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Banchie. Bringing home a fast-food breakfast. Notice the sand bags. They served a dual purpose, providing extra protection from Rocket propelled grenades (RPG-7) and small arms fires (AK-47), while having them handy for setting up quick bunkers where ever we happend to be. We never stayed in one place for more than a few days due to enemy 81mm mortaring. The RPG-7s had a range of 328 yards and penetrated 12 inches of armor. The 75mm Recoiless Rifle had a range of 7,300 yards, with a HEAT shell having an affective range of 875 yards. The VTR was orignally named "Babe," and I changed it to "Banchie" (mis-spelled Banshee) after being hit at point range (20 yards) with a Recoiless HEAT round in a VC ambush. Intended for the motor compartment, the 75mm shell hit a track pad bolted to the deck and exploded killing three soldiers and wounding all of us on the VTR. I had a mortar track in tow that had hit a mine earlier, and three of its crew were those killed in the ambush. "Bear" returned 50 CAL. fires repelling the enemy, while I pulled our unit out of the kill zone. Notice the steel fenders made for jungle busting.
Chopper Dust off, 1967
Dust Off. The main staple in Vietnam was the UH-ID choppers, carrying up to 14 men for a range of 327 miles. They brought us supplies to the field, a few special hot meals and lots of hot beer and coke rations. They also dusted off our wounded and dead, and I often thought of the process as the God taking our casualities up to heaven, never to be seen again. There was no time for closure, and once back at Bear Cat there would be a ceremony for our Brothers, rifles inverted in the quad with their helmets hanging, a pastor and a prayer, and then back to the killing fields. The Nation's Walls have since brought some healing for us.
Along the wire
Along the Wire. Notice the cans placed on stakes along the close perimeter. These were used for sound of a mass enemy rush in the pitch Vietnam darkness. Survival demanded your senses be keen, and trip flares were sometimes not used to prevent the enemy from knowing your location. This picture is along what I called Yellow Brick Road, a massive clearing by the 15th Engineers, who checker-boarded the jungle making it possible for choppers with infra-red to spot enemy movement by night. The same 15th Engineers that built Bear Cat in 1966-67, and provided some ACAV/VTR trenches to give our units a lower profile. Thanks guys!!
Lessons Learned. Like the French before us, we learned quickly what the 273rd VC Regiment had in mind for us. Road mines dotted the landscape, while further North to the Ho Chi Minh trail the mines were made by burying a B-52 bomb with land mines on top of it. These created swimming pools 20 feet deep and 30 feet across. Whenever an ACAV hit a mine it normally threw the crew off who rode on top. Ridng inside was suicide if a delayed mine was hit and set off the large gas tank. If the mine exploded on the drivers side it would blow the driver out of his compartment, breaking his legs above the knees and his arms below the elbows, due to the position needed to drive. I am sure we all shared the dream of when it would be our turn. There was nothing that could be done for the crew when an ACAV exploded in flames. A helpless feeling, watching them burn alive, living with their screams and terror. That's war. Sometimes when roads could not be cleared and we were in a hurry to get some where, Banchie played point and led the pack. I guess the Captain felt I had a better chance of making it if a mine was hit.
Spc.4 Mike Prince
Rice Paddies. ACAVs and tanks did not fair well in the rice paddies. The mud would provide a suction below the unit and would require hauling it out. I broke my main cable and wench attempting to pull a tank out of the mud, over a bet by Sarge for a case of Budweiser beer. Notice my ammo pouch, the only place I had room in the drivers compartment to carry them.
Grenades. I always carried a few grenades in my driver's area. The nice thing about a grenade, it never gave away your position while inflicting maximum damage on your enemy.
Jungle Busting. At last, a place where you can take a picture out of the triple-canopy dark jungles. Every type of bug and reptile rained down crawled on us, or was thrown up by our tracks. Any stream was populated by leaches as many of us discovered. We also saw a variety of wild animals, monkeys, elephants, etc. There are some beautiful places, waterfalls, ferns, etc. in the forests. These escapades were usually led by a Tank, and when we didn't have one I usually was used to make the hole. To this day I hate those GD piss ants, having been covered in red ants from a clay ant pod that broke open on the top deck.
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"Knights in White Satin"