NVA guys who smelled sooo BAD?

North and West of A-4

Sgt. Barrows/others where were we when we found those NVA guys who smelled sooo BAD? I recall we smelled them long before we saw them. I think the artillery had killed them some days before and they sat out there rotting and waiting for us to find them. We were told to take off their gear. I put my gas mask on and still couldn’t stand the smell. Guess I got a profile not to take the gear due to extreme nausea. Malan 

Yea they definitely had a severe case of BO. Evidently stood to close to the impacting rounds as they came in. We could smell the bodies from at least a qtr of a mile away. That was my first day’s introduction to Viet Nam. Jog my mind, but later was when the Troop Cdr past us “leading” and backed over the mine about 25 feet in front of us! I believe we were near “Mutha’s Ridge when that happened!!. Barrows 

I can’t remember the COs APC hitting a mine that day we Found all the NVA bodies rotting but I was sick enough of the smell I can’t remember anything else. If that was your first day in country the only thing you may have missed was the rockets and mortars that were usual for breakfast. Malan 

We were on a hellacious dismounted patrol the day before. For some reason, we picked the hottest part of the day to go walking in some of the toughest brush anyone could have thought of. JB was leading the patrol, I still remember that Duffy kept saying, “what they gonna do, send me to ‘Nam?” We had to rotate the point, at first every 10 minutes because the point had to chop away at this incredibly thick brush with a dull machete, then we went to every 5 minutes, then every minute as we spent our energy at an alarming rate. Near the end, the obstacles in front of us were mainly thick elephant brush and we flung our bodies at it to beat it down. We were making a cloverleaf pattern search, trying to join up with two other leaves from 2 other squads. Mutter’s Ridge (found out the correct spelling just recently, named for an infantry captain from the Marines) loomed menacingly in the background. When JB finally called it quits, we were about 500 yards from this oasis of trees that was to be our end point. It was useless to continue, the three squads were totally wasted from the effort of getting through that jungle. I remember sweating in places I never knew you could sweat, like my elbows and fingernails. JB faked seeing movement in the trees and called in an air strike. They lay in the napalm exactly into the Oasis. I was too tired to watch, all I could do was lie on my back, wheeze, and stare at the sky. 

The next day, we went back to the Oasis, where we found 15 or so NVA in the crispy critter mode. Some bodies looked like they were trying to ward the flames away as if it were just raining, some were in running poses. It was an awful sight and the smell was so bad, it had it’s own APO address. Then there was an order to search the bodies. Fuhgedaboutit, I moon walked back to the 1-2 and left the ghouls in the platoon free to do their happy task. 

Apparently the NVA were waiting in ambush for us, and most certainly would have wiped us out, had we had the energy to walk there. Pineapple 

You sure this was the same gooks? These guys smelled like about 3-4 days old and don’t remember and burn damage. Pretty sure this was artillery defcon stuff. Malan 

oh yeah, it was napalm, you remember craters and blown apart bodies, or were they all intact? I rest my case. Pineapple 

Actually, it was hot as hell and the bodies were bloated, but as far as the smell, it was the normal fucked up dead body smell that we’ve all smelled before, Theyweren’t 3-4 days old with maggots or anything. Pineapple 

The temp was way over 80 and they had begun to ripen. The guys had to collect all weapons and ammo and strip the uniforms off of the bodies. We threw all of the bodies in a bomb crater and covered them up. All of the shit we collected was sent back to S-3 for them to analyze. I will never forget the smell.
Keith Eaton


I remember a time out around 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 a while 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. 
Bob Taylor 

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.
Bob Rebbec 

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 badass 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 a while. 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 an ACAV model. It was interesting hearing the story of Capt. Spruill and the War Lord. 
Bob Taylor



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. 
Bob Taylor


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 ridgeline 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. 
Jim Good


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. 
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!!!!” 
(Bob Rebbec)







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 gun sight. 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. 
(Jim Good)

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 aren’t going nowhere(& 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-naked 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? ???
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.
(Jim Good) 

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 Jordandriving 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. Malan


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 a while, yuck, yuck. Malan 

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. Malan

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 whoosh, whoosh, 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 whoosh, whoosh 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. Malan


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. Malan


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. Malan


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!! 
Sgt B

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 streambeds 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 streambed, 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. 
Jim Good

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 Pentagon or somewhere up high, we just packed up and as you said, took the scenic route home. VERY anti-climatic!! 

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 overrun 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 a lot 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 truly 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,

Peace, Rag

.     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 until I got the track back on. When we where leaving 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] 

Sitrep: How we did it in the Cav 

Well said Jim…..it definitely was not a ‘one size fits all’. 

Been a few years, but if memory serves me correctly, this is how we conducted recon by fire when doing dismounted patrols in Viet Nam. Like I said, however, it has been a few years and some of the facts may not be 100% right about this particular tactic. . . … Jim

As you said it’s been a while…….but what’s this “we” stuff? I don’t remember Tankers on dismounted patrols. That was the realm of the Infantry and Scouts. Bob

…don’t dis us tankers; after all, we kept the coffee hot while sitting behind the .50 cal waiting for you guys to finish your nature walks. Jim

I didn’t mean to dis tankers. Having someone behind the .50 cal., keeping the home fires burning was very reassuring….Bob 

Bob, if you remember it was always a tank that lead your platoon and usually took the mine hit.  After the NVA got the mine to go off after the 2nd vehicle ran over it there were 2 tanks in the front.  Sgt Barrows lead 1st platoon in our tank until he got damn short because he would not ask someone to do something he would not.  Also you got better at spotting weird shit the more you were out in front.  I remember shooting a case of M-79 in a single day leading and had a sore shoulder more than one night…have to say I loved that shit at the time tho.  Malan 

John, I always liked riding on your tank. It had the fastest firing and sweetest sounding .50 Cal in the platoon. Zero 

Yep, went out on several myself like John said it was When Sgt D was in Hospital and we were at Cau Viet. I cannot remember the Name of the Sgt. that stood in for Sgt D I sure didn’t care for him much. I remember one Night we were set up close to the River and a couple of new guys were out there with us one of them stood up and was shot by one of our Guys anyone remember that. Merle A28 

Merle there was a black Trooper shot while on ambush by one of our guys but I can’t remember Troopers involved. John.. Also a lot of Tankers didn’t like him mostly because he thought tankers were babied. We did what he wanted but under protest. John 

Joe I do know that we were a tight group of guys and did whatever was needed. We never really had a problem with what MOS one had only when the shit hit we were together. John 

I know who you are talking about but I wasn’t aware of any of the other conversations that went on. I know that I wasn’t told anything and none of us got involved Joe 

I do not recall any tankers being ordered out on foot patrols. I believe that some of the tankers went out periodically because they wanted to. Regardless the CIB was awarded only to those soldiers slotted in 11B, 11C, and 11D positions and Officers who were assigned to an infantry slot. As an armored cavalry officer my MOS was 1204 not eligible for a CIB even though I walked my fair share of foot patrols and the other soldiers on my track were 11D scouts. Just the way it is. Zero

Hey Coop, You implied your Tankers went out on foot almost interchangeably with 11B 
& 11D or something to that effect. That MOS wasn’t the first consideration. I understand and appreciate the willingness of all good Troopers to do what they are told….pitch in where need and all that. But the more I thought about what you said it seems kind of….well, like a poor leadership decision. The argument could be made that ‘anyone’ can do a patrol. Maybe so, but if you get hit then do they know what to do? I was always told 
that’s when training kicks in and ‘saves your life or the life of your buddy’. There is no time for OJT at that point. BUT the real core of my concern is not the just Tanker out on foot mucking up…..it’s ME an 11D trying to fill a Tanker slot if I had to. NO WAY 
could I aim, load or fire the big gun. Have NO clue how it goes. Nor could I drive 
one….at least I never did. We’d be well and goodly screwed with me on a Tank. Tankers were smarter than I am anyway, they did more complicated stuff, that’s how I got 11D, and I almost ended up 11B!!!!! It seems a better idea would be to keep ones men where they know what they are doing. Putting and 11D on a Tank while an 11E was on LP makes no  
sense what-so-ever in a combat situation. Bob 11D 

John I was just an E-4 and did end up taking out a patrol or an LP or an ambush on occasion. BUT I knew how. I was trained for it and had some awesome “instructors” OJT-ing me early in my tour too. Put me on your tank and I’d just be in the way!!!! 
Bad idea mixing things up to much…IMHO. Bob

I was an E-5 and I sure did not want to take out a patrol by myself. I would probably got us all zapped. John 
Bob when we did go out with you guys it was a pain in the ass for you guys always telling us what and how to do things. Such as spread out, don’t get to close, don’t highlight yourself on paddy dikes. I guess there were a few more things but you guys did take care of us and brought us back in. John 

Coop, Tankers going on foot patrol must have ended in late 1969. I heard some of the earlier guys say that tankers had been going on foot patrols, but the practice of doing that ended before I got there. It only made sense, because tankers didn’t really have any training in dismounted tactics and operations in AIT like the 11B and 11D guys did. We did go outside the wire to set up claymore ambushes and trip flares, and from time to 
time we would go away from the vehicles to check things out, but I don’t remember any tankers from 3rd platoon going on an ambush, LP/OP, or any other formal dismounted 
operation while I was there. It seems that I remember hearing something about tankers complaining that they did not get CIBs, and the brass said that men with the 11E MOS weren’t authorized a CIB. The tankers then said, if we don’t get a CIB, why should we go on a dismounted patrol? I guess that it was a hot topic shortly before I got in country in December 1969. I don’t think that any of the tankers would have refused to go on dismounted patrols if ordered, but I sure don’t remember any tankers doing dismounts on 
a regular basis while I was there. Jim 3rd Pelt. Dec 69 – Nov 70

  There was a discussion about it and that’s about as far as it went. I certainly don’t remember any 2nd platoon tankers on dismounted ambush. I also remember the discussion about the CIB and I think the final decision on that was if a tanker did participate then he could be put in for one. I don’t recall that ever happening though Joe 

Joe I was a Tanker and when I got to the Troop Sgt D. was on the Hospital ship and from what the guys said he was a Tanker and Tankers did not go out on foot. Ok while he was away we got a grunt PSG and he said we all were in a Cav unit so we all did what we were told to. I can’t remember his name but I know when Sgt D. came back he went to the 1/77 and got killed by an RPG. He had us go out on mine sweeps and I went out with him on an ambush after losing an argument about tankers not going out and he said if he went we would and I did. We did argue about the CIB but they said no to Tankers. I 
don’t recall any Tankers going out on Patrols and when Sgt D. came back the 11b shit stopped. Did I leave anything out? John 

Merle, Barrows and I were with him at Ft.Knox, but in a different company and I can’t think of His name either. He requested to go back to 1/77 after “D” got back. It 
seems to me he had an Attitude.  

Hey there LT. The night we were hit while out on night ambush, Barnes and I were 11b10 two were tankers, and one was National Guard….go figure. Take care Wally 

WOW two 11B E-3’s? (11B-10 equals E-3. 11B-20 is E-4) The rest not even qualified to be out there???? That doesn’t sound very bright to me!!!!!!!!!!! Who was patrol leader??? Who sent out a mix like that?  Bob 

Well John I sure didn’t mean to scratch any scabs but you got to admit, from the information Wally provided it sounded like a poorly chosen ambush. No knowledgeable leadership and three guys with no business there in the first place. Bob 

First I’d like to say that I believe most all of the line troops, meaning not supply or the mess group, were smart enough to learn most any of the jobs we had. I had never trained on tracks or tanks being an 11B but with some one on one and a little practice I mastered driver, loader and fired weapons I had never even seen before. Pretty much most of whatever we were taught in AIT did not apply in the real world. I pulled many an ambush with Ken Dye, Clarkie, Paul Schiano, Dan Lohman, and Frank Long from the 11th Cav and we worked as a team because we trained as a team in the field every night. We had our own system and everyone knew his job. We had our own hand signals and moves that became standard and we always knew what the other guy was doing and thinking. After all of the advanced party rotated back to the states I had a new batch of guys with me and I was now an ambush leader. I could have and did train everyone I ever took out on an ambush and had them right up my ass the first few times we went out. I was trained by the best and just passed down what I had learned or experienced myself first hand. If Wally went out with Don Barnes then he had a guy that knew his shit. I had well over 100+ ambushes under my belt by the time Barnes arrived. I pulled many ambushes with Barnes, Ronnie Baynes and Al Hall before I left and they knew their shit. Mike “Kid” Davis was also one of my regulars on ambush. I trusted my life with every one of these guys and I felt as safe as I do today sitting in my living room. Attitude and your willingness to learn and survive were as important as any training you ever received. The guys that came before you would teach you all they knew. You just had to be smart enough to pay attention, listen and learn. Your MOS didn’t mean shit nor did your rank. I remember one time when we had one E6 and four E5’s on the infantry track, A15, and we never once worried about rank. Everyone had a job and we all did what we were supposed to do. One thing about our Cav unit is we had guys from all walks of life, different age groups, almost every state in the union and just about every MOS you could think of. I can only speak for the 1st plt but I imagine that the rest of the Troop was pretty much the same.  We were all in it together and we relied on each other to survive. I’d also like to say that shit burning was also my favorite. It sure beat the hell out of KP or perimeter guard duty. Peace, Rag

PS Bob, I don’t think anyone took offense to your post but it sure did get a good conversation going. I’d also like to say that I didn’t envy the tankers when they hit a mine and had to replace track and road wheels and that drive gear was a real ball breaker. 

Bob, I did not imply anything with regards to Tankers and 11B; I simply stated how it was. During the period of time when the first group of Troopers were heading back to the states the Troop was under strength. We had tracks with as few as 3 or 4 Troopers, as an E5 I was tank section leader. It was during this time that I remember having to send Tankers out on ambush patrol – instead of sending an FNG out I went in their place. It was not a question of poor leadership or etc it was doing what had to be done to get the job done. Coop 

Reading all of these messages about pulling ambush patrol and tankers not getting awarded the CIB is causing me to tell my story. As most of you know, I came to A Troop from the 11th Cav after my Squadron in the 11th Cav deactivated in February 1971. My MOS was 11E (tanker), but I was assigned to drive an ACAV because all of the tanker  
slots in my platoon were filled. I told my new TC that I didn’t know anything about driving one of those things and he just smiled and said, “Welcome to 11D.” Well, being on an ACAV afforded me the splendid opportunity to go out on dismounted night ambush patrol every third night or so. I didn’t pull as many night ambushes as Rag, but I figured I did at least 90 of them while I was in the 11th Cav for the first nine months of my tour. Hell, I found myself wanting to go on those patrols; I even was in charge of  
several of them (as a SP/4). One day we were told the Regimental Commander was coming out to our NDP to give out some hero badges, so about half of the troops stood in a half-assed formation looking our best (as good as we could look out in the field, anyway). My first sergeant told me to get in the line of the men receiving awards, and when the Regimental Commander got to me he pinned on the usual Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal and then a CIB. Right away, I’m thinking to myself that I’m an 11E and not authorized to wear the CIB. After the formation was over and all the brass left I corralled the first sergeant and asked him why I was awarded a CIB. He told me that  
if a soldier works in an MOS other than his primary MOS for 90 consecutive days he is entitled to have that MOS assigned to him as his secondary MOS and can receive all of the awards that MOS is authorized. The first sergeant then gave me the necessary orders awarding me 11D as my secondary MOS along with orders for the CIB. I was stationed in the 2nd Cav in Germany after my tour in Vietnam, and I used to catch all sorts of shit from the officers and senior NCO’s about wearing a CIB as an 11E. I got to the point where I carried around a copy of my orders and just whipped them out whenever someone questioned my CIB. I have to tell you though, if someone was to take away everything I brought back from Vietnam, along with all of my memories from that place, and just left me with my CIB, I would be extremely happy and proud because it is my most prized possession from that time over there. Just as a side note, the 11th Cav was different from most Cav units in that just about every swinging dick assigned to that unit was in the field. The only guys back in the rear were an NCOIC (usually an E-6 who  
had been wounded), an armorer/supply sergeant, a Troop clerk and the cooks. However, the cooks came out to the field each evening on the resupply shithook with their hot chow, and they spent the night and cooked us hot breakfast in the morning. This was no problem since we were a self-contained Regiment. During my time with A Troop (three months) I think I went out on at least a dozen dismounted ambush patrols. Since I was an 11E I didn’t have to go on those patrols, but I volunteered to go. I even went out  
on a couple of three-day forward observer missions when we were around the Khe Sanh area. Hell, back then it wasn’t nothing but something to do, I guess. Anyway, those are my two cents worth. Take care, J.T. 

JT, I have friends who went to the armor school and were tankers -1203 MOS but were assigned to infantry positions in Vietnam and they were awarded the CIB because it was their duty position as was yours when you were assigned to a scout track. Zero 

Lt I wanted a CIB but I didn’t go out enough to deserve one. That is something earned not given to make you look good. A Tanker and proud. John

  As for crossing MOS I don’t remember much of that at all.  I think we were short a guy on the mortar track and they put a tanker or scout on the mortar track, and there may have been an 11B on a scout track or an 11D on the infantry track, but I don’t remember anyone other than a school trained 11E on any of the tanks.  I suppose the way we operated changed over time, and depended on the personalities of the platoon leaders, troop commander, and the senior NCOs.  The Cav was not a one size fits all experience; everyone lived their own wartime experience and has their own memories of it. Jim

Things did indeed change a lot over time. When I got to the Troop all of the original advanced party was still there maybe minus a few guys that had rotated back to the states. These guys had been together and trained together as a unit back at Ft. Carson so they really worked closely together for a long time before going to Nam as a unit. When we had the infusion with the 11th Cav this really shook things up. I was an 11B and I rode on and at times drove A15. I rode on the tanks a few times and even was a loader on occasion. Eventually I became the TC on A14 so I actually was in all three MOS’s at one time or another and we had plenty of guys that did this. If one of the tracks or tanks were short handed we moved guys around to fill the slots. Rag 

I was under the impression the last remnants of the Advanced party were still there in May of 69….what it may have been was the earliest replacements, guys like you Rag and the people a few months ahead of you. I know some of the guys that helped me the most early on rotated out in Sept. Oct. & Nov. To me as a FNG the guys in second plt. Seemed to have their shit in order. There was a hand full that seemed especially good and I was fortunate enough to be able to learn from them. But for some reason we didn’t interchange tank/track personnel much. The tankers did their deal but the tracks were totally interchangeable. 11B or 11D didn’t make a bit of difference. Usually a Scout drove the track but from there on it was like a combined MOS. 25 sometimes had a fifth guy but usually all tracks had just four. The scout tracks always just had just four. In fact, as I think about it, the only time even 25 had five people was when another track was down and they spread the gunners. Left the driver or the TC back with the track but the rest went out with the troop. Bob 

Bob, I was TC on the mortar track as a PFC.  Smitty took over around November of 69 and I went to driving it. I pulled night ambushes before 29 got running but after that mostly day patrols. At night, we were needed to man the tube. I think the most fun was as M79 man on a tank after 25 hit a mine. We didn’t get a new PC for awhile so I rode on the tank. 29 didn’t operate effectively until around Sept/ Oct of 69.  They had to replace everything except the body to make it reliable. Before that it wouldn’t make it 200 yards. Bob 2nd Platoon, 69-70

Bob, it was just you and Smitty on 29 then? Bob R 

Jim Kuntz was on it too but I don’t remember when he got there. He was 11C also. Smitty and I trained a new crew around May of 70 because we were leaving in June. I believe one of the guys was JD Holstien. Bob 2nd Platoon, 69-70

Things did indeed change a lot over time. When I got to the Troop all of the original advanced party was still there maybe minus a few guys that had rotated back to the states. These guys had been together and trained together as a unit back at Ft. Carson so they really worked closely together for a long time before going to Nam as a unit. When we had the infusion with the 11th Cav this really shook things up. I was an 11B and I rode on and at times drove A15. I rode on the tanks a few times and even was a loader on occasion. Eventually I became the TC on A14 so I actually was in all three MOS’s at one time or another and we had plenty of guys that did this. If one of the tracks or tanks were short handed we moved guys around to fill the slots. Rag 

Bob, I think most all of the advanced party, except for Coop, were gone by May and June of 69. The infusion with the 11th Cav sent us a bunch of guys with much less time in country as our advanced party so you probably had guys like me and some folks from the 11th Cav. I can remember as many as 9 or 10 guys on A15, the infantry track, at one time or another. I don’t think we ever had less than 6 or 7 guys. After the infusion we got two E5’s on our track, Frank Long and Kerry Pebble. Kerry eventually became the R&R NCO. His wife had a baby and he was a nervous wreck so Ken Dye got him out of the field. After the fragging in LZ Nancy, Paul Schiano from A15 became the Troop clerk when Coles and Jackson were killed. But like I said we were never below 6 guys on A15 the whole time I was on her. And we did move around. I rode on 1st plt Sgt Mac’s tank a couple of times out in the field and I was on A13 when I got my first Purple Heart after we hit a mine. I can also remember driving A13 and A14 a few times before I became the TC on A14 with Al Hall as my driver, Baynes, Barnes and sometimes Sniper Tom rode with me. You were right that when a track was down usually the Driver and or the TC stayed behind and the rest of the guys went to other tracks or filled in for guys on R&R etc. I really believe that because we rarely worked together or as a whole Troop each platoon kind of did their own thing. I never served in any platoon except the 1st so I don’t know how things were in the other platoons. I know that I would have done anything I was asked to do because we were a team and I had no problem working with or riding with anyone, other than Lt Fallon (Thunder chicken). He and Kaufman were the only leaders I didn’t like much. But then again I was spoiled after serving under guys like Ken Dye, PSG Mc Neil, he was a drunken lifer but he knew his shit, Lt Canda and Lt. De Somer (Shadow). They were a great bunch of guys and it was an honor to have served with them. Rag 

I was trained as 11C, but drove, M60 gunner, rode on tanks and was a mortar man.  Smitty was a recoilless rifleman and did a bunch of different things too. It sure beats walking!!! Bob, 2nd Platoon, 69-70

I can’t imagine 9 or 10 guys on a track. I saw it once when we were around the, was it first if the 11th Infantry?? Anyway, all they needed was a chicken or two to look like a Mex tour bus, people hanging all over. Sounds like you had an over abundance of NCO’s too. As I remember it at least one track and often more had an E-4 in the TC slot most of the time. When Boshell and Hunter got to the Platoon in Dec. and Jan. of ’70(BOTH those guys were as good as it gets!!! IMHO) they were the first E-6’s I recall seeing on our tracks. The tankers always seemed to have at least a couple E-6’s and a few E-5’s. Bob Taylor ended up the motor track TC as an E-4 and did that for several months I think. As he said he was all over but mostly I remember him and Neil Smith on the motor track. I don’t recall if they even had a third guy. Turtle was another M-60 gunner; we were on the same track quite a bit too. It was like shuffling a deck of cards much of the time. And yes we all did what was asked….mostly. I remember the one time I truly regret acting cowardly, when four of us tried to refuse to go on LP/OP/Ambush (whatever it was that night) when we went into the Bi Long Valley. We were scared shitless and convinced all the hills that surrounded us were crawling with NVA. I think everyone was convinced of that, not just those of us sent out that night. After heavy duty threats and VERY DIRECT orders from Lt Perrino we went….well one guy didn’t but Zero made his threat good and sent him to LBJ. I think that night was the most afraid I’ve ever been in my life. Bob 

It could get a little crowded for sure. We always had an ambush patrol so it was no problem sleeping anyway. Ken Dye was the TC and he was an E6. I was a TC as an E4 also but did get my stripe after a month or so. Had to face the E5 board before I could get the rank. I worst part about being on the Infantry track was we always were at the end of the column so we ate a lot of dust. But we had a great group of guys on A15 and we all got along really well, even with all the NCO’s. We also didn’t have a lot of turnover so we worked together for a long time. Rag  

A Troop was official alerted for deployment to Vietnam on 25 March 1968. With only a 12 week notice, an intensive training program was initiated. A Troop took time out for Civil Disturbance Training and deployment to Washington D.C. in the time fame of March and part of April. A Troop (1st Brigade) concentrated its personnel and loaded its vehicles on railroad cars for departure to Southeast Asia in June 1968. The advance party of 1st Brigade 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) included most of A Troop 4th Squadron 12th Cavalry (which consisted of 5 officers and 220 enlisted men). They departed from Peterson Field in C141 Aircraft July 1, 1968. First elements of the 1st Brigade 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) arrived in Vietnam 2 July 1968 and proceed to FABULOUS Wunder Beach in Quang Tri Province. The balance of A Troop departed with “Task Force Diamond” (1st Brigade 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), directly to Da Nang during 22 – 30 July, the second largest airlift in history (at that point in time). With the 5th Inf being send to Nam despite not being ready for combat operations (that is one reason we sat on the beach for so long). It seems that the Division had been wrapped up in riot control and was behind in their training and in the outfitting of equipment to be used in Nam. So it was held back until sometime in September before the whole unit was declared fit for duty. According to “The Rise and Fall of an American Army” by Shelby Stanton (1985, Novato CA, Presidio books), the 5th I.D. (Mech) brought 1,072 armored vehicles with them. Once there, they received 140 APCs, 8 mortar carriers from Fort Hood and a total of 67 M48 tanks from Ft. Knox and the Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, PA. During the shakedown period, the division’s readiness was complicated by the September monsoons which temporarily isolated the division on the wrong side of the Cam Lo main bridge. But the day was saved by aerial resupply. Some elements of the division came into enemy contact in August


January 1969 
Most of the advanced party, including Swinny and Mills, were sent to the 11th ACR

11 July 69 
Troy and W.P. left for the world; these Troopers were part of the original crew of A16.

16 July 69 
LZ Angel Shadow comes up to tank and wants one man for AP; I went because 2 of my crew are on R& R and the third is new. This will be my first AP, out of eight men seven were first timers on AP. I stay awake almost all night.

I am TC on A15 now (an old Tanker now a Grunt). Coop

I really wanted to be TC on A15. I had spent all of my tour up to that time on “Playmate and really wanted to stay with her. Dye, Larson, Clark and Long were all gone by then. Who was left on A15 when you took over Coop? Should have been Dan Lohman and a kid we called Preacher, Can’t remember his name. I do remember Troy Gullion, Bill Wilson (Willie Pee), Jim Taylor, I still can’t find these two guys, but I don’t remember how I ended up on A14. Rag  

There is only one way to get a CIB..

“my CIB is one of my prize possessions.”  “my most prized possession” 

“my CIB means more to me than anything”  

Yup, the cav is special and A Troop most special of all!!!!! 

And as far as I was concerned, my Cav brass and a unit patch on my right shoulder was at least as distinguishing as a CIB!

I do know that we were a tight group of guys and did whatever was needed. We never really had a problem with what MOS one had only when the shit hit we were together. 
I always felt there should be a special MOS for Cav Troopers because we were a mix of 11B, 11D and 11E. We all crossed MOS’s at one time or another