Johnny Kinder
Remembers the VC Raid on Quan Loi - 11 July 1967

Note:  Johnny Kinder served with Battalion Maintenance, HHC 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division from September 1966 to September 1967.  He was at Quan Loi in the early morning hours when a  reported 1060 men of the 4th Battalion, 141 NVA Regiment  and a company of local NVA/VC forces attacked Quan Loi.  What follows is his memory of that raid.  Only minor edits have been done to clarify and allow for easier reading.

"In mid February [1967] the battalion left for the operation, we learned later, was called Operation Junction City.  This was a very large operation.  The mechanics stayed in base camp [Di An] and flew to other areas of support of other operations of other companies.  I did get to  Operation Junction City to do repairs. On our indirect way back, we went to Suoi Da and I got to see the famed Nui Ba Den (Black Virgin Mountain).  It was the largest hill in the entire area. The mountain could be seen for many, many miles.

I was called to go help Company C in Quan Loi [July 9, 1967].  They needed to have an adjustment to the transmission on an Allis Chalmers HD16 Bulldozer.  It was not our echelon to do this maintenance but we had been trained to help with vital procedures.  Seems these bulldozes were in need of an adjustment now and then.   They had automatic transmissions and the work was hard on them.  I got up there and got my cot to sleep on.  Yes! in a tent.  My cot was something to be desired.  A cot is supposed to have wooden ends, but this one did not.  It just sagged at the head and foot. Man did I ever get back aches, apart from not being able to sleep very well.  First thing the next morning they needed was a scoop loader repaired.  Well, I got that done and it took all day.  I just wanted to get back to my regular bunk.

For the second night my drowsing got interrupted by loud explosions.  I hollered to one of the guys at the end of the tent: 'Hey, are those coming in or going out?'  They answered, 'They're coming in!'.  Everyone got up and ran for the bunker about 50 yards away.  I got up and put on my fatigues, web gear, grabbed my M16 rifle and followed.  I was the last one out of the tent and I met the Sergeant of the Company coming out of his tent.  I was ahead of him so I was not going to be the last guy to the bunker.  Just as I jumped in feet first, a rocket hit and tore up the Sergeant pretty bad.  He landed on top of me.  I later noticed I had a couple of cuts on my arms from shrapnel or from the Sargent landing on top of me.  I never knew for sure which.  I hurt my left knee landing, but I was better off than the Sargent.

Then from the other end of the bunker the Lieutenant asks 'Anybody in here got a weapon?'  Silence.  No one answered except me.  I said, 'I do sir, but I am not giving it up'.  He said, 'Good soldier, at least somebody in here has a brain.  You guard the entrance and I will guard this one."  Then he went on, 'I can not believe only two people in this company have the where with all to secure their weapon in a fire fight'.  My response was, "I am from Battalion Maintenance, sir.  I am not in your company'.   Well at that no more was said, until the shelling was over. 

Several explosions close to us, but no direct hits.  I thought about the stories of shell shock my grandfather had told me about in WWI.  I now knew what he meant.  How the shelling could drive you crazy with fear.  How I never crapped my pants I don't know, unless I was "scared shitless".  The Lieutenant got a call on his radio for the 'all clear' and for us to go to the Command Post.  We went back to the tent and the others secured their rifles and web gear and clothes and off we went.  We were Engineers in reserve for the infantry, wherever there was a break in the perimeter we were to go and fill in.

We got the call to go to the Frenchman's House that was next to where our company was located.  We manned a wall, some next to the wall and others with me were about 80 feet inside the wall, locked and loaded.  Anybody coming over the wall was to be taken out.  Hand to hand if necessary.  We were to hold the perimeter.  Artillery round after artillery round went off.  Later they said 2600 rounds at minimum charge of 105mm howitzers.  Then there were the 155 self-propelled guns firing [and the big 175mm and 8 inch guns] .  Lots of noise.  Helicopters flying over were firing  rockets, Puff the Magic Dragon (a DC3 with Gatling guns poring a steady stream of tracers from the sky, (every 5th round was a tracer).  Parachute flares in the sky.  God what a scary experience!  I was to scared to be scared, so much going on everywhere.  We had been attacked by the 141st North Vietnamese Hard Core about 3 a.m. and at daybreak we had them on the run.  The air force helicopters chased them for two days across the jungle.  We could see the planes dropping bombs on the targets.

The morning after, as daylight broke, the NVA and Viet Cong retreated.  We went over by the mess hall waiting orders for what was next.  I went to the Medics and got pain pills for my knee and Medic put something on the cuts on my arm.  He said he would put me in for a Purple Heart.  I did not understand how I qualified as I did not get shot.  Later the guys in the platoon told me 'wounded' or  'injured' was the criteria.  Well, I never got the Purple Heart so I guess the Medic forgot or never put in the paperwork.  It was so very busy and chaos reigned that morning.  People running everywhere.

I reported back to the platoon and we were instructed to clear the area between our camp and the perimeter.  We went out and found a couple Viet Cong bodies with C4 plastic explosives tied to their waists.  The Viet Cong had been killed no more than 30 yards from our bunker.  We found one G.I and he looked okay except when we rolled him over his whole back was missing.  What a mess.

We marked the bodies and then were told after the search to retrieve the G.I. and put him in a body bag and take him to the morgue.  Then they came and collected the Viet Cong and we went outside the perimeter and collected VC bodies from in front of a Quad 50, (four 50 caliber machine guns mounted on a 1 1/2 ton truck) and put them in deuce and a half truck as they wanted the 5th Special Forces to review how effective the Quan 50 was.  The bodies were in the truck for a couple days.  I took a photo of the bodies in the truck ( I later gave it to my brother Jan to keep for me.)  The bodies were pretty gruesome.  A 50 caliber bullet will literally tear up a human.  From where it hits to wherever it exits there is nothing left.  I can and will be able to describe that scene for the rest of my life.  I will spare the exact details at this particular time.

During this waiting time I adjusted the transmission on the HD16 so they could bury the bodies after inspection.  I had trouble sleeping from that night on. . . A couple of days later I was able to catch a convoy back to my base camp, Di An.  I got to ride in the bed of a 5 ton dump truck.  Just me, my tool box, rifle and web gear.  I was so exhausted from lack of sleep and working.  I was glad to get out Quan Loi!
Johnny Kinder  Then   and   Now
BN Maintenance, HHC 1st Engr Bn, 1st Inf Div.
Sept 66 to Sept 67'

Note:  Johnny also provided the 17th Military History Detachment copy of "VC Raid on Quan Loi 11 July 1967"



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