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 right off.
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.
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.
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. Malan
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. Malan
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. Malan
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. Malan
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. Malan
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. Malan
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. Malan
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. .
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]