MARINE CORPS TANKERS VIETNAM HISTORICAL Foundation's
Vietnam Personal Accounts
DOUBLE AMBUSH ON ROUTE 9
SEPTEMBER 7, 1967
By Lloyd G. “Pappy” Reynolds
In his book “An oral history, No Shining Armor, The Marines at War in Vietnam”. Otto J. Lehrack writes about an ambush on route 9 (page 171-180). He writes about some tank action and the Tank Platoon Leader getting hit. I was the driver of that tank; Bravo one one and this is the tankers side of that ambush.
A. Approximate site of Sep. 7, 1967 Double ambush.
B. Location of bridge that washed out and where we drowned Super Goof II.
C. Where we saw a Tiger on the road. (See RatsnSnakes.)
D. Where a Tiger tried to get a Marine one night. (See RatsnSnakes.)
From map Sheet Cam Lo 6342 I
We were at a position we called “Payable” astride Highway 9 just South of the “Rockpile”. That morning, September 7th a fairly good-sized convoy came through our position going towards Ca Lu and possibly on to Khe Sanh. I t wasn’t long after they passed through, maybe a half to an hour that we got word that they had run into a large ambush.
We were told to “mount up” we were going out as a reaction force. On Bravo one one were a new Lieutenant who had only been with us for a few days. His name was Fitzgerald and he was from Ballard, WA. This was his first and last mission. I was driving, John Macovitch (SP?) “Mac” was the gunner and Greg Martin went out as the loader.
As this was the Platoon Leaders Tank we went first and as the driver I don’t know who or what was behind us. But I found out it was a lot. I very seldom “buttoned up” the drivers hatch. For two reasons, one I wanted to see what was going on and two I had a fear of being trapped inside if any thing happened. When the shit hit the fan I would drop down and pull the hatch over me but not lock it down.
I (we) didn’t know it at the time but found out that they (the NVA) had let the first convoy go through this ambush. Knowing we would send out a reaction force they waited for us.
I recall rounding a curve and seeing some Army “Dusters” and a lot of “Grunts”. There was a lot of shooting going on. We passed the “Dusters” to get up front. I could see grunts about a 100 yards in front of us running across the road from left to right. I think we fired one round to the left of where they were running from. The Lt. Called for a “canister” round. I couldn’t believe what happened next.
Greg heard the round breaking while loading it. Instead of trying to finish loading (which may or may not have worked) he pulled the round out. The chamber was full of pellets. I recall saying on the intercom “bounce the tube hard and try to shake them out”. Didn’t work. The other option was to stick your arm into the chamber and try to pull out the pellets. A VERY DANGERIOUS operation. If the breach block gets tripped, you have a loader with a missing arm.
Next I get the command to back up left. We pulled off the road into a small deflade and traversed the turret to about seven o’clock. My head was at about road level. I saw a “Duster” pull up on the road to our old position and put out some very rapid 40mm fire. I was told to stay up on the radios while the Lt. “Mack” and Greg got out assembled the cleaning rod and punched the tube. They put the rod away and got back on board safely. I couldn’t believe no one got hit as while they were doing this I saw “Grunts” getting hit in front of me and some rounds hit the turret. Then we got back up on the road.
We weren’t back on the road but about two to three minutes. We had just pulled up in front of the “Duster” when. Three RPG rockets in rapid succession went from right to left in front of the tank. Shit I thought the right side of the road was ours. One was just under the gun tube and in front of me. Good thing I had stopped and was not moving forward. Might have taken my head off.
I don’t really know how long we were out there, but I know we expended a lot of ammo, .30 cal., .50 Cal. and 90mm. There was a lot of stuff flying around.
Our T.I. (Tank Infantry) phone wasn’t working right and the Lt. had to pop up in the copula to talk to the “Grunts”. As he did this an NVA in a spider hole on the right side of the road popped up and shot him. The round went through his flak jacket in the lower right back and came out the front left chest. A lot of things happened real fast. Not being in the turret I got most of it later but some over the intercom.
The Lt. had a sucking chest wound. Greg stuck the plastic wrap from his wallet in the hole and patched him up as well as he could. “Mac” got off the tank to tell the “Grunts” what happened then took over as T.C. (Tank Commander). “Mac” told me to back up and make a “Y” turn on the road. I could hear a lot of yelling about a “Gook” on the road. Turned out that the NVA that shot the Lt. was shot in the legs by a Corpsman. Was pulled out of his hole and was lying on the road. “Mac” said, “Fuck him” and had me back up over him.
After I got turned around we headed towards the “Rockpile”. We only got about a 100 yards when we were pulled over behind a six by. There were a lot of wounded on the truck. I don’t know why but the wounded were transferred to the tank. I remember one of the wounded. A black Marine that just had his left arm and shoulder hanging by shreds. He was hollering “you guys will never send me the money”. I found out later that he had been in a payday stakes poker game and was holding markers from a lot of Marines. If that was what was in his mind and it kept him out of shock, more power to him. No sooner had we taken on the wounded than a machine gun just shredded the wooden side of the truck. Also found out later that the truck was from Bravo Company. It had come out from Camp Carroll with supplies for us and the pay officer to take our payday request. Just decided to follow us. Got more excitement than they bargained for.
I don’t know how many wounded we had on board but there was a lot. I remember driving back with one hand while holding on to a Marine with my right hand. He was kind of lying on the drivers hatch (I never did close it all day) and bleeding down my arm. I was telling him to hang on but he was in and out of it. We passed through a column of “Grunts” marching along the road. (About where we saw a tiger later*.) When we got to the bridge just at the perimeter of “Payable” I thought, “oh shit”. Tanks were not supposed to go across the bridge. It was a wooden bridge with only a few inches clearance on either side. There was a bypass next to it for tanks. The bypass was steep going in and out. I didn’t think some of the wounded could hold on as I would have to take it fast to get up the other side. Without asking I just lined up on the bridge and went for it. I had to let go of the wounded Marine to drive with both hands. I just told him to hang on. We made it ok but I did see some of the Marines in the C.P. area look away.
We had no sooner unloaded the wounded and pulled the tank out of the way when a six by pulled in with a load of wounded. It kind of stopped on a slope and the blood just ran out of the bed. We helped get the wounded to the aid station. Then got out of the way. When it came time to clean up the tank. I couldn’t do it. The smell was just too much. I don’t remember who did it, but I don’t think it was the crew.