MARINE CORPS TANKERS VIETNAM HISTORICAL Foundation's
Vietnam Personal Accounts
by Lloyd "Pappy" Reynolds © 2005
Let’s go back to 1962, some time in August or September. I forget exactly when. I was attending the 1st Tank Battalion Tank School. At that time the Marine Tank Battalions had their own schools. Not like today. I was a salty Lance Corporal having just transferred to tanks from two years with the grunts.
The Tank School was held at
the Flame Tank Park, Las Flores aboard Camp Pendleton. The tanks we
had then, were the M48a1's.
We had completed most of our classroom work and were
doing our field practical application. We walked a course with the M3A1
Grease Gun (.45 Cal.) and fired at pop up targets. Fired the tanks coaxial
Machine Gun at stationary targets while the tank was moving. Made Range
Cards and used them for night firing of the coaxial Machine Gun at night.
Lots of good training. Then on Friday we moved the tanks out to the gunnery
range in preparation to fire the .50 Cal. Machine Guns and the 90-mm main
gun. By the time every thing was moved to the range (including a very large
amount of left over ammunition from the small-bore range) it was too late
A guard was needed for the weekend to watch the tanks and ammo. I drew the short stick and was actually put in charge of the guard detail from 0800 Saturday until 0800 Sunday. I don’t remember exactly how many of us there were, but as I recall. Counting me there was four school tankers, a Corpsman, a truck driver with a 6x6. We had no radio for emergencies, but we were left “C” rations for our meals. Knowing this I had taken up a collection on Friday night and had gone to town (I had a car) and loaded up on snack food, some sodas and BEER. I drove my car to the range Saturday morning and relieved the Friday night guard. They reported that no one had checked on them during the night. I don’t know if any one other than the school staff even knew we were there.
Saturday was very boring up until mid afternoon. No one had checked on us and we figured they probably wouldn’t. There wasn’t even any one in the range safety tower. So we broke out the beer. Decided we wanted a fire. It was a little cool for that time of the year, and we were up on a hill with a slight breeze. We started to burn up some old ammo crates in the area. During our search for something to burn we “found” three covered jeep trailers with Grease Guns, magazines, .30 Ca. Machine Guns and all the ammo left over from the small bore range. All this stuff was just left in place on Friday when every one took off for liberty call.
We decided to get in a little firing practice. The Corpsman and truck driver had never fired a Grease Gun before, so we started with that. Had a ball. Then we waited. Sure that all the firing would bring some one out to range to check on all the firing. Nothing. No one.
Well after chow and more beer it was dark so we decide to fire the machine guns and watch the tracers. Which we did for awhile until some one said, “let’s go rabbit hunting”. We thought that the headlights from the truck would pick up the rabbits. We all had our .45’s then picked a weapon of choice, either a Grease Gun or Machine Gun. We mounted the truck. Four of us got in the back and prepared to fire over the cab. One got in the passenger seat, opened the front window and prepared to fire over the hood.
We drove all over the area. Saw a lot of rabbits. Shot off a lot of ammo tracers flew every where. Never hit a damn thing. Went back to our fire. As the Marine was getting out of the passenger side of the truck his machine gun fired of three rounds. He hadn’t cleared it. One round took out the windshield; one went through the windshield frame and one through the canvas cab top. Oh shit, now what, I’m going to jail.
Brilliant fellow that I am. I came up with this. We just tear the canvas top, make it look like a rip. Take out the windshield frame and bury it. Tell the Motor “T” Officer that the truck hit a low branch on a tree. It broke the windshield and ripped the top. The windshield was taken out so the broken glass would hurt no one. I was put in the back of the truck and must have fallen out. Every one agreed. So I put my car headlights on the truck so we could see to remove the windshield. While we were doing this a rabbit ran by and the Corpsman shot it from the hip with his .45. And after thousands of rounds we got nothing. He wouldn’t let us live that down the rest of the night.
At 0800 Sunday I got relieved of guard duty and went home dreading Monday morning. I just knew that I was going to the Brig.
Monday we reported to the range and started firing the .50 Cal. Machine Guns then practiced ranging in with the range finder and firing the main guns. Nothing was ever said and no inventory was taken over the excess ammo from the small-bore range.
And would you believe I graduated first in the class from Tank School. Have the certificate to prove it.