Category: 1968-9

FURTHER MUSINGS OF A KANSAS FARM BOY (MY SECOND DAY IN THE 359th) BY JAMES HUSKEY

BE SURE TO READ JAMES HUSKEY’S EARLIER STORY FIRST (A 18 YEAR OLD FARM BOY ARRIVES TO THE 359th)
THIS PICK’S UP WHERE IT LEAVES OFF.

Ahh!!! Finally!!! looking forward to the ride back to the Company area for a hot shower, hot breakfast and some sack time. Again these ideas bring a laugh from my bunker mates. Problem with transportation and we have to walk out to the gate, hoping to catch a ride there. We get there just as it appears our tankers are heading out to Pleiku. I wonder why all of a sudden my partners are backing up away from the corner. Our trucks seem to be swerving closer and closer to us. Man!! they’re split shifting and double clutching something fierce. They’re going to get into trouble for that for sure.

We jump on a deuce and a half headed our way and just before we get there my newfound buddies jump out, yelling for me to cover for them. That’s kind of strange, thought I, as we continued on to the company area. It’s mid morning as I trudge thru a nearly deserted company area. I walk into the mess hooch and encounter a lone individual, sitting at a table reading stars and stripes with a massive egg sandwich and a large cup of coffee in front of him. Now I’m not sure what provokes the guffaw from him as he looks at me. But he relents without me saying a word, pushing the sandwich over to me with the coffee. He continues chuckling as he walks to the back without a word to me. My thank you can barely be heard as I stuff the sandwich in my mouth.

Partially satisfied I head for the armory, check my weapon and am asked where my partners are at. They had some errands to run say I. Now why is that so funny!!! Finally, the showers… That’s funny I think, there are controls for hot and cold but there is only cold. I DON”T CARE!!! Clothes and all I step in. Someone left a bar of lava soap here. Perfect as I scrub down. There, clean body and clothes I march to my hooch for a dry change. Someone has straightened up my area and made my bed. As I’m donning dry skivvies a Vietnamese women walks by, giggling as she sees me. (Guess what guy’s, that still happens to this date) No matter I think, only that cot matters nmw!!! The pleasure of relaxing into that antique army cot literally brought a sigh of pure pleasure.

WHAT WHAT WHAT!!!!! It’s that damn sergeant again. Where are your cohorts in crime? He asks. Sick call is all I can come up with. At least he doesn’t laugh as loud as the guy’s in the armory did. I’m glad you’re all cleaned u and rested he says. We need to work on beefing up the sandbags around the hooch. Rested, RESTED, hell it’s only been 20 minutes. (There’s special place in hell for buck sargeants I thought, but he turns out to be the same sargeant that shepherded me thru some tough times) We assess the job needs and I tell him the way it’s set up won’t work for proper drainage and could flood the hooch. (Farm kid irrigation skills you understand) Whatever he say’s, just make it work and get it done. Working steadily I get the baseline re-dug, drainage ditch re-configured, when I realize this is one hot ass country. Then I see my sarge coming with my bunker mates. They get to work and “sarge” asks, which one of you wants to work on something else??? MeMeMe, anything is better then sandbags. Why are they loughing again!!!

As we walk thru the company area a sense of dread comes me. There is only one building left and it’s not a welcome sight. SHITSHITSHIT (Pun intended) My brothers words as he put me on the bus for basic training come to mind, “DON’T VOLUNTEER FOR ANYTHING”!!!!! My insightful sergeant asks jokingly if I’ve ever burnt shit. Well say’s I, we only had an outhouse on the farm for many years so I’m somewhat familiar with the need to neutralize fecal leavings. Good he says. After a quick tutorial, where he stayed safely out of reach, he pronounced me “Shitburner extraordinaire” and he left. Now not to brag, but there needs to be a proper order to this, so as not to leave the latrine lacking in accessability. The big thing is not to get in a hurry as that tend to fling unsavory chunks of @#$%^& in various directions. I discover right off that the hook handle could be a bit longer. I also could go into exact details of other facts I came across but I figure one’s imagination can come up with them on your own. There are several cans of df there but one can had AVGAS,”Do Not Use” printed on it. I never did learn if it was a joke or not but the urge to use it was great so as to hasten the burning process. So humming and stirring to Boil Boli Toil and Trouble I completed the best “SHIT BURN” in the history of the 359th. I remember some weeks later at a company meeting to hier locals for such menial chores that many thought $5 a month to chip in was too much. $5 a month too much for burning #$$%^, geez louise, get real…

LUNCH, finally a little late, but the same gruff guy wanted to know why I was always coming in late. He fed me anyway. I wish I could remember everyone’s name but I’m lucky now to remember to wake up in the morning. As I get back to the hooch, I see my partners are still at it. It doesn’t seem much progress has been made tho. I look lovingly into the hooch and see my cot, all alone and begging for a reconciliation. But I remain resolute and plod on with my sandbag assignment. Then, would you believe it, “sarge” shows up again. This man has a manical desire to make my life miserable. “Got another job”, he says. anyone interested???

MEME I says…As long as it doesn’t involve sanitary chores. No he says, hop in the jeep and we’ll head for the motor pool. (Why are my workmates laughing again) On the way sarge asks if I’ve ever broken down tires before with split rims. Why yes say I. Many a tractor tire on the farm was repaired by myself. Good, he says, we have a couple at the motor pool that need broken down, patched and fixed. Finally I think, a couple of hours work and then nap time. Arrival at the motor pool ends at a pile of flat tires, that number somewhere between 1000 and infinity. Two old Vietnamese men appear to be working on the pile but the ratio of repaired tires to flat tires is disconcerting. I quickly demonstrate an affinity for such endeavor and sarge disappears again. I quickly see there is no system in place. The old men have trouble with the pry bar so I break the rims down and they strip the tubes, replace them or repair as we can. We have an impressive amount of repaired tires in a row and I’m airing up the remaining 20 or so tires when a individual approaching from the garage across the way. He has the appearance of someone with anger management issues for sure.

I had asked the sarge earlier about the garage area as there seemed to be an unusual amount of cursing coming from the area. Well, private you need to know that those “gentlemen” are not to be trifulled with. Your life will come to depend on them on a daily basis. And as you will come to learn, they are somewhat demented and not to be angered. Good to know I think. Now one those demented individuals is bearing down on me with a scowl on his face. “Son” he says. “I don’t care if you ever contribute to this world’s gene pool or not, but you will flip those wheels over so the rims are down from you”. But says I, it’s hard to get to the valve stem that way. With the look of someone trying to explain to a chimp how to peel a banana, he tells me that the split rims have a tendency to explode off the rims. Then he adds for emphasis, “that is not a request, dunbass”!!!As he leaves my thoughts turn to very derogatory terms, Flipping the tires over (the Vietnamese have already left, something about a curfew) I begin to air up the remaining tires. Not five tires later a rim explodes off as I’m sitting on the tire. Now I thought about going and saying thank you but there was sill fear in me about approaching the garage. There was also new found knowledge that these old farts knew what they were talking about.

The discouraging part of the tire gig was that as I was sitting there drinking a soda (brought to me by one of the demented ones), admiring my handiwork, a convoy returned. I was like a group of vultures descending on a carcass. Those rows of repaired tires disappeared like shaved ice on hot pavement. As I learned later to be last is to have to repair your own tires. And as with the latrine chores in the company meeting there was griping about the $5 a month for the local labor in fixing the tires.

As I ride back to the company area with these “vultures” I find they are a somewhat demented bunch also. Kind of a gallows humor abounds among them. One of them how I liked burning &*^%$*. Not fun I say, but I wonder how he knows I burnt %$#&^% that day. Getting back to the company area everyone disappears to the armory and the mess hall. My thoughts however are only of the loving embrace of my vintage army cot. I fall on t and sleep of the dead…. Approx 1 hour later there is that “sergeant” again. Vivid thoughts of my hands around his neck come to mind.

Sorry, Huskey but we need you on guard duty again. Your 201 says you qualified on a 60, right. Right I say. Draw your gear from the armory and a 0 with 4-5 boxes of ammo. Now say that my mood had soured somewhat is an understatement. Waiting for guard muster I realized I hadn’t eaten supper. Walking down to the mess I walk in and run into “guess who”???? No way, he says, not this time!!! But he goes and brings back two beans and franks C rations. I can live with that> Plus he hands me two cold cokes. A life saver this man.

Back on the green line!!!! Now we’re in a tower position across from the village. Believe it’s the same tower where Carr got an award for tearing up a mortar crew that opened up on the base. and they gave me an M60 machine gu, with ammo. Now those blood thirsty communist hordes have met their match. I win the rock paper sissors for the first time and take first watch. I’m protecting the free world as I scan my perimeter and eat my beanie weenies. Geez, that smell is still there. Mixed in is the smell of Vietnamese cooking. Even today that smell takes some getting used to. Now my eyelids are drooping. I hope the attack comes soon so I don’t miss it. Standing on one foot then the other. slapping my self. kind of hard to hurt yourself by when you know it’s coming. I hear pounding on the trap door and realize someone is cursing me in a loud whisper to get the $%^&# off of the door. Yes, relief, finally. The final battle will have to wait until I’m awake and ready. I appropriate a hammock that someone left so I can sleep up off the ground. (snakes you know) Iwake just as daylight is breaking and realize I’ve slept thru the night. I look at my tower mates and in unison they say “you’re welcome”, as they’ve covered my shift and let me sleep till morning. I don’t even mind they ate my extra beanie weenies and pound cake. Now aseasoned vereran I can’t wait to do battle with my sergeant again!!!!

JAMES HUSKEY
359th TRANSPORTATION COMPANY
1968 TO 1969

AN 18 YEAR OLD FARM BOY ARRIVES TO THE 359th TRANSPORTATION COMPANY IN 1968 BY JIM HUSKEY

Arriving in Vietnam in January 1968 was a surreal experience. There was a sense of urgency for sure. Landing at Cam Ranh Bay, then on to Qui Nhon. Only to be put on a deuce & a half ton truck packed with replacements going to An Khe all in two days. Commotion on the An Khe pass, something about a sniper and me with NO WEAPON! The SFC with an M60 on the passenger seat opened up on the hillside> Damn, all the good spots in the truck bed were taken. I noticed I was sitting on M60 ammo cans and the SFC on the M60 was screaming something about “AMMO, AMMO” Aaahh, said I, being able to decipher a connection between his slowing rate of fire and the cans my butt was parked on. Pulling out a belt of ammo I handed it to the crazy eyed maniac. I was preparing a second can when I noticed there were no more cans. I handed the last belt to him and yelled that there was no more. He immediately slowed his fire, but by now we were well beyond where he had first opened up. And geez, that tired, lack of sleep feeling sure disappeared fast. A jeep pulled up with a Lt aboard and he and the SFC discussed the firing. Now here is the thread of a continuing story for me that concerns the differences between NCO’s and Officers. The Lt looked over at me and advised “Good Job” and he left. The SFC began with, “Private most people would have had the smarts to at least duck! You’ll need to get your knuckles looked at also, as you apparently don’t know how to open an ammo can correctly”. It was only then I realized my right hand was an ugly bruised color. “get lucky son, and get a good duty assignment”. He hit me in the chest and I almost fainted. If that was a love tap, I’d hate to see him really hit someone.

As it turned out I got a good assignment, The 359th Transportation Company. Good People, good NCO’s and Officers. People who shaped my life thru the years and saved it more than once.

Back to my story! The Sarge looked at my papers and remarked that I was in luck, as they were going right by the company area. I was dropped off, and immediately approached bay a Captain. “You lost soldier”??? “No sir” I replied, showing him my papers. “No you’re supposed to report to (some processing unit) first”. “see the 1st Sgt inside”!!! Stepping in side a man behind a desk growls at me, wanting to know what I’m doing there. Offering him my papers, he scoffs, wanting to know why I wasn’t at (some processing unit). As I started to explain he cuts me off, advising that he’ll take care of it. Then he rattles off a series of orders and I’m on my way to my new home, supply room and finally a rifle. My very own M16, BUT NO BULLETS YET!!! Back in the hooch I see it’s a work in progress, and nearly deserted. But I can finally stretch out on my bunk. Then there’s another Sgt rousing me out of my slumber. “You Huskey”???? What the hell, I’ve only been asleep for an hour. “yeah” says I. “get your gear and fall out for guard duty inspection in 30 minutes”…. Wow, this is serious stuff, not like fire guard in AIT. “God Huskey if you were any newer you’d stiil have shrink wrap on”!!! “You might want to stop by the armory for ammo, it comes in useful at times” My platoon Sgt as I come to find out is full of useful information and witty remarks.

So we loaded up and headed out to the “Green Line” and I notice the seasoned vets seem to be prepared for a longer stay then a single two hour guard shift. I inquire as to the exact parameter of our assignment and learn this is not a two hour shift, but an all night adventure. We’re dropped off at a bunker (three of us) and I’m left to rue my decision to save the world. We’re downwind from something in the village just across the boundary wire. Ton say it was unpleasant is a gross understatement. In my opinion there needed to be a few thousand more strands of barbed wire between me and that village.

As we settle in, my bunker buddies begin to pull out food, snacks, and sandwiches. I realize I haven’t eaten since the day before. They offer me C Rations and I learn that even starving lima beans and ham suck! They ask me about my hand as it stands out a bit. I mention I bruised it opening an ammo can and get laughed at. Next time I tell that story I’ll include it was during a firefight. As it starts to get dark. I do an exploratory walk around our post. I mark a couple of spots I don’t want to step into or on in the dark. I lose a game of rock paper scissors and pull the third shift, but I wind up staying awake thru the first shift.

As I begin my first solo shift, I go thru a range of scenarios in the event of some kind of attack. I never did come to a successful outcome of the one where a thousand VC come charging thru the wire (not enough bullets).  I check the pins in the hand grenades a dozen times to make sure they don’t slip out. I wake my replacement and just roll over on the top of the bunker and fall asleep. (fewer snakes on top) I’m roused for my last shift and have a hard time adjusting to the dark. As day light breaks I see a kid across the wire just staring at me. He stands there for nearly an hour until an old women yells at him for something.

JAMES HUSKEY

359th TRANSPORTATION COMPANY

1968 TO 1969

Story by Joseph (daddy) Dedge 359th 1968-9

I went through Cam Ranh Bay in 1968 and was assigned to the 359th Trans Co which was in the process of moving from An Khe to Pleiku. I still remember the jeep the 240th QM Bn XO sent to pick me up at the airport in Quin Nhon. I had his flac jacket and his helmet with that big gold major’s leaf for all to see on the what seemed like ages ride back to the 240th HQ. I stayed there a couple of days for orientation (one part was drinking with the Lt Col Co two nights in a row.) I joined the 359TH Trans Co in An Khe for a couple of days as they were in the process of moving to pleiku. Lt Meadows was the Co at that time. Lt Bob Yankow followed him as Co. I was the 1st Plt Lt to start and had a great group of NCOs and enlisted. SP5 Greene was my jeep driver and SP5 Bird later drove Brutus. We were pretty much on our own on the road and I remember running convoys at 45 mph because we did not have a lot of security. One of my convoys actually passed another convoy led by LTC Bing the Co of the 124TH Trans Bn who ranted and raved about passing his convoy (which was moving about 20 mph) We were transferred to his Bn and he was more generous that he could have been, even though he did not ever let me forget it. I saw the Co of the 240th one more time when he came to Pleiku to go with us on convoy to Dak To. It was monsoon season raining, the staging area out of Pleiku was wet, wet, wet, the Engineers had oiled the road to keep down the dust earlier and it was a skating rink going down a big hill to start the convoy. We had two tankers in the ditch in no time and had to drop the loads on the ground in order to pull them out. The LTC decided he had urgent business back in Quin Nhon before his jeep ventured down the hill. I enjoyed the 240th as they were pretty independent. We used to alert the pump stations that we were on the way. If Charlie hit our convoy, he would usually hit the pump station too. Lt Butch Childers was my XO when I was CO and I think he had been on one of the pump stations when he first came to RVN. He was a great guy that I wish I could find again. Good memories of the 359TH and 240TH people.

STORY BY JAMES HUSKEY 359th 1968-9

In December 1968, I had just extended my enlistment, which Lt Dedge and the 1/Sgt had talked me into doing and I would get the job of unit mail clerk. The day before my extension leave was to begin, my tanker broke down in Kontum. The following morning all road traffic was halted due to enemy activity somewhere. In my infinite wisdom of the time, I figured that no one would bother me if I hitch-hiked back to Pleiku in a civilian bus. The bus broke down, and I hopped on an ARVN V-100. Theyturned off and headed into the boonies under sniper fire. I hopped off, and got a ride on the back of an ARVN motor scooter (my hip’s haven’t been the same since). Anyway! When I got back to the company area the 1/Sgt was waiting for me. He started screaming at me, waving court martial papers and/or an artical 15 at me. How the hell he found out so fast what I had done I don’t know. And didn’t understand exactly what I was in trouble for, After screaming at me for hour’s (maybe 10 or 15 minutes), he tore the papers up and yelled at me to get out of his office and catch my flight home. When I got back in January 69, I never heard anything else about it.

Hopefully the statue of limitation’s has run on what ever it was!!

STORY BY MERTON BARROWCLIFF 359TH 1968-9

SSG Rapold and I were TDY with the 3rd platoon, with 20 trucks with trailers, 2 gun trucks (Brutus & Head Hunter), & a gun jeep. We were to haul from Quin Nhon to An Khe with as many trips as we could make. But sometimes we went from An Khe to Quin Nhon to Plieku to Quin Nhon  to An khe to Quin Nhon and back to An Khe in one day. We’d leave An Khe before daylight and get back after dark. In Jun SSG Rapold came to me and said He had a 3 day in country R&R. What should he do, I told him he was the platoon SGT. He went on R&R, and left me to run the platoon. I ran the platoon for 4 day’s till the ambush. We where reporting to Col Loddy 8TH Group Commander & Major Smith. On the day of the ambush Major Smith found me at the staging area in Quin Nhon (PX & 54TH Trans Bn area). He wanted to know where SSG Rapold was, I could not lie, I told him SSG Rapold was on a 3 day R&R, and had not seen him in 4 or 5 day’s. He asked who was running the convoy, so I told him I was. His reply was an E-5 couldn’t, I told Major Smith to make me an E-6, his reply was he couldn’t, and I couldn’t take the convoy to An Khe. He left and came back and said we would join the main convoy. I told him we didn’t have enouph gun trucks to cover 50 trucks. He got another gun truck from the 54th Trans Bn. This pissed me off and I told him I was getting a hair cut (hadn’t had one in all most 2 month’s). Well at the barber shop, the barber told a female that a 50 truck convoy was going to An Khe and Plieku. I was on my second tour so I could understand some of there shit. I then went back to the staging area and told Major Smith in total. He asked were I heard this. I told him what I had heard and his reply was “Bull Shit”. We pulled out between 16 & 1700 hrs. I can tell you now I was scared knowing what I did. As we got to the last bridge before the pump station (you had to drive in the creek, it had been blown). I was satanding in the right rear corner, why I don’t know, as we came up on the creek something made me look. Right there were 20 or 30 VC laying along the road. There were bush’s from the bridge to the village, I turned and screamed at Prescott “AMBUSH”. I started for the M60. I looked to the left toward the ROK out post, they were getting mortared, there were some tall trees toward the out post. I then saw two RPG’s or B40’s coming at us. I think I grabbed Prescott’s head and shoved him down. If I had not done numberswiki.com

that he would have gotten hit in the head. Th two rounds landed outside of the truck rocking it good. I then started firing the M60, they were walking mortar fire down the road, two rounds landed in front of the the truck ahead of us, one landed in front of us. I had fired 2000 rounds and told Prescott to get off the radio and get on a gun. In doing so he cleared a path. We called for a body count from Roadrunner, they counted about 150 plus and they were dragging them off.

(more to follow at a later date,  Mert)

I’m trying to complete the previous story.  We were on our last trip of the day. As we came over the An Khe pass (east side), we changed our radio over to the Quin Nhon net, a call came out to check out a person of interest at the hair pin . I saw a person in uniform, he had on ho chi min sandals and a law on his right shoulder. It was right before the large rock mound on the right side. The law was extended and the site was up. I looked to the front were Prescott was and my heart stopped. I looked back and he was gone, I blew it off till later, his law had miss fired. If it had fired we would  have been blown all over the An Khe pass.  When we got hit on the way back a sapper ran up a little knoll and started to pull the pin’s on 4 or 5 grenades he had taped together. I shot him in the chest 3 times with the M60. Pieces of his back came out the size of your fist. I ran out of ammo and bent down to get another belt. I looked over the side and another sapper was on the other side. He was so close I could see the hate in his eye’s, I’ll never forget that look! All he had on was a loin cloth and bamako hat. He was pulling a satchel charge behind him. It upset me so bad I put the belt of ammo in upside down. I shot him 3 times in the head, then the M60 jammed. I couldn’t understand why the gun only fired 3 round’s and jammed. Prescott asked me what was wrong, and I said I don’t know. After the anbush we started to look around and Prescott told me I had the belt in upside down. Still to this day it makes my heart race. I never told anyone about it, who would believe it? The main reason I didn’t was that I had tried to tell a Major in S2-3 about  NVA being at the top and bottom of the pass, and I was called a lier, so I gave up. I did not tell S2-3 anything after that. I was a RA lifer they’d say. I can still tell you every stone and turn in that road. I won’t sleep tonight, but thats not new.

Thanks for listening.

Mert

STORY BY MERT BARROWCLIFF 359th 1968-9

On 11 feb 1969 I was on convoy to Pla Gerang. I went to the 4TH ID checkpoint to meet my escort to the Oasis. We left about 8 and had not gone more than a mile, when the two M.P. jeep’s ran off and left me. I kept going by myself. I got to the Oasis and they would not let me into the CP area. I guess I was locked and loaded, and raising hell. I left Pla Gerang about 9 or 9:30. The coke girls would not sell me a coke or a beer. I told the Sgt on an APC we were going to get hit. He was from Aco 1/10 Cav 4TH ID. We had one 5 ton with 5000 gal tanker of JP4 and 20 empty 2 1/2 ton’s from 1/50 Inf. there was a 2nd Lt that wanted to ride with me, till he saw I didn’t have a back rest for the passenger seat “Lucky for him”. The next time I saw him he looked like his life had passed before his eye’s. A Sgt wanted me to take the trail, I told him “hell no, my truck ran 53 miles per hour. how fast was his APC.” We got about halfway and ran across a mine sweeping team from 4th engineers, one M88 and 4 or 5 people sweeping the road. He asked me if I knew were we were, I told him Cambodia. He asked how I knew. I told him I was standing on the marker. I sat there 15 or 20 minutes. He said we needed to get out of there. I told him I was not passing no mine sweeping team. He told me I could stay there or go with him. I should have stayed, we got about 2 to 400 yards and I went airborn. The only thing I saw was a ball of fire coming through the door. When I came to I was 50 to 75 ft in the air. I was blown between the steering wheel and door up to the windshield. My legs were blown up under the dash. I remember pulling my legs from under the dash and trying to get the door open. It would not open. I looked out the window and looked down at the APC. At this time the truck was leaning to the right, and I thought to myself “If you want to live get out of here” it was like god said ok and the door more info

opened. I jumped, hit the ground and slid for 25 to 50 ft on hands and knees. It took all the skin off my hands and knee’s. 2 trucks went passed and everything stopped. I had my weapon in the truck. I tried to get a weapon from other drivers. They looked at me “are you for real” and then I had to protect my truck. I could hear and everything was moving real slow. My right arm and right side of my face got 1st and 2nd degree burns and spots of 3rd degree battery acid and diesel fuel burns. They called for a MEDIVAC, but all were on the ground “no fuel”, I had their fuel. They got hit the night before and their bladders got hit. A loch tried to pick me up, but got shot up and had to pull out. I rode on top of an APC, they tried to get me inside, but I told the to “sit on it (maybe not in those words)”. They had nothing for pain but warm beer, so I drank that. We got to Pla Gerang and a loch took me to the Oasis. They patched me up, and told me I’d have to stay overnight there. I was not to happy about that. I had slapped a medic for trying to clean my hands and knees without pain med’s. I went to a tent for wounded it only had one cot left. An e-5 asked what had happened. I told him and he said he’d try to get me out of there. He said they had about a Reg of NVA on their peremeter, I told the OIC DR there was a convoy at 1. He said there was a MEDIVAC, if I could find a seat I could go, and I went. The only seat I could find was on the floor with my feet on the skid’s holding the door. I got to the Plieku Mash Unit about 24:00 that night. MEDIVAC started coming from the Oasis, sappers had gotten through the medic tents shooting and wounding two of them I had talked to. I was there for about 5 day’s. My right arm was swelled up to about two times larger than normal. So they sent me to Japan to a burn ward for 45 day’s seeing men dying everyday. That was my R&R, I was sent back to the 359th in apr 1969.

I still have bad dreams every night, can not forget!

STORY BY JOHN DODD 1968-9

John Dodd was a career soldier and had begun his second tour in Vietnam December 1968. He was assigned to the 359th Transportation Company. The 359th had just transfered from An Khe to Pleiku in November and December 1968, and was attached to the 124th Transportation Battalion. It had been attached to the 240th Quartermaster Battalion. Once the battalion had connected the pipeline all the way to Pleiku, this discontinued the need for POL trucks to drive Route 19. However, constant pilferage and interdiction by the enemy forced the Quartermaster Battalion to shut down the pipeline. From then on POL trucks had to drive the most deadly road in Vietnam.
Soon after Dodd arrived the 359th built two gun trucks, Brutus and The Misfits, and a couple gun jeeps. Sgt Prescott along with his crew and maintenance personel built Brutus. It took its first road trip with Prescott as the NCOIC on or about February 1969. Brutus had two M60’s and a 7.62 mini-gun in an armored box. The Misfits was a 2 1/2 ton with a M60 mounted on the rear corner and one .50 caliber on a pedestal in the middle of the gun box. The Misfits was built about Feb/Mar 1969 and hit the road the latter part of March with John Dodd as the NCOIC. Dodd’s crew was a driver John Hodges and Bill Ward M60 gunner. Peter Hish and Alan Wernstrum substituted as gunners when they were not driving.
Escorting fuel convoy”s with each tractor hauling 5,000 gallons of high explosive fuel was probably the most dangerous mission for the gun trucks. The enemy preferred to hit fuel tankers because the resulting fire usually blocked the road and trapped the other trucks.
On 9 June Brutus, The Misfits, and a lead Jeep were escorting about 30 fuel tankers out of the Ponderosa on a return trip to Pleiku. The jeep with convoy commander SSG Hutcherson, M60 gunner Roger Blink, and driver Jerry Usher were the lead vehicle. The Misfits with NCOIC John Dodd, gunners Bill ward, Peter Hish and Alan Wernstrum were in the middle. The Misfits sported an M60 on the corner of the gun box along with the crews M16 rifles. The M2 .50 was mounted on a pedestal in the middle of the box. Brutus was the rear vehicle with Albert Wilson driving, Wayne Prescott was the NCOIC/mini-gunner/radioman and Merton Barrowcliff was the M60 gunner. Brutus was a 5 ton with left and right  M60’s and a rear mini-gun. The six barrel Gatling gun fired 7.62mm rounds at an awesome speed, but was prone to misfiring. The mini-gun’s rate of fire inspired fear in the enemy. The convoy had no air support that day.
Just after the convoy had passed the Korean compound at the base of the An Khe Pass it started receiving small arms fire. Dodd heard several rounds hit The Misfits armor plating. At the same time he heard Prescott screaming “Contact, Contact, Contact”. Dodd saw enemy movement about a hundred yards in the field and returned fire. The gun truck cleared the kill zone and continued up the An Khe Pass. Dodd radioed back to Prescott and asked how he was doing. He answered Brutus was still involved and all weapons were working fine. Mini-guns were not designed for the road and the bumpy ride tended to knock out the timing mechanism. Prescott had to spend a lot of time working on that gun. When Dodd called back Prescott said they had engaged about 40 enemy and fired the mini-gun at them.
As the road leveled out, The Misfits picked up speed again. On top of the pass it received more small arms fire, but nothing to shoot at. The excitement passed as they left the danger behind them and normal “chit-chat” began. They talked about getting a cold beer from the Coke Girls in An Khe. Dodd joked with the others while he kicked around brass under his feet. They crossed the bridge which was the last check point before getting to An Khe. Dodd called in the check point. In a few minutes they would stage along the road in An Khe.
A few seconds later he heard a mortor explosion behind them. He looked back to see that the security force on the bridge were under fire. The lead jeep had been allowed to pass the kill zone. Dodd recognized the sound of AK47’s. This time Dodd was screaming “Contact, Contact, Contact”. He saw V.C. running around the field to his left and opened fire with the .50 caliber, Hish and Ward worked as a team on the M60, while Wernstrum fired his M16. Someone on the radio was asking for their location and size of the enemy force. Right after that an RPG slammed into the front portion of the gun box.. The blast knocked Dodd’s feet from under him, but he did not let go of the machinegun. Wernstrum was bringing up another box of .50 ammo and Dodd had Hodges pull the gun truck over so they could provide fire support until the rest of the tankers past.
The voice on the radio let them know that air support was comming. Dodd would think a short burst with the .50, but his fingers called for long burst. A second RPG impacted about three feet from the rear of the box. Dodd felt blood hit his eyes. He looked down and saw that he had been hit in the leg, chest, and face. But with the adrenaline pumping he felt no pain. As he looked around, he saw that the blast had blown Hish and Wernstrum out of the gun box. Ward was on the floor clutching his stomach. Dodd realized in a flash his whole crew was wounded. He radioed that he had three badly wounded and needed med evac. Hodges the driver, climed out and up on the corner of the box and pointed out some water buffalo where he saw enemy movement. The V.C.  were observing hiding behind the biffalo and old papason was having a fit because he knew he was about to loose his work animals. Hodges was told to get back in the truck and get ready to move out. A call came in that med evac was being dispatched. Dodd picked up another box of ammo and loaded it. Hish and Wernstrum were conscious and had crawled into the ditch on the side of the road. As Pete Hish was standing up to try and get onto the tailgate another RPG hit the rear of the box knocking him back to the ground. Dodd saw the enemy running across the road and firing on a M60 Tank and an M113 APC. Their fire kept the V.C. from over running The Misfits. The V.C. had shot Hish as they passed. Dodd and Ward were to badly wounded to climb out and rescue the other crew members. Ward needed immediate medical attention. Dodd hit the cab top and Hodges drove away. Hish said he was looking up and saw the rear of the vehicle getting farther away and thought “Oh hell” “What am I going to do now”. In a few seconds they had cleared the kill zone, Dodd could see the med evac as the hospital was only a short distance away. Dodd had hoped they would get there very soon. Ward was sitting on the medical box holding his wound. Dodd grabbed a large bandage and had him hold it against the wound.
Dodd had called back to Brutus and found that the mini-gun had misfired/jammed, but they still managed to keep the enemy from rushing his truck. Hish looked up and saw the med evac helicopter, The pilots reported they observed enemy being dragged into the jungle. It was told years later that they almost missed Wernstrum. The Misfits pulled into An Khe where the trucks were assembled. Hodges stopped long enough to tell them to tell SSG Hutcherson they had gone to the Field Hospital. Dodd told him to go straight to the hospital. Hodges drove through the gate at Camp Radcliffe doing about thirty miles per hour. The MP’s saw they were in trouble. Two MP’s jumped in a jeep and led them to the hospital. Dodd was looking after Ward when he saw that Hodges had the bumper of the gun truck about two inches from the jeep. The MP looked back and Dodd motioned for him to speed up or pull over.
Once at the hospital the medics helped the two wounded from the gun truck amd put them on tables in the receiving area. The nurse told them that their friends had already arrived and were in X-Ray. Bill ward was also rushed to X-Ray. They cut Dodd’s clothes from him and the doctor began pulling metal from him. He told Dodd the blood from his face was from a missing piece from the end of his nose. Dodd’s real concern was fartther down. He kept trying to lift up to see what the doctor was doing. THe nurse kept pushing him back down, because Dodd persisted on raising. She took her hands from his chest and grabbed his “Family Jewels” and told him not to worry, everything was OK. Dodd laid back and relaxed.
While the doctors worked on Dodd they brought in a wounded V.C. and put him on a table next to him. Dodd asked them to move the S.O.B. away in a loud voice. Another nurse came in and told him that Wernstrum had fragment wounds and a badly damaged hand. Hish had fragment wounds and had been shot. The crew had a short reunion that evening. They were presented a RPG fragment that EOD had pulled from the truck and decided that Dodd could hold onto it. It was later donated to the Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Hish and Wernstrum were sent to Japan that evening. Bill Ward went back to the 359th, but was immediately sent to the Pleiku Hospital and sent to Japan. Dodd was later flown to the 4th Infantry Division air strip near Pleiku. From there he hitched a ride to the 359th company area. He did light work supervising the local help around the company. He then rode on Vietnamese convoys calling in check points. He rode The Misfits for a month and left country on 4 November 1969. Not a day passes that Dodd don’t think about this ambush.

BY LOUIS BRITTINGHAM 1968-9

THE BIRTH OF BRUTUS

I am CW3RET Louis Brittingham, formerly the Maintenance Warrant of the 359th in 1968-9. During my tenure as maintence tech/officer of the 359th, it was my custom to occasionally ride the convoy to experience what the men and epuipment had to endure and to enhance the maintence precepts for convoy operation’s. Most of the time, I drove my own 3/4 ton while my 5 ton maintenance truck carried mechanics, mounted spare tires, oil, fuel, etc.

Few trips were made thru the Ahn Khe Pass without an ambush. We lost men and vehicles. King Cobra, Little Nancy, King’s Men and some more gun trucks already existed, however; there was never too much firepower. I decided that my 5 ton could double as a gun truck and maintence truck so I set about designing it and “obtaining” the armor and weaponry. I conceived of it having a large caliber main gun and at least two 50’s. I had an Air Force friend who got me a 20 mm aircraft wing gun which I tried to build a swivel mount for as the main gun. Unfortnately, my welding team could not build a mount that would hold up under sustained fire of the 20 mm gun. I don’t know how in the world an aircraft wing stands the shock.

It just so happened that my brother, Sgt Alvin Brittingham, a Huey Crew Chief, was stationed up at Phu Bai with the 101st at MACV Forward. I had now opted to try and mount a 7.62 mm Mini on the gun truck so I went up to visit Al and came back with the gun and all it’s accessories. There was a Sgt. Prescott in the unit whose truck was shot up on every convoy and he had a score to settle with “Charlie”. When Sgt Prescott saw what I was doing with my maintenance truck, he asked if he could transfer to maintenance and drive this new gun truck. This could not happen but what we did do was to assign my truck to his section and have him command it, So then Sgt Prescott took an active role in the building of the truck with my maintenance section. He spent hours when not on the road; in the shop cutting, welding and sweating over his new vehicle to be.

We installed armor plate on the floor side to side. then we installed armor plate against the inside of the bed walls; front and sides. Then we installed armor plate the width of mounted spare wheels inside the outside armored wall, This wall had a rear plating as well. We armor plated the windshield and doors each having armored glass in them. We then placed the radio in a cutout between the cab and body.The 7.62 mm mini gun and it’s feed mechanism was installed about the center of the inside armored area on a tripod mount having a full 360 degree field of fire. In each front corner, we mounted a 50 cal machine gun on a 1 x1/2 foot length swiveling brackets that could be moved from the side rails to the front rail; thus giving each gun about 185 degree field of fire. There were claymores on the outside of the bed which were only armed when underway. We then sat a 40 mm mortar behind the main gun tripod with sand bags on the legs and base to stabilize it when fired. Needless to say, each gunner had to be aware of what he was doing all the time.

Sgt Prescott asked if he could name the truck. After all his work and his being now the commander of the newest 8th Group Gun Truck, it was only fitting that he should. Sgt Prescott went to a Signal outfit or somewhere and came up with that bright “Signal Orange” and painted in huge scrolling letters– “BRUTUS”. I hope that if Brutus is still around that Sgt Prescott’s original design is still on it. I still have still shots and 8mm motion pictures of Sgt Prescott’s crew and their first test firing of Brutus. We towed a 1/4 ton trailer out to the range and pretty soon emptied it. It was an exhilarating event with all that fire power off of one truck.

I wasn’t out with the convoy when Brutus was initiated, but the story goes something like this. They were going down the Ahn Khe Pass when “Charlie” ambushed the convoy. Of course the rule is if you can, keep moving. It was said that Sgt Prescott & Brutus was somewhere between the middle and the rear of the convoy. When they arrived at the ambush site, Sgt Prescott opened up with the 7.62 mini gun and the front gunners with the 50’s. It was said “That it was like mowing grass”. “The elephant grass and Charlie were being mowed down leaving only a wide clearing around Brutus”. Gun ships were called but when they arrived on site and saw what Brutus was doing, they said “They would come in but Brutus had to stop when they got in close”. After all, that was the same gun they had onboard and they wanted none of that.

This was one day that Sgt Prescott’s truck was not shot out from under him. When I next saw Sgt Prescott and crew, they were still on an adrenaline high from the exctement of that initiation of Brutus. I have to confess; I too was mighty happy to have had a small part in this success story.

Not long after, I lost half of my maintenance crew when Charlie sent 122’s right into our motor pool area; blowing up the shop and wounding all of my night shift. Time went on. I completed that second tour in Nam in March of 1970, came home and tried to forget. Still, I see faces, hear familiar names, and see visions of the past. Tonight I typed in 359th and up came Brutus. Yes, I know Brutus and when I think of Brutus I see Sgt Prescott and the faces of many other good men. I went to “the wall”. Some were there. I see you commanded and/crewed Brutus. I am sure that Brutus served you well. Brutus was born of the spirit, will and Determination of some mighty good men.

CW3 Ret Louis “Pat” Brittingham

BY JIM HOPEWELL 1968-9

When I got to Pleiku in April 1968 Brutus had a gunner named Prescott. Brutus was equiped with a 50 Cal machine gun on the front and two M60 machine gun’s on the back. A few month’s after I got there Prescott and I went to the air force base next to us and struck up a deal with one of his friends to trade a Mini-Gun for 10 cases of C rations. That afternoon we came home with a Mini-Gun. Prescott went to the motor pool and had them make a bracket stand for it in the back of Brutus. He even manufactured a set of bicycle handlebars with a kill switch to be able to make the Mini-Gun swivel in the back of Brutus. Hope I’m not giving away to many secrets. But that was the greatest addition to Brutus that ever happened.

I wonder if Lt Runkle remembers our ambush when our jeep was blown off the road. I got a gash on the head and kept going to An Khe. Have been trying to get the Purple Heart for that one. But no morning report or substantiating evidence for it. Rocket blew up under the jeep and sent us rolling to the right. Not a lot of damage, uprighted the gun jeep, and kept going. An Khe medic’s gave us a tag and of course I threw it away. Later I had to process a Purple Heart for the guy who drove Brutus, who sprained his ankle on the way to the motor pool to get Brutus. Oh well! Water under the bridge and at our age who needs a Purple Heart.

BY JAMES BIRD 1968-9

The gun truck Brutus was not done when I seen it. It was started and had the spare tire boxes started. When I started helping the fabricator at the motor pool, when it was just north of Camp Schimdt. If I remember you had to walk through a path between two compounds to get to the motor pool, and I may just have worked on two or three day’s. I cannot remember how long it took to build. When I was helping we were installing the armor plates on the sides and back of the truck. they used a wrecker to lift the sheets on the truck. The fabricator then welded them in place. When the truck went in service it had two M60 machine gun’s on the front and one 50 caliber on the rear. A short time later, when one of the regular guy’s, not an officer traded someone over at the Air Force base some items for the Mini Gun that was mounted in the rear where the 50 Cal machine gun was. If I remember correctly the feeder de linker unit that fed the ammo belts and drove the gun required 28 volts dc, and the truck was 24 volts dc. So when they hooked it up it was slower than it would have been if it had been the correct voltage. The same guy then traded someone at the Air Force base for a set of regular tread tires for the steering axle.