RETURN TO HOME PAGE
RETURN TO ARTICLES PAGE
An Hoa -
Phu Loc 6
To set the background, in early 1967 I was with the light section (two tanks) of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Tank Battalion. We were attached to 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment at An Hoa but most of the time we were with Hotel Company (H-2-5) at a position called Phu Loc (6). We were in a position guarding the ferry crossing over the Song Thu Bon River (a bridge had not been built yet). This was along Liberty Road from Danang to An Hoa.
For awhile we had what we called the Four O’clock Sniper. Just about every day at around 1600 a Sniper would fire a few rounds at us from the West (Goi Noi Island area). After a few days of this the Grunt Platoon on that side of the hill would get in their holes just before 1600, and when the Sniper would fire, the Grunt’s would open up with a Mad Minute of firing. Well my part in this came when I received a “Care Package” from my ex wife. In it was a red bra that I had asked for. This was to go on the tank’s antenna. I got on the tank with the bra and some electrical tape. Now I’m on top of the turret, probably the highest thing on the hill. Taping this bra to the antenna. In my excitement I don’t pay any attention to the Grunt’s getting into their holes and watching me with some big smiles on their faces. Bang, bang, I hear two Bee’s going by. Right away I realize what is happening and I do a “Swan Dive” off the tank into a mud puddle. When I look up the antenna is swinging back and forth waving the red bra like “Maggie’s Drawers” and the Grunts around the tank are laughing so hard that are not firing.
About a week later the Grunts ask us to check out a Water Buffalo about 1000 yards out to the West. We check it out with the powerful optics on the tank and it looks like it has six legs. Conclusion, some VC is using it for cover while crossing an open field. We get permission to fire and turn the Water Bo into 90mm steaks. The bad news is some one had to pay some one for a dead Water Bo. The good news is we had no more Four O’clock Sniper.
One of our jobs at Phu Loc 6 was to keep the road to An Hoa open. This was done by having the tanks from An Hoa and us sweeping the road with Engineers and Grunts every morning. The Engineers carried hand held mine detectors. We would meet in the middle and then return to our positions. Then in the afternoon either the tanks at An Hoa or us would make a “Mail Run” along the road. (Usually at the same time every day, the VC could set their watches by us.)
This day it was our turn to run into An Hoa. So we loaded up with Grunts and took off. We usually did this as fast as we could. We get into An Hoa, pick up the mail and what ever then turn around and head back. I’m driving Bravo one four and I’m the lead tank. I’m hauling ass and the tracks are throwing dirt and dust about three feet out in front of the tank. I am watching my old track marks from the run in looking for any disturbance. I spot a new mound of dirt in the road. Hell it hasn’t been 20 minutes since we passed over this spot. I hit the breaks and bang, it goes off. It was a command detonated mine in the road. I am knocked out for a moment. When I come to, dirt is still falling. My helmet, tank goggles and glasses are gone. I’m up to my knees in it in the driver’s compartment. Three of the Grunts riding on the tank are slightly wounded. I start digging dirt out of the driver’s compartment looking for my glasses. The Grunts are off the tank and have fanned out. I hear them talking about some one out in a field. I’m pissed and I get out of the tank and can almost see a guy out in the field dressed in white. I asked a Grunt for his M-14 (we didn’t have M-16’s yet). He gives it to me, I aim in as best as I can and squeeze the trigger. Nothing happens. A miss fire, I even looked at the round and the primer was dented. Probably saved me from going to jail. (The mine had gone off about three feet in front of the tank. We guessed that we were throwing out so much dirt that the VC thought we were over it when he set it off. I had hit the breaks just in time.) I get back into the tank and dig out some more dirt finding my helmet, goggles and glasses. Then we head back to Phu Loc 6. On the way I noticed that I had no breaks in the tank.
We had no sooner gotten into Phu Loc 6 than we get a call that the Grunts need tanks back down the road that we just came from. I get on the radio to the Section Leader, Sgt. Gibson and tell him that one four has no breaks. He tells me that I’m just scared and that he’ll take the lead so just follow him. I tell him “Hell yea I’m scared but I’m more pissed and I want to kill someone for trying to blow me up, but the tank still has no breaks.” He says, ”Follow me.” Away we go with one five in the lead. We’re doing a good clip along the road. Because of all the dust I stay at least 100 yards behind him. At one point on the road there is a sharp turn to the left that I can’t see around. Just as we hit the turn I see one five stopped in the middle of the road and I have no place to go. Grunts on one side and trees on the other. At 25 miles per hour I put the 52ton tank in neutral and turn left. In a neutral steer the left track goes into reverse and the right track goes forward. The tank turned and slid up to within about a foot of one five. I looked up and saw Sgt. Gibson’s eyes behind his goggles. His eyes filled his goggles. I just told him “I said I had no breaks.” I don’t know why I didn’t throw a track or blow the transmission. The Grunts had picked up a bunch of women with supplies in their “Idiot Baskets”. First aid supplies, money, ammunition and stuff. While they were being loaded on the tanks I dug out some more dirt from the drivers compartment. When I got down to the bottom I found that a small inspection plate had been knocked off by the explosion and had jammed the break linkage. Once I removed the inspection plate I had breaks again.
Around the An Hoa area there were some pretty substantial houses some even made out of cinder blocks. There was also the usual Three Little Pig’s type straw huts. Well one day we got a call that some Grunts need some help. So we rolled out, for some reason I was driving one five that day with Staff Sergeant Sam Kahilkie as the Tank Commander. I had known Sam from when I was in 1st Tanks in 1962. When we got to where the Grunts were, what we found was, the VC were held up in a house, not a cinder block or a straw one but kinda in between. They had forced some civilians to stand in front of the house while they had pinned down some Marines in a field. They knew that the Marines would not fire back because of the civilians. We couldn't either. I don’t recall if any of the Marines had been hit or not. Everyone was scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do. I don’t know what made me think of it, but I called Sam on the intercom and asked him “Why can’t we put an Willie Peter (.02/10ths of a second) on delay and fire it through the top of the house?” He said he’d check. A few minutes later we got the word to try it. We did. We fired a WP through the top of the house and it went about 200 yards past the house before it blew up. When that happened the civilians scattered. The Marine were then able to mount an assault on the house. But the VC were gone.
One day on the run as we neared An Hoa I heard the Grunts and crew yelling and hollering. I asked over the intercom what was going on. I was told “Naked round eyes.” I stood up in the driver’s compartment to get a look. Couldn’t see anything so I tried to get up on the gun tube. As I did I felt the tank start to tilt to the right. (I had gotten out of the driver’s compartment while the tank was running.) The tank was going straight but the road wasn’t. We were going up a small rise and headed for one of those cinder block houses. I dropped back down into the compartment and got things under control. I thought I was being Bull Shitted about the naked round eyes. But it turned out that there was a Red Cross compound there and there were some German Red Cross Workers there that would occasionally "Sunbathe" out in their yard. Later when we rotated tanks and I was at An Hoa I saw some of these women in the 5th Marines Mess Hall when we ate there. (Years later I read somewhere that some German Red Cross workers were captured and died some where in Laos. I don’t know if it was these people or not.)
Later when we rotated to An Hoa my tank had the position at the north end of the airstrip. The grunts had an experimental sort of ground sensor device near us. Well one night one of the guys got drunk on some “Tiger Piss” booze and decided he was going to go to town. (The little ville outside the wire.) He got all tangled up in the barbwire and was making a hell of a racket. The Grunts came running over to our position telling us that we were under attack. That there was a whole bunch of VC coming through the wire near our position. We told them what was going on and not to report it. This device worked by putting metal stakes in the ground. The stakes were wired to the receiver and it would pick up vibrations on the ground. The trouble with it was that it was too sensitive. It would pick up rain drops and little critters like mice. Caused a lot of false alarms so they got rid of it.
At this same position we had some problem with the track or a road wheel or something I don’t remember what. But I do remember we didn’t get it fixed before dark. So we asked the Sea Bees that were working on the airstrip if they could set up a flood light for us. They did and we caused a major shit hemorrhage with the Grunt Battalion. The lights went out. Being resourceful, we called in for 81mm mortar illumination until we got whatever it was fixed. Lt. Got his ass chewed out the next day, but the tank was ready to go.
I hit a mine one-day in Super Goof and it blew off some road wheels. This is not a clean operation, there is usually some loose twisted parts left hanging. To expedite the repair process we would take a small amount of C-4 and blow off the offending part. In this case a road wheel housing. It took us three tries, each time with a bigger charge of C-4. We finally got it of and did a short track and because we didn’t have a maintaince crew or spare parts with us it had to stay that way until we got to 1st Tanks.
While we were at An Hoa the 3rd Tank Battalion had moved up north so we were attached to the 1st Tank Battalion. When they finally sent a Platoon out to relieve us we packed up and moved up north and rejoined our Battalion. We also got a replacement tank for Super Goof. Seems that we had warped the hull with the C-4 and a new road wheel housing wouldn’t go on. (Listed as a combat loss.)
Our platoon leader was Second
Lieutenant Rivero (in An Hoa with the heavy section), and the
platoon sergeant was Staff Sergeant Kahlikie. The Company Commander
of H-2-5 was Captain Bowers.