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A Day In The Life-Dong Ha, Vietnam Duplicate
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A Day In The Life

Dong Ha, Vietnam 1968

Brush your teeth, shave and prepare for the grueling day ahead, mentally and physically. Prepare 50 caliber machine guns, check ammo make sure M-40 was serviced and ready to go, have tools on board. Climb aboard the old Dinosaur with me, the twin boom M-40 Wrecker, who most had abandoned for the newer single boom version, the M-543. The old M-40 was a work horse that we revived from the dead. Lt. Casey located it and we went to work on it, we went over it from bumper to booms including a new paint job by yours truly.

We located a twin 50 gun ring that we confiscated from the Seabees, beefed up the cab bracket to withstand the additional weight, mounted it and we were ready to go. Our new machine was affectionately named “Super Hog” it would go anywhere and do anything. The twin 50’s gave us twice the fire power of an ordinary gun truck only the Army with their Quad 50’s had more fire power.

Staging—all trucks lined up in their positions for the Convoy, the M-40 was truck # 21, we were always toward the rear of the convoy in case there were break downs or in the event we were hit. We got to eat a lot of red dust! When we cleared the back gate we would lock and load preparing for the Route 9 Convoy to Cam Lo, Camp Carroll, The Rock Pile, LZ Stud (Vandergrift Combat base) and Khe Sanh.

The 5-ton trucks were loaded with supplies of all types, medical, ammunition, water, rations and troop replacements. Route 9 was the only road to and from these bases so they depended on us for their survival. Danger was all around, snipers were a big concern for those of us who rode the 50’s, and then there were land mines, mortars and small arms fire.

Thanks to Lt. Casey we had an abundance of gun trucks; approximately one in every five trucks had a 50 cal. on it so we had more fire power than most Convoys. Battalion was always trying to take some of our gun trucks from us, but Lt. Casey always prevailed. In the event of a break down if we could not make repairs to the vehicle quickly we would hook it up and tow it to our destination, you did not want to hold the Convoy up for any length of time.

What we didn’t know then, but realized much later is that we meant as much to Lt. Casey as he meant to us, he was the kind of leader that you trusted and didn’t feel the need to question. We were like Peanut butter and Jelly, the perfect combination. The men of the “Flying A” never complained, they just did everything that was asked of them at the highest level, it was an Honor serving with this group of Marines lead by Lt. J.V. Casey.

When we returned from our Convoy the work would begin, getting the trucks and gear ready for the next day’s run. The NVA had a nasty habit of welcoming us back with incoming Artillery from the DMZ, nothing gets your attention quite like Artillery when you are the target, night time thunder and lightning still freaks me out.

After the Artillery stopped we would have to work late into the night getting the trucks ready for the next day’s Convoy, but we were always ready. You always breathed a sigh of relief and had the feeling that you had cheated it one more time and hoped tomorrow would bring the same.

Then it was time for a cold shower, get dressed, lace up your Jungle boots and hit the rack for a few hours sleep before it started all over again. No, that is not a misprint, I slept with one eye open, fully dressed with boots on, my M-16, helmet and flak jacket beside me. Fast forward to 2008, forty years later we had our first reunion in Amarillo, Texas.

The hair color and waist size had changed, but everything else was the same, it was like we took up where we left off in 1968. I am so proud of all the guys, they were good Marines and they turned out to be good people, we really enjoy each other’s company. I attribute that to that good old Marine Corps discipline and the example Lt. Casey set for us.

Semper Fi,

JR


Street Talk

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