Since last Tuesday (5-12-04) evening when
Norm Wolfinger called and left messages on my answering machine three times
that day, I decided to give him a call to see what he wanted. He said “do
you know what today is?” I knew exactly what he was referring to and I
said this was the day I was wounded at Quan Loi. He said “you have to get
on this web site… you will not believe all the pictures etc.” He was
Anyway, since this time period is really on my mind lately I will try to tell you what I recall of the night of May 11, 1969 and early morning hours of May 12, 1969. After thirty-five years things are a little fuzzy, but here goes.
I arrived in country in September 1968 and was sent to Charlie Battery 6/27th Artillery in Phouc Vinh. There, I was on a 175mm gun. We were trained at Ft. Sill, OK on 105mm and 155mm guns and I had no recollection of ever seeing a 175 gun while in Oklahoma. Anyway, when we arrived at Phouc Vinh on a hot muggy afternoon, they were dropping us off at our assigned new positions. We were going by the pad of an 8 inch gun as it fired and about half of us new guys about fell out of the truck because of the loud noise. I did not think I could possibly sleep when those noisy bastards were going off but I finally got used to it. I wasn’t very tall, (5’7” and 145 lbs.), and the first thing I had to do was carry those 140 lb. projectiles from the ammo bunker to the gun when we had firing missions. Hell, those projectiles weighed almost as much as me and at times they were a struggle to carry, especially on nights that it might be raining a little. I recall one night I dropped one just as I got to the pad. The Sergeant on the gun chewed my ass out royally. I remember really feeling bad about that but the next day the other guys on the gun picked my spirits up and said not to worry about it.
Sometime around early November 1969 the Battery Commander wanted to know if anyone in the battery could type. As near as I can recall Norm Wolfinger and I were the only two that responded that we could. The BC said they needed two guys at Battalion Headquarters in Quan Loi. I don’t know about Wolfinger, but I was willing to get the hell off that gun. So that is how I ended up at Quan Loi.
On my first day at Quan Loi I met two enlisted men. As near as I can recall one of them was Bill Slayton and the other was Weederberg, (not sure of the spelling). The Battalion Adjutant was a Captain Donald C. Rick. He was always smoking a cigar and stunk the S-1 building up. The Battalion Executive Officer was Major Zimmerman while the Maintenance Officer was Lt. Morehead and the Battalion Commander was LTC Bullock. I believe at that time I could type “FOR THE COMMANDER” faster than anybody in the world. What I can remember most about working in S-1 was typing up Article 15’s, receiving R&R allocations and trying to keep everyone in the battalion happy as to when and where they were to go on R&R.
Writing R&R orders was the one thing I had a little leverage on. Everyone knew that if they were on my bad side I could really screw them up on where and when they went on R&R. I also issued the In-country R&R orders. I called every Battery Clerk in the battalion each day for strength reports, TDY-s etc. I suppose the best thing was writing the orders for guys to go back to the States when their tour was up.
Some of my other vivid memories about HHB Quan Loi were the menus at the Mess Hall on Thanksgiving and Christmas, playing basketball next to the EM Club (plywood backboard, rim – no net); bouncing that basketball in that red dirt wasn’t easy and getting totally covered with red dust after a game. I spent a lot of time at the EM Club in the evenings. I recall there were several state flags hanging on the walls. If you were in Vietnam you could write to your state and get a free state flag. I think everyone at HHB had there state flag on the wall in the club.
The nights in the personnel bunkers were also very interesting. I can remember when the lights went off you could hear the rats running around. We would put flash attachments on cameras and take pictures of them out of our bunks. The bunks had mosquito nets around them and you always made sure that net was tucked in good before you went to sleep so as to keep the rats out. More than once I woke up feeling something crawling across my bunk and then tearing the whole dammed bunker up trying to get away. I sometimes wondered which was worse, the VC or those filthy rats!!
When I first saw the Frenchman’s pool I could not believe how something that elaborate was in a place like Quan Loi; how it had grass and flowers while all we had was red dirt. Unbelievable! Another memory - Getting mortar and rocket attacks while I was in Quan Loi was almost a daily occurrence, (especially during the night). At least that is how I remember it. If there would be two or three nights when nothing was happening, then I would wonder “what have those bastards got up their sleeves now”?
On one occasion I was with the Battery Commander down in the Frenchies’ weed garden south of Guard Bunker #8. Why we were there I can’t recall. The BC was new in country and had only been there a week or two. It was early evening and it was just beginning to get dark. All of a sudden we were under a rocket attack. There we were with all these rockets landing all over the weed patch around us and we couldn’t even get to a bunker for protection. I never will forget that look on the Commander’s face as he looked at me and asked what we should do. I grabbed him and pulled him down to the ground. Our only hope was that one of the rounds did not hit us directly. The dirt and debris was falling all over us. Finally it stopped and we beat it back to the compound. That night and the night I was wounded was the closest I came to meeting my Waterloo!
|Continue to May 12, 1969|
|Visit Larry Hutchison's Photo Galleries|