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 howitzers 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!