8th Battalion 4th Artillery|
Events and History
Significant to the Battalion
Source: Joe Brett
Event: Katkillers & Griffins
When the Marines ran I- Corps, the Katkillers could run tac air and they trained the Sundowners how to do it. The Katkillers had also flown Marines in the back seat so there was a continuation of the learning curve. So when we got a good target, we asked for Tac air through the Dong Ha DASC - Direct air support center, and they would divert existing flights or scramble new flights out of DaNang. The most famous were the Gunfighters, the 366 Fighter Sqdn. There were also two Marine F-4 units, Hellborne and Love Bug. So that little bird dog had a huge amount of fire power available to it. We had air to air communications as well as air to ground commo. It was the very best set up. When the Marines pulled out, it changed so that if we wanted TAC air, we had to hand the mission off to a Barky, which was a pain and not so efficient. They had altitude minimums that they had to fly, I think it was 2,500 feet agl, or altitude above ground level. Think about that? We were seldom above 1000 feet indicated, when we were looking for the gooners on the ground. One day a Barky radioed from his perch at 2,500 hey army, what do you have going down there as we were at 1000 ft, or lower. Were we pissed. If we hung it out to find them and took all the risks, we wanted the reward of running our own mission with Arty and Tac air. So the Sundowner Patch has snoopy saying " who said FAC" as a take off on one of our great bar games called "who said f---"..… Man, all these stories are pouring out....keep the faith. Jb
The H&I was politically motivated in an attempt to demonstrate to the ARVN that we were supporting them to the nth degree and to the NVA to show them we would expend whatever it took to defend justice, freedom, and the American way. We did a lot more damage than we were ever credited. A lot of ground units took credit in the morning for the damage we did the night before. Additionally, several of the missions were not intended to kill, just deny the use of a particular area at an appointed time. Body count should have been left to the ground gaining units. Our forte was of a much higher order. "A certain amount of dignity to an otherwise vulgar brawl."
Those OV 10's were great looking and great flying, but terrible for precision Arty missions. First of all, we had to troll to get the gooners to shoot at us to give away their positions. So you had to hear when you were getting shot at. The OV 10 was all buttoned up, while we always had our windows open, and in choppers the doors were always off. The OV-10 Broncos, were good if someone on the ground was talking to them, but terrible for finding the bad guys on their own. We hung it out, or did recon by fire missions to drop some arty or one of our rockets on suspected locations to get them moving. They were impossible to spot unless they were moving or we flew right over them. The OV 10 was moving too fast to see much. And we dared them to shoot at us. We did not have many moving parts so it was very hard to bring down an 0-1. And when they shot, we had the fire power to wipe out entire grids. So it was a dangerous game that you guys allowed us to always win. And we were all lucky. If they had missiles we would have been toast. As it was, those AK-47 and .51 cal machine guns, and some were radar controlled out west, were a challenge. But it was like WW II or Korea. The technology today make that great little plane a relic and museum piece. Drones are taking over the job so that must make me a museum piece myself.
(13) On 13 January 1970 this unit received notification of an artillery raid which was to commence on 14 January 1970. (14) On 14 January 1970 Task Force Smith II commenced an artillery raid to Elliot Combat Base and Calu. (15) On 18 January 1970 Task Force Smith II terminated. Raid was highly successful and OPORD and after-action have been forwarded to higher headquarters.
Amid the rain, cold and mud of the new year, the men of the battalion found themselves faced on the late afternoon of 13 January, with a warning order of an impending artillery raid in the vicinity of Combat Base Elliot. This order was issued by the S-3 of the 108th Artillery Group, the Battalion's next higher headquarters, which was co-located with them at Dong Ha. Throughout the night, planning was carried out and at 0900 on 14 January 1970 Task Force Smith departed west on QL-9, one of the two major roads in the area. Elements of the Task Force consisted of infantry from the 3rd Bn, 2nd Reg. 1st ARVN Division, one troop of the 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, a platoon of the 14th Engineer Battalion, the 5th Battery 175mm guns (US Marine with six 175MM), one Battery of the 6/33 Arty (with four 105MM). A Battery 8/4th with four 8" and one Company of the 1/44 Armor. These units moved to and occupied FSB Elliot and FSB Calu from 14-18 January 1970. During this time the artillery that was present fired 284 mission for 2465 rounds, with battle damage assessment of 3 bridges destroyed, 6 hooches destroyed, two .51 caliber machine guns silenced, two bunkers damaged, two 55 gallon drums of fuel destroyed, and 12 domestic animals killed. Due to the excellent infantry and armor support, no friendly casualties were suffered, with all units returning to their home locations on the afternoon of 18 January.
My story is mundane. You could have heard similar stories from the combat casualties of any war since the Civil War. I became a combat casualty on 21 January 1970. I was a 101st Airborne Division warrant officer Cobra pilot. I had been in Vietnam 10 months and had flown 700 hours in combat. I was shot through my right knee by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers I sought to kill during a sortie to protect Firebase Fuller near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). I almost exsanguinated while flying in the damaged Cobra from the DMZ to the 18th Surgical Hospital in Quang Tri in the Republic of Vietnam near Highway 1. The French called Highway 1 between Quang Tri and Hue la rue sans joie (the street without joy) because of heavy convoy losses inflicted on them by the Viet Minh Regiment 95.
(20) During the reporting period this battalion and its units came under enemy attacks by fire 33 times. (21) During the reporting period the battalion destroyed 92 bunkers, and was credited with 24 enemy KIA confirmed.
d. Observation: During this reporting period this battalion provided four forward observers teams to ground forces in Northern I Corp. These teams, consisting of a forward observer, a radar sergeant, and a radio telephone operator, were provided to the 2d ARVN Regiment and 3/5th Cavalry Squadron.
(3) On 5 February 1970 this unit began a TET cease fire at 1800 hours. The cease fire terminated 061800H February 1970 without incident.
(2) On 5 February 1970 Battery B retubed one platoon from 8" to 175MM changed to 8" on 29 and 30 January 1970.
(4) On 12 February 1970 Battery A retubed one howitzer from 8" to 175MM. (5) On 13 February 1970 Battery A retubed one other howitzer from 8" to 175MM.
(6) On 14 February 1970 LTC. Ross E. Duncan assumed command of the 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery from LTC. Isaac D. Smith.
(16) On 15 April 1970 Battery A retubed two howitzers from 8" to 175MM.
Based on a need for specific familiarization of key personnel upon their arrival in country, the battalion initiated instruction of Forward Observer, Fire Direction Officer, and Chief of Firing Battery courses. The first one-week class began on 23 February and classes were continued weekly until August of 1971. The school became so successful that personnel from the Americal and 101st Airborne (Airmobile) Divisions were often sent for the instruction that was conducted by battalion personnel in a remodeled SEA Hut in the battalion headquarters area.
(11) On 25 February 1970 Task Force Bradberry, a heavy artillery raid, was commenced. (12) On 26 February 1970 Task Force Bradberry terminated. The raid was highly successful and a complete after-action report was forwarded to higher headquarters. ;2 day artillery raid ends 26-Feb-70
In March of '70 I was the Sundowner liaison to the arty units participating in the Arty Raid to Calu, out near Vandergriff and the Rock Pile. It may have been Myer's Bn that did not get the word and had to hastily March Order his units to get them there. That seems to be a rumor I remember. And every night was a free fire zone around the perimeter. I remember two tank guys racing to empty their mounted .50 cals and watching the barrels turning red hot.
I don't know what the guns were shooting at that night. I do know that they were pointing in Khe Gios direction and were firing-as was Snoopy, Cobras and tanks from some other place! Manning the perimeter that night was a very exciting proposition as we took some rockets at JJ too.
http://members.nbci.com/msgfisher/Battle.htm The U.S. Army outpost at Khe Gio Bridge on Hwy 9 near the DMZ was overrun by NVA troops on 12 March 1970. Of the 14 Americans who fought in this battle, 2 were killed, 5 wounded, and 1 captured. The ARVN garrison had 6 dead and 9 wounded. The NVA lost about 40 men. With both dusters out of action, the camp could no longer be defended, so the C/1/44 men shot their way out and fled to Camp Carroll two miles away. Some escaped on a deuce-and-a-half, whose driver had been hit and slumped unconscious over the wheel upon getting there. Someone drove the duster through the camp under fire picking up wounded, then crashed the perimeter at Camp Carroll, where the vehicle was seen in the morning draped with barbed wire.
I was the Art 32 investigating (report writer) officer for Battle at Khe Gio Bridge. If you remember, some of the ARVN accused our Quad 40 guys of cowardice. As I remember, my report concluded that one of the advisors had been killed by a knife in his bunker, it also recommended the quad 40 guys and surviving advisor for high recognition for valor. Beyond that, the Battle At Khe Gio happened within a week (three days??) of returning from the raid. Some evidence that it was in retaliation.
RIPCORD was a hard fought losing battle that the 101st fought in the closing stages of the Vietnam war. The 101st was attempting to re-enter the A Shau Valley to slow the NVA down during the American withdrawal from Vietnam. The NVA came out to meet us at Ripcord. It became the last major battle fought by American troops in Vietnam. The whole battle was kept secret from the media because of the high casualties and what had been reported a year earlier about Hamburger Hill.
I was at the Special Forces Compound near Mai Loc when it was completely overrun by Sappers. I was the FO with A Troop, 3/5 Cav. I am still somewhat bitter about the whole episode, since a lot of lives were lost unnecessarily through the arrogance and negligence of the Special Forces Co of the Compound. For example, the action report seems to overlook the 14 US engineers who died because they were given no protection by the Special Forces while they were spending the night inside the compound. They were there to grade the dirt runway that was along the eastern side of the compound. It was A-3/5 Cav who brought the contact to an end. No element of 3/5 was ever overrun at Mai Loc. It was the other way around. Mai Loc was completely overrun by sappers, and A Troop, 3/5 Cav came to their relief. For the entire time I was in the field with 3/5 Cav, we "won" every engagement we were in, including a night attack on one of the 3/5 Platoons by an NVA battalion strength unit. Mai Loc was a SF screw up from start to finish. Our CO, who tried to avert the catastrophe, was then-Captain Eric Shinseki, now Army Chief of Staff.
"In a contact southeast of Mai Loc (YD 193456) on 9 Apr, a PW from the 2d Co/7th Bn/66 Regt was captured. Mai Loc received a sapper attack on 10 April from an estimated company-sized force. The enemy sappers entered the CIDG camp from four directions but failed to penetrate the camp's inner perimeter. The results of this attack included 20 friendly KIA (6 US and 14 CIDG), and 41 WIA (13 US, 25 CIDG and 3 VN), with 19 enemy KIA. Enemy units involved possibly included the 6th Co/33 Sapper Bn/B-5 Front, elements of the 9th Battalion and 24th Sapper Co/66 Regt/304th NVA Div."
In a letter home written this date: "Well, we didn't get any rockets yesterday, but the situation was more than made up for today. At 0230 in the morning the Special Forces camp and resettlement village of Mai Loc (about 6 kilometers south of us) came under attack. We got a few rockets for harassment, but all we could see is lots of action there. Today we learned that Mai Loc was completely overrun. 25 dead, 15 wounded and 40 missing. The NVA even held the place until about 0600 then the RVNs counter attacked and ran them off into the hills. There were only 7 NVA killed that we know of. An extremely one sided victory for the NVA. I imagine a lot of political hay will be made of it."
Art Umland wrote of staying up all night at JJ and having a reenforcement group from Dong Ha there because of a threat. I have been re-reading the 51 letters I sent home that my mother dutifully kept for me. On April 16, 1970 I wrote, "There is a constant threat of ground attack -- the latest intelligence indicates that a regiment is supposed to walk over us in suicide fashion in the next five days. Every night we are on some sort of alert. The other night we all stayed up all night. Boy, what a loss. The day team wasn't worth anything the next day and I couldn't keep my eyes open. On the whole it was a bad idea. In the future when we have similar situations, we will go in shifts and let some people get some sleep." I believe Art was correct in his memories of the circumstances, but no gooks in the wire.
(20) During the reporting period this battalion and its units came under enemy attacks by fire 46 times. (21) During the reporting period this battalion destroyed 140 bunkers and was credited with 101 enemy KIA confirmed. (22) During the reporting period this battalion continued its progress in development of the ARVN Heavy Artillery Training Program. The training program itself, lesson plans, and a prepared briefing have been translated into Vietnamese.
f. Civic Action: This battalion maintained four MEDCAPS at Duong Luong, An Lac, Dai Do, and Dong Ha City and added one during the reporting period at Gio Linh. The first four MEDCAPS were established in August and November 1968, and two in March 1969. During the reporting period, a total of 2500 patients were treated. In addition to treating the patients, the MEDCAPS included distribution of clothing, soap, and candy to the Vietnamese people.
d. Observation: During this reporting period this battalion provided eight forward observer teams to ground forces in Northern I Corps. These teams, consisting of a forward observer, a recon sergeant, and a radio telephone operator, included assignments to Special Forces elements, 2nd ARVN Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (AMBL), and three permanent assignments to 3/5th Cavalry Squadron.
Cpt Gary Nelson assumes command.
We were shooting for them at that time. I was on the night duty at BN and the Adviser's call sign was "Blues Pa-Pa." The report we received is that he took a round right in the forehead. I can remember that I had C & B btry shooting. I know there was fire coming out of JJ, also. Sarge was an ARVN firebase. They had 105's on top and they used to airlift the ammo up there, usually starting early in the morning. The ammo would be trucked to Carroll the night before, then picked up by Chinooks the next morning. They did this to keep the rocket and mortar fire to a minimum during the resupply. Seems that Charles slept late. During my time there, Sarge was attacked many times, all the way from probes to full boat all out company sized attacks, but never over run. We, as a BN, had several really outstanding efforts that certainly help save the day. Dav may remember more of the details. I was pretty busy trying to direct three batteries and the little problems that always pop up when the sierra hits the fan. Then, when people heard what was going on, they try to invade the Operations area and I usually had to police that while giving briefs to the highers. The battalion FD computers at the time would know the battle's details better than I. Personally, I am not absolutely sure that I was on duty. I may have heard about the missions and went to give a hand to the BN FDO at the time. I do recall the stillness in the FDC though when it was announced that Pa-Pa cashed it in. I probably got pissed and went looking for any firepower I could get my hands on including 5/4 Arty.
There was one mission, May 5, 1970 that haunts me to this day. I was south and west of camp Carroll and found what I thought were NVA in the open. We got the grid cleared and were waiting for those long skinnies to be turned to the south. It took a long time, meanwhile we circled over the bad guys but they made no movement to hide. I was if they were screwing with us. One of the guys had on a cut off sweat shirt. And I was telling base all about it...but they knew of no friendly troops, and the grid received clearance. So I am getting real pissed. When the first round hits, it is 1,000 meters off and the mission is cancelled and I am made the goat because my grid was 1,000 off. The pilot was pissed at me for wasting his day and I felt real foolish. I remember the date cause it was my birthday, and we got gloriously loaded that night at a USO show at the search light battery in Dong Ha. But I felt like an idiot for being off by 1,000 meters. And why didn't those bad guys try to hide?? In my thoughts after I got home, I figured that it was a SF team in there and they did not tell anyone. When I began to fire, I figured they called the FDC at Carroll and had the guns fire out so as to end the mission, get me out of there and not make obvious what was going on over the radio. Does my take make sense? Did any of you encounter a call like that from the SF / Project Delta teams?
Early one morning about dawn a contact fire mission came down. The 5th Mech was in a fire fight on the Northeast side of Dong Ha Mountain below FSB Fuller. We notified the XO post to alert the battery. After working the data we had two guns laid in direction of fire and ordered the other two laid on the same azimuth. I remember when confirming the mission with the FO, he had a strong sense of urgency in his voice. While the first two guns were loading I gave the FO a small briefing of our intentions. Something like this, We have a fire mission on grid 026 break 399 contact. We will be giving you two guns one round in adjustment and a battery one round in effect. Request Oscar Tango direction, Observer Target direction, and danger close The danger close was his estimate of the distance our rounds would impact to his position. He complied with our request urging us to hurry. I could hear gun firing in the background of his radio transmissions. Within a couple of minutes I gave him shot, indicating rounds were on the way. We would calculate the time of flight and notify the FO five seconds before impact with the words splash over. He continued with his adjustments dropping the round closer and closer to his position. Each time we requested his approximate danger close. Soon to our calculations we were to close to his position. but he would tell us 500 meters plus each time. We were ready to cut him off when he said drop another 50 and fire for effect and I'll buy you a case of beer. Tony Scanelli, Ross Sigmon and I all looked at one another shrugged our shoulders and Shot Over. About a week later a dusty grunt captain walked into the FDC bunker and threw a case of beer on the floor, It was the FO. His company was in a savage fire fight with a large number of NVA. Our guns were the deciding factor in their well being. He couldn't say enough for the short stubby of Alpha 4. Every man in the battery would give his all in a contact mission. It required team work and trust of each individual to do there job to perfection. At Alpha 4 there was not a weak link in the chain of duty. I look back to my time there with a lot of pride. They say that you touch someone's life with everyone you meet. I know that we also touched the lives of every man in that 5th mech. company, that day.
In May 1970, D Company, 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry got the worst of an engagement when they were the perimeter security element for fire support base Fuller. They received 600 rounds of 120mm mortar fire without being able to make effective reply.
In 1970, about May or June, the gooners infiltrated the perimeter of Dong Ha Combat base and hit the POL Dump that sent up huge plumes of black smoke for days. The problem for them was that the POL they hit was the oil we used to spray the roads to keep the dust down. The good news was that when the fire cooled a bit, we found one of the sappers who was made a crispy critter by his own fire. The S-2 section speculated that the soviets must have sent a team of technical advisors from Poland to help the NVA.
(10) On 6 July MAJ Courtney E. Prisk assumed command of the 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery from LTC. Ross E. Duncan.
In July 1970, I received a call from the CG 5th Mech. Brigade informing us that a Mike Force of LLDB (ARVN Special Forces) was being pursued by a superior NVA force in an area south of Khe Sanh near the Laotian border. The weather precluded reliable gun ship support, and no Puffs were available. He asked if the 8/4th could provide them with direct support. Some choice words were exchanged with the tread-head commander about using 175s in direct support, but the essence of the conversation was that we could do it. "Yes Sir, the guns could make it" even though they seldom left the firebase. "Yes Sir, (after a call to Fulton) we can be ready to go and on the road in two hours." The tread-head general then gave me a ration of sh-- about the artillery always being late and for being seldom as STRAC as the mechanized infantry (Naples may remember the conversation). One hour later, when I arrived at Camp JJ Carroll, A battery was already ready to go. Ten minutes later, the two guns from A-4 arrived and we had a six-gun 175 artillery raid in the making. One hour and twenty minutes after the briefing at 5th Mech. HQ, the ARVN 105 battery rolled in from down the road. We split the ARVN, two sections in front of the 175s and two sections (plus) trailing. At exactly the LD (Line of Departure) time, the Artillery was mounted up and prepared to depart. Then we waited thirty minutes for the Cavalry troop (minus) to arrive. (I should note that, in the interim, I did not resist the temptation to call the tread-head one star and inform him that the entire task force was in place minus his every ready horse soldiers.) We moved out three hours after the briefing and thirty minutes after the Cav. arrived (it took that long for me to brief the Cav. commander (Captain) and for him to confirm with his higher that he would in fact be under the control of the Artillery and further, that he would be gone for at least a week instead of the 24 hours as he had been briefed.) On this first 175gun Artillery Raid in Vietnam, everything started smoothly. All the trucks and tracks ran beautifully, thanks to the BN and Btry maintenance personnel, and everything was proceeding according to plan. We had coordinated with the ARVN firebase that overlooked the QL-9 bridge near the Rock Pile, but only about 15 minutes before the Cav. secured the bridge. (No use providing information that could be spread any earlier). Half of the Cav. remained at the bridge to fall in behind the last ARVN unit and the other half took the lead and moved west around the south side of the Rock Pile. At that point., the Cav. Detachment, two ARVN units, my jeep, and one gun section made the turn south and soon we started taking small arms and .50 cal fire from a position on the west side of the Rockpile. The other sections and the FDC vehicle remained in defilade, while we deployed as fast as we could into an old Marine site just north of the main area of Vandergrift. We lost a couple of ARVN and one Cav. vehicle (with folks) before we got into position behind the rocks. After a couple of tense moments trying to figure out how the Cav. was going to eliminate what was apparently a solitary enemy position, we put the hairlines over the breech and sighted in on what seemed to be a circular shadow of a cave just above the .51 caliber machine gun. (Fortunately tracers work both ways.) We lowered the spade as best we could in the rocky area and using the long (25 foot?) lanyard we fired max charge direct fire at the SOBs. Simultaneously with the explosion that wiped away the heavy machine-gun, the gun track recoiled back over the spade and the gun came to rest in a very awkward position-the only major maintenance casualty of the raid. The second casualty was my jeep, which did not take kindly to multiple .51 cal rounds. By the time we resumed our movement, there was no chance that we would obtain our original objective before midnight. Initially, we were destined for a point near the intersection of QL9 and the road leading north to the abandoned Khe Sanh Combat Base. I decided to set up the task force at Ca Lu, using the old Marine Corps 8 inch firing positions. Now deprived of one jeep, I got Group (Col. Key) to loan us his Ranger. It was almost dark when the Cav. reported that Ca Lu was secured and we emplaced the remaining 9 sections (four 105s and five 175s) using the chopper's landing strobe. Since this was a night-time occupation of a non-reconnoitered site, the pucker factor was up, believe me. The task force was finally in place and the FDC reported ready at 10:00PM. We contacted the Mike Force, SF leader, using a relay through FSB Sarge and learned that his position was two hundred meters beyond the max range of the guns. However, he wanted immediate fire support. After explaining the CEP (Circular Error Probable) at that range even IF we could cheat the firing tables to reach him, his comment was (I don't think I will ever forget), "Listen, buddy, I'd rather get my shit blown away by friendly fire than be tortured by Chuck!" That first night, employing the wizardry of the BN FDC Sgt. and Ron Naples, coupled with minute leveling of the bubbles and the gunner's quadrant, we fired two missions. Both were successful in that we didn't hit any friendlies and we were able to reach the general area well enough that the NVA pulled back from their attack on the Mike Force position. The next morning the Cav. moved out to secure our original objective. As they got about halfway, they came under attack from a couple of 130s the NVA had put in caves high on the Co Roc just inside Laos. The Cav. beat a hasty retreat. Naples figured out that we could reach the 130s from Ca Lu, but even given their height advantage, they couldn't reach us. We did a Task Force six, five times on the SOBs, but they were dug in. (Folks who went on Lam Son 719 later told me that the NVA kept their various artillery pieces back in the caves and would roll them forward only to shoot) The next day, the Mike Force made its way east about a click and during that withdrawal and subsequent fire fights during the day we fired at least forty missions in support. The morning of the third day , the Mike Force was extracted. I called 108th Group for instructions and was sure that we would receive a CSMO (Close Station, March Order) by noon. However, XXIV Corps was delighted to have someone in the area who could engage targets spotted by the lookout post on Hill 798, and since the weather was still too bad for the fly boys, we spent the next three days firing at suspected targets coming down from the tri-border area towards Khe Sanh. Staying at Ca Lu, where Charlie had roamed at will for two years, with only 40 Cav. troops to protect us, an ARVN battery that didn't know how to lay down defensive fires; and a five-gun battery (plus) of 175 gunners accustomed to a static firebase, seemed risky enough. However, things got worse. Two things happened on the fifth day. The first was that the SF Captain from the Mike Force flew in on the re-supply chopper. He gave credit to the task force for saving the lives of four dozen men and told us that we had obtained a direct hit on top of a machine gun position that screwed up Charlie's attack.. We didn't tell him how improbable that was, but did determined it was either gun three or gun four. We were firing three guns at one target and two at the other on that second day. He also gave me a bottle of Crown Royal. (Apparently sometime during the first night he promised me a bottle of my favorite if he got out alive.) So far so good, but then Group called and told us to expect an ground attack that evening. All the questions you can imagine ran through the FDC. How do you know? What size of an attack? If we know, will they attack from the northwest or the southwest? All we got was a "wait out." 30 minutes later we got a partial answer. "Maybe a reinforced Battalion." "How do you know?" "Can't tell you." "Why the hell not?" "Corps G2 says so." About the time I stopped stomping, Ron Naples or Al Fulton or both in unison said, "Only two Corps G-2 intel posts in the area, Hill 728 and FSB Sarge." Their conclusion was that with the clouds and rain it probably wasn't Hill 728, so that left Sarge. I got Group to send out the Ranger again, took a cursory look around the areas just to the west of Ca Lu (saw nothing), and then flew up to Sarge. The MI Lt. was smiling to see the helicopter as he thought he was going to be relieved to return to Corps. HQ. I spoiled his day by asking him if he was the one who reported the hostile Main Force Battalion moving into attack position. After several hems and haws, and no direct answers, I told him I didn't care how he knew, I just wanted to know their approximate current location and how fast they were moving. "For security reasons," he couldn't tell me, "too classified." Another ten minutes of BS passed before I ordered him to get in the helicopter, informing him that he was going to spend the night with us in Ca Lu. After a few salvos of how Corps G-2 was going to have me relieved, and my incessant reminders that he would have a better chance to make it through the attack at Ca Lu if he took all of his ammunition with him, he showed me on the map where he had picked up the radio intercepts and where he thought the NVA were, based on the time and location between intercepts. The enemy force was supposedly south east of Khe Sanh and south of QL 9 heading east toward Ca Lu. We laid in defensive fires using the remaining 175s at Carroll and A-4, the 8 inch howitzers at A-2, and the two 105s at FSB Sarge. Beginning about two hours before ENT (Evening Nautical Twilight) we fired everything we could into the area and along the route of advance and continued to fire throughout the night. We even enlisted 155s from the 5th Mech. to join us. Well, it was a tense night but the attack never materialized; either Charlie wasn't there or we made him decide not to challenge us that night. The next morning we CSMO'd and made it back across the bridge without incident. The first 175 gun Artillery Raid, with a night occupation, ended with kudos for the 8/4th thanks to the readiness of the gunners, the maintenance of the equipment, and good luck! It was a nice day to be a soldier! Over the next two months we conducted three other raids, each of two days duration, to support intelligence from Hill 728 and all were deemed successful, but none were anywhere near as exciting, puckering, or challenging as the six days west of the mountains. By the way, about three days after the operation, before I had the chance to explain the situation in detail, I got my ass royally chewed by the G-2 General and a Counter Intelligence Colonel for my treatment of the MI Lt.. After I informed them that I had been serious, and explained why I would have taken their Lt. down to the firing position if he hadn't given me the information, they agreed that I was probably right. The information should have been shared with the unit under possible assault.
(11) On 9 July Task Force McNamera, a heavy artillery operation was commenced. (12) On 15 July Task Force McNamera terminated. The operation was highly successful.
6 day Artillery Raid ends 15-Jul-70
Cpt Michael Potter assumes command.
(14) On 25 July LTC. Paul R. Buckley assumed command of the 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery from MAJ Courtney B. Prisk.
Forrest Hollifield, 1LT, 108th Arty, S-2 [section?] was killed in a Bird Dog in the summer of 1970. A young pilot may have tried a hotdog maneuver on takeoff and both he and Forrest, his backseat "Sundowner" aerial observer, were killed on impact at the Dong Ha airfield. I knew Forrest only the two months or so he was in country, and visited his parents after I derosed. He was an only child, and one fine young man. Pilot Lee Peters also killed.
f. Civic Action: During May there was a major change in MEDCAP activities of the 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery. The battalion was assigned the Gia Linh District along with 108th Artillery Group. Several MEDCAP's outside this district were stopped and efforts were concentrated at the Gia An dispensary. In an effort to make the Vietnamese medical system function our role became advisory in nature allowing the Vietnamese personnel to treat the people and the Vietnamese medical supply system to secure the needed medical material. At first this new system was the source of considerable frustration. However, recently the acquisition of supply has improved, and returns are in sight for the efforts thus far expended. It is felt that the new approach to MEDCAP is a vast improvement over the old system, and that it will leave the Vietnamese people in the Gia Linh District a functional medical system upon American withdrawal.
d. Observation: During this reporting period this battalion provided five forward observer teams to ground forces in Northern I Corps. These teams consisted of a forward observer, a recon sergeant, and a radio telephone operator, included assignments to FSB Sarge, Hill 950, and three permanent assignments to 3/5 Cavalry Squadron.
(16) During the reporting period this battalion and its elements came under enemy attacks by fire 66 times. (17) During the reporting period this battalion destroyed 213 bunkers and was credited with 111 enemy KIA confirmed. (18) During the reporting period this battalion continued its progress in development of the ARVN Heavy Artillery Training Program. The training program itself, lesson plans and a prepared briefing have been translated into Vietnamese.
I was an FDC computer for Charlie Battery at Con Thien in the summer of 1970. Our job was to compute the data and issue firing commands to a battery of four eight inch howitzers. I had worked many fire missions and shot thousands of rounds in my tour, but only a couple of missions have remained clear in my memory through the years. One night in particular we were firing harassment and interdiction targets with guns two and four. It was just after dark on a hot and humid night. Our mission begun about an hour after sundown and had been firing for about an hour. I suggested to Lt. Sigmon the FDO that we give gun four a break while gun two continued with the mission and explained the situation to the gun chief. After about five minutes of firing gun two an awful explosion was heard. The XO post cried out over the intercom that gun four had been hit and was on fire. I ran to the west door of the FDC bunker to look at gun four. A huge white hot inferno had engulfed gun four. The fire was so intense that it was unbearable to look around the corner of my bunker. Gun four had taken a direct hit from a 122 mm rocket into it's power magazine. My heart sank onto my stomach at the thought of my friends on that gun. I slowly turned to go back to my post inside the bunker, when a group of stunned and bewildered soldiers walked into the opposite bunker door. They looked like something out of the twilight zone, people I had expected the worse for. It was all of gun fours crew. They had walked to get a drink of water at the mess hall across from the FDC bunker about two hundred yards from their gun. I don't remember the names of those on gun four that day, but I can still see their faces walking into the bunker that night. I don't know why something told me to give that crew a break at that moment, I have relived it many times. I'm glad it all worked our for the best and all of us went home to live our lives.
I was an FDC computer for Charlie Battery at Con Thien in the summer of 1970. Our job was to compute the data and issue firing commands to a battery of four eight inch howitzers. I had worked many fire missions and shot thousands of rounds in my tour, but only a couple of missions have remained clear in my memory through the years. One night in particular we were firing harassment and interdiction targets with guns two and four. It was just after dark on a hot and humid night. Our mission begun about an hour after sundown and had been firing for about an hour. I suggested to Lt. Sigmon the FDO that we give gun four a break while gun two continued with the mission and explained the situation to the gun chief. After about five minutes of firing gun two an awful explosion was heard. The XO post cried out over the intercom that gun four had been hit and was on fire. I ran to the west door of the FDC bunker to look at gun four. A huge white hot inferno had engulfed gun four. The fire was so intense that it was unbearable to look around the corner of my bunker. Gun four had taken a direct hit from a 122 mm rocket into it's power magazine. My heart sank onto my stomach at the thought of my friends on that gun. I slowly turned to go back to my post inside the bunker, when a group of stunned and bewildered soldiers walked into the opposite bunker door. They looked like something out of the twilight zone, people I had expected the worse for. It was all of gun fours crew. They had walked to get a drink of water at the mess hall across from the FDC bunker about two hundred yards from their gun. I don't remember the names of those on gun four that day, but I can still see their faces walking into the bunker that night. I don't know why something told me to give that crew a break at that moment, I have relived it many times. I'm glad it all worked our for the best and all of us went home to live our lives. (Mike Schwertfeger, FDC, Battery C1969-70) I remember that incident. I was on the other side of that fire mission at battalion checking data for you guys. I remember your radio transmission that you had incoming and that the powder pit on gun 4 was on fire! I also recall some brave soul, [ I think that is was Sgt. Rolfs] using a picnic table as a shield to the fire to access the gun to drive it out of the pit. Stinky, you'll have to tell me if sometimers has set in or not. I do know that my heart sunk right to my feet when I received your radio transmission that you had a fire in the powder pit. I guess that God protects idiots, drunks, and the 8/4 . Not necessarily in that order! (Bill Davenport, 8/4 69-71)
I think it was the "mechanic" - tall, skinny, ?red-headed? kid -who drove the gun out - he loved those guns and gun 4's GMC/Detroit Diesel (whatever it was) V12 was one snake-bit motor, but amazingly he got it started and out of the pit while the powder was burning - the C.O./X.O. should have written him up for a medal - another example of the wonderful dedication and courage (admittedly sometimes "stoopid") of the men of the 8th of the 4th!. I think we also ordered gun 3 (wasn't that Sgt. Rolf''s gun?, not sure?) off its pad in case the projo's cooked off, but luckily none did.
I remember that incident. I was on the other side of that fire mission at battalion checking data for you guys. I remember your radio transmission that you had incoming and that the powder pit on gun 4 was on fire! I also recall some brave soul, [ I think that is was sgt. Rolfs] using a picnic table as a shield to the fire to access the gun to drive it out of the pit. Stinky, you'll have to tell me if sometimers has set in or not. I do know that my heart sunk right to my feet when I received your radio transmission that you had a fire in the powder pit. I guess that God protects idiots, drunks, and the
(2) On 6 Aug 70 LTG Sutherland presented the meritorious unit citation to the 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery.
Cpt Kent Swanson assumes command from Cpt Alvie L. "Al" Fulton.
Cpt Lester C. Oenning assumes command.
Cpt John J. Patterson assumes command.
Early on 24 October 1970 again saw elements of the battalion raiding to FSB Vandergrift for the purpose of, as presented in the operations order, "Exploiting the elements of surprise and range by rapidly displacing a long range artillery element (175mm) to forward position area to engage and cause maximum damage to preselected targets and targets of opportunity." Elements of A Troop 4th of the 12th Cavalry, B Btry of 5/4 Arty (155mm SP) and B Btry 8/4th (175mm) were involved. 270 rounds of 175mm were fired with BDA of 12 bunkers destroyed. Again no friendly casualties or damage were suffered.
(12) On 22 Oct 70 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery conducted an artillery raid at LZ Vandergrift.
In October of '70, a few weeks before I was supposed to Deros, I was put in an LNO's slot w/ the 101st. We occupied/reinforced FSB Sarge, with the intention of using that as a staging base to go back into LZ's further to the west and, ultimately, Khe Sanh. We had some ARVN towed "55's lifted onto the hill, but they were largely ineffective except for some H&I's. Our main support came from A Btry at JJ Carroll. We had a Ranger Co guarding the lowest west perimeter of the taller part of Sarge, above the saddle, and the NVA kept trying to set them up to be eliminated. The ARVN '55's couldn't depress their tubes to shoot down the slope, all the 101st had was mortars and M60's, and everybody figured the Ranger's position was in defilade and that our arty couldn't protect close to it. One night, during one particularly intense probe, it became obvious that something had to be done to take the heat off of those guys. Right before I went out to Sarge, Alpha got two brand new tubes (the really good ones Aberdeen had finally developed - 300-450 EFC without much early degradation in accuracy) and I happened to be the AO that registered them. Talk about good fate... I got the cotangent of the angle of fall at my range from JJ and figured the angle of the slope of Sarge's west face. I was pretty sure I wouldn't blow the top of the hill and me to kingdom come and yet we could have the 175 rounds come pretty much parallel to the face and plug the gap in the valley where the NVA were massing to hit the Rangers. We started out with those A Btry guns (2&3, I think) in adjustment to verify which was the "short gun". We kept decreasing the range ("...no 26 - or whatever Bn was - we're not danger-close") until the rounds were right where the Rangers needed them - I could actually fell the shock wave and the heat as the rounds passed over the top of the hill going down the slope. To say that the Rangers were happy was an understatement! Good, steady, cannoneer work from you guys at JJ - level those bubbles the same way every time! We then added two hundred, recorded as target and luckily didn't have to shoot it again for the next few days I was out there. The 101st was going to move from Sarge onto two LZ's (Hawk and I can't remember the other one) to recon in force and set up for a move into Khe Sanh. I told the 101st Col. that we could give him support on and around the LZ's but we weren't going to be able to give him good counter-battery if they opened up from the Co Roc. Anyway, we were getting set to lift off at 0430 and I asked the Col. to please run a "sniffer mission" in through the LZ's before we lifted off, in case there were some good targets of opportunity to hit during the LZ prep. He did and the assault was called off - due to some G-2 breach (did I mention this was a joint 101st/ARVN mission?) - both LZ's were hot, NVA dug in all over the place. We called in air, arty, everything they could come up with, and I think we put a "good hurtin" on Charlie. I left after Bn sent an AO out to Sarge (it might have been Lt. Murray?), went back to Bn and left country a few days later.
Cpt Joseph S. McCaffrey assumes command from Cpt Kent Swanson
Thanks for the kind praise! Coming from a comrade-in-arms who knew artillery as well as you makes my chest swell with pride. Without the skill, dedication and precision of those A Btry cannoneers, their FDC and Bn FDC, none of it would have been possible for that particular mission or, in the same way, the other hairy missions fired by each one of our batteries. A lot of positive circumstances occurred which made that mission successful. There are so many ifs when you try to pull something like that off: If the new generation of tubes had not proven to be as accurately stable; If I hadn't had the opportunity to register those guns and see that platoon work out; If my gunnery instructor at Sill hadn't been Major Patrick Sweeny (or someone who was just as good, if there was that someone) who taught me how what I had learned in my architectural education was perfect for really understanding how 150 and 200 pound rounds flew through the air, I'd never have called fire that tightly into that position, especially at night.
d. Observation: During this period the battalion provided five forward observer teams to ground forces in Northern I Corps. These teams consisting of a forward observer, a recon sergeant, end a radio telephone operator, included assignments to the 2nd ARVN Regt, 108th Gp, and 3/5 Cavalry Squadron.
f. Civic Action: Supported the disaster relief program of the 1st Inf Div, 5th Brigade (Mech) for the Gio Linh district. (27-31 Oct 70). On 24 September 70 a rice thrasher was presented to the village chief. Corn Lo MEDCAP teams were held in Doug Ha and Gio Linh districts; contributions of money, food, clothing, and materials were presented to orphanages in Quang Tn and Gio Linh. (8) On 24 Sep a rice thrasher was presented to Cam Lo village chief by CO, 8th Bn, 4th Arty, LTC. Buckley.
(13) During the reporting period this battalion and its units came under fire four tines. (14) During the reporting period this battalion destroyed eighty-four bunkers and was credited with 21 enemy KIA confirmed.
In 15 November 1970, another raid with B Btry was again conducted to Vandy. This time 175 rounds of 175mm were fired, but no BDA was obtained due to the weather, which prohibited flying. From the completion of this raid, until the middle of December the battalion concentrated on improving itself as on the 14th to 17th of December, the battalion in its entirety received its Annual General Inspection, receiving laudatory comments in many areas.
I was a track mech. on C-2 in 1970 and we went out on an artillery raid around Oct-Nov '70 to Vandergrift. Departing the area, the track had problems. The brass chose to have the track towed back to Dong Ha. We prepared the track for towing and the brass told the Lt. that they would be sending a VTR back to get us and left us there with out any security. It was Kenny Slaydon and the crew on the VTR that had to come back out there that night, with no escort, to retrieve us. On the way back we hit two places along RT-9 where we ran into barbed wire and had to cut both tracks out because the ARVN didn't do their job and clear the road. The first time I figured we were going to get the shit kicked out of us. But luckily we worked like hell and got the track unsnarled from the wire and got going again. They were towing that gun about 40 miles a hour, they were just hauling a**. The same thing happened at the next guard post. The only thing was there were no guards at either post. If I remember right we didn't get back into Dong Ha that night until 11:00 or 12:00 PM. But because of your bravery and unthinking of doing your job no matter how dangerous, is why I'm probably here today. I thanked once but I will THANK you again, for coming out that night and getting our ass. I know if we had more guys from B btry 1970 on this site and they were on that gun crew that night they would also be thanking you.
On 15 November, B Battery conducted a heavy artillery raid, displacing from fire support base C-2 (YD1364) to fire support base Vandergrift (XD9948). 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment exercised command and control of the raid. During the raid 175 rounds were fired on preplanned targets based on sensor activations in the Laotian border area, (XD7245). Adverse weather precluded battle damage assessment (BDA). BDA assessment for the month of November was: 28 bunkers destroyed, 8 enemy KIA, and 10 secondary explosions.
Cpt Morgan L. "Bud" Flom assumes command of HHB. He was preceded by Cpt Ralph G. Fontana.
Cpt John R. Fleming assumes duties of Service Battery Commander.
The dog was mine and I named her after our surroundings, " Ghetto ". When we had bad days she always seemed to make things better. But I lost her to a mortar attack.
In the afternoon before the 1970 Christmas cease fire two NVA tanks were spotted about 7000 meters SW of A-4 (Con Thien). We started a fire mission and the tanks took off in a zig-zag direction away from us. Eventually we completely destroyed one of the tanks and the other disappeared. It was hiding in a bunker. An hour or so later an air observer found the other tank and we fired on the bunker and it took off out of its bunker. We were within two hours of the Christmas cease fire and the tank was getting further and further away from us. We scored a direct hit on the remaining tank and knocked a track off one side. Now all he could do was go around in circles and in a few rounds we destroyed this tank also making for a happy Christmas cease fire.
b. During December the battalion continued its assigned mission, GSR-5th Battalion, 4th Artillery, from the fire support bases indicated in paragraph 1la. Total BDA for the month was 33 bunkers destroyed, 18 enemy KIA, and 10 secondary explosions. As of 31 December 1970, the battalion had fired 359,621.rounds since arriving in the Republic of Vietnam in 1967. c. With the exception of two artillery raids, the battalion continued its mission of GSR, 5Th Battalion, 4th Artillery in January 1971.