MARINE CORPS TANKERS VIETNAM HISTORICAL Foundation's
Vietnam Personal Accounts
IT WAS THAT KIND OF WAR
by Lloyd "Pappy" Reynolds ©
From map sheet Dia Loc 6640 IV
To set the background, in early 1967 I was with the light section (two tanks) of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Tank Battalion. We were attached to 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment and at this time we were with Hotel Company (H-2-5) at a position called Phu Loc (6). We were in a position guarding the ferry crossing over the Song Thu Bon River (a bridge had not been built yet). This was along Liberty Road from Danang to An Hoa.
Our platoon leader was Second
(in An Hoa with the heavy section), and the
platoon sergeant was Staff Sergeant Kahlikie, the tank commander on Bravo one four was Corporal Hoffman. The Company Commander of H-2-5 was Captain Bowers.
Bravo one four’s position was in a tank slot over looking the river and Bravo one five’s was on the other side of the hill. We had only had our xeon light’s for a little while and had not used them very much. So this night Hoffman and I don’t recall who else, decided to try out the xeon, inferred light and see what they could see. Turns out the light worked as advertised and they spotted two VC (NVA?) on a sand bar across the river about a thousand meters away.
Man did they get excited. The VC had packs and weapons and were right out in the open. Now according to the rules we were not in a free fire zone, (it was that kind of war). We couldn’t fire unless fired at (it was that kind of war). Unless we called up the chain of command, requested permission, and answered a lot of questions at each step of the way, and hopefully got permission before the bad guys went home for breakfast. Not Hoffman.
With only two people on board Hoffman ordered “load one round of HE” (High Explosive). When he heard “gun up” he announced “on the way” and sent a 90mm HE round across the river to the sand bar. The gun tube was already sighted in as it was aligned with the xeon light. Wham! Bang! The round hit just in front of these two citizens of the night. Hoffman yelled “I got em.”
Well it took the rest of us about fifteen seconds to clear the bunker and get to the tank (loud noises attracts Marines). By the time we got there all hell had broken lose in the form of Captain Bowers. He was livid, I mean really pissed. Yelling at Hoffman. “Who gave you permission to fire?” “Why did you fire?” “I’m in charge of this hill, you have to ask me before you fire.” “We all have to get permission to fire.” What were you shooting at?” All Hoffman could get out was “but, but. sir. but.” (It was that kind of war.) Finally Hoffman just reached down and turned the zeon’s white light on.
There they were, two VC/NVA(?), laid out on the sand bar, weapons, packs and body parts. Just like a deer caught in the headlights. Well now Captain Bowers calmed down real quick, the binoculars were brought up to verify what was seen. The sand bar was studied for about two minutes, then the light was turned off. Captain Bowers said that now that the deed was done he would call in for permission to fire and then file a Sit. Rep. (Situation Report) confirming two killed. As he turned to go he said “they’ll never believe we got two with only one round. Fire another one.” Tankers liking loud noises, promptly sent another round down range.
As the Captain turned to go, Hoffman again turned on the white light. And as it lit up the sand bar Hoffman started yelling “look at that, look at that.” We all looked. There were now six spread out over the impact area. Again weapons, packs and body parts. The four must have thought we were done when the white light went out and they came out to police up their buddies. Big mistake. But it was that kind of war.
Everybody was excited now. Two rounds,six killed (they’ll never believe that). Captain Bowers called in his Sit. Rep. and he was happy although he warned us tankers to never pull a stunt like that again. It was that kind of war.
As this was a war of body counts, I don’t know who got the official credit for these kills, but I know we sure claimed them. Yeah, it was that kind of war.
The Company mortars put H & I fire on the area during the night, but at sun up (as usual) all the bodies, weapons and gear had disappeared. It was that kind of war. We always complained that there very seldom was any enemy dead left on the field. But we would go to extreme lengths to retrieve our dead and wounded. Why shouldn't they? It was that kind of war.