April 19, 1969

Mine Sweep on Highway 14
We had left LZ Bass and our new mission was to protect a section of highway 14. It was not much of a highway. The road itself was two lanes, but only one lane of the road was paved. To make the road safe, the engineers had cleared the trees and brush for about 100 meters on each side of the highway.

Our company had been broken up so each platoon had about a two mile stretch of highway. Each morning we would get up and sweep the road for mines. As we cleared the highway we would place a track about every Ľ mile to secure the road for traffic during the day. In the evenings, the track furthest out would start heading in and pick up each track along the way until everyone was safe in the LZ. The next day the process would start all over again.

While in base camp I learned about LRRP’s (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol). I enjoyed the SRP missions I had been on. Several things appealed to me about the LRRP’s

  • I would get to fly in helicopters.
  • I would get to sleep all night between missions.
  • If I did all my missions I would get a sham (non-combat) job in mid-September.
While I was in class at base camp I got word that my track had hit a mine and my driver had been injured. Fortunately, he was the only one on the track when it happened. I had lost my second track within a month.

I returned to the field and informed my Captain that I wanted to volunteer for LRRP’s. He ask me if I knew the life expectancy of a LRRP. I told him I didn’t know. He said it would take a few days, but he would approve the transfer if they wanted me.

Enemy mine on Highway 14
For the next few days we found mines in the road almost daily. The enemy was getting bolder and hit one of our APC’s at night with a B-40 rocket. Although, we had two wounded, as usual 3rd Platoon reminded us that things could be worse when Sgt. Bobby Denton was killed in a similar attack up the road.

I mentioned to the Captain that the enemy must have just received a new shipment of mines since we were finding them everyday. I said someone should set an ambush on the road and catch them setting the mines. He said good idea, get your squad together and you can take them out tonight. I had my orders, but it didn’t sound like nearly as good of an idea when I was the someone.

My squad and I rested up during the day and cleaned all of our gear. I could close my eyes and visualize the mine team walking on to the highway and my squad doing its duty. I tried to think through the what ifs:

  • What if there were more than 8 and we were out numbered?
  • What if someone come to help them?
  • What if one of my men gets hurt?
  • What if the tracks have trouble getting to me for support at night?
We had picked out a place near a culvert where we had been finding the mines. The plan was for our track to take us near the culvert and drop us off where we could hide in the creek bed. The track would then turn around and start picking up tracks to return to the LZ for the night. After dark we would move to the highway and wait.

As we were driving out to the ambush site we decided to let one of the new guys get some practice driving the track. About a half mile before the ambush site we stopped and put the regular driver back in the drivers seat. On the ride I broke down my rifle one more time to make sure everything was really OK.

I could see the culvert where we were going to stop and get off. We were already slowing down when I heard an explosion on the left side of the road. I turned and saw a puff of smoke. I looked back to the right and I saw the flash of two more rockets being fired. In all, five rockets missed us and landed harmlessly around us.

Had they had postponed their attack for another 5 seconds, we would have been a still target. Had they waited another minute, they could have watched us hide in the creek bed.

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©1997 C. Warren Gallion
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