Black Boots and Daisy Chains
The following discussion began with the story “Soldier Returns To Protesters” by Amy Sherrill, writer for the TIMES RECORD
Something about this story just doesn’t ring true to me. What do you think? I don’t know everything about the Vietnam War or everything about our 101st., but I don’t recall a CH-50 helicopter or a 2/11 Field Artillery in the 101st.
We have two Gun Bunny Brothers here that can help us verify if the 2/11 was with the 101st. I have a vague recollection of hearing of such a unit but I’m not the expert. Never heard of a CH-50 I’m just a grunt and know a S-HOOK was a CH-47. Let’s ask Dan & Brian about the unit and then we’ll check out the other stuff. Maybe Dan can set us straight on the chopper’s ID because he tired of humping Joes and switched over to whirly birds. What say you Brother Gun Bunnies FIRE MISSION OVER!
Or a CH-46 for Jarheads.
BTW, I think the guy is full of shit. “Black” combat boots????? I don’t THINK so Tim!
A big ROGER on the CH-46 Sea Knight that is still in service at this time. Sikorsky builds em to last. YEAH, Our boots came green but after a few days they were brown like the mud and rotted from that point
The reference to the 2/11 is correct. This 155 battalion was direct support artillery to the infantry battalions of the 101st, but from 1968 to 1970 as you all know the AO of the 101st was in Thua Thien province which butts against Laos and is some distance from Cambodia. If there is a grain of truth to the story, the writer is sloppy to say the least. Were Fu-gas barrels triggered by a plunger mechanism? Do you speak of “daisy-chaining” claymore mines? I don’t know. At least the writer could have nailed down the name of the firebase. And yes, the boots lost any original color after a few weeks or so.
We usually detonated fu-gas with a claymore to split the barrel and spray the fluid and a WP grenade to ignite it.
We also daisy-chained claymores, especially for mechanical ambushes (we never used booby traps).
Honor & Country,
I don’t get it. Why the heck do some of Us, feel the need too put down other vet’s who served in that 3rd weird Sh.. HOLE?? I don’t remember a (CH 50) either, but that’s not important . Maybe The Man got confused? maybe He was confusing the AK 47 & AK 50. Instead of calling Mr. Moon a LIAR? Get some kind of Proof of that.
That’s all I have to spew out!
I remember having SP art attached to us at FSB Jack, in 69 also later in 69 when the road to the Ah Shau was Completed they were at FSB Ripcord, ALL arty, Including the 101 arty waqs XXIV Corps in actuality, Marines and Army. Little bad wolf would know more about that than I would. As For 2/11 I was a BC with them, Bob Kalsu the Only NFL Player to be killed in Nam was the XO they were VERY real, and indeed still are with the 25 Div in Afghanistan Now They were a Leg outfit at Campbell prior to Nam, they deployed long before the 101 spent time with Americal, then on 8 June 1968, when 101 switched to an Airmobile T O & E the 2/11 became part of the 101 at Gen Westmoreland’s Direct request
Charley battery with the 1/83 supported Ripcord from FSB Veghel with our 175’s
Not sure when the XXIV Corps took over. In 66 till around late 68 I believe it was 1st FF only. 1st FF Forward was set up at Dong Ha in Oct of 66 and they called for a group to come up and set up (I think because they wanted the hell out of Dong Ha) – enter the 108th group in late 1967 that took over all the northern I Corps Arty with most of the Army arty units OPCON and shooting through the 12th Marine Regiment FSCC which was the Division Arty for the Third Marines. Headquarters for 12th Marine Arty was at Dong Ha.
I know most of us never heard of XXIV Corps while we were there. I came home with MACV patch and Ist FF patch.
I did find it unusual that when I did find out about it and researched it – there was a XXIV Corps and a XXIV Corps Arty under them. While the main Corps had the blue heart patch there is a XXIV Corps RED HEART Arty Patch that was never authorized. I found that very strange.
Since during the pacific campaigns in WW2 which the XXIV Corps participated in both separate infantry and arty patches and crests were authorized.
Never could figure that one out. Just Army logic I suppose.
Best that way,
I arrived in Jan 69 and there were gunbunnies that were shortimers with 18 months in country. These troops were wearing First Cav and Second Field Force from the III CORPS or IV CORPS area. They had been sent up north on a barge to Dong Ha and then to Khe Sahn to help end the 66 day siege of the pinned down Marines. The XXIV CORPS may have taken over the unit as they ran all of I CORPS including the USMC operations and 101st Airborne.
There were no 8 inch or 175 MM units with any Divisions so XXIV CORPS took on the job of making there patch known through the shuffling of batteries throughout I CORPS. Hence, XXIV CORPS was all G1,G2,S1,S2 and HHC and the Arty units in the field.
We used Phu Gas at Blaze and Bastogne and it was set off by a Claymore underneath the gasoline half filled barrel. It was fired by the usual trigger mechanism that was used for that purpose. Plungers were used by wild west cowboys and WW2 engineers. We always pickled them upon receiving the MARCH ORDER to another location.
Those of us that went over on the “Boat” in July of 65 wore Jump Boots. They lasted ‘till we were up in the highlands and they were rotting off our feet. We were using parachute cord to tie the soles to the uppers. This changed when a couple of newspaper reporters were on an operation with us and wrote the story of our boots and the folks in the states read the story.
Then we got our first shipment of jungle boots. Because I have a size 7 1/2 they had to scrounge up a pair of WWII jungle boots for me, brown canvas and leather with the flap and buckles at the top.
We received jungle boots around Oct 65. It was the monsoon season and our regular “black” boots were coming apart at every seam by then. I too had did a double take when he mentioned black combat boots.
My 2¢. Being debriefed in Hawaii, wasn’t something that I remember when I came home in 1970 and I don’t remember being told to forget about Vietnam and to not pay attention to what was going on in the outside.
You would not set up a daisy chain of claymores with a 55 gal napalm and use a plunger. I believe that if you tried to make a daisy chain of claymores…..only the first one would go off, I could be wrong on that one since I never tried doing something like that.
Did look for the name that he mention, and it seem to be a fact, but if he died in Quang Tri, which I have no idea where it is at, I do know for a fact that the 101st Abn was not there in 1969 and 1970. Look below
Let us not forget Staff Sergeant Michael Francis Brown, casualty of the Vietnam War. As a member of the Army, SSG Brown served our country until May 6th, 1970 in Quang Tri, South Vietnam. He was 23 years old and was not married. Michael died from multiple fragmentation wounds. His body was recovered. Michael was born on November 9th, 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland.
SSG Brown is on panel 11W, line 109 of the Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C
My comment on the daisy chaining of claymores. We did it. I think I once told you (Open Mike send a few years ago) about an ambush in Phu Loc at the base of the Bach Ma where we put many, many claymores in a daisy chain and the firing device was radio detonated from FSB Tomahawk. DET cord fires off instantaneously or Beau Coupe Quick when you put a blasting cap on each end and plug the ends into a line of claymores, it makes one big boom.
The FUGAS barrels 2nd Plt A NS! Set up winter of ‘70 in the wire on T’Hawk were all charged with claymores and fired off with a regular claymore firing device. If no one replaced them I think they worked well for Delta Co later that June. I never saw a plunger type firing device. Maybe the engineers had them but why hump other stuff that did the same J.O.B.? I didn’t like having to hump loose blasting caps and det cord as it was, so the claymore wire, cap and firing device was an all around bang kit as far as I was concerned. Wrapped C-4 when we had it was used for cooking J (LT Mike K., remember we tried to open up an LZ to get the bent up bird out of the stream bed, we used claymores to do it didn’t we?)
On Quang Tri: I have a picture of me sitting next to one of the tombstone shaped mile markers along the Red Ball (HWY 1) very near Nuoc Ngot Bridge. You remember them, they were painted white with a red top? Anyway this marker has in white letters on the red top the number 873. On the white portion it says Quang Tri 107. I never was in or near Quang Tri as far as I know but it seems to me that it was close enough to be in the 101st AO of I Corps. I think this guy is the real deal. Some of his recollections maybe foggy or confused or the reporter didn’t get it right. Just my guess.
I learned how to overlap claymores when I first started with Charlie co in Phu bai and if I remember right as long as the one with the blasting cap was at the back of the others then they would all blow. Yes I remember putting claymores behind the Phu gas on Tomahawk which worked quite well on June 10 1970. I don’t remember seeing any black Boots the whole time I was in country. I never saw a plunger to set off claymores just the clicker. My first ambush with Charlie co we set claymores in a daisy chain on a rice dyke and 3 VC happened along about midnight and they spotted the claymores and started back peddling .We didn’t know they were there until one of them shined his flashlight at the claymores and Sgt. Poe let them back up enough so he wouldn’t blow just their feet off. I was laying behind a small mound with 3 other guys and I was shaking so hard that I believe I was coming off the ground. After I got to empty 4 or 5 mags of my 16 I then calmed down enough to go check the 3 VC and see what damage was done to them. They had some buddies in the area because we started taking some green tracers towards us and we dug back in till daylight.
No Slack Doc Burton 2/327th 101st ABN Viet Nam 69-70.
Ok… my memory is pretty foggy by now, but weren’t the jungle boots black on the bottom (when new) with green nylon type side stuff? Also, I remember “daisy chaining” claymores. If I remember right, they had 2 blast cap wells on top and we strung ’em with det cord, I think.
We also used to set them out with trip wires rigged to the prc25 batteries with the little white spoon out of the C-rats: Mechanical ambushes we called them. Long time ago…
KGow B Co 2/327
Ref. John Pagel 2 boot recollection…It was very real… many had tape to keep the soles on….After the API story boxes of boots showed up, many previously worn, presumably by REMF’s. One instance of reporters that really helped the soldier.
B 1/327 65-66
I really enjoyed the feedback on this news article I sent. I don’t know if he is the real deal or not but it could just be the fog of time and a reporters mis-quotes. Haven’t seen a whole lot of accurate reporting recently.
If my memory hasn’t completely left me, I seem to recall that helicopter crews wore the black leather stateside boots. I asked one of them about it, ad he told me that there was a problem with the nylon in the jungle boots and the JP4 fuel. I don’t remember what the problem was.
We usually detonated fu-gas with a claymore to split the barrel and spray the fluid and a WP grenade to ignite it.
We also daisy-chained claymores, especially for mechanical ambushes (we never used booby traps).
The article also referenced a bullet proof flight jacket. I don’t remember seeing a flight jacket, bullet proof or otherwise. We had flak vests occasionally when we were on one of our fire bases. I didn’t consider them to be bullet proof either.
Honor & Country,
Seems to me that Door Gunners were in Black Boots. I do recall that the 155SP crews on T’Hawk wore Flak Jackets and seem to recall that the Marine Cap Teams had them as well. The more I think about this I feel the guy is the real deal. The terminology he uses may be just fogged over thru the years or translated poorly by the reporter. i.e.; CH-50 vs. 47/ Flight VS. Flak Jacket…
I don’t remember the phosphorous grenade with the claymore package to charge the FUGAS but that might be the dead section of my brain. In the fall of ’69 while bushing the flatlands I had a WP Grenade that I used to set in front of my claymore. When it went off it produced a massive wall of fire and instant illum. I never got a replacement for it but if I had I would have used the combo together it was very effective from my point of view.
I’m not going to question the facts of this person. It’s not for me to Judge.
I will say that having a lot of experience with newspaper reporters and especially young ones or those with not much worldly experience, and lack of being able to put a story together accurately, they can certainly screw things up in a report pretty well.
As far as the fugas and the claymores. We used the set up on FB Bastogne during my stay there. It was what I considered a formidable line of defense between us and Charlie. It was impressive to set off. Because of the free fire zones off of the Bastogne, once in a while we would light one off if it had been awhile since it had been checked. Then we would go out and set up a new one the next day.
Always was a guess of what detail you got for the day as a grunt on a firebase. I seemed to get caught for shit burning duty quiet a few times. I really wasn’t very good at playing spades or hearts which was our platoon’s card game of choice and I seemed to win that great reward of shit duty.
Anyway, Happy Veterans day to all of you and; NEVER FORGET,
RTO for 1st platoon
The only reason I remembered the WP is due to an incident on Los Banos when we were replacing some of the drums. We would blow them at night and then put in new ones the next morning. One night I blew one in front of bunker 2. It really made a spectacular fire ball. The next morning, Ed Schlappi, myself and another guy from my squad were clearing out the hole to place in the drum. Ed got a big shovel full of dirt and gave it toss. When he did, it erupted if flames. The dirt had fallen back in the hole and covered part of the willy pete. It reignited when the air hit it. Sent us all 3 diving to get out of the way. Then we sat on the ground laughing our butts off.
Honor & Country,
I was just scanning all these emails and figured I would add in my two piaster.
Black leather stateside boots for door gunners is plausible. Nylon melts and burns quickly when exposed to burning fuel.
Daisy chaining claymores is nothing new. However I wonder why any one would even attempt to have “radio” detonated daisy chained claymores. When Tiger Force was on the Marine firebase at the base of Bach Ma in Phu Loc we ran ambushes all through that area, we never had “radio” detonated claymores. If you think about it why would that be necessary or even used. The only reason to do that would be if the area was so far out that ground sensors were used. Second, the possibility of accidental detonation is incredibly high. Did these claymores have a receiver device tuned to a blocked frequency?
I do remember small baseball size grenades that had radioactive pellets in them that were plastic. When the grenade wounded an NVA/VC the NVA/VC could not find the shrapnel because the plastic wouldn’t show up in an X-ray. The radiation would of course kill the troops exposed to the pellets. The pellets were of a special type that decomposed rapidly if not inside a person. The radiation would self consume and there would be no trace of the activity.
Regarding Quang Tri. When I was with L Co 75th we used Quang Tri and Dong Ha as launch sites for some of our operations in 68, 69, and 70.
There was mention of XXiV having Dong Ha as a HQ. Look at the map! Why would they do that? As a HQ there is no tactical logic. I believe XXIV Tactical Command HQ was in Phu Bai. Placing them in Dong HA is like placing Eisenhower just outside of Berlin in WWII.
Does anyone remember the baseball illumination grenades?
Just a comment on the radio fired device and the daisy chaining of claymores, I don’t know about any of the other stuff you mentioned. I was a machingunner at the time the Daisy Chain was built with a remote firing device and a “cherry” to boot. We were set up at the end of the trail (dirt road) coming out of Phu Loc, by the river’s bank. The trail coming down from the Bach Ma opened up into what we called a football field, a flat rectangular shape running to the opposite bank of the river. On a one side was a small knoll overlooking the entire field. By the way it was around this week in November 1969 that the following took place. PLT. SGT. Arnold who was acting platoon leader since we did not have an LT until after Christmas that year set up this very long daisy chain of claymores on one side of the football field with the radio, remote detonator. We left the a team of one squad on the hill and moved back to the other side of the river and stayed there for three maybe four days before the team called into the platoon CP saying that the forest was moving down the mountain and into the football field. This was around mid afternoon. The second squad gun team was moved into position exactly where the trail left the football field to cross the river and then would pick up the trial going into Phu Loc. Since this was going to be the focus point of contact, Sgt. Arnold and his RTO were set up there next to my AG, me and my gun team leader Sgt Coleman. The remainder of the platoon was set up on either side of the gun position along the river bank. I remember hearing the OP come in over the radio, they were counting the NVA 46..47..48..49 and, and SGT Arnold telling me that I wasn’t to fire the gun until SGT Coleman tapped me on my steel pot. I remember the NVA point team crossing the river heading right for me when all of a sudden they did a about face and ran back into the field. At that point I remember SGT Arnold on the horn requesting that they fire the radio device and battery for effect!
Well here’s what happened. The 155 SP on T’Hawk somehow managed to get their first shot out before the guy on the trigger could fire the radio detonator. The HE they fired had VT fuses on it and one or more of the air bursts damaged the claymores and about half of them didn’t go off. If I remember right it was the ones closest to the mountain base’s end of the football field. The rest went off in one big bang that was quite distinct from the HE that that 155s continued to pump in.
Once the arty stopped we crossed the river and SGT Arnold was on point. By that I mean he had his sixteen pressed against and pointed at the base of the Kit Carson Scouts head, since he had refused to walk point when the SGT told him too. I still remember SGT Arnold tell him it’s your dam country so you’re going first. (The KC was gone the next day). Anyway I was third or fourth behind SGT Arnold when we broke into the Football field and could see an NVA laying on the ground about 100 feet away and another slightly behind him. One of the NVA sat up and drew a pistol but before he could point it at us, SGT Arnold pushed the KC out of his way and fired a burst into him. The other one was dead, dead having taken the brunt of the blast from a close by claymore. The platoon immediately set up security and either the first or third platoon of the company did a CA into the field along with the 1st SGT, the CO and a tracker dog team.
There were blood trails and people pieces everywhere, but the majority of the blood trails were heading back up the mountain trail. Just before we were to proceed up the trail a Loach flew overhead and was doing a recon up the trail and it took fire from a large tree nearby the trail. I remember it doing a half left and opening up with it’s mini gun, shearing the tree of all its branches. We hadn’t too far when SGT Coleman called for me to bring the gun up front. I was told that there was movement off the side of the trail and I should fire at what they pointed out to me. I fired about a hundred round here and there into a small ravine. Who knows what if anything was hit. There were red rivers of blood going up the trail and blood trails going both left and right off the trail as wounded NVA scattered to take cover from the Loach. When we reached the base of the tree where someone had fired at the chopper there was one big pool of blood in the middle of the trail. Whoever did the shooting got hit bad but his buddies picked him up and he was gone. By that time it was getting close to dark so they called off the pursuit and we moved back down the mountain to the football field to secure the bodies and set up for the night.
Now why the claymores weren’t detonated first beats me but what did go off did some damage to those in front of them. The team observing from the knoll said that the NVA were flying through the air when they went off. Apparently the NVA with the pistol and the one behind him were very close to one when it went off. The pistol bearing NVA Colonel’s legs were shredded. The other body was perforated like Swiss cheese. The claymores that didn’t go off were split open or in pieces from the arty or they would have added to the carnage. John Coleman who lives near me today, and Frank Seeman who is online with us, as well as Jack Ponson were all there that day. We have talked about this and agree the first airburst wrecked the daisy chain. Why did the NVA point team turn around in the river? We believe the guy in the tree was an OP with a radio and alerted the NVA to our movement on the river. We never used a radio or remote detonated claymore after that. There were a few attempts to use a mouse trap device with claymores but our first platoon had a man killed when he set one of their own devices off, the practice was discontinued. Two bizarre things happened at this site. During the night on the football field one of the enemy corpses sat up as rigor set in. This spooked everyone and it still chills me to remember his body belch and rise up. The next morning I was walking behind one of the bodies being carried across the river on a pole. One of it’s feet detached and fell in the river. I watched it float away with the little minnows nibbling on it. From then on we refereed to the place as the foot river.
Thanks for such an extensive response. Tiger Force lived in Phu Loc for a good long time beginning in 68. In November of 69 I was with L Co 75. Looking at the map of Phu Loc and Bach Ma I see what you refer to as the “foot ball field” I guess we never gave it a name. Bach Ma was an interesting place because for a long time after we got to Phu Loc Bach Ma was off limits to air strikes because of the history of Bach Ma (Hill 1445). John Gertsch (MOH) told me that if he were to die in Nam he wanted to die on Bach Ma, unfortunately we know he died in the Ashau.
Do you recall how many claymores were positioned? The concept of using “radio” detonated claymores any where around that area seems to be like someone having fun versus it being successful. I learn something everyday.
Surprised no one has responded to the radioactive grenades.
The Bach Ma was an awesome piece of scenery, That beautiful waterfalls coming straight out of the clouds. Do you have a picture?
Does anyone have a picture? My little INSTAMATIC just couldn’t capture the post card like beauty of the mountain. I remember something else of beauty from this area also. We were set up in a nearby hooch at the end of the trail as our Day Pos. 2nd Squad gun team had the pig sty all to our self J We pulled OP nearby and the position was filled with a honeysuckle like vine. I remember sitting there and having this large bee flying around my head. I swiped at it a few times and it came around in front of my face and just hovered there looking at me. It was a bright yellow humming bird about the size of a quarter. I suppose we all have the same haze of memories, the beauty we saw especially in the canopy and the ugly horror that always lurked around us.
Next time I see John Coleman I’ll ask him if he remembers the number of claymores. Like I said I was Cherry, this took place around this time of year in ’69, I know for sure it was before Thanksgiving. I had come In-Country 3rd of September. The first AO I was in was on the other side T’Hawk with the Company CP at Nuoc Ngot Bridge. I must have hooked up with A Co. somewhere around mid or end of September. Trying to remember days is impossible. I know once the monsoon came on we were constantly moving to higher ground. It wasn’t very long after the rain started that the company CP, mortar tube and water purification plant at Nuoc Ngot Bridge were flooded out. The first week of October on the 6th we had a sniper team out North of the Ville and the sniper (John Ward) went to move the claymores closer to his position for the night. He didn’t disconnect the firing devices and one of the guys stood up and stepped on the one connected to the claymore he was holding, it killed him. After the team was extracted (3 day because of weather) we move up to Tomahawk were we stayed while a typhoon hit the area. A day after the storm passed and we had cleaned up the perimeter damage we moved our AO to PHU LOC. We did it the Airmobile Way… by walking the railroad tracks from Tomahawk to Roy. I attribute my exceptional leg calf development to that move, carrying the gun & rucked up heavy trying to walk from tie to tie J. This was the only time I was on FSB Roy, I think it was for about a week. Then we moved into the flats between the Red Ball and the Bach Ma, running day patrols and night ambushes. Someone must have had some intel about the NVA going to make a move on the TOC or as John Coleman believes they observe us setting in to the hooch at the edge of the trail and thought they would come down the mountain and take us out. If it is as Coleman believes SGT Arnold and second platoon were set out as bait to draw the NVA into the football field’s kill zone it was a master piece of military thinking. Then I would have to believe that CPT Whittle our CO came up with the plan. SGT Arnold was a heck of a soldier in his own right and perhaps the two of them looking over the new AO on the maps before the move from T’Hawk to Roy decided to implement it. I’ve looked for Arnold for years and would love to ask him the question as to how the remote detonated Claymores plan came to be. Sometime after Thanksgiving A Co. moved back to the Nuoc Ngot AO where we stayed until April or there about… I never heard or saw of illum grenades or radioactive ones maybe someone will comment.
Spoke to John Coleman yesterday… John doesn’t remember the exact amount of claymores that were daisy chained on the football field. He said he thinks it was forty something, maybe forty four? He also believes that the daisy chain may have been destroyed by a Harassing Fire round fired the night before the incident rather then the VT rounds fired when the NVA were in the kill zone… We both agree that 20 Claymores went off when the radio detonator was fired. Strange the details you can recall after 35 years.