|Firing Across the DMZ
At the Night-Lighted NVA Flag
By Charles Adams and Bill Davenport
Charlie Adams: 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 where the NVA had set up their "base camp just across the river. This "base camp," I believe, was a dummy camp because it was all lit up at night. In July and early August, 1971 on Con Thien, Charlie Battery was constantly being taunted by the NVA with that flag 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 mortor 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 mortor 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.
Bill Davenport: During the latter stages of the war I was shift leader for Battalion FDC. We were told that we were going to be put on an ammo allotment. Therefore, we started shooting at grid squares in the open calling them suspect enemy locations. We were guided in our efforts to expend ammo by the full knowledge that if we did not shoot it we would surely not be alloted it and some day we may need it. When the allotment came down the three batteries of 8/4th were alloted about 1000 rounds per day. This is very close to the amount we were expending for the two previous months. We were asked to inventory our projo's, powder and fuzes so that our allotment could be kept track of and the necessary quality checks were available for bad lot powder, fuzes or ammo. When the inventory for C battery was taken, the battery in collusion with battalion FDC did not count 39 rounds. The reason that they were not counted was that we had plans for them and it was not counter battery fire. At Con Thien you could see an NVA base camp across the DMZ on a clear day complete with garrison flag flying. We were not allowed to shoot into or above the DMZ without reporting the rounds to the Paris Peace accords. Hence, with these unrecorded rounds we planned to down the garrison flag in this NVA base camp. Before we got the opportunity, C Battery got mortored. Within the week following this event we were visited by some investigating unit asking about 8/4th shooting above the DMZ. They were told that this was impossible and that because we were on ammo allotment it would be very easy for them to check us out. All they had to do is check the rounds expended against our fire missions and make a count. If the count came out right, there is no way we could have fired above the DMZ on an "outlaw" mission. They checked us out and were satisfied and left. I'm glad that they did not do an "actual" on the effective firing criteria of the tubes. We had that covered too as we doctored the data and if the actual did not come out the same I was going to tell them that C Battery always exceed the firing rate in order to give our troops on the ground the support they needed and that was the reason the tubes showed excessive wear.