When We Sunk a 175mm Gun and a VTR
In the Mighty Dong Ha River
By Robert C. Matlock

Before I was transferred to the 8th Battalion 4th Artillery in 1968, I was with the 2nd Battalion 94th Artillery [also a 175mm gun battalion]. While with the 2/94th, we had just moved from Gio Linh down to a small area, which we nicknamed the graveyard. This was just across from the small village of Truy Khe.

One night we were firing a charge three fire mission in the direction of the Rock Pile. After a few rounds were fired, the starter broke off of the engine housing, and fell down into the bottom of the engine bay. We could only use the gun until the batteries gave out, and then we were out of action. This did not hurt our feelings at all. We probably raided the mess area, and stole a case of C-Rats to have for a midnight snack. After that, we got to sleep for the rest of the night.

The next day, a VTR was sent from Dong Ha to tow our gun back for repairs. The only way that the VTR could attach the tow bar was to back up to the back of the gun, hook up, and the drive off. Every thing went okay until they got down to the river. The guns always had to cross the river on the landing boats, and this time was no exception. The VTR turned the gun around, drove onto the landing craft, towed the gun on board, the ramp was closed, and the trip across the mighty Dong Ha River was under way. The fun began when the landing craft was beached on the other side of the River. It seems that the Navy either did not beach hard enough or the combined weight of the two vehicles was too much for the boat to handle. You might guess what happened when the VTR began to try to push the 32 tons of the gun out of the boat and up onto the land. The boat was pushed right back into the water. The gun and the VTR both sank completely out of sight. The only thing that remained above water was about three or four feet of the end of the gun tube. The Navy sent some divers a couple of days later to uncouple the tracks to get them out of the water.

Our gun went over to salvage area or somewhere near there. The motor pack was pulled, the engine was torn down, the started was repaired, and all of the mud was cleaned out of the gun. In the meanwhile we used a loaner gun. When the gun was returned and placed back into action, it belched heavy black smoke like it was laying a smoke screen. Eventually the gun was taken out of action so that a new engine pack could be installed.