B Battery Stories

The 1/92nd Field Artillery
Association - Vietnam

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'Doc' & Lt James Hughes


Thank God, I'm Alive!

By James Hughes

November 13, 1968 Kon Tum Province, Central Highlands, Viet Nam

Landing Zone Vera US Army, Battery B, 1 st of the 92 Artillery

As Experienced By: 1 st Lt. James Hughes (age 21 in 1968)

The day before, we moved our towed 155 howitzer battery by trucks to a new position near the border of Cambodia. The Paris peace talks were underway, and President Johnson had ordered a halt to the bombing of the Ho Chi Min Trail. Someone decided we were going to fire 155 artillery rounds into the enemy supply lines instead.

As the fire direction officer, my job was to get the FDC operational and get the guns firing into the zone as soon as we could. In the meantime we were digging holes, filling sandbags, trying to make little hooches to sleep in. After midnight I crawled in and collapsed only to be awakened by mortar rounds hitting my hooch and on the ground all around me. Since my hooch was exploding, I had to get out.

I realized I had been hit and went running to the 1 st Sergeant's hooch and ducked inside. He was in there wounded, too. Both of us were scared shitless and didn't know what to do next. So we laid in the dark and prayed the only prayer we could think of at the moment. We said it together: “Father, who art in heaven, hallowed is Your Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”

Well, I was ready to die if that was what was coming next. Instead of dying, I felt energized and alive. It was time to act. I leapt out of the darkness into the night with all kinds of noise and confusion. Our howitzers were not firing. Our FDC was dark inside and no radios working. There was rifle fire and mortar rounds. I ran to a jeep and found a PRC 25 radio, turned it on, and called out for help to anyone who might be listening. “May Day! May Day! We are under attack! Fire Mission, Over!”

A voice came back, asking me where I was. I didn't have a map, and I didn't know the coordinates; so all I could give them was some vague answer. The voice was from a 175 battery many miles away, and I asked them to fire a round of smoke at our own position or in our general direction. Maybe I could figure it out from there. All eyes were on me. I knew this was a long shot, and I was flying by the seat of my pants. But I was the only one doing anything to stop the madness.

A few minutes passed as we were waiting for an smoke explosion. It might hit us. It might be too far away to ever see where it went. Then, suddenly, we hear it coming, and there it was………..a loud BOOM! About 200 yards away, out in the woods, exactly where the enemy fire was coming from, the artillery round exploded, and I saw smoke. A perfect shot. I yelled out on the radio, “I see your smoke, FIRE FOR EFFECT!”

About a minute later artillery rounds were bursting all over the enemy. Soon, a huge helicopter we called “Puff the Magic Dragon” arrived overhead and started firing their quad 50 caliber machine guns at the enemy. The enemy stopped firing at us, and everything seemed to calm down.

By then I had lost much blood, was feeling very tired. The medic wrapped some bandages on me and led me to a ditch where I laid down with other wounded men. A medivac helicopter was picking up casualties, and I left the jungle that night and was taken to the hospital in Pleiku. When I was asleep someone pinned a Purple Heart on my bed sheet.

A few days later I was in a hospital in Japan. A month or so later I was sent back to the USA. After several months, the Commanding General at Ft. Still gave me a Bronze Star with the “V” device for valor. That was a complete surprise.

I have thought about that night many times over the last 45 years. What would have happened to me if I had not uttered that prayer?

I have concluded that I could have done nothing without God who strengthened me and protected me. It was a miracle. Of course, God is in the miracle business.

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