LZ Construction Part II
by Marion “Mouse” Hammond
Do you really build or construct an LZ? Usually when you build something, you start out with a plot of empty ground and construct some sort of structure on it. When you build an LZ, you start with section of jungle that is covered with trees and vegetation and end up with a plot of empty ground. Sounds like military thinking to me.
In the summer of 1970, someone decided that there weren’t enough LZ’s in the jungles of the Roung Roung Valley. So, they started trying to figure out a way to build some. Somebody came up with the bright idea of getting Alpha, 2/327’s first platoon to build a few. They just didn’t tell us what their plan was. They would insert us into the jungle and give us a direction they wanted us to go. Then, after a few days they would tell us that they wanted to extract us and send us back to the flat lands for some rest. Each time we would have to build an LZ in order for them to pick us up. We would rest for a few days and then do it again.
On one particularly memorable occasion, we were given the task of building an LZ to facilitate the extraction of the first and second platoons. The site selected was an extremely pointed peak some where deep in very thick jungle. The folks in command sent us out some axes, chain saws, det cord, blasting caps and C-4 to speed up the job. Luckily, we had a guy in the platoon from Montana who had experience in clearing trees to make fire breaks. He showed us how to lay down trees without killing each other.
We commenced to cut a large hole in the jungle big enough to land a Huey. The problem with it was, the Huey would have to come straight down and go straight back up. It would take a week to extract 2 full platoons. So, we decided the best thing to do was to cut glide paths in and out. This meant we needed more C-4 and fuel for the chain saws. Once the supplies were delivered, we started cutting more trees and blowing up more stumps.
Soon we had a nice wide path in and a nice path out. Then some wise guy asked what we were going to do about the big rock right in the middle of the LZ. It didn’t seem like a big deal, we would just roll it off the top of the mountain. After all, we only had to roll it about 8 feet and then let gravity do the rest. Yeah, right! This rock was a chunk of granite about the size of a large office desk and must have weighed at least a ton or twelve. We pushed and pushed and tugged and pulled and grunted and groaned, and the rock didn’t budge a millimeter. Then it dawned on us that we had an immoveable object and almost a case of C-4. The equation was simple given those variables. We would just have to blow that sucker up!
We dug 12 holes around the rock that went down under the edge and large enough to accommodate a pound of C-4 each. Then we daisy chained all the charges together with det cord and blasting caps. Since my squad was doing most of the construction (or destruction), I got to be the one to start the fireworks. In my infinite wisdom, I quickly realized that a single claymore wire was entirely too short to use. I really wanted to be at least 2 clicks away when I squeezed the detonator. We didn’t have any detonator wires to spare so I settled for 2 spliced together.
Everyone was behind me, a long way behind me. Each of us found a place to hide, reached up and grabbed the rim of our steel pots, and pulled them down around our ankles. I yelled fire in the hole and squeezed the detonator. For those of you who are not familiar with C-4, it has one and a half times the power of TNT. Our 12 pounds of C-4 was equal to 18 pounds of TNT. The explosion was tremendous, the ground shook, the trees swayed, and the air filled with dirt, wood chips, leaves, and assorted debris.
Then the remains of the rock started to descend. We were successful in our efforts to destroy the rock, it crumbled into pieces no larger than tennis balls. Every one of them went straight up, and as everyone knows, what goes up, is surely going to come down. Gravel and rocks rained down on us for what seemed like days. Every now and then you would hear a loud clang as a piece of the rock bounced off of someone’s steel pot, or someone yelp as they got pelted. Luckily no one was injured.
The end result was a really nice flat, gravel covered helicopter pad. It could only accommodate one bird at a time, but it did the job. First platoon secured the LZ while the second loaded into the birds. After the second platoon headed for the flats, the first platoon followed them out. I think we rendezvoused with the third platoon in the middle of a rice paddy. After the CO and the LT’s had a conference we all went our own ways and resumed platoon sized ops again.