In the fall of 1968 B Battery was at Hill 65. The battery was situated on the far western side of the hill overlooking the Song Vu Gia River which was about 300-400 meters from our position. Below the hill and to the right was a small village about 100-200 meters from our position.
One night a ferocious fire fight broke out between us and the river. The participants in the firefight were spread along the edge of the river and the neighboring village right below us. We found ourselves almost in the middle of a fire fight when we did not know who was who. Once thing for certain was that the two opposing ground forces were not friendly to each other. We immediately made inquiry to the 1st Marine Division about whether there were any friendly patrols out that night, and almost immediately we were informed that there were none.
Thus, we elected to join the fight. Because we were elevated above the river, there was no way that our 175's could be involved in the fight. Knowing that the firing from the river could not be from friendly forces, our men were instructed to cut loose with all of their small arms firepower. Because it was dark, we could only fire at the muzzle flashes and locations from which tracers were being fired. Under the circumstances it did not seem feasible to light up our battery position with flares. Firing with the M-16 under those circumstances seemed to me like shooting in the dark with a BB gun. However, Sgt. Hrabal with the .50 cal., and another man firing the M-60, a blithering ring of fire was brought down upon them, and the firefight soon ended.
It was not until the following morning that we learned what had happened that night. It seems that a sampan loaded with machine guns and RPG's had been floating down the river when they were engaged by a local ARVN group stationed in the village. Before that we did not even know that there any ARVN's in the village. Marines nearby had watched the action with starlight scopes. They credited our battery with one sunken sampan and three enemy KIA's.
Now here is the question that has never been answered for me. What were the NVA doing on the river in front of our position that night? Were they after the ARVN's? Did they intend to spring an assault on our artillery position with their B-40's and machine guns? Because of the angle, they certainly knew that they would have been safe from fire from our 175's. I suppose that we will never know.
In summary, when I went to Vietnam as an artilleryman, I could never have dreamed that a time would come when we would be shooting at NVA in a barrel (or river, as the case may be).