Vietnam Personnel Account
2ND BN 94th ARTY
8TH BN 4TH ARTY
Beginning Note: During my tour I carried a ĎShort Timersí calendar for the year of 1971. I recorded major events that I experienced. What I would like to do here is start form the day I arrived in country in an outline form:
April 5, 1971 Arrived in Vietnam.
April 13, 1971 Assigned to B Battery of the 1st Bn 83rd Arty on Firebase B-ham.
May 21, 1971 1st Bn 83rd Arty stood down.
May 24, 1971 Reassigned to D Btry 2nd Bn 94th Arty on Camp Love.
June 23, 1971 D Btry 2nd Bn 94th Arty on Camp Love stood down. Not enough arty personnel to man the 175 gun battery.
June 24, 1971 Reassigned to Hq Btry 2nd Bn 94th Arty at Dong Ha (Camp Eagle).
June 26, 1971 Reassigned to Hq Btry 8th Bn 4th Arty at Dong Ha.
June 27, 1971 Reassigned to C Btry 8th Bn 4th Arty on Alpha 4 ( Con Thien).
Assigned to gun section two (2) 8 inch
July 4, 1971 Alpha 4 starts to get incoming. It was reported Charlie was planning a major assault on the units on the DMZ. Apparently the NVA was coinciding the assault with the 4th of July. We received continuous incoming of 122 rockets and mortar rounds normally starting at 4 or 5 PM every day.
The incoming continued until we were able to get a fix on the NVA gunners location and call fire missions. Once we returned fire it took only a few rounds for out guns to silence the NVA Guns. We also received small arms fire to out bunkerline during the nights from NVA probing the defenses around the Firebase.
We had Dusters and Quad 50ís from 1st Bn 44th Arty. Along with ARVN units pulling guard duty on our perimeter. HOWEVER, we did NOT trust the ARVNís.
Once, 3rd Gun Section discovered a uniformed ARVB soldier in their bunker while the gun crew was asleep (note : This will be the subject of a future story that I have to tell. It caused a major rift between us and the ARVN troops assigned on Alpha 4. Of course this was never disclosed in any after action Army reports.) This soldier, it was determined was doing a little forward observing for the NVA. I like to hand it to the crew of Gun # 3. They did a "JOB" on that ARVN.
Anyway, Charlie continued to hit us. We were taking casualties from the 81mm mortars and the 122 rockets. (see photos)
The first week our unit took 4 KIA and a number of wounded. Mostly from shrapnel wounds. It was on July 14th that I found out what it was like to get hit. We had just finished a fire mission to silence NVA guns. I had just come off the gun and was the last member of 2nd gun section to enter our crew bunker. As I was rounding the blast wall of the bunker I heard the swish of an incoming mortar round. The round landed about 30 feet behind me and went off. I was knocked to the ground. As I was falling I felt a sharp pain in the small of my back. I knew that was it. As I got up and jumped inside the bunker. I started yelling for the others.
When I got to my senses they sat me up on the floor of the bunker expecting to find the worst. But to everyoneís surprise there was no entry wound or blood! I took off my flak jacket and took a look. To my surprise there imbedded in the middle of my flak jacket was a large (1in x ĺ in) piece of steel. The piece of shrapnel had been to large to go through the layers of Kevlar of my flak jacket. To this day I have the piece of shrapnel encased in plastic to remind me how close I came to "buying the farm" and becoming a statistic. From that point forward I was very careful about how I handled myself.
The 8th Bn 4th Arty all across the DMZ continued to take the incoming. During this time it was reported that 29 soldiers had been killed during one of the days we took incoming. The information we got and according to my calendar all the men were killed on C2 when a rocket scored a direct hit to a gun bunker on the base.
That same day, July 16th 1971, C Btry lost our Executive Officer. He was well liked and the entire firing battery was saddened by his loss. Time has clouded my memory so I cannot remember the Officers name. I think he was from Georgia. What I do remember was he had just exited gun section 3ís crew bunker when an 81mm mortar landed directly in front of him. He had not zipped up his flak jacket yet. When the round landed and went of the young Lt took the brunt of the shrapnel in his chest. When we got to him he was already gone. It appeared to me if the Lt had zipped up his flak jacket, like he used to preach to us, he would have lived because he had no other wounds. If anyone remembers the Ltís name and E-mail me I would appreciate the info.
The next day the Commanding General flew into the firebase to make his appearance and remove the Ltís body. The entire experience of that day was so cheap. Here we were down to 87 American Artillery men on the firebase and this general flies into Con Thien with enough Cobra gunships to finish the war. He gives us poor slobs a pep talk about what a good job we are doing. Then he loads up and they fly South.
We knew what was coming from the NVA an sure enough we lost more guys during the coming weeks.
July 16 - 17, 1971 Firebase Fuller was over run by NVA Regulars. It took the guns from all the DMZ fire bases and the B-52ís to retake the lost ground. During the siege, C Btry was ordered to fire direct in to Firebase Fuller. We knew what this meant. Americans on Fuller and their commander had ordered 8in howitzer fire on his own men. We were assured that the Americans had withdrawn a few clicks to the south of the firebase, but it was in the back of everyoneís mind. Were we firing on Americans dead or alive? Later it was learned that some of our guys had been killed. Our battery was completely down when we found this out. We were so bummed out that battalion finally decided to the end the saga American GIís on Con Thien.
Americans had fought and died for Con Thien only to be withdrawn. It is thought that C Btry was the last American unit to occupy Con Thien,
August 4th, 1971 C Btry convoyed to C1 were we set up shop and used the firebase for a staging point. We were used in arty support for operation Lom Son 810 near the Rockpile. We convoyed to the valley and shot thousands of arty rounds at the NVA. We received information that over 1500 NVA had been killed during the siege at Firebase Fuller. It was reported that after the operation to reclaim Fuller the sea bees had been called in to the mountain top fire base with tractors. The sea bees had to use the tractors to cut long ditches I Fullerís bunker line to bury all the NVA bodies. I have no info on how many Americans were KIA. Apparently that was another battle swept under the rug.
Oct 7th, 1971 C Btry returned to Firebase C1. Had been in the bush during the month of September supporting Lom Son 810.
Oct 13th, 1971 8th Bn 4th Artillery In Vietnam stood down. All Army personnel formally assigned to the 8/4 just changed patches on their uniforms to the 2nd Bn 94th Artillery, attached to the 101st Airborne. It was reported that the old C btry 8/4th with the new designation C Btry 2/94th fired the last heavy heavy rounds from hill 34 near Da Nang.
Oct 27th, 1971 I was getting short and it was the policy of the battalion, I guess, that when a soldier was getting short and had been assigned to the firebases for as long as I had then he was reassigned to the rear area. My next assignment was a truck driver in the service battery of the 2nd Bn 94th arty located o the old I corps supply base at Dong Ha. I drove a 5 ton ammo truck to the firebases. There were still a large number of firebases occupied by Americans at the time and the need for ammo was great. For the next several months, life was scary on the roads with Charlie. That is another story. LIFE on the TRUCK CONVOYS.
Note: It was reported (see newspaper pic) that during the Vietnamization of the American firebases on the DMZ in 1972 we were turning over our big guns to the South Vietnamese Army. This is a sham. When he arty units 2/94,1/39,8/4 stood down some of the firebases with the pretense of the US turning over the arty guns to the ARVNís so they could continue fight for freedom! The guns that we left in place on the firebases were either broken down with no hope of shipment of parts to repair them or they ran out of cherry juice or ammo.)
We had found out early the ARVNís did not want to fight and really resented being there towards the end. The ARVN troops were abandoning tons of the equipment that we had turned over to them in 1971. The average ARVN soldier was close to 5 feet tall and maybe 100 pounds in weight. With this in mind, when we asked the ARVN Army to receive our guns they could not fire those guns in a combat situation. The 206 pound and 147 pound ammo was too heavy for the ARVNís to move. The American soldier on the other hand had no problem picking up the projectiles during a combat situation. It is amazing what you can do when you are scared. If you have to hump ammo to stop the incoming you do what you have to do.
The ARVNís could not or would not got to the trouble to keep the guns on line and in firing condition. So those guns were abandoned in place in repairable condition for the NVA to take and turn on the ARVNís and us. It was a shame to have NVA operation American equipment that still had out old unit numbers on it or stamped ĎMade in USAí.
The 2nd Bn 94th Arty service battery was the transportation unit of the battalion and early in 1972 we not only delivered ammo to the gun units. We also moved personnel and equipment t the firebases located along the DMZ. During my driving time service 47 ( a 5 ton, multi geared, diesel engine truck with the words "Mother Truckers" stenciled on the hood) saw a lot of things that just made me sick.
One day just after we had completed a run delivering arty personnel form a fire base to Dong Ha. I looked over on the side of the road and saw a large blazing fire. The fire was located in a very large hole in the ground that Army engineers had dug out with their earth moving tractors. The fire was roaring out of control. As we pulled off the road to get a better look, I saw something I will never forget. As I looked onto the hole I saw just about every type of military equipment that one could think of. Everything from jeeps, trucks and guns. I also saw a 50 foot Mike boat burning in the pile. Similar to the PT109ís of WW2.
These boats were used in the delta and river areas in Vietnam for patrol duty and generally would kick Charlesís Butt for him. When fully armed and outfitted this bat was a beautiful site that only a soldier could love. It was totally sad to see that beautiful boat going up in flames. It was a sad sight to see our equipment being disposed of in this manner. At that point in time in was very very clear to us that we had lost the war and that we were hauling butt to get out of there.
April 5th, 1971 Spec 4 Charles Adams DEROS and ETS form VietnamÖ.A free man!!!
Note: No celebrations, crowds, or a thank you note for me when I came home either.