Don; good to hear from another Da Nang
Camp Swampy/Dog Patch rat.
I originally was assigned to Phu Cat AB
with the 483d SPS as a M-113 turret gunner assigned to Quebec Echo,
and covered the south end of the base and POL area. Funny thing is I
volunteered for RVN to get out of humping bombers at Ellsworth AFB in
-40 below. First night in Cam Ranh we got hit and I said to myself,
"What were you thinking?"
Had a good talk with Steve Ray yesterday
about Cam Ranh, as we were there at the same time, and he recalled the
bad incident that occurred over on the army-end ordnance dump. We were
busy that night and it was real bad.
You asked about my Purple Heart award... was not really much to talk about at the time, my recollection is this
When we closed up Phu Cat AB, half of us
went to Da Nang AB, some went to Saigon, and some off to Thailand RTAFBs.
At Da Nang AB, I was assigned to Peacemaker #
4 M-706 (Phantom, we named the damn thing). Usually I was the
top M60 man or the XM-174 grenadier, as it was not unusual to swap
off on our team assignments. On the night of September 2, 1972, we were
posted out by the old bomb dump that faced directly at Dog Patch Village,
and Freedom Hill 327. During the night we were told sappers had penetrated
the off-site ARVN ammo storage area that was either on the backside
or slightly left of Freedom Hill 327.
The ARVN ammo dump was cooking-off and there
was concern that the ordnance would cook-off and spread to the AF off-site bomb dump. I think that was north of Dog Patch about 1-2 clicks
out from the Dog Patch gate. We used to run the escorts and periodically
posted the bunkers and towers out there if the threat level was higher.
Peacemaker units worked dusk till dawn and
usually we got every 9-10th day off. On this night CSC advised the Pig
Commander to leave the fire team (MG, Asst. MG, M79/rifleman and the
leader) at the primary area in place as a blocking force, as it was
feared sappers might use the ARVN storage dump explosions as a diversion.
The Driver and the top gunner (me) were to
proceed over to the Bomb Dump and standby to pull the people out in
the event the AF area started to go-off due to ordnance cooking-off
in close proximity. Myself and the driver, who I think was another buck
Sgt named Emerson, had just pulled out when the PRC 25 and CSC radio
started indicating incoming rockets. What I recall is that we both unassed
the Pig, to get over in a nearby culvert, when the rockets started to
fall on base. Can't remember how many, but at the time it seemed like
One 122 mm rocket landed about 40-45 yards
from us, which put the explosion half way between us and the team that
was in place. Next thing I know my hip and leg are burning like hell
and I'm trying to brush off the burning shrapnel. Must of it blew right
over our heads, but I must have caught a couple of pieces on my right
leg, hip and the back of my flack jacket. What really got me later was
the shrapnel burned a couple of holes in my only decent set of cammies
and flack jacket (old Marine Corp model). After the incoming rockets
stopped, CSC told us to proceed over to the off-site dump. We spent
the night watching the ARVN area explosives cook-off, and were relieved
later in the next morning.
Didn't think much of the incident at the time,
although it burned like hell at first, but only required first-aid later
in the next morning. I went over to the hospital (lack of nookie
inn) for the burns on my leg and hip. My leg had more of a long
scratch than a burn. Could have been worse if we had been standing up
when the rocket hit. Funny thing was that had we kept going we would
have been a good 250 yards away, but the M-706 with the high profile
and little armor were not the place to be in a rocket attack.
Like I said, wasn't much of a wound to speak
of, and I was very lucky. We had a lot more closer calls during the
year, but luckily all went well.
You take care and thanks for all your help with the organization
feels good to talk to guys who understand our "involvement"
People hear AF and think everyone is either a pilot or gas jockey. Another
think that's good to see is all the good feelings and welcome that the
troops are getting now when they return, seems like they always had
us returning in the middle of the night, freedom bird, grab a flight
stateside get home and then off to stateside duty. SAC was a major culture
shock after Vietnam.
All in all would not trade my experiences, friendships, and memories
of the guys served with for anything. Not a day goes by when I don't
think about someone or something from that time. With all the crap going
on at the time in the states the people I served with were truly America's
best -- bar none. No bases were overrun due to one major reason: the
AF infantrymen... AKA AP, SP, and CSP. Take care and again much thanks
for your hard work for the VSPA.