218th MP Co Letters (Raught)
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One rainy night on convoy duty.
There were three of us from the 218th MP out of Nha Trang in the armored jeep and I wish I could remember the name of the MPs I was with that night but this is what I remember of this trip. This was in mid 1968 and there still wasnít much in the way of protection on the vehicles we used for convoy escort. Some one quarter inch steel plates were bolted to the side of the jeep that might stop a rifle round but not much more . There was a M60 machinegun mounted on a pedestal in the center of the jeep, an open top, sand bags on the floor for mines and a standard military issue mounted radio for communications . Not much by todayís standards. We had a three man crew with a driver, a machine gunner and a man riding shotgun in the right seat. A lot of the time was spent at the very end of the convoy where you got to eat a lot of dust on a dry day following the trucks on the dirt roads.
I am fairly sure this particular trip was a run to Ban Me Thuot. Usually we did it in one long day after driving down South from Nha Trang the night before then meeting up with the trucks before leaving early in the morning from Cam Ranh Bay. There would be fifty or a hundred trucks carrying usually JP4 fuel, artillery shells or plain old gravel . The convoy usually ended for us at the MP compound outside the small town called Ban Me Thout which also was the capital for Montagnards. I remember there were some helicopters on the edge of small air field which was the destination for the JP4 fuel in the tankers and the location of the MPs. This particular night we didnít go all the way for whatever reason, maybe too many stops for breakdowns but it was getting dark. I remember pulling into a big open area on the edge of a firebase. All the trucks pulled in and marshaled in the open area. It was raining, miserable and the muddy roads were like driving on ice. We were riding in the open jeep with the rain pouring down on us sliding all over the road. The mud stuck to the tires and made them look twice a big as they were. I was taking my turn as driver. I had the jeep in two wheel drive because in four wheel drive the whole jeep would just start sliding off the road when you stepped on the gas. In two wheel drive just the back end would fish tale a bit but you could keep it on the road.
On one side of the parking area was a Montagnard village where the neatly arranged huts were made of sticks and straw. We were between the village and the firebase. By the time we got to our spot to park it was getting dark. There we were sitting there in the open in the rain in the gun jeep . It was of course miserable. The choices for sleeping were to sleep sitting up in jeep that held the three of us, weapons, water , C-rations and no roof, or to stretch out on the ground in the mud. No one voted for the mud. I guess it could have been a lot worse because there were lots of other guys living in the field that night didnít have a jeep to carry their gear. They had to hump everything on their backs and then sleep in the mud at the end of the day. At least we had a jeep and our situation was temporary. We all settled back in the crowded jeep trying to get comfortable after the twelve hour run. We had about as much space inside the gun jeep you would have in a vintage VW bug of the day. Thatís when the artillery opened up. It was outgoing and ours. They were shooting right over us into the night. I was glad we were on the outgoing end. It was the first time for me to see them shoot the big guns from that close up. They were the big 175 mm howitzers much more powerful than the 105s that were everywhere and a lot noisier. In the dark a huge flame shot out the end of the barrel every time they fired a round accompanied by a very big boom. It wasnít looking good for a solid nightís sleep. But fortunately for us that night our luck changed for the better . The guys in the gun truck next to us took some pity on us offering to lend a helping hand with the open roof situation. They had no extra room in the back of their truck but they had one thing we wished we had..a large piece of canvas. They told us to pull up alongside of them and we did. Fortunately it was a nice big piece of waterproof canvas, large enough to cover the back of the duce and a half with enough extra to hang over the side covering us in the gun jeep. It was a little dusty and a bit musty but it made all the difference .We curled up in relative luxury with a nice dry spot to sleep and settled in for the night. Sometimes it only takes something simple like that piece of canvas to make your whole world a lot better. I discovered that night you can sleep in just about any situation even when you are wet, dirty with a howitzer shooting over your head if you are tired enough. By the next morning the rain had stopped and we rolled out bright and early to finish the trip.
W Bruce Raught 67-68