Fresca? That has to rank right up there with anything you wouldn't drink today.
30 Yankee Signing Off Read you 5 by 5
Whoo-ee! I was there! I remember the cookout! The best steak ever! Never had better in the army! I was a little nervous as the cookout went on and on as it got darker and darker. I kept expecting the NVA to send over .122mm guests, but nothing happened! Thanks for bringing it up! We used somebody's RPG screen for a grille. We kept eating and drinking and talking far into the night w/Capt. Robinson. (That scene in Apocalypse now: with Kilgore and his airmobile bunch making steaks rang true) I also remember earlier in the day, watching a mock tennis match between a couple of guys swinging imaginary rackets and hitting an imaginary ball. A crowd was watching and applauding the good shots. We were a very weird bunch. And hot Fresca was just the thing to hit the spot when you ran out of warm Schlitz.
Been reading the thread about Kit Carson scouts. When I came in country, we had a guy named "Jerry." He seemed to be really tight with our Lt. & Platoon Sgt. so I accepted him. Screeching stop! Jerry worked with us, Tom worked with 2nd platoon. Tom & Jerry? Ha! How come I never noticed that in 'Nam?
A couple of unlucky NVA troopers, an RPG team, were crawling up to our NDP one afternoon in July 1969 when we were working to the west of LZ Nancy doing "blocking" assignments. Track 1-3 neglected to retrieve their claymore ambush from the night before. Their philosophy was: if we ain't going no where (& we weren't because we were waiting for a mechanic to install a needed part for my track) why bring in their stuff? Ka-boom the NVA ran into the ambush. The rest of us thought that it was incoming and dove for the dirt. 1-3 started firing wildly into the bush because they knew what it was. To make a long story short, that night, when it was my turn for guard at around 3 a.m., I sleepily took a look around the perimeter and saw Jerry buck nekkid walking around with an M16! I thought I was hallucinating. What made it even weirder was that the mosquitoes were tearing me up and Jerry seemed unaffected. Let's see, 2 dead NVA, and a naked Chieu Hoi =? Is it any wonder that I haven't thought of these matters for 30 years?
It was a super sad & poignant day when Jerry left us, apparently for another assignment. He came around and shook everyone's hand then said a big "Hello" and left. Apparently he got the words "hello" and "goodbye" mixed up. We answered "hello" back and waved goodbye. "Where the hell is he going?" the Ltee asked. "I don't know." was the answer.
We had several more chieu hois, but the scariest was a scarred, unsmiling, hard-faced guy who showed up one day. He looked like he had been fighting a war since he was an infant. Was this guy a real chieu hoi, we thought? He just emanated a huge dislike for us Americans. We gave him a wide berth. That very night, he disappeared, back to the NVA, we assumed.
One of the real neat things that is posted in the picture site are the Chieu Hoi safe conduct passes that used to be all over the ground on the Z. The one propaganda thing that I wish I kept were those NVA Christmas cards that mysteriously appeared on the ground everywhere in December 1969. They showed a drawing of Santa Claus pointing behind him and the caption was "Go Home." On the reverse side was a drawing of a woman sitting at a desk with a picture of a G.I. the caption was "Wish he were home." Anyone lucky enough to have one of those souvenirs?
Pineapple (Cooper has a copy of this on the website)
Drake was one of my first tank commanders in Viet Nam. A mine north of Alpha Four one day in December 69 or January 70 messed him up. We had a vehicle down in third platoon, so they sent us to one of the other platoons to pick up a tow bar. We had strapped the tow bar onto the back deck of our tank, and were backing up to turn around, when *^BOOM^* an ear splitting explosion went off right beside the tank. I don't know if they ever figured out whether it was command detonated, or if we ran over a trip wire. Being very new in country, I relied on the training that I had gotten by watching the TV show "Combat" when I was a kid, and did the only thing I could think of. I yelled "Medic!" Drake was covered in blood. He was in the TC hatch, I was the gunner and sitting on the loader's hatch, and our loader was sitting on the bustle rack. No one else got a scratch. Holes in our marmite cans, water cans, and everything in the bustle rack. Drake had something like 23 pieces of shrapnel in him, and he was a hurting puppy, though he stayed awake throughout the ordeal. The medic from the platoon we were getting the tow bar from patched up the holes in him as best he could and then called a Medivac. Kent went to a hospital in country, and spent about 3 weeks there, but remained in Viet Nam and completed his tour. He is now living back in Three Rivers, Michigan -- his hometown. Bub Pollet is also still living there and Kent said he sees Bub from time to time. They completed their tours in Viet Nam in very early 1970.
One of the ways we acquired grass was to drive out of LZ Nancy at a breakneck clip, up to the people that hung around the main gate selling cheap mirrors and plastic bowls. As we passed, we threw a case of C-Rations out. We went about 200 meters down the road, turned around, at the same speed, we flew back. The gooks would then throw huge bags of grass at us as we passed. Easily, these bags were worth about $100 in 'Nam, maybe $300 back in the world. It was the best, most high quality shit available! We called it the grass run.
Pineapple you write about getting grass at the gate of LZ Nancy for C-Rations. One case of rations got you $100.00 bag of dope. (We all realize that we never inhaled and only did that stuff to let the brothers know we were cool) Let me refresh your mind. A case of C-Rats was worth $5.00. A case of cigarettes was worth $5.00. A shot of momma san was $5.00. a pack of ready rolls was $1.00. A $5.00 bag was about all you could fit in 2 Ziploc sandwich bags. A kilo (2.2lbs.) was $20.00 that would fill a waterproof bag. Cigarettes were free out of SP packs, cost $1.10 a carton at the PX.(did get some for $1.00 on that LST and got greenbacks in change for a $20.00 MPC which were worth 3MPC per greenback). I recollect it very reasonable. Name withheld by request. merk, merk.
Got an E- Mail at last. Even learned how to check it. Need to send Sgt Barrows the history of the cav. We were talking the other day and we've both got stuff to add (pages). Some you may not want to publish, but a lot is humor, like Jordan driving A17 with the umbrella to keep from tanning. JB was the gunner on 17 when I got there in June 11th 69. TC was Cooper E5. The first firefight we got into I had to pull the 90mm cases out of the main gun as they only ejected half way. After it was over I ask JB when he had last cleaned the chamber (screw the bore) and he said, "Never cleaned it". I took over that job from then on.
Remember Capt Robinson? When we would pull into a base saying we could get most anything we needed here...Lots of nights out in the bush enjoying dehydrated steak and shrimp etc., that came from someone else's mess hall. Barrows says we stole a bunch of food and some of those insulated cans from some unit and under threat of CID involvement had to bring the cans back but was allowed to keep the food. I figured they deserved it since they wouldn't feed us or let us use their showers.
One time on the Z we found a tunnel and using a tank jumper cable lowered Lt. Canda down the hole with his .45 caliber pistol. Was really steep. While he went to explore the hole, Dodds and me pulled up the cable and let him sweat for awhile, yuck, yuck.
The entire troop was working one day on the Z, we were heading for a ridge line and ran into muddy dirt and had to detour about 400 yards to the left. As we were turning back to the ridge 5 or 6 large blasts went off on the ridge where we had 1st approached the ridge. The NVA had set up claymores and would have peppered us if we hadn't had to move to the left. Barky was in the air and radioed he could see the NVA running on the other side of the ridge. The entire troop pulled on line and opened up on the valley. We shot all of the main gun ammo in the turret, called in air strikes with F4s, arty etc., When the smoke cleared a bit the CO told 1st platoon to sweep the valley and 2&3rd stayed on the ridge. The 3 tanks were out in front of the APC's by 30yds. or so. Barky or the CO was talking on the radio saying we were about to run over the NVA we were so close to them. I couldn't see anything but jungle thru the sight on A17 but fired several canister rounds anyway. Sgt Barrows said the barrel was pointing down when I fired and Bamboo and crap flew all over the place...he thought we had been hit for a minute. After a couple of rounds I shouted to the loader I wanted another canister round and got no response. I looked over and the loader was gone. I ask Barrows where he was and he said "the back deck". I told him to tell him to get back inside. He wouldn't get back in. I think this was Dodds when he was fresh off an APC. Anyway I loaded and fired several rounds myself. About this time an NVA stepped out from behind a bush and Sgt. Barrows shot him 2 times with the .50 in the upper leg. The CO called down and said if he was alive S2 needed prisoners. We pulled up beside him and he had his hands underneath him as if he might have a grenade. We let him bleed for a while due to this danger. In the meantime the 1st platoon had stopped the sweep. Lt Canda's APC was to our right rear about 20 yards away and there was a bomb crater between us. The Lt. dismounted and was walking around with his .45 pistol. I had left the turret and was sitting beside Sgt Barrows with an M16. Sgt Barrows always kept his .45 under his .50 cal (use to tease him that the only thing it was good for was to shoot himself to prevent capture) and I suddenly see him pull his pistol and begin to swing it back towards the Lt. Knowing something was up I followed his swing with the M16. As Barrows came down just about in line with the Lt. I see an NVA crawling out of this bomb crater maybe 10 feet or so from the Lt. Barrows popped him with the .45 and I emptied the clip on the M16 in one burst...Poor Lt started shouting "it's me, it's me!" as if we were shooting at him Yuck, yuck.
Then there was the time Aug? The brains from higher up came up with the mounted ambush. Three M48s sneaking up on the NVA and ambushing them...go figure. Anyway we were south of Nancy as I recall and the spot they wanted us to go was low land by a creek with several hills around. We set up on a hill and notified HQ. of our position change. It was an hour or more before dark when we were finally all set up. We were relaxing around the turret when this strange noise that sounded like a locomotive running out of steam and passing right next to us occurred. As I was trying to imagine what it was, the area where we were supposed to be exploded. It was a very large explosion indeed. We were taking big incoming artillery. Sgt Barrows got on the radio to base camp to tell them we were taking fire (this was too big to be Charlie's), the base camp said no one was firing that they knew about but that they would check it out. A few minutes later this woosh, woosh, steam engine sound started again. This round hit in line with us but on the other side. Both had been 3 or 400 yds away. Barrows got back on the horn...same story they didn't know who was shooting. I joked to Barrows that they had us bracketed in. The woosh, woosh starts again and this time you can hear it's a lot closer...in fact I thought it was going to land in my back pocket. We were huddled inside the tank, flack jackets and steel pots on. This round landed in front of the tank maybe 50 yds away. When it went off it pulled the steel pot off my head 5-6 inches as it sucked the air out of the tank. Last week when I was talking to Barrows he said he remembers trying to crawl into his steel pot. It stopped after that 3rd round. It was 8 inch gunfire. I recall it was the south Vietnamese being trained that fired on us. Barrows remembers it was our own guys. Either way it was a hell of an experience.
Don't remember the month but during the dry season we were breaking down jungle in M48 A17 and as broke down some bamboo a green snake fell down into the drivers hatch with Jordan. He cane out like his pants were on fire and refused to get back inside. Sgt Barrows threatened to leave him there if he didn't get back in. Seems to me somebody else (like me) had to drive for a few days. We also had a huge spider inside one time (like the old Tarzan movie) that gave everybody the creeps. I remember getting my gas mask and 2 cans of DDT and locking myself inside and emptying the cans. Can't remember if I did that for the snake or for the spider.
Then there was the day we were riding along the trail and the damn left fender blew off A17 (M48). That was the day I learned not to put trip flares and grenades in the same box. That lid to that box must have gone 200yds up in the air.
Remember how the jeeps use to get borrowed? Got so bad they started chaining the clutch pedal to the steering wheel. Seems to me the CO had a hot one he kept for along time.
One day during the dry season we found a 1000lb-unexploded bomb. I think you have a picture on your video of the blast (that's not on the web site anymore...is that your picture?). I put a couple sticks of C4 on it and a long, long, fuse. We then hurried to a hilltop at what seemed a safe distance. That damn thing looked like an atomic bomb when it went off. Mushroom cloud, ring around the base, etcetera. To this day the most impressive blast I have ever seen.
Then during the Typhoon we rode out at Cua Viet (Nov? 69) I was on bunker duty. The wind was blowing the rain into the bunker sideways and was cold as hell. One of the guys on the bunker with me got into his sleeping bag behind the bunker to block off the wind and went to sleep. In the middle of the night the Lt (Canda?) came around on an APC to check on us and ran over the guy in his sleeping bag. Lucky guy got rolled under the belly but wasn't hit by the tracks.
I'M SURE we were at Cua Viet for Thanksgiving because I remember a Holiday dinner in the field and I was in DaNang for Christmas. Don't know the month but we still had the M48s. 1st platoon alone was north of Cua Viet it had been quiet and I was bored since it was not a free fire zone there. I told Jersey (Congleton) who was driving that I wanted to drive that day. I threatened to empty the coax ammo box the next time I had a chance and he let me drive (he had sensitive ears). We left our NDP that morning and hadn't gotten 200yds in the very tracks we had come in on the evening before and we hit a mine. BOOM! I didn't remember it (most likely concussion) but Sgt Barrows said I had a .50 cal ammo can hit me and knocked me a little silly. Took forever to get A17 back to the river. We tried every which way to get 17 on to the navy 8 boat they had there. They could carry one tank and one APC only. We ended up getting an LST from somewhere and finally got her back to the navy base. The picture on the website of A17 in the water was taken when we were trying to get her loaded on those small boats. The road to Quang Tri was washed out and the NVA had control of the area so they couldn't get a flat bed trailer in to take 17 back to Quang Tri for almost a month. I stayed with her at Cua Viet during this time. Had my own hooch, had my own perimeter around it to keep the Navy who weren't invited at bay, ate 3 hot meals a day out of the navy mess hall, rode the river with the navy (out of sheer boredom), and enjoyed a hot shower when I wanted to. Best damn month I ever spent in the army.
THEN there was the time the CO took the troop out to test fire weapons (west of A4 or C2). We came on line; A17 was the farthest track to the right, and fired away. I shot 2 rounds of 90mm and moved to the loaders hatch where I had my extra .50 cal mounted. The ammo was dusty so I decided to shoot it up. There was a clump of bushes out a few hundred yards that I took aim at and opened fire. Next thing you know there is a red star cluster flare coming out of that clump of trees. Seems there were some friendly folks hiding in my target. SS says He say some holes in their gear. Lucky no one was hurt. The Colonel was waiting for us when we got back to the base. He said my .50 was unauthorized and had to come off. I pulled the pin and moved it to the bustle rack. He said that wasn't good enough, he wanted the mount removed (that had been arc welded on). I told him we didn't have a torch in the field. He said you have a hacksaw don't you? It's hard to reason with people like that.
THEN there was the potty Problem we had. Barrows brought back a folding camp potty when he came back from a leave he had. Instant hit with the entire platoon. Didn't have to worry about pissing on your boots anymore. That pot saw a lot of action...until one day everybody in the platoon had the crabs. Had to get naked and rub that white cream all over while we burned our fatigues. They got as many sets out of the laundry and supply as they had but I ended up with no fatigues. The CO gave me a set of his to wear with the damn bars sewed to the collar. I'd been pissed if an NVA sniper picked me out because of that. We didn't loan out the potty anymore.
THEN there was the time at alpah4 during the monsoon I was sleeping under a poncho on the back deck of the tank. Sgt Barrows shakes me awake and ask me if hadn't heard that? I ask "Heard what?" He says that mortar round that went off. I told him I hadn't heard it. He points to mud and crap all over my poncho. I get up and see where the mortar round hit a few feet behind the tank. That's tired.
AND THEN while working out west we had to make log runs out to Hwy1 to get supplies. We had been fording this river at a certain location for a month without problems. The water was just deep enough that the driver had to button up to keep the water from washing up the front of the tank. We had Sheridans at this time and A17 drivers hatch had a problem in that getting the cam lock to close the drivers hatch required a 5lb hammer. Sgt Barrows stayed out in the field for this trip so I was playing T.C. We stopped and threw a few grenades in the water while Jersey hammered his hatch closed. When he was ready we proceeded to ford the river. Little did we know that a B52 strike had come thru there and left us a 20ft hole in the middle of our ford. We sank big time. Poor Jersey nearly drowned before he could find that hammer and get himself out. The transmission and engine as well as the turret electrical system fried. The guys at battalion or brigade put another engine and transmission in within a few days but the turret parts were not in country so we were not combat ready. While waiting for the other parts an APC from the troop got pulled back to base camp broken down but close enough to the mileage where they were going to get a new track. The problem was that this poor guy had to clean this APC before he could get his new one. I told him we should hook up the tow bar and I would pull him to the river where for a few C-rations the locals would clean it for him. He thought this was a grand idea. As I pulled him into the water I felt my ass getting wet. I looked down and my tank is filling up with water. Then the engine dies and I'm stuck. The guys who put the engine in didn't put the access plates back on under the tank. It was all their fault-honest.
Another funny story... Barrows always pulled last guard shift from 5-7 AM. We were working out of either C2 or A4 and the NVA had been shelling the place daily. A rocket had hit near enough to an outhouse that Barrows used to ventilate it. We started to tease him that he better quit using it as the NVA had it zeroed in. One morning he woke me up to take his place on guard at daybreak so he could go to the outhouse. He had enough time to get his ass planted when the rockets and mortars started hitting very close to us. Sgt. Barrows came running out of the outhouse with his pants down around his ankles. He was trying to pull them up and run at the same time. He had to run maybe 50 feet to a bunker. He never got the pants up above his knees during this run. They might consider adding this event to the PT test stuff you do in basic training. You know 100 yd. man carry, etc.
Jerry Just to help you with memories of Viet Nam I used to pull the 0300 _0700 Hr shift all the time because I had to make sure the Platoon was up and ready to go early every. To make up for pulling the last shift I always pulled a 4 hr shift. That morning at the outhouse we were going to escort the Engineer mine sweep team on the daily sweep back to Charlie 2 from Alpha 4. I was attacked by a case of "Gotta Goes when that mortar and rocket attack started. The rest of the story was pretty accurate
Barrows and I were talking the other day and he reminded me of the time the CO Capt. Smith decided we were using too much C4 explosive (most to heat our C-rations but I do remember boiling 2 quail I had killed running in front of the tank which took about a case of the stuff and they were still tough) and started having that green plastic explosive sent out that didn't burn worth a damn. Barrows laughed and said he never noticed we doubled our claymore orders to get the C4 out of them.
Then there was my R&R story. I waited until I had about 8 months in country to apply for R&R because I wanted to go to Sidney and someone had told me the longer you waited the better your chances of getting your pick. When my orders came thru I got Thailand so I was not a happy camper. I flew to DaNang and lined up at the R&R center behind 15 other guys in front of this Navy guys desk. After awhile it was my turn so I walked up to this guys desk and set my paperwork on top of it. This shit head jumps my ass and says if he wants my paperwork he will ask for it. (The bastard had looked at everyone's' paperwork that had been in front of me). This guy was an E-6 who must have weighed 300 lbs. and was all of 5'6" tall. It was all I could do to keep from breaking his neck on the spot so I picked up my papers and left. I went to Red Beach and found me a momma san for that week. When I got back to the troop they said because I had not gone on R&R the troop had lost an R&R slot. So if any of you guys didn't get R&R after that it was all my fault.
OK more B.S. bout Nam, like the time Sgt Barrows came into the bunker at either Charlie 2 or Alpha 4 with his .45 caliber pistol in hand, pointed it at the floor and pulled the trigger. Boom it went off and scared the shit out of several of us including Barrows. I think he said "so much for the firearms safety lecture."
Then there was the time the new scout in the platoon wanted to go out and learn to set up claymore ambushes with me. We found a good spot with a trail on it; I showed him how to hook the claymores together with Det cord, and how to pull the trip wire across the kill zone to the claymores. I was in the process of showing him how to hook the safety pin on the end of the trip wire into the grenade's blasting cap, hooking only one hole so it was sensitive. He was standing up looking down at me squatting beside the 4 claymores and as I turned loose of the safety pin it pulled out of the flip lever on the grenade's blasting cap. This gave us about 4 seconds before 5 pounds of C4 went off. He ran as soon as he saw it happen. I didn't know if I should run or shit. I knew the back blast on one claymore was about 18 meters and figured 4 would be much further so I decided to disarm it by pulling out the grenade's blasting cap. I was surprised how hot the cap was when I grabbed it (fuse inside burning) and realized that the explosive in the cap might very well become more sensitive than usual since it was hot. I very carefully pulled it out of the claymore and threw it. It blew up about a foot from my hand. I got my first gray hair that day. The new guy never asked to go out with me again. I changed to an electrical system after this so I could set it up as hairy as I wanted to and knew that until I hooked the battery up 100 feet away I was safe. Also made it less hairy to pick them up in the morning when you might not remember exactly where you left them.
Can't remember where we were but I'm thinking Charlie 2. Sgt DiSanto on A26 and Sgt Barrows on A17 get an offer form one of the Mech. Infantry company's (1/11?) for breakfast. They had an APC hit a mine the day before and while trying to retrieve it had another APC hit a mine. We got real eggs for breakfast and all we had to do was go out in the middle of a minefield and retrieve those APC's. In hindsight I think that job was underbid. Sure would have been if we had hit a mine but we were lucky that day.
Barrows you need to tell Pineapple the story about us towing the broken Tank and having the NVA following us with the mortar rounds and how we load rated that bridge that day. You had better details on it than I have. I do remember pulling out of Charlie 2 one morning during the usual mortar and rocket attack and was amazed when the mortar fire started following us up the road. Made the hair on the back of my neck tingle a bit.
THEN there was my naked period. I had the ringworm over about half my body and my entire crotch. During the day I wore cutoffs and at night I went naked. The stuff Doc gave me for it didn't work. Barrows didn't want me to go in to the camp because we were short handed (and the hands we had probably had no tank training at all) so I stayed out there like a trooper. Anyway one morning I was running around naked and the one-star general we had flew in on his helicopter for a surprise inspection. I was the one that caught the brunt of the ass chewing that morning for being out of uniform but during his hissy fit on the tank he grabbed the foam pad Sgt Barrows sat in on the TC's hatch and threw it away saying it was a luxury item and had no place in a combat vehicle. Good thing the SOB never needed my help after that day. I did get a helicopter ride to the hospital that day and a week stay getting IV drugs to clear that crap up, not to mention 3 hot meals, and a couple of hot showers a day while I was there. Just think if hadn't been for the ass chewing I would have missed all that. Speaking of hot showers how many times did you come in from the field and scrub the shit out of yourself in the shower and when you got out and smelled your armpits you had to go back in and shower some more. It was industrial strength stench. I think the spray deodorant sealed it into distinct layers you had to work thru.
Cua Viet Navy base was the only place in northern I corp where one platoon actually got a night off every 3rd day. The Navy issued C-rats to the guys who ran the river but most of them managed to make it back to the base for the 3 hot meals the mess hall served and as a result they had a big fenced in area full of C-rats. I can remember leaving Cua Viet with the turret so full of C-rats that we would not have been able to fire the main gun if we had to. Lucky we never had too.
I can't remember where we were but we were out in the field somewhere and sat up the NDP late. We had fire support from a 4.2" mortar outfit that night. Sgt Barrows called the mortar group on the radio to request an airburst marker round so we could get them on target. A few minutes later we heard a THUD out in front of our tank. Barrows called the team to tell them that the round was a dud and ask them to repeat the airburst. That round worked perfectly. The next morning I went out to pick up the trip flares and there was a 4.2" high explosive round sticking in the ground about 20 yards in front of A17. We had all been sitting around on the top of the tank when it hit and surely would have been peppered if the thing had gone off. Those guys must have been hitting the booze or smoke pretty heavy that might.
One day we were set up as a blocking force for some unit that was doing a sweep. We were to stay in this one position all day long. I got bored and made a bolo out of a pair of socks, some dirt, and a length of cord I had around. The area was flat and there were no targets to practice throwing this bolo at except the antenna on the tank so I used it as a target. I got pretty good at hitting the antenna over the course of the day. Late in the afternoon a Vietnamese kid comes by us driving a couple of water buffalo with a stick. I think the buffalo is a perfect target for my new bolo so I grab it up and start running towards the buffalo swinging this bolo and taking careful aim at one of them. When I release the bolo it comes out of my hand before I intend it to. Had I been aiming at the kid I couldn't have made a better shot. The bolo opened up and the string hit him in the chest. The two socks full of dirt wrapped around him a couple of time and both hit him in the chest. The kid went down like a load of bricks. Boy I felt bad that day. The kidwasn't hurt badly and was happy to be bought off with C-rations. Probably joined the Vietcong the next day.
Pineapple after we got the Sheridans and Sgt Barrows started getting the short timers increase Sphincter tone syndrome we started letting some of the other tanks take point. I think it was SSgt Skolnzovch in his Sheridan that hit 2 mines in about 2 weeks. The 1st one blew him and his entire .50cal turret off his tank with him inside it.Seems the next one was sort of a dud. A W.P. round went off under his tank. Seems that someone had stepped on a mine during this same period while dismounted. If memory serves me this SSgt had only been in country for a short time. He would hang his butt off the side of the tank to take a dump so he didn't have to dismount.
Nobody has mentioned that the tanks led the troop because the tanks could stand the mine hits better. Also Charlie started putting some sort of counting detonator on his mines so that the tank would not set the mine off but the APC that followed would. We then had to start putting 2 tanks in the front of the line. .
You guys who were tankers will no doubt remember when we first got the Sheridans. They set up a firing range for us to train on. We were all a little worried because they told us the front end on the Sheridan jumped about 3 feet off the ground when you fired the main gun. Sgt Barrows, brave soul that he was, got in to fire the first round to show us there was nothing to worry about. He fired the damn thing and came out with blood running down all over his face. He had flipped the site cover half way up so that the sharp edge of the cover was over his forehead but the foam forehead rest kept him from feeling it. This put the sharp edge maybe a quarter of an inch away from his forehead. The recoil of the gun forced the cover towards his head and cut him all the way across his head just over his eyebrows. Nobody wanted to shoot after that.
I think "Bastards of the DMZ" fits the description of the troop very accurately. When we got a stand down day a lot of the time we didn't even get to got to our base camp. We had the pleasure of going to someone else's and got to watch them eat hot chow and shower while we ate C-rats and stunk. The one thing I thought they did a pretty good job on was keeping us in beer and ice. On A17 Jordan didn't drink beer and between J.B, Sgt Barrows, and myself we averaged 4 cases a day. I'm pretty sure that's why I haven't had any Agent Orange problems. Would probably be dead if I had drunk the water.
I remember the first time we sat up with straight leg infantry (1/11?). It was late afternoon and we had just finished our C-ration dinner and we had some odds and ends of stuff that none on A17 would eat (even the gooks would throw some of that stuff back at you), so I threw it off the side of the tank. These grunts looked at that stuff and then at me and ask "you throwing that away? Mind if we have it?" I felt bad for them...2 beers 1 little piece of ice, starving to death. I let them have the garbage and swapped ice-cold beer out of our cooler for their hot beer. We struck up a conversation and I told the I was sure glad I had my job VS theirs. To my surprise one of these guys says he wouldn't trade jobs with me on a bet. So now I'm thinking this guy has sunstroke for sure or he's so malnourished it's affecting thought process. I had to ask him why he wouldn't trade flat footing for riding with cold beer and more C-rats than he could eat. He said when the shooting starts my ass will be below ground and you guys will be a very big target with no place to go. Guess it depends on your perspective.
When I first come to Vietnam I hardly got time to see L.Z. Nancy before I was trucked up to Alpha 4 for my baptism. Hell of a place to break in. Couldn't believe you could see that NVA motor pool across the DMZ with that damn red flag flying above it. I always wanted to take a shot at it especially since I figured they were the ones that shot the rockets and mortars at us all the time. Anyway during the nights there I kept hearing this whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, noise going overhead and thought it must be a bird or big fruit bat or something. After a week or so I ask someone what the hell that noise was. He said have you seen those five foot long 100 pound pieces of shrapnel laying around on the ground around here? Jesus Christ! There weren't any bombs dropping close to us, that stuff wascoming from WAY OVER THERE and flying over my head! .
I don't know why but for some reason around the time of the move from Nancy to Quang Tri I was back at Nancy for some reason. There was a bunker there that wasn't on the original blue prints and in typical military fashion somebody decided it had to be destroyed. There was a brother in the camp maybe had a base camp job who was assigned to destroy this bunker. The plan was to burn out the wood supports and let the sand bag roof fill it in. This job was given to the brother who pulled the MO-GAS truck up to it and proceeded to run a bunch of gasoline down into this bunker. Good plan so far. Where he went wrong was standing directly in front of the entrance and throwing a trip flare down there to light it up. Burned his face, hair, hands, ect. I saw him sometime after that and other than having a bunch of pink spots all over where he was burned he was O thay. Anyone remember his name?
The C.O. of Personnel and Finance at A75 Support was some kind of frustrated Green Beret Airborne Ranger dude. He has the airborne wings and the ranger patch. The major would send for me at least once a week and make me ride with him in a helicopter up to the DMZ, then to A4 or C2, where we'd land for a few minutes, then take off and look around the bushes and paddies a bit more. I'm a little puzzled since there are 2 other combat guys in finance, one from the 1/11th and the other from 1/61st, but he doesn't make those guys fly around with him. I'm very afraid, but I must hide it well. I wonder how many of these rides do I have to take before I can put in for an air medal? I love flying in choppers; the ride is fantastic. The major likes riding those little Loaches. I do too. I think he's crazy. We've never seen anyone on our little trips around the bush thank God. All I carry is 2 bandoleers of ammo. I guess in gratitude for me riding shotgun for him, the major made a call to the Cav to ask why the hell I hadn't been promoted to E-5 yet. He said he had Top schedule me for the next board. I was shocked, I didn't want to be promoted, I wanted to stay in Finance for the rest of the war. If I were promoted, I would have to go back to the field. I asked Top to ignore what that major said I didn't want it. (Pineapple.)
Now on the Charlie Browns rolling tank/PC story. While in Nam I had the good fortune to have one of my tanks burry itself up to the sprockets in that spongy stuff we all remember. I was a mess and I couldn't get another tank in close enough to recover it without risking that tank also. Hooked up a PC to it and It wouldn't pull it out. Hooked up two PC's. No go. I'm about to collect all the cables we have and link them when along comes the colonel. Melia was his name I think. He tells me to hook a tank to the front of the PC. So we have tank cabled to PC cabled to tank in the muck. Can't remember If we had another tank in line leading but the long and short is when the pulling started the rear of the PC in the middle ripped rightoff.
GSR, Ground Surveillance Radar. In theory they picked up movement with Doppler shift radar waves, it was supposed to detect things like vehicles or people moving toward you. In fact, the GSR took up space, and didn't do much. I think the night that 2nd platoon had their big contact across from Cua Viet with a couple dozen NVA naval sappers they had GSR pointed right toward the center of the group of dinks, and didn't see squat until one of the bad guys set off a trip flare. GSR was a technology, which had not completely arrived during the Viet Nam war.
We were set up in NDP out towards the beach somewhere in the middle of nowhere and as I recall only 1st platoon was there. I was sitting up on top of the turret behind the .50 cal doing my guard shift looking at the fireworks here and there when I notice a twin 40mm open up. It was a long way off and looked like it wouldn't come close to us. I was watching the tracers burn out different colors at different ranges and began to realize it was going to impact closer to us than I first thought. The guns were still firing when the first rounds hit maybe 60-70 meters out to the north of us and proceeded to sweep his fire through the platoon and stopped firing a little south of the NDP. After a few minutes (reloading no doubt) they started firing again and sweep back thru the platoon. Don't remember anyone getting wounded, do remember itching to squeeze off a few 90mm rounds to return the favor. Do you remember where we were Sgt B?
Jerry Are you talking about the time we were on the North side of the Cua Viet River setting up our NDP and the Riverine Boat came down the River and was firing the twins. Cpt Merk Merk called for the Mortar track to pop illum and I was screaming No NO!! but they popped one and the Navy thought they had found a good target, Us!! Everyone was up under the tracks while they were shooting the Hell out of us. Finally got them stopped. That incident definitely stands out in my mind!!
Do you remember the time they let the whole Troop stand down at the same time in Quang Tri? We all went to the Brigade NCO Club together and between everyone there must have been about $500 -$600 dollars of funny money anted up in the middle of the table and one of our young NCOs walked up to the bar with his boonie hat on and they were demanding that he buy everyone at the bar a drink !! (about 60 people) and we hollered "After the Fight" and all Hell broke loose, I remember someone shoved all the change in the pile to the waitress and told her to keep it. They brought in two trucks of MPs to break it up and that was the last time they ever let us stand down at the same time and I think they put the Brigade Club off limits to the Cav . HA!!
Hello Lt P Just checking your memory, do you remember the time your Dad sent you the bottle of wine and Italian Sausage and cheese? You came over to my track and wanted a wine screw to open the bottle. You told me that if anyone in Viet Nam had one it would be me! I dropped down into the turret and came back out with one. Then you peeled off all your clothes and lay on a blanket with your goodies. You were doing fine till that damn helicopter with the (Can't remember this part. General or Colonel) got out and you had to go report to him without a stitch of clothes on. I was having a good time at that scene. Question? What did you do with that old uniform? Ha!! Best Wishes
Capt Spruill stated that there was no scope in the radar set up, that the radar returns were audible rather than visual. When the radar guys first came out with first platoon in the latter part of 1969, of course I was curious enough to want to learn everything I could about it, and one of the things that I did when I went up to the tripod was to look through a radar scope. It had what looked to me like a circular display, just like the stuff you see in the movies and a sweeping thingie going back and forth. I couldn't make heads or tails out of the picture. They did use headphones too, but there was definitely a green and black display. My first comment was, how can you tell if it's people and not bushes that's moving? They said they could tell because of their experience. When 2nd platoon got hit in April '70, the first thing I heard was that the attack came right at the radar gizmo, and if it wasn't for a trip flare, things would have been much different. It only points up what I've always experienced with technology, that anything on the bleeding edge is never ready for prime time. It takes years for the technology to mature.
My 19 track was with me all the time. Don't ever remember calling for mortar fire except for one night we were called out to secure an AVLB that was stuck in the field (what is was doing I never had a clue!), but we were called out & set up a defensive perimeter. When it started to get dark they really didn't want to spend the night (I'm thinking we were at C-4 at the time, but not positive) so I had Sgt Lawrence fire illum so they could keep working. He fired every round they had and they finally got the damn thing unstuck. On the way back I got a call that there were friendlies in our area who had been sent out to back us up if necessary. I had to tell my platoon not to fire and we passed about a platoon-sized group of grunts that was going out to set up an ambush in case Charlie showed up to see what the fuss was about. Never did hear if they had any luck. I just don't remember having any targets to use the mortars on. I think I used to hook it up with the 15 track and use them as scouts. The platoon sergeant and I used to let men move tracks or tanks if there was a need. I think I had an 11Bravo that became a tank driver. Does anyone remember if that was Troy?
Thanks six, I'd written what I knew about it, but as Jim said, we were just pawns doing what we were told, never had a clue what the overall purpose was, who else was involved or half the time, even where we were. Great to have the big picture. One incident I didn't write in my journal (but I know happened) and haven't heard anyone else reference, was the big perimeter fire that happened on that big 5th Div. sweep where we had more of the 5th in the bush than back at Quang Tri. Jim, (or Six) you seem to know all the details - still envious of your memory - but weren't we real close to Laos on that one? Anyway, someone's trip flare went off and lit up the elephant grass and the wind caught it and we had to scramble to get as many claymores in as possible before the fire got there. One track (tank?) was surrounded by fire and they used a dozer to push dirt against it. We were beating back flames w/ our shirts and anything else be could get our hands on. Wild & crazy night.
The big grass fire was in the Ba Long Valley, as we were returning from Van der Grift & the Rock Pile to Quang Tri via the scenic route. The operation was "Task Force 1-77 Armor" and it took place during the summer of 1970. As you said, half the frickin brigade must have been on it. During the part of that operation where the fire occurred, the artillery had already gone home via QL-9, and the Cav, and I suppose most of 1-77 Armor and 1-61 Infantry along with maybe some other support elements, were headed back through the Ba Long Valley, then over some hills, and finally across the Quang Tri river near the big bend south of the French Fort. We were out in that area for several days. If I recall correctly, we had been starting fires during the day with WP to clear out any cover that the bad guys might have used to set up ambushes behind. I don't know if the wind changed direction at night after we set up the NDP, or if a new fire was started by a flare or WP round while registering Def Cons. It seems that at least one daisy chain of claymores went off in the fire, though I don't think anyone was seriously wounded by it. Big excitement, that night, however. After the night of the fire, I think we were still in that area for a couple more days. There were some AVLBs that we used to cross a couple of very deep stream beds in the hills when we continued back toward Quang Tri. If I recall correctly, we spent at least one more night in the hills on the way back before returning to the Quang Tri area. I know the 3rd Platoon stayed on a hilltop over-watching an AVLB one night, and we had movement in the stream bed, and fired up the area with one or more mad minutes of machinegun fire. The next day, the AVLB crews had a hard time raising their bridge because of all the damage we had done to it with small arms fire the night before. That was the first time that most of us had been anywhere near the Rock Pile, Van der Grift, or the Ba Long Valley. At the trooper level, we really didn't know very much about where we were, or what we might expect to encounter out there. We did know that we were close to Laos, and pretty well out in Indian Country. Pucker factor was rather high throughout that operation. LT Schorpp and I talked about this operation when we were at the reunion last year in Las Vegas. Earl Schorpp thinks that it was done as a dress rehearsal for the Operation Lam San 519 or whatever that cluster fuck was right after the first of the year in 1971 when the ARVNs went into Laos and got their clocks cleaned. There is a picture that I took of that grass fire in my slides on the picture site, on page 3 of the photo albums.
Dang you and that fantastic memory of yours!! You still remember more than I ever knew in the first place!! - even if it is a "refreshed by Lt." memory. Thanks a bunch for the info, I'll print it and add it to my collection. As I remember, we went there at almost the same time they were crossing into Cambodia down south with much success and the general feeling was that we might be going to try the same thing w/ Laos - but then after sitting around on our thumbs for a few days w/o the top brass knowing the next move - which further led to the belief things were coming down daily straight from God, the Pentegon or somewhere up high, we just packed up and as you said, took the scenic route home. VERY anti-climatic!!
Coop, I want to commend you and yours for the fine job you are doing with the unit site. SGT Joe Adams and I went thru AIT together, he went to Vietnam and I went to jump school and I volunteered the day I turned 18 in Aug 69 and got to Vietnam in Dec. He was TC on 44 not 34. He was TC, Greg Beining, John Hanshue, Chris Ward, Doc Lagnese, Tim Archer, and I think when Joe hit the mine at C2 Rodgers was driving but cannot remember but do know that Tim was medevaced from Cua Viet. I spent 29 days in the hospital which is why my photo is not in the Cav book. I was medevaced from Cua Viet and returned when we were at FB Pedro near Khe Sahn if I recall. That was when we had no insect repellant. Also if you correct the Troop Roster my MOS was 11D20 when in Vietnam. I still remember 30 Yankee neg sitrep out many nights looking at the stars and the moon. Keep up the great work and my regards to your family.
Chris C. Ward (Half-Track) and the moon. Keep up the great work and my regards to your family.
1st Platoon was guarding Hwy. 1; we were facing the Rock; 2nd or 3rd Plt. was to our left rear on another hill as you face the Rock. They were overran with NVA and had to call for our platoon to fire on their position with small arms and mortars. They had dug in and had constructed bunkers while located on that hill for two weeks. Charlie was trying to dig into their bunkers that night. We could see gooks running in the perimeter as trip flares were burning. Our orders were to fire at anyone we saw in the light--for all our guys were either in bunkers or dead. Our position got plastered by incoming rockets every afternoon about 3:00 o'clock. One guy (Greg Sessions) from my track (12) and another guy along with a FO were airlifted to the top of the Rock to spot the location from where the rockets were being launched. Arty from FSB Vandergriff would plaster them. Khe Sanh was an adventure and a nightmare! [Buddy Puryear]
Welcome to the Club. I was on 13 in Feb of 1969 when it hit a mine and I still have two scars on my forehead and one across the bridge of my nose that reminds me of that night almost everyday. I couldn't even wear a baseball cap for years as it would bother me. That is one club I really never wanted to join, but thank God I only got scared and didn't lose anything but alot of
blood. That was the first time I ever rode on a track that Lucky Lou Larson wasn't driving and damn if I didn't get hurt. I only trusted riding with Larson and Ken Dye after that night. I'll also never forget the reception I got about 5 days later when I returned to LZ Nancy from the hospital and all the Troop saw me walking down the road to the front gate. They didn't know if I had lived or if I got sent home and would never be seen again. That day really proved to me that I was in a SPECIAL unit with the greatest guys you could ever serve with. I truely felt that every guy in that unit was my real Brother, It's a feeling I have never forgotten and thank God all the time for letting me have it and still be here to appreciate it,
Man I never felt that I was nothing but a good soldier. I served with the greatest
group of men one could ever ask for. In Ken Dye I had a true born leader that
not only knew his shit but truely cared for us guys as his brother. I would
have followed this guy to the end of the earth and would never question anything
he told me. In Lucky Lou, our driver,we had the best damn guy to ever handle
the steering sticks of an APC. This guy could drive the shit out of anything
with or without wheels. Not only could he drive, He was the luckiest SOB I ever
met. I knew as long a Lou was driving I was safer than being home on the expressway.
As for the reat of the guys I pounded ground with, well I could never say enough
to do them justice. Sniper Tom, Paul Schiano, Preacher, Dan Lohman, Kerry Pebble,
Frank Long, Rat Gilcreast, Clarkie, Al Hall and any other trooper that I pulled
Ambush with were some of the best soldiers the USA ever produced. It was an
honor and a privilege to have served with these guys and I would still to this
day trust my life and the lives of my family with anyone of these great Americans.
I really felt I was invincible as long as I was with this group.
Just shootin' the shit with some friends one evening at a birthday party last week when the subject of animals in Vietnam came up. They've heard stories of elephants, tigers and gorillas walking by GIs. in the jungle. I told them that I never saw any of those animals, but I heard of something called a "rock ape" that beat some guy up in the perimeter at Alpha-4, but to my mind it must have been one of them urban legends around the Z. I told them I did run into a monkey once while cutting through some bushes in the middle of the base at Quang Tri. I was walking from my hootch at Finance to the cav. The monkey was tiny, about the size of an infant. It climbed up my left leg, stopped at my shoulder, and peered into my face. "Uh, Hi," I said. It looked at me with these beady little intense eyes. Then the monkey jumped off and disappeared back into the bush. Apparently, I wasn't the guy it was looking for. Then I suddenly had a thought ~ I quickly felt my back pocket for my wallet. Whew! It was still there.
I did kill a deer with my M79 somewhere in the western part of our AO. Snakes were pretty common animals. How many M48 drivers had vipers drop into their laps when they were busting jungle for us? I remember someone in our platoon spraying a bamboo viper with his CO2 extinguisher at C2 and apparently putting it to sleep. We all have stories about pythons. I've never seen one although I was on a dismounted patrol where someone across me saw one & ran away screaming after he threw his rifle at it. He said the snake's head was as big as his head. Uh, the rest of the patrol instinctively ran with him, not knowing what was wrong.
One dark night, while on ambush, a snake crawled between me and the guy next to me. For some reason, the a.p. was lined up real close. I think it was because we were on some kind of small hill overlooking a foot-trail. He jumped up and screamed. I told him to shut up, the snake was gone. I was about to fall asleep so I was very calm. He spent the night at another part of our perimeter.
The fish I saw in the river scared me. The Cua Viet was filled with weird looking big fish. Who didn't throw grenades in the water to see the fish float up to the surface?
& I've never seen rats the size of the rats I've seen at Alpha 4. They were as big as puppies. I shudder to think of it.
The old guys that were in our platoon told some stories about elephants and tigers, but they sounded too wild for me to believe them. [[Pineapple]
about the animal planet; when I was there our platoon scouts killed a 17 foot 9 inch python, we also heard of rock apes, though I never saw one myself but Tiny told me he saw some in the Bau Long valley. We also heard a report about a guy getting killed by a tiger in the same area, I don't remember if he was 1/61 infantry or 1/11 or even if it is true, some of the other troopers may know. [Whitey]
3rd platoon did kill a large (12-15 ft) snake at Cua Viet. We were setup overlooking a village along the Cua Viet river. We took a dismounted patrol thru a banana grove to checkout the village. I don't remember who was on point, but I was 2nd or 3rd in line when the point man stopped and dropped to one knee as he slowly raised his 16, aiming up into the trees. He fired a burst and I heard a crashing and breaking of limbs. I (in addition to being scared shitless), thought that we had walked up on a sniper who was either asleep or not aware of our approach. Then this damn big snake fell out of the tree. Our Kit Carson scout, Seemore, was with us, so when we got to the vil, he told the indigenous personnel what we did. They had lunch, dinner and probably breakfast on us! Mickey D's Nam style. [Earl Schorpp (40)]
We took out a small (even smaller after the claymore went off) pig on the trail with a claymore ambush once. [Skee]
If I remember correctly there was an article in the Stars and Stripes about a trooper being attacked by a Tiger. Killed a snake in the shower at Red Devil chopped off its head don't know what kind of snake it was but it was one of them snakes that crawl.
Had an FNG tell me he saw a green Elephant when I was down south. We got a good laugh out of that. He was looking through a Starlite and everything is green, Only remember seeing a boar when I was with the 12th. [Jim M]
wish i'd have been there to help kill that snake. couple of people posted the picture of that snake and I think someone posted the one that the stars & stripes used. I'm not sure about snakes as we don't have any here in the islands, and my experience with them in Vietnam was limited to just looking at them. Can you kill them in the body or do you have to bash it's head or cut it off. Would cutting a snake's tail off have any effect? How about if you cut it in half? [Pineapple]
& Jim Mills,
You killed a snake in the shower ? Did you normally take a shower in ' Nam armed with an edged weapon? I guess that would be one way of picking up the soap without using your hands. That's awesome! I would have never thought of that, and probably would have been snake bit had it happened to me. [Pineapple]
gnaw had to go back to the tank and get a machete. I was going to shoot it but I was afraid I might hurt myself. Never thought about picking up soap that way might be a safer then bending over [Jim Mills]
About a few weeks in country when we were on patrol somewhere in the rice paddies we veered out of the convoy. I was a gunner on our track-- Alpha-62, Mission Impossible ,I didn't know what was going on. Our T.C. started firing at something. We killed a 12ft. python. When i became T.C. i saw a two stepper up real close. We passed a hanging bamboo branch with a two stepper attached to it. It was about two inches from my face. Another time at Qua Viet we were throwing sea snakes around that were stunned by a mine that went off from some sampans. That's the only snakes I saw. Outside of Charley-2 a boar the size of a baby elephant was killed. [ Big Al ]
I just had a question about an incident that has haunted me since I returned. This has nothing to do with Smith. I witnessed a terrible incident when I was in country not long and it has been with me ever since. I think it was out behind Nancy or Sharon, not really sure. I was riding a PC and kinda riding shotgun on the side deck, right behind the drivers hatch. Mostly to hang on to the TC cupola. Or maybe the wind was blowing the exhaust smoke further back and gassing me? We followed a river and then left it and crossed this big field, kinda roly-poly. As we entered the field I noticed a couple of Viet civilians. Man in his 40's and young girl possibly in her teens or maybe younger. I could never tell the age of those people. Any way's they were walking toward our column which was following an old tank trail, traveling at about 15 maybe 20 MPH. As the PC I occupied approached them (the civilians) it had caught up a roll of concertina wire, somehow that wire was already rolled out on the ground or maybe it had fallen from the PC, I don't know. But it ended up extended out a hundred feet or so, as long as a roll of concertina was ? I don't remember. IT had become entangled in the rear sprocket or one of the idler wheels on the side opposite me and the driver. It turned at the same RPM as the wheel it was attached to, and was whipping the ground to our right rear. Just about the time I had noticed it sticking out rolling along and flailing the ground as it bounced 2 or 3 feet above the ground. It was picking up grass and sticks and spinning them into the air. The whole thing was surreal to me at the time, you know how you see something happening and you can't do anything about it, and you know the results are going to be catastrophic? My head turned forward to gauge how far away the ole man and little girl were away, and to see if they might escape the impending danger. I saw the ole man yell something to the girl, and then I saw him jump over the jagged razor wire leaving the girl to fend for herself. The poor child was immediately caught by the flailing wire and wrapped in a tight cocoon of sharpened steel. Kind of like those Mexican finger trap things. This whole thing happened in a matter of seconds, and I sat, either on my butt or was stooping-squatting on the deck or near the TC cupola, behind the driver. I reacted as fast as I could, without thinking almost; I extended my right leg and kicked the driver square in the back of his head. That was the first thing that came to my mind. I really didn't have any time to do anything else. Well. as you can expect the driver, threw out the anchor and we just about did an endo by the time we stopped. You remember how the suspension was on those PC's when you stood on the brakes. As the vehicle rocking back forward following the initial stop I was practically running off the plywood cow-catcher or shield located on the slopped front of the of the old PC's. I made tracks over to the place where the girl lies in her cocoon bleeding profusely. I tell you, It made me sick! I thought she might be dead meat, but I think she survived! At least as long as she lay there, waiting for us to cut her out. An other vehicle must have witnessed the whole incident transpire, maybe several others. I remember others ran up with their wire cutters as she wailed and began cutting her out. I still remember that I had thought it was really quite a fast response from the guys who had to locate their wire cutters rolling around in the bottom of their vehicles and beat feet over to the scene of the accident. But it seemed to take a long time to cut her out. As soon as my driver had been able to free himself from his CBC helmet and secure the vehicle he came looking for me, with blood in his eye. I found myself trying to explain my kicking him in the head with vigor and haste. I remember he still hadn't grasped what had happened, as he ran up to me. I really thought I was going to get my ass kicked, but he finally understood my dilemma and spared me. I remember the ole man came up and was greatly concerned for the girl I assumed at the time, was his daughter or granddaughter. It seemed like forever till the dust-off arrived, and when it did they had to take the ole man too (I think). Maybe she was so young she couldn't communicate with the medical people or that was their concern. Anyway, I think they did take him on the same Huey. I never saw either again. I have always wondered how that turned out. I can see the whole experience in my minds eye even today. I remember being really angry at the ole man for jumping and leaving her. But in retrospect maybe that's all he could do. And I think they would have both been better off if they had laid down and put their faces in the dirt? Who Knows? Like that picture of the little Viet teenage girl shone on the cover of Life magazine, Naked, screaming, burning with napalm. How could anyone forget?
I believe we all did our best, but I always wondered if maybe I could have had a better sense of what was about to happen, and done more to avoid it. I think the driver was Jim Mann. Or someone with about his general build. I have no idea who the others were, guess might be, SS maybe PR? I just don't remember. Do you have any recollection of this incident and who the missing faces might be? I would be interesting to find out who they were and also about how they remember that day? Sorry to burden you with the gory details, thought you might remember? Anyway that's all for today. That's enough, right! Wild Bill Dodds `Peace Bro.'
Bill, That is one awful incident to have witnessed. Nothing else the old guy could have done but yell and jump. Give him the benefit. Nothing better for you to do but make the driver stop, however you could. You did. Give yourself the benefit. I have no further info, wasn't there, never heard of it. Keep in mind, though, however sorry that incident was, you did what you could. Violent times, bad things went down. That's the nature of life-and-death struggles involving a lot of force. The thing is, you were there, you dealt with it as best you could, better than an SOB who didn't give a shit and just thought, "Oh, lookit that, poor gook kid caught in the wire." Better for her that you were there and not somebody who had no heart and didn't give a damn. Don't put too much weight on that pic of the little naked girl on the magazine cover. There was a story behind that photo op, too bad I don't remember it anymore, could be researched, but the situation was not what it supposedly depicted. Ditto that photo of the vietnamese officer blowing the brains out of a VC. There's a story there. You never know when what you see in the press is propaganda of some sort or another. But you have a pic in your brain, and you know how you personally reacted, and nobody but you, Bill, can pass judgment on your actions. Looks clean to me - if that young lady still walks the earth, and she knew the whole story, she might even thank you. Think of it - you were called upon to do something or not - was it not good that it was you who had the responsibility? LTF
Hey Bill, You where saying something about the barber we had at LZ Nancy. I remember after he gave us a shave and a hair cut, he would crack our necks. It felt good ,but i always thought that he might be a VC. Could he have twisted our necks a little farther? I heard he was killed on a VC trail with the rest of the gooks. You also were saying about land mines. One day i was behind one of our tanks on a convoy and he turned a sharp turn and pryed a land mine out of the ground in front of me. What a close call! Another time up at the D.M.Z. i threw a track on my A.P.C.. The Captain left me and a tank there by ourselves untill i got the track back on. When we where leaveing the tank backed onto an anti- personel mine. I thought that was the end of the line for us. I don,t remember the tank number, but i remember that the sgt. was shot and served another year in Nam.. Big Al
Big Al The tank commander I think was Sgt D [Jersey]
Does anyone remember seeing some of the remnants of the narrow gague railroad neat the hospital & Replacement Detachment at Camp Roberts / Quang Tri Combat Base? Were there any train tracks left when we got there? [J. Good]
Jim, I recall tracks south of QT west of QL . Seem to remember taking a body maintenance stop at the bridge. Must have been A Troops reversion of an Incountry R & R. [Earl Schropp]
p.s. I believe that CAmp Roberts was also known as Camp Red Devil.
Jim, I remember and no, there were no tracks left when I was there. There was, however, a train still running every day from Dong Ha to Da Nang. I remember it well because one time 3rd Platoon did some guard duty for a battery of SP155's. The guns were doing fire support for somebody all night and when I woke up in my little sleepy hole in the ground I couldn't hear! Got sent back to Quang Tri for an exam and they sent me to Da Nang on a truck. The highway paralled the train track for about 1/3 of the way down and I watched an old steam engine puffing along slightly slower than we were going! On the way back I asked the truck driver about the train and he told me it made a round trip every day they could get the engine running. Real sense of pride for the locals. To myself I just figured the only reason the thing didn't get blown sky high was Those People were using it for transport. Greg PS - turns out that during the night the concussion or back blast from the guns had managed to lodge a little, teeny, tiny pebble way down in my ear against the ear-drum. They had a heck of a time getting it out, but after that I no longer had rocks in my head....so to speak. [Greg Beining]
FOXHOLES LTeeF, I can remember after being there for some months we started putting a firing position between the tracks every night. Easy enough in the sand at Qua Viet but a real pain in the ass in some of the soil out west. I started taking the tankers bar and sledge hammer and punching a hole down about 12 inches into the ground with the tankers bar and them stuffing it full of C4. A quick placement of a claymore blasting cap and a walk to the other side of the tank and BOOM we had the finest foxhole US taxpayers could buy. You remember that? Malan Hey Jerry,
I remember we used to cheat.....we would dig under the APC about 8 inches of sand from under the bottom of the APC, between the tracks, made for a nice, out of the rain sleep in comfort foxhole G.I.'s are so resourceful...:-)
Wally, I remember doing that as well. Can't remember doing it during the rainy season. Don't remember it ever turning into a swimming pool under there do you? Jerry Jerry,
I remember it was during late January to early April, we had rain, but I can't remember how much during those months, I do know it rained like a cow pissing on a flat rock during December and early January 1970.
RAIN Wally Mendoza wrote:
I wonder how many of our troopers suffer from the same stuff, it makes me crazy because I have no one to share it with who really understands except you all out there on this net...
The little noises,
The movement in the hedge,
The imaginary gooks,
The real gooks,
The commo checks at 3am ...
Hi Wally and all Cav Brothers, When I spoke at the first reunion, I simply mentioned thoughts and memories that have been stored in my soul for all those many years. You are quite right that only those who have been there and done that would understand. Many times since then, as I see and listen to the rain, I think to myself "Thank God I don't have to sleep in this shit tonight". Not to mention all the other things that went along with those long nights, such as being scared,nervous, and wondering if this might be the night some of us may buy the farm. Hearing that others have the same thoughts, memories and feelings as I have validated my own. EARL (40)
You are so right about the rain.Trying to stay dry,and the mud! I remember the day four or five of us were sent to ATroop,it rained all day.Got to Quang Tri and the First Sgt. pointed to this new tent still folded up,and said this is your home.Put it up!Nice to just look out the window now.
Can't figure out the problem with the rain. I was talking to my office staff about it today and I was telling them that it is so strange that Nam vets have a problem with flashbacks and little sounds, and the sounds of rain, and the smell of diesel and all that shit, and I was saying how it does not affect other veterans from other wars as much as us.... I mentioned that perhaps it has to do with the distance from home we were....Korea was just as far, North Africa was as far, Europe was far as hell also, but Nam was not only far from home it was......"10,000 MILES AWAY!!!!!" I don't give a shit how far Korea was or the Alemain, "10,000 MILES" is a long f____g way from home. And that is what we heard from the beginning of AIT until we left to come home. Somehow I think that played into our Psych)did I spell that right?)we were just kids then and I don't give a shit if its true or not, but 10,000 miles is a WALLY NOT ON MY WATCH Wally, I particularly liked this part of your recollection, it's right on, it matches what I think of as our typical Nam experience. Other stuff comes in flashes - contacts, weapons, unusual situations, interesting characters, bizarre sights, things imprinted by the feeling "Wow, this is weird but it's real." But dark and quiet can bring back the imaginary gooks, and rain - well, then you can't even HEAR the enemy sneaking up. I wonder how many times there was somebody out there who was just checking out our position looking for an opportunity? Stands to reason, many times I think. Though I don't usually dwell on old combat experiences, I recognize their importance in my life. They were important to me, at the time vitally important to others as well, and thus
Great note. I know exactly how you feel. As an NCO my biggest fear was to have someone under my command get hurt or killed. I spent many a sleepless night wondering if I was a good enough leader to keep my people safe and out of harms way. I was very lucky to have been assigned to a unit that was very well trained and had some of the brightest and best leaders a soldier could ask for. Ken Dye trained us all well and we operated as a fine tuned machine. About a year ago I called Don Barnes and the first thing he said to me was Thank you for training him so well as he felt that is what kept him alive in Nam even after I left. Now that is the ultimate compliment any soldier could ever give to another soldier. I told Don it wasn't me that should get the credit as he was smart enough to listen and learn and that is what saved his life, not me.
I can honestly say that back in 1968 Vietnam was not a very important part of my life, I feel that the two above commo net messages reflect the feelings of many of the Troopers who were responsible for the safety and welfare of other Troopers; at times you had to be a real pain in the ass, at times you had to face your limitations, and at times you had to know when to look the other direction. Now, 30+ years later I think this also plays a part with these very same Troopers attending or not attending the Reunions; living down or living up to your past. The Rain and Foxhole commo net messages should not be a big issue with posting to the website (some editting may need to be done), with regards to NOT ON MY WATCH we should contact LT and Rag before posting ( I do not want to valid anyone's privacy on the commo net. These notes may be edit and be posted to the reunion site(attention getters) The reunions have been, and will continue to be events that I truly look forward to so that I can be with a group of true American Heros that mean so much to me. I was deeply honored,personally, when my wife and daughters attended the last one in DC. Up to that point they knew very little about what we did over there. They simply knew that it had an enormous effect on my life. Talking to other Troopers and their families, helped them understand why and how some relatively normal everyday things and events have the effect on me that they do.. Guess they feel the ole man isn't as weird as they thought ! EARL 40 Any trooper reading this who has not been able to attend our reunions should really give serious consideration to doing so. Not so much for the war stories but for the opportunity to be with the guys who been there, did that, the same as they did. The experience is priceless ! I know from personal experience that family members who attend, that they feel the same way. Wally, the rain will end soon, but the memories will not. EARL 40
"For my own part, I had been a volunteer, enlisting the day after high school graduation, and then a couple of years later going to West Point on an enlisted man's competitive appointment. So, I never really felt griped about being in the 'Nam. (Felt as though I had taken the King's coin and elected to wear His uniform, so it would be hypocritical of me to bitch about doing His bidding, you know?) However, one of my strongest reactions to VN was an abiding anger at a Congress and a country that would not let the boys from Yale or Princeton or similar such stations have the same "opportunities" as the boys from Appalachian coalfields, Harlem, blue collar families (such as my own background). I never figured out if I made a horse's rear end of myself as a platoon leader or a company commander...I always tried to do honorable justice to meeting the needs of the military organization and its mission, but with an overriding sense of not wanting to put my fellow troopers in harm's way for what seemed like an obviously unsupported and restrictively prosecuted war effort. (Maybe I didn't serve either very well that way, but what was it Cronkite used to say?..."And that's the way it is, folks" ??) " Thanks, Hank [Henry, "Hank" Gregor, was a platoon leader in the 1st platoon, 1969-1970]
Scout Mien was a former NVA Lt. who came over to our side. Another scout was named Billy -- he really never had converted to our side and was KIA in a fire fight. Don't know to this day if Charlie got him or someone in our unit! Mien was OK. I have wondered what happened to him after the US pulled out of Nam.
Later we killed some dinks and found a diary on one of them that told the story of them moving the claymore ambush and watching DuBois get blown away the next morning.
I was with Dubose the day he was wounded. I was supposed to go with to pick up claymores but he told me to man the 50 cal. It tore him up pretty good. I remember the papers they found it had everything mapped out. They were watching when it went off. We opened up to clear perimeter but didn't hit anything. Nick Cazares
I spent the first 2+ months ( Nov-Feb 69-70) at the mud hole of the world at good ole A4 aka Con Thien. I was the 4.2" mortar platoon leader of 1/77. I split my 4 gun platoon with 2 guns at C2 with the platoon sgt and I took 2 to A4. We occupied the former Marine mortar 6 gun position. We had to relay and re-register the guns every day due to the mud. Fired 24/7 for units in contact and H&I. Went with some infantry units on sweeps through areas we had previously fired on to see what if anything was hit. I fired the illumination mission when A4/12 was caught at night trying to extract one or more tracks or 48's that were stuck outside either C2 or A4.
Con Thien was not a good place to be!
Earl Schorpp (40)
Site Administrator Other Links
This site is in no way connected to, or sanctioned by, any official Army or Government entity. This is, and will be a work in progress; we apologize now for any errors and/or mistakes. Information for this site has been and will continue to be gathered from many different sources. It is intended as a place for fellow troopers, family and friends of A Troop 4th Squadron 12th Cavalry (Vietnam Era) to visit, seek contact with, gather information or some insight into the history, language and jargon of the people who were part of A Troop, then and now. A Troop 4/12 Cav (Vietnam Era) invites and encourages trooper's family members to participate in the troop's reunions, memorial services, remembrances of our fellow troopers who have passed on to Fiddler's Green, and to continue the camaraderie of the BROTHERHOOD....Long Live the Cav and its BROTHERHOOD!!