C Battery Stories

The 1/92nd Field Artillery
Association - Vietnam

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On the Road in II Corps

By Sp4 Jim Foster

I was in South Vietnam from January to December of 1970. This story is told from a truck driver's point of view. The prime mover for the 155mm-towed howitzer is the 5-ton truck. I was the driver for Gun Section 3. From Weight Davis, to Ben Het, and from Quin Nhon, to Duc Co, these were the roads that I ran. 

The 155mm-towed howitzer requires a heavy-duty truck to pull it around. The howitzer weighed 6 tons. The projectiles weighed 100 lbs. each and the powder charges weighed 30 lbs. per canister. By the time you hooked up the gun and loaded the projectiles, powder, and fuses in the bed of the truck and then threw in all the equipment for the gun, personnel, and personal belongings for the crew you had a pretty good load to pull around. 

The five ton truck was powered by a multi-fuel engine (either a Continental or Mack) and a 5 speed transmission with 2 speed transfer case. There were 3 axles under the truck, and all wheel drive. Top speed was somewhere between 60 and 70 mph. 

We usually put sandbags on the floor, in under the seat, and where your feet sat on the floor. This provided a little bit of protection from the shrapnel of a mine if you ran over one. How much protection they provided is debatable, and thankfully, I didn't have the chance to find out. However there wasn't much you could do about the doors, and those big white stars on the doors that provided a bullseye for Charlie to shoot at. I was fortunate in that I was never in a convoy that was hit, but I saw some trucks that had been, and I mean to tell you they could really fill those stars full of holes, and of course the driver sitting on the other side. 

You won't see as many pictures with this story as with some of the others because its kind of hard to take pictures and shift gears at the same time. Up until about April 1970 most of the moves Charlie Battery made were by helicopter. When we came back from the trip on the coast in February and March of 1970 most of the moves made from that point on during the rest of my tour were made by truck. 

The roads on Vietnam were really an experience to drive on. Usually Charlie had blown out all of the bridges, so there were temporary bridges over most of the creeks and rivers that ran along the road from Pleiku to An Khe and on to Quin Nhon. It seemed like as fast as the engineers could get one fixed the V.C. would blow it up so those guys really had a never-ending job. The road from Dak To to Ben Het was dirt and it had to be swept every day to keep from running over a mine. There were some holes on this road from mines and other explosives going off that a truck in front of you in a convoy could drive off into and almost drop completely out of sight. As E Ray Austin says in his story those boys up there didn't play.

On the highway from Pleiku to An Khe you went through the Man Yang pass. The best way to describe this place is REAL SCARY! On one side of the road the mountain wall goes straight up from the roadside and on the other side there is a high cliff. So they could drop grenades right in your truck from one side and lob mortar rounds in on you from the other side. Great place, huh? They had kicked the living crap out of the French there in the 50s. 

Past An Khe going to Quin Nhon there was the An Khe pass. You started into this one, and there was a hairpin turn right at the very top. Then you were headed down hill until you got to the bottom of the mountain. Elephant grass grew right up to the edge of the road. If you got shot at there was no way to tell where it was coming from and once you were headed down the mountain no where to go but off the side of the road and roll over down the mountain side if you had to leave the road. 

The road from Pleiku to Weight Davis was paved, and I don't remember very many bridges ever being blown out on it. It was almost a boring drive out there. However if you turned off at Dragon Mountain to go to Oasis and Duc Co, the road turned into dirt real quick. Duc Co was almost on the Cambodian border, and in fact you could see Cambodia from the Duc Co Special Forces Camp. I made that trip one time to pull guns 3 and 6 back to Artillery Hill from out there, so I can't really say how often the bridges were blown out. That day they weren't. 

I guess the most memorable convoys (March Orders) for me were the trips to An Khe to bring A Btry in from LZ Challenge and when B Btry was pulled off Firebase 6 and out of Ben Het and moved to Kontum.

The An Khe trip stands out in my mind because we were all loaded and running flat out towards the Mang Yang Pass and Pleiku beyond that when all of the trucks ahead of me started locking up their brakes and the tire smoke was thick. After coming to a complete stop on the road, we were outside of the trucks with our rifles and I noticed some of the old mama sans and papa sans running up the road holding their ears. It turns out that the MP's had caught a V.C. coming out from under a bridge just east of LZ Schuller and he had placed an explosive charge in under there that must have weighed at least 25 lbs. As soon as the bridge was cleared we were soon on our way without any further incidents. We were definitely lucky. If he had of detonated that charge with one of the guns going across it would have been a real bad situation.

Dak To and Ben Het were in the most dangerous area of the II Corp zone of South Vietnam. Going to these places was sort of like sticking your head in the lion's mouth. It could slam shut at any moment and take your head off. However the real memorable thing about the trip to pull the B Btry guns off of Firebase 6 and Ben Het is all the damn flats us guys had on that trip. If we had had to stay out one more day running the road on this trip someone would have probably had to have limped home on a flat tire. We were absolutely out of spares and some of the trucks were already running only one wheel on the dual wheel axles. 

Just like the guys said in one of the other stories about being short handed on the guns, we were sometimes short of parts for the trucks. Some of the motor mount and transmission bolts on the trucks I drove were so stretched that it took 3 and sometimes 4 washers to shim them up enough to tighten them down. There are other memorable things about running the roads in Vietnam. No matter where you were, if you had to stop a convoy for some reason there was always some old mama san that would show up selling everything from cigarette lighters and sunglasses to marijuana and prostitutes. Most of all I remember the guys I ran the road with like Mike Perry, Pope, and Rocky Mikesell from C Btry and my buddies Campbell and Evans from Service Battery. They were all great guys, and I think of them often. The pictures accompanying this story were taken going through the Mang Yang and An Khe Passes, on Artillery Hill and on the road to the Duc Co Special Forces Camp.

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