USMC, 1st Radio Battalion, Vietnam Veterans

Stories - Dong Ha

Dong Ha Combat Base Map - - January, 1969
Dong Ha Combat Base - 1st Radio BattalionThe above link goes to Will Pete's site who has the source map from Fred James 8/4 and Paul Suckling USAF Radar.  Click map at right to see expanded, annotated map of 1st Radio Battalion. Or go to copy of entire Dong Ha Combat Base (928kb.) You may also right-click either link to download either file.

Howard Brower - Al Lingenfelter's Headaches - 1969
Al Lingenfelter (left in pic, "Buddha" on right)  was the Ops Chief and every now and then would come down with a migraine headache which he of course accused us of causing.  His cure was to consume as much of a bottle of Jack Daniels (black label) in a short a time as he could manage.  On day one of his headaches came on and he turned in.  About an hour later as several of us were sitting around out side of our hooch we heard a wizz and pop and a red flare appeared over our heads,  Needless to say this gave us quite a bad case of the nerves.  When we recovered and started to look around, here appears Al with that toothy, shit eating grin, he could get when he had a little more that he should have, holding the bottom of a hand fired flare that we had picked up during our trips to Con Thien.  He said "that's what you get when you cause these headaches", turned and went to bed.

Chuck Truitt - The Vinh Dai Jeep Crusher - December, 1969
This story really starts in the store room of Company “H” Marine Support Battalion, at Homestead Air Force Base, south of Miami, and near the Everglades of Florida. There were about 50 Marines on that base and just after arriving there I the junior man, a Lance Corporal, broke my hand and had to wear a cast which prevented me from properly performing my primary duties. Some of the guys remembered, right off hand, there in the fall of 1968 were the CO Captain Leonard, Gunny Don Brown, Gunny Weeks, SSgt Dave McWatters, SSgt Irons, Sgt Jerry Stephenson, Cpl Jay Bloise, and LCpls Vince Baskovick, Gary Holmes, Huddleston, and Lassiter. I had to work in the Company Supply room because of the cast. After the whole room was squared away, Gunny Weeks told me to clean the two .30 Cal. Browning Machine guns. I had never touched one before, but I have a natural talent for mechanics, and shortly they were completely taken all the way down, cleaned, and reassembled, although I couldn't get the bolt to go home all the way. The Gunny came in and was amazed. He had been a 0331 machine-gunner in Korea, and revealed to me the secret to getting the bolt home and seating a round; I had to unscrew the barrel 2 to 3 clicks. After doing just like he said they worked just fine. That came in handy a few weeks later when we had a training exercise in the Everglades. I was the machine-gunner for the aggressors the whole exercise, and one of the SNCO’s took several pictures. I was surprised when he handed me one of the photo a week or so later.

Back to Vietnam. After a couple months at FSB Fuller, it was my turn to make a run for supplies back to Dong Ha Combat Base for more BB’s (all Marines know that as beans, bullets, and bandages, but for us it could have been batteries, beer, and a bath - we had all the bullets we needed (courtesy of 2/4 Marines!). I caught an ARVN, H-34 from FSB Fuller to Dong Ha, and when I walked into the 1st Radio Battalion Compound, I believe it was Capt Carnako, said something like “well Sergeant Truitt, how are you doing?" Which made me happy, because I was a Corporal. I well remember the date as 13 December 1969, and the Captain said “go on in the Operations Bunker and I'll get your warrant. Just as I walked in the Gunny said, “Truitt I need you to run up to the Vinh Dai Crusher and get me a fuse, at The 3rd Tanks Battalion. You can take that jeep over there, but you gotta get up there and get back as fast as you can.” About that time the Captain showed up, promoted me to sergeant, back dated to the 1st of December, handed me a metal sergeant's chevron for my cover, and I took off to the crusher as it was getting late.

Wasting no time, I was quickly heading west on Hwy 9 by myself, and just about to turn left into the crusher, at dusk, when I noticed a bunch of commotion right there by the entrance. Wow, that's gross; an M-48 tank had run completely over a M-151 Jeep. The whole jeep was compressed into a block like you see in the movies; it would now fit between the tracks, and the space from the ground to the under carriage of the tank. Instead of a "Rock Crusher," to me, that place became a "Jeep Crusher." I drove on in and up to the command bunker, and there was still a lot of commotion. There were rounds, lots of them, being fired and tracers, although I just saw red tracers at that time, and several loud explosions. As soon as my jeep stopped a Marine ran out and said, “We're having a sapper attack, can you operate a .30 Cal. machine gun?” (I guess they had them rather than M-60s because they were indigenous to the M-48 tanks) That Marine grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Good! Get up on top of the bunker and I'll get you an A/gunner soon as I can.” Just a couple minutes later that Gunnery Sergeant climbed up with another Marine, and they had a couple boxes of belted rounds, and a can of 30 weight motor oil. He told me, “you've got it, if it gets hot, just pour some of this here oil in the receiver and keep it working.” He also told me to stay there until relieved, to shoot anything out past the wire or that comes through, and that when I needed more ammo, there was plenty more in the bunker. I didn't see him again until the next morning, but my A/gunner did immediately go down, and bring up a couple more cans of ammo. Also, of interest was that those 30 cals sure do put out one heck of a lot of white smoke when you pour a little oil on them. Well it was an interesting night, and the next morning everything and everyone seemed to be intact, although one of the tanks had a hole in the turret from an RPG. I don't know if anybody was killed, but I headed back to Dong Ha with the fuse, as soon as I could.

Upon arriving back at 1st RadBn, my target was the Ops Bunker with the fuse, and someone said, “Hey, it's Truitt, we thought you were dead; we just sent a message out saying that you were run over by a tank.” Well, they immediately got another message out, which kept Linda from having a Marine vehicle drive up to our trailer back in South Florida to give her the news. After cleaning up, it was time to catch a bird back up to FSB Fuller with another load of BBs. Furthermore, it was probably on that “resupply run” that the shower heater caught fire while I was taking a shower.

Seems like that little incident would have been qualification for a CAR, but I had already qualified on the 17th of November back at Fuller, when the 246th NVA Regiment, supported by the 81st NVA Arty endeavored to over run us, and make me start squirting "red stuff." We sure put a big hurt on them at that time, and they retreated back to the DMZ to regroup. By-the-way, it was our own 1st RadBn SigInt that alerted us to the attack and ended up helping to save us, in addition to the "Basketball" flare ships, the big guns from Camp Carroll, Dong Ha, A4, The Rockpile and all the other guys that poured "hot steel" into the area. Di Dah, Di Da Dit

Chuck Truitt - Charlie the Tuna, uh, Rat - December, 1969
“All Stations, All Stations; this is Florida Vacation, Alpha, with a message on Bravo Zulu!” “Stand by to receive traffic!” Yep, it's me, Echo-Five-Tango (Chuck Truitt) and my orders to move from FSB Fuller back to Dong Ha came just a couple days after going back up to Fuller. As a result of a PRC-25 conversation with SSgt Dave Carpenter, I was going to be running the Net Control, and someone else would be replacing me on the mountain there. I wasn't even starting to get “ripe” yet, having just taken a shower on my last run for "BBs." Oh well, "you gotta do, what you gotta do."

Dong Ha's “Pig Pen” set out right behind the Ops Bunker, and next to the Machine gun bunker with the big NOD (Night Observation Device). It was a big "pig pen;" a person could walk around in there. Furthermore, it was completely enclosed all the way around with sand bags, and it had a tent covering too, as I recall. Not only that, but it was up off the ground with a rough plank floor. I even saw two rat traps, of the standard variety, which means they had rats! Did you think this was going to be a story about pigs?

Probably the most common rat bait in the whole country of Vietnam was C-ration, peanut butter from one of those little tin cans. The last few weeks at Fuller, ever since the Doggies got up there, I found out that those guys didn't know what a “John Wayne” was. So you are probably thinking, “how did they open their “Cs?” Well, the answer to that was, they used a P-38. No, that's not an airplane. A P-38 and a “John Wayne,” are in fact, one and the same piece of essential equipment. They just go by two different nomenclatures.

So those traps in Dong Ha were baited with peanut butter. Every time I came in they had been tripped, flipped over, moved around or in some way molested, but they just weren't sufficient to catch those big Vietnamese rats. I had been toying with two different methods to catch rats, one of which I had successfully used up on the mountain. But, the .45 as well as the blasting caps were out of the question there at Dong Ha. The first method involved cutting one end completely out of a can. Then a standard can opener was used to punch holes in several places around the outside of the can, at the end that was just cut out. When you straighten the curled tips to slant inward, it can be made in such a way that the rat will go in but will not be able to back again because of the points slanting inward; kind of like a fish trap (which is what gave me the idea in the first place). Well, I baited it with C-ration tuna fish. It was hilarious when those big rats went crazy with a can stuck on their head, and noisy too with their banging into stuff. I did lose a couple of them (I have no idea where they went), but generally you could just stomp them, or stick them. There was no rat body count in Dong Ha, but I did get a few rats using that method in the short time that I was there. Di Dah, Di Da Dit