Saturday, February 6, 2016

Phan Thiet

At one point HQ set up at an airstrip near Phan Thiet. It wasn't a large strip and was made of steel planks laid down across the sand in strips to keep aircraft wheels from bogging down .There was a n established gate that we manned as well as a perimeter we guarded.Although there were a couple of incidents that don't bear repeating the next one scared us all because it showed us how vulnerable we were to attack. I believe it was near or fairly soon after dusk when we were attacked by mortars. Although there were lots of foxholes and sandbags they were of absolutely no use during a mortar encounter. Nobody knew where to go for protection and we were all running everywhere. It might have looked comical but I saw no humor at the time. We were really lucky because only a couple of mortars were launched towards us. Nobody was woundedbut we stayed shook up for a long time.


At one point a couple of friends of mine and I were assigned to COLONEL Guard(we didn't have a General ) to accompany Colonel Timothy wherever he went. It's a fairly easy job and an enlisted soldier can go where officers hang out.Pretty cool. One day the Colonel told us to escort him somewhere. There were 3 MPs in the lead jeep and the Colonel and three MPs were in the main jeep. I was the rear passenger in the lead jeep. We were told where to go and to lead the way. As we were driving I guess the driver never checked his mirror and we were all yakking so much we weren't paying attention where we were. We turned the radio on( that was supposed to be done as soon as the driver checks out the jeep) and were soon on the receiving end  of a Colonel's tirade. We had lost him somewhere along the line and didn't realize it.Of course it didn't take long for us to reestablish contact nor did it take long for us to be removed from Colonel's Guard and shuffled back to the "regular" guys.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Next encounter

Here I was sitting on the edge of my foxhole trying to figure out if I was asleep or awake. There was nothing but black and the view was the same whether my eyes were closed or open. There was little sound except the sounds of critters nearby. All of a sudden a hill about 500 yds to my front lit up brightly. I was trying to sort that out when an explosion happened behind me. The concussion from the explosion knocked my helmet off and I was thrown headfirst into my foxhole. The resulting ringing in my ears is still with me today. I climbed out and saw a Marine tank about 10 yds behind my position that had just fired a round over my head towards the hill !  I sat back down and continued my watch when the hill lit up again....I ripped my helmet off, grabbed my ears and dove into the foxhole. It turned out that the 502nd had called for a tank to assist in the battle. Marines sent two tanks to us----one to join in in the battle and one to give the battalion area fire support. As privates we were not let in on the secret. 
    The tank sent to the battalion area was to fire random shots to give VC the idea that we had more firepower than we actually had. I guess it worked but a little fore warning would have been nice !

Friday, April 18, 2014

First Encounter

While we were securing AkKhe and the highway between AnKhe and Quinhon A unit of the 502nd encountered a battalion of VC in the hills. G-2 had informed the commander of the 502nd that an unknown sized group of enemy were in an unknown location in the hills. A company or so was sent to investigate. The group was airlifted and were dropped off in the middle of a training battalion of Viet Cong. Intense fighting began and reinforcements were called. The location of the battalion area was along the highway between AnKhe and Quinhon and were separate from other units in AnKhe.

Not too long after being called the entire 502nd battalion vacated their compound to help the troops. We ( MPs) were told that the area was being called " Happy Valley" and that was the only name I heard about the operation. After our shifts were done that day guarding the bridges the entire platoon of MPs were taken to the vacated battalion area to provide security.

It was night time when we were assigned to our foxholes. It was so dark that our platoon Sgt. placed us one by one and told us where the FEBA was. I was told that the machine gun position I was placed in was 10 yards from the fence although I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I have never experienced total darkness like that in my life. By the way the machine gun position didn't come equipped with a machine gun.We were spaced about 10 foxholes apart because we were securing the entire battalion area with 40 MPs. 

Two incidents happened while we were guarding the area but I don't think they happened on the same night. 

As I was sitting on the ground I heard rocks landing near me. Obviously VC were trying to find out where our machine guns were located and they figured that the stupid Americans would shoot back with whatever weapons we had.Still unable to see anything we threw the rocks back!  We had
quite a rock fight for a few minutes. At the end of my portion of the rock fight a softball sized rock landed in my foxhole. WE were told in training that sometimes a grenade would be substituted for a rock.  The rock that landed in my hole scared me so much that I grabbed it and threw it as hard as I could back into the jungle. I heard a gasp of pain and then bushes rustling . Score one for the good guys!!!!!!!!!

The next encounter I had was with a Marine tank. More on that next time.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

further adventures

During the fall/winter of 1965 the 1st Brigade was assigned combat convoy security for the incoming 1st Air Cavalry. Their base camp was to be An Khe in the highlands. Either VC or NVA had blown up the bridges between Quinhon and AnKhe and U>S> Army Engineers had constructed Bailey bridges as repair. Our job as MPs was to secure these bridges for the incoming convoys of 1st Cav. during the day when convoys were active. We were trucked back to AnKhe at night to cover 1st Cav.'s base camp. 
       As an Airborne unit discipline was very tight. We MPs were required to wear starched jungle fatigues and boots and web gear were supposed to shine. We were to salute each and every officer and usually were required to drop on the ground and knock out push-ups if we failed. At the bridges we were to stand aty attention or parade rest at all times.To ensure that the 1st Brigade MPs were acting as Airborne troops were expected a Major would overfly our positions in a Bell H-13 bubble helicopter. He would fly at about 50 feet so he could get a good look at us. We, of course were expected to salute him as he flew over. If he saw a violation he would report it to the Provost Marshall who was required to discipline us when we returned to camp.
    The next topic I'm going to relate may have some controversy so I need to add a link to my blog before I can go into detail. Bear in mind that I was not directly involved in the operation but played a security part and was kept up to date as to what was happening.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holidays in country

During the holiday season we received many cards from people in the US. I answered each one I got and after responding to one lady she sent me a care package with cookies, etc. again I responded to her thanking her for the package and she sent me another package with cookies, etc. This could have gone on quite a while but duty called and I was unable to keep up the correspondence.
   One young lady sent me a Christmas tree!!! It was 3 inches tall. I put it up on the front berm of my foxhole. I spent Christmas Eve  and New Years Eve in that foxhole and really appreciated that little tree. 
   On New Years Eve we were allowed to fire off some flares(we were all issued some red,green, and white ones). Each color meant something different. We were allowed to shoot off green and white but not the red. Red meant that we were under attack and needed help. At midnight we lit up the skies with tracer rounds from our weapons. It was quite a sight !!  Then it was back to work as usual.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holidays in 1965

I remember that Thanksgiving was really special. We were  still eating cold C Rations but on Thanksgiving we all looked for the Turkey dinner. Some got it but because of the variety available in a case most of us got whatever was left. No hot C Rations---Difficult to build fire in monsoon.
  Between the holidays Pres. Johnson initiated Mail-call Vietnam. Anyone in the States could send a serviceman a Christmas card. No postage necessary and it was guaranteed that a GI would get the card. There were only 40 of us in the Brigade but we got hundreds and hundreds of cards for the platoon. We would pick cards that had return addresses in our own states. I answered each card I opened and told the sender how much we really appreciated the sentiments. More in my next entry.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

On Board

Working the deck wasn't too bad. one of the sounds that was constant during the day was that of troops making rings out of quarters. By striking a quarter on the edge with a stainless steel spoon thousands of times the quarter would eventually flatten out. When the flattened edge seemed about the size of a finger. the flattening process would end and a bayonet was used to drill out the center---voila! a silver ring. The process took weeks but there wasn't much else to do except play Hearts to while away the time.
  We were finally issued plastic guns for combat. We couldn't believe that something like this would be our friend and weapon!.After learning assembly and disassembly we were taught how to shoot the thing. The sergeant would line us up at the deck rail and tell us to proceed. When we asked what the target was we were told "It's the ocean-think you can hit it?"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Getting there

The trip across the Pacific was bad. The ventilation system below failed and the temp went 100+ degrees in our bunk area. Everybody slept on decks(not sure about officers' quarters) MP's were responsible for security and peacekeeping and night deck patrol was interesting because 3000 guys were packed like sardines everywhere.
The chow line would start at the mess hall and wind around the main deck a couple of times.When a trooper was done with breakfast he would get in the back of the line and wait for lunch, etc.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

First few days

After dyeing our own underwear green we were off to California. On board the USNS General Leroy Eltinge we found that our bunks were stacked six high . Too close for all of us but tried the system for 2 days. Two days out of San Francisco we hit a storm and 90% of the troops got seasick. I am unaffected and volunteered to pull extra shifts. Being on deck on a troopship in a major storm was totally awesome!  I loved the spray and the movement of the ship. Besides it smelled too bad down below :-)