When Gun 4's Crew Missed
Its Appointment with Death
By Mike Schwertfeger

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 howitzwers. 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 exprected 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 C