Marine Corps Vietnam Tankers Historical Foundation®
Marine Corps Tankers Have Made History. Your Foundation is Making it Known.
Images contributed by Joseph T. Liu C/1st/Tks 1966-67
Originally posted on Tim Matye's web site.
Here are the few pictures I have of the compound of "C" Company, 1st Tanks at Hoi An during 1967. I was in country 10 December 1966 to 24 December 1967. Missed Tet by three weeks. Our unit support the grunts in and around Hoi An, Marble Mountain, along Hwy 1 and around DaNang.
I wish I knew the names of the marines shown in the enlisted club and during the Marine Corps birthday, too many years of blocking them out of my mind. Still taste that shifty Crown Beer in the steel cans and tiger piss, schlitz, pabst and any other beer we could get our hands on.
Marine Corp Birthday 1967, recognize the knife the CO is using ? I was short, 6 weeks to go. The rest is as you remember, landmine damage, amazing I can still look at the five quarter truck and remember the grunts who lost their lives. At one time over half our tanks were down with landmine damage and the lack of spare parts. Cannibalization was an art form. We shared a compound with a battalion of grunts, amtraks and a 105 battery. Either the 3rd Marines or 1st Marines can’t remember which.
Like I said before I was proud to have served in Vietnam and glad it was with tankers. The time I spent in the field to support tank crews meant a lot. To see the faces light up during mail call or just bullshiting the time away and giving them time off from the war gave us all hope we would be making it home.
Your E mail must have been an inspiration. Here are some writings of memories and hope I can put them together in an article to make sense. I have been to the VA for treatment of Depression and PTSD. I hope my article will others to go in and get the treatment they need and deserve. The Veterans Affairs Administration has been a pain in the ass to deal with, but the PTSD clinic in Salt Lake City has been great.
Hope to meet you at the reunion.
A STORY OF A REAR ECHELON "OFFICE POUGE"
For over thirty years I have forgotten a time in my life in which I refused to face until the fall of 2001.
During a birthday party for my great nephew Kai in the summer of 2001, I meet another uncle who later become a good friend and fellow Vietnam Veteran who is struggling with PTSD and health issues that were brought about by the Vietnam war. Gary was a navy Corpsman attached to a Marine grunt unit in Vietnam and is 100% disabled. In talking with Gary at the party he noticed that I couldn’t talk about Vietnam without difficulty. I couldn’t remember names and faces and have blocked out thoughts of the war for over thirty years. He suggested that I go the Veteran’s Hospital in Salt Lake City and get checked out.
I went into the agent orange clinic because of skin problems and other medical problems. Dr. Buttars examined me and noticed I couldn’t talk about Vietnam and set up an appointment at the PTSD clinic after he finished examining me. I was immediately setup with a intake officer and questioned about experiences in Vietnam and current issues. I have never been able to talk about Vietnam with non veterans for years and have had trouble sleeping during the night. I have had flashbacks about Vietnam and to this day hate the smell of diesel fuel, tight constricting clothing, damp wet canvas, sudden loud noises, helicopter sounds, all of which remind me of Vietnam.... To make a long story short I have PTSD (Survivor’s Guilt), depression, and many other health issues. I came to the VA because of the lack of health insurance and medical care. Here is some of my story and I hope in reading this article fellow marines will seek the help they deserve in dealing with PTSD.
In 1966 at the age of 18, I joined the U. S. Marine Corps after a failed romance and a burning desire to get the hell out of the state of Utah. I have always considered myself as an intelligent individual, but after boot camp I had my doubts. I don’t know how many of you remember the promises the Corps made you, but I am sure that I wasn’t the only Marine who was lied to!!! I went into the Marine Corps as a Type "J" Reservist, 2 years active duty and 4 years active reserves. During boot camp I was offered a school in computers. This would require I extend my enlistment by one year to serve three years active duty instead of two. I reenlisted and extended my tour and to this day have never seen a Marine Corps computer. (Sound Familiar to anyone). They did give me the MOS 0141 Administrative Specialist and sent me to school at Camp Pendleton, California. Upon completion of school I was attached to 2nd Battalion Eighth Marines at Camp Lejeune NC. After eleven months in the Corps I was sent to Vietnam.
On 10 December 1966, I arrived in Vietnam at DaNang after that wonderful flight aboard a C 130 from Okinawa. Didn’t you just love those web seats and the noise. It was in the late afternoon and it looked so peaceful and quiet when we landed. There was no way a war could be going on. As night fell about us and we were in the transient barracks we began noticing the parachute flares and the night skies being lit up all around us. Distant gun fire would be heard and then the planes flying in and out of the base would keep us all awake until the next morning. I received orders to "C" Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, "Great" I wanted to be a door gunner in a Huey.
Once again it was during the daylight when we traveled to the base of Marble Mountain where our Compound was located, and to see the peaceful landscape of rice paddies and vegetation gave no indication a war was going on. It didn’t take long until we realized that the night belonged to the Viet Cong and shit happens after dark.
I was assigned to the administration section and was given the duties as the unit diary clerk, Mail Room and other duties as assigned. Working in the office was not for me and I was always looking for excuses to go to the field. I remember the first time I heard and seen a tank coming into the compound , what a sight to behold, 52 tons of machinery in the hands of a bunch of teenagers. You could feel the ground shake and image the 90mm blasting the hell out of the gooks. I am a Chinese/English/Irish American and never liked the term gook but it didn’t take long for me to use the term freely and without remorse. From the first time I seen a tank I always wanted to be a tank crewman and to be put in the office for a year would drive me nuts.
During the early months, a lot of time was spent learning what a tank unit did and every time I had a chance I would go to the field. Being the mail clerk allowed be to be in the field quite often. I would also volunteer to go out with the fuel and supply trucks every chance I could get out of the office. I spent hours with the crews and learned about their hardships as well as the glory of being a tank crewman. Mostly the hardships, living and sleeping in and around the tanks for days, eating cold C rations and going without showers, and the hard work of just doing daily maintenance. Lord forbid you hit a landmine and had to break track in the field. I helped short track a few of tanks and it’s ball busting work. If I wasn’t in the field I would help in the tank park putting mine damaged tanks back together, or help unload wounded grunts and their equipment off the tanks as the came in from the field, there was always work to be done. Removing all the crew served weapons off the tanks to clean and service them by field stripping and dumping them into diesel fuel. Everyone forgets about the daily chores that had to be done just to keep weapons and machines functional.
My duties in the office allowed me to work in the office during the daylight hours and when I was caught up, there was always work to be done and in the tank park. At night we all had bunker duty on perimeter security. I can’t count the number of times we shared the bunkers with crews that were in from the field and the friendships that built up during conversations of what happened in the field, or talking about home , personal problems and of course the occasional sniper rounds buzzing over our heads. One of the funniest times on perimeter security was when the gooks were firing on our movie screen made out of a piece of plywood and painted white. The rounds would be seen going right thought the actors on the screen, Good thing John Wayne wasn’t on the screen it would have resulted in a lot of wasted ammunition, No one gave a shit about it if the movie was bad. We would have shot at the screen too. Maybe we did?????
One of my worst experiences of the Vietnam War was an accident which occurred in the tank park during the summer of 1967. I was helping the crew of a flame (zippo) tank reload napalm. Cylinders of air and napalm had to be filled and the bore of the gun tube had to be cleaned. When the cylinders were buttoned up the gun tube was charged a Marine was smoking on the front fender and caught fire. I can still see his skin falling off his body and smell the burning flesh. At first there was very little screaming and then a lot. A few of us got to him in time to knock him down and put out the flames, but it was later learned that he had burnt over 80% of body. To this day I am unable to remember that Marine’s name and don’t know if he lived or died. I have nightmares about this incident and this is one of my PTSD stressors.
I missed a lot of combat because of my clerical position, but I was finally taught how to drive a tank by the tank commander of the flame tank, once again I can't remember his name and this bothers me to this day. He even allowed me to burn a hedge row or two and my experience of knowing what burning flesh smelled like helped let us know if we were successful or not.
Seeing wounded and dead Marines in body bags is always tough for Marines to deal with but when you’re on a tank and they are on your fender it becomes personal. Our tanks were used as medevacs and the grunts were always glad to hear us coming and it was a good feeling knowing our tanks made a difference.
I received a Meritorious Combat Promotion to Sergeant E-5 for my efforts working in a clerical position and for providing leadership in other duties assigned to me with perimeter security, cross training to be a tank crewman, helping in the field with resupply and support missions.
A lot of good times was had by all along with the bad. Too bad a lot of us went home and lost track of friendships made during trying times. I personally blocked Vietnam out of my mind for over thirty years and in dealing with it lost the names and faces of a lot of good Marines who served their country in a war that was questionable at best. I was never wounded in action, Thank God, but seeing and living the nightmare of Vietnam for 13 months will also be a scare in my life as long as I live. The loss of good friends and not knowing if they lived or died haunts me to this day. I left Vietnam 24 December 1967, three weeks short of the Tet Of 1968, I always wondered who didn’t make it.. SURVIVORS GUILT. I always wondered if I stayed would it have made a difference.
Although I didn’t like to admit I had PTSD and to review my life and experiences in Vietnam was not pleasant, the Veterans Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah has been treating me like a person who needs help and will do all they can to see me through PTSD issues. The Veteran Affairs Administration is another issue. They still haven’t found my Marine Corps Records after 8 months. Dealing with the government has been a pain the butt and if you are involved don’t give up the fight. You deserve the help and you should get it. Go through the process, and get evaluated and don’t let the government red tape overwhelm you. There are a lot of people who been through it and will help. My best help was joining the Vietnam Tankers Association and getting in touch with my past. Finding old members of my unit is a daily event I look forward to.
Good Luck Fellow Marines
"C" Company, 1st Tanks
|Can any one identify any of these Charlie Company Marines from 1966-67?|