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Postby waltthomas » Wed Jul 04, 2018 4:22 pm

The hot, tropical weather has been in the headlines recently. It seems like a good portion of the country is suffering from high temps and/ or high humidity. That kinda sums up the weather here in Tennessee. That jogs my memory to the weather conditions in Vietnam 50 years ago. I remember being on an operation sweeping around one of the USMC bases next to the DMZ in July of '68. It was HOT HOT HOT. I remember Marines sporatically dropping from heat-related issues and the choppers swooping in to take them into Dong Ha for treatment. I never knew the daily temps and the conditions were made worse by the flak jacket and helmet which we wore for protection. It was a long time ago but I remember it vividly.
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Re: weather

Postby AK48 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:05 pm

Hey Walt, Allyn Kahoe here, 2nd Platoon , Echo. I remember that op. The terrain was relatively open and clear. Maybe outside of Con Thien? Anyhow, what I remember is the whole Battalion doing online sweeps all day long. And when the formation changed direction at a pivot point the outer end of the line had to RUN to maintain the line. It's no wonder we had heat casualities. I don't recall much NVA contact or captured supplies, just shaking leg muscles and thirst.
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Re: weather

Postby tomfen » Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:02 pm

Walt, we finally got to meet last month in Vegas. Yep, I remember that operation and the weather.

The Hottest Day I Can Remember

I'm guessing that it was sometime around July or August. The year is easy to remember, 1968. The day doesn’t matter though, because I can just go to the names, serial number, and dates of death to be exact.

It was well before the monsoon season. Everything was bone dry and dust floated after every scratch of the scorched earth. This stretch of land was like a moonscape, void of vegetation. Only some distant hedgerows were visible. What were trees were now stumps and the bushes had just begun to sprout again. Shade wasn’t at a premium because there was none. Defoliation and bombs took care of that.

It was larger than a battalion size operation, and we were trucked to a drop-off point. I can imagine the enemy watching the rolling clouds of dust that betrayed any semblance of surprise. We were never very good at it anyway. Always seemed that the only thing we didn’t bring was a band.

This was not a one day trip and everyone was loaded with gear. How many pounds? Did it matter? It was the total weight of food, water, ammunition, grenades, rifle, socks (yes, socks), flack jacket, helmet, extra ammo for the M-60s, extra rockets, and, in my case a 25 pound radio to round things out.

Off the trucks we jumped and the ‘sweep’ was underway. Imagine several thousand men walking forward; not in single file, but abreast, 15 meters apart, trying to stay aligned. Then imagine a a serpentine rubber band and you’ll have a better picture.

We may have thought we started early to get a jump on the heat, but the sun was relentless and by around noon with the human rubber band undulating across the landscape men started dropping out from heat exhaustion. ‘Dropping out’ doesn’t seem to describe men just falling over, passed out, and not by choice. Their skin was no longer wet and their faces were a strange color.

It was then that we heard the mortars leaving the tubes. Those hedgerows. All these years later that ‘wooomp’, ‘wooomp’, ‘wooomp’ is burned into some distant part of my brain, I suspect forever. ‘Incoming’ was the yell, but we kept moving forward. The 3 guys out in front of our sweep, our ‘point’ men, were the first to be felled by the falling mortars.

I didn’t yet know that Mike Thomas had the top of his head removed, but soon I would be lifting his body onto a tank. Yeah, we had some tanks that day and what fine targets they make, but that’s a story for another day. There are too many.

That radio I mentioned, the ‘prick 25’, had been my possession for some six months. First at the squad level, and now I was shadowing Lt. Knight, our platoon commander. ‘Lt’, replaced Lieutenant Paul Manola, who had put his time in (6 months for an officer) and rotated to a more ‘secure’ duty station. (Days like this I wondered why I refused his offer to do the same.) Lt Knight moved forward ‘on line’ and encouraged his men to keep moving. I can still hear him, "KEEP MOVING FORWARD". There were more incoming rounds in the air. RPGs and rifle rounds were making their presence known by whistling by. I kept looking at the large holes made earlier by our bombs and pointing them out to the Lt. ‘Lieutenant, here’s a nice big one, let’s get in until the incoming stops’. Maybe I only thought that, then again, maybe, I was screaming (inside?). No matter, Lt. Knight never even looked for refuge. It was as though there was no incoming for him. On the other hand, I knew I was about to die following this crazy SOB around.

Were we responding in kind with our firepower? I think we were, but I really don’t remember. I knew I wasn’t. I was still reluctantly following the Lt., and listening to, and passing along dispatches. Some of it is still a blur. Maybe it was the overwhelming chaos of the heat and enemy projectiles felling so many guys. Then again maybe it was looking down at Mike Thomas and seeing his brains spill out as I lifted him onto that tank and thinking that it looked like pink cantelope.

I didn’t know then, but the day was hardly over. Before it would end there would be ice cream, and, more incoming.....this time enemy artillery.

It was the tanks………….those damn tanks.

  LCPL - E3 - Marine Corps - Regular

Length of service 1 years
His tour began on Dec 6, 1967
Casualty was on Jul 9, 1968
Body was recovered
Panel 52W - Line 8
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Re: weather

Postby waltthomas » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:43 am

Yea, I enjoyed meeting you and drinking a beer with you last month in Vegas. I am looking forward to seeing you again next year.

That operation was hot and nasty. The mortars and the North Vietnamese artillery made it rougher. You are right about the terrain, there were no trees that weren't blown off a few feet off the ground. Very little vegetarian other than the sporatic hedgerows scattered about which is where the ememy mortars positions were. Lots of bomb craters in the area.

My fireteam was located closest to the DMZ and we observed some puffs of smoke behind a hedgerow from one of the mortars firing at us. It was 500 or 600 m away and I was carrying a LAAW which I fired at it. Missed it by quite a bit but I was never very good with those darn things anyways. After that I ran over to one of the tanks and directed them to start firing at the mortar position. I have never been close to a tank firing before and after it let loose the first round I was stunned by the noise and the tank bucking up. I thought that the tank had been hit with an RPG or something until the tank commander asked me if they needed to adjust the next round. He had to ask me several times because I couldn't hear too well from the cannon blast. I think that I still have ringing in my ears from that and other noise issues in Viet Nam. Anyways, I think that we nailed the mortar position. Didn't notice any more rounds coming from that area afterwards. I hope that it was the one that got Mike Thomas. He was a great guy and I would have a lot of satisfaction knowing that I helped eliminate those responsible for his death.

I was wounded later in the day and medevaced to Dong Ha. Once there they were trying to get me in to see a doctor after unloadind all my ammo, gear, etc but I had my arms locked around the chilled-water cooler in the corner of the medical facility for several minutes. What a luxury that was.
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Re: weather

Postby tomfen » Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:52 pm

Craig Kaiser would take some measure of justice knowing that your efforts eliminated the mortar crew that killed his best friend.
Craig and Mike Thomas enlisted on the buddy plan, went through all the training, and both wound up in Fox.
Craig was wounded so severely that he was offered to return to the States to rehab.
He declined, rehabbed in Japan and returned to V/N because his best friend was still there.
Within days of his return to the bush his best friend Mike was KIA. Craig was the first to find Mike.
Can't imagine the anguish. I witnessed the rage.
Craig's first son's name is Michael.
You guys should talk.
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