My memories of the USMC getting 175s starts with my being called to 11th Marine regimental headquarters in August 1968. The regimental S-3 told me that the USMC 1st 155 Gun Battery was going to be converted to 175s. The Gun Battery was equipped with old 155 self-propelled guns firing very old propelling charges. The powder was so old and had absorbed so much moisture that it flashed like crazy. The 11th Regiment had stopped firing them at night because the flash lit up the entire area and temporarily blinded the crews. The supply of the powder was almost exhausted. The carriages were worn out and it was impossible to get repair parts.
I knew all this and wondered why he was telling me. Then he informed me a group of Marine artillery men would be assigned to B Battery for training on the 175 guns. When they arrived I discovered that most of them were brand new in country. In an attempt to look "salty," they had scuffed up their boots and tried to make the uniforms look old. They were the worst looking bunch. Needless to say we "squared" them away (using Marine terms).
While they were training with our gun crews, I assisted the regimental S-4 take possession of their new 175s. They were in awe of new equipment and acted like kids at Christmas. I was surprised to see that the guns all had Army markings on them. There was a big flap until USMC decals were available to be placed over the Army ones.
After the training period was over, the Marines rejoined their unit and the 175s were issued to the gun battery. As I remember, the first ones were sent to An Hoa. The morning after they arrived, I got a summons to the 11th Marine Regiment. When I got there, the S-3 and XO chewed me out for "defacing USMC" equipment. During the night, persons unknown, but assumed to be B Battery personnel, had pulled off the USMC decals exposing the Army markings. It was hard to keep a straight face but I dutifully promised to make sure it didn't happen again. Unfortunately, as soon as the Marines put on new decals, they mysteriously disappeared. Needless to say, I kept catching hell from the regiment. It only ended when our guns came back to Hill 34.
At the same time, the Marines put a couple of their new guns at Hill 34 on our pads. Again, I caught hell because in addition to the decals disappearing, the silhouette of a 175 that we put on all our equipment appeared on the Marine guns. I wore a groove in the road to regimental headquarters as I went for my daily chewing out. I loved it! They were furious but I think they were also impressed with the spirit of our guys. In the long run, it never mattered. When we left the regiment to go to Dong Ha to rejoin the battalion, the regimental commander and all the staff were very sincere in their thanks. I remember the S-3 who was about 5 feet tall looking up at me and saying something about how good we were. It was from the heart because he hated standing next to my six four frame.
The regimental commander wrote a very nice letter about the battery and sent it through channels. At every USMC level, a general officer signed it. When it got to the Army, lieutenants simple forwarded it. I never saw it in Vietnam. Only years later did I discover it in the historical files of 4th Battalion, 4th Artillery. Another story for another day.
Brian M. O’Neill
B Battery CO