"5Mar67 part1"
Summary: Sitting outside hooch at night; B52 strike in background; Description of D Troop; APC hits mine at Trang Bang (2 kia); Centaur 12 and 44; Stick-em up; Spider holes; CP178 Go Da Ha & 155 battery; Maj Stalker; Cpt Stephenson; Graveyards; Col Shea;COL Webb

Transcribed audio (transcribed verbatim with no grammar correction):

[This is] kind of an experiment. I’m sending this tape. I don’t even know how this would come out. I’m sitting out in the front yard out here--there’s a Huey landing in the background. It’s pretty dark. Boy, it sure is hard to find a place to make a tape around here because there’s no privacy at all. The hooch we’re living in has about 8 or 10 guys in it, and there’s really nowhere a guy can go to make a tape. About the only thing you can do is crawl in a corner somewhere and write a letter. That’s why I’m sitting out in the front here. It’s also kind of hard to imagine that I’m talking to you all, because, I mean, I’m sitting out here by myself. There’s guys walking guard duty and coming in and out of the hooch all the time wondering what the hell I’m doing out here talking to myself, and it’s kind of hard for me to relax and say what I want to say. I don’t know whether you can hear it or not, but their having a B-52 strike in the distant background. I can also hear a Huey crankin’ up. Our D troop area here is just across from the airstrip—we just walk across the street, and our aircraft are right there. The 23s are parked first, and then the Hueys.


Buck (Buxton) just came out here and got his flashlight from me. I’m using his chair, too. What time—oh, it’s about 9:30 right now. I’ve got a million things I want to say to you, but trying to organize them in my mind has been difficult. I just figured well, I’d take these tapes and sit down and just start blabbing. In the last letter I sent home, I gave you kind of an idea what the structure of the 3rd squadron 4th Cav is (or “three-quarter cav” as we call it around here) and kind of what D troop is like a little bit. D troop is really different than any organization you’ll run into in the service, because they’re almost completely dependent on their helicopters. Their aero-rifle platoon—their aero-rifle team--is made up of a platoon of riflemen and Hueys. They’re all assigned to Hueys, and they’re more or less a strike force. When there are men needed on the ground somewhere, they scramble the gunships and the aero-rifle platoons, and they rip out into the area.

I don’t even know whether you’ll be able to hear me or not—these Hueys are crankin’ up out here. They’ve still got an operation going on out here right now.

I was out flying a Sabre Alpha 6—he’s the commander of Alpha Troop. I was flying him around in an OH-23 today. One of his APCs ran over a mine just up short of Trang Bang going up like you’re going up to Tây Ninh from Củ Chi, and it was real sad. It blew the hell out of the APC and killed a couple of guys. One of them was still in it when I left. Of course, he was dead and everything, but they can’t get close to it because they have secondary explosions and rounds going off inside and everything. So, we had a ‘search and clear’ operation in there, and I flew over it the whole time with Sabre Alpha 6 and an artillery observer. We saw a lot of people. It seemed kind of different to actually be part of the war now. You know, I wanted to be in gunships, so I felt like I was doing more, but in the 23s I’m getting more and more into it. Like flying with him today, I saw an oxcart and a couple of guys making it out of the area down there that they were sweeping with the tanks, so we called in Centaur 44, which was a gunship on duty. (“Centaur” is our call sign—I’m Centaur 12.) We called in Centaur 44 and his wingman, and they went down and fired a bunch of rounds in front of this oxcart that was making out across a rice paddy, and boy, they didn’t even slow down, so we’re pretty sure they’re VC. So, Centaur 44 and his wingman pulled what we call a “stickup.” One of them lands, and the guys get out with shotguns and pick up the VC suspects, and they take them back for interrogation and whatnot. Anyway, we picked up about 5 suspects while we were out there, and spotted 3 or 4 bunkers, and of course the ground troops blew them as they went through (blew them up ) and burned a few places where they suspected VC were hiding. I went in low level a couple of passes, and we spotted 5 or 6 Spider holes that were left uncovered, and we directed the APCs and the field people over to them, and they checked them out. Some of them were new holes the VC had been in, and others weren’t.

I went back to Go Dau Ha, which we call Checkpoint 178—it’s a little town between Củ Chi and Trang Bang, about halfway. I take that back—it’ on the map that you have. It’s past Trang Bang. Well anyway, it’s a refueling station there. They’ve got an artillery unit there. Boy, that’s really something to come landing in that place, in that little 23, and having ‘em fire them 155s off. It about blows your head off, and the helicopter flies all over everywhere. It took me awhile to get used to that. Well anyway, I landed in there and refueled. I was having radio problems, so I went over to one of the tanks over there and used their radio to call back in and tell them that I was going to have to have a Huey to replace me because it was going to get dark pretty soon, and supposedly we don’t fly 23s after dark. I finally got ahold of them. I cranked up my 23 again to go up and fly cover for another hour or so until they could get a Huey out to me. I cranked it up (I didn’t have a generator—the generator light was out), and my cylinder head temperature on the engine was running about 230. It redlines at about 250 degrees Celsius, so I wasn’t too hot for flying it. So, I reported that and checked it out. What I ended up doing was to cut off the electrical circuit and the radios and flew it back here to Củ Chi and landed. I had my crew chief check it out, and then Major Stalker and Cpt. Stephenson got a Delta model Huey and took Cpt. Strickland, and the man I was flying around (Alpha 6), and took him back up over the area. Right now, I guess they’re still out there. I can see one of the rotating beacons of one of them. You can probably hear that one coming in in the background. They ended up having to take three Hueys out there over the same area.
[break in recording]

Well, I got interrupted there—I had a couple of soldiers come by here. Half of this troop is leaving, and it’s unbelievable, you know. They put in their one year. A whole bunch of them are leaving tomorrow. Some of them have two days, some of them have a week, and they’re really celebrating it up big. Well, anyway, where was I? Oh, the reason I can almost see that area, even though it’s quite a few miles away (and see the helicopters over it) is because this land out here is just flatter than a pancake. It’s just like Texas. You get up at night on a clear night, and you just feel like you’re under a blue bowl with a bunch of stars painted on it and on top of a table or something—it’s just flat as a table. We got one mountain in the area and it’s up by Tây Ninh, north of Tây Ninh. It’s called Nui Ba Den or something like that. I don’t know if that’s the right pronunciation or not, but it just looks like somebody come flying along and just dropped it there. It’s a good thing for navigation on clear days.

Well, anyway, they’re still up there. What happened was that just as I landed back here at Củ Chi, bringing Alpha 6 back, one of the tanks drove through the same area that we just got through sweeping with mine sweepers and everything this morning, and hit another mine. I don’t think anybody was hurt, but it kind of damaged the tank. So, they’re back up there covering that. Two of the Hueys that are out there right now (I just got a report a few minutes ago) got fired at. One of them was at 2000 feet, and one was at 1400. Both received fire out of that area. What it is, Checkpoint 8, is a great big graveyard. That’s one thing you see a lot out here in Vietnam is they’ve got graveyards up the ‘whazzingie’. It’s just hard to believe. It seems like when somebody dies, they just go out and bury them in a convenient place, you know. Anyway, they mine ‘em—they mine ‘em pretty heavy.

We think this mine that killed these two fellas this morning in Alpha troop was what we call a command detonated mine. What happens is that the VC gets back in a bush there, and he’s got a long wire up to the mine, either electrical or some other way where he pulls a string or something. Anyway, he waits until a tank or a vehicle or personnel or something gets over the area of the mine, and he sets it off. This one was pretty successful, I’m sorry to say. In that same area, I was shooting an approach to it the other day, and I was flying Sabre 6 , Col. Webb, the overall commander of the 3rd squadron. We were in a Huey, shooting an approach into that graveyard where they had their command deal set up, and an armored track about 50 yards from us drove over a mine; just blew it all to hell and killed three of them. So you see a little bit of death around here, but actually Delta troop’s been real lucky. They have a very fabulous record, considering the work that they’re doing here. They haven’t lost an aviator in over a year that they’ve been here. That’s a pretty darn good record. They’ve had a lot of wounds, and a lot of gunships and a lot of Slick ships shot down, but so far nobody’s been killed. Of course, they’ve had a lot of ground troop casualties in their operations, like these fellas that got it today in the APC, and the LRRPs. That’s what I wrote you about in a letter, that they’re called LRRPs (LRRP stands for long range reconnaissance platoon). I’ll explain more on the other side some more.

[end of audio]

Dictated by: Bruce Powell, Scout and Gun Pilot, D Troop 3/4 Cav (67-68).
Date: 5 Mar 1967



"5Mar67 part2"
Summary: Artillery unit behind hooch; Medivac coming in; Cpt Sanders; Centaur 17 and then 12; Col Peterson CO; Maj Parker XO; Motor Officer duty; WO Anderson leaving; personal weapons vary greatly; Jungle fatigues; Pepsi; Putting up radio tower

Transcribed audio (transcribed verbatim with no grammar correction):

Well, I keep getting interrupted here so many times, I’m about a nervous wreck out here…Jeeps driving in, aircraft taking off, and all kinds of stuff. Luckily, they’re not firing any artillery tonight. That’s another weird thing. About 50 feet behind our company area here, they’ve got an artillery battery, and I’ll tell you, they pick the un-godliest times of the day to fire artillery. Pretty soon you learn to sleep with it. The first night it went off, I about jumped out of my tree—I couldn’t believe it. You think THAT was something, boy, I think I wrote you about that first B-52 strike--that was fabulous. Well, that just lights up the whole sky. I thought we were having a mortar attack for sure—I was halfway to the bunker when I heard that.

Now here comes a Medivac [MedEvac] in the background, shooting a real steep, fast approach. Maybe you can hear him if I shut up. [pause, with chopper in background]

No telling what it was for. He could be coming up from Tây Ninh or Checkpoint 10 or Sabre Forward—there’s 100 places up here.

This has really been an education for me here so far. It’s kind of like it was when I was in flight school. Do you remember how I used to say it’s hard to believe how much you can learn in such a short period of time and everything? Well, it’s the same over here, really. Sure, I’m stuck with the 23s and everything, and I got to a point there to where I’d have done anything to get out of them. I’m still looking forward to getting out of them and getting into gunships, but right now I really feel like I’m doing my job over here because I’m getting a lot more missions and I fly anywhere from 3 hours to 8 hours in a day. By the way, I’ve got over 90 hours, and I’ve only been here 3 weeks, so that’s quite a few. I won’t get that much when I get into gunships—not even near.

Well, anyway, when I first got here, I was introduced to Cpt. Sanders, and he was the commander of the light scout section, and I was given the designation as Centaur 17. I’ve only been here a few weeks, and now I’m Centaur 12, second in command under Cpt. Sanders. So, when he leaves, that means I’ve got to make the decisions, and it’s kind of hard for me right now, because you know, I don’t understand the complete functioning of the organization yet, and it’s kind of hard for me to walk around and tell these people what to do. I’ve got one captain and, let’s see, 7 other warrant officers under me right now. The reason the captain’s under me is that he’s leaving in about a week, and he’s not experienced in light scouts, so rather than make him executive officer, they made me—well, I’m not really an executive officer, I’m just second in command. Well, anyway, it gives me some responsibility. (May have been CPT Dennis Hurtt)

I was really gung-ho when I first got here, and it must have showed up all over my face, I guess. I hit it off real good with Col. Peterson, our commanding officer. He’s leaving too. So is Maj. Prosser or “Parker”, our executive officer. Well, anyway, right off the bat, they made me motor pool officer and in charge of all the vehicles that we have here in D troop, and the generators. Right now we’ve got three 30 kilowatt generators and three 15 kilowatt generators. We’ve got more than anybody in the whole 25th infantry division, so, I mean, we’ve got lights and power more than we know what to do with. I’m even using my electric razor—my good Remington, you know. It really works out great, but I’m having trouble with these generators—they’re diesel engines, and I’ve never worked with diesel before. I’m learning slowly. An education just learning how to start one of them cotton-pickin’ things. We had one of them go out last night, and we had to wade around out there and try to fix it.

But what’s happening here is all the key personnel that really know their way around are leaving, and well, luckily enough, this one man, warrant officer Anderson (could this have been Fred L. Anderson?), one of the guys I hit it off with right away when I got here, he’s going to be staying here for an extra couple of months. He’s been in charge of the motor pool, and he’s really helping me out a lot. He knows a lot about generators and about the motor pool itself, so he’s giving me a hand. His key man, an enlisted man that did the diesel generator work, is leaving, so we’re having to break another man in.

Boy, I’m getting pissed off—these choppers keep coming in and I don’t even know whether this tape’s going to turn out or not.

Let’s see…anyway, what I was going to do with this…I had about four or five of these tapes. They’re kind of hard to come by right now. The PX is out of them. I was going to get them all, I was going to sit down and take about 3 hours, and I’ve been keeping kind of a log book on my time and what I’ve been doing. I was just going to go through it day by day and just kind of tell you everything I’ve been doing and some of the experiences I’ve had and everything, but it just hasn’t worked out to where I’ve had near the time to do it.

Last night I was up all last night because I was duty officer. I wrote you about that in a letter. Thank goodness nothing happened there. I don’t know what I’d have done if they’d had a cotton-pickin’ attack. I’d have just turned on all the radios and called for artillery and scrambled everybody in the countryside, I guess.

This dumb turd on guard duty here keeps walking by and shining his flashlight around and keeps bugging me.

Well, that’s one thing about being here at Củ Chi--this post, you, know, it’s outside of town. I’ve only been to the town once, that’s when I came on the convoy out here, and there’s no Vietnamese here. I mean, we’re all Americans. Some of the Vietnamese come in during the day and fill sand bags with dirt, you know, stuff like that, but they’re really checked out real close, and boy, at night, if you see a “Slope” around, you shoot ‘em. That’s the way. We call them Slopes here.

Everybody carries a weapon. The Delta troop is real unusual, because they can carry almost anything they want. We’ve got guys here with 16-gauge shotguns, Thompson automatics, AR-15s, M16s… Right now, I’ve got a .45…[noise in background] There was a mortar in the background going off—they got a couple of mortars off in our area, too. What these mortars are doing, they’re firing illuminating rounds out here for some of the LRRP patrols that are out. They got a LRRP unit out there at that Checkpoint 8, that graveyard I was telling you about a little earlier.

I’m enjoying myself over here. You know, I mean, considering all factors. The weather’s been fabulously beautiful. I’ve got a pretty good suntan on my arms because the standard dress here is fatigues or jungle fatigues with the sleeves rolled up. You got to keep them rolled up, it gets so hot. It was up around 100 degrees today, enough to kill you off. I’m getting used to it, though. One of the great things about it, you know--I told you I’d probably end up being a boozer like the rest of the guys that came over here because they didn’t have anything else to drink—they’ve got pop, oh, they’ve got all kinds of pop here. I drink about 3 or 4 bottles of Pepsi a day. I try to keep it down low, but boy, it’s really great, I’ll tell ya…and, we have water hauled in by water trucks all the time, and we’ve got a shower here. The guys dug a well. It’s not drinkable water, but it’s clean enough to wash in, and everybody in this troop takes a shower every night. That’s SOP. It’s really great—it feels good, too. It’s warm enough to walk around here in your skivvies at night. It’s kind of windy tonight, though. Standing in that shower with just slats up around it, you know, the wind will whip through there and kind of freeze you before you can get dried off, but it’s not bad. I really like it.

Of course, we’re building a lot of things. We’re putting up a radio tower right now, making it out of steel pipe. They got somebody from squadron working on that. They’ve got a welding rig out there.

Gosh, I wouldn’t even know it was Sunday if it wasn’t for the fact that they had a church service in the mess hall when I got in to eat dinner. They have church services here—two different services each night in the mess hall in the orderly room.

[end of audio]

Dictated by: Bruce Powell, Scout and Gun Pilot, D Troop 3/4 Cav (67-68).
Date: 5 Mar 1967

BigWindow BackArrow part1
War Stories

At The Hootch 5 March 1967 - Audio

Bruce Powell

Below is an audio recording made in Nam in his hootch at the old D Troop area. The audio was transcribed to text.

The text is placed in the scrolling field below the audio. You can start the audio then scroll the matching text if you like.

There are two parts to the audio. Click the Part One or Part Two text to bring up the appropriate text for that audio before starting the audio: