The 1/92nd Field
The USNS Gordon
The 1st 92nd Artillery was stationed at Ft. Bragg, where it belongs with other elite units. Jan. 1967 our equipment was sent to Charleston SC., for the trip to Vietnam. 1/92 Advance party left for Vietnam on the 21st of Feb.1967 and arrived on Feb.26, 1967.The main body left from Pope Air Force Base, adjacent to FT. Bragg on the 11th and 12th of Feb. 1967.We flew to Oakland Cal. Army Terminal, and were bused to our ship the USNS Gordon. I was in the first group boarding the ship on the 11th.There was approximately 3000 Marines and 2000 Army men on the ship. When we boarded, it looked like they were all on our side of the ship staring at us. Later, I learned why everybody was out on the deck. It seemed like forever getting to our sleeping quarters, which was at the very bottom of the ship. I remember the odor upon entering. There was very little air-conditioning, and the place looked full. All you could see were arms and legs sticking out of folding hammocks stacked five or six high with about two feet in between them. I worked my way to the back looking for an empty one. The one I found was the 4th one from the bottom. A lucky find, I will explain later. As soon as we could, we all went on deck, joining the thousand of guys staring at the pier. There were a few protesters at the far end of the pier. Protesting wasn't in fashion yet. February 13th 1967 the USNS Gordon left Oakland. I remember there was a Military band playing; and on the far end of the pier a little old lady seemed to be reading from a Bible joined by a few protesters. This surreal picture should have tipped me off to what I should expect in Vietnam. The best news on the trip came by way of an announcement on the loud speakers. All PFC and lower Ranks will have KP. E-4 will have Guard Duty. Since I was an E-4 I thought this was great. Guard Duty for us, was patrolling the deck at night, easy duty. I can't remember any incidents between the Marines and the Army troops. I should add that listening to announcements became some of the most exciting things on the trip. The second day at sea we ran into a storm. The storm lasted several days and the rough seas even longer. It seems everybody was seasick. No one was allowed on deck for three days. That meant you were either on your hammock, or in the Galley. It took real courage to visit the Head. I didn't get sick but I spent about a week lying on my hammock eating saltine crackers. Remember, I said I was lucky to find a hammock 4th from the bottom. When every one around you is seasick, it pays to be up high. An announcement came over the loud speakers, that the Captain has cancelled all Ships Inspection until further notice. I found out why, the first time I tried to go to the Head. I went to the Galley only once during this period. The guys were serving with one hand and holding a ten-penny can with the other in case they got sick. Chip beef on toast anyone?
The rest of the trip was complete boredom, except for a few flying fish; I didn't see anything until we got to Okinawa. A Battery would have PT every morning once the weather got better. We would have abandon ship drills; we knew that if this was for real we were all dead. It would take us forever to get from our quarters to the deck. A few Marines had a Band that played every day. They meant well but how many times can you listen to Knock On Wood?
Of course they had movies, under the stars, but with five thousand guys looking for seats, movies were out. You could hang out in the Galley but most of the time we just sat on the deck. Our Officers and Higher Ranking NCO stayed away from us. Which was probably a good idea. It seemed like every day they would announce some poor Marine being sent to the Brig for three days on bread and water and loss of pay. Those 1st LT.s from the Marines were always on our deck, annoying everybody. We all became members of Society of King Neptune. When we reached Okinawa, some one decided that the 1/92 should get off the ship. We ran up and down the pier a few times, and did about forty minutes of PT. While this was going on the guys on the ship were harassing us and throwing loose change at us. I must admit it did feel good to get off the Ship. We docked in Okinawa only a few hours and then off to Vietnam. The rumors were flying now. We were to be the first ones off the Ship. As we entered the South China Sea, there was little conversation and most guys kept to them selves. The next rumor the seas were too rough at Qui Nhon. This must have been true because we landed in Da Nang and the Marines and some Army Units disembarked. It seems like we had the whole Ship to ourselves. That night the Ship headed back to Qui Nhon, I was sitting in the Galley. They had Hanoi Hanna on the radio and she announced that the USNS Gordon was sunk with five thousand on board, and asked all the GI's to put down their weapons, and join the peace loving people of Viet Nam. This place was already strange and I was still on the Ship.
We already were given the elephant pill when it was announced we would leave the Ship tomorrow. Our trip of thirty days will soon be over. Late that night, I stared at the silhouette of Qui Nhon and the hills behind it. I was watching Napalm and artillery hit the hills, I didn't know what was going on, but it had me doing a lot of thinking. Around 0200 on the 11th of March 1967 they got us up and we lined up at the Ships Armory. We were issued our M16 and our Ammo Belts. An hour or so later we were order to load our M16 and we climbed over the side into Navy landing crafts. I don't know how long we spent in the circling, but the sun was coming up when we started toward the shore. We were told to lock and load. There were a lot of things running thru my mind. As the landing craft started to lower the front and we ran on to the beach a little guy comes running toward us yelling GI. Boom boom GI. Well there were two lucky people that day. The little guy, he wasn't shot and the Mama san, none of us knew what boom boom was. The first night we slept on the beach. The next day we traveled thru Qui Nhon, to Pleiku and finally Artillery Hill. I don't have to tell you guys about Vietnam. All the 1/92 equipment was at Artillery Hill by the 22 of March. A battery left Artillery Hill on the 18th of March, 1967.
Compiled by Gil Goltz
These are 6 guys of the first group (all from Charlie Battalion) that went over on the USS Gordon in 1967.
From left to right are:
Phillip Motylinski, Bruce Peterson, Weldon Plympton, Gilford Pickard, Allen Keller and Simmie Catlett.