Ate rice at every meal and plenty of fruit. Talked with the 5000 Marines that were also on the ship and played pinochle every evening in the mess hall.
Found some C-Rations on the ship from World War II. The chocolate bars had turned white with age, but we ate them anyway. Threw everything else away except the cigarettes.
Made rings by tapping a spoon on the edge of a quarter or half dollar until it flattened the edge by pulling out the center of the coin to create the hole for your finger (we had lots of time on our hands).
Had kite flying contests on the back of the ship. Took shower curtains from the officers quarters to make the kites. The kites would fly so far up and away that they would fly out of site. We would keep a crew of men busy just finding enough string and rope to keep the kite going.
The only duty I had to pull while on the ship was KP the day our unit got to leave the ship for exercise drills at Naha Okinawa so I didn't get to partake in that.
We slept on cots stacked 4 high with about 24" space between them. It was the prone position only when you were in the rack, no sitting up.
The Flying Fish and Buzzards chasing our daily trash thrown overboard was just about the only other form of entertainment we had while sailing the oceans blue on the USNS Gordon.
ARTILLERY HILL, PLEIKU VIETNAM
After departing the USNS Gordon on landing crafts the first thing I noticed on the truck drive to Artillery Hill was the huts made from Budweiser Beer Cans. That's what they used for their siding. Immediately you knew you were in a third world country.
We took showers every afternoon around 2 PM outside our tents in the rain. The Monsoon season was upon us and it literally rained softly, usually without thunder, every afternoon like clockwork.
The roads were all dirt and soon became mud slides. It was very difficult to keep your jeep or truck in the center of the road. We lost a 155mm Howitzer in the ditch one afternoon and it took three 5 ton trucks five hours to pull it out.
At meal times the only thing we had to drink was either cold milk, which I hate, or warm ginger ale. So for eight months I drank warm ginger ale with every meal. Please do not offer me a ginger ale even if it's iced down.
Guard Duty was held around the perimeter of the Base Camp underground bunkers built by the French using "mud sack". These bunkers were 8 to 10 years old when we got there and the mud sacks were infested with rats. Two soldiers would man one bunker each evening around 4 PM and guard the perimeter until relieved by the Guard Commander around 7 AM the next morning. One soldier would sleep while the other stood watch with a M-60 machine gun. The soldier on guard would also watch for rats crawling on his buddy while he slept on a mosquito covered cot. A shinning flashlight would usually run them off. Its a Rabies shot in the stomach if you would ever get bitten by a rat.
Re-Con Missions outside the Base Camp were conducted every night. This is where you understand what its like not to be protected by Uncle Sam for in this area, you were not. You were prey for the enemy, on his soil and in his familiar surroundings. There has yet to be a moment in my life as chilling to the bone as were those hours conducting Re-Con Missions.
We had a "Pot" tent in Base Camp. I visited it just once for 10 minutes and couldn't take it any longer. I never went back, its just not my thing. Every evening you could see the smoke bellowing out the tent flaps and well into the morning.
The mortar attack on Base Camp hit Headquarters and Service Batteries the morning of June 10 1967 at 2 AM. We only had 105mm pop guns since the 155's were out in the field with the Gun Batteries A, B, C and D. It didn't really matter anyway because we were not allowed to fire back for fear of injuring the innocent South Vietnamese that lived outside the fences of Artillery Hill. It was well known that the Viet Cong (our enemy) and the South Vietnamese citizens (our friends) were all the same people. It was just a pencil on a piece of paper that separated the good from the bad. The same people that we let through the gates each morning to clean our clothes and wash our dishes were also firing mortar rounds on us at night from USA discarded projectile canisters with nails hammered thru the ends to detonate the mortar. This was such an un-win able war. We had on our shorts, a flack jacket, flip flops (called thongs in those days), a helmet and our M-16 rifle. Three of us went from barracks to barracks to help the wounded get to our underground bunker (called the TOC). Nick Campos, myself and a third buddy (I can't remember his name) spent the remainder of the early morning clearing out barracks.
The next morning we walked around camp and dug up over 100 dud mortars. Myers and Britt were evacuated out that night to Walter Reed hospital. We were told, from mortar fire that blasted a hole in the is de of their barracks. My barracks was also hit and several of us received shrapnel injuries but not as bad as Myers or Britt. To this day I still do not know whatever happened to those two guys.
When a soldiers days to departure drew under 60 days he became a worshipped idol to his fellow comrades. This "status" prompted the select one to fabricate a "short stick" to indicate his remaining time in Vietnam. These sticks were self made and very proudly displayed by the select one. Usually in the form of a cane or long stick carved from wood or formed from metal, these masterpieces creatively displayed the soldiers remaining days showing a "count down" until he had just one day remaining.
Before a soldier could muster out of Vietnam, regardless of his days remaining, his replacement must arrive before he can leave. If there was ever a person to worship, it was your replacement. Mine arrived one week before my scheduled departure. William Fraker from New York, NY, had a servant for his first week in Vietnam. Anything Mister Fraker wanted, Specialist Tesh made sure he got it. The day I departed from Artillery Hill in a CH-47 headed for Cam Rhan Bay William Fraker gave "me" an autographed dollar bill and wished "me" good luck. Wow!! That was heavy for this 22 year old to swallow. I would love to meet Mister Fraker again at the 92nd Artillery Reunion.
Larry W. Tesh
704 Custer Road
Parsons KS 67357