I am Reg Karg; I was a sergeant and
Chief of Section on Gun 4, in C Battery. My gun section was part of
a firing battery of towed, airmoble 155mm howitzers stationed in the
central highlands at Plieku on Artillery Hill. I arrived in country
June of 1970 and left in May of 1971. I had the good fortune of being
one of the "early out" soldiers that President Nixon brought home in
1971 as part of his Vietnam Pacification Project. I will always remember
my first helicopter ride in Vietnam. I was assigned to Gun 6 as a gunner
when I first entered country. The gun at this time was perched high
on a hill in the jungle near An Khe supporting the 4th Infantry. The
only way in and out of the firebase was by helicopter. I found out that
every afternoon a helicopter took the next days C-rations, mail, small
arms ammo and one hot meal along with any personal that needed to go
to the LZ. I sat on the heli pad with all the normal supplies and waited
for the trip into the unknown to begin. I sat on my new duffel bag,
in my new jungle fatigues and looked all the part of the typical new
guy. The helicopter arrived and all the supplies were loaded. I stood
there waiting for someone to offer me a seat. The door gunner finally
grabbed my arm and pointed me toward the pile of C-rations and ammo
and motioned for me to sit down. No more than I hit the pile, the helicopter
lifted off. No doors were closed and no seat belts were fastened. This
was when I realized I was in Vietnam. If the 'copter were to bank sharply,
I was going to fall to an early death and become a statistic of war.
It took a few minutes to calm my nerves, but as we flew I came to realize
that Vietnam was a very pretty country from the air. We passed over
a beautiful waterfall and several winding rivers. I was shook from my
dreamy thoughts by a pull on my shirtsleeve. The door gunner quickly
pointed between the two pilot's seat to a gauge that was flashing empty.
I studied the gauge for a moment and realized it said "Fuel". I must
have turned a hazy shade of gray because all the helicopter crew burst
out laughing. I was thinking, I haven't fallen out of this crate yet
but now we are all going to die because someone forgot to fill it up
with fuel. The helicopter kept flying and we made it to the LZ with
out a hitch. I wonder just how many other "newbies" they had scared
the pants off by using the flashing empty fuel gauge trick
time went by, I was given the position of Chief of Section on Gun 4. The
gun moved off the LZ in the jungle and moved back to Artillery Hill near
Pleiku. Things were slowing down a bit and army life was becoming more
like state side duty. We were shooting more H and I (Harassing and Indirect)
fire missions. Every now and then we would shoot illumination rounds for
some outpost that was being attacked. In an effort to improve our living
conditions, some higher up thought we should build our hooches under ground.
The engineers came in and bulldozed out a trench in which we built sidewalls
and placed a "psp" metal on top. We then covered the metal with a several
layers of sandbags. Everyone then made themselves a room to call their
own. They decorated them as best they could. Someone came up with the
idea of using a parachute from an illumination round as a ceiling cover.
Someone had seen this done while visiting at one of the engineer companies.
I had heard talk among the men of my section that this was really cool.
What I didn't know was someone in my gun section had taken an illumination
round apart and removed the parachute. They simply put it back together
as best they could and placed it in the back of the ammo bunker. They
figured we would never shoot that round, as we were always getting new
rounds and it was far back in the ammo bunker. We got a fire mission to
support an ARVN outpost that was at risk of being over run by the NVA.
They wanted us to shoot all the illumination we could fire. Our gun was
the only one in the firing battery that was called on to fire. The balance
of the battery was on standby in case they needed more fire power support.
I think we had about 120 rounds of illumination in our gun pit including
the one round minus a parachute, when we started firing the mission. As
the night wore on, we got to the back of the bunker to the defective round.
The bad round was loaded in the gun and fired. As it left the tube, everyone
but me knew what was going on. It made an unusual bang with a whistling
sound. We found out later, a piece of the end plate landed in someone's
hooch at the bottom of the hill. A cease-fire was called; no more rounds
were fired until the whole batch of illumination rounds was checked. In
our case, there were no more rounds left in our ammo bunker to be checked.
Another gun section was called up to finish the mission. The next day,
the Army with all their wisdom sent out word that we were to send them
the lot numbers of the "defective" rounds of illumination that were fired
the night before. They were going to have to investigate why there was
problems with that lot number. This was when I found out what really happened
with the round. So I just thought it would be better for all parties concerned
if we just simply said we didn't have any more illumination rounds left
and we couldn't give them the lot numbers. I then strongly suggested they
find some other way to decorate the ceilings in their rooms. These are
just some of the things I remember from my experience in Vietnam. There
were many other things I can remember that were not funny. War is war.
I am not trying to make light of the fact that many good able bodied young
men died for a cause that seemed to have been done in vain. I just wanted
to look at the lighter side of the experience and reminisce about them.