May 12, 1969 - Quan Loi, Vietnam

Now that I have vented about all I remember about other things I will get down to the real nitty-gritty of the night of May 11 and the early morning of May 12, 1969.  To start with, I had been on R&R in Bangkok from May 5 to May 10.  It was a welcome break from the day to day grind of Vietnam. On the morning of May 11 I flew on a Pan Am jet from Bangkok to Bien Hoa.  I made it to Service Battery in Long Binh to see about getting back to Quan Loi.  I was told there was a convoy that I could take the next morning or there was a helicopter that would be leaving in an hour or so.  I never did care much for those convoy’s - bouncing around on that rough road, so I thought, “what the hell, I’ll take the helicopter”.

As I recall, we landed at Quan Loi Airfield in the late afternoon.  I hitched a ride from someone over to the HHB Compound.  What I did from that time to around midnight I don’t recall.  I do remember being in a personnel bunker and being all bummed out about having to go back to work the next day.  I just knew there would be a hell of a pile of stuff that needed to be typed.

I went to bed and sometime around midnight someone yelled into the bunker that we had incoming and there was infiltration on the west and north perimeter.  I got up, dressed, put on my flak jacket.  I got my M14 rifle and retrieved a bag of several ammunition clips from my footlocker.  I had accumulated several clips with tracer rounds in them - way more clips than I was supped to be assigned.  I went out of the bunker and went to Guard Bunker #8 at a pretty fast pace since the rockets and mortars were coming in.

I was told when I first arrived at Quan Loi that Bunker #8 was where I was to go on ground attack alerts or whatever.  This was the only bunker I recall ever being on – guard duty or otherwise.  I could see as I approached that it was not a pretty site.  The shit was about to fly for HHB and A Battery.  The observation tower down on the perimeter was just getting a good blaze going at the base of the tower.  The mortar platoon between Bunker #8 and the perimeter was really catching hell.  The noise, screams, rifle fire etc. was pretty loud and it looked like the Fourth of July going on.

I was standing at the entrance to the bunker looking over the sandbag wall that protected the entrance.  I was watching to the north toward the officer’s shower and west to the perimeter and observation tower.  I never did look over to the backside of the bunker, south towards the weed garden.  By not doing that is why the little bastards got me.  I’ll get to that part in a little bit.

In a few minutes I saw them coming from behind the Officer’s shower.  Some of them had these green and amber lights and I don’t think they knew anyone was on Bunker #8 as it seemed they were heading more to the interior of the Battery.  I distinctly remember one of them had what appeared to be a belt of grenades around his shoulder going to his opposite hip.  I had my M14 on automatic and laid it across the top wall of the bunker entrance and let it go toward them.  The tracer bullets were coming out of my rifle real fast and it looked like a red laser light going through the dark night.

I don’t even know how many clips I went through but as fast as I could put them in they were gone.  My heart was beating about as fast as those bullets were flying.  The sappers were trying to get back behind the buildings from where they came.  From what I remember I believe two of them went down. The sapper that had the grenade belt was one as when he was hit a secondary explosion of grenades must have blown him in half.

For whatever reason, since no one else was to the north of me, I went inside the bunker to look over toward the weed garden.  I was just starting to look through the back fire sector wall when I saw a hand go by and throw something inside the bunker.  Well, that something was a grenade!  Man, what a bang it made!   All I can remember was a big flash of white light and the dust and debris going over me.  I knew I was in serious trouble then.  The sapper was apparently standing with his back up against the outside wall of the bunker and flipping these grenades through the window.  I couldn’t do a damn thing about it because I could not get to him.  I don’t remember the inside dimensions of the bunker but it was not large and the noise of the explosion was tremendous.  After about two or three of these grenades going off in there I knew I had to make a break.

At the time what bothered me the most was that I was completely blinded by the dust and debris.  I guess the only thing I had going for me was that the adrenalin was pumping and I knew where I was at. I went out the guard bunker opening and ran, probably faster than I have ever run in my life.  I headed toward the Officer’s Bunker.  Temporarily blinded, I apparently hit those wooden casing boxes that formed the Officer’s Bunker and was knocked out.  The next thing I remember was coming to, lying on a bed in the Officer’s Bunker.  I am glad they knew I was out there and had to get away.  I haven’t a clue who it was that came out and got me, but “God bless whoever it was”.

The next thing I remember was they had taken me to the Battery Med Station which was next door.  There the medic got my eyes washed out so I could see again.  The medic stared working on my leg which had some shrapnel in it.

After a short period they loaded us on a helicopter and we were headed to Long Binh. All of this probably happened in a short period of time but it seemed like an eternity to me.  I ended up having both ear drums blown out and some shrapnel in the legs.  I was airlifted to Yokohama, Japan where they soon sent me back to the States for ear operations. I was awarded a Bronze Star July 17, 1969.

I think back now that if I only had waited on that convoy from Long Binh the next day instead of taking that helicopter I would not even have been in Quan Loi that night.  Wrong decision!  I was in the classic wrong place at the wrong time.  What a night!

Larry Hutchison   Then and Now                             Return to Page One


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