MARINE CORPS TANKERS VIETNAM HISTORICAL Foundation's
Vietnam Personal Accounts
A Conversation about Operation Buffalo
by Greg Martin, Dave Granger and Hank Brightwell
Greg Martin recently got a reply from a post
that he made on the website of the 1st Bn, 9th Marines. Vietnam and then
he carried on this "conversation" about a most desperate situation that
occurred around Con Thien, Vietnam, during the week of July 4th 1967
which is also known as "Operation Buffalo" :
I am sure that you don't know that Jim Stogner posted your request on l/9's website. I owe you guys a beer [or soda].
There are a lot of things I don't remember especially names. I have a Time magazine from July 67 that my Mom saved for me. It has a picture of the lead tank that pulled my tank out of the DMZ. I am sending a copy of it to you. Please send me a picture of you as a grunt "turd" from that time. Send this image around your organization if you can.
I am having problems with sending or receiving photos but I'll keep trying.
As for as me telling you that we owe you tankers a beer...I'm not sure if you know how desperate we were when your tanks finally arrived to help us. Our ammo and working M-16's were almost all expended; our wounded were everywhere. We had no water and the heat was kicking everyone's ass. The NVA had just started maneuvering up the trail from the south, which meant we were totally cut off. Then you guys [and some more grunts] broke through. Another 5-10 minutes and it would have been another Alamo or Custer's Last Stand thing.
Not sure if you tankers realize that there was no way for just grunts to move the wounded back to the LZ. It takes at least four men to move one casualty using a poncho for a stretcher and with the distance involved; there was no way the exhausted troops could fight 'em off and get that done. With your tank s help we got the wounded back, not all of them made it, but they at least had a chance of making it thanks to y'all. The grim collection of the dead came later.
I remember a tank being disabled on the east side of the trail [I think while we were moving the wounded]. There were a couple of tankers out looking it over with nothing but boots and trousers on. I wasn't sure if they were crazy, they didn't know what was going on or they were incredibly brave.
Late that evening we were told that anyone left with Bravo Co., 1/9, was to mount the tanks and move back to Con Thien. I was on a tank that was being towed and loaded with dead.
That was the longest day of my life. Thank you guys for 44 more years.
Was this on July 2nd? Our tank hit a mine and was disabled.
Two of us, myself included, got out of the tank to connect a single tow cable between ours and another tank. We had no other cable available. A cable weighs over a hundred pounds and it's about 10-feet long so it takes two men to handle it. After hooking up with the other tank, Terry and I loaded a couple of shot up grunts onto our tank and then we climbed back in. When you get in and out of a tank you have to be quick so you're not an easy target. I wonder if Terry & I are the two that you saw without flak jackets or helmets. It gets really hot inside the tank and we don't always wear our shirts. I will send you the Time magazine so you have another way for you to see it. I am going to copy the other members of our tank crew (B-23) and our organization's president so that maybe we can get something in our quarterly magazine.
I believe it was you & me who got out to hook up the ____from the New York Times. It was taken on July 2nd and it is of tank B-24 which is the one that pulled us out.
Greg, I believe it was you & me who got out to hook up the cables (at least I remember being shot at while mortars were pinging off the tank) and then diving head-first into the loaders hatch. Just after that incident was when one of the RPG's that hit us, skipped off the turret & hit the loaders hatch that someone who shall remain nameless, forgot to close. Sure wish I had that helmet with the shrapnel sticking out of it.
You said it correctly: the loader's hatch. “Loader" is an adjective and states who the hatch belongs to. It is your hatch and your responsibility. Don't blame it on your neighbor. You could stand flat footed in the turret and close it. I would have to stand on the loader’s seat and pop my head out again. I am not that dumb. You're right it was you and not Terry who got off of the tank to hook up the tow cables. Terry was licking his wounds in the driver's compartment ...then he had to bail out when Holston yelled to get out after the RPG hit your loader's hatch.
This is cool chatting with Dave who saw us in the DMZ 44 years ago this month.