Helicopter Hate Part 2.

A week or two prior to Thanksgiving 1968, I was in a Howitzer battery and got volunteered for a job that I neither wanted or asked for. When the battalion XO came to me, that should have been clear. He always wanted me to do something he didn't want to do or something I didn't want to do and sometimes it was both. He had a royal case of the red chapped Monkey Butt because I asked the Battalion Commander to replace a Battery Commander that had been drunk for a week and stayed that way. The first night, he got roaring drunk and passed out without much trouble. The next night he and my Chief of Smoke got drunk and passed out. The next night he and a couple of the gun section chiefs played poker until they all passed out. By the end of the first week, I was the only sober son of a bitch after it got dark. I went over to the Fire Direction Center and requested the Battalion Commander come out to our fire base the next morning. He arrived about 10 AM and the rest of the leaders were all asleep nursing hangovers. He loaded up the Battery Commander and told me I was in charge until he could find a Captain. I'm not sure why that pissed off the XO so bad but he just hated me openly and I got the shit details from then on.

One of the batteries was moving from a fire base west of Kontum and when the flying crane hooked up one of the howitzers, something went wrong. About half way to the new position the howitzer started swinging so bad that the pilot or the crew chief just punched that sucker off. A 155MM howitzer dropped from several thousand feet became a large lawn dart and fell barrel down until it reached ground level and then stuck everything down and deep. On the tail end of the howitzer is a round hitch to connect it to a truck. Only about a foot of the 25 or so feet was sticking up above the ground. As that howitzer played lawn dart, the wheels that stuck out on the side were ripped off and they bounced at least a hundred yards away. In the tall grass, they were almost impossible to find. My job was to go out and find that lawn dart and make sure it was no value the enemy.

We started with a scouting party by helicopter to see if we could locate anything before we went out on the ground. I spent most of one day in a light observation helicopter (LOH) blowing the grass around in a area that was not controlled by either side. About the time we were out of flight time, I spotted one of the tires. I did a map spot of the location and we went back in to our base. The next morning a huey came to our location and took me and a recon team out to a Special Forces camp. There we were given seven of the little guys and a Green Barret Sgt to go out and get on the ground. We located a flat place not too far from the tire and offloaded the team.

We traveled the better part of an hour and went fairly right to the location where the tire had been. There was a perfect impression where it had been and lots and lots of footprints where it had been pushed off to. The Green Beret Sgt went almost crazy as he was sure we were going to get our asses shot frequently and deep. We set up a perimeter and sent a couple of the little guys out to see if they could find the howitzer/lawn dart. About an hour later those guys came back to our location laughing. One of them had literally tripped on the lunette sticking up out of the ground. They led us right back to the howitzer as it was only about 45 feet from our location. The grass was about 8 feet tall and cou could have hidden an elephant in the grass.

Now let me tell you about the problem we had. The howitzer must have weighed two and a half tons and there was no way that we were going to be able to lift it out of that damned hole. There was no way we were going to dig it up or really do anything worthwhile. We could see the breech block down about 15 feet in the hole and that is where our imagination took over. All over Vietnam there were secure radios with thermite grenades on top so they could be destroyed if the unit was hit. The Green Barret called his base camp and they sent out a LOH with a box of the thermite grenades.

We dug down a ways and made the hole bigger so we could lower a guy down to set the grenade where it would burn a hole in the breech block. The little guys were fairly efficient in the use of explosives and they rigged the howitzer with thermite grenades and set them all off. When the smoke cleared you could clearly see the breech block with a big hole in it. End of mission. We were able to get a helicopter to pick us up and take us to the Green Barret camp for the night.

The next morning I found myself getting ready to spend three weeks in the Plei Trap Valley. I was volunteered because I was already in the Special Forces Camp where the mission was going to start from. All of that was due to some chopper pilot dropping one of the guns. Those three week were the worst of my life and I'll tell you about it sometime.



  1. MUD, I'm enjoying this. As a guy who was too young for Vietnam, and as a father of two sons now in the Service, it is fascinating to me.


  2. You paint a vivid picture MUD, Thank you.