Marine Corps Vietnam Tankers Historical Foundation®

Marine Corps Vietnam-era Tankers and Ontosmen Have Made History.  Your Historical Foundation is Making it Known.


      My name is Rick Oswood and I was a 2141 tank mechanic with the 1st Plt Bravo Co 3rd Tanks at Khe Sanh. On the morning of the 19 of May I was the gunner on Tank B14. We were assigned convoy duty along with Tank B15. While waiting for the road sweep we were informed it was Ho Chi Minhs birthday. The road sweep team consisting of two tanks from the 1st platoon, and infantry from F Co 2nd Bn 1st Marines. We were then told that the road sweep team had been fired on. The crew in my tank was talking about the enemy making a mistake by firing on the road sweep team instead of waiting for the convoy. 

     We wanted to join the tanks and infantry on the road sweep in the fight but were held for what seemed like a couple of hours. We were finally allowed to go help. We loaded infantry from F Co 2nd Bn 1st marines on both tanks B 15 and B14 and headed to the scene of the fight. B 15 was in front and B 14 in trace. As a gunner I had limited view of the battle. When we started receiving fire B15 was positioned to fire from the center of the road to cover the right side. B14 was positioned to fire from the center of the road and to cover the left side. We did not have as many targets on the left. I saw an RPG crew setting up in the middle of the road to fire on B15 so I took them out using a HE round. Because of the volume of fire coming from the right side, we then switched and covered the right side of the road. I was firing the main gun using Canister rounds and HE rounds and also the 30 caliber machine gun on groups of NVA and crew served weapons. The North Vietnamese were well equipped and were wearing what looked like new uniforms, and they were fearless.

     A couple of times during the battle we had fired so many rounds that the spent shells from the main gun were jamming the rotation of the turret and we had to open the hatch and get rid of the spent shells. The spent shells were hot and I could feel the heat on my legs through my boots. The loader burned a hole in the mitt he was using to throw spent casings and I gave him my sweat shirt to wrap around the mitt so he could continue throwing the casings out of the turret. There were so many NVA and I was so focused on trying to kill or at least keep them from overrunning us that I lost all concept of time I do not know if we fought for minutes or hours. We had the 30 caliber machine gun jam and quit using it. I do not know if the TC was using the 50 caliber I was just so involved with what I was doing. We were running very low on ammo for the maim gun. The loader was keeping tracks of RPG hits and he told me that we had been hit by seven RPGs. By this time we had moved in front of Tank B 15 on the road.

     All of a sudden the NVA stopped attacking us and I could not find any targets. I kept rotating the turret slowly from left to right to keep the NVA down and from attacking us. A short time later the tank commander yelled for me to come left, left, left, he then said fire, fire and I did fire. I do not know if we got the RPG crew or not, we fired at the same time I do know that the RPG they fired got us. In the S 4 section of the staff journal for the 3rd Tank BN, May 19 1968 it says B 14 had two penetrations and the turret was inoperative, it also said all tanks in the fight that day were hit by at least 3 RPGs. Counting the last two I am not sure if we were hit by 8 or 9 RPGs that day. I was knocked unconscious after the RPG penetrated the turret and I regained consciousness in Charlie Med at Khe Sanh. I do not know how we got back to Khe Sanh or how long it took or how I was removed from the tank. I was treated at Charlie med at Khe Sanh then flown by helicopter to Dong ha then sent to Da Nang.

     At the hospital in Da Nang they used antiseptic soap and a scrub brush to clean the powder burns and shrapnel wounds that I had everywhere above the waist. That was the worst pain I have ever experienced. But I was still laughing while they were doing this and the man scrubbing asking me if I was laughing because of the morphine they had given me and I told them the reason I was laughing I was because I was still alive. I was temporarily blind I had damage to both eyes, both retinues were partially detached, I had flash burns to both eyes and shrapnel in the left eye, both my eyes were bandaged. The RPG must have exploded just in front of my left shoulder I had powder burns and shrapnel from the top of my head to my waist including arms and hands. While I was in the hospital in Da Nang the hospital came under rocket attack, I could not be moved so they put a foam mattress over me, I pushed it off and told them it would not stop a rocket but that they should go somewhere safe. I was next flown to Tripler Army hospital in Hawaii where I started getting my vision back. Two weeks later I was sent to Bremerton Naval Hospital, in Washington State Then later to Oak knoll naval hospital in Oakland California for treatment they were not equipped to give at the Bremerton Naval Hospital. I was released from Oak knoll naval hospital in late October of 1968 and discharged from the Marine Corps in November of 1968.