8th Battalion 4th Artillery
Events and History
Significant to the Battalion
Source: Chris Cunningham
Event: Ammo Haulers
I was riding shot gun to a forward battery. The truck I was in had two 55 gallon drums of gasoline tied to the cab of the truck with the rest of the back filled with C-rations. The trucks in front and behind had either ammo or powder with a diesel tanker thrown in some place to make it fun. All I could think of was one round and I was Post Toasties. As we were going up the side of a hill on a path just wide enough for one truck, we came to a wide spot for turnaround or passing. As the last truck came to the turnaround a rocket or something hit the hill just behind the last truck. The driver in the lead truck stopped and we were blocked in the clearing created by the turnaround. Everyone bailed out of the truck looking for cover. However, the turnaround was flat with no place to hide, and behind the trucks was a wall ten to twelve feet high where the road was cut out. When I hit the ground, I saw that this was not a good spot to be in, and I then realized that another round could blow us all off the hill and that I seemed to be the ranking person (Sgt.) there. It may not have been the best idea but I always believed that a moving target was harder to hit than a sitting one and with no place to hide the best thing to do was to get moving. So I started to yell at everyone to get rolling. The gods were with us that day because whatever was used they only had one and nothing else happened. It only took one experience for me to decide that I would be very happy sitting on top of my little hill with my 175mm guns and that I did not want any more truck rides.
Those truck convoys were some scary times. I wasn't kidding when I said that "driving one of those 5-ton trucks loaded with ammo, fuel or whatever was like driving a block of C-4 with wheels under your ass" as you say "one round and you are post toasties" or your in never-never land! It was a cardinal sin with the truckers of Service Battery of the 2/94 to have stopped when the convoy got hit! In fact, if the lifers didn't court marshal the driver, then the guys would take care of business and see to it that he would not or want to drive in anymore convoys. We were a very close bunch of guys in Service Battery. We drank and fought together as a group when we were in the rear. It was sop that if your truck was hit and damaged, but drivable and you were not dead then you were to drive it off the road, mountain, river or whatever to keep from blocking the road. The main objective was to get the trucks out of the "kill zone" immediately! Thin skinned trucks didn't "eeeven" slow down AK, RPG or whatever they shot at us. One of "Charlie's" old tricks was to setup the ambush and have one "dink" lob a RPG into the front windshield of the lead truck. Note: the lead vehicle in all of our convoys was a "Duster" from the 1/44 ADA. Taking out the lead truck with a "bang" would do two things, first it would block the "Duster" from turning around to return fire at the main force of dinks now working on the main body of trucks in the convoy. And second it would trap all the remaining trucks in the "killing zone"! So you see, I hope that driver of the "lead truck" in your convoy was not anyone with the 2/94. He was putting all the guys lives on the line so he could "see what was happening!" the only way you were authorized to block the road in an ammo convoy was that you were dead! Just some serious thoughts. I am sorry about our "impeccable" timing and our large appetite for food when we arrived on your firebase with ammo. You guys should of told us "hey guys, leave us some chow too!" Oh! Ps: most of the time I would be the one on top of my truck breaking the steel bands holding the Jo's and powder together and sliding them down the steel PSP to you guys! Remember, I spent most of my tour on the guns too, so I knew how it was!!
On 10 January 1971, Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited FSB C-2 and inspected B Battery.
On 15 January 1971, in support of the 101st Airborne Division, A Battery conducted a heavy artillery raid, from FSB Vandergrift (XD9948). Two 175MM gun sections from B Battery were attached to A Battery for the 1 day raid. Fires were directed on observed targets in the Laotian border area (XD7245), and the Vietnam Salient (XD9025). A total of 230 rounds HE were expended resulting in a BDA of: one 12.7mm machine gun and position destroyed, one POL dump destroyed, numerous secondary explosions, and numerous bunkers destroyed.
Cpt Thurman R. Smith assumes command from Cpt Fred C. Battles
I drove two officers into Khe Sanh Valley in a jeep. Our purpose for this very first wheels in the Valley mission was to determine a strategic Location: to set up our battery the next week when we moved the whole unit. The elephant grass was about 8 feet high so we could not see where we were driving very well. Then we fell off in a trench with both front wheels and the frame hit the ground. This trench was the trench the Marines dug around Khe Sanh in 1968. It was 3 feet wide and 4 feet deep. These two officers radioed for a chopper to pick them up and left me there all alone with only an M-16 to defend myself. Are you starting to get the picture. I'm the only "mother" in the Valley. Not the "meanest," but the "only!" I don't mind saying, I was scared. Especially after hearing the officers talk about how the marines got their ass kicked here in 1968. My first thoughts were to get this jeep out of the trench. The only thing under the front wheels was air. Four feet of it. So I thought to myself, I'll take the sand bags out of the jeep (road mine sand bags already filled) then I jacked up the jeep and put the sand bags under the wheels. It worked! I cranked up the jeep and drove that SOB right off the jack. I was now out of the trench and proceeded to put the sand bags back in the floorboards of the jeep. I quickly took a view of my perimeter and selected a noel to look for "Charlie." In the 8 foot grass I hoped finding me would be like finding a needle in a Whey stack. A little pun there.
1st BRIGADE/5th Inf Dv, Khe Sanh, ends 2-7; Description: This was the American operation to support the ARVN LAM SON 719 effort. The preliminary phase was designed to open Route 9 through Khe Sanh to the Laotian border and to reestablish Khe Sanh as a major combat support base. In January of 1971 the 1st BRIGADE, 5th MECH, parent unit of 1/61, began its mission as part of Lam Son 719. The BRIGADE operation was called DEWEY CANYON II. The 1st BN 61st INF was detached from the BRIGADE and remained as the only US ground combat unit along the DMZ while the operation was being conducted. 8/4 was to provide support by fire to allied elements operation in western Quang Tri Province and the Laotian Border. The batteries were to be responsive to calls for fire from XXIV Corps Artillery and 108th Artillery Group directly and indirectly through liaison teams with the 1st ARVN Division, the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division, 5th Bn, 4th Artillery and the 1st ARVN Ranger Group. The operation began for the battalion on the early morning of 31 January with moves to the vicinity of FSB Vandergrift by all firing Batteries. This maneuver was a diversionary tactic and was executed in the same manner as previous artillery raids. On the following morning, all elements departed for the Khe Sanh plains and occupied a position northwest of the airstrip.
On that first eerie night at Vandegrift, in the ominous shadow of the infamous Rockpile, the Battalion forces were anxious and inwardly apprehensive about the final and most ambitious leg of the move toward Khe Sanh. It was on to Laos for the ARVN and our sturdy troops were ready to do the necessary in support of our allies planned encroachment into the land of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Our mission was touted by the brass as critical, and there was no doubt that the importance of our role was understood if not overestimated by each and every member of the battalion. We had been this far before, and maybe even a little farther, but never had the big "uglies" planned a brazen movement that deep nor one that rapid into Indian Country to provide the thunder and firepower that only a 175mm/8inch group of "bad medicine" heavy artillery pieces can provide. Tales of the ambushes and enemy harassment along QL 9 coursed through the unit like wildfire and all through the night, although comforted by the presence of the dusters of the 1/44th that ringed the elephant grass- covered staging area, the murmured whispers of "what will happen tomorrow" were persistent and only mildly subdued. Each man wondered to himself if he would do his part and the natural fear that accompanies the movement into the unknown was everywhere. Will I be a hero or a coward? The question camped on each man's lips like the bad after-taste from cheap warm beer. Who would have ever guessed the scope of the heroic deeds that this the most unlikely group of troops would have performed the following day enroute Khe Sanh, the enemy , and the unknown. My purpose here today is to focus on one such deed, or perhaps I should say succession of deeds that no doubt will be forever recorded in the annals of the unit as one of the most heroic and epic series of events ever to take place during the battalions long and honorable stay on the DMZ. It seems that our equipment was in bad shape, not because the maintenance folks were not doing their job, but more because our issued stuff was old, worn out, shot up, broken down and just plain unfit. We were angry when we saw the spiffy ARVN battalions move past in rapid succession with all new trucks, cosmolened weapons, and even rookie green new uniforms. They looked good, but in the words of that famous ersatz movie general, Don Sutherland, could they fight? Enough foolishness. At first light the order was given and the battalion mounted up. The snakelike formation slowly uncoiled and the convoy was underway. One of the more mundane pieces of equipment in this living sinuous beast was a ¾ ton truck bearing the battalion' s AM SSB (Single side band) long distance radio unit. As everyone knew, the common FM radios had limited capabilities due to the mountainous terrain that would separate Khe Sanh and the home base of Dong Ha. FM bounces off ridges were not uncommon but they were unreliable, particularly with the distances involved, so the AM capability was critical for the unit's coordination and control. As the driver of this essential piece of equipment followed nose to tail click after click He noticed that the gas gauge was slipping to the left much faster than it should. Concerned, he pulled off to the side as far as he could and the problem was soon diagnosed. The gas tank had been punctured and vital fuel was pouring from the tank on to the narrow rocky road. At that point in the portage, the road was too narrow to permit the simultaneous passage of all but the smallest of vehicles and it was obvious that either the truck keep up, or be doomed to a unceremonious shove over the side of the road into the ravine below. They may not have had great rolling stock but they did have plenty of fuel, and more importantly, plenty of C rations and Red Cross care packages. The foundering truck's occupants and all of the men in the deuce and half behind were quickly galvanized into action. Packages of chewing and bubble gum were distributed and soap collected. In the finest Army tradition each man did his part above and beyond the call of duty. Cheeks bulged like chipmunks as pack after pack of gum was masticated and then passed up. The gum, properly moistened and softened was used along with carved slivers of soap to plug the spurting hole in the gas tank and 5 gallon fuel cans were used to replenish the lost petrol every click or so all the way to Khe Sanh. Perhaps these men did not garner the medals and accolades they deserved, but in my mind they were heroes one and all and when the radio was used to relay critical info to and fro we all smiled that inner smile and finally understood the meaning of a "Job Well Done."
On 18 January 1971, a second heavy artillery raid was conducted at FSB Vandergrift (XD9948) to attack targets in the Laotian border area and along Highway 616. This raid was in support of 1/77th armor, an element of 1st brigade, 5th Infantry Division (M). A composite site battery consisting of two 175MM gun sections from B Battery and two sections from A Battery, under A Battery control, participated in this raid which terminated on 20 January. A total of 478 rounds were expended on preplanned targets and targets of opportunity. Total BDA for the raid was as follows: 33 bunkers destroyed, 2 bunkers damaged, 15 bunkers uncovered, 23 fighting positions destroyed, one .51 caliber machine gun position destroyed and 20 feet of trench line destroyed.
On 31 January 1971 the 8th Battalion 4th Artillery vacated fixed fire support bases, indicated in paragraph 1a, and moved as a battalion to FSB Vandergrift to support maneuver elements of the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (M) and Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces operating in Western Quang Tri Province and Eastern Laos on operations Dewey Canyon II and Lam Son 719. Total BDA for January including the two raids was one enemy KIA, l6possible KIA's, 108 bunkers destroyed, 2 bunkers damaged, 15 bunkers uncovered, 23 fighting positions destroyed, seven huts destroyed, one tower destroyed, 20 feet of trench line destroyed, one boat dock destroyed, one .51 cal machine gun position destroyed, one 12.7 machine gun and position destroyed, three secondary explosions, and one POL dump destroyed and numerous secondary exp1osions.
d. On 1 February 1971 the battalion occupied positions on the Khe Sanh Plains at XD8441 and XD8244.
This was followed by 7-10 February 1971 displacements further west along Rt-9 into position areas from which fires could be provided deep into Laos. Positions occupied included Lang Vei (XD7936), Tabet (XD7137) and Halfway Point (XD7335). These positions were forward of the majority of US maneuver elements and subject to frequent indirect and occasional direct fire attacks by the enemy.
I do not know how much of that is true and I think that bird was DOA. They were on a mission to find the NVA arty that was attacking. Supposedly, they found it and he ordered the pilot to roll in on it so he could get better pics for his silver star when a 51 Cal opened up and shot off his tail boom. I was told that the pilot was hit by a round that deflected off of the main rotor. Who knows? Uncle_Al Yes, that is true. I was told that he got shot down, not shot up. When the bird hit he hightailed it for the friendlies. Further, that when he got to Highway 1, he ran into a CBS news truck and his interview showed up on national news a few nights later. Only to Tom could that have happened. You would have had to have been there. Uncle_AL
I can remember being on Highway 9 at the Laotian boarder. We were combined with four 8 inch guns of the 2/94 to make an eight 8 inch gun battery. Their guns had new tubes new paint and pretty. They were from Da Nang and had never seen "action." The 8 gun battery was under their FDC. we were in a fire mission and began receiving incoming. We were told by their FDC to not return fire as was our MOS but to take cover. As the sergeant of B/8/4 on page 290 did, we shut off the radio got enough MEN together to complete the fire mission with 2 8/4 guns. Two of our 8/4 brothers were KIA that day but I firmly believe that if we had not done what we did the NVA would have walked artillery rounds all over us and a lot more of us would not be here! I don't remember much after that day but I do not think we moved back to Lang Vei before the 2/94. See E-Groups Message#2713 for full text
A sad day for gun #2. I will never forget looking down from the gun seeing two of my men, lifeless in the dirt and 3 more in shock and in pain. What can one say now. Blake and Melvin gave everything, too much. ?
There were two people in C battery who were killed during Lam Son 719 and two wounded, all from the same incoming round. I didn't know them, but according to what someone else posted earlier their names were Whitney and Felton. Was one of them Rocky? Even though I didn't know them, I went to the memorial service which I remember fairly clearly. I remember a table with two pairs of boots and two helmets. One of the helmets had "FTA" written on the cover (along with lots of other stuff). There were two chaplains officiating, one Catholic and one Protestant. I remember the two of them standing around with cups of coffee, laughing and talking with some others before the start of the service and this made me angry. This wasn't just another church service, but a memorial for two people who had just recently been killed and I could have been one of them. I remember lying in a hole listening to the round go off and hearing someone calling for a medic. I took their deaths very personally and I wish that the chaplains would have been more somber and respectful. I expect that I am over reacting, but that is the way I felt then and still feel. In the 30 years since that incident, this is the first time that I mentioned it to anyone.
On 9 February 1971 at 0931 hours Battalion fired second prep. On 9 February 1971 at 1255 hours A Battery receiving heavy incoming. Battery C of 8/4 Artillery co-located with Battery A and OPCON to the 2/94th reports 5 US wounded, one serious and 1 KIA. All wounded personnel were flown to HQ 2/94th Arty XD82/37 for treatment by our Battalion Surgeon due to non-availability of Medivac. All wounded were Medivac'd to Quang Tri at 1516 hours. At 1625 hours 108th notified 5 US WIA and 2 KIA. Reports coming in that incoming is a 122mm Field Gun. At 1530 hours Battalion lost control of C/8/4.The two C Battery 8/4th men that were lost that day were E2 Blake D. Whitney from Chicago, Illinois and E4 Melvin J. Felton from Spokane, Washington. Four of the five wounded in action from C Battery 8/4th were Harold Page from West Virginia; Wyrbkowski (spelling?) from the Detroit area in Michigan; David Holtkamp from Centralia, Illinois; and a battalion maintenance tech CWO Fisher who was working on one of the C Battery Guns. CWO Fisher's HOR is not known at this time. Holtkamp at one time was given up for KIA, however someone noticed he was still moving.It is unclear if there was any additional wounded in action on that date from C/8/4 a companion 175/8-inch battalion to the 2/94th. Both men lost that day in that combined operation were on or near Gun 2 ("SOUNDS OF SILENCE") when an enemy 122mm artillery round hit. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE. They are not forgotten by their brothers of the 8/4th. On 9 February 1971 at 1625 hours A/2/94 Battery given march orders to new location at (XD779358). At 2100 hours A Battery departs (XD715376 enroute to (XD785379)? At 2340 hours A Battery laid safe at (XD785379).
ARVN reaches Aloui, Laos approximately 13 miles from border and stalls.
I had one of the best crews in the world on my VTR. A lot of times we had to go out in the middle of the night to make a recovery. Sometimes we had a Duster with us but most of the time we were right by ourselves. No matter, we still did our jobs. We recovered the ammo and materials that C Btry left on the Laotian border when they left after taking their KIA`s. Myself and D. Garrison took a shovel and buried parts of skulls that were blown off people while we were there. We also cleared a crossing of a stream that was blocked by a blown up 5 ton. We did that while under fire from a recoilless rifle. Everyone was able to move through the crossing after we did that. All of that was during Lam Son 719. I can also remember having to cut barb wire from my tracks in the middle of the night while recovering a gun because some ARVN did not clear the bridge as we got there, usually at full speed.
All ARVN positions under attack.
C Battery returned to a position north of Khe Sanh (XD8244) on 14 February 1971. The two 175MM gun batteries of the battalion remained in forward positions along QL-9 throughout the remainder of February.
I recall the time that I was told by the battalion surgeon, Doc SWAY, to drive him in the ambulance into a firefight at night. I think it was around Lang Vei to pick up wounded. Luckily I followed a Quad 50 in and the firefight immediately ended when Charlie saw the Quad. It still was a stupid move by us, with that big red cross on the ambulance as a target, but we didn't know any better. Doc Sway really got chewed out for that move though. The incident took place during Operation Lam Son 719 when we took the guns out toward Laos. Most likely the firebase was further down Rt 9 to the west. I think Doc Sway just took it upon himself to help our men at the firebase. They were getting hit pretty hard with ground fire and one of the men hit was the Duster medic that we were really friendly with. I am assuming that medivac choppers would not be called in during a ground attack. The duster medic might have been the only medic at the firebase at that time or Doc Sway just didn't know if the medic hit was our firebase medic or the Duster medic, so a replacement may have been needed, we may have taken another medic with us also -- don't know for sure. The Doc might have thought that his expertise was the best thing at the time. As it turned out we couldn't save anyone. The badly wounded were already gone. I think the above tries to explain why the Doc wanted to go in that way and why a chopper wasn't deployed. He made have heard on the radio that the medic was hit and just wanted to try and save him or replace him. I was only following his orders. The "higher ups" probably thought that the Doc was too important to risk his life the way he did after all he was our only battalion surgeon. So, instead of a medal he was chewed out for his actions.
j. Battalion commanders during the reporting period were LTC. M. Max Love (21 Feb 71 - Present) and LTC. Paul R. Buckley (25 Jul 70 - 21 Feb 71).
Fleeing, panic stricken ARVN soldiers swamp US helicopters.
I was Sundowner Mike. I was shot down in a bird dog twice and once in a Huey. The one bird dog event was not very exciting. We simply limped to a safe place and got on the ground. The other bird dog event was getting hit by a 23 mm, I think. It spun us around but didn't knock us straight down. We safely got on the ground but the adrenalin flowed for quite a long time. The Huey event was terrifying. We were Command and Control for a Cobra Gun ship Air Cav unit. I was lent to them by the Sundowners. We called in an air strike on tanks over running an ARVN base camp in Laos. One of the fighters was shot down. We were trying to rescue the pilots as their parachutes hit the ground but we flew into more uniform NVA than I had ever seen in one place at one time. We were hit hundreds of times. We were able to get a few miles away before we hit the ground hard. We hit hard enough that the rotor severed the tail boom. We got the 60's carried the dead and wounded and set up a perimeter far enough from the helicopter to avoid a potential explosion. One of the cobras touched down and the front seat got out and we put what we thought was out worst wounded into the front seat. He ended up being dead on arrival at Khe Sanh. Another Cobra touched down and we put our next worst in and he lived. We got Medivaced about 10 or 15 minutes later. It was Feb 25, 1971, a day I always celebrated as the birth of my new life dedicated to helping others because God chose to give me a little more time.
In early 1971 the ARVN made a major effort to interdict the trail west of Khe Sanh. US ground troops kept out of Laos but the air support was massive. I lived in bunkers along the air strip for 6 weeks. It was the most vicious 6 weeks I spent in the war. I was shot down in Laos in a Huey. Both pilots were badly hit. One door gunner died the other was really chopped up. The Sundowners loaned me to a Air Cav unit that was brought up from III Corps. They had no idea how to handle the enemy activity and lost most of their OH6A in the first week. The Cobras worked without them from that point on. We got shot down trying to rescue to Air Force Pilots who were shot down making a run on NVA tanks, if you can believe that. The NVA artillery and rockets were very heavy all night while we slept at Khe Sanh. I was shot down three times but Feb 25, 1971 was a day that is still very vivid in my mind. Thank God the medivac got their before the NVA. The Major in charge of the Sundowners at the time was difficult to deal with. He didn't always have our lives at the top of the list of priorities. I didn't mind risking my life but I was real happy when someone else volunteered my life. Tom Murray
The last attempt to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail out of Khe Sanh in February 1971 was a different war than my first 16 months in Vietnam. Most of the time in Vietnam we so easily out manned and out powered the enemy. The last campaign in Khe Sanh we fought against heavily armed NVA troops. They shot down helicopters in bunches. We lived at Khe Sanh in bunkers we dug right along the airstrip. The NVA hammered us with artillery that was hidden in the mountainside west of Khe Sanh. As soon as the sun went down you could get ready for the pounding. I remember being knocked off the shitter once and another time I was running and diving down the steps as I heard the whistle of the next round coming in our direction. Everyone in the bunker was laughing uncontrollably as I rolled down the steps of the bunker and out of harms way. The unit I was lent to was not ready for this effort at all. They took way to many chances, especially with my life, trying to understand the search techniques etc. with this more formidable enemy. I remember physically challenging an HQ Captain who was trying to get his hours that day and took us back for a third time to mark a 23 mm position. He marked it by playing clay pigeon for the gooks. The tracers seemed to be on both sides of the Huey. When we got down I was screaming at him about the use of marking rocket rounds as an alternative. He was arrogant and smug. I bumped chests with him and told him he wouldn't live through the next time he foolishly risked his crews lives. I reminded him that we had ways to deal with idiots like him. I was back with the Sundowners before nightfall. I guess the threats were a good idea.
Ranger South and Hill 30 Abandoned, effectively closing down northern arm of Lam Son 719.
Hill 31 attacked by 2000 NVA using tanks. Relief fails.
On 28 February 1971, B Battery moved north of Khe Sanh, vicinity of (XD9244); followed on 1 March 1971, by Headquarters and Service batteries. Finally, on 5 March 1971, A Battery returned to the same general
LZ Lolo established beginning a series of leapfrog moves by ARVN towards Tchepone. Fierce fighting ensues as 500 ARVN delivered by helo. 7 helos destroyed and 35 damaged.
LZ Liz established in a series of leapfrog moves by ARVN towards Tchepone.
LZ Sophia II established in a series of leapfrog moves by ARVN towards Tchepone.
Weyand pointed out that air calvary had been in the Tchepone area for ten days or more before ARVN got there on the ground, and that this had been useful in acquiring targeting data later used by B-52s, including strikes on stores that ground forces had not been able to extract or destroy in place. This intelligence had been supplemented by what long-range reconnaissance patrols acquired, and by reports from ARVN unit commanders. As a result, concluded Weyand, "there's been massive destruction far beyond, I would guess, what was done in Cambodia." p256 A Better War by Lewis Sorley.
LZ Hope established by ARVN to the northeast of Tchepone (48 miles from border). Entire 2nd ARVN Infantry Regiment inserted.
I believe Tabet was a code name for a base at Lao Bao during Lam Son 719. It should not be confused with a base camp in the Ashau Valley.
This consolidation of the battalion north of Khe Sanh was short lived, for on 7 March 1971, A Battery returned to the Tabet area. A Battery remained in forward areas near the Laotian border until 18 March 1971; at which time, it returned to a position north of Khe Sanh.
B Btry made an almost impossible move up muddy 50 degree inclined hills to the most northwestern position occupied by any American unit during the operation. To reach their position at Ranger Ridge, they traveled over "Red Devil Road", so named because it was constructed by the Engineers of the 1st Brigade, 5th Mech Infantry Division, the "Red Devils". To overcome the obstacles present, it was often necessary to have two bulldozers connected in tandem to pull the 175mm guns up the mountainous hills. These two batteries remained in their forward positions near the Laotian border
I was with B Btry, 1st gun section. If you recall, B Btry went on an arty raid on Ranger Ridge. My gun had thrown track so we fired from where we were all night, non-stop, for our other three guns and the ARVN troops on Ranger Ridge. This was during Jan 71. The operation was Lam Son 719. I recall C Btry taking a lot of KIA, WIA on the Laotian border. My gun was also hit. We had 1 KIA and 2 WIA. Lots of stories to tell that I have never told.
9 March 1971, B Battery moved along Red Devil Drive to a position area near the 1st Ranger Group Camp, Phu Loc, (XD6845). B Battery remained in forward areas near the Laotian border until 20 March 1971; at which time, it returned to a position north of Khe Sanh.
LZ Hope abandoned after one week in the area.
LZ Sophia II abandoned.
Yes, there was a fire fight in Mar; there was a medic killed during the fight. I was in B. Btry at the time remember it very well. The only thing I don't know if the medic was in our Bn. 8-4. We were next to a river just off the border when we were hit. My section was set up next to a Duster. Our guns were on a small hill behind where we were. The NVA came across the river and got the shit kicked out of them. They shot RPG at our guns but none hit that I can remember. I can say for sure none of B Btry's guns were hit. A Btry was also there I can't speak for them.
I volunteered along with Ray Welch by request of one of the Lt's to take a deuce and half up the side of the mountain with a mortar team to take out these tanks that had us pinned down. Our 175's were wasted and we were little help to the ARVN unit that was only a few hundred meters north of our
I was a SGT. at the time, all broken in from all the weird noises and smells. We were leaving a place somewhere between Nam and Laos, Just a big hill to me. We were leaving in a big hurry, fast. Left all the ammo there. I was asked if I would drive the 3/4-ton, sure I replied! Only if someone would ride shotgun with me. As we were going down the two track, we were following real close to each other, bumper to bumper. We must of been going at least 30 mph. That's pretty fast for GI. As we passed all the shooting on both sides of the two track, I felt the truck dip into hole. All I can remember is the engine racing, and we were going nowhere. I told the person riding shotgun to get on the next truck. I was all alone. At this time, I had one thing on my mind, get me out of here! I said to myself. All I could hear was shooting around me. I felt helpless as the trucks were going by. The next thing I remember was someone yelling "You better get on this truck. It's the last one." I jumped out of the 3/4, with my M-16 and started running. As I was running towards the 5-ton, I noticed there was a jeep in the back of it. I was yelling at the driver and the others who were riding in the back, to slow down. Still running, they were yelling "No brakes!" The truck began to slow down and the guy's lifted me up into the 5-ton. We then began slowly down the two-track. The truck stopped, and the few got out, as I did. I remember as if were yesterday ! Someone, higher-up came up to me and asked where the truck was, I said, it was back where all the shooting is going on. At this time, CPT'S, LT's and the First-SGT asked me where the truck was! I didn't know that all their personal things were in the back of that truck. They asked me if I would go back and get the truck. I thought a minute and said, sure if you had a tank and a big chain. Then someone came up to me and said, "Would a Duster do with a chain?" "Yes!" I said. I don't know who these people were but they didn't want to take me. They did. Back we go. The Duster guy's and me. As we got close to the truck, I said "I need some tools." The SSG. said "Make it fast, I don't want to be here." I took the tools and went to work. I took the drive-shaft off the 3/4, shooting all around me! and hooked up the tow chain. Jumped in the truck and said to the people on the Duster, "Let's GO!" . Not a pleasant trip back, but all the people who had there foot-lockers in the back of that 3/4, they were very Happy ! you are welcome ! CPT. McCaffery, LT. SKI, First SGT. Weston.
LZ Lolo abandoned. As 3 battalions leave on foot, the fourth is attacked by NVA. Helos are mobbed by panic stricken ARVN. Worldwide press waiting at Khe Sanh.
Retreating ARVN column ambushed 4 miles east of Aloui (9 miles from border). NVA infiltrates along RT-9 in front of retreating ARVN troops. US fire bases at border threatened. They retreat along "Ambush Alley"
As the ARVN began their withdrawal, the need for artillery support along the route of egress became vital, causing B Btry to depart to a field position near Camp Carroll on 31 March 1971.
As RVNAF began their withdrawal from Laos, a battalion intermediate position area was prepared in the vicinity of Fire Support Base J. J. Carroll (YD0355). On 31 Mar 1971, B Battery displaced to prepared field positions vicinity of Fire Support Base Carroll.
As the ARVN began their withdrawal, the need for artillery support along the route of egress became vital, causing A Btry to depart to a field position at FSB Gunner on 3 April 1971.
On 3 April 1971, remaining elements of the battalion departed the Khe Sanh plains.
As the ARVN began their withdrawal, the need for artillery support along the route of egress became vital, causing H, S Btry's to depart to a field position at FSB Gunner on 3 April 1971.
On 6 April 1971, A Battery moved from FSB Gunner (YD0355) to a field position vicinity of (YD0949) OPCON to 2nd Battalion 94th Artillery.
On the 11 of April, A Btry was put under the Operational Control of the 2nd Bn, 94th Arty (a sister heavy artillery battalion) and moved to a position near Mai Loc, to support operation Lam Son 720 in the A Shau Valley. A Btry operated there without incident and upon completion, returned to Fire Support Base C-2.
http://doanket.tripod.com/lamso719/vsc-lamson7.html (P131) Total enemy combat strength thus committed in the LAM SON 719 area of operation was estimated at 30,000, not to include reserve elements. In addition, the enemy logistic structure in the general area of operations also had from 10 to 20,000 men. Out of this total, the enemy lost an estimated 20,000 men or about one half. But while his losses caused by actual combat engagements could be generally verified, his casualties inflicted by artillery and aerial bombings could only be estimated. Bomb damage assessments could only be obtained on approximately 10% of all B-52 missions. Even in those areas where search and bomb damage assessments were conducted an accurate body count vas not always possible, partly due to the immensity and ruggedness of the terrain and partly due to the unbearable stench produced by masses of badly decomposed human bodies.
In April 1971 all remaining elements of the 8th battalion departed the Khe Sanh Plains. The 8th Battalion 4th Artillery was the first heavy artillery battalion into the Khe Sanh area and the last heavy unit to return from it. In the 63 days that the battalion was involved with the Khe Sanh/Lam Son 719 Operation it suffered losses of 4 persons killed and 41 wounded with 17 vehicles destroyed. They were credited with costing the enemy 1238 killed, unknown numbers wounded, 26 field guns destroyed, 3 tanks destroyed, 5 fighting positions destroyed, 16 wheeled vehicles destroyed and 2644 secondary explosions.
During the period of the operation, the battalion went through various mission assignments; GSR TO 1st ARVN Corps Artillery, GSR to 6th Battalion 11th Artillery, and GSR to 5th Battalion 4th artillery. The 8th Battalion 4th Artillery was the first heavy artillery into the Khe Sanh plains, and the last heavy unit to return from that area. In addition, the Battalion is very proud of the singular achievement of one of it's batteries in mastering Red Devil Drive and the fact that this unit occupied an artillery position forward of any other US light, medium, or heavy artillery unit. Battalion BDA for Operation Dewey Canyon II and Lao Son 719 were as follows: 26 bunkers destroyed, 169 individual weapons destroyed, 2 field guns destroyed, 3 tanks destroyed, 16 wheel vehicles destroyed, 1238 NVA KIA, 5 crew served weapons destroyed, and 2644 secondary explosions. Battalion losses were: 4 KIA, 41 WIA, and 17 vehicles destroyed. As of 2400 hours, 30 April 1971 the cumulative total of rounds fired by this battalion since it's arrival in Vietnam was 393,954.
The operation officially terminated on 10 April 1971 for the 8th Battalion 4th Artillery, when C Battery moved to FSB C-2 (YD1364).
Cpt George McLean assumes command.
Cpt Kent E. Ahrens assumes command.
After Lam Son 719, the 1st Brigade conducted Operation Montana Mustang in the eastern half of the Quang Tri Province. The NVA launched indirect fire attacks against FSB's Alpha 4 and Charlie 2 along the DMZ. The 5/4th Arty did a great job in neutralizing the enemy fires, however during an in-coming rocket attack on Charlie 2, where Bravo Battery of the 8bn 4th Arty was located, the 1st Brigade suffered one its heaviest casualties in a single engagement. On May 21, 1971 a NVA 122mm rocket armed with a delayed fuse struck the top of the Enlisted man's Club bunker exploding inside. The rocket caused the bunker to collapse on top of the many GIs inside. From reports of 8/4 Arty guys who were there said that it was a very sad time as GIs from all over the firebase were screaming and yelling, using their hands and anything else that they could use to try to dig out their friends from under tons of dirt and sand bags and large wooden support beams. There were over 60 GIs who had been buried in the bunker. It was reported that most of the GIs killed had been suffocated by the tons of material that had come down on them after the rocket exploded. The rocket attack caused 29 KIAs (all of which are on the WALL in Washington) and 33 WIAs. It was reported to this writer that most of the guys who witnessed this catastrophe and had helped to dig out the dead GIs from the downed bunker were so struck with emotion that day that to this day after 30 years it's very hard to "dig up the memories" of long lost friends . . . it was a sad day indeed for our side when that happen.
I was coming back from R&R, and as I was approaching C-2 in a jeep, and I could see the incoming. As I arrived, I jumped in my bunker, but shells were hitting fairly close, so I ran to the FDC bunker. Ten seconds after I left my bunker, it received a direct hit. Many of the other guys in the unit had taken shelter in the mess hall bunker, and moments later, it received a direct hit also. That was when the 25 guys got killed - I think this is the right number, but am not sure. Lots of guys grabbed shovels or sticks or anything to try to dig them out, but we had no luck. Most of them died from the collapse of the bunker and all the dirt on top of them. I have blocked out most everything else that happened that day. It was one of the worst days of my life.
(2) On 24140O00 May 1971, Col Bruce Holbrcok, 108th Artillery Group Commander and Col Hy, Division Artillery Commander for the 1st ARVN Division, fired the 400,000th round from B Battery's number 3 piece from its
Morgan, E- 7 Davis Junior
Cpt James J. Jennings assumes command.
Cpr Gordon L. Arabian assumes command.
(3) On 12-16 June 1971, B Battery conducted a 5 day artillery raid to a position 4 kilometers south of Hai Loc.
During the month of June, 1971 while Charlie Battery was still on Alpha 4 (Con Thien) I saw a Cobra gun ship come out of the mountains from the NW near the DMZ with a smoke trail. The Cobra made a soft landing just west of our Firebase. As other gun ships were circling the downed ship I also saw some of the 5th mech boys load up four of their tracks and head out to get the pilots. I believe both pilots were pulled out of the crash site and brought to Alpha 4 where they later jumped on our resupply slick for the trip back to their rear. My memory of this incident is limited possibly due to all the other stuff (. . . ie fire missions, incomings) that was happening to us at that time. But there was a crash near Alpha 4 during this time period that I remember. Maybe some other members of C Battery (1971) can remember and give us some help here. Chas Adams, Gun 2, C/8/4, 1971
Yes Charlie Adams, I also recall the exit of the red diamond. I was one of your Docs along with Doc Warbiani and Doc Zahn. The ARVNs came in and decided to remodel the LZ. It was a nice lazy sunny afternoon. We were lounging around when... POW!. Those were the duck and cover days. Then, over the radio, in a quiet, bored tone: "No sweat man, one of the little people tripped a mine. over." That was memorable, so also was watching you guys trying to train the little people to load and shoot the 175s and the 8 in of Charlie Battery.
I remember the 5th Mech. well. They were some partying folks! They were the primary defense unit for FSB Alpha 4 (Con Thien) until their swansdown some where around the latter of July of 1971. Believe me guys, we had some empty feelings when we sat on our gun berms and watched the APCs and M-60 battle tanks of the 5th Mech convoy off of FSB ALPHA-4 (Con Thien) and head South on QL-1. Each track had about 10 guys on the top waving their weapons in the air and saying "goodby" to Con Thien. All the guys in my firing battery felt like we were being left behind as the red diamond flags atop all the 5th Mech's tracks disappeared down the road. We really had empty feeling when they replaced the 5th Mech with the ARVNs. At that time we had about 87 8/4 arty guys left on the firebase to man our 8 in guns and "advise" the ARVN.
I stayed on in the Battalion FDC that night even though it was not my shift. I remember one of the A Battery sections was having difficulties reading the collimator because of the humidity and the rain. (I think support was in short supply of nitrogen to purge the sights). They said that they could not continue to fire, being danger close and all. They asked for permission to stand down. I had a feeling that they thought that they had already fired in error. The FO at Fuller though said that it was on top of them, and it did not matter because Charlie was shaking hands. He told me, "Fu** a bunch of danger close, just keep shooting." That was the last transmission we got. Some of you Battalion FDC people ought to be able to help me out on this one. I remember that the old man and everyone was looking over our shoulders. I cannot tell in words how proud I was of you guys at the guns--this is just one of many instances that I partially recall that made me shine my crossed cannons just a little brighter the next morning. You guys at Bravo and Charlie really did good that night. You made a huge difference. I understand that there was all kind of dukey smelling around that night, but I tell you in all honesty, you have no idea how much that fire support was appreciated by those guys up there. The ones that made it through did it only because of how well you guys delivered the "goods!"
I was the XO when A Btry was firing directly into Fuller as it was being overrun. I was talking to their XO on the radio when we had the 8 inches firing for them. Very difficult fire mission. He was adjusting the rounds for me, but the radio went dead during that fire mission. Don't think he made it out. We thought all the fire bases were going to be overrun that night.
I remember the attack on FSB FULLER in June , 1971 just like it was yesterday! We (Charlie Battery of the 8bn 4th Arty on FSB ALPHA 4, AKA: CON THIEN) were on high alert as the sun was going down on Alpha-4 . It was hot and the "skeeters" were vicious and hungry! We had been on fire missions off and on all week and were pretty tired. When the word came down that something was happening on the "DMZ". We were all told to clean our weapons and distribute ammo to the bunker line. Well, to tell you the truth, I was one scared "sh**less" 19 year old! There was that "errie" feeling on Con Thien again that night. The guys, especially the lifers, were real quiet with a concerned look on their faces. We could tell something was up! Sgt. Emme, #2 Gun Commander, came into the crew bunker and told a couple of us to go out to the gun and start opening fuses and line up the "Joes" for it's going to be a long night! He advised us that Bn had intel that some fire support bases on the "Z" were going to get hit tonight. Something about a large NVA force had been detected in the mountains just west of us. After I heard that, I finished cleaning my M-16, picked up my bandoleers of mags and pulled out my unauthorized 45 cal from my bag and all the other "stuff" that I could muster and headed for our ammo bunker. As I left our crew bunker and got to the outside it was already night fall and I could see flares being fired in the distance towards the west. When I got to the top of the gun berm and looked over I could see that the flares were being fired over FSB Fuller, located on the top of a mountain to our west and FSB Charlie 2 was to our south. I looked around our AO and saw the other guys from our battery setting up the "pigs" (M-60 machine guns) in the fixed bunkers located on the inside bunker line. The Quad-50 gun truck "HERE COMES DE JUDGE" belonging to the 1/44 Arty pulled up and backed into one of it's firing bunkers facing west and the guys started to opening boxes of 50 cal ammo and loading their guns! After I saw that I knew the "sh**" was going to happen! It was believed that no one on the base was going to get to sleep that night. We stayed on our gun all night. Just after 24:00 hrs. we could hear C-130s flying overhead. Wow! Now what! The 130s started to drop flares over the mountains to the west of us. The guys by this time were really edgy now. The hand flares were being fired on our bunker line now! Then we heard a "pig" open up on the north bunker line. Well, that did it with all the tension in the air it was mad minute time! Everybody started shooting and popping flares! Including the quad-50! Red tracers were going everywhere into the night towards the bunker lines. Finally, the word came over the comm line from the XO to cease firing. It was determined that one of the guys on the M-60 "thought" he saw something move out in front of him on the bunker line. After that everybody had their fingers on their weapon's trigger. Everything got quiet again until about 0300 hrs. We got word from the command bunker that the "sh**" was happening. NVA sighted 300 Meters NW of Fuller. We started to get in-coming, along with the other FSBs on the plan. I looked up to the west towards Fuller and I saw it. Those guys on Fuller were letting it rip! You could see the "red" tracers leaving the firebase and then you could see the "green" tracers being returned!! Flares lit up the night sky above Fuller like it was day light. You could still hear the C-130s above. They were popping flares like mad now. There where flickers of light all around and on top of Fuller. Then I heard the delayed sound of the explosion as those flickers of light were rounds going off. At this time Sgt. Darrell Emme, who was on the comm line yelled: "Fire Mission! Fire Mission! Battery Adjust 30 Rounds, Round He, Fuse Quick, Charge 5, Gooks in the Bunker Line at Fuller!!" Believe me guys when I tell you - with the expectation of more incoming, and the possibility of a ground assault on Alpha-4 and the flares now being fired on our bunker line I just knew that this was it!! We got on our guns and was ready to fire in no time flat! It was amazing how all that training just fell into place. We were "humping" like banshees. The whole battery started to fire on command! The gun reports were loud and together. All four 8 in, 206 lbs high explosive rounds headed towards the north side clicks of Fire Support Base Fuller. We didn't have time to look for the impact of our rounds. We were firing again and again! Someone came up to our gun and yelled that the gooks were trying to overrun Fuller!! FOs on Fuller reportedly advised "we have a large number NVA in the bunker line!!" When we heard this, we knew that we had Americans on Fuller and that made us "hump" faster. We continued to fire. By now the whole mountain range just north of Fuller was lighting up due to he round impacts. We could hear in the distance towards Charlie 2 where B Battery was located they were firing too. Their bunker line was lite up too. Then we all saw -- someone on Fuller had fired a "red" flare. Well.. all you arty guys know what the "red" flare means! They were being overrun and they needed help! At this time the order came down from the command bunker. "Fuller being overrun -- we going to fire direct-fire into the base -- Battery Adjust!!" I am the first to admit, that I was really scared not only for us but for those guys on Fuller! We continued to fire. Then we heard another C-130 fly over head traveling towards fuller we were ordered to cease fire. As the plane got close to Fuller, we were expecting more flares, but -- instead of flares we got a surprise that made everyone on the Alpha-4 stand up and start cheering!! That plane was no flare ship -- it was "Puff the Magic Dragon!!" Guys -- I don't know if you have ever seen one at work but that plane was prayer answered!! I was sure glad that "Puff" was on our side! We could hear the whine of the mini-guns and see the stream of the tracers. That ship literally covered the entire mountainside north of Fuller with deadly fire. How can anything live through that to this day I don't know! After "Puff" cleaned house and kicked Charlie ass we continued to fire. We fired all night. We all had in our minds that we were firing into, onto and at FSB Fuller. I prayed for those guys to have gotten off that piece of sh** of a hill in time.
My B Battery Gun Section and Gun Four fired on Fuller and Sarge. I went to B Battery FDC and listened to the adviser on Fuller talk about getting off of the fire base. My gun and Gun Four were 8 inches. If you recall B Battery exchanged its 175mm guns for 8 inch howitzers. I fired ICM on Fuller and Sarge. I also fired HE on Fuller after all the good guys left. We watched the round leave the tube then we would lose it and then we would see it hit. Also if you recall seeing the gun ships firing into Fuller what a sight. Our mission on Sarge was ICM dinks in the wire. We had Marines on Sarge -- have you ever been kissed by a Marine? -- a Marine major who was on Sarge came to my gun section and thanked my section and kissed me on the cheek. He was an adviser to the South Vietnamese Marines. We won that battle that day.
I have photos of our fire mission in action from A Battery on Firebase Fuller. We were unloading everything we had while watching the B-52's drop their 500 pounders. I remember a radio transmission from my jeep A-5 where a chopper was dropping a 55 gallon drum of gasoline down the side of the mountain on Fuller. The soldiers on Fuller were throwing frags trying to hit the drum. It did light up one side of the mountain. It seems like yesterday. Sometimes I wish I didn't remember so much.
My name is Barry Long and I am currently the Secretary of the Western Australian branch of the National AATTV Association. As a Warrant Officer I was with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd ARVN Regiment at Dong Ha from 1970 to 1971 and was involved in activities leading up to the fall of FSB Fuller. During the lead up to the battle the US Advisor from 1st Battalion (sadly I cannot remember his name - he had only been in country for a short while) was killed when a rocket came through the roof of the command bunker and, although it did not explode the tail fin hit and killed him. My senior Adviser, Capt David Dickerson, was rushed to Fuller to take over and to assist with the withdrawal. Eventually this became almost a route as the strength of NVA numbers was just too much. I was involved for the next few days in pushing through with a company plus to try and bring Dave and the troops out safely. Eventually our firepower, both from the air and from your units saved the day and allowed everyone to finally make it back to safety. Air survey during daylight hours estimated the enemy dead in and around the wire of Fuller at over 700. Imagine what other massive casualties your guns achieved below and on the slopes! It's strange that there appears to be nothing written in Australian books, magazines, military history about this MAJOR incident - even our own AATTV history doesn't mention it (FSB Fuller, as with FSB Sarge were thought to be impregnable - but they both fell). In a way it could have been regarded as a blessing as both bases were rat infested hell holes and every member dreaded their 30 day rotation up there. A couple of us were approached by a some leeches masquerading as reporters who offered good money for a photo of the NVA flag flying from Fuller. After giving them a vivid description of where they could be wearing their balls for the duration they quietly crawled back into the bush. Warrant Officer Des Pryde is a fellow Adviser and a good friend of mine who was also involved in this incident as he was with the 4th Battalion 2nd ARVN Regiment and I have included him for information. He may also wish to put some thoughts forward to you. My memory of many events are somewhat hazy now days but after reading some stories from your mates it has brought a lot back to me - especially when, just on sunset, and after falling in an exhausted heap after climbing a cliff face I heard on the radio that 'Fuller has fallen'. That left a very cold feeling in the pit of the stomach and sent huge shock waves through the ARVN company. Dave Dickerson and his troops had managed to get away at the last minute with the NVA firing rockets after them and they were not in a position to direct 'Puff' when he arrived on station so I had to do the talking while Dave would agree or disagree by pressing his radio hand piece - once for yes, twice for no. Afterward the Company Dai Uy wouldn't leave my side and insisted on sharing my poncho liner and getting 5 minute updates while we watched that beautiful C130 circle around Fuller hitting it with everything (now if he had been a good looking female officer it just may have been a better night). I found out later that the ARVN gunners just had time to remove the breech blocks from their guns and hoist them over the side before bugging out (their last firing was done point blank directly at their wire. I have only had a quick look at your web site so far Fred but am very impressed and will be going back for more shortly, in the mean time take solace in our motto and - Persevere.
I was at FSB Khe Gio Bridge immediately before and during the fall of FSB Fuller. Khe Gio Bridge was about three miles immediately South of Fuller and Fuller could easily be seen without binoculars. I did not get involved until after the NVA attack was well advanced at that time Sgt Hippenstiel, US Army (I don't remember his first name but he was generally known as "Hip") was registering targets around Fuller. I cannot remember whether this was before or after his Senior Advisor had been killed. I remember thinking at the time that he was extremely professional in his approach to an extremely desperate situation. I was listening on my radio as he registered the FDF's and idly jotted the grid references and target numbers down on a notepad alongside the radio. I had previously spent some time on Fuller and was interested in how he would lay out his fire plan. Later "Hip" lost his map with the target numbers but luckily I was able to supply some target numbers when he was able to describe where he wanted the fire. Shortly after this Capt Dickerson took over as Senior Advisor and attempts were made to resupply ammunition directly to the top of the mountain. I was watching as a Chinook attempted to drop a load of ammo but the aircraft was hit by anti aircraft fire which set one of the engines on fire. the pilot made a great attempt to make an emergency landing on Highway 9 just outside our base, but he had lost his hydraulics and although he landed on the road, he had no brakes and the big chopper ran off the road and fell on its side. The NVA then tried to destroy it with mortar fire, several stray rounds landing inside our base. I also watched as firstly "Puff the Magic Dragon" the DC3 with flares and miniguns, and later "Spooky" the flying boxcar with the same plus 20mm cannon and grenade launchers flew circles round the burning fire base and brought fire to bear as directed. When the base eventually fell most of 4th battalion 2nd ARVN was ordered at short notice from Khe Gio Bridge to secure the Southern approach to Fuller. We crossed the river about the middle of the day and met the remainder of 1st battalion coming out late in the afternoon. Capt Dickerson who had always been a well built man had lost all surplus flesh in a matter of less than two weeks. My memory may be out in a few details but I think I have covered most that I was involved in. I do not know what awards Capt Dickerson and Sgt Hippenstiel received but they deserved to be treated as heroes. Let me know if I can help any more. Pesvere. Des Pryde
Sp/4 Francis G Bowen awarded the Silver Star for his actions on June 25, 1971, while serving as a medic for Battery B, 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery.
I was the section chief on #1 howitzer. I was working the "night shift" with Stu Binkley the day he was killed. I remember when he went out to re-lay the guns, and I remember hearing the single round that killed him. He was a great guy, and is missed.
What I do remember was Lt. Stuart (Stu) Binkley, of Flint, MI was the XO of Charlie Battery, 8/4 Arty on FSB Alpha-4 (Con Thien). On that Monday night, June 28, 1971 Stu had just exited a bunker trying to lay our guns when an NVA 81mm mortar round landed directly in front of him. The explosion knocked him backwards. Some heard the calling for a medic, but by the time they got to him he was already gone. The next morning the Commanding General of I Corps (his name I do not remember) and some short skirted "donut dollies" flew into the firebase in Hueys to make a appearance and remove Lt Binkley's body. The entire experience of that day felt so cheap. Here we were down to about 87 American arty soldiers on the firebase, and this General flies into Con Thien firebase with enough Cobra gun ships and jets to finish the war. He gives us poor slobs a pep talk about what a good job we were doing, then he loads up all his "round eyes" and they fly south. They left us there to fend for ourselves. We felt that we were the last to know anything and would be the first to be overrun if the dinks attacked. We knew that being less than a mile from North Vietnam and "ho's" boys, that if the shit-hit-fan we wouldn't know what hit us. Personably, I did not like the situation that we were in. We all had it in our minds that we didn't want to be the last soldiers killed in the war. Our ARVN "brothers" who were suppose to be protecting our bunker line at A-4 but they had that "errie" look about them. Were they on our side or the "other" side? Did they care if we lived or died? When we had personal contact with the "little guys" some of them had a bad "look" about them that to me made me real uneasy and therefore I did not trusted them. For years I wondered how long we would have lasted with the ARVNs protecting our bunker lines. The question raced through our mines constantly would the ARVN run if we got hit? Our General reportedly flew back to Da Nang and gave everybody in his entourage a medal for service in a combat zone!! It was truly a sad day for Charlie battery! After Stu was killed there was an incident on A-4 in which I was involved that I think showed the "Brass" that we could not hold out long on A-4. It was in July, 1971. The day is unknown to me. we had just received our daily in-coming of 81 mm mortar rounds. It was normal for the gun crews to leave their bunkers and go out and check for damage to our guns from the in-coming. My job this time was to check our gun's powder bunker. As I entered the sand bagged bunker I knew something was wrong. I could smell something burning and it was coming from inside the powder bunker! As I slowly entered the bunker I saw the 8-in powder canisters still stacked to the bunker's ceiling, but something caught my eye near a corner of the bunker. As I walked over to the corner I saw that a 81 mm mortar round had hit the top of the powder bunker, exploded and then the mortar round's fin had continued down through the reportively in-coming proof bunker. The fin had entered the bunker's powder compartment at a very high rate of speed and enough to peal the caps off steel powder canisters. The mortar's fin had traveled down and imbedded itself into the floor of the bunker. The fin was still smoking! I feel that if a 81 mm mortar could penetrate our bunkers then just think what a 122 mm rocket round could have done! Since none of our bunkers on A-4 had any so-called blast caps (concrete poured over the top of the bunkers to stop any in-coming rounds) then we were just sitting ducks. I feel that for this and other reasons, is why Charlie Battery had to get off FSB Alpha 4 before we lost anymore people. It was known that all the bunkers on Alpha 4 were old, run down and could not do the job of protecting our personnel.
I remember seeing that NVA flag from the watch tower on Fire Base A-4 very clearly. A-4 (Con Thien) was the closest American Firebase to North Vietnam during the war so it was easy to see the flag from the base. We were only a couple of clicks from the Song Men Hai River in the DMZ where the NVA had set up their base camp just across the river. This "base camp," I believe, but I might be wrong was a dummy camp because it was all lit up at night and we never could see anyone there. In June and early July, 1971 on Con Thien, Charlie Battery was constantly being taunted by the NVA with that flag pole and their incoming! At night those bastards would shine a spot light on that flag and surrounding areas trying to get us to shoot at it. The base camp did not appear to be occupied it was just a prop. During the day, however, around 5:00 pm they would lob mortar rounds at us from their concealed bunkers across the DMZ. It was in this time frame that Lt. Stu Binkley was killed by one of those mortar rounds. I believed that the round that killed the Lt. came from the north. I am not going to say what we did to that flag and base camp just about every night it was turned on. I don't believe it is my place to talk about how many "extra" rounds we had tucked away in the ammo bunker either.
(4) On 10 July 1971, B Battery, 6th Battalion, 32nd Artillery was attached to the battalion and moved from its
In response to this increased enemy threat, B/6/32nd, a heavy composite battery from Military Region II was moved by ship to Da Nang and by road to a position near Cam Lo, where it joined the battalion to assist in countering the recent threat. This unit moved to Camp Carroll on the 19th of July, after having spent the first 9 days of its assignment in the field. During this same period, in line with increased troop withdrawals, the American ground troops in the area, turned over their fire bases to the ARVN and withdrew to Quang Tri for their consolidation and stand down. This caused the Vietnamese to spread their forces thinner and to shrink the perimeter of FSB A-4 and C-2.
According to my "short-timer's" calendar C Battery of the 8/4 Arty moved off of FSB Alpha 4 (Con Thien) on July 11, 1971. We convoyed the Battery to Fire Support Base Charlie 1, just east of Alpha 4 along QL-1 still on the DMZ where we set up shop and continued with our fire missions. I remember that this fire base had been built by the Navy Seabees. All of the gun crew bunkers had been constructed with large steel drain culverts, that were over 10 feet tall. The steel in which the culverts were made was ½- in thick. All the bunkers were above ground and had been covered with PSP, concrete blast caps, sand bags, earth and a thick rubber cover to keep the rain out. Unlike Alpha 4, which was a large red earth hill, FSB C-1 was relatively flat. It was a large flat hill with a very deadly barbed wired bunker line around the entire base. There was a total of two separate wired bunker lines complete with covered fighting positions all had it's own barbed wire. There were (I think) a total of six fixed tower positions for the base which housed heavy machine guns like the 50 cal or the M-60 AKA: "The pig".. Each tower position had a large berm with sand bags complete with a chain link fence in front of each tower. This was for the protection against the NVA's dreaded RPGs. All the towers were constructed with railroad ties or larger wooden beams. Then the tower was covered with sandbags and PSP. All the bunker lines had mines, claymores, and trip wires leading to something that would either kill you or make you wish you were dead! All the howitzers were protected by a large berm (a large mound of dirt piled in a circle that was used to protect the gun and the crew from shrapnel). Each gun emplacement came with it's own ammo bunker that was open at both ends. These openings were used to keep the flow of ammo going to the gun without delay. It seemed like on our gun (gun section #2, nick named: "THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE") didn't let any 8 in projo stay in the ammo bunker for more than 48 hours. We kept the ammo section of the 8/4 going constantly delivering our re-supply ammo. It seem to me that I spent more time on that gun either shooting it, cleaning it or pulling maintenance on it. The few months just before the 8/4 stand-down each gun battery had to pull guard duty on their gun and their part of the fire bases' bunker line. Our assigned base security "THE 5TH MECH" stood down round the 10th, July 1971 so we found ourselves unprotected on Alpha 4 . We had about 87 arty soldiers left with the 8/4 on A-4 manning 4 or 5 8 in guns. Please note: the 8 in howitzers were so big and powerful that this gun could not be used to protect it's own bunker line! With this in mine, Charlie Battery didn't have a chance if the NVA choose to attack FSB Alpha 4 or Charlie 1! So we were stuck with protecting our own bunker line. They did assign some ARVNs to our base at C-1 but we didn't trust those guys at all! Life was not fun at all, we had the feeling that we were all alone. Sometimes we had to stay up on fire missions all nite long, and then during the day expected to work on details too! Then was expected to stay awake to pull guard duty. We were some very tried GIs. I remember in August ,1971 we were going through some very tiresome times with fire missions and all and our Battery's XO - Lt. Tom Boggs, a great American in my opinion, felt some compassion for us non-coms and during the nite when we had guard duty he would go to the mess hall and get us all either coffee, (so we could stay awake on guard duty on the bunker line) or hot soup to keep warm. It got pretty cold during the night on the DMZ. Lt. Boggs, going that extra mile, risked his life exposing himself to NVA mortar rounds so that his men on guard duty could keep their fighting edge. I heard that during one of our nightly in-comings LT. Boggs had to drop the large can of soup he was carrying so as not to have been hit by shrapnel from a near-by mortar round impact... It was Officers like Lt Boggs that I feel were an asset to the Battalion. . . .will continue later.
Dear Charlie (Adams), You don't know me but I was the FO on A/4 during July- Sept 71, who was calling a lot of missions. All of the young gun bunnies like yourself really did a great job and I wanted to thank you for all the hot sweaty nights you spent humping the rounds and missing meals. I guess one thing will make you a little happier, we didn't have a mess hall. Yep! You guessed it, C- rats and more C-rats. Except for that one time I got a case of LRPR's when I was back in Dong Ha. Thanks Again, Terry Haynes, BANSHEE 19
(6) On 19 July 1971, B/6/32 moved from its field
Cpt Richard H. "Dick" Witherspoon assumes command of Service Battery
(7) On 1 August 1971, the battalion received orders attaching 8 Radar Detachments and assigning 4 Integrated Observation Systems, and a Processing Section. These elements had been operated by F Battery, 26th Artillery, but were attached and assigned to the 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery when F Battery, 26th Artillery stood down.
(8) On 3 August 1971, A Battery (4 x 8" Howitzers) moved from C-2 to Dong Ha Combat Base due to a reduction of forces and perimeters on their fire bases. Several fire bases in the area were forced to decrease their perimeters when the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division stood down and the fire bases came under the control of the ARVN, who had fewer personnel with which to provide security. While at Dong Ha Combat Base, the battery was retubed to four 175mm guns.
(9) On 10 August 1971, the Battalion Commander, LTC H. Max Love, relinquished his command to LTC Richard H. Sugg.
The communists, during this period were massing their forces to the southwest and proceeded by several light attacks, attacked the ARVN outpost on Nui Ba Ho Mountain on the afternoon and evening of 15 August. Through the use of all available means of fire, the base was held, but with large amounts of casualties. In the early morning of 16 August 71, as a rescue and Medivac mission was underway a surprise attack forced the defenders to abandon the base, and marked the beginning of several days of bitter fighting presumably leading up to a ground attack on FSB Sarge. This attack never took place but did prompt the evacuation of the Integrated Observation System (IOS) that was employed there. This item was part of a complex and far reaching target acquisition system that had been operated by the battalion since it assumed the mission previously held by F Battery 26th Arty who stood down on 1 August 71. This system consisted of radars and IOS's from the DMZ to FSB Nancy with all reports and activities centralized into a processing section at Dong Ha.
(11) On 15 August 1971, C Battery moved 2 X 8" Howitzers from FSB C-1 to Camp Carroll to assist in the defense of VNMC outposts to the south.
(10) On 15-16 August 1971, 3 batteries fired in the defense of Vietnamese Marine Corps troops on Nui Ba Ho outpost which received repeated ground attacks.
(12) On 18 August 1971, A Battery moved 2 X 175mm guns from Dong Ha Combat Base to a raid position near Cam Lo and expended 200 X 175 rounds.
(13) On 23 August 1971, A Battery moved from Dong Ha Combat Base to a raid position near Cam Lo and expended 190 X 175mm rounds on known enemy
(14) On 28 August 1971, the two 8" Howitzers from C Battery which were located at Camp Carroll returned to FSB C-1.
(15) On 5 September 1971, C Battery moved to Dong Ha Combat Base and on 6 September moved to a field position near Camp Carroll to support insertions that marked the beginning of Lam Son 810. After firing LZ preparations in the morning, the battery moved westward and occupied FSB Elliot (XD 983546) which is located near the Rockpile. I remember when we left Camp Carroll and road marched all the guns and support vehicles west to FSB Elliot. We found that FSB Elliot was just a small hill top field. Located just under the mountain we all knew as the Rock Pile or Charlie's Lookout. It was reported that there were a lot of NVA on that mountain hidden in caves and that they were just waiting for us so they could start dropping mortar rounds on us. It was during this op that I saw something that I'll never forget! We were ordered to fire direct-fire into parts of the the Rockpile mountain. That was the first time that I had actually seen what a 206 lb 8 in gun round could do at such short range. It was noticed that during the night the NVA would to play their mind games. Late one night during this op we got a fire mission from FDC. The call was for direct-fire into the Rockpile to hit lights that could be seen moving around near the top of the mountain. I remember as I was standing on my gun (gun #2) getting ready to pull the lanyard on the loaded gun one could look up on the mountain and really see those dinks moving around with flash lights. Boy! Were they getting ready to get a surprise! The XO Lt. Tom Boggs ( a great American) came over to our gun, along with some other officers and watched and advised Sgt Darrel Emme (Gun#2 NCO) to aim for the lights. When the order was given I pulled the lanyard and the mighty 8-in gun exploded in flame that lite up the night sky. The round went speeding out of the tube of the gun at charge 5. It sounded like a freight train going to the top of the mountain. When the round hit the lights moving about the little wooded area the NVA thought they were using as cover the entire mountain side of the rock pile lite up like day light. When the round impacted there was an explosion that took out everything in and round the lights for a half of a football field. By this time the entire firing battery had fired their rounds also. The only thing that I can say is What a sight! We never found out what "Charlie" had in mind for us that night for if he had been on the side of that mountain that night Then the 8/4 lived up to it's motto and we showed the dinks that we were truly "THE GUNS OF THE DMZ!" Getting back to FSB Elliot . . .this base had a lot of "holes" in the ground where "others" of the past had made their stay as comfortable as possible. The ground had a lot of elephant grass, scrub brush and fern type plants growing all around. There were no large trees on our little hill. The ground was soft with a lot of rocks in it. We had brought with us ½ in steel drainage culvert in which we used to built temporary bunkers. These ½ circle culverts could be placed over a fox hole then covered with layers of sand bags for protection from the elements (in-coming and out-going and rain) ah! To remember the duty of the arty man - filling sand bags!! I became an expert at that lonely job. I have filled so many sand bags during that time that I dare not to try to count them all. I have pictures of me during this operation filling our sand bags that's posted on the 8/4 web site. It has a good shot of the "rock pile" mountain behind me. other pictures that I have and will post soon are of this operation. The pictures have great shots of the guns and our above listed drainage culvert bunkers with the green sand bags on top.
One of the slides I took to the reunion and showed is of the people of Dong Ha village dismantling every structure we left behind just two days after we moved Bn HHB & SVC to Quang Tri combat base--the firing batteries were still in the forward firing positions. We were the last U.S. unit at Dong Ha and turned over everything to the VN National Police for them to use our hooches as family housing. The villagers came in and started taking everything before the Police families got there. There was a shooting of a villager, and that resulted in the Police having to abandon the base. When I took the photo from the air, the people looked like ants on a cake--they had even gotten the roof off the CP bunker and removed the RR tie beams.
(16) On 15 September 1971, A Battery moved from Dong Ha Combat Base to FSB Gunner near Camp Carroll to support operations near Khe Sanh. The battery returned to Dong Ha before nightfall.
If my memory serves me right Gunner was a nice name for the field down the hill from JJ Carroll. I can remember walking up to Carroll and talking to one of the regular army Sergeants that was making wine out of grape juice he had gotten from the mess hall. This would have been in October 1971. Does anyone know how the batch turned out?
(17) On 19 September 1971, C Battery moved from FSB Elliot to FSB C-1 as Lam Son 810 came to a close.
(19) On 22 September 1971, A Battery moved from Dong Ha Combat Base to Camp Carroll to occupy the position vacated by B/6/32.
(20) On 24 September 1971, the Battalion Headquarters, with Headquarters and Service Batteries, moved from Dong Ha Combat Base to the area vacated by the 18th Surgical Hospital at Quang Tri Combat Base. (22) On 13 0ctober 1971. B Battery moved from Camp Carroll to Quang Tri Combat Base. (25) On 14 October 1971, C Battery moved from FSB C-1 to Quang Tri Combat Base.
(18) On 202359 September 1971, B Battery, 6th Battalion, 32nd Artillery fired its last round. The battery then moved from FSB JJ Carroll to Gia Le, RVN and conducted a stand down ceremony on 25 September 1971. The battery guidon was furled and returned to Phan Rang, where the battalion headquarters was located, and subsequently were returned to CONUS along with its battalion colors.
During our last month of shooting, we had one occasion to fire a legitimate mission into NVN. The rules of engagement allowed us to fire into the north half of the DMZ if we had two independent reports that we were receiving fire from their side. That happened one night and I authorized return fire from our guns. The only BDA we got was that the firing from the north ceased. We immediately reported that fire mission up the line. Even though we followed the rules of engagement and "did nothing wrong" that mission caused a lot of excitement all the way to Saigon. The next day we were told that the decision to fire into NVN had been elevated from FA Bn C.O. to General Officer level. The reason given was that, although we were ready and willing to duel the enemy long range 180mm guns up there, the ARVN artillerymen who were soon to take over our guns and our mission were not. We never had another occasion to shoot into NVN--never got to request G.O. permission.
Preparing for stand down - our tracks after being convoyed under the command of Lt. Tom boggs C Battery XO) from FSB Charlie-1 to Dong Ha Combat Base will be cleaned and turned in. Some of the guns were so ragged they were just about to fall apart.
(24) On 1500 hrs 14 October 1971, BG Koch, the XXIV Corps artillery Commander fired the ceremonial last round for the battalion. It was fired by A Battery at a known rocket
(25) On 0930 hrs 15 October 1971, the battalion conducted a stand down ceremony at Quang Tri Combat Base. The Battalion Colors were furled and cased for redeployment to Ft. Sill, 0klahoma. As of 0001 hrs 15 October 1971, the Battalion terminated its tactical mission in RVN and began turning its attention to accomplishing the functions necessary for stranding down. (26) On 15 October 1971, SV Battery moved from Quang Tri to Phu Bai Combat Base. (27) On 18 0ctobor 1971, B Battery moved from Quang Tri to Phu Bai. (28) On 20 October 1971, C Battery moved from Quang Tri to Phu Bai. (29) On 22 0ctober 1971, HHB and A Battery moved from Quang Tri to Phu Bai. All batteries remained at that
Cpt Robert E. Martinez, Jr., BC A-Btry; Cpt James J. Jennings, BC B-Btry; Cpt Gordon L. Arabian, BC C-Btry; Cpt Kent E. Ahrens, BC HHB; CW2 Verle Lantz, BC SVC Btry
(30) During the reporting period, this battalion and its units came under fire on 220 separate occasions. (31) During the reporting period, this battalion accounted for 356 bunkers destroyed and 437 secondary explosions and was credited with 72 confirmed enemy KIA and 168 Possible KIA. Also, during this time frame, B Battery's mess hall burned down and, approximately 30 days later, the temporary structure that was being used to cook in and serve from was also destroyed by fire. Engineer support was requested, and the new mess hall that was built was the only structure at Camp Carroll to receive a burster cap. (33) The cumulative total of rounds fired by this battalion since its arrival in country through 142400 0ctober 1971 was 454,128.
D. (U) Observation and Target Acquisition: During this period the battalion was assigned and operated four Integrated Observation Systems and had opcon of a fifth section. Also, eight radars were attached to the battalion. Data from all thirteen sources was sent to a processing section located in the Battalion Headquarters area. The battalion provided liaison teams to the 1st ARVN Infantry Division (Forward); the 1st Brigade, 5th (Mechanized) Division; the 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry; the 258th Vietnamese Marine Brigade; and the 2nd ARVN Regiment. Four Forward Observer teams were also provided to 3/5 Cavalry and an Observation Post was maintained by battalion personnel at OP Hickory.
Color guard and colors return to Fort Sill. The NCO in charge of the color guard was 1st Sgt. DeLeon B. Weston.
For the full account about the beginning of the end of our story on the DMZ, go to the "FILES" section of this site and scroll down to the end file entitled "THE END" This piece was written by an ARVN Officer who was there when all the Fire bases of the Artillery on the DMZ fell to the onslaught waves of NVA soldiers. It's a must read to know the story.