Electricity was something that most of the U.S. Army Units operating in Vietnam
during 1969 had to carry with them. In other words, if you wanted electricity;
it had to be generated at your location. Moreover, it always seemed to be scarce
and available only on a limited basis.
One element of the 6 /27th Artillery at Quan Loi which operated continuously was the Battalion Tactical Operations Center or TOC, which was located in Headquarters Battery. The bunker which housed this Center was supplied on 24-7 basis by a large KWH output generator.
Someone had been able to convince Headquarters Battery of the necessity of connecting the Fire Direction Center of Alpha Battery to the generator supplying electricity to the TOC. The result was Alpha Battery FDC had electricity for 24-7. This connection was further expanded to cover the FDC Personnel Bunker, Officer’s Personnel Bunker, Battery Command Post and Senior NCO Personnel Bunker.
This power supply was one of the perks (if there was such a thing at Quan Loi) the FDC Section in the Battery enjoyed. The constant power enabled us to run the fans both at night during the daytime in the FDC Personnel Bunker which kept the air moving and helped the off duty FDC Shift get a little sleep.
One night in October of 1969 while I was off duty, I returned to the FDC Personnel Bunker from the EM Club to find that no lights or fans were operating. I went to the FDC Operations Bunker to determine if it still had electricity. It did, so I figured there was a problem somewhere with the wiring. As I did not want to spend the night in a hot, dark bunker unless absolutely necessary; I started trying to locate the problem so that I could perhaps fix it.
I went to the Battery Command Post where two fellow EM, who shall remain unidentified, were on duty. I asked them if they knew how the electricity to the various bunkers was connected. Neither one had any knowledge of the wiring. One of them did offer his help in fixing the problem, while the other said he had to stay and operate the Battery telephone switchboard.
The two of us figured that we should first find the electrical cable; follow it and maybe we could find what was wrong. However, by this time, night had fallen; no moon was out that night and it was really dark. (As anyone who has been there will attest; when it was night at Quan Loi and no moon was shining; it was damn dark.) So, we got our flashlights and went looking for the cable. We finally found it on the ground and started following it.
In our pursuit of finding the solution to the electrical problem, neither of us noticed that the FADAC (Field Artillery Digital Automatic Computer) generator in the FDC Generator Bunker had been started and was operating. This situation generally had the connotation that the Battery would be shooting a fire mission in a short time. We also did not notice that Section No. 1 (the howitzer nearest the FDC Bunker) was repositioning in such a manner that it would be firing directly over where we were tracing the cable.
As we followed the electrical cable, we found several connections on the cable and none appeared to be damaged. Finally we spotted a cable that had come loose. Evidently, someone had snagged it with their foot while walking in the area and pulled it lose. Both of us bent down in order to fix the connection. I grabbed the loose cable and touched it to the connection. Just as I did so, the connection sparked and W H A M, Number One fired at the same time; both of us hollered the “SHIT”; jumped up and started running in opposite directions.
I had run 25-30 steps when I heard a THUD and felt a jolt of pain. I was thrown onto the ground and was sure that I had been clobbered by an incoming round. I started checking myself to see if any of my body parts were missing. Then I noticed my volunteer helper also lying in the dirt near me and he was doing the same thing. Quickly I realized what had happened. In our panic, he and I had both run in a circle in opposite directions and collided with each other. We looked at one another and started laughing.
We waited until Number One had finished firing its mission and then went back and repaired the connection. The power was back on inside the FDC Personnel Bunker and all was well again.
I had to repair the electrical cables a couple of more times before I left Quan Loi. On each of those following repair jobs, I always made sure the guns were not going to be firing while I was working on the cable.