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Black Panther Battalion, 9th Div. in field, 1967

For those of you here who are unaware, there are few things to understand about the tracks used in Vietnam. Many people, believed the myth that the Assualt Tracks could not be penetrated by the enemy or overcome due it's superior fire power capabilities.

The M-113 Assualt Tracks carried a 50 Cal. machine gun with capola shielding, mounted towards the front and center of the unit behind the driver hatch. M-60 machine guns with shielding were mounted on each side. Most of this added protection that turned an APC into an ACAV (Attack Carrier Armored Vehicle) was put on after the tracks arrived in Vietnam. These three main guns kept one loader busy during a fire fight. To the rear was the shotgun man with a M-79 grenade launcher. We called him the Blooper Man and sometimes he also carried a shotgun. Other weapons available to add Warrior protection were the M-16 (and variations), M-45 pistol, M-45 Machine gun, grenades and claymore mines.

50 CAL in Capola

The 50 Cal machine gun could rip limbs from bodies, penetrate dense forests, cut a 12 inch diameter tree in half with three rounds, and the M-60's came close to this. The fire power of the Assualt Tracks was awesome, but could be overwhelmed by the enemy. I called the 50 Cal the Butcher or sickle to describe it's work in the field. Despite this mass firepower of destruction the Assualt Track could be overrun. The Assualt Tracks operated with Tanks, so if they were overrun, they could be quickly buttoned up and have tanks dust off the top with flechette rounds (small darts fired in a round like shotgun pellets). The Assualt Tracks were vulnerable to road mines and I saw units reduced to chunk size pieces of metal. They were rolling death traps with gasoline tanks that exploded into a firey infernal from mines and anti-tank (HE/HEAT) recoilless rounds, and I watched my Brothers burn alive in these death traps. My own Track (Banchie) was hit with a anti-tank HEAT recoilless round in an ambush, killing three and wounding the rest of us. Uncle Ho told his NVA soldiers in training that the Assualt Tracks were made of plywood in order to give them courage to ambush and attack the units. The Black Panthers were hit during the nights by enemy mortar fires, anytime we stayed in a location over two days, which wasn't that often. The Black Panthers acted as an OPCON unit, going where ever we were needed to support other units and infantry. Lastly the Assualt Tracks were our home and during my tour I saw Bear Cat for short periods inbetween operations. My own unit was a 578 VTR used to recover the assualt tracks after they were hit or broke down. Our 50 CAL. had no shielding.

Banchie disabled, 1967

We were partially supplied in the field by Jolly Green Giant helicopters, and dead and wounded were removed in dust-offs by Choppers, and my thanks goes out to Artillery, the Air Cav and Phantom support we received on the ground.

BadAss Hits Mine, 1967

1967 was the year of Big Battles, as Uncle Ho prepared his 1968 TET Offensive operations. His biggest threat was American Armor and Mechanized, and in 1967 he hit us with everything he had 24 hours a day. We engaged the enemy on almost a daily basis, in one form or another. Road mines were a constant threat and quicky disabled an ACAV.

The 9th Division's Black Panther Division earned it's name fighting along side the Korean Tiger Division, Australian Mechanized Division, 1/11Th US Armored Regiment and the 3/5 Black Cavalry Regiment. The patch was designed after the logo on our EM Club at Bear Cat. We operated in War Zones C & D, Iron Triangle, Ho Bo Woods, Parrots Beak, Ho Chi Minh Trail in III Corps area, which is all to the North-West of Saigon, Vietnam, Siagon, and to the coastline of Vung Tau where we came ashore in landing crafts. We didn't get the silver bird coming in, but arrived by the USN Pope troop transport. Some of our operations while I was there in 1967 included Greenleaf, Pittsburg, Junction City Phase I, Port Sea, Junction City Phase III and Coronado. The 9th Division, from 1966 to 1969 had 2,624 Killed In Action (KIA), 18,831 Wounded In Action (WIA) and 10 Medals of Honor.

1/11th Armor, 1967

We worked a lot with the 1/11th Armor who had their base camp at Loc Ninh (I believe). These guys were not taking any prisoners.

ACAV on the move

One thing about the ACAV, it could go about anywhere in Vietnam. The first thing to go on these units was the governor and the some units the second thing to go was the rubber track pads.

Abandoned Fire Base

A chain of these fortified artillary bases had been established along Thunder Road to protect the artillery positions, as Operation Junction City expanded it's way across War Zone C. Each base was protected by Armor and Assualt Tracks that worked up and down Thunder Road. This also meant that we had better control over Thunder Road (Hwy 13), and units would conduct High-Ball runs during the night to stop the enemy from planting mines for the supply convoys in the morning. This ARVN base was overrun a few nights before we arrived. All that was left was a lonely dog ontop of a destroyed bunker.

M-60 Machingun.

The M-60 was a bad ass weapon whether on the ground, in a bunker, or situated on an ACAV. Many combat veterans will remember the "Mad-Minute" when all weapons were fired in the evening just before the forward patrols went out on foot. The Mad-Minute was also used on occassions when we were back tracking from areas along the Cambodia border.

The following song is part of Military Folklore Archives at Nimitz Library at the U.S. Naval Academy and part of the Smithsonian Vietnam Collection. Assualt Tracks when running vibrated the ground, churning the red Vietnam dust in waves and could be heard for miles through the triple canopy jungles where we jungle-busted in search of the allusive enemy. Battles were fought on the VC terms, as they always knew we were coming.

"Waiting on the Day" 1987 Mike Prince

Their sitting on the corners in their camouflage fatigues,

Outcasts from a time when they fought for liberty.

In a country that don't love them, or seem to have a place.

These Vietnam veterans are waiting on the day.

(Chorus) Waiting on the day that they'll need them again.

Waiting on the day when they'll need some more killing.

Their waiting on the days like they were in Vietnam.

When every heart in battle sang out for freedom.

A lot of their buddies are pushing around in chairs.

Some of them don't have no limbs but they got back from there.

And some of their buddies are still over there somewhere.

Their waiting on the day that their country cares.

(Chorus from above)

It sure was some welcome they didn't want them back.

The war they fought for freedom their trying to forget.

And their wondering what their buddies will say when their asked.

To go fight another war like it was in Vietnam.

(Chorus to fine)

"Black Panthers" 1990 Mike Prince

There comes a ricky-ticky, so faint a ricky-ticky, a ricky-ticky sound.

Far off the jungles shaking, coming closer, trees a breaking to the ground.

A runner is a-coming, bring terror as he's a coming, to tell us something.

The Black Panthers are a-coming! Their not slowing down!

The first first sign deaths a-coming, is the rumbling, is the rumbling.

The first sign deaths a-coming, is the rumbling of the ground.

For close behind is the thumping, mighty thumping, bullets tumbling.

The Black Panthers are a-coming! Their not slowing down!

The sickle is a-swinging, is a-swinging, is a-swinging.

The sickle is a-swinging, to spread the death around.

Mighty engines break the silence, bringing terror and violence.

The Black Panthers tracks in defiance! Their not slowing down!

It's the rumbling and the roaring, the dying and the moaning.

It's the rumbling and the roaring, brings the fear in Vietnam.

The sixties is a-swinging, the fifties are a-swinging, the sickle is a-swinging.

The Black Panthers are a screaming! Their not slowing down!

The last sign deaths a-coming, is the blood a-running, is the blood a-running.

The last sign deaths a-coming, is the darkness that surrounds.

The cry cuts through the jungle, deaths a-coming, deaths a-coming.

The Black Panthers are a-coming! Their not slowing down!

I love the smell of Napalm in the morning, or a well oiled 50

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