The K-9 Post
of  Da Nang AB
 

By late '69, the section had developed into a very exclusive, tight group. Handlers were expected to stand together on anything against anyone. It was very much a case of us against everyone else. The only exception was the Marines. They treated us better on post than our fellow Air Force Security Police did, and we responded accordingly. Newcomers to the three Marine companies, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie (3rd Military Police Battalion), were always surprised to find Air Force dog teams patrolling in front of them with them. All of the handlers preferred to work the Marine perimeter rather than the one post on the Air Force perimeter.

The marine perimeter consisted of machine gun bunkers, some concertina barb wire in front, a few claymores, and a few lights. Our dog posts were between the machine gun bunkers and ran forward to the wire. Each bunkers would have several marines sleeping, with one or two on watch all night. K-9 teams going on post were dropped off alongside the main road and then walked to the perimeter. At night, vehicles on the perimeter risked sniper fire. 

As we walked past the Marine bunkers, we were always asked if our dog knew any tricks. Handlers quickly learned that showing off a few dog tricks would guarantee cordial relations (coffee) with the Marines manning the bunkers. They would give up a sandwich or two from the "midnight rations" delivered to the Marines on the perimeter. The sandwich was a welcome break from the C-Rations that we were given. The sandwich was always split with the most important member of the sentry dog team, the dog, which always pleased the marines. 

Alpha company lines ran from the main Air Force cantonment area to a gate located on the south side of the base. Kilo-16 was the first post on the Alpha Company lines. The road out of this gate ran past a silk factory, leading to one of the bridges over the river. The road ran in the direction of Happy Valley (a popular launching point for VC rockets). Alpha Company's CO was a Captain Swartz. He checked posts almost every night and usually stopped to talk to each handler. We regarded him as having brass ones because of the way he ignored dogs agitating on him. He would walk up so close that it took a determined effort to prevent a dog from biting him

I believe that Bravo Company had two platoons; one on each side of the bridge over the river. During Tet of 69, one of platoons was overrun and had to withdraw back across the river. They retook the bridge but suffered casualties. On Da Nang AB, Bravo Company lines were short (with only two platoons on the perimeter). The aforementioned silk factory was located at the gate, off base next to the perimeter fence. Past the gate, Bravo Company lines were on the perimeter fence with the on base bomb dump behind them. We only had a few posts there. They were between the perimeter fence and an inner chain link fence, with a road used only in the daytime with a high dirt revetment separating the perimeter from the bomb dump. The on base bomb dumps were as far away from the flight line and cantonment areas as possible, yet still within the base perimeter.

Charlie Company lines were the longest. They stretched from the POL tank farm on the northwest Marine side of the base, around a large swamp that was north of the ends of the two parallel runways, to the POL tank farm located on the northeast Air Force side. In the area where the swamp ran off base, the fence consisted of some concertina and a few strands of barbed wire.      Photos Below: Da  Nang Perimeter

Below: Charlie Company 1st Platoon's Swampy Perimeter 

Charlie Company controlled two vehicle gates to the base. Our posts, beginning with Kilo-1, were between bunkers manned by 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, with the last post on Charlie Company lines being Kilo-14.

Below Photos:  Bridge to Bunker # 1, Charlie Company. 1st Platoon   Note: Being in the  middle of this foot bridge during a rocket attack was not a good experience.  The swamp on both sides of the bridge was laced solid with barb wire entanglements.

Photo Below: Fortified machine Gun Bunker, Charlie Company

No one liked to work the only post on the Air Force perimeter side of the base (Kilo15). We went through a gate located near a machine gun tower. The SP at the tower would then padlock the gate behind us. The post was between an inner chain link fence and a triple row of concertina. Behind the concertina was a row of Claymore mines, controlled by the machine gun tower. To the uninformed, a Claymore mine is a widely used anti-personnel mine. The mine is dark green plastic and resembles a small suitcase. It contains a block of C-4 explosive, with several pounds of ball bearings glued into one side of the case. The blast directs the shrapnel in a pattern that can be aimed. A prominent warning label was on each mine, "This side toward the enemy". A sandbag or two was placed on the ground behind each mine to reduce the back blast.

We had been told that if all the Claymores were fired, the only chance we had to survive was to be in our little K-9 bunker. If you wanted to sit down and enjoy your C-rations, you could either sit atop the bunker or sit on a sandbag and have a really close up look at a Claymore. The mines were detonated electrically from a panel located in a machine gun tower. It was rumored that after one rocket attack, the firing panel for the Claymores was found unlocked. We were not at all pleased with that. If you told a Marine bunker that you had an alert, the Marines would, without any hesitation, back you up. On K-15, we envisioned the firing panel being unlocked.

In mid-1969, the off base munitions dumps exploded and burned for hours early one morning after we had just come in from post. The Marine Scout Dog kennels, located near a off-base munitions dump, had to be evacuated. Their dogs were brought to our kennels, staked out to the fence, with shipping crates used as doghouses. I remember that one of the Marine handlers had his leg in a full cast. After a few days, they were moved to the Navy sentry dog kennels at China Beach.  

A short time later a K-9 party was held at the Navy kennels for all the Dog Handlers in I Corp. I don't remember too much about the party (don't read too much into that, either!); however, I do recall seeing sand and palm trees. I caught the K-9 posting truck back to the Air Base in the early afternoon, but several AF handlers stayed and joined a party of Marine and Navy handlers at a nearby Army Club. Some soldiers decided to pick on the Marines, since they were outnumbered. They soon found out that all the dog handlers were more than willing to back each other.  

A few of the lucky handlers were off that night. Tom Suddeth woke up the next morning and found himself at a Marine site. The only problem was that it was at Marble Mountain. He made it back to the base in time for guardmount only because of friendly Marines.  

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Da Nang AB Air Base   Dogs of Da Nang AB    Handlers of Da Nang AB

Attack on Da Nang AB    Blackie #129X    K-9 Posts of Da Nang AB

Stories by Greg Dunlap    Stories by Greg Dunlap #2

Stories of Da Nang    Trip: China Beach   Sick Call 

The Section    Photos # 1    Photos # 2 

Photos # 3   Photos # 4 

Da Nang AB K-9 Reunions  

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