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The 1/92nd Field Artillery
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Lt. Stanley

Ben Het - March 30 to April 7+

by Archie Stanley - 7/15th Artillery

  Tuesday, March 30 1971

  I called in 175 fire all day today. It is 11:15 p.m. and right now I have them shooting at various grids every hour on the hour. They will shoot all night at these targets I just sent. It has been a long long day! The other three IOS guys were called back to Arty Hill. One left yesterday. Only two replacements were sent up. So the three of us here now are completely new to the IOS (Integrated Observation System).

   I have had two days on it, they have had only this afternoon. I taught them the basics in between calling in 175 fire. We're running three shifts now. I have the 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. shift. Maybe we'll get a couple more replacements soon. Then we would be up to full strength although short on experience.

  The two choppers are still down. Two ARVN companies are securing them, but any chopper that attempts to come close gets fired upon. Napalm was called in today on the enemy, along with our 175 fire.

  The two new guys are real nice. I like them real well already. One from Pennsylvania (Jim), the other from Maine (Carl).

  It was a busy busy day! I have not eaten or showered, and need to do both soon. I also need to sleep. My adrenalin has pumped itself out. I told my two guys to wake me if something comes up they don't understand. They neither one do well on the radio. I want them to concentrate on our security by constantly sweeping the starlight scope. Here I go, by the numbers: 1. Shower, 2. eat something, 3, sleep. I am so tired I don't know what I am doing.

  The FB 6 IOS Lt. was real busy today with missions to his south west. We couldn't shoot our 175's much because from where the 175's are and the places he is shooting 105's to is so close to his position, in order for the 175 rounds to clear the top of his hill, they would go right over and above where he need them to hit. So we concentrated mainly on the ARVN /downed chopper operations to our southwest. I spoke with him again tonight, mostly just routine stuff. I hope to get over there sometime to see how they are set up with their IOS. They can see 360 degrees which is something we can't do. From our position we are blocked by buildings in one direction and can only see about 320 degrees. I especially don't like this situation at night. IF the enemy figured this situation out, they could come to here along that blocked corridor and we couldn't see them. But fortunately the searchlight does go 360 degrees, and there is a second lower part of Ben Het, called the “West Hill” (as well as a “North Hill”) with security forces there that would intercept anything from that direction. There is a former water tower here that no longer is used and the tank part is even gone. I have been looking it over as a possible future IOS position. It has a 360 view! But it looks to be not real stable. Just four posts and a platform.

  We have a little boy here who does the laundry every day. He really does a great job! He looks to be about 12 or 13 years old. His name is “Han” pronounced like “gone”. He charges 100 Piaster for a set of fatigues, underwear, and socks. That is about 30 cents. He even irons the clothes. He is really a hard worker! I will take his picture one of these days.

  Wednesday, March 31, 1971 11:30 P.M.

  Today was even worse than yesterday! I have been running back and forth coordinating artillery fire from 6:00 this morning. It most probably will go on all night. There are hundreds of campfires burning tonight all to the south east of us. The only good things about the campfires is they really light up the starlight scope. We can't use them as targets because many of them could be scattered ARVN troops from the intense battles the past 2 days.

  This morning at 6:00 A.M. Firebase six, an ARVN Firebase on a hill steeper and higher than Ben Het and to our south east by about 4 miles was hit hard. Really hard! It was shelled all day long and eventually hit by 9 waves of NVA with small arms and small flamethrowers. This was the first use of flamethrowers by the NVA in the entire war. It was rumored but not confirmed that North Koreans fought along side the NVA in this battle, which would also be a first. There were (4) 105mm View thru ISOhowitzers there and my IOS counterpart Lt. Thacker with his 4 guys and some MACV Advisors. I was adjusting 175 rounds all day long around FB 6 while the NVA were shelling it. Two attempts were made to go in with choppers to evacuate the ARVNs and Americans from the hill. Both choppers were shot down, one pilot killed and two wounded. The rest of the crews got away safely and were picked up by a chopper on the other side of the hill. When it was taken over, the ARVN fled down the opposite side of the hill, most of whom were picked up by chopper. The FB 6 IOS Lt. had also been adjusting artillery fire from his position, but the smoke had gotten so thick he could not see where the rounds were landing to be able to adjust the next ones closer to where he needed them. So he called for me to adjust our 175's directly onto his position. I asked if he was sure - and he immediately confirmed!! So I had one round put on a known grid point close to FB 6 that I knew would be accurate and that I could for sure see visually from my position. When it hit perfectly, I was filled with confidence in the grid registration work that Thacker and I had done previously for situations that might call for immediate and accurate fire and adjustment with a minimum of "stepping" the rounds incrementally closer to the intended target. I was so confident and knew that time was of such essence that I plotted on the map one adjustment from the first test shot to the exact top of the FB 6 Hill, called the adjustment in from the pre-coded grid point, to the Battery FDC (Fire Direction Center) and ordered "Fire-For-Effect HE" (High Explosive) "all available" (Rounds). The Battery shot with two guns continuously for an hour. Thacker destroyed his code books, shot through his IOS, and covered the remaining friendlys as they fled over the opposite side of the hill. Finally from the last remaining bunker, the rest having been taken over by the NVA, the IOS Lt. (Brian Thacker) emptied his M-16 in a final sweep of his last magazine and also fled down the opposite side of the hill. Later, Thacker was back on a radio somehow and called for an "Arclight" (Code word for a B-52 strike) on his FB 6 location. Tonight we have been shooting 175's in all over FB 6 and the Air force napalmed and bombed it heavily. Another battalion of ARVN's was brought in to Ben Het today for extra security. We now have four ARVN battalions around our area. Wow things have picked up considerably since I got here. The first two days weren't bad, but yesterday and today, wow!! For now this place is where the action is!

  I hope Thacker is okay, but I am so worried for him. I keep watching and hoping to see him coming into Ben Het.

  Thursday, April 1, 1971

  Today we were looking FB 6 over with the IOS when we saw a 105 howitzer on top of the hill pointed right at Tan Canh. We called it in and not three minutes later a round was fired right at Tan Canh. The NVA (or we) had blown up 3 of the 4 105's on FB 6 and the NVA took the 4th 105 and turned it on Tan Canh (our 175's) with several rounds. Then the 105 turned toward Ben Het and put a round right over our heads. Then back toward Tan Canh with several more rounds. We called in 175's as well as 155's on the hill. About 25 or 30 secondary explosions went off, and we followed up with Air force 500 lb bombs and napalm. When the smoke got so thick the air force circled a plane high over the hill and adjusted even more artillery in on it. Also a fortified “Spectre” gun-ship was working FB 6 over. After the smoke cleared about 3:00 this afternoon, I reported "No movement" on the hill. About an hour later 8 or 9 choppers came and put a company of ARVN's in on the hill. All is quiet now.

  Thacker. May God help him and the others.

  Friday, April 2, 1971

  We shot only one 175 fire mission today.

  But we took 4 incoming rounds inside our perimeter! I called in to Tan Canh after the first one hit and reported the incoming, gave them an azimuth and distance and on the run said we are going to the bunker. After the 4th round hit, I called back and gave more details: Size rounds - 82 mm, azimuth, distance, elevation, and no damage or casualties. The closest round hit about 50 feet from the IOS. After a half hour went by and the 175s hadn't shot I called Tan Canh as to why. They said they couldn't shoot. I said WHAT and WHY? They reported confidentiality. I said then code it up. They did. The answer came back that the rounds were being launched from inside an American minefield. Damn! I went downstairs (it is almost always them coming upstairs to get me to shoot 175's) to see if the ARVNs could put some firepower on the shooter's coordinates. They said, "Oh sure, we can do it. But they did hit it good! No more shooting at us from there at least for now.

  Tan Canh took incoming most of the day within their perimeter also. Our 175's stood by ready to fire on other enemy locations for me, but the ARVNs continued to do just fine so I stuck with them.

  I found out that my "Fire for Effect" onto FB 6 yesterday landed 38 8” rounds (2 guns, 19 rounds each) and 25 175 mm rounds (2 guns) all HE (High Explosive) fuse VT (variable timing) exactly on target in less than one hour while themselves taking incoming fire.

  I have tremendous diarrhea today, and sick to my stomach, weak and dizzy, and bad cramps! I took some of the Pepto pills that Grandpa sent me, but couldn't eat lunch or dinner. Tell Grandpa his pills helped!

  Thacker, please be safe somewhere!

  (During this approximate time period a "Daisy Cutter" 15,000 lb. bomb was dropped on enemy troops for the first or second time. We saw the blast to our south east and to the south west of FB 6. It created a mushroom cloud far above the blast. The "Daisy Cutter" bomb is shoved out the back of a C-130. It has a parachute to ensure a vertical drop, and a 10 foot probe on it's nose to blow the explosives just above the ground. The bomb blast is designed to be horizontal and clears all vegetation in a 100 meter circle. The bomb was designed to instantly clear an area suitable for a fire base.)

  Sunday, April 4, 1971

  We had a B-52 strike today near FB 6. Fire Base 6 is headlines in the Stars and Stripes, and on the radio everyday. A five tank ARVN convoy came to add security to Ben Het. Rations in today and a case of C-rations I ordered for my guy who works the night shift (Jim). I figure he gets hungry up in the tower working there all night. He thanked me and thanked me for it. He has been in Vietnam in the 1st Cav 105s for over a year. He said he never met an officer that cared about his men like I do. I don't think I have done so much for them. I try to put myself in their place and attempt to get them what they need. He just came again to say thanks and how much he appreciated it.

  I looked over and studied the old water tower platform today. It is very tempting as a place for the IOS. A lot of work to prepare it structurally and disassemble and re-assemble the IOS, and then place sandbags, and re-aim and test it. I spotted some timbers today that I may be able to confiscate. They could be used to brace the tower legs. I will check in the morning to get permission to move it.

  No Thacker yet - I am still hoping!


Monday, April 5, 1971

Quiet here. A few rockets being fired at FB 6.

  Colonel Blanch, 52nd Group XO (Executive Officer) is acting Battalion Commander for us the next two weeks while Colonel Bannister is on leave. Colonel Blanch seems real nice. He came up to pay me and give me my mail, and ask me about what all had been going on.I asked him if we could expect to be here for a while. He said yes, probably for quite awhile.

ISO   As long as we have guns that are positioned to shoot into this area, we will be here. Right now the only guns that can shoot here are at Tan Canh, a little village on the west end of the larger village of Dac To. I imagine the guns will stay there as long as there is action here.

  No Thacker.

I studied the old water tower platform again this morning, called and got permission to move the IOS to it. They said I was in charge and the engineer, and should make the decision. I know two things for sure. It would be in a better place to provide for our security and we must plan to make the actual IOS move in as brief a time period as is possible. Oh yeah, and the tower has to be extra strong. I got some help and we carried the timbers up closer to the water tower platform. Not much in the way of tools, but we found a hammer and scrounged up some old rebar that we could use as connections. Then someone located a primitive drill brace and bit and a sledge hammer and handsaw too. The platform needs bracing laterally as well as vertically. I thought about the loading from sandbags, people, and machine [I discarded any snow loading effect :-)] and crunched some stress numbers, and decided that an additional vertical member on each side plus strengthening the connections of the existing diagonal braces from corner to corner on each side would probably be adequate, but to be sure, attaching the existing diagonal braces at their midpoints to the new side vertical timbers on each side would ensure that the top-heavy thing would not topple over from the weight. And a 6x6 brace will go under middle of the floor. There is a row of concrete blocks about 4 or 5 rows high around the near outside of the platform. The guys are excited about moving the machine, but I make sure that it stays put where it has been doing great duty until we are absolutely ready to move it all in one pre-planned efficient operation. The bracing seemed to take forever. We all worked like horses - dirty, sweaty, bruised hands, etc. I have never put in a harder day! A lot of beating with the sledge hammer, repositioning, prying, pounding, pushing, and pulling finally had all braces in place and fastened. We wedged each one in and ended up double-pinning all ends together. We worked from 10:00 to 6:00 . I would have liked to have finished everything in one day, but since the IOS was still in the original position for use as needed, I elected to shut everyone down early to rest. One of the guys will go to sleep this evening while the other one mans the IOS and rests. I will continue to check our connections and keep strengthening the tower and build a ladder.

  Tomorrow morning we will put the entire compound on full alert status and move the IOS quickly up and get it re-aimed and set. I won't tell a soul our moving plan until morning so as not to take a chance of compromising our security any more than necessary, and then move sandbags up all morning.

Stars and Stripes reporters here today and a UPI newsperson.

Tuesday, April 6, 1971

We disassembled the IOS into it's six major components, hoisted each component carefully up into the tower, re-assembled it and re-aimed it all in two hours! We waited until one hour after daybreak, made the alert, shut down our operation and was back up and running by 9:00 A.M. I had a pair of binoculars and all my maps ready to spot any firemission needed, but nothing went down. At 9:10 I radioed Tan Canh and Artillery hill that our mission was complete and that we were fully capable and ready. They were surprised and relieved. I think they thought it was going to take a lot more time to do it.

So, we did it! We made the tower safe, moved the IOS, laid it in with an aiming circle (SADULU) and checked it with an M-2 compass, and then checked azimuths to pre-selected points (no change detected since we moved the IOS only about 20 feet horizontally) and noted only a slight distance change in the overall scheme. I fired a test shot and could see no perceptible change - after all, the bursting diameter of our rounds is 95 meters!!! Then I reset all sights for Binoculars, starlight, and laser so as to coincide at distance, checked all levels, and we were in business.

We have now mounted our M-60 machinegun in the tower and have stocked a lot of ammo for it there. Also our radio set, extra batteries, helmets, and my A.M. radio. I leave it there so all of us can listen to it from time to time, especially at night when it is very quiet up there. The guys keep it covered up real well so when it rains it will be all right.

No sign of Thacker. I am wondering if he made it out...or not.

  Wednesday, April 7, 1971

  All quiet here. No word on Thacker.

  Tonight real late I will radio Greska and have him tell my roommate Mike Kostiw goodbye for me. He leaves Arty Hill on the 9th for Can Rhan for out-processing to go home. I hate not to see him before he goes. I sure am glad for him. I sure will be glad when it is my turn to go home.

We worked moving about half of the sandbags from 10:00 to 2:30, only breaking for lunch. Tired, tired, tired!!!!!!! Dirty, aching and tired. I told one guy to go rest and sleep until Midnight and the other to rest but watch the IOS. It had finally dawned on me that the sun beat very hard on us throughout the day at the former IOS position, and we could use a roof of sorts to block the mid-day sun. So I went scrounging and found some corrugated tin that would do, and some support corner post 2 x 4's. I also noticed some ARVN guys that had some tools - how did I miss that earlier??? - anyway, I struck up a conversation with them and worked out a deal for them to build a roof for us. Hell they had it built in no time and did a good job. They just left and said "no problem GI", but I will find a way to pay them back - probably cigarettes and or food. We were all extra tired, so getting the roof built by others was a good thing.

The ARVN's just went to get water for the showers and the water truck hit a land mine. It destroyed the truck, hurt 5 people - had to Medivac 2 of them back to Pleiku hospital. All are doing fine. Luckily we had all showered before it happened, because we were all filthy!

General Anderson visited Ben Het today. He asked me a lot of questions about the IOS machine. I answered all I could. A Colonel Bentley (My Mother's maiden name) was with him. He didn't know much about his family but that he did have relation in Ohio . His father was raised in Montana. His Grandfather was a missionary from Ohio. The general had a walking stick with a thermometer that read 93 degrees.

2 straight days no rain.

  No word on Thacker.

Tower at Ben Het  (See below for my account of Thacker coming back - I cannot verify the exact date that this account was for).

I cleaned my M-16 today.

  Jim Moore sent my packages up today. He was keeping them for me, but I am here long past when I expected to be, so I am glad he sent them. I am sharing my goodies with my guys. With the packages, he sent a note that said "To the War Zone - Ben Het compliments of.....hey, I will just send it along to you with this letter. Blair is the mail clerk, Jim is Postal Officer along with his regular job as S1 (Paperwork).

I managed to burn my hand today when the book of matches lit afire as I lit a match to burn my old daily code book. We were still too tired to finish moving the sandbags today. The ARVN went to get the Water truck. We had a B-52 strike and jet bomber diving strike about 3000 meters from here. I listened to Nixon's speech this morning.

I didn't reach Greska last night to say goodbye to Mike for me, so I will try him again tonight. From what I could tell listening to the radio, our C-Battery has moved to Kontum from Schuller. So I imagine Mark's Battery has moved to LZ (Landing Zone) Action (just this side of Schuller). So, we now should have 4 guns each at Kontum, Oasis, and Tan Canh. No real word of moves is made on the radio, I am just surmising from what I do hear.

I don't know who is doing my old job, but I know he is running around trying to keep up with what must be a lot of breakdowns with all the moving that has been going on. Once I get back to Arty Hill and start my new Survey job, I know I will like it better than I did Maintenance.


  Thacker is back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He crawled, limped, walked his way back up the hill to Fire Base 6 today with broken eardrums from the B-52 strikes, and having lost 40 lbs from dehydration and starvation. I heard it on the radio from a guy reporting it to Arty hill.

I didn't learn these details until later back at Arty Hill: Thacker licked dew moisture from leaves each morning and consumed only one ant during his time in the bamboo thickets. He reported being able to smell the enemy they were so close to where he hid.

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