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War Stories

Tunnels - 12 May 1967

Bruce Powell

This is a continuation of the "Attack Raven" story in the Filhol Plantation area.

Transcribed text can be scrolled as audio is listened to.


Summary: Monsoon Rain; Centaur Guns; Marking targets; sniper rounds; finding more tunnels; A Troop Tanks; Dig out the tunnel entrance; tunnel findings; shape charges; Mity Mite smoke blower; Giving Charlie a target; Go Da Hau; CPT Sanders & WO Baum; VC flags

Troop 3/4 Cav, 25th infantry division, APO 96225 San Francisco
15 May 1967 Tape continued

It just this second started to rain. You can probably hear it in the background on this tape. It looks like a big storm front is moving in. It’ll probably get blowing up a little bit here tonight.

Well, I’ll continue where I left off on the last tape. Let’s see, where was I… Oh, well, we called in the Centaur gunships, and they got out to it pretty quick. About the time they came in, we flew down low and marked with smoke the areas that we wanted them to cover with their rockets and machine gun fire. As we were pulling up out of the area, oh, about 100 meters south of where we’d had all the trouble, we received some sniper rounds, and marked that area too. We checked that area out later, also, and found tunnels over there. We ended up finding a complex of tunnels that wouldn’t quit. As a matter of fact, they’ve been working out there today, and I don’t know how many more they found.

Well, anyway, we flew overhead and stayed out of the way while the gunships worked over the area. The tanks and APCs got their men back in and buttoned up, and pulled into a perimeter and surrounded the area. The gunships made their strikes and then flew overhead while the tanks, or the Alpha troop elements, made a sweep through the area. They had people out on foot along with the tanks moving, and they checked out every square foot of it.

Tunnel EntranceThe tunnel where the VC came out and shot one of our people was caved in by the blast of that 90 mm, the one that shot behind my helicopter and shook me up so bad. He caved it in, and the people didn’t check it out too close, and they went on by. This really bothered me, because I was curious as to what was in it, and I let Cpt. Strickland know about it. He was also curious, and he called up his 20 element and told them to get their little bottoms back there and get out some shovels and dig it up, and find out what was down there. So they did.

It took them awhile to dig all the dirt away from it, and they sent one of their tunnel rats down in. They found food freshly cooked down there, and some fish (they were so fresh they didn’t even smell), and C rations—cases of our C rations down there. So we knew there was several Charlies down there at least recently. They checked the tunnel out--they found a trap door at the end of the tunnel that led to another tunnel complex that extended some 200-400 meters long. Well, anyway, after they checked it out thoroughly and they found some documents, and I believe they found one weapon down there. A Czechoslovakian rifle, I believe it was. Well, anyway, they set shape charges off in the tunnel and caved it in the full length, as much as they could, and continued on and found more tunnels.

Mity Mite
I’d always heard about this—the little Mighty Mite the units use. It’s a blower, is what it is. It puts out about, oh, some fantastic amount of cubic feet of air a second for blowing smoke into tunnels and everything. I asked Cpt. Strickland if he had access to one, and he called up the Sabre element back here at base camp and asked them if they could find one. Anyway, they dug up one and they sent it out to us on a Huey with a whole bunch of smoke. We went down there and set it up—you know, stuck it down in one of these tunnels, turned that thing on, and threw smoke grenades down there. It blew smoke all down through the tunnel system. Boy, I’ll tell ya, smoke come bursting up out of holes all over everywhere. We found about 10 other air vents and entrances to the tunnel network. As we found them, we’d cover each one of them up with a poncho or anything we could find to hold the smoke in so it would blow it further down in the tunnel complex. This is the way we found many of the entrances. Then after the smoke cleared, we’d send the tunnel rats in and have them check it out.

We were pretty riled up this whole time. I know Cpt. Strickland was pretty choked up about losing two of his men and having a third one wounded, and I was pretty shook up myself—more pissed off than anything—and we both wanted to find Charlie real bad. I had to climb up to altitude, though, when the Centaurs came out, because 23s are not supposed to be flying below 1500 feet to begin with, but we wanted to find Charlie and we were looking for him. We were giving him a target.

Well, they did a pretty good job on the sweep, and it ran on up into the late afternoon. We were supposed to move out that evening and move to a different position over by Go Dau Ha. I mentioned Go Dau Ha to you before. It’s on the MSR (the main supply route), Highway 1.

Cpt. Strickland called back in for permission to stay in this area for a couple more days to check out this tunnel network because it was such a cotton-pickin’ big one. We knew there was more there to find. The idea was that—or, what Cpt. Strickland thought, anyway—was that we were almost on to something, and that this VC squad decided they would try to divert us from it, because we were probably a good 100 meters from the position where they popped up out of their holes and fired at our lead elements. He was right, too, because the next day when we went out…I didn’t happen to be with him that day—I fought to get to go out there, but Cpt. Sanders let Warrant Officer Baum (he’s my bunkmate here, and we both fly Sabre Alpha all the time), and it was his turn to go out. So he went. Anyway, they found a lot more tunnels; they found a lot of propaganda, and a couple of VC flags. A VC flag is really worth something over here. Cpt. Strickland paid $10 for one of them from one of the guys that found it—one of the tunnel rats that found it. I’ve heard of people getting as high as $50 and $60 for them in Saigon. It’s a great souvenir to have.

[end of audio]
Dictated by: Bruce Powell, Scout and Gun Pilot, D Troop 3/4 Cav (67-68).
Date: 15 May 67
Transcriptionist’s note: This document was typed verbatim from the recorded audio. Grammar was not corrected (is/was/were, laying/lying, etc.).