The 1/92nd Field
I was born, and raised in Boston MA, and lived close enough to be able to walk to Fenway Park with my dad to see the Red Sox when his work schedule, and the family funds would allow.
At Boston College, I enrolled in ROTC and graduated in 1965 as a 2LT. In January 12,1966 I took my first ever plane ride on American Airlines 707 to Chicago, IL and transferred to a flight to Dallas and then on a DC-3 to Lawton, OK, finally arriving at FT Sill for FAOBC 1-66 for officers basic training. While there, I received orders for airborne training at FT Benning (forgot I had volunteered for this).
I then joined the 1/92nd in April 1966 as AXO of C Btry at Ft Bragg; we were part of 18th Airborne Corps and of the 3rd Army Division. Across from us was based the 82nd Airborne Division and, when I discovered that the 92nd Arty was a leg unit, I decided to apply for transfer in order to receive the $110. for eligible jump status. While the paperwork was being processed, the 92nd was put on alert for deployment to Vietnam, and all officer slots were frozen, no transfers allowed. This may be what kept me alive, in addition to God's grace.
In January 1967, as preparations for our cruise to Vietnam began, I had been re-assigned to HHB as a FO and promoted to 1LT. Prior to this time, while at FT Bragg, the 92nd was equipped with an experimental 155mm howitzer, the M123A1 with a motor and operator's seat mounted on the left trail, supposedly to improve the speed of the howitzer being placed into position after being detached from it's 5 ton truck. However, this placed too much weight on the left trail and severely worsened displacement, causing precious time to be spent in realigning each howitzer after each round was fired. Consequently, we received 18 brand new howitzers, which had to be calibrated out on the firing range. As all the vehicles had been prepared for shipment by rail and were already on the way to Charleston, SC, to be loaded on a ship, I volunteered to drive onto the range to report via radio where the rounds landed and used my 1966 Ford Mustang convertible as my "jeep." Also, I lived off base and we were allowed to carry our weapons back and forth; at times I had several m-16s and 45s in my car's trunk.
Prior to our departure from the states, the BN was supposed to go through a "Time on Target" test, which included a "Special Weapons" test (the assembly, firing, and destruction of a nuclear warhead, the M-107). Well it took us about 45 minutes for completion---much too lengthy and we did not pass the test---not good! We never retook the exercise, and DARN we still had to go to Vietnam.
In March '67, we departed from Pope AFB on TransNational Airways charter flights; destination Oakland, CA. The planes were four engine propeller driven aircraft. We landed in Amarillo, TX for box lunch breakfast out on the tarmac(ugh), and then proceeded on our way. While approaching the Rocky Mountains, the flight became quite turbulent and soon our pilot announced, "If you look out the starboard side of the aircraft, you will notice that the outboard engine is on fire, but do not worry as I will feather it. We still have three other (working) engines." About 10 minutes later, our pilot announced, "that if you look out the port side of the aircraft, you will see the that the inboard engine is now on fire." He then feathered that engine also and reassured us that we would be making an emergency landing at El Paso for repairs. We remained there for about seven hours until a replacement aircraft arrived. In the meantime, many of us spent hours in the bar having a brew or two, etc. and playing blackjack. Oh, I failed to mention that there were several airline stewardesses on the flight and they probably did not enjoy the remainder of the trip to Oakland!
Ah, the joy of sailing out of San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge into the great Pacific Ocean. However, the enlisted with a rank of E-5 or below were berthed below the waterline; for them it was anything but fun, and as we sailed across the continental shelf the ship bobbed and rolled. Above the water line, I was in a cabin with five other officers. The cabin had two triple decked bunk beds and one porthole. After several days, I learned of the conditions of those below the waterline, and I was able to convince Maj. Faust to allow the entire FO section to come up to the top deck each day, ostensibly for training. Not realizing the effect this would have on the men, was I ever taken care of after we arrived "in country!"
There were approximately 3,000 Army personnel and 2,000 marines on board. Some of the activities involved a kite flying contest off the fantail of the ship. Those #*@+%* marines won as they had secured double edged razor blades to the tails of their kites and severed our lines.
Our first stop in Vietnam was at night at the resort city of Vung Tau, south of Saigon, where some units departed. On to Cam Ranh Bay, where an outbreak of plague prevented anyone from departing the ship; then on up the coast to Nha Trangh, with it's beautiful French chateaus lining both sides of the narrow harbor, and more troops departed. Then we arrived at Qui Nhon, which is a shallow water port. As an ocean storm was brewing, the decision was made not to let us off but to continue up the coast. We arrived at Da Nang to let the marines off. As they sailed towards shore on Navy LCMs (landing craft), they raised up our many Btry flags and "guide on" flags that had disappeared some weeks prior.
Back to Qui Nhon, where a late change in orders from Maj. Faust, who had arrived earlier on shore to coordinate our landing, now had myself and one squad from HHB to be the first ones to leave the ship. The storm's aftermath was still there, and I was the first one to jump in full combat gear onto a pitching and rolling LCM followed by the squad (please do not try this at home). For 28 days we were on board ship, and for 28 days, we all had to look presentable including having shined boots. As the LCM hit the shore and the front lowered, we ala Gen. MacArthur, hit solid ground - actually mud -so much for the shined boots. And then to my wandering eyes, what did I see---a deserted beach-head -nothing -nada -not a soul for as far as the eyes could see -and no Maj. Faust. I later found out that he had radioed out to the ship not to let anyone off the ship as it was determined to be too dangerous to attempt any landing of personnel (All well and good for those still on the ship). So there we were, without any radios and no idea what was what. Our first day was spent walking and walking, trying to find US troops and obtaining food and a place to hunker down for the night.
Several days before arriving at Qui Nhon, COL Amenson, BN Cmdr. had given special orders to myself, another 1LT, and CWO-4 Wylie Box and his eighteen man meteorlogical section, that we were to set up a camp for ourselves on the beach-head to ensure that the remainder of our equipment (Yellow TAT and Red TAT) arriving on two following ships would be protected from being pilfered. In addition, should we come into anything of possible value to the 92nd, that we should acquire it, and arrange to have it shipped on our trucks to our base camp at Artillery Hill north of Pleiku. We spent three weeks at the beach-head, and because we were separated from the BN, we received additional pay -TDY. I must say that our efforts at Qui Nhon were extremely successful. A lot of my time was spent either at the MACV Compound bar or at the Officers' club where I would barter/ trade some items we acquired for others more suitable to the BN's needs. It was truly a great time-mission accomplished! Then I received orders to close up our operations as we were needed back with the BN.; none too soon as the MP's were close on our trail. In an ironic twist in 1972 and back in civilian life, while in a small four person sales in West Hartford, CT, my manager and I, after exchanging tidbits of "war stories" realized that we were both in Qui Nhon at the same time five years earlier. He was a 1Lt with the MP's and was hot on the trail of "Wylie Box and the 20 Thieves."
---To be continued---