Alpha Co. 1st Platoon, Who Came and Went 9/67-7/68

October 12, 2012 by  
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1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 3d Tank Battalion at Con Thien
10 September 67 – 14 October 67

A-11 Sgt. Guivara* 1102 2nd/Lt. Coan
Cpl. Hubert 4259 Sgt. Davis 2039
Cpl. Graham 3013 Cpl. Hodge 9380
L/Cpl. DuBose 3939 PFC Minch 2023

A-12 Lt. Coan 0944 Sgt. Carter 8613
Cpl. Sanders 2133 Cpl. Irizarry 3575
Cpl. Johnson* 3438 PFC Clark 6720
L/Cpl. Trevail 6546 L/Cpl. Trevail 6546

A-13 Cpl. Aranda* 4074 Sgt. Howard 5796
PFC Sudduth* 5498 Cpl. Baker 4850
Pvt. Burnett 6046 PFC Bishop 5929
L/Cpl. Bores+ 8787 L/Cpl. Coggins 2939

A-14 Sgt. Weicak+ 5125 Sgt. Weicak 5125
Cpl. Holmes 6613 L/Cpl. Brown 0633
Sgt. Shands 7574 L/Cpl. Mims 1433
L/Cpl. Woodall 0092 PFC Palazzari 3048

A-15 Gy/Sgt. Hopkins 2320 G/Sgt. Hopkins 2320
Cpl. Martin* 0960 Cpl. Jordan 7193
L/Cpl. Apodaca* 4103 L/Cpl. Workman 1597
L/Cpl. Augustine* 9398 PFC Berkholtz 0840

*Short-timers rotated back to Dong Ha on 15 September.
+WIA. Note that replacement crewmen Pvt. Manchego and L/Cpl. Murray
arrived at Con Thien on 15 September and were WIA (evacuated) less than one week
later. Replacements temporarily assigned to 1st Platoon during this time frame and then
reassigned were: Sgt. Osborn; Cpl. Crist; PFC Glass; L/Cpl Blum.
Lt. Coan assumed “command ofthe pi Platoon on 10 September, 1967. He
replaced Lt. Tom Barry who had received two Purple Hearts during his three weeks as the
tank platoon commander at Con Thien. On 14 October, the 1st Platoon’s ”time in the
barrel” was over. Lt. Brignon and Gunnery Sergeant English brought their 5th Platoon
tanks up to ”the hill of angels” and replaced 1st Platoon.

The pi Platoon rested and PM-ed their tanks at C-2 for the rest of October. Then,
just before Thanksgiving, they got the word to move up to the C-2 Bridge half-way
between the firebases at C-2 and Con Thien. Two tanks from 5thPlatoon joined them at
the C-2 Bridge, which gave them six tanks. The following crewmen were assigned to 1st
PIt. during this time frame: Cpl. Ramirez 0188; L/Cpl Blum 0862; Cpl. McCartney 6006;
L/Cpl. Ingalls 3839; Cpl. Matthews 5612; Cpl. Larson 8965. Fifth Platoon tanks were:

A-52 Gy/Sgt. English 2422
Cpl. Baker 4850
Cpl. Gehl 7387
L/Cpl. Bishop 5929

A-42 Cpl. Calderon 5066
L/Cpl. Wallace 8958
Pvt. Sudduth 5428
Cpl. Samia 9278

On Christmas Eve, 1967, 1st Platoon (-) was instructed to move back up to Con
Thien in support of 2nd Bn., 1st Marines where they remained until February, 1968. The
four tanks had the following crew assignments:

A-12 Cpl. Joe Irizarry 3575
Cpl. Howard Blum 0862
L/Cpl. L.A. Clark 6720
PFC Rael8114

A-14 Cpl. D.L. McCartney 6006
L/Cpl. lB. Ingalls 3839
PFC Myers 5561
PFC Melton 5617

A-13 Sgt. Howard 5796
L/Cpl. Pena 8973
L/Cpl. c.r, Coggins 2939
L/Cpl. Minch 2023

A-15 2ILt Coan 0944
Sgt. Osborne 0433
L/Cpl. Workman 1597
Cpl. Matthews 6512

After rotating from Con Thien down to Carn Lo Bridge for a brief spell, they
moved back up to C-2 in March, 1968. In April, they got the word that 1st Platoon of
Alpha would move back permanently to Con Thien. Crew assignments were as follows:

A-12 Gy/Sgt. Thomason 7957
Cpl. Coggins 2939
PFC Woodard 2698
PFC Kendrick 4810

A-14 Cpl. Bert Trevail3438
Cpl. Ingalls 3839
PFC Melton 5617
Pvt. Unland 5854

A-13 Sgt. Howard 5796
L/Cpl. Pena 8973
L/Cpl. Minch 2023
PFC Kohnke 5316

A-15 Lt. Coan
Cpl. McCartney 6006
PFC Miers 5561
Cpl. Workman 1597

Gunnery Sergeant Thomason was wounded along with Lt. Coan during a mortar
attack at Con Thien on May 4th. The gunny was medevaced, and his replacement was
S/Sgt. Woodward 2068. Also corning to the platoon in April was Pvt. Moad 0633; PFC
Yanos 0939; PFC Horb 7634; and PFC Wise 6594. In June, S/Sgt. Woodward returned
to Alpha Company in Dong Ha with an ailing A-12. He never returned to 1st Platoon. His
replacement as platoon sergeant was S/Sgt Tews 4792. There was another reshuffling of
crews in preparation for the anticipated regimental invasion of the DMZ by the Marines in
the summer. Crew assignments were as follows:

A-13 S/Sgt. Tews 4792
Cpl. McCartney
Cpl. Pena
Cpl. Minch

A-14 Sgt. Trevail
Cpl. Ingalls
PFC Unland
PFC Renteria

A-15 Lt. Coan
Cpl. Workman
L/Cpl. Wise
Cpl. Hunt 2468

F-31 Cpl. Wear 4788
L/Cpl Fleischmann 6292
PFC Steffe 7571

A-51 Sgt. Irizarry 3575
L/Cpl Hendon 4991
PFC Woodward 2698
L/Cpl. Jewell 1432

On July 6th
, 1968, 1st Platoon participated in Operation Thor along with the 2nd and
3rd Platoons of Alpha Company. This operation involved the entire 9th Marine Regiment in a
sweep around Con Thien up in to the DMZ, clear to the Ben Hai River, and back across the Trace
into Leatherneck Square. The 1st Platoon consisted of the following six tanks and crews:

A-13 *S/Sgt Tews(S/Sgt. Waggle) A-14 Sgt. Trevail
Cpl. McCartney L/Cpl. Wagner 0111
Cpl. Pena L/Cpl. Miers
Cpl. Minch PFC Unland

A-15 Lt Coan A-22 *Cpl. Moinette 5680
Cpl. Workman PFC Bradley 0448
L/Cpl. Wise LlCpl. Larsen 6137
L/Cpl. Melton PFC Maxwell 2906

F-31 Cpl. John Wear A-23 Cpl. Bonilla 2728
L/Cpl Fleischmann Cpl. Beeson 3810
PFC Steffe L/Cpl. Sargent 9143
PFC Clark 1475

*Two tank commanders were wounded in the DMZ by incoming artillery during
Thor, S/Sgt. Tews and Cpl. Moinette. Tank A-13 was replaced by A-II during the
operation, and that new tank crew consisted of S/Sgt Riggins 3660; PFC Shackelford
9605; PFC Spencer 2567; and L/Cpl. Madison 4684.
On 16 July, 1968, Lt. Coan was made the XO of Alpha Company in Dong Ha
and his replacement was 2nd/Lt. Frank Blakemore.
This information was provided from personal records kept by Lt. Jim Coan during his tour in Vietnam as
the platoon leader of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 3d Tank Battalion-courtesy of Jim Coan, Sept., 2001.

Tanks for the Memories

October 12, 2012 by  
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Tanks for the Memories

By: Jim Coan

            It’s been discomforting to admit it, but the passage of time has dulled some memories of my tour in Vietnam as the platoon leader of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Tanks, 1967-68. Of course, I can recall many of the close calls, the fear I felt during incoming, as well as the times I was ready to spit nails when dealing with ignorant grunt officers who neither understood nor appreciated the tankers attached to them. But what I hang on to the most, and pray they never fade, are my memories of some of the most gregarious, extroverted, one-of-a-kind characters that I had the honor and pleasure to share a cup of C-ration coffee with.

Sgt. Howard always comes to mind first. He had served a hitch in the Marines during the late ‘50s, early ‘60s, then left the Corps to become a construction worker. He decided to rejoin the Marines when the war in Nam was heating up. By 1967, he had worked his way up to sergeant. That Marine loved every day he spent in the Corps. When we were getting mortared, or rockets were hitting our compound at Con Thien, we could always count on Howard to say something to break the tension and get us laughing in the grim reaper’s face. He was the platoon scrounger. Clean cots and new blankets would show up in our bunkers overnight. I asked no questions because I didn’t want to hear any lies.

Howard’s tank and mine were marooned for a few days at C-2 when a monsoon deluge washed out the MSR between Con Thien and C-2 in September, 1967. One afternoon, Howard and another tanker walked in carrying a crate of apples and some large cans of dehydrated potatoes. Their story was that they had convinced a sympathetic cook that we had nothing to eat and were starving. I suspected that they had filched the food from the mess hall tent when the cook was distracted. Again, I asked no questions.

We had rigged up a tent-like tarp between our two tanks to keep us out of the rain. One day, a dozer tank from the Cam Lo Bridge joined us. The TC was L/Cpl “Charlie” Brown. His tank had been marooned when the bridge flooded, so he was looking for some shelter until the rain subsided. Unbeknownst to me and my little band of orphaned tankers, Brown was a legend in the Marine Corps, having been busted and promoted more times that anyone knew. He was the type of combat Marine you wanted watching your back in a fight, but not someone to go bar hopping with on liberty. When he asked innocently if anyone had a deck of cards, we stacked a few cases of C-rations to make a table and played “tonk”, then we rolled some dice. By the time “Charlie” Brown and his crew left, none of my tankers had any piasters left. We were all cleaned out, having been taken to school by the best in the business.

My first platoon sergeant was Gunny Hopkins, a Korean War vet from West Virginia who only had a few years to go until retirement. He greeted everyone as “old cob.” His dream job upon retirement was to drive a beer truck. He had forgotten more about tanks than I knew, so I depended on his input and experience. Despite his countrified tendencies and me being a city boy from Tucson, we hit it off right away. We shared a Dyemarker bunker at C-2 for a month, and I enjoyed it when he would serenade us with a country song—“Yo-ure cheatin’ heart . . . .” He scrounged up ice from somewhere so we always had cold beer, which was a blessing after 40 days under siege at Con Thien. Of the five platoon sergeants I served with in Nam, Gunny Hopkins is the one who always comes to mind first.

One of the most unforgettable characters I met was Bert Trevail. He was a 24-year old Lance Corporal who had once served in the Canadian Army. He tried college but didn’t adapt well to the confines of academia, so he joined the Marine Corps to go to Vietnam. My first day at Con Thien, I ducked into the tanker bunker to say hello. Trevail stabbed a bayonet into a warm can of beer and offered me a swig. He said, “Welcome to the fightin’ first platoon, sir!” I remember thinking, “All right! I’ve found a home here.” Trevail would challenge anyone, enlisted or officer, to a game of chess. He never lost. I wrote him up for a Bronze Star after we had a tank drive into a 2,000 pound bomb crater in the DMZ during Operation Thor. My platoon was attached to G/2/9 attacking NVA dug into a bunker complex. Ignoring the mortar shells dropping around us, Trevail and another crewman got a tow cable hooked up to the stuck tank, then he stood out in the open to ground guide the other tank out of the crater. We were then able to resume the attack.

There were some other characters I’ll never forget. We had a Lance Corporal Charlie Coggins with us for awhile. He was from Cullowhee (sp?), North Carolina. He lived so far back in the hills that I doubt he owned a pair of shoes until he joined the Marines. Coggins was assigned to Sgt Howard’s tank. One night, unbeknownst to Coggins, the scout-sniper team behind us observed him through their night vision scopes sitting atop the turret playing with “Mr. Happy.” The next morning, some smirking scout snipers were asking who had the 0200 to 0400 watch. Coggins just laughed it off like no big deal.

We had some other unforgettable characters in the platoon. I’ll always remember Cpl. Ken “Piggy” Bores. He was a happy-go-lucky, high energy kid who, by the time I ran into him, had seen too much war. But he kept on putting out 100%, even though he was a short-timer. I recall the day he got wounded and medevaced from Con Thien. I had mixed feelings–glad he was going home alive, but knowing his loss would leave a void of positive energy in the platoon.

I have lots of fond memories of those Marine tankers that I served with in Nam, how they carried out orders even though they might bitch about it, their steadfast courage in the face of danger, and the camaraderie we shared with each other. I was privileged to have known and served with them.

 

The Marble Mountain “Mad Dog” Caper

October 11, 2012 by  
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The Marble Mountain “Mad Dog” Caper

When I assumed command of B Co, 3rd Tank Bn in the Spring of 1966, the company CP was located just north of Marble Mountain. Two of my platoons were supporting 9th Marine battalions in the general area of Hill 55. My 2nd Plt, under the leadership of 2ndLt Bill “Lurch” Lochridge, was supporting the 1st Bn, 1st Marines in the area south of Marble Mountain. 1/1 had built a large “fort like” command post from which it conducted company operations in the coastal area.

Following one company search and clear operation, the grunts found a young calf wandering loose and brought it back to the Bn CP area. Since it was so young it required hand feeding with milk and other “nutrients”, a job which the grunts willingly shared. While trying to come up with a mascot name, someone suggested the name “Shits”, since that was what the calf did a lot of.

In the same company area, other grunts had “adopted” a dog which became very territorial and unfriendly to anyone or anything that invaded his TAOR. Because of his nasty nature, he was named “Ass Hole”. One day, “Ass Hole” took exception to “Shits” being in his TAOR and bit him. Several days later, it became obvious that “Ass Hole” was rabid and he was put down. Seems like that should have been the end of a sad story, but it gets much worse!

The several Marines who could be identified as having had contact with “Shits” following the biting by “Ass Hole” were immediately evacuated to the hospital in DaNang and given the series of rabies shots. Because it was uncertain how many more could be infected, the entire battalion was taken off the line and quarantined in a Division rear area to see if other cases would emerge. I’m sure this did not result in a favorable fitness report for the battalion C.O.!

Soon after the Marble Mountain “Mad Dog” caper, Division published an order that all dogs within unit perimeters be vaccinated against rabies if they were to be retained as “mascots”. There was to be a $3.00 fee for the shots to be paid by anyone assuming ownership of the dogs. If no one assumed this obligation, the dogs were to be humanely destroyed or otherwise removed from unit perimeters.

Within my CP area, we had a number of dogs which all of a sudden didn’t belong to anyone in particular, for some strange reason, after I announced the $3.00 fee for keeping them around. Now I was faced with the decision on how to humanely dispose of the dogs. My Company Gunny said he had a .22 Cal pistol and could take the dogs to the rear wire of the compound and solve the problem. Somehow, that didn’t seem to fit the definition of “humane disposition” to me.

Our company Corpsman said he could go up the road to the Sea Bee’s compound and get sodium pentathol from the medical section and put the dogs to sleep with a simple injection. That sounded to me like the humane way to solve the problem. It turned out that, while my Corpsman knew how to give shots to people, he didn’t have the foggiest notion how to properly put an animal to sleep. He didn’t get the injection directly into the blood stream and that poor animal screamed and writhed for several minutes before finally succumbing. I said that was the end of that solution.

Bill Lochridge’s 2nd Plt was due to head back down south to coordinate operations with the battalion which had replaced 1/1. I told Bill to load up all the dogs on his tanks and to drop them off in the “villes” as they passed through. I knew that the dogs would be welcomed by the villagers, “one way or another”! This put a humane end to the “Marble Mountain Mad Dog Caper”as far as I was concerned. I also made it clear that any other dogs showing up in my areas of responsibility had better bring their “papers” with them!

A thank you to Vietnam Tankers

January 9, 2012 by  
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This is an email sent from Dave Granger a grunt with Bravo 1/9 about a long day on July 2nd 1967 the first day of Operation Buffalo
Greg
As for owing you guys a beer, ‘not sure if you know how desperate we were when you guys arrived. Ammo and working M-16’s almost all expended, wounded everywhere, no water and the heat was kicking everyone’s ass. The NVA had just started manovering up the trail from the south, which meant we were totally cut off. Then you guys [and some grunts] broke through. Another 5-10 minutes and it would have been another Alamo, or Custer thing.
Not sure if you tankers realize that there was no way for just grunts to move the wounded back to the LZ. It takes at least four to move one casualty using a poncho for a stretcher and with the distance involved there was no way exhausted troops could fight ’em off and get that done. With you guys help we got the wounded back, not all of them made it, but they at least had a chance of making it thanks to y’all. The collection of the dead came latter.
I remember a tank being disabled on the east side of the trail [I think while we were moving the wounded]. There was a couple of guys out looking it over with nothing but boots and trousers on. I wasn’t sure if they were crazy, they didn’t know what was going on out there, or they were incredably brave.
Late that evening we were told that anyone left with Bravo was to mount the tanks and move back to Con Thien. I was on one that was being towed and loaded with dead.
That was the longest day of my life. Thank you guys for 44 more years.
Semper Fi
Dave

Owing you guys a beer

January 9, 2012 by  
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Greg
As for owing you guys a beer, ‘not sure if you know how desperate we were when you guys arrived. Ammo and working M-16’s almost all expended, wounded everywhere, no water and the heat was kicking everyone’s ass. The NVA had just started manovering up the trail from the south, which meant we were totally cut off. Then you guys [and some grunts] broke through. Another 5-10 minutes and it would have been another Alamo, or Custer thing.
Not sure if you tankers realize that there was no way for just grunts to move the wounded back to the LZ. It takes at least four to move one casualty using a poncho for a stretcher and with the distance involved there was no way exhausted troops could fight ’em off and get that done. With you guys help we got the wounded back, not all of them made it, but they at least had a chance of making it thanks to y’all. The collection of the dead came latter.
I remember a tank being disabled on the east side of the trail [I think while we were moving the wounded]. There was a couple of guys out looking it over with nothing but boots and trousers on. I wasn’t sure if they were crazy, they didn’t know what was going on out there, or they were incredably brave.
Late that evening we were told that anyone left with Bravo was to mount the tanks and move back to Con Thien. I was on one that was being towed and loaded with dead.
That was the longest day of my life. Thank you guys for 44 more years.
Semper Fi
Dave

Doctors view of Marines

January 6, 2012 by  
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Doctors view of Marines

This is a Marine Corps Birthday message from a Navy Doctor in Afghanistan (for the civilians among you, he is stationed a major, non-Marine base). I have left some of the forwarding blog material below. The doctor’s comments are unedited. My apologies to the priests who are addressees but you would have been extremely suspicious of editorializing had there not been scatological opinion reinforcement of the Anglo – Saxon variety.

The Corps that we served and love lives on. May God Bless Them, Us, Our Corps and Our Nation.

Remember him (The Dr. and his staff) in your prayers. They are doing a great job for our wounded Marines.

Dr. Dennihy wanted me to forward this. I am following directions. Date: Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 1:30 PMAs an IA or individual augmentee for the army, and being stationed on a NATO base, I planned on not seeing a lot of Marines. Their primary base, “Leatherneck ” is in Helmand province and combat injured Marines are close to another Role III run by the Brits.

When a Marine crosses my path I usually engage him in one form or another and when they are in my shop I can sometimes make what’s routine for me less daunting to the Marine. Marines don’t like medical, pure and simple.

Not that I want to see Marines injured but I just want to see Marines.

Marines don’t show up to sick call with I want my mommy complaints.

Marines don’t walk the base in PT gear or with their weapons slung hap hazzardly.

Marines seldom if ever, fail to note an officer passing.

Marines taking care of their own but are appreciative of those Docs that take care of them.

Apart from my medical degree, the award, honor, ribbon, or academic acknowledgement that I am most proud of is the “Fleet Marine Force ” warfare device I earned deploying with the 2/23 Marines to Ramadi, Iraq in 2009.

Marines do show up here at KAF though and I usually take the opportunity to mess with them. Two Marines were in the chow hall on their way to Camp Leatherneck and I ask if I can join them. The two lance corporals seem a little suspicious but after I put them at ease with some old man banter they swivel their heads around and ask me…

Sir, what the ___ is this place? Everybody’s got gym clothes on and it looks like their weapons don’t even work. What’s with the hippie civilians? I explain KAF and they are both happy that they will be leaving soon.

I see Marines in primary care when they come on a consult to see ophthalmology or our neurologist the TBI specialist. The LNO, an FMF Corpsman, will grab me if they have any wound related issues. I have had two Marines seeing those specialist for eye injuries or TBIs and I have seen them for the holes where shrapnel tore into their subcutaneous space and was subsequently removed, leaving a gaping open wound.. Lucky they had been, but they were left with a big hole that would take a month to heal. I offered a delayed primary closure to the two of them telling them that it had a fifty-fifty chance of not getting infected. Like all Marines, adventuresome and for the most part trusting of a Navy doctor… an FMFdoc, they said that if it would get them back to their unit they were good to go. I scrubbed their wounds, debrided margins and sutured them up.

I see Marines in my trauma bay and usually these Marines have not been as lucky. When I know they’re coming I have on my game face and I ask the Lord for my A game. A snipers bullet to the head, a dismembering IED blast and a Marine who I will call “Rocky”.

Rocky is a recon Marine, the toughest of the tough. His face, neck and upper chest were exposed to an IED blast. He is six foot two, two hundred and 45 pounds. He comes in on a litter with only an IV and a face that looks like hamburger. His left eye is ruptured and his right is swollen shut. Thankfully he can answer me and nods and gives one word answers. I tell him we will put him to sleep and square him away.

He tells me “Doc, do what you got to do” The blinded Marine shows bearing in the face of serious injury. After the CT scan that confirms his eye rupture but has spared his brain, we clean up his face the best we can while we wait for his time in the OR. My team takes out eight stones blown into his face and neck. The smallest being the size of a peanut M&M and the largest the size of a pecan in his forehead. We saved all the stones for him. At the same time in another bay, another Marine has been shot in the head.

Luckily he is awake and although speech comes with difficulty, the bullets tract is on the periphery of the brain. He will go to Surgery with our Neurosurgeon and blessedly do well. Before he goes to the OR, I need to squeeze his hand and wish him luck. On his chest is written: “My help comes from the maker of heaven and earth ” Psalms 121.2. The third Marine unfortunately, is a fallen angel.

I am also lucky enough to have two former Marines on my trauma team. One is a now hardened experienced ICU/ER nurse. He served in Vietnam as a Recon Marine in 1968. The other is a former grunt and Hollywood Marine and is also an experienced ER nurse. These two necessary components make my trauma team the best in Afghanistan….simple as that! Today I am not seeing any Marines at the hospital. I am among them however, during a 5K run on their beloved Marine Corps Birthday. The run was fast and I ran in honor of a Marine KIA in OEF. My bib has the name of LCPL Tyler O. Griffith. I ran for him today and all the Devil Dogs in Afghanistan. I ran for all Marines but I ran the hardest for the grunts, the infantrymen that will always be the definition of warrior.

Semper Fidelis,
LCDR Dave Dennihy MC, USN Diplomat American Board of Emergency Medicine

What the heck is a Typhoon

April 19, 2011 by  
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What the heck is a Typhoon?

On the morning we are to leave for Cua Viet the company office pogue, Handler, comes by our hooch and tells us that the Gunny wants our tank down to the boat loading ramp in thirty minutes.  The navy boat arrives at the boat ramp to pick us up. It is an LCT (Landing Craft Tank) which is quite a bit larger than the Mike boats or the LCU boats that we have been using thus far.  Being the salty crew that we are, we don’t dismount to ground guide the tank on to the boat.  No, I simply talk Steffo to back on to the boat via the tank’s intercom.  If the Gunny saw us doing this he’d have a cow.  Fuck a bunch of lifers.  If we can get away with it, then we do it!  We load up our tank and an amtrack on to the LCT without a flaw. The squids raise the boat ramp, we move out and in what seem to be no time we are at the mouth of the Cua Viet River.  We hear the squids talking that there is some awful weather heading our way.   One of the Marine amtrackers on board tells us that it’s going to be a real humdinger of a “typhoon” starting tonight. 

Steffo interrupts and asks, “What the heck is a typhoon?”

The amtrack commander explains that it is the same kind of a storm as a “hurricane” back in The World only that this storm is on the East Coast of Asia, so they call it a “typhoon” instead.  We off load the tank on to the south side of the river the same way we on loaded (guiding the driver over the intercom).  The boat then heads across the river to deposit the amtrack on the north side.  We report into the amtrack company office that is inside of a bunker near by.  We are ordered to hold up for a few days to see how the typhoon plays out. 

The amtrack company gunny sits back in his chair and tells us, “The one thing I was to emphasis to you young tankers.  When you drive up my beach to Charlie-four, you have got to drive in the breakers…in the water.  No matter what the sea conditions are you have to stay in the surf.  On Aug 12 of this year, one of our Otters veered from this rule, ran up on to the beach and it hit a huge mine.  The company gunny from Charlie Co, 3rd Tanks and my best buddy, Gunny Claypool, was killed along with three other young Marines.  We could barely recognize the vehicle it was mangled so badly.  We don’t need to have Marines killed or equipment needlessly destroyed by not following SOP, do we now?”

We reply in unison, “No, Gunny.”

At first we break out one of our large tarps and sling it over the gun tube to make a shelter.  Shortly the wind begins to whip around and our heavy tarp is blown around like a sheet of newspaper.  The storm is rapidly approaching a gale force so we take shelter in a leaky canvas tent that usually houses supplies for the amtrackers chow hall.  Just as it starts to rain in earnest we heat up some C rations and then we bed down in the supply tent.  Later in the middle of the night the typhoon intensifies and the rain driven wind blows up from under the billowing tent flaps.  I swear that the tent is going to blow away with the hollowing wind but some how it stays in place.  We have to try to sleep on the soaking wet wood floor but that’s ok since EVERYTHING is soaking wet by now.  I will swear on a stack of Bibles that there is absolutely nothing that is dry.  Thankfully the next morning, even as the storm continues it’s fury, we get warm chow in the Amtrackers chow hall, thank God for small favors.  We ask the amtrack company gunny for permission to move our gear into the mess hall and we end up bedding down for the night in relative comfort.

Early the next day, it still does not appear that the storm is going to let up much, so we flag down a passing Mike boat and ask the squids to take us across the river to the north shore.  They comply and as we off load we notice that there is a large group of amtracks in what is called a laager formation…they are all facing outward in a staggered circle like a wagon train in the Wild West.  There really is nothing in the way of a defensive perimeter or a combat base for us to wait out the storm.  As you recall we were originally planning to head to “C-4” with the large convoy of amtracks and otters but the typhoon is keeping everything and everyone buttoned up.  Normally we also would have at least one more tank to come along for covering each other on our movement.  As of now no one is moving anywhere but we have been ordered to get our butts up north at once and to be ready for the rumored upcoming invasion of the North. 

I come over the intercom, “Steffo, let’s move out.”

The rain is now blowing vertically into our faces.  It stings like all get out.  I turn my face away from the rain.  I don’t know how Steffo can see to drive!  Due to heavy enemy activity in the general area, the rule for movement along the beach is that we must drive in the surf (along the part of the beach where the waves are breaking).  The reasoning is pretty clear that no antitank mine could withstand the pounding that the waves make on the shoreline so we are pretty assured that we are on the mine-free part of the beach.  As we start out on our trip north the huge typhoon induced waves are actually breaking over the top of the tank.  I am not only soaked by the heavy wind-swept rain but I am soaked by sea water.  The waves come gushing into the open drivers hatch and the surge somehow causes the escape hatch (under the driver’s seat) to come lose.  The safety wire that holds the handle in a “closed” position gets broken by the tidal surge and the heavy (150 pound?) hatch simply falls out and is lost somewhere behind us on the beach!  At the time, we are unaware that this has happened and we only discover it two days later when we drive the tank over to refuel at the “Chalie-4” OEM dump.  After one particular heavy set of wave break over my head, I look inside of the turret and I’m horrified that the sea water is swirling around “Pappy’s knees!!!  I can’t see Steffo in the drivers hatch but he must be more under water than above it!!!  To be perfectly honest, at this point, we seem to be fighting for our lives to keep on the beach and to not be washed out to sea!  Due to the total inundation of saltwater, our radios and the tank intercom are now useless.  In fact, the only thing that we get over the radios is a loud screaming noise that makes me immediately turn them off.  Boy! If we hit the shit now, we cannot call for help! 

For what seems to be hours on end, waves with out end and stinging rain that seems to cut into our skin we pull into “C-4” and much to our amazement we find that it is practically abandoned.

charlie_4_flood

Charlie 4 Flood