MARINE CORPS TANKERS VIETNAM HISTORICAL Foundation's
Vietnam Personal Accounts
A LOAD OF PLYWOOD
by Lloyd "Pappy" Reynolds ©
Fairy Tales always start out with “Once upon a time,” and sea stories usually start out with “This is no shit”. Well this is no shit, really. Besides the statue of limitations has run out (I hope), all the evidence has been destroyed (although there are a few witnes's still around), I feel free to tell this story.
Some time in October 1967 at a position called the “Rockpile” in Vietnam. I was with the 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
Well the monsoon season was just starting and it was raining like Noah wouldn’t believe. Our living houch was a large hole in the ground. Loosely surrounded by sand bags with some boards tossed across the top and a large canvas tarp thrown over it supposedly to keep us dry. It wasn’t a proper bunker because if anything happened we were supposed to be on our tanks. So why build a solid bunker?
Anyway, this night it was raining to beat the band and we had two marines on watch on the tanks and the rest were taking turns with sticks pushing up the sagging spots in the tarp to get the water to run off. I don’t know who said the hell with it and went to sleep (maybe me or Sgt. “Wild Bill” Nelson). But about 0300 the whole thing collapsed. Well we all spent the rest of the night on the tanks trying to stay dry and warm.
Digging out after a night of heavy rain.
(I had been in the Marine Corps before 59-62, out for three years then back in. I was infantry and tanks on my first cruise. Some of my contemporaries that had stayed in were now Staff NCO’s. So.) I looked up a acquaintance at 7th Motor Transport Battalion and arranged for a truck (6x6) and a driver. Then we went to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines where I acquired a six Marine working party of some new in country replacements. Somewhere along the line I also picked up a set of Master Sergeant chevrons.
Now with my newly acquired promotion, a truck, driver and a working party I told the driver to go to the Sea Bee compound up the road. On the way I looked in the truck’s glove compartment and got an “official” looking document (found an old trip ticket). Arriving at the gate to the Sea Bee compound I asked the guard who was in charge? He said “Captain So in So”. I asked where the office was and he told me. Then I asked where the plywood dump was, and he told me. Then I told the driver to go to the plywood dump. By now the driver has this all figured out and he’s starting to get into it. So we drive over to the dump and back up to a load of plywood. I tell the working party to start loading plywood. Then this young Ensign comes over and says “Can I help you top?”. I told him “No thank you I got my own working party and Captain So and So is getting the paper work processed now”. He says “Ok, looks like you got everything under control”. I salute him and off he goes. We load enough plywood to build a small house. Then I say “Let’s go”. At the gate I wave my “official” looking paper at the guard say “Thank you” and we’re off.
I then had the driver take the working party back to the 9th Marines, said my thank yous, then I had to go convince my acquaintance at 7th motors to let me take the truck and driver up to the “Rockpile”. That cost me a few sheets of plywood. We had to wait at Dong Ha for a convoy with an escort to form up. After awhile one did (going to “Payable”) we fell in and peeled off at the “Rockpile turn. By the time we got the plywood unloaded it was to late for the truck to return to Dong Ha, so the driver had to spend the night with us. He didn’t mind but the C.O. of the grunt company we were attached to was a little pissed at having a truck on his hill. A few sheets of plywood seemed to make him see reason.
Inside our new “home”
At the front (only) door
Catching some ZZZZs
Unfortunately this was just the start of the Monsoon season and with in a month the river rose at the base of our hill, the bridge washed out and we were stranded there for a few days. We even drowned a tank in the river trying to ford it. (But that’s another story). The powers that be decided that our position was unsupportable and we had to abandon it and move to “Payable” astride Highway 9 (the road to Khe Sanh). We had to leave most of the plywood behind. But we managed to take some with us for our new home.
As a foot note to this “Real Sea Story”.
About two weeks after moving to “Payable” (we were now supporting 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines), I’ve got a good seat in the local four holer enjoying the effects of nature and making room for another good “C” ration meal. When in comes this Marine, he say’s “Good morning top”. I look around and we are alone. I ask him “Are you talking to me?” He says “Yes don’t you remember me? I was on that working party with you getting plywood from the Sea Bees?” It broke my little heart but I had to tell this marine that he was a thief and that as I was working undercover with Counter Intelligence if he ever spoke of this again I would have him arrested. (I hope he survived the war.)
No shit, really.