March 12, 1969
THE FIRE

We had been receiving two or three rockets a day for over a week. Someone was always stationed at the mess hall to remind us "Stay 5 meters apart, one rocket would kill all of you."

Rocket damaged Fuel Track Rocket damaged Jeep

One rocket hit a fuel track, and totally destroyed it. One rocket set a jeep on fire and it burned. We did have some shrapnel injuries, but I do not remember anyone being seriously hurt. Most of the rockets missed the fire base completely.

It was becoming routine. We would try to determine which direction the rockets came from. We would check with our SRP teams. If they heard the launch we would try to triangulate to determine the location of the launch sight. We would jump on our tracks, drive to where we thought they had been launched from only to find nothing.

My track and squad had been moved out of the fire base and down to the south end of the runway. The rockets and attack had both come from the north so the south end of the runway was a good place to be. We had been resupplied and I had received:

  • a new troop
  • 8 cases of beer and soda
  • new air mattress
It had been a good day. I purposely put the new soldier on guard first. That way I could set up with him and give him an orientation of our squad. I gave myself a later shift in the night. The second shift was pulled by our machine gunner.

I was still pondering if I had ever slept on a bed that was as comfortable as my new air mattress. The machine gunner yelled "Trip Flare" and started firing the belt of ammo that was in the 50 caliber. Then he said "I see the SOB" and jumped from the track and went to his own machine gun and started firing. I grabbed my rifle and ran to the edge of the runway to look. The trip flare was burning, but I saw no one. Suddenly the whole sky lit up like daylight as the artillery unit supported us with parachute flares. I saw "Snake" from our track jump on the track to get more ammo for the 50 caliber. I fired at the area around the trip flare. I looked up and saw "Snake" pouring water into the track. Then I saw the flames leaping out of our track.

A tank from the fire base drove out on to the runway to support us. He pulled in between me and my burning track. It must have been instantaneous, but I didnít remember a thing. The first thing I noticed was I had a mouth full of dirt. As I tried to spit out the dirt, I begin to take inventory and thankfully finding that arms, legs and feet all appeared to be where they belonged. I looked up and could smell the powder from the tankís cannon. I must have been knocked out by the concussion of the tank firing its cannon.

We were escorted back into LZ Bass as the tank continued to protect the runway. I watched from the fire base as the ammo and explosives inside the track continued to burn and explode. The next morning I returned to my still smoldering track. Thankfully no one was injured. The heat from the burning track had burned everything near it. I went to where I was sleeping. My air mattress had melted away. My sleeping bag had burned. The only thing left of my shirt was a burnt camera that had been in the pocket and the thick buttons.

Burned out APC on the runway at LZ Bass.

The cardboard had burnt away from all the beer and soda and some of the cans had exploded from the heat. Some of the sodas were still drinkable if you didnít mind filtering out the melted can lining with your teeth.


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©1997 C. Warren Gallion
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