|Scared, and Bunker 8 in HHB - May 12, 1969 - Quan Loi, Vn|
Quan Loi in early April, 1969. Initially I was assigned to A Battery as
a 13A10 artilleryman, but when they found I could type, I was diverted
to S-1, Battalion HQ in HHB across the road.
We were getting some minor shelling almost daily in April. This usually consisted of a few rockets or mortars, often landing on the airstrip, and seemed more of a nuisance than a real danger. One night, however, was particularly different. Charlie made a major effort to make something happen at the Ammo Dump, located across the road from HHB and on the opposite side from A Battery. I was assigned to the bunker closest to the Ammo Dump that night and was scared to death, as what seemed like several hundred rockets and mortars were coming in, a number within 50 yards. A lot of memories from my days in the 6/27th Artillery have faded after nearly 35 years, but the sights and sounds of that night are still vivid.
Several weeks later, on May 12, 1969, the base was partially overrun. David Graham and I were assigned to go to Bunker 8 if there was a shelling or possible ground attack. Bunker 8 [see HHB Layout Map] was nearest the perimeter road in HHB and was not scheduled to be manned the night of the 12th. When the attack came, David and I followed our orders and made our way to the bunker and discovered that a grenade or RPG had already gone off inside it. It was pretty messed up.
A few minutes later we spotted three very dim flashlights coming our way from the perimeter corner of A Battery. Two of the lights were a very pale green and the third was pale amber. When they got into HHB territory we could see there were five VC. One of them began firing an RPG and another had a B40 rocket launcher. They must have figured Bunker 8 was undefended; maybe they had already been there, because David and I caught them by surprise. We got three of the five.
A week or so later intelligence information came through S-1 that another ground attack was immanent. Plans were made, including using the batteries at nearby An Loc to saturate the valley between the rubber trees and the perimeter if an attack came. A second part of the plan, as it affected HHB, was to have 10 or 12 of us lay out in that flat area between old Bunker 8 and our perimeter. There was no vegetation there. It was just flat. We were told to grab a few sandbags off old Bunker 8 for cover. We put seven or eight bags in a semicircle facing the perimeter and in groups of two or three we laid on the ground behind them. That’s all we had for protection!
When the attack started, which fortunately did not come our way, the An Loc batteries laid down an impressive barrage starting at the rubber trees and working towards the perimeter road as had been planned. At first I thought this was really awesome; however as the friendly shelling started coming closer to us, I realized how exposed we were. We were lying out on this flat area with nothing for protection but a few sandbags! As the moments went by and the shells gradually came closer, I began to think this was one of the stupidest situations I had ever gotten myself into. I remember recalling that night of that situation being about as smart as something I had done many years before while in third grade.
Johnny Weidner and I had made homemade parachutes out of cardboard and string. After nearly killing myself from a leap off the ridge peak of his garage, I realized how dumb that had been. Lying out in the open that night seemed just about as dumb. Shrapnel from the friendly fire at An Loc started to land around us though the shells were going off several hundred yards away. Still, as the shrapnel landed on the tin roof of the nearby officer’s shower and other structures behind us it certainly was a cause for grave concern.
Finally a three inch long piece of shrapnel landed on my right arm and scared the hell out of me. It caused a minor cut. “Not much of a story to tell my grandchildren if I ever have any,” I thought. Fourteen months in Vietnam and the only time anything happened to me was a small cut from “friendly fire.” As I recall with uncertain memory, the attack that night did not amount to much.
I do recall with certain memory today that this laying out in the open was not such a good idea. A new and larger Bunker 8 was built 25 yards from the old one, but in a much better position to see A Battery and more of the perimeter.
It was from this new position that several weeks later Robert Brupbacker lost his life to an RPG during an attack on June 6, 1969.
|Arvin Battersby Then and Now|