As the battalion was receiving its equipment for deployment to Vietnam in 1967, it enjoyed the highest priority on all of its requisitions. This was something I had not been accustomed to and I certainly took advantage of it. Fort Sill became quite aware of the battalion over in the 6000 area, as they demanded equipment and supplies. No request was turned down and other units were task to supply whatever we were short that was not readily in the army inventory.
For example we needed a couple of jeeps and I presented the problem to the logistical headquarters at Fort Sill and only a couple of days later we received our jeeps from a unit on post. We changed the bumper marking and with such ingenuity and being a little bit “pushy” the battalion departed with one hundred percent of its authorized TO and E.
That in itself does not make much of a story but it was the other things that ended up in conexs that became questionable. Ice making machines, desks, sheets, canvas cots etc. were “squirreled “ away in the deep recesses on these shipping containers.
But probably the best thing that we took with us was the plastic army issued wristwatches. At Fort Sill I requested and received dozens of these watches and issued them to battery commanders to distribute as they saw fit. They were expendable and no real accountability exists.
Because of the relatively easiness of procuring this first batch of watches, I felt they maybe in Vietnam there might be a need and I was responsible for breaking the regulations by storing several dozen of these watches in the S4 Connex. This turned out to be one (of a very few) smart decisions that I made.
Upon arriving in Vietnam and establishing some sort of supply network in the Dannang area these watches proved quite valuable. I wore one of these through the lapel buttonhole on my jungle fatigues and this watch became the major trading item.
Arriving in Danang to beg, borrow, or steal supplies the support personnel would always look with envy at my watch. The conversation would soon get around to the watch and with tears of having to trade my watch the forklift operators would fill our trucks. Then it was off to the navy to ship these goods, in route to the port I would just happen to find another watch.
Upon arriving at the navy port the negotiations would start all over. I had to have these timbers in Dong Ha. Men were being killed by the hundreds because of lack of bunker materials and of course the “old navy chief” would shrug his shoulders. The watch trick would then be played out. Once again tears would fill my eyes as I gave up my last watch for the use of his LST’s.
After the boats were loaded we would return back to another supply depots and the operation would start all over. I needed sand bags, SP packs , socks, really anything in his yard, and the fork lift operator would question the paper work until the watch trick was played out again. He got the watch, we got what ever was in his yard, and he smiled at his new watch and we smiled with our new bounty and convoyed back to Dong Ha.
Two or three weeks would pass and Brodie would retrieve a few more watches from our “locked conexs” and we would drive over to the airport to await the next C130 going back south. As the last pallet of mail was unloaded at the airport we would drive our jeep on board, sometimes not even knowing where the plane was headed down south, but knowing that we had “watches.” And the south had supplies.
The only thing I brought back from Vietnam was one of these watches, my only souvenir. I cherished it and wore it proudly to the first reunion that we had. Because of a shortages of funds we did not have enough to cover expenses and I auctioned my prize watch off. My dear friend and former boss Cpt Leon Braunning was the high bidder ( $60.00 dollars if I remember correctly) and once again the watch changed hands.
The next reunion (two years later) in an emotional moments when we were having our last meeting Leon presented me the watch that he had bought at the auction. Once again I had my souvenir and that act of kindness will never be forgotten.
Watches Win Wars but they also express real love and affection. Thank you again Leon for such a wonderful jester.
Joe L. Talley