Hello Mary Lou

Near Kontum in Vietnam, there was a base located on the south side of the city called Mary Lou.  No, I don't have a clue where the name came from, only that it was centered in my time in Vietnam on several ways. 

Near the start of my time in the 1st Bn, 92nd nd FA, I was assigned as the battalion Ammo officer.  It was early in the year after the TET offensive and one of the jobs we had was to restock the Ammunition Supply Point in Dak To.  For about 6 weeks, we made daily runs from Pleiku Through Kontum to Dak To.  I would take the ammunition trucks over to the ASP in Pleiku every night and the ASP and my men would load the trucks.  I felt it was my job to be there as much as I could.  We would load up the trucks and head back to Artillery Hill in the early hours and somewhere about 8AM we would drive over to the Convoy point to get ready for the trip up the highway to Dak To.

I would either be in the convoy in my jeep or a Bird Dog would land at Artillery Hill and pick me up.   During my time in that duty, we were a bunch of lucky pups.  The convoy got hit in the front when my trucks were on the back and in the back when my trucks were in the front.   During all that time, I had only one soldier even wounded while I am sure there were dead where the main ambush hit.  In fact, there is a report in the daily Sitreps about LTC Cade and the Battalion Commo officer got a medal for being there as I fired artillery at the ambush site and the retreating Viet Cong.  I didn't need any medals for doing my job so I really didn't even know about that until just this last year.

There were two places where the road was just ripe for an ambush.  One we called Ambush Alley and was the scene of many ambushes over the years.  The second point was north of Kontum where the road crossed a river.  It was there that this story is about.

I mentioned that I flew a lot of convoy cover and on one of the trips north,  our convoy was hit by small arms fire and the aforementioned soldier was hit.  When I Landed in Dak To, I went over to my trucks to see how it all turned out.  I seems that one of the 2 1/2 Ton trucks that had a few supplies in it was hit and for some reason it got sent to Kontum hooked to the back of a wrecker.  I knew that there was a few mail sacks in that truck and I really wanted to gather them back under our control.  I took my jeep and with the approval of the Commander in the Forward TOC headed back down the road towards Kontum.  Yes, it wasn't the safest thing to do but I figured that any potential ambushes would have been busted and the enemy scattered.

I found my truck on the back of the wrecker just as it was turning in the gate at Mary Lou.  I stopped the wrecker and asked him where he was going to take the truck.  He said he had no clue where it was to be taken.  I climbed up in the back of the truck and saw a lot of things covered with canvas.  I threw back the canvas and had to step back for the blood and gore in the bed of the truck.  There in the bed of the truck was the bodies of three soldiers that had been killed in the ambush.  The wrecker driver said their Tracked Ammo Carrier had been hit in the front by a recoilless rifle and these guys were killed by the concussion.  

About that time, I saw an MP jeep going by and I asked him if there was a Graves Registration point there on Mary Lou.  He took us over there and I went in to get some help.  They came out with some rolling gurneys and I asked the wrecker driver and his assistant to unload the bodies.  "No Way LT."  They weren't going to handle no dead bodies, they were truck drivers and that was final.  The SP4 from the Graves Registration Unit and I wound up unloading the bodies.  I never did find out who they were or what unit they belonged to.  The wrecker driver did haul my truck over to one of our firing batteries that was at Mary Lou.  It had a bullet hole in the radiator and it got fixed by a team sent up from my unit in Pleiku.

About an hour later, the convoy from Dak To arrived back on it's way to Pleiku.  I led the convoy the rest of the way in my jeep.  When I arrived back at Artillery Hill, I was called up to the FA Brigade Headquarters for a short After Action Review.  Mostly I sat in a room full of people that were as bored as I was.  Other than the two dead soldiers, the ambush was pretty minor.  In fact, I am not sure that anyone even called on me to tell what happened to my truck.  Somehow the mail bags had been transferred to one of my trucks and it turned up for distribution to our batteries scattered all over the hills and fire bases near Dak To.

My next visit to Mary Lou was much different and will be in tomorrow's Mary Lou II  post tomorrow.


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