I remember the night my tank caught fire

2 Oct
“I remember the night my tank caught fire during one hell of a firefight a few klicks west of A-4. Sgt D jumped on my tank A-27 and told me we were on fire, my loader had already been hit and was laying on the turret floor, I had no turret power after being hit at least twice by an RPG, I had to traverse the turret manually to let Sgt D in the drivers hatch so he could get us off the side (?) of the perimeter, I was wounded that night also.” 

We went out to retrieve some of the 1/77th and escort them and their disabled tracks back to A4 I think, we were on are way back late afternoon almost getting dark, rained all night, some of the 1/77th guys were playing poker in a VTR in the center of the perimeter, i could hear them laughing and carrying on while I was on guard sitting in the pouring rain.. 

George, I was looking through some letters that I sent to my parents and found two articles about Sgt D. It must have been published in the Stars and Stripes. Article from the Stars And Stripes describing Sgt. Di Santo’s actions The fight occurred in Oct of 69 near Mother’s Ridge. The headlines on the article give allot a credit to the 1/77 armor. Only three tracks from the second platoon were there. 20,22 and 27. Two of our tracks were left guarding a portable bridge on the way up there. The rest of the platoon was at C2 broke down. Lt Bosson was the Lt and I know Larry Corso was one of the wounded. The articles will be nice for the history. I also looked through the letters and can come up with a chronological order of some of the Cav’s movement. I will send it later as a word doc and you can post it as needed. I did mention something about a fire. It was started by a marine coming into our perimeter and set off a trip flare and some claymores. You can read it when I send the file. Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor,
If you guys are talking about Oct. 2, 1969 I remember that pretty well. I turned 21 10/02/69! We were hit at 1AM 10/02/69. Second platoon…at least part of it… was on Mudders Ridge. A tank got stuck. There was 2nd 4/12, 1/77, and a light platoon of grunts from, I THINK, 1/11. Our tracks (2) were left at a junction at the base of the ridge. It was a very nasty night!!! An FNG, that had been in country a VERY short time, lost half his face when an RPG hit the gun shield on his .50 cal. Sergeant D got hurt pretty bad too. I don’t know about the grunts or 1/77 guys, but most of the rest of our wounded was relatively minor if I remember right. Look at the pic’s I posted. The ones with captured AK’s and RPG’s pilled up and a couple of guys with head bandages drinking beer were taken 10/03/69. By the way WHO is the guy in those pic’s??? (Seems he had a pregnant wife AND girl friend and couldn’t go home…or something like that. Real fun guy and yarn spinner…he gave me my first beer served in Beaufort (our skull) shortly after I got to LZ Nancy…. same night those motormen put a short round in the ammo dump!!!!!! Ever been pukey drunk when the tear gas was so thick you couldn’t see 10 feet? Lots of fun!) I don’t know for sure, but I’ve always had the impression that 10/02/69 was the heaviest contact any of the elements of the 4/12 engaged in. Not the biggest but the ‘worst’. (I left for home Aug. of ’70 so I don’t know about after that.) It went on until nearly dawn with “puff” helping to keep the gooks at bay. It was so bad because our guys were trapped on the ridge and the NVA used the bomb craters as (hell the ridge was just a series of craters) foxholes! We were scared shitless…. just two tracks…sitting ducks. We never got hit but we didn’t stay to watch the end of a very scary (and CLOSE) light show either. About three or four in the morning we headed back toward Quang Tri and ended up joining the relief element of the 1/77 that was headed out. 
Bob Rebbec

In Oct ’69 I was XO and so nowhere near the action, based at C-2. However, my understanding was that 2 tanks from the same platoon in 1/77 threw tracks in a shell crater, and at least 2 more got stuck trying to recover them. (The platoon leader was a former LT from 4/12 who had had 2nd Plt before me – Robinson claimed he had this LT transferred out before his troops shot him.) Inasmuch as it would not be possible to recover the vehicles before dark, the tank company CO, approved by Higher, made the decision to hold position overnight. 2nd Plt 4/12 was also to stay. After dark an infantry unit was brought in to help provide security. There was speculation at Bn HQ that the NVA did not know the extra reinforcements were there, and so thought the position would be relatively easy to overrun. That’s how I heard it.
LTee F

I didn’t get hit in the track it was after we pulled back to the other side of the ndp and got our driver (Joey) out of there, he had been on guard when the first rpg hit us and got hurt pretty bad, I got hit after we carried him back up into the NDP and sat him down to see how bad he was, I lit two smokes and stuck one in his mouth then BOOM I went flying, it looked like someone took a whole junkyard and threw it at me at a thousand miles an hour, light shrapnel and no eardrums……You really got me thinking about that right now more than I have in quite awhile I’m sitting here almost shaking all over again.. If it wasn’t for Sgt D I might not be here right now, I lost all contact with Joey, my mind is still not real clear what all went down that night…

2 October 69

  Bob, do you remember Oct 2 or 3rd, 1969?  The second platoon was at C2 and some of the tracks went with the 77th and got hit. Sgt D was wounded along with many others. 

The next day we left C2 in a deuce and a half with 12 of us or so in the back. We were going to see Sgt D in the Quang Tri hospital.  In the cab was the driver, Lt. Bosson and Capt Kaufman.  As we entered the base, a marine MP stopped the truck and had Bosson get out of the cab because only 2 were allowed in the cab. We gave the marine a very hard time. After our visit, we again passed through the same sentry. The three were in the cab again. The MP jumped up on the running board and ordered someone out of the cab. Capt Kaufman forcibly opened the door knocking the marine on his ass. The MP pulled his 45, which didn’t have a magazine in it, and arrested all of us. None of us in the back had proper uniforms on also. We were escorted to the marine HQ and Kaufman had to talk to the commander. I remember one of our guys had an ear cut off one of the dead NVA. He showed it to one of the spit shined marines who ran away. Kaufman came out and we were released to head back to C2. It would have made a good scene from the Dirty Dozen. Bob t

  Bob I’ll never FORGET Oct 2, 1969. (I turned 21 that night on Mudders Ridge and didn’t even have a birthday cake) That was some night! I didn’t go along on that trip to see Sgt D; I wonder how it would have gone down if Capt. Robinson had been the CO? The Marines would have found they weren’t ready for the 12th Cav. Of course, you might all still be in jail. BobR 

Captain Robinson leaves.
Capt Kaufman arrives as the new C.O.

EXCERPTS FROM FULTON SQUARE COAAR 22 October 1969 – 18 January 1970

  2. Type. Search and Clear, reconnaissance in force, rocket suppression, rice denial and security. 
  3. (U) LOCATION: Trieu Phong, Hai Lang, Mai Linh, Cam Lo, Huong Hoa, Gio Linh Districts, Quang Tri Province , RVN. 
  4. (U) COMMAND HEADQUARTERS: Headquarters, 1 st Inf Bde, 5 th Inf Div (M) 
  6. The brigade normally operated with four task forces formed by the cross attachment of infantry, mechanized infantry, tank and armored cavalry units. The composition of these task forces was varied on a mission type basis. 

A/4-12 Cav operational control to 1-77 Armor 

  2. Chemical. The following activities were conducted by the Brigade Chemical section and the 86 th Chemical Detachment during Operation Fulton Square . 

(2) Herbicide operations: The perimeters of FSB C2 and FSB A4 were defoliated with Agent Orange. 

  1. (C) EXECUTION: The following is a chronological list of significant event, which occurred during Fulton Square : 

(4) 29 Oct 69 – At 1440 hours A/4-12 Cav, reacting to an intelligence report, sweep the area in the vicinity of YD144706 and located 13 recently used bunkers. The bunkers were destroyed. 

(18) 25 Nov 69 – While conducting reconnaissance on the north bank of the Cua Viet river, a tank from A/4-12 Cav detonated a mine at YD330711. The tank was a combat loss and one US was wounded. 

(22) 15 Dec 69 – While supporting an infantry search and clear operation by fire west of FSB C2, A/4-12 Cav received 15 rounds of 60mm and 82mm mortar fire without casualties or damage. Later, an APC was hit by an RPG round resulting in one US KIA. 

(32) 13 Jan 70 – While conducting a search and clear operation in the vicinity of YD124727, two tanks from A/4-12 Cav detonated mines. There were six US WIA and the tanks received minor damage. 

Oct 4 Still at C2, brought mess hall up, sleeping in large bunkers, day patrols. (Taylor) 

Oct 12 rain, mud, limited travel (Taylor)

Oct 22 6th night out, hot, fired 40 HE mortar rounds and most of our illumination. New Lt and platoon Sgt (Taylor)

Other events in October, 1969 (according to Pineapple) 

The infamous neutral steer on the new asphalt road incident with the Navy CB construction foreman occurs.

About the end of the month, a raging typhoon signals the beginning of the monsoon season. 1st platoon endures the storm while out on the DMZ. It rains every day of the monsoons until it’s over.

Milard the Mallard Mills comes in from the rain tells Pineapple that he’ll stay with 1-2 only until the rain lets up. He’ll leave in February 1970.

3/3 Marines began their pullout on the first.