A Troop 4/12th Cav

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History of the 12th Cav in Vietnam 27 Jul 1968 – 30 Nov 1971
According to the collective remembrances of it’s surviving troopers.

CPT Errol D. Alexander, July-Oct 1968
CPT Kenneth G. Carlson, Oct 68-Mar 69
CPT Larry R. Robinson, Mar-Sep 1969
CPT William C. Kaufman, Sep-Nov 1969
CPT Matthias A. Spruill, Nov 69-Feb 70
CPT John L. B. Smith, Feb-May 1970
CPT Robert R. Richards, May-Oct 70
CPT Woodrow W. Waldrop, Oct 70-Apr 71
CPT Edward E. Helton, Apr-Oct 71

The TO&E of a Cavalry Troop in the 1960's called for three platoons.  Each platoon had a platoon leader's vehicle, a scout section of two scout squads with each squad having two vehicles (4 vehicles in the section) a tank section of three tanks, an infantry squad and a mortar squad.

Many Cavalry units reorganized the platoons to have 9 M-113s when they deployed to RVN - 11th Cav is the best example.  However A/4-12 kept its original organization when it deployed to RVN with one small exception.  There was never enough infantry replacement so the infantry squad was folded into the scout section and most of the time the mortar squads were pulled from the platoons and formed a mortar platoon.

      A platoon's organization would have been (using 1st platoon as an example)
            10 - Platoon Leader
            11 - Scout Section Leader
            12 - Scout
            13 - Scout Squad Leader
            14 - Scout
            15 - Infantry Squad - not used as a scout
            16 - Platoon Sergeant and Tank Section Leader
            17 - Tank
            18 - Tank
            19 Mortar Squad, but removed and grouped with the other mortars to form a mortar platoon under Troop Commander's control.

There were three platoons.  In addition there were two radar tracks, (Call signs 61 & 62) the troop commander's track, a light recovery vehicle and the commo track (Call sign 30) that is why the 3d Platoon Leader's call sign was 40.
 Matt SpruillThis is the second installment to my e-mail on Troop organization.

As I mentioned before each platoon had a mortar squad, they were 81"MM mortars mounted in a track.  Common practice was for all three mortars to be grouped into a platoon.  When I was there the "19" Squad leader ran the mortar platoon.  The mortars went to the field whenever the entire troop deployed.  In night defensive positions they were located in the center of the troop position and were aimed at a pre-determined target.  They also had registered data for other likely targets.

The troops had two Ground Surveillance Radars (GSR).  They were AN/PPS-5, and used call sign 61 and 62.  Each radar had a track and a crew of 2 or 3.  The radars looked like a large can turned on its side with the radar end being curved and the operators end being flat.  This was mounted on a tripod and could be hooked up to a small generator for power.

The radar was designed to pick up movement and worked best against vehicles, but it could pick up groups of people.  There was no scope like you see on most radar, but the radar return came through an noise which the operator heard in a set of head phones.  It required training and practice to use the set with any reliability.

The radar also went to the field when the troop deployed and at night was located in the center of the troop's position.

When I was there I had the mortars and the radar set up on the same base azimuth.  That way when ever the radar picked up a target they only had to give the mortars the azimuth and range for the mortars to fire, it took some practice but several times suspected targets were engaged.

As each mortar track and radar track had a 50 cal mounted on top they also provided a nice firepower reserve for direct fire in a defensive position if needed.

When on the move the radar tracks accompanied and set up with the mortars to provide them security.

Is anyone out there a mortar man or a GSR operator?
Matt Spruill

Matt, I was the gunner on 29. MOS was 11C20. I was trained as a mortar man at Fort Ord. During the time that I was over there, I only remember a few times that we set up as a company and used aiming stakes and the M16 plotting board. It seems that most of the time we were at platoon strength and usually just "hip shot" the mortars. I don't remember the radar tracks very well. The tank's range finders were used to give us an accurate distance to target and we would use the vertical cross hair for alignment and adjust range accordingly. Much of the time that I was there, Jun 69 to Jun70, track 29 wasn't running so I spent time as M60 gunner on different tracks. I can remember one time that we had the three mortars tracks set up on coordinates and we had some Marines working with us. They had electronic listening devices set up on a trail in three different spots. Movement was detected on the first, the second and when we got the ok, we fired 5 rounds from each tube and blew up the third sensor. In the morning we found a bloody shirt.
Bob Taylor 

Glad to see that troop tactics changed some time after I was there.  Don't remember ever seeing a radar track and to the best of my knowledge never used the mortar track other than as another vehicle with a 50 on it.  I never remember them set up as a battery but then we were usually operating as independent platoon and not that often as a troop.  The one time we could have dropped a few rounds in to keep them hopping it was decided that the men didn't have the experience to register accurately enough, especially when friendlies were also operating in the same valley and positions iffy.
William McShane

[Feb. 1901: On Feb. 2nd the 12th Cav. was formed at Ft. Sam Huston TX.]

Feb 1968
TET offensive initiates additional troop buildup in Vietnam

March 1968
1st Brigade 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Ft. Carson, CO begins receiving troops buildup and training for deployment to Vietnam.
Formation, Training & Deployment to Viet Nam April 1968 Civil Disturbance Training and deployment to Washington D.C. riot control; in the time frame of the end of March and the first of April. Pineapple:
Barbara and I were out doing the Thanksgiving shopping tonight and while waiting for her to clear the checkout I went over to the book rack and picked up a book about Nam (surprise surprise). I always check them out to see what reference there is to the Cav (normally none at all). This one did make reference to the fact about the 5th Inf being send to Nam despite not being ready for combat operations (that is one reason we sat on the beach for so long). It seems that the Division had been wrapped up in riot control and were behind in their training and in the outfitting of equipment to be used in Nam. So it was held back until sometime in September before the whole unit was declared fit for duty.
CoopAccording to "The Rise and Fall of an American Army" by Shelby Stanton (1985, Novato CA, Presidio books), the 5th I.D. (Mech) brought 1,072 armored vehicles with them. Once there, they received 140 APCs, 8 mortar carriers from Fort Hood and a total of 67 M48 tanks from Ft. Knox and the Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, PA. During the shakedown period, the division's readiness was complicated by the September monsoons which temporarily isolated the division on the wrong side of the Cam Lo main bridge. But the day was saved by aerial resupply. Some elements of the division came into enemy contact in August, but the rest of the division actually entered the fight in October 1968. According to Stanton, the NVA on the DMZ now had to deal with armored formations and "mechanized momentum." June 1968
Robert Kennedy assassinated in Los Angeles.

Deployment of advance party for Quang Tri and Wunder Beach. Tent City built in the sands of Wunder Beach.

Photo of Wunder Beach Commemorative Patch made by locals  provided by Al Sacks

Deployment of advance party from Ft. Carson to Danang on C-141's.

Jim Mills arrives with advanced party that in Danang, and then flown to the Marine base at Quang Tri in C141's. While awaiting the arrival of the main body elements we receive our in-country briefing from the 3rd Marine Div., fill sandbags, pull guard and learn how to burn shit.

July 1968(ORLL Beginning First Period 1/5 th Inf Div (M) Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam 1 Nov 68) Phase III Movement to Vietnam: On 1 July 1968, an advance party consisting of 300 personnel and 85.5 short tons of cargo departed Peterson Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado. This lift required seven C141 aircraft (3 for passengers and 4 for cargo). Upon arrival at Da Nang Air Base, the advance party moved to Quang Tri Combat Base to establish a temporary base camp and prepare to receive the main body of the Brigade. The main body started moving on 22 July 1968 and completed movement on 31 July 1968. The movement of the main body required a total of 64 C141 aircraft consisting of 48 passenger sorties and 16 cargo sorties. A Total of 4,578 personnel and 1,109.3 short tons of cargo were moved by air. Personnel landed initially at Da Nang and were transloaded into C130 aircraft for movement to Quang Tri. Priorities for movement were 1-11 th Inf Bn, Brigade Hq, 1-61 st Inf (M), 1-77 th Armor, and the 75 th Support Bn in that order. After arrival the brigade began to deprocess the equipment shipped by surface transportation. The majority of this equipment was off-loaded at Da Nang and transshipped to Wunder Beach on the coast ESE of Quang Tri City. From 1 August to 15 August 1968 the battalions unpacked, conducted orientation and acclimatization training, and prepared for combat. The units were initially positioned as follows: 1 11 Inf LZ Sharon 1 61 Inf (M) Wunder Beach 1 77 Armor Wunder Beach 5 4 Arty LZ Sharon A/7 th Engr Wunder Beach A/4-12 th Cav Wunder Beach 75 th Spt Bn (-) Quang Tri CB D 75 th Bn Dong Ha 517 th MI Quang Tri CB 407 th RRD Quang Tri CB 86 th Chem Det Quang Tri CB Bde HQ Quang Tri CB (5) .50 Caliber MG Mounts:

(a) Observation: The M@ caliber .50 cupola mounted MG on the M1 cupola in the M48 series tanks is unsatisfactory for .the type of combat experienced in Vietnam. A pedestal mounted MG with armor protection enhances the tank commander's ability to return fire immediately. The .50 caliber MG used in reconnaissance by fire is easier to control if mounted by this method.


From Lt. William G. McShane 3rd Platoon 1968-69
As I read comments of others about their memories of their early days in country I decided to try reconstructing some of what happened to me from memory and comments I made in letters to my wife to be. She has saved all of the letters I wrote, so there should be some interesting facts a few of which I have already come across. If anyone wants to edit this or can fill in some of the blanks I would love to start a dialog.

The troop left Carson and flew to Traverse AFB in CA, then to Wake, Manila and finally Da Nang I got off the plane on Wake, walked out to an old WWII bunker and checked out the Pacific. Never saw the pacific. I commented in letters that each stop got hotter and hotter. When we disembarked in Da Nang the heat was so oppressive I just stood there and sweated. Sweated some more. Then watched the tracer fire shooting off in the distance.

I can't remember how we got from Da Nang to Quang Tri. Boggles my mind, but I remember our first days were at Quang Tri combat base in a tent city next to the marines. Here we were in our nice clean fatigues in a base camp. No equipment. Don't remember when we got weapons, but do remember we had some rule about loaded rifles. My first trip out of the compound was when John Howell (lt) and I grabbed Lou Coates' XO jeep and went for a ride down 1 to Quang Tri City. Here we go out of the compound it nice new fatigues, steel pots, belts, flackjackets up to our eyeballs, weapons at the ready, driving down the road sightseeing. Uneventful except for the smell of burning charcoal, palm fronds, and nouc mam(sp). Marines lazily walking up and down the side of the road, dirty, no pots, no flackjackets, some no weapons. We looked like a couple of fresh flowers totally out of place. FNG's

Hot hot hot. No ice. Went to the Marines on a mission to get a refrigerator. Marine Major from home town looked at young 2lt (our mothers knew each other) and blew me off. He was even a supply officer. I guess I should have known better. Should have sent Sgt. Platt in the first place.

Prior to July 8 - NCO's and Officers buy a refrigerator. Supplied by none other than Sgt. Platt. Cold beer!

Just talked with Lou Coates, the Troop XO on departure. To correct the record, he states that the Troop left in mass before he left. While we were on leave prior to departure, he and 10 or so others, Harrison included, worked, tying up loose ends. When we, the whole Troop embarked, he went on leave and then directly to Nam and directly to Wonder Beach, missing the Quang Tri tent city stage. Does anyone remember how we got from Da Nang to Quang Tri. I am drawing a blank.
W. McShane

I was in the advance party and it is my recollection that we flew from Da Nang to Dong Ha or Quang Tri. I remember that the Air Force tried to frighten us when we were about to land at Da Nang by telling us that the base there was under heavy fire. The A Troopers were smart enough to realize that they would not land those huge planes if they really were under fire.
Remley Campbell (Static)

Blue Max:
Let me add to the confusion with my faded memory of almost 34 yrs ago.

I remember an advance party being sent from the Brigade and A Troop sent personal with it. In regards to the Troop going on leave, there was a period of time when almost all of A Troop was on leave. There was a small party left behind to wrap up odds and ends. I was part of that small party, I had to attend a meeting (as the ranking NCO of the Troop) in regards to status of Troop preparation and you want to talk about being the low man on the totem pole. There even were a couple of days when you could not find an officer in site. During this time we basically hung out at the motor pool or some other spot out of site - out of mind. One of the reasons I remember this time period, we had one buck Sgt. who was thrown from a jeep injuring his elbow so bad that he could not go to Nam with the Troop. Another reason why I remember this period of time is because we became so laid back that some people felt like we forget that we were still in the Army and one morning at formation we had a surprise inspection. At this inspection several Article 15's were handed out, including one to me for not shaving. At age 19 I could go for months and not shave and pass inspection but high up wanted to put people on notice that we were still in the Army. The company clerk at that time told everyone not to worry he would handle it and make it go ahead. It was not until Pineapple was back in the rear, did I find out that I had an Article 15 on my record. When the Troop came back from leave, the party that had been holding the fort down while they were gone, took their leave.

Bill (Blue Max)
Guess I'll add a little more fire to the confusion. Coop corrected me on one part and that was leaves. From what I remember the Troop was split for their leaves. The advanced party where the first to leave and by the time we returned the rest of the troop was on leave. I don't recall how many troopers a C-141 holds but the A Troop was one one. If I recall correctly there where three birds that took the advanced party over. Carson to Travis AFB to Wake Island to the Phillipines and then to Da Nang. From Da Nang we flew in C-130's to Quang Tri and landed in a 30 mph cross wind needles to say the pucker factor was high. All I remember about Quang Tri was the Marines gave us some in country traning, filling sand bags and pulling guard on our motor pool. I do remember that a higher up came up with the idea that we should make a landing pad shaped like a diamond out of sand bags. During constrution of the pad some Marines came by and told us that the pad would be under water after the first rain (it was). One thing that I can't place is did the Troop come togeather at Wunder Beach or at Quang Tri?
Jim M. A 4/12 (advanced party) 68-69
D Co. 1/11 ACR 69

4th of July show put on by the Marines, the whole perimeter opens up and flares light up the sky.

By the way, I have a really stupid question. I really seem to remember being in Viet Nam on the 4th of July. I have this memory of being in a marine area with the other platoon leaders and Bobcat. The Marines let loose with everything sometime during the evening, a mad minute I think, to celebrate the 4th. Scared the shit out of me because I thought the perimeter was under attack. I think it was Quang Tri, but it could have been Wunder Beach. Now, am I dreaming or do you remember that too or do I have the date wrong?
James Kershner

You are not dreaming it was at Quang Tri on the 4th of July like you thought. It gave me one hell of a pucker factor. Shit I was in country for just 2 days and I thought they were already going to waste my ass. All I remember was it was one hell of a show.
Jim Mills

Good, I'm glad to know I haven't totally lost it after all these years. I can't believe I turned 60 last week. I still think I'm about 25 and bullet proof. Two other things I remember about that 4th of July. I bought a K Bar knife from a marine for a case of beer. I'm sure he thought that he pulled a good one on an army LT, but the beer is long gone and I still have the K Bar and it is as sharp as ever. The other thing I remember is that when the jar heads set off their "fireworks" I grabbed my .45 and and tried to chamber a round and it jammed. I found out later that it was defective and I turned it in for another one, but after that I always had a 45 and an M-16 and I won't even mention the .32 snub nose I carried in my pocket.
James Kershner.

Swinny arrives with main body.

Equipment - Tanks & APC's arrive

Coop says they were sent over from Carson with M48A1 tanks which were gasoline engine powered. Think this should be noted in the record. Saw a show on the history channel awhile back about WWII Sherman tanks which were also gas powered. Both the US and Germans nicknamed them "Ronsons" because like the cigarette lighter, they lit first time and every time when they were hit. I do recall seeing a bunch of burnt out Marine tanks around everywhere. A few were even flamethrower models.

We trained on M60 at Carson and then picked up M48A1 or A2 but they were gas burners for sure. We did not bring them with us; that I can remember.

There was a report of enemy activity near Tombstone. A Troop sweeps area around 0300hrs. No contact was made but tanks run over a few hootches.

Except for the dead cat and A/C (Coop is referring to a humorous story Bob posted on the commo net) it sounds like A Troop when they first hit Wunder Beach; we had so many 3rd degree sunburns the CO threaten to give out Article 15 for destroying Army property.

Tanks for memory I just about put the Wunder Beach Sunburns to rest. I didn't think we had that many layers of skin to peel off. Even the Brothers got sunburned. Photo
Jim Mills

From Lt. William G. McShane 3rd Platoon 1968-69
Remember the first month as pretty slow therefore wrote a lot of letters.

10 July report that the Marines up north are into it although our area is fairly secure. Marines kill 233 and take 4POW's. 3 Killed.

14 July Arrival at Wonder Beach which turned out to be the first real base of our own albeit short lived. Sandbagging and more sandbagging! Yesterday rained harder than I have ever seen it. Everything drenched.

17 July Playing a lot of poker!

18 July Ship in. Six days to offload.

21 July Sea snake came swimming at me while body surfing. Got the hell out of the water.

24 July No Mail No Mail No Mail. Went out on the ship to check on the off loading. In the lights hanging overboard sea shakes and squid galore. Every once and a while a big something crashes through and takes a mouthful.

25 July FIRST LETTERS FROM HOME. Dated July 2. Wrote Peg about Fat Harry, Pewee and Skinny Luke. You guys remember who they were? Big waves at the beach. Body Surfing. Seems we are all swimming in the nude and one of the guys got his ass burned so bad he couldn't stand the feel of a cover or whatever on it

July 27 drawing rations for 250 men and only feeding 190. Eating like a demon

July 3I We received 23 of our vehicles last night. Today will put on armor and start mechanical checks.

August 1968
Quang Tri base camp occupied
4/12 Cav assigned to guard road between Quang Tri and Dong Ha
The following is from Keith Short of C 1/11th Infantry:

On 6 Aug 1968, A/4-12 Cav replaced C/1-11 Infantry in a place called "Red."  Red appears to be the area around FSB Pedro area to the north of the Thach Han River.  It begins at 13:41 hours when A/4-12 Cav start calling in their locations at check points #1, #7, #23, #25, #50 and #70.  I'm assuming these were places were east of FSB Pedro.  At 15:59 hours the location of A/4-12 is at YD258526, some 4300 meters north of Pedro.         At 12:59 hours, 7 Aug 68, an A/4-12 Cav location is at YD232477 just off Rte. 557 on a little knob about 1900 meters SWW of Pedro.  At 13:45 hours there is an A/4-12 Platoon at YD231472.  At 14:04 hours 1/A/4-12 at YD2314566 found a spider hole they threw CS in and then destroyed it with a track (no enemy found).  At 14:28 1/A/4-12 was at YD227466.  At 14:28 1/A/4-12 was at YD222474 and at 16:10 hours they're at YD231481.  At 17:59 hours A/4-12 Cav reports LP's at YD285501, YD291503 and YD293500.  At 22:01 hours the CO of A/4-12 was given orders to report to QTMB NLT at 11:00 hours for a meeting.         On 8 Aug 1968 at 16:58 hours A/4-12 Cav sends in their ambush locations at YD278482, LP at YD286501, a patrol from YD287502 to YD272489 to YD274482 (an area 4500 meters NE of FSB Pedro).  At 21:00 hours to 21:50 hours A/4-12 reported they were shooting illumination after hear noises from 2x persons running at them at YD284501 (this position is west of the ammo dumps at Red Devil).         On 10 August 1968 at 11:40 hours the 1/11 Daily Journal entry reads:  Change of Task Organization (Loss of A/4-12) will be effective 101600 11 Aug 68.
[End of Short's insert]

Mine (I would assume - and we all know what assume spells - 1st platoon) first time took place up on the DMZ; we had been doing a sweep all morning. We took a lunch break, all the tracks were spread out in a line. I was sitting out on the right front fender of A16, McNeil and Willie P were up top and Troy was in the drivers hatch. What followed seemed to happen in slow motion (but it took place in seconds) out front and to the right of the tank the ground started erupting (it was incoming mortar rounds) McNeil yells incoming about the same time, being wet behind the ears I was amazed by it all. In the next moment it’s assholes and elbows, with c-rats flying through the air. Being the gunner I had to get in fast so the rest could get in; while this is going on Troy has the Tank going backwards. The grass was so tall unless you were in the TC hatch you could not see shit. The next thing you know we have back off into an old B52 bomb crater, trust me you can lose a tank in one of them, and threw a track as we hit bottom. The rest of the platoon had pulled back, we are sitting at the bottom of the crater at an angle so it is out with side arms (grease gun / 45 pistol ha-ha) lucky nothing else came of the incoming. An M88 was sent up to pull us out of the crater; they hook onto one hook and pull us out while doing this the other track comes off. So here we sit one large visible non-mobile bunker. The rest of the platoon is covering us from a distance. I do not remember how long it took to get the tracks back on but I would think we would have been inspired. Were we lucky, someone watching over us, or what? Photographs of M88 and crewman
(Charles Cooper)

From Lt. William G. McShane 3rd Platoon 1968-69

August 6 Spent a week in the hospital in Da Nang Legs, hands, feet, lips whole body swells up so much I must walk on heels of my feet to get around. Learn what it's like to get malaria from the men in my ward and swear if I get out of this place and back to my men I will force feed malaria pills to them for the rest of the year. The sweats and cold chills they had under ice water rubber blankets made a believer out of me. I didn't have it and didn't know what I had until four months ago (2002). Story to be told at the reunion under the right circumstances. Remember after returning to the platoon, one of my men getting a wound, bite or irritation, on the rear of his calf. A few days later it ate its way through to the front of his calf without touching either side. Just came out the front. Sent him to the doc and it was the last I saw of him.

While I am in the hospital Sgt. Jim Platt gets the platoon up to strength and combat ready.

August 15 Out of the hospital, no ticket home. Guy in another platoon shot a friend in the arm with a 45. We are doing road duty. Keeping open the road between Quang Tri and Dong Ha. Wrote home and I quote " I know that I have got the best platoon over here and I think my men are beginning to think the same way also. It is not a feeling of over confidence either; it is just a feeling of pride among everyone." Credit one Platoon Sergeant, Jim Platt.

August 18 Took six incoming rounds, from where or where I don't know? Close to DMZ. August 21 Fire fight up North. Air strike. "I think the mail is getting fouled up again. It isn't coming in regularly. A few of my men haven't gotten mail from their wives for 8 days when they were getting it everyday."

August 24 Got ahold of the clerks typewriter to write home. We were 1500 meters from the DMZ. Second platoon took three incoming when leaving.

August 24 - Sept 8 References to being in base camp at Dong Ha. Vaguely remember calling Dong Ha base camp for a while. Think our area was on south of the tarmac. Took 50 incoming rounds and spent a few hours in a trench. Came out of the trench and saw Sgt Spybuck pop his head up. He was white. Hard to do for a 201 pound Cherokee. I remember him as being just one big man with coal black hair. He was Indian but I really can't say what tribe. One night on road duty I fell asleep and my men could not wake me. I was out cold in some kind of stupor. They got worried, call HQ and out came Spybuck, to save the day and me. I seem to remember being held up in the air by Spybuck and him shaking me while holding me with his hands on each of my upper arms as I dangled in front of him. Wake up time! He was Top at that time. Reported we were in a typhoon for three days. Tank sank in a rice paddy up to its turret ring. Assume we got it out.

September 1968

A-18 hits mine near C2. Swinny, Mills, Tulki and Gaylor shaken but there were no major injuries.  Photo of A-18 Crew 

I'm still not sure of the time of this event but it must have been at the end of Aug. or early Sept. 1st platoon had been pulling road guard on Highway 1 keeping the road between Dong Ha and Quang Tri secure at night. How we got to where we ended up is still locked away. Any way we ended up on a Recon near, I believe, C-2. We did our Recon of the AO and started back down the road following the tracks we left on the way up figuring we did not hit anything on the way up we should be ok on our way down the hill. I still don't remember the explosion all I remember is coming back down on the turret, looking down where the mine exploded. At this time we had M48A1, which was gas powered. Why they did not give us A-2's or 3's I do not know. Back to the story the mine went off about amidships it seemed like that it went off right under me. The next thing I remember is asking Swinny if he is ok and he was. All of a sudden, SSgt. Cunningham comes running from his ACAV. Finds what he believes to be a spider hole and empties about 3 M-16 Magazines into a hole about a foot deep. Still it had to have been a command-detonated mine considering where the mine blew and that was A-18’s welcome to Nam.
Tanks for listening
(Jim M "68")

Septemeber 5, 1968
Typhoon BESS strikes I Corp with 50-knot winds and heavy rain. Operations are suspended for two days and defensive positions are washed out.

I remembered a typhoon hitting early in our tour but could not recall the date of and etc. One of the reasons this memory has stayed with me all of the these years is everythime it rains hard I can see myself back in Nam pulling guard on A16 (at night near a bridge) in this typoon. You could hold your hand in front of your face and not even see it. Let me tell you it became just as wet inside the tank as it was outside; wet and cold all night is something that will cause one today to look out the patio door and stare out into a hard rain and smile.

12 Sep 1968
Brigade sweep along DMZ. A28 hits mine. 2nd platoon APC hit by Chicom anti-personnel mine. Spc Jones and Van Winkle wounded.

Harold Joseph Van Winkle, Jr., aka Rip. Married. Patterson, New Jersey. Was wounded on Sept 12, 1968. Sent to Ft Zama Japan. The shrapnel was real close to his heart. His son, Saun, was a couple of months old and he heard him baby talk on the phone, but never got to see him.
(G. Bowers)

Also, are you sure that Michelson was KIA in Vietnam?  He was hit on my track (A10) up on the DMZ and I had him medivac’d out.  I think the date was Friday Sept 13th, 1968.  If he was KIA no one ever told me.  I can't remember his first name but he was supposed to be getting an early out to go home to start college.  Anyone have any other details?
(Ltee Kershner)

Charlie Brown:
I had to think on this for awhile but if I remember correctly Michelson came back to the troop before he left for the world. If this is the person I'm thinking of I believe it was his 2nd. tour.
Jim M.

I agree that it was his 2nd tour.  I'm glad to know he wasn't KIA.  I don't remember too much except he was a good guy and he was sitting on the back of my APC when we started taking incoming.  I think he got hit in the stomach, but didn't seem fatal at the time.  I remember the first round, probably a rocket since we were sitting almost on top of the Ben Hai River, hit right in front of a tank to my right.  I thought the tank had fired and it went low, then I realized that it was enemy fire.  We opened up and I watched a gunner on one of the tracks burn out his 50 cal barrel by firing without stopping.  When that happened you could see the rounds not going straight, but kind of cork screwed.  (By the way, that it one of my nightmares about Vietnam in having a weapon that won't shoot straight or running out of ammo. In truth, I always had so much ammo on my track and on me that there was never a chance I would run out.  After an experience, which I will relate some other time, I always made sure I had a .32 5 shot snub nose in my pocket.)  I think I remember somebody trying to chae the barrel and getting burned because they didn't have asbestos gloves on.  The next thing I remember is all of the tracks and tanks backing off the hill.  We had some other WIA's I think an E5 was shot in the arm.  Then a Medivac chopper came on my freq and said that he was coming in for a dust off.  I told him the LZ was hot and he said don't worry just pop smoke and be ready to get the wounded on his chopper.  I never knew who the pilot was but from that day I will buy any Medivac pilot or crewman a drink anytime, any place.  Those guys had to have the biggest brass balls in the war.  Thanks for listening.
(J. Kershner)

From Lt. William G. McShane 3rd Platoon 1968-69

Sept 15 Into the DMZ. Launched from A-3. 1st and 2nd Platoons stage in the night before. 3rd Platoon, ours, holds back and keeps the road open and rendezvous in the morning. Road off 1, to A3, not cleared of mines, so get off into the low grass. Hit a mine. Zamora was driving. All okay, just a little sore. Track a mess. I wrote that the rest of the Troop pushed into the DMZ that two other tracks hit mines and there was contact. We got a few. Can't say more than that because I was sitting there on the top of that exposed hill with one of my tanks and another track waiting for repair.

September 24 Rained for three days. Cam Lo Bridge completely washed out last night. Mission was guarding the Cam Lo District Headquarters from VC or NVA attack. Drenched. If I remember right, at one point we may have been in Cam Lo cordoned around some Marine 155 SP's. Great fun trying to sleep with those babies going off all night.

Sept 27 Cordoned off a vill and waited for the PF to come in and search. Told eight VC caught.

Sept 30-Oct 1 While riding on Sgt Platt's tank we hit a mine.

September 29, 1968
Battleship New Jersey (BB-62) arrives on station off I Corp.

October 1968
1St platoon sent to Camp Eagle by way of LCU to Hue.

October 8 Talk of being attached to the 101 down in Hue. Alexander no longer CO. Ended up a CO of company in 1/77. We lost a great CO.
October 20 Now attached to 101st north of Ha Vong Pass (sp). Raining for six days.
Lt. William McShane

November 1968
6 Nov 1968: Nixon elected president. American troop strength is at 540,000.

Returned to Quang Tri.

From Lt. William G. McShane 3rd Platoon 1968-69

Nov 6 Prior to this date we break off with the 101st and drive north past Wonder Beach again. Remember Sgt. Platt taking the lead tank over a bridge shaped almost like a perfect arch, semicircle, going about 5mph and praying the damn thing didn't drop out from under him. Peg sent a plastic pumpkin for Halloween. Hung it between the whips on the track.. Got more smiles and thumbs up from guys as we drove around country with that orange glow between the whips. Nice to cheer up people.
Bill McShane

On Nov 8 I was pissed about something and I wrote "Point #2. Our president must be and idiot. I am far from a war monger, yet I don't like to be shot at by artillery from the other side of the DMZ. If the bombing halts bring peace that is fine, however the first one did the opposite. They dropped 130mm artillery rounds into Dong HA for two days straight after the first one (the 36 hour job of a few days ago) and managed to destroy one hell of a lot of government property, not to mention killing the Sergeant Major. All those halts do is let Ho chi and the boys hump down more ammo on their backs" etc.

In another instance I railed on about the news we were seeing of rioting students.

December 1968
SSG Guy Creep killed doing thunder run. Took RPG in swim vane and 50 cal shield. SPC Jones wounded, mechanic wounded (lost part of his skull cap), and two others wounded.

I was in 2nd platoon then. i was in charge of track 23 & 24. I got over to Sgt. Creep's track that night before "doc" could get there and saw he was dead. we were all so mad at the dustoff pilots because they wouldn't come in and get guy because they were scared somebody would fire a star cluster into their chopper. hell, they were green i guess.
Sgt. Kilmore


December 18 Returned from R&R and doing guard duty for engineers building a road into the Bai Long Valley. Lost a man in another platoon while I was away. Wrote the "Americans forces left the valley a year or more ago and the NVA and Cong have had it ever since. No sweat though, the Cav is tough."
Bill McShane

While I am B.S.ing.  Do you remember Christmas ‘68.  Don't know where the first platoon was but second was reinforcing an engineer unit building a road west to the Bi Long Valley.  Monsoon rains came.  Third was cordoned up just west of a little stream tributary south of a river and acting as a base for the second and engineers to return to.  River started rising.  They got a portable bridge in and we just got the last vehicle over before the stream became a torrent and we would have been stuck on that side for months.  Headed back to I think Nancy or Red Devil and while riding on Platt's tank hit a mine.  I didn't notice any mention of that road to the Bi Long, if that is how it’s spelled and wonder I any of the guys that came after us ever used the road.
Christmas spent in the field cordoned up east of the road into the Bai Long Valley. Raining for days and the river between us and base, which I believe was Nancy at that time, was swelling. Received a live Christmas Tree, the bottom four feet for Christmas. Also a plastic reindeer, and Santa. Put the tree in the ground with some decorations and had a little service around it. Second platoon was with us. Don't remember where first was. Christmas dinner flown in. Turkey. After dinner ordered to return to base and get out of area. Worried about not being able to cross swelling river. Got the last vehicle over and were just able to pull up the bridge before the creek became a torrent. Think on the way back I was on Platt's tank and fell off, or hit a mine and was blown off. Probably the latter but didn't write home about that. Another Christmas dinner at base and then back to Wonder Beach. Got a "Tuggy Tooter" for Christmas from Peg. Also, the top half of the tree arrived. Raining and in the mountains. Now cold. Can see my breath.
(William McShane)

Bill, I'm not sure where we (1st platoon) was at for Christmas of 68. We had just picked up our new tank at Nancy and if my memory is correct we went to a base camp that the 1/77th was at. I believe our crew ate Christmas dinner at Nancy before heading out. After Christmas I just remember being at Red Devil waiting shipment to the 11th Cav.
(Jim Mills)

From: ken and victoria carlson
12/18/2005 10:16:08 AM
Re: A Troop 4/12 Cav


My most memorable Christmas in Vietnam was Christmas Eve, 1968.  A Troop, or at least most of it, was working on the road over the mountains and into the BaLong Valley.  We had an engineer unit and an artillery battery attached to us, making us almost a battalion sized outfit.  1st Brigade had decided that our little operation was large enough to call our headquarters "LZ Carlson." Coming out of LZ Sharon to the Southwest, we followed the Thach Han River until we came to a small stream called  Khe Trai.  There, the engineers built a pontoon bridge and we set up HQs across the stream towards the hills where we intended to build the road. (YD265440, for those who want to check the map.) We had been there for at least two weeks when Christmas Eve arrived.  Earlier in the day, a monsoon had hit us and we lost a 2 1/2 ton truck which slid over the side of the road we were building.  I had to declare it a combat loss because there was no way to pull it back up the steep cliff.  We blew it in place. Our biggest problem was that the monsoon had turned the small stream into a raging torrent, and the pontoon bridge was washed away downstream.  We were on the wrong side of the stream, stuck in "Injun Country" until a new bridge could be put in. On Christmas Eve, COL Frank Borman and the crew of Apollo 8 were making mankind's first trip around the Moon.  As the officers and I sat in A1A, my track, soaking wet and trying figure out what we were going to do, we listened on one of the LT's transistor radio as Apollo 8 saw it's first "Earthrise." From 70 miles above the surface of the Moon, Astronauts Borman, Lovell and Anders took turns reading the first ten verses from the Book of Genesis, the story of Creation.  They ended at Verse 10: "And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called He Seas: and God saw that it was good."  And as the spacecraft began to disappear again into the silence behind the Moon, COL Borman paused and said,  "God bless all of you on the good Earth." I looked around the cramped space of the track.  All of the officers had tears in their eyes, me included.  Just then, PSG Jim Platt opened the back of the ACAV and looked in at the scene.  I don't know what went through his mind as he saw all of his officers crying, but I recall he reached in his pack and pulled out a small bottle of scotch. "Here --- you guys need this more than I do."  Then he closed the ACAV door and left. Next day, Christmas 1968, was the only time in my 26 year military career when my unit did not receive Christmas dinner in the field.  The rain and wind was just too severe to fly out our meal.  But when we returned to LZ Sharon some 6-7 days later, our cooks had Christmas dinner waiting for us. The road into the Ba Long Valley was never finished on my watch, but it wasn't for lack of effort on the part of A Troop.  We went places and did things, others wouldn't even consider.  You guys were superb. May you all have a Merry Christmas and Joyous New Year.

Ken Carlson A Troop Commander 1968-69

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