‘Combat’ Was My Best Friend
Your news item of last April, “Honoring a soldier’s best friend,” brought back memories. I landed in Chu Lai on May 5, 1965, as a Marine sergeant with the 1st Engineer Battalion, which became the 3rd Shore Party Battalion. Some local kids followed me one day and gave me a puppy in exchange for a pack of cigarettes. My five tent mates and I kept the pup in our tent, and he was very protective. But, of course, nobody in the military was supposed to have a dog and I got caught when we were in platoon one day and my puppy sneaked up and stood next to me. Before I noticed he was there, my commander asked me what his name was. When I told him the puppy’s name was “Combat,” the colonel entered him on the roster as “Private Combat.” He let me keep my dog until I was sent back to North Carolina in late 1966. I had to leave Combat with the next group of soldiers that took over in our area.
Adam R. Salinas
From Amtracs to AmGrunts
Your article about amtracs (“Arsenal,” October 2008) was a fair depiction of the role they played, but a few things were omitted. For starters, after the initial insertion of amtracs, because of the volatility of the fuel cells being under the deck plates, the decks inside were sandbagged and no one was allowed to ride inside. The only exception was in the case of a medevac, transporting Marine KIAs or hauling dead VC or NVA. The amtracs’ suspensions took a severe beating: Of nine roadwheel assemblies on each side, we were lucky to have seven while operating in the bush. A severe shortage of track pins forced crews to “short track” after breaking track in the bush.
The Browning M-1914A4 .30-caliber machine gun was mounted atop the gun turret and sandbagged in, with more bags placed around the top to afford some form of cover. Later, a .50-cal machine gun on a fabricated mount was issued to the lead amtracs of each section, with the .30 mounted facing aft. The .50 was used to shoot up any channeled area for mines, but the results weren’t always good.
In March 1966, Alpha Company, 1st Amtrac Battalion moved to Cua Viet, where we became “AmGrunts,” conducting infantry patrols and whatever missions would be given to a grunt unit. Unfortunately, being listed as a “support unit,” Alpha was last for air, artillery or naval gunfire support or weapons and equipment. But the “AmGrunts” had to make do and get it done.
No Marine RTOs
I enjoyed your article on chaplains Capodanno and Watters (“Personality,” June 2008), but there was one slight error. Only the Army uses the phrase “radio-telephone operator.” In the Marines we were just called radio operators.
Army Had LVTP-5s Too
I really enjoyed Christopher Miskimon’s article on the LVTP-5 (“Arsenal,” October 2008), but have a couple of minor quibbles with it. Miskimon intimates that the production P-5s all went to the Marines. That isn’t so. The U.S. Army had two units, one on each coast, up through the early 1960s that were equipped with the LVTP-5. They were the 1st and 2nd Engineer Amphibious Support Commands (EASC) at the Little Creek base in Virginia Beach, Va., and Fort Lewis, Wash., respectively.
Philip C. Gutzman
The October 2008 cover photo is not of a UH-1D, but of a UH-1H. On the D model the pitot tubes are on the nose. On the H model the pitot tube is up on top of the cabin roof, just like the helicopter that is pictured. This is not the sole difference, but it is notable.
Originally published in the April 2009 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.