MARINE CORPS TANKERS VIETNAM HISTORICAL Foundation's
Vietnam Personal Accounts
America’s Finest, So to Speak
Bravo Co., 3rd Tanks, 1967/1968
During the first week of September 1967, I was assigned to the tank retriever, the Bodacious Bastard. I had arrived at Camp Carroll, Bravo Co, 3rd Tanks the week before having come from H & S Company located at Gia Lei (Phu Bai). My very first job at Bravo Company was serving as a trash man empting the numerous trash barrels throughout the base camp but, that’s another story.
At Gia Lei I was assigned to the tool room, driving the fork lift during the day and serving with the 3rd Tanks Battalion Reactionary Rifle Platoon performing convoy duty, listening posts, patrols and night ambushes. I also served as security for the retriever when it would hit the road to perform services in and around the Phu Bai area.
That first week in September it was drizzling rain as the monsoons had started early. Gunny “Cob” Davis had informed the tank retriever crew that the next morning we would be replacing the new track that had arrived for Bodacious. As fate would have it three of the minions of the retriever and a man from the transport platoon were assigned duty as a four man listening post 500 meters outside the defensive wire for that evening
That night... the crew, I, Terry Bochinno, and Milo Askay decided that we needed to cut the listening post short and to be in the rack by no later than 2100 hours. Without informing the fourth man, George Claxton a plan was concocted.
As evening approached our four men listening posts assembled in front of the maintenance platoon’s perimeter bunker and were given instructions and passwords from the Sergeant of the Guard. Once we received those orders we proceeded through the maze of concertina wire and out into the extremely dark night.
Bochinno and Askay decided Askay and I would be on the first watch so I could do the ‘talking’ on the radio as they believed I had a gift for the lingo. The plan went in effect.
As Askay and I stood the first watch Bochinno and Claxton got some ‘shut-eye.’ Or I should say Claxton did.
For the first hour and forty-five minutes everything went according to the rules of a listening post. Every 15 minutes I would call in and the command bucker would respond:
“Lima Pappa this is Lima Pappa One, over.”
“Lima Pappa One, this is Lima Pappa, Go.”
“Lima Pappa, this is Lima Pappa One, Rotation, Over.”
“Lima Pappa One, this is Lima Pappa,Roger, Over.”
“Lima Pappa, this is Lima Pappa One, Out.”
The words “rotation” meant all is well and “extension” meant all was not well. This went on for six additional ‘check ins.’ Exactly seven minutes later after the last “rotation” radio transmission the plan went into effect.
I picked up the PRC25 and said in a rushed whispered voice, “Lima Pappa this is Lima Pappa One, over!”
“Lima Pappa One, this is Lima Pappa, Go.”
A continued rushed wishper, “Lima Pappa, this is Lima Pappa One, Extension, Over!”
“Lima Pappa One, this is Lima Pappa, Come Back, Over?”
At this point I turned off the Prick 25; I adlibbed this part of the plan. When I turned it back on 12 minutes later I picked up the mike and said in a whisper,
“Lima Pappa, this is Lima Pappa One, We have indigenous personnel in front of us, moving from right to left. Over!”
A concerned voice said, “Lima Pappa One, this is Lima Pappa, Wait One.”
Askay then pulled his .45 fired two rounds into the ground that seemed lost in the vastness of the night. I pulled out a hand grenade and throw it as far as I could. It went into a deep ditch. BOOM! Then dead silence.
Behind us we could hear the entire base camp moving into position. We heard the rattling of 782 gear, rounds being chambered in the bunker’s .50s and the .30s and the whirl of the turrets of the tanks as the power were turned on. As this was happening we snickered to ourselves. Everyone including Claxton thought this was the real thing.
I once again spoke on the Prick 25, “Lima Pappa, this is Lima Pappa One, Requesting permission to pull back!”
I was sitting on the ground with my legs out-stretched in front of me, without waiting for a reply; I made a ‘V’ with my boots and placed my M14 with an A/R selector upside-down so the rifle would not raise into the night sky as I fired off a full magazine with the 20 rounds coming from the double spring magazine toward the imaginary enemy. After I fired my weapon the area became filled with illumination, night turn into day. As the last round left the barrel I looked down when I felt something against the toes my right boot. It was the muzzle of the M14!
I picked up the radio and a voice crackled, “Pull Back! Pull Back!” I said let’s go! As more illumination lighting our way through the wire with Bochinno in the lead, followed by Claxton, and Askay right behind, I took up the rear as we raced back into the ‘Safety’ of the compound giggling all the way. The flame tank covering a small ravine lit up the ground with a short burst offering even more light. What a coup! It worked!
Once we cleared the wire the Sergeant of the Guard was nervously waiting for us near the side of the bunker that we had departed earlier. He asked me, “Where were you taking fire from?” With my arm extended and my index pointing to the right I said, “From there.” Without hesitation the Sergeant pointed to the left and said, “You had green tracers hitting at your heels as you were coming in!” I froze. I was at a loss for words, a rarity for me.
You could read the expression on all our faces as we ambled back to the hardback tents in complete silence. That night I didn’t get much sleep as did the others.
We were praised the following morning during formation by our Commanding Officer Capt. Kent for the excellent job we had done. It was there and then we learned that when the entire base camp had opened up someone shot and killed an NVA in the wire and discovered his body as the sun rose in the morning. The NVA must have gone around us to our right as his body was found in front of the second bunker on the right from the maintenance bunker.
We didn’t let Claxton in on the secret until the next afternoon. He was livid! We didn’t bother to ask him how he slept. I believe not informing Claxton of our scheme is the reason for the many hardships I have suffered throughout my life.
As it turned out we did not put the new track on the retriever. That duty fell to others.
We never knew if Capt. Kent and the other Staff NCOs learned of our scheme. Life went on until the Company Gunny threatens to kick my ass and I took him up on it. The fight never took place but, I paid later for accepting his challenged and it was not long before I found myself exiled to the Rockpile where I remained until I rotated home the first week of April 1968.