I arrived at Quan Loi on November
29, 1968. It had been quite a trip getting from South Carolina to the Nam.
Having been drafted on June 26, 1968, spending eight weeks of basic training at
Fort Jackson, South Carolina and eight weeks of artillery training at
Fort Sill, Oklahoma, I was trained and ready to fight a war of "northern
aggression" much as my ancestors had fought generations ago.
Landing at Tan Sa Nut, we were rushed off the plane as the pilot was anxious to get out of there (I don’t blame him). We boarded buses like the kind you see today that transport prisoners. I guess the wire mesh prevented hand grenades from being thrown in. This was during the middle of the night and we arrived at Long Binh about daylight. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I remember we had a great Thanksgiving meal, there, and I was thinking that maybe Viet Nam ain’t so bad after all.
At Long Binh I received orders for “A” Battery, Sixth of the Twenty-Seventh Field Artillery. The clerk told me that I was lucky. This battery was the “big guns,” that rarely moved from the base camp. The biggest gun that I had seen was a 155 howitzer at Fort Sill. We were trained on 105 howitzers. I remember finding Quan Loi on a map, and could see that it was close to Cambodia.
On November 28, 1968, I boarded a C130 plane bound for Phouc Vinh. That night I slept in a cot next to the airstrip or should I say tried to sleep. I had been issued an M-14 rifle, which I kept in my hand all night. Of course they had not given me any ammo, but I still felt safer just holding that sucker.
On November 29, 1968, I caught another C130 to Quan Loi. The place sure did look small from the air. I caught a ride on an army mule (not a real mule, it was a small gasoline powered transport vehicle) over to “A” Battery. The men were on the guns. The guns pointed back across the airfield. This was unusual, I found out later that normally the guns were aimed in the direction of Cambodia.
I looked at that awesome sight, two 175mm howitzers with twenty foot long barrels and two eight inch guns that looked like they belonged on a battleship. The men were solemn and seemed not to notice me and the other new guy standing in front of those wonderful weapons. Someone yelled, “fire.” The ground shook, the red dust of Quan Loi jumped two feet in the air, and the guys laughed almost as loud as the guns firing. I was an FNG all right and had learned my first lesson. Never stand in front of those damn guns.
I was assigned to a 175 gun section, I believe it was section IV. The sergeant in charge of the gun told me that the men worked out the duty assignments. We the men of the gun section slept in a bunker underground, next to the gun.
I was now a “gun bunny.” No one talked too much to a new guy. I am from the South, lived there all my life. The only traveling that I had done was a senior class trip to New York City.
While waiting to be drafted, I worked in a laundry that my dad owned where the temperature would average 110 degrees in the summer. The heat and humidity were OK for me.
The bunker that we slept in had twelve beds. Actually they were metal bunk beds. My first night in Quan Loi, I really felt lonely. I was assigned a bunk and laid down to an uneasy night’s sleep. I noticed everyone had mosquito nets around them except me, but as I had not noticed many mosquitoes that day, I was not too concerned. I was more afraid that night that Charlie was going to jump down those steps and slit my throat. For the second night in a row, I hugged my empty M-14.
That night I thought back about my travels. I, a country boy from Pickens County, South Carolina, had actually flown in a jet plane half way around the world. I had been assigned to a gun section. I was not yet a member of the team, but I was there. I was there in a base camp, not out in the boonies. Lucky I thought as I drifted in and out of sleep. Then in the middle of the night I felt something on my chest; it felt heavy. I turned on my flashlight. Staring at me, I saw two red eyes and teeth that looked like a barracuda. I screamed and hit the beast with my flashlight. The rat crawled back between the wood and sandbags. Now I knew why everyone had mosquito nets. Lesson number two. Always sleep with a mosquito net in an underground bunker.
|Larry Jameson, February 21, 2003|
Larry Jameson at Camp Oji, Japan
recovering from RPG wounds received
at Quan Loi, May 1969