STEEL TIGERS - 77th Armor History

South Vietnam 1968-1971

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                                                       Northren I Corp - DMZ - Leatherneck Square

        As United Stated forces battled communist field units in northern Quang Tri Province in the first half of 1968, it became evedent that a heavy mechcanized force would be essential in battling North Vietnam Army units. In March of 1968 the 1st Brigade 5th Infantry Division (1/5ID) Fort Carson, Colorado,  was place on ready alert and started many months training for the deployment. In Quang Tri during 1968 American troops saw the Lunor New Years 1968 Tet Communist offensive come and end with battles at Hue, Khe Sanh and along the DMZ. Battles in Quang Tri again fared up during the May 'Mini Tet'.  Communist troops would strike in the Dong Ha area with the battles of Dia Do involving the 3rd and 4th Marine Regiments and around Nhi Ha with the 3/21 US Army Infantry in control. In the hills around Khe Sanh the 9th Marines were involed. During the summer Communist forces would attack once again marking the summer 'Mini Tet'. US Army forces had been redeployed to I Corp assisting marine units in the first half of the year.  The 1/5ID started landing troops in Da Nang and the Quang Tri area south of the DMZ in mid summer 1968.

                                                                                          1st Battalion Deploys to Vietnam

          The 1st Battalion was equipped with the Patton M48A2C MoGas powered, 90mm gun tanks when arrivaling in RVN. The historial sources found state this decision was made due to heavy tank loses during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The demand for M48A3s (diesel powered) tanks were very high during and after 1968 Tet. The replacement vehicles went to existing units in combat to cover those battles loses first. The 'A2's were supplied from two locations in the United States. The US Army Training Center at Fort Knox shipped 23 M48A2Cs and the Letterkenny Army Depot (near Chambersburg, Penn, shipped 44 M48A2C's for a total of 67 tanks. Fort Hood shipped 140 M113A1's (APCs) and 8 M106A1's for a total of 148 APCs. 

                                                                        Fort Carson to Wunder Beach 


          1/77 deployment started on 22 July 1968 to Dang Nang. The was completed by 31 July 1968.  Pete Occhialini SP4 E4 A25G 2-A-1/77 recalled in a 2008 email,  the night A-1/77 left Fort Carson the company was marched to the Battalion Motor Pool. They were place in one of the maintenance bays and not allowed to leave except to use the latrine. All Company NCOs were taken to the NCO Club for a farewell dinner. Occhialini recalled MPs posted out side of the motor pool. After departing in C141's from Pederson AFB  in Colorado they stopped at Travis AFB in California. They were allowed to leave the planes at that point, but restricted the the terminal area. All lines to restrooms were very long. Some of the guys never had a chance to use them. Next stop was Wake Island. Troops were again allowed to leave the planes. Pete Occhialini recalled walking across the road from the terminal and being on the beach. Wake Island darn small Pete recalled. Then on to Clarke AFB in the Philippines. Troops left the planes for the third time. There was a bus ride to a dinning facility  and a boxed lunch. This occurred sometime during the night. Next was Da Nang South Vietnam.  Pete recalls problems with exiting the C141 by the rear cargo ramp that night Some had problems with their depth perseption, falling when stepping from the ramp. SSG Jay Griffin was seen laying on the ground with leg cast and crusches. Griffin had broken his leg during an altercation with SGT Parrett.  It is believed there wasa  film crew with spotlights deployed to the rear of the plane, filming 1/77 troops spillling from the plane. No archived film footage was ever found.  Troops then waited to board C130 aircraft for flights to Dang Ha, the 3rd Marine Division HQ. Seating accomidations in the C130 were spars. Troop seats were only found along the fueselage walls. These seats were filled quickly with most sitting on the bare metal cargo area floor. Pete Occhialini recalled the floor would move abit. The planes crew chief would order all weapons be cleared. Pete stated when they told the guy they did not have any ammunition, he was surprised and just shook his head in disbelief.

                                                                                             Dong Ha

         1/77 moved by wheeled vehicles from the air strip at Dong Ha to a tent area. Pete Occhialini had not been able to releave himself since the For Carson motor pool area. He recalled the tents were surrounded by concertina wire. As he looked out behond the wire there could be seen an outhouse. Pete with follow tankers had to determine if this outhouse was in or outside the parimeter. Sounds of war were being heard by now with artillery in the distance. The troops were issued 45 Cal pistols with only 7 rounds and the M3 sub-machine guns with one magazine each.  After one night 1/77 troops boarded marine trucks for Wunder Beach.   

                                                                                       Wunder Beach


         1/77 troops arrived at Wunder Beach no quaters, hot sun, and hot sand. Pete Occhialini recalled ' When we arrived at Wunder Beach we were placed in an area without any shelters. I remember the fine white sand and the sun baking down on us. For the first day or so the only water we had was from our canteens. 1SG Offutt secured a water buffalo for us I believe from the Marines. We were given piles of sandbags and spend the next couple of days filling them'.  A 'water buffalo' was a towed 250 gallon water storage tank.  

          Some of the guys removed their shirts and received a  one what of a sunburn. Pete Occhialini recalls  'Don Bentley A25 loader, being a redhead and fair skinned had polled up his sleeves of his T-shirt and got sun burned so bad that it blistered all around his upper arms. That night the blisters broke. The next day Don went to the medic and they gave him some sun burn salve. The salve came in a can about the size of shoe polish and had the same consistency. I help Don apply the salve. I know it had to hurt because the white sand got into everything including the salve. It must have felt like sandpaper being applied to a sunburn blister. Don developed permanent scars all around his arms'.

       Tanks and APCs were shipped to Da Nang, off loaded from sea going transports to LSTs for the trip up the coast to Wunder  each.  Shipping equipment and supplies to Vietnam was a tough job that could only be accomplished by team work. I was told the retrieving of some needed supplies could be a problem. Here's just one account of getting vehiches combat ready as told by Sgt Overson. I can not quote, but I will try to give you the drift of his story.  When he and another young sergeant were getting tank A65 ready for shippment from Fort Carson to Vietnam, they were able to load the tank with many cases of beer! Great idea boys! They were told this would be 'theirs' (the tank) after arriving in South Vietnam. Did some one already known what was going on, probably. There would be plenty of beer for those two sergeants for sure! When the Battalion  received thier vehicles at Wonder Beach, the two sergeants headed for tank A65 on a dead run! Sgt Overson and his buddy were stopped by none other than a one 1SGT Joe D Offutt of Company A. The young sergeants were told to leave the contents of the tank be. That was his(Offuts) tank! Overson stated they never saw one can of that beer! When ask about this incident at the first reunion, Joe Offut  did not recall this incident.     

         One tank in Company A-1/77 was so short of tankers, driver SP4 Gary Goodwin on tank A66 had to enlist the help of 1Lt Bob Elrod and Sgt Aronld who were attached Forward Observers (FO) from 5/4th Artillery.  The tanks shipped from LetterKenny Army Depot  had their weapons packed in cosmoline. Tankers such as SP4 Goodwin found the weapons packaged in grease, wraped in brown paper in a wood creates . The main gun tube  was also coated with cosmoline.  A66 was one of those tanks. SP4 Gary Goodwin recalled this protective petrolatum grease as being on the dry side and difficult to remove. He used a knive to remove most and then gas with brushes to scurb the remainder from the 30 and 50 caliber guns.       

Together they helped Goodwin finish the job of loading the tank. Gary recalls for the longest time the artillery guys wanted to shoot the main gun as they would a cannon? Gary worked with them, and the trajectory finally flatten out. 

         Pete Occhialini recalled ' One funny incident I remember was just after we got our tanks. Some guys were running around the tanks in I believe 1st Platoon. The tanks had the gun tubes lowered and other were "punching out the tubes", cleaning out the grease. I was maybe 25 yards away and I happened to look over and see these guys running around the tank chasing each other. The 1st guy ducked under the gun tube as he ran in front of the tank…the 2nd guy didn’t…I head the "Boing" as his head tube and knocked him flat. He had his soft cap on and if you remember we wore the unit crest on the hat. The pins from the crest cut his forehead. I remember almost falling off our little bunker laughing so hard'.

                                                                                  Bull she-it Freqs

Pete Occhialini also recalled. 'Remember the old Prc 77 radio’s? Their freq range was from 30.00 to 75.95. Generally speaking no unit was assigned a freq in the upper 75 band and at night, while on guard we would tune our radio’s to what we called the "bull she-it Freqs". These were the freqs between 75.50 up to 75.95. I truly believe that this was the precursor to the CB radio craze in the 70’s. Everyone had their own call sign. I was "BunkerHill" because I grew up in the shadow of Bunker Hill. I can remember one other call sign and that was "Lefty Lemon". I believe that was Joe Watruba from 2-A-1/77. Now this ties into the rescue of the Marine recon unit because in the nights after that fight were would argue with the Marines on the radio. Marines also used the freq the same way. I remember arguing with them and saying we (Army) had to go and save their asses. This really ticked them off. Later I remember hearing the 1968 World Series (late Sept, early Oct) on the freqs. Some one had a transistor radio tuned to AFVN which broadcast the game'.

          When shipping out to any place you sure need to be or want to be in good physical condition. Nothing broken would be a great start. Here's one story of  shipping out with a broken leg as recalled Jay Griffin  SSG tank A13. He wrote,' We where given a two week leave, before our departure to Viet Nam. Sgt Parrett and I where screwing around. I told him I could break boards with my hands. He didn't believe me. He grabbed a piece of one inch pine, and said "Lets see you break this. He held it up, and I hit it with my hand and broke it, I also hit him in the eye, it swelled, and started turning blue. He was really upset and told me he would get me later. What a way for a poor guy to go home. We returned from leave. The next day I was walking down the steps of our barracks, there was Sgt. Parrett with a fire extinguisher pointed at me. He turned it on and I was swept off my feet. I started falling down the steps. When I reached the bottom, I had a severe pain in my leg. Parrett had paid me back. I went to the Infirmary. They told me I had broken my leg. They put me in a room, they said I would be staying until the swelling went down. We were supposed to leave for Viet Nam the next day. That night, Captain Harrington came to my room. He told me. that he wanted me to go with our Unit to Vietnam. He said, if I didn't go that I would have to retrain with the 3rd Brigade, and that I wouldn't know anyone.The 3rd was going over in three months. Captain Harrington told me, the Doctor had okayed my trip. He handed me about fifty Darvon, and told me the Doctor wanted me to keep the leg elevated for twenty four hours. the Doctor put my leg in a cast and gave me some crutches. The next day, at Pete Field, we loaded into the C141 Starlifters. We started our trip to the Nam. I found a seat and soon realized there was nowhere to lift my leg, and the seat in front of me was two inches from my leg. We took off. After awhile my leg starting hurting pretty badly. The Darvon did not seem to work. After eight hours my leg was really swelling up, and the pain started to get intense. We finally landed at Danang, Their were incoming rounds hitting the Landing Strip. The Captain of the plane said, "I'm going to the end of the runway, and taking off again. I'll lower the ramp. Grab your gear and jump off". You guys remember that. I grabbed my crutches and duffle bag and made it to the end of the plane. I jumped and hit the runway hard. I was laying there with the rest of you. No weapons. I thought we would all be killed. We moved over to Wunder Beach. It was nearly impossible to walk in the sand. The next day I went to the clinic and asked them to remove the cast, they wouldn't. The next two weeks was a living hell. The leg was itching constantly. I had sand fleas and sand in the cast, and it was driving me nuts. I went back to the clinic to see if they would take the cast off. they said, "no!". At that moment I saw another GI getting his cast off. His leg was covered in sores, with maggots eating at the sores. I told my self "That's it, this thing is coming off". I found a pair of wire cutters and started to work. After some time, I got the cast off. The first thing I noticed was the smell, it was rancid. The swelling was also bad. It felt so good to get that cast off, that I didn't mind everything else. The next day our M48's arrived. My crew had to push me on board. We left for wherever. The pain from standing in the TCs hatch, was intense. I decided to spend my time sitting on the Tank Commanders hatch. About one month latter the pain subsided, and I felt good. Two months latter I took a trip to Captain Harrington's bunker. I asked the Captain when the Third Brigade would arrive? He gave me that Captain Harrington stare, He laughed a little , and told me the Third Brigade was sent to Germany. I had to laugh a little myself'.

       When one tanker arrived in South Vietnam with the first wave of replacements he found rain and lots of it at Camp Red Devil. He worte of his first week, 'I recall it was raining. Rained all day in fact. I was taken by truck with others to a replacement company and shown to a large tent. I entered carrying gear and M16 rifle. With a quick glance I noticed one cot was unoccupied. It was in the far left hand corner. I recall 10 or 12 cots in the tent. I would learn why this cot was the last to be filled in a few moments . I stepped up a slight grade making my way to the far side of the tent. Looking down to a dirt floor, I noticed a small run of rain water snaking through the tent area. I arrived at the foot of the cot and stood looking over it in poor light. The nylon material appeared quite dark in color. I noticed a droplet of water, then another and another landing on the surface of the cot. I raised my eyes upward to the tent roof. It was leaking. Great! I placed my hand on the cot, wet- ah crap! I looked up, scanning the ten or so bunks in the tent. All were occupied with lifeless forms of guys sleeping or they were piled high with gear. I looked back down thinking, no problem, just move the cot, settle in, get some chow at the 'Mess',..... somewhere? I looked around for the guy who showed me this far,he was gone? I can't say I expected him to wait for my approval. I placed my gear on the driest area of ground I could find. Attempts were made to improve the situation by moving the cot left then right. I was unable to escape all the dripping water. There were several holes in the tent roof, geezzzzz! Did I remember to bring my congressman's address? The ground was quite uneven. When repositioning the cot not all legs were supported. Back to the start location, hmmmm? I went for my gear, removing a shelter half I covered the cot. For the remainder of my stay I dealt with the dripping water begrudgingly. A shelter half was modified and rearranged several times over a week. I was pissed off. The rain kept coming down for days, I waited. Chow lines were always long. Lots of waiting in the rain. I recall one morning standing in a 'chow line' with an M16 slung over my shoulder - butt up- under my poncho. I noticed all the trenches were now filling with rain water, I wondered how deep they were? These trenches laid between the tents throughout the company area. As I stood there with water dripping from my helmet rim, I could see myself diving into one of these trenches as mortar shells ripped through the area! Geezzzz! How long could I hold my breath under water: two, three minutes? The battle with dripping rain water from the tent roof continued but repositioning the shelter half, or poncho and moving the cot seemed to make me feel better. The water kept coming down with a drip, drip, drip on the tent within a tent. I tried to keep track of who was to be leaving the tent next for their unit. I recall striking up a light conversation with a guy who'd be leaving soon. His bunk was a dry one. We decided I'd move my gear over just as he was vacating his bunk. This would have to be timed correctly because I didn't want to miss my chance for a dry bunk. He did not know what time he was leaving, but it was to be that day. After the noon mess I had to leave the tent once again for a trip to the latrine. I noticed his gear was still piled on the cot as I left through the tent door. I also didn't notice him en route to the latrine. It was still raining. I returned directly, not wanting to lose out on a dry bunk. Upon entering the tent I noticed a stranger in a dripping wet poncho standing next to 'MY' dry bunk! What the ..... ! Another new replacement, how could this be? I was disgusted! I was pissed! And still the rain kept coming down..... ' 'I was instructed to pack up and move out to a deuce and half waiting out on the muddy company street. Hurry up, and wait! With pack on my back duffel in hand I started for the truck. The mud was soupy and a light brown color. The brown ooze came up above my ankles. Arriving at the truck, I boarded and waited. It was still raining. The driver came around at some point, stating a bridge had washed out over some 'river', near some 'village' and to get off the truck? 'Crap' ..... just like the army! Pack it up, move it out! Hurry up back to the tent to wait. The rain had slowed down to a very light mist. I thought it advisable to remove my poncho prior to climbing down. I stood facing the rear of the truck, removed and draped the poncho over the tailgate. Placing both hands on the tailgate, swinging one leg over to engaging a foothold and started my descent. My pack's heavy weight pulling back and down during this maneuver made me very much aware of the potential hazard I was about to face. I pushed away from the truck anyway, and dropped into the mud. Big mistake! My feet landed firmly in the mud with a loud splat! The weight of a pack and the momentum gained pushing off the truck sent me sprawling backward into the mud with a hearty splat. There I rolled back and forth abit liking to a turtle. My helmet had flown from my head lodging in the light brown glop several feet from where I lay. Strapped in place by the sternum and hip straps of a very heavy A.L.I.C.E. pack I disengaged the buckles. Swatting abit, pushing up with the right hand, I stood. I cursed abit to myself, the mud and the rain. I quickly looked around, 'who the heck saw this move'? Ah no laughter, good! I was dripping with this light brown stuff, right down to the finger tips. Wiping and flinging muck from self I stepped over to retrieve my helmet. Next to faced the heaviest pack in Viet Nam. Struggled to drag the duffel from the truck. Grabbing the M16 I started my return trip up the company street to a leaking tent and wet cot. It was still raining'.

       Kevin Dunn, driver of A34 recalls push-ups and no ammo when he was at Wonder Beach. He wrote, 'I don't remember the few days preceding our departure but the day we left I didn't think that Air Force plane would get off the ground!! I know it was a 24-25 hour air time flight. The pilot let us go into the cockpit during flight--what a disappointment--nothing to see but ocean. I do believe we stopped in the Philippines and Wake Island on the way over. At that time did not think much about it but have come to learn if it were not for the brave Marines defending Wake during WW II things could have been different. The Marines occupied Wake before Pearl Harbor and lost half their force in defense with no chance of rescue from the US. I could not believe this when I heard it but it is true. Any way it was a long, long flight to Nam. When we landed in Da Nang I think it was later afternoon or early evening but the one thing I do remember is how dam hot it was. I also think we stayed overnight in tents. The following morning as we prepared to leave the CO (Harrington?) was checking the troops and anyone who had written anything on their helmet camo had to drop for 10 push ups. What a bunch of BS. I was one who had written "Chi Town Hustler" being from Chicago and yes I had to do push ups..........PUSH UPS IN NAM?????????? I bet there are not many vets who did that or at least not many who would admit to it. But I was one and admit I did. When I think of it to this day it does not sit well. As we loaded on to deuce and a half's for our trip to Wunder Beach how ironic is it that we had our 45's but they would not issue ammo. At that time I think most of us were so scared and apprehensive it wouldn't have mattered anyhow. I do remember much about Wunder beach and after sporadically'. 

       Tom McCauley of Hqs tank section and gunner on A34 recalls this going over, he wrote, 'Three young men from Fort Carson, Colorado load up on a bus to be transported to the US Air Force Base in Colorado Springs Colorado, in route to the Republic of Viet Nam. Tom McCauley, just having celebrated his 19th birthday days before, Bill Wilburn, 21, and Bob Rushforth, 20. All three outfitted with fresh green jungle combat fatigues, a compliment of two changes of clothes, an extra pair of boots, ruck sack and two canteens. These three volunteer troopers cheerfully prepared to depart Fort Carson, embarking on a trip that would alter the lives of themselves as well as their families, loved ones, future loved ones and future ex-loved ones. What they did know was that they didn't know what they were getting themselves into. No civilian starship would be taking them to their destination, but rather a military cargo ship with web seats facing backwards amidst an array of military vehicles and combat equipment. First stop would be an air base somewhere in the state of Washington, then Alaska, Yo Ko Hama (sp) Japan and finally Da Nang, Republic of Viet Nam. The landing gear on the aircraft noisily folded beneath the troopers, sending an uncomforting vibration through each. With smiling faces hiding their anxiety, they looked at each other, hoisted a canteen and made a toast to their safe return. It was a toast to be easily recalled 37 years later by at least one of the three comrades. You see, these three young and green members of the 5th Infantry Division decided they knew how to travel in style. With a total of six canteens between them, before departing Fort Carson, a joint decision was made that water could probably be found on the air craft, but other liquids would be scarce. Which creative trooper made the decision on what to put into the canteens has long been forgotten, but not the contents. It seems these young lads, none old enough to legally purchase alcohol, topped off their canteens with a fine mixture of Thunder Bird wine and grape kool-aid. By the time the craft stopped to refuel in Alaska, the troopers were well on their way. Three friends departed together with great braggadocio and even greater innocence. They went to the Republic of Viet Nam, two came back. That's all there is except for the details. God Bless You Bill'. 


                                              Wunder Beach to Con Thien 1968 I Corp DMZ 


                                                       August Battles in Leatherneck Square


                The 1st Battalion (1/77) came under 3rd Marine Division operational control (opcon) on 1 August 1968. The 1/77s addition to the 3rd Marine Division would not offset the losses of marine battalions redeploying from the DMZ for other operations around Da Nang, but certainly gave them a different type of capibility. 1/77 was to support infantry operations in the area then held by the 1st Cavalry Divison's 3rd Brigade and part of what was known as the Napoleon-Saline area. Things changed due to enemy attacks and the monsoon season. The 3rd Marine Division GHQ ordered a change to these assignments. 1/77 with infantry was to join the 1st Marine Amphibian Tractor Battalion in covering a smaller area of Kentucky/Napolaon-Saline AO. The rest of this area was to be covered by the 2rd ARVN Regiment, a unit known to this day as allowing NVA and VC field units to penetrate the area from the DMZ and linger, then attack when ready. The 3rd Marine Regiment  would cover AO Lancaster and the 4th taking over part of Scotland II AO. The 9th was sent southwest of Quang Tri City. 


                                                                        Sweep of Camp Red Devil area


           On 2 August 1968 A-1/77 starts getiing its tanks.    

           On 7 some tanks from A-1/77 start pushing out from Wunder Beach. 

               On 12 August 1968 A-1/77  'Impossible Mission Force' (then painted on the front slop of A66) commanded by Captain James W Harrington moved inland from Wonder Beach. The mission was a sweep of what was to become 'Camp Red Devil'. This was in support of A-1/61 Mech Infantry. The first A-1/77  casualty occurred during this operation.  Pete Occhialini (A25G) and Hap Trainor ( 2rd Plt Ldr) both recalled the first accidental shooting. PFC Daniel W Crye shot himself in the leg accidentally while cleaning the pistol.  A-1/77 was displaced by other Battalion units allowing for farther penetration inland.  Tanks moved through Dong Ha with no problem and advanced on Cam Lo.   


                                                                                              Cam Lo Bridge  

                14 August 1968 2- A-1/77 with the remainder of the company following proceeded in taking up positions at the Cam Lo Bridge. Pete Occhialini recalled two tanks (SSG Carter's A24, SSG Chaney's A25) took up defensive positions on the south side. 1Lt Trainor's A21, SGT Roderick's A23 and SGT Kirby's A22 crossed the small concerte brigde taking up defensive positions at the north end of the bridge. 2Lt Davis's 1st Platoon, 2Lt Nagle 3rd and Company HQ Platoon passed throught the 2nd Platoon going on up Route 561 to occupy defensive parimeter positons at the marine FSB C3.    



             On occasion a mortar round or two would impact within the compound at FSB C-3. PFC Mike Kurklis a M60 machine gunner on the A10 commo track recalled one such incident at night while playing card with Sgt Ronny Parrett and Bill Wilburn (KIA 01/15/69). One round impacted atop the next bunker. No one hurt. He also recalled passing the time during radio watch talking to others on the very unofficial and unauthorized upper radio channels.

             Pete Occhialini recalled. ' For those who read this and don’t know, back in those days a tank platoon consisted of 5 tanks. The platoon was broken down into sections, heavy and light. The heavy section consisted of the 1 (PltLdr’s}, 2, and 3 tanks while the 4 (PSG’s) and 5 tank were the light section. At the Cam Lo Bridge the Heavy section of 2-A-1/77 was stationed on the north side of the bridge and the light on the south. A25 was on the left side, overlooking the fording point and 24 on the east side of the road. Each side was a mini compound with a bunker and wire around it. There was also a Marine infantry platoon assigned to the bridge also and individual squads were assigned to each mini compound. This was my first introduction to Marines. I was inside the bunker talking to the Marines and they were telling me stories of "incoming fire" and what it was like. They had been drinking and one of them had too much to drink. He became very agitated and picked up a 60mm mortar round that was lying on the floor. Everyone called him "Sarg" so I assumed he was an NCO. He started hollering about something and the other Marines were trying to calm him down. Grabbing the mortar around the base he than slammed the nose of the mortar into one of the large timber support in the center of the bunker. When I began breathing again I headed for the exit of the bunker. The Marines wrestled the mortar from "Sarg" and he reached down and picked up a grenade and pulled the pin. By this time everyone else was heading for the exit. My tank was about 10 or 15 yars away from the bunker and Don Bentley was up working on the .50. I climbed on the back deck and told Don what had just happened. Just than "Sarg" came out of the bunker the grenade in one hand and the pulled pin in the other. He was walking in our direction and I attempted to calm him down by saying "hi Sarg, how’s it going" or word to that affect. Don jump on the .50, charged it and began saying "shut up Occhialini, shut up". Just than the Marine Plt Sgt came, walked up to Sarg, calmly took the grenade from him, and put the pin back in. They than walked off and I never saw Sarg again the rest of the time at Cam Lo'.


             17 August 1968 Trainer's 2-A-1/77 was releaved  by  1Lt Bruce Goldsmith's 3-C-1/77 at the Cam Lo Brigde  2-A-1/77 proceeded up Route 561 past FSB C3, C2 and C2A (later called the 'Washout' and then still 'Woods Hole') to A4 in the Con Thien area.  In August HHQ (CP) A-1/77 moved into FSB C3 staying there until October 1968, then moving up Route 561 to FSB C2. I have no idea where the 1st and 3rd Platoons were in August. We can document 2nd Platoon A-1/77 at C2 during October through 77th ARA member photos taken at C2 during that time. I do recall seeing 1st Platoon tanks (#13 in particular) at the 'Washout' during October. The 1st Platoon A/1/77 was back at C3 in later October after Company A CP 1/77 moved back to that FSB. Some First Platoon tankers shared a bunker with the HHQ tank section. This is when Sergeant Lewis (from Canada) was asked to put out the light in the bunker prior to retiring for the night. He stated that he would as soon as he found his miss placed 45 cal pistol. Lewis found the pistol and shot out the light. The next morning SP4 Rushforth found the 45 slug resting on top of his mesquito bar (netting) over his cott.   

                August (mid to late) 1968 Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) John 'Max' Pickarts, through e-mail was able tell me there was possibly one or two operations that involved at least one tank company and army infantry. He noted one involving Company C 1/77 and 1/61 Infantry which they did quite well in a one day operation west of the FSB C3 north of Cam Lo. He mentioned a body count in the high twenties. 

               Mid August 1968 There was a marine raid into the DMZ looking for signs of NVA helicopter or any air active. Nothing was found? Due to the preping air and artillery bombardment a large number of enemy troops were on the move. These units ran into Marine and US Army blocking forces in Kentucky and Lancaster AOs. 


              19 August 1968 the first units to engage were B-1-1/3 Marine and A-1/77 Armor near Hill 56 while in night defective positions. After being probed during the night, by morning a platoon size enemy force tried to escape through to the east. The battle started. In the end 26 communist troops laid dead in the area of 'Hill 56'. The 3rd Marine Tank Battalion was also involved in this action.This could have been 2nd Platoon A 1/77 tanks or possibly all of Company A.

                20 August 1968 tank A25 was hit by NVA mortar fire. This was confirmed by Mike Chaney after he reviewed old letters to his parents. (Chaney e-mail; 'My tank, A25, was hit by a Marine 60mm motar dead center on our loaders hatch on Aug. 20, 1968'). Was this part of the action with B-1/1 Marines the day before, I just don't konw Is it  possible PFC Don Bentley ( A25L) and some one from tank A24 received shrapnel wounds during August. This may have been the action also?.  But we have  problem with this, according to a MR for 16 September it stated, on 12 September 1968 PFC Don Bentley was injured. On 16 September he proceeded to Company B 75th Support  at an unknown time for a small fragment in the eye. He was placed on limited duty.  'Hap' Trainor did not recall the Bentley eye injury when he late responded to my email inquireys on the matter.
                25-26 August 1968 battles. I came across the following information on the web. The way it was written and the reference source, I though it real enough to follow up on it. The web entry spoke of an edited version from a weekly column, the 'Vietnam Communique' from the 31 Aug 1968 issue. It mentioned a marine reconnaissance patrol ( probably from the 1st Marines Regiment) with 1/77 tanks in  support. 

               Pete Occhialini relled ' I distinctly remember Lt Trainor coming and briefing us about having to go out because a Marine Recon unit found itself in the middle of an NVA unit. If I remember correctly the Marines first sent their people out to extract them and than called us for help. Again if memory serves me correctly the story goes that the Recon unit had bedded down for the evening when an NVA unit moved into their position. The Recon team was initially undetected until they called for evacuation. A Marine Infantry was dispatched to assist. The resulting battle left the highest ranking individual in that company to be an E-6 (equivalent to an Army SSG). Now whether that part is true I don’t know. I just remember hearing that after the fight'.

              The marines and tankers apparently killed 14 communist soldiers in a day time battle some two miles east of Con Thien (FSB A4).  After looking at a map, and if this engaugement was two miles east of A4, This places this action closer to FSB A2 in the Gio Linh area. 2-A-1/77 operated out A3 about this time Pete Occhialin sent an email 10/2008. He called to me ' In another point of the history you mention that 2-A-1/77 was at Gio Linh. 2nd platoon was never at Gio Linh (A2). Gio Linh was an ARVN base. 2nd platoon was at A3, in between Gio Linh and Con Thien(A4). We were suppose to go to Gio Linh and were on the way when 25 hit a mine on the way. The platoon returned to A3'. Apparently only three tanks from the 1/77 were involved. Two tankers from 1/77 were wounded. During August of 1968 I believe Company A 1/77 had been sent to FSB A4 area to support marine sweeping operations. I know veterans from the 2nd Platoon A /1/77 spoke often of A4 and the actions from August through September 1968. One person had photos of 2nd Platoon A/1/77 at A4 in August, I can not recall whom though.  I contacted 'Hap' Trainor, 2nd Platoon leader at the time (a side note here for a mention of their nick name, 'Haps Hoodlums' was the 2nd Plt) for some of his  thoughts. 'Hap" Trainor recalled being down two tanks in late August. One tank was down for transmission problems. He thought is was left at FSB C4 (FSB C4 was on coast north of the Cua Viet River, did Hap mean C3?) waiting repairs. Just as a side note here, 1/77 battalion maintenance was at C3 with TOC during September. The other tank, Sgt Mike Rodericks A23 hit a mine blowing track and road wheels off during a mine sweeping operation around A4. Trainor recalls one wheel took off his tanks antenna and missed his head by inches. Hap mused in an email to me that he was glad to have gotten a close haircut days earlier.  As for the two tankers being wounded while supporting the marine recon outfit, Hap stated he was wounded on 25 August (and again on 13 September). As far as the SGT Kirby story, 1Lt Trainor recalled he (SGT Kirby) was hit in the right shoulder (B40 rocket possibly hit a tree branch next to Kirbys tank and a piece of shrapnel hit him in the shoulder). Hap wrote again in february 2007, 'Sgt Kirby was wounded when the 2nd platoon with the 3rd Opcon (?)  went out to rescue a company of Marines is possible PFC Don Bentley (A25L) and some one from tank A24 received shrapnel wounds during August. This may have been the action?  But I have a problem with this, according to a MR for 16 September, it was recorded that on 12 September 1968 PFC Don Bentley was injured. On 16 September he proceeded to Company B 75th Support 1/5 ID at an unknown time for a small fragment in the eye. He was placed on limited duty.  'Hap' Trainor did not recall the Bentley eye injury when he responded to my inquiry by  email.  


A23 looses Searchlight to B40 rocket: 

          This incident may have happened during the 19-20 August operations. 1Lt Trainors 1-A-1/77 was support  infantry sweep clear operations. during this sweep SGT Rodericks A22 was hit by a B40 rocket, taking his seachlight out. SGT Roderick saw the NVA soldier duck into a bomb creater. Roderick laid his 30 Cal machine gun on the rim of the crater. It was possible the NVA soldier was thinking if surrendering, but when he exposed himself above the crater 30 Cal rounds took the top of his head off. Roderick dismonted the tank retrieving the dead NVA soldiers knapsack and AK-47. Roderick was repermanded for killing an enemy soldier when trying to surrender. Rodericks take on the incident was if he  wanted to surrender he should have done it before he fired the RPG.       

Another bit of information I received from 'Hap' Trainor by emial was after A22 lost its search light to a B40 rocket hit, Trainor took a case to Battalion requesting the removal of the lights due to the target they made. Battalion concidered this request. Search lights could be removed.


             I came across the following information on the web. The way it was written and the reference source used, I though it real enough to follow up on it. The web entry spoke of an edited version from a weekly column, the 'Vietnam Communique' from the 31 August 1968 issue. It mentioned a marine reconnaissance patrol ( probably from the 1st Marines Regiment) with 1/77 tanks in  support. The marines and tankers apparently killed 14 communist soldiers in a daytime battle some two miles east of Con Thien (FSB A4).  After looking at a map, and if two miles east of A4, this places this action closer to FSB A2 in the Gio Linh area. I believe the 2-A-1/77 operated out A2 (Gio Linh) on occaion.  Apparently only three tanks from the 1/77 were involved. Two tankers from 1/77 were wounded. During August of 1968 I believe A/1/77 had been sent to FSB A4 area to support marine sweeping operations. I know veterans from the 2nd Platoon A/1/77 spoke often of A4 and the actions from August through September 1968. One person had photos of 2nd Platoon A/1/77 at A4 in August, I can not recall whon that was.  I contacted 'Hap' Trainor, 2nd Platoon leader of  'Haps Hoodlums',  so they called themselves, at the time for some of his  thoughts. 'Hap' Trainor recalled being down two tanks in late August. One tank was down for transmission problems. Hap thought is was left at FSB C4 (FSB C4 was on coast north of the Cua Viet River, did He mean C3?) waiting repairs. Just as a side note here, 1/77 battalion maintenance was at C3 with TOC during September. The other tank, SGT Mike Rodericks #A23 hit a mine blowing track and road wheels during a mine sweeping operation around A4. Hap recalls one wheel took off his tanks antenna and missed his head by inches. Hap mused in an email to me that he was glad to have gotten a close haircut.  As for the two tankers being wounded while supporting the marine recon outfit, 'Hap'stated he was wounded on 25 August (and again on 13 September). As far as the Sgt Kirby story, Hap recalled he (SGT Kirby) was hit in the right shoulder (B40 rocket possibly hit a tree branch next to Kirbys tank and a piece of shrapnel hit him in thee shoulder). 'Hap' wrote again in february 2007, 'Sgt Kirby was wounded when the 2nd platoon A/1/77 with the 3rd Opcon went out to rescue a company of Marines.'Hap' Trainor recalled  his tanks were facing a valley and a grove of bamboo and  heavy under brush. When the 2nd Platoon tanks were approaching the marines(unit unknown) informed the tankers NVA were in the bamboo to their (tanks) left. The 2nd Platoon went left on line and moved through the bamboo. We then set up a blocking position and 2Lt Jim Davis's 1st Platoon A/1/77 with  circled with the marines. Sgt Kirby was hit by a B-40. 1Lt Trainor figured, too late, that a dead tree near his (Kirbys') tank must have been a sighting point to the NVA.  As mentioned previously (this by 'Hap" Trainor), it was Larry Barnhart (loader #21) and him (trainor) who were hit on the 25th of August. Trainor wrote, 'We were both hit in the head. Larry was hit under the chin and I got it in the head, various places, and my arms. It broke my glasses. One of the few times I was glad I wore glasses. Unfortunately they were my good sun glasses. Big time headache. Larry got a couple of stitches as I recall'. He continued with, 'We guessed it was a mortar or something like that from the shrapnel. That was the same encounter where 25 (Chaney) was hit by a Marine short mortar round. The round hit 25's back deck. All of A Company was on this mission as I recall because I know that Cpt. Harrington was there. I specifically recall his not allowing us to move forward and attack the area from which the enemy fire was coming. The following day, I did go forward with the Marines and we got a bunch of the bad guys'.

           Has for the details on Sgt Kirbys wounding, this dose make sense, I have heard this same story from others over the years. Possibly this recall from HAp covers two days with the marines. Possibly starting on 19 August as mentioned earlier and going a second day. We have more then two tankers wounded here. Captain Harrington would not allow any Medivac call at night.This is the first time I have heard of any night action in August. 1Lt Trainor found problem when pushing on the subject with Herrington. Sgt Kirby was taken out the next morning. Hap thought Kirby was wounded the same day a company CO from the 61th Infantry was killed (B40 rocket strikes  APC?). He does not believe this happened in operations out of A4 though. I could not find any mention of an infantry officer being killed. I see a Captain Vernon being wounded on 4 September support the M/3/9 Marines. In the writings of this action I see no mention of tank support. Trainor also stated that Larry Barnhart, A21 loader and himself being wounded on August 25, 1968  (Gunner Larry Darnnel on A21?). This is the best I have on this.

               In one of these early operations in support of marines south of the DMZ Sgt Overson  was severely wounded. During a lull  in the fighting 3-A-1/77 tankers had dismounted to check tracks when 3rd PSG Texaria spotted a NVA sniper from the turret of A34. Sgt Overson commander of A32 grabbing a M60 machne-gun from a ground position and aggressively moved on the sniper from a frontal position He was brought down by the snipe. Tank A34 fired the 50 Cal machine gun killing the sniper. After an extended period of time Overson was finally extracted from the battle field by air to a field hospital. The date is action is unknown at this time.  I              One                      

              31 August 1968 D/1/11 infanrtymen, were sweeping an area north of FSB A4 when they came under a  mortar attack. Lead elemants spotted four NVA in an open area. The infantrymen gave chase. After several minutes the infantrymen started receiving automatic weapons fire and additional mortar and artillery fire. The communist troops were well dug-in and succeeded in pinning down the infantry squad running point. A platoon from C/1/11 and four tanks from C/1/77 engauged in the battle.The tankers applied 90mm HE and canister shot, with racking 50 cabiler fire on the bunker complex. Infantry with supporting tanker fire continued attacking the dug in communist troops, over runnning the NVA first line of defense. This pressure was over whelming, causing the young NVA soldiers to break and  rout threw heavy under brush. The sounds of battle sudsided leaving the infantrymen to pick over the battle grounds cusiouely. Action pickup with D/1/11 infantrymen and C/1/77 tankers overran additional positions later during the day.

Total count of communist soldiers left on the battle field was 52. Captain Charles C Middaugh C/1/11 CO recalls upon arriving the battle area to assist the embattled D1/11 the driver of the lead tank being fearless, almost loosing his life. Middaugh recalls not for the bravey of his medic PFC Erlinger the driver may have perished. Was the this #C35 with Charles A Alkire TC, Tom Rosser gunner. Their driver Edward Ranilovich was severly wounded when their tank was struck by a B40 rocket. Captain Middaugh sited the tank platoon leader for a citation for bravey on this day.

                                                                The September Battles

                1 Septamber 1968 1/11 Infantry battled communist force near Con Thien for several days.

                2 September B/1/77 was called on to support the same company of 1/11 Infantry. 1Lt Pete Van Harens 3rd Platoon on B/1/77 left flank ran into a dug in and fortified NVA force of an unknown size. A fearce and violent with the tankers anti tank, machinegun fire and hand grenades. The battle ensued at very close quarters in very heavy woodbrush areas. 1Lt Van Haren wheeled his force into an attacking formation placing maxium fire power on the enemy and over ran a large bunker complex. The tankers pushed communist troops from their postions, continuing to apply pressure in pursuing the enemy. This action of 3/B1/77 push the communist troops that had just vacated the bunkers into the remaining B/1/77. tanks. The enemy was distoryed. Their were no seriouly wounded men for 3/B/177 in this action. 1Lt Van Haren was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device.   


                7 September 1968 three replacement arrive at A/1/77 from 75th Support at Camp Red Devil. McCauley, Wilburn and Rushforth. Rushforth had been diverted from B/1/77 .  

                8 September 1968 3/A/1/77 was sent into the DMZ to clear communist unit that was trying to circle and cut off a marine or infantry unit. PFC O'Bryen driver of #A32 recalls his tank was lead making 

the first contact in a bitter fight with NVA soldiers. This may have been the day 2Lt Nagle was wounded?

                11 September 1968 one tank platoon (not numbered/no company mentioned) from 1/77 reenforced D/1/11 Infantry that was engaged in battle with communist troops from the 27th Independent NVA Regiment in the area of the 'Market Place' 4 kilometers northeast of A4. No other details available.


                 11 Septmeber 1968 One platoon of tanks from 1/77 entered a battle in support of D-1/11  four kilometers northeast of Con Thien near the 'Market Place' against troops of the 27th Independent NVA Regiment occuping a bunker complex. By early evening of of the 11th the battle was over. US troops found 40 enemy dead and 7 captured. The tank platoon was probably fron C-1/77. At this time C-1/77 had two platoons at the Cam Lo Brigde south of FSB C3 and one at FSB A4. The whereabouts of the 3-C-1/77 is from recalls from Company C XO Goldsmith and 3-C-1/77 PGSgt (see Op Sullivan).  


                 12 September 1968 Torrential rains (Typhonn Bess) slowed action greatly for a three day period. As a result of increasing enemy activity east of A4 out to the coastal area and south of the Ben Hai River 3rd Marine Division GHQ called for a sweep and clear into the zone. Planning called for three task forces. One tank  (TF77), one mechanized infantry (TF11) and one ACAV regiment (2rd ARVN). These thrust were to follow up on B-52 Arclight strikes.


                 13 September 1968 Operation Sullivan 


                16 September 1968 C/1/77 was supporting marines or infantry in an unknown area when Dan Bowden ATC/gunner of #C34 received shrapnel worunds to this right arm (see MR). Bowden was evacuated from the battle area. He was treated by the 3rd Marine Division and sent to Japan for final treatment and recovery. He was reassigned to Fort Carson Colorado USA for the remainder of his service time with the 5th Infantry Division. Bowden was not inagreement with this reassignment of course, wanting to return to his company.He called have a difficult trip home and times with the 5ID. 1Lt John T Downing Platoon Leader 3/C/1/77 on #C31 call sign #36,  was also wounded. I have no details. . Also wounded was #C32 gunner Dennis Ogden and the driver Bobby J Farley. I ahve no other details of this action.Other than Bowden and Downing I am not sure sure if the others were wound on this day. Daniel C Byers was promoted from PFC to SP4.  PFC Bentley of 2/A/1/77 at B/75.


                17 September 1968 1/A/1/77 was supporting marines or infantry in the Xuan Hia area. 2Lt James Davis received mortar fragments to the left arm. He was treated on the battle field and was not evacuated (see MRs).  I have not other details of this action. PFC Donald R  Bentley still with B/75 Support Bn for eye injury.


                18 September 1968 1/A/1/77 was supporting marines or infantry from 0700 to 1600 on 'Hill 56' in the Xuan Hai area (see MRs). I have no other details of the action. No record of any injuries or wounded for 1/A/1/77.  Phillip Vensen Jr was promoted from PFC to SP4.


                 20 September 1968 B/1/77 and C/1/77 supported operations in the Khe Chua Valley eight kilometers north of Cam Lo. With 1/61 Infantry as a blocking force at the head of the valley, B/1/77 and C/1/77 took up positions from C2A (known as 'Washout', later called 'Woods Hole') bridge to FSB A4 along route 561. From 20-23 Sept  the tanks swept  the valley of small groups of communist forces. No known US casualties.

                11 October 1968 B/1/77 supported B/1/61 and C/1/61 Infantry in actions against a enemy platoon in a bunker complex 2500 kilometers northeast of A4. Communist RPG rockets and 60mm mortars crippled three B/1/77 tanks and one APC.  Mines took out another two tanks from B/1/177 and one APC. Brigade losses were three killed and 20 wounded. A total of 26 communist troops were found dead on the battle field. During actions eleswhere, but within 'Leatherneck Sqaure', A/1/77 was involved supporting infantry when PFC Mike O'Bryen, driver of #A32 hit a mine about 0900. His drivers hatch was open at the tim, throwing him from the drivers seat, making hard contact with the 90mm tank gun barrel. This knock him out cold! A Medic from D/1/11 administered first aid to include mouth to mouth resuscitation. It was very difficult getting a medivac in from PFC O'Bryen. He recalls coming in and out of consciousness. Pete Occhualini recalled an incident such as this involving the driver on #A23, was this one of the same.


                25 October  1968 B/1/77 supported A/B/C/1/61 Infantry during OP Rich. NVA loses were 231 (other sources put NVA loses at 300), with 1/77 and 1/61 four killed and 24 wounded. We have much more on this. Will get some recalls from  Paul Swannee and Peter Van Haren. (insert here)     

               1 November  1968 1/77 started  moving south during Operation Napoleon Saline II and Marshall Mountain. This was a different type mission then the ones the 1-77 had participated in during its first three months along the DMZ. Starting in November the 1/77 would be aiding in search and clear, cordon sweeps of  large portions of Northern I Corp. The 1/77  worked very closely the ARVN forces and the local population.

                 A-1-77 left FSB C-3 just north of Cam Lo Village and River about 1 November 1968. No reference to the actual date could be found. 1Lt Robert Elrod was back from Japan after recuperating from B-40 rocket (RPG) sharpnel to the leg. 1Lt Elrod was Company As FOB from the 5/4 Arty Bn. 87Kilo was his call sign. He was wearing a red bandana about his neck the day A-1/77 pulled out of FSB C3 .

                  The order of march for A-1/77 was 3rd Platoon, 2nd Platoon, HQ Platoon and 1st Platoon. Chuck Winslow a new 1st Platoon Leader at the time recalls loading Cpt Herringtons (bet Bob Elrod used that privy also ) 'outhouse' on the rear deck of A11 for the trip to LZ Nancy. Chuck can recall this small building floating away during the first river (possibly the Cam Lo?) crossing. A-1/77 was still on QL1 after dark. We had trouble crossing one bridge on QL1. Captain Herrington had radio contact with the lead 3rd Platoon tank. Harrington gave a threatening message to the party (ARVN forces) holding up access to the bridge. Pete Occhialini. gunner on tank A25 recalls A25 was not operational due to mechanical problems. A25 was towed into LZ Nancy by another  2-A-1/77 tank.   

LZ Nancy:

1/77 pulled into a much larger LZ Nancy then most can recall today. Most of the Battalion woke to the sounds of 3rd Bde 1st Cav Division helicopters pulling out the last troopers. The A -1/77 set up mess tent and the COs bunker next to an ARVN 105mm (towed) artillery battery. There was alot of swapping going on while at that position. The US tankers and ARVN artillery were seporated by one wire fence four feet high. We can recall passing food stuffs over to them and getting things in return.  A marine rife platoon or two came through the LZ. They were quite hungry. A-1/77 Mess SSG White fed those guys three times in one  afternoon. Many marines were armed with older weapons. The M14s and boozokas were being carried. Weapons the Navy had no use for. Trading with the marines also occurred. Some tankers washed their clothes in a shell hole with a wood plank across the middle. This was located at the base of the slop in front of the company position in the LZ. Large green leeches could be seen swimming about in the hole. The parimeter was too darn large for what units were replacing the 3/1 Cav. Later the wire was moved in quite abit.

A-1/77 was called on a night move from LZ Nancy as a blocking force. A large group of  people had been seen moving by night from the coastle area toward the foot hills behond QL1.  Once out in a nearly correct position SSG Faulks stated to Harrington by radio the force looked to be about 150 people.The block was missed by A-1/77 and all individauls got through or were hidden. Some have spectulated that was the incident that moved Cpt Herrington up to HHQ after only four months of field command? Of this one night operation Pete Occhialini A25G recalled in an email 10/2008,'I remember this quite well because A25 was on the extreme left flank. There was no one to our left and I felt very exposed. We were out there west of the of Hai Lang. The company was on line and there were infantry between the tanks from 1/61.  I think it was A Co 1/61 because we worked with that company a lot. We were facing toward LZ Nancy (the south) and every half hour the Arty at would fire a single illum round. Don Bentley and I were on guard while Mike Cheney and Bobby Jaggers slept. At the half hour the arty fired the one illumination round. You could see the flash from the arty off in the distance. As the round lit up the area SSG Faulk HOLLERED over the radio…"There must be a hundred of them out there.. in front of my tank" (I know there were a few expletives in there as well). He later went on to say they were only about 50 feet in front of his tank. This scared the crap out of me because that meant they had walked right in front of my tank also. I immediately woke up Mike Chaney and Bobby and told them what was going on. We had expected that we would be moving after them and were very disappointed that we didn’t. SSG Faulk went on to say that it appeared that half of them didn’t even have weapons. That is how close to them he was. That was beautiful tank country in that area with wide open with gentle rolling hills. I know on A25 the discussion was that we, A Co would be the laughing stock for while for letting this golden opportunity slip away'.

1/77 took Thanksgiving at LZ Nancy. The Battalion must have been whole at that time. A-1/77s Cpt Harrington goes to HHQ. New Cpt Brown arrives to command. O 1 December Cpt Brown commands his first sweep outside of LZ Nancy. The 1st platoon looses A11 to a command detenated anti-tank mine. 

LZ Sharon:

Tanks started moving to LZ Sharon in support of infantry operations in that area.

LZ Nancy :

December 1968 1/77 men started the  transfusion process.

  Pete Occhialini (A25G) recalled his feelings when he went through the process of leaving the A Company in a 10/2008 email.  'Late December.1968 A Co was out north of providing security for an Arty unit. We would sit in one place over night than move to another location the following day. The last night out, just before dark I was sitting on the TC hatch when I heard a loud "Boing" and felt the tank bump a little. Not more than 15 second’s later another boing and another bump. I knew right away that we had just busted 2 torsion bars and was dreading the though of having to change them. I remembered all the problems we had changing them when we hit the mine a few months back. Just about that time Mike (Pouch) Cheney had returned and told me to get my things that I was going back in (back to ) with the ISG. As I gather my belongings a third torsion bar gave way. When we retuned to 1SG Offutt told me that I was being transfer the next day and to get everything together that I needed to turn in. This included the shoulder holster that everyone was issued along with our .45’s. I had no idea where mine was as I had purchased from the locals a quick draw hip holster.  The following morning the Company came back in. I went down to my tank to try and find my holster and get everything I owned from the tank. I never did find it and the last thing I remember from the 1SG before leaving was him chewing my ass form not having it to turn in. As I was searching inside the tank the rest of the crew were off doing something. I was alone and began talking to MY tank. I stood on the turret floor and cried because I was leaving MY tank. I know now that it was not the tank I was leaving but Mike, Bobby and Don. I did not want to leave them and it was killing me inside. As I was writing this I told my wife this story for the first time and the emotions came back. I climbed off the tank and headed to the company CP, trying to hold back the tears. I turned around, looked at my tank for the last time and said out loud "Goodbye". I never did get to say goodbye to my crew. I never did get the chance to say thank you to my crew. I was reassigned to an artillery unit in the Americal Division down in Chu Lia. I had an easy "safe" job. There was not a day that went by that I did not think of my crew. In July I began looking forward to seeing everyone as we all rotated out at the same time. When that day came I was all excited. I was going through the barracks at Ton Son Nut looking for a familiar face. I finally found Sgt Kirby who told me that they had just left a few hours prior to my arrival. I was heartbroken. I so wanted to see them again. I wanted to know if they all made it and to let them know that I made it too. I did not see them again until our first reunion. Don Bentley I did not get to see again as he had passed away the year prior to the reunion.'

A4 1969:

Tom miller

For my personal interest, I continue to look for the picture of a Marine at Con Tien, probably taken in 1967 but perhaps 1966 or 1968. I probably saw the picture in Life Magazine. The rifleman is dirty, bleary eyed, and gazing out the aperture of a one man, round topped, concrete firing position on the perimeter of Con Tien. The Marines constructed these shelters and moved them into position around the hill top.


I can remember when our favorite Deputy Brigade Commander commandeered an M 88 to move them out of position and put them in the nearby dump. His reason: they would destroy the offensive spirit of the mechanized brigade. How offensive minded were the troops assigned to protect the perimeter of the Hill of Angles when the artillery/rockets  were falling and the RPGs were being aimed from just across the wire and mine fields? I was always concerned that in the face of a well planned attack against Fire Base A 4, we could not maneuver mobile forces there in time, specially since we were now left with shallow holes in the ground as our main fighting positions. Ah, well, that's another story.




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Unofficial History of the 77th Armor
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