A platoon of 175 guns from B-8-4 was stationed at An Hoa to provide fire support for the Marines (and anyone else who needed help). Uneventfully, we fired support for missions and H & I's, but on one night in 23 Feb 1969 it felt like our time had come.
It was about 0200 hrs and our guns were silent. I was on radio watch and calmly writing a letter when Charlie blew up the ammo dump that was at the other end of the air strip from our guns. Even though I have never experienced an earthquake, for an instant I thought one had taken place as the ground fell away from beneath my feet. Then, I heard the succession of explosions. I quickly looked out of our FDC tent, which had all but fallen down, in the direction of the noise. The sky was as illuminated as a summer sunset.
Every two hours for the next few days, we took incoming from enemy rockets and RPG's. Our officers tried to get back azimuths, but it seemed as if the enemy missiles were coming from everywhere. They reasoned that the enemy just shot and ran, not setting up a firing position. After several days, the enemy fire changed to four-hour time periods. They must also have been a little dismayed because they had not hit our big guns. Here is where they made a fatal mistake. They set up a stationary position on a hill overlooking the An Hoa Combat Base and began to fire from there. For the first time, we could see muzzle flashes.
I personally phoned the Marine Major in charge and asked if we could return fire as the enemy was directly in our line of sight about 3,000 yards away. He denied our request. When the enemy fired again after four hours, I phoned the Major. Again, he denied our request. He explained to me that there were friendlies in the area. Since he didn't hang up on me, I figured he thought I was a 1Lt rather than an EM. After several enemy shellings and a day later, the Major phoned us and told us to start firing. I told my OIC and he and the platoon sergeant bore-sighted a gun on the target and commenced firing. Perhaps 12 rounds were fired, charge 3. Each one seemed to be right on target. Then number 13 hit and a ball of flame about 200 feet high erupted. We had clearly hit their ammo cache. About two more rounds were put on the target and we ceased firing.
I called the Major and told him that we had ceased firing and could he give us a body count as he had men up there. Time passed and he did not contact us. I called him back and again asked about a body count. He told me that there was none and that it was getting dark and the men would have to come in. There was no response to my questions the next day and soon we moved out when the Marines and their 175's finally arrived.
Three years later, I phoned an old girl friend for a date. She told me that she had since married and that her husband would like to meet me as he had been in Nam. I haltingly agreed and went over to their apartment. As we sat around and swapped "war stories," it became apparent that he was a squad leader of the team that surveyed the damage our rounds had done. When I asked him right out why we weren't given a body count, he replied that they couldn't...there was an ear here, a finger there, a toe there, etc. That fire mission was finally over for me.