Sp4 Joe Cook

1966 - 1967 "B" Battery FDC


When I took the R.F and P Railroad (April, 1965), south to Basic Training from Pittsburgh, PA to Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina, part of the route was the same railroad line that my great grandfather) took north from Aquia Creek, Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1865 to Washington D.C. for the Great Victory Parade.  For me: "R.F. and P" is the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad in 1965, heading South.  For great grandfather Milo it was the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad 1865, heading north.
Continuing south, I then left R.F. and P and also Richmond, VA on the SAL Railroad (Seaboard Air Lines Railroad) and went through Southern Pines, N. C. and into Columbia, S.C. and took the military bus to Fort Jackson, S.C. for Basic Training of 8 weeks and an extra week of training in 'LPC' school (Leadership Preparation Course).  Then I had a break in Florida.
Then flew from Florida to Dallas, Texas and hitch-hiked to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for AIT training in FDC.  I found my "Itinerary for Groups of Army Recruits Enroute to Fort Jackson, S.C." On the Itinerary is the complete route the train would take  and also explained are what sites I will see out the train window, Such as the "George Washington National Masonic Memorial, Quantico, VA". And also that box lunches would be brought onboard in Richmond, VA.


My tour - 1966 - 1967 was really uneventful.     I trained in Fort Jackson,  at Fort Sill and assigned to Hawaii. I think I was in Hawaii for about two or three months maybe even six. Who knows? Anyway. I was a 13E20 in FDC ran charts and the radios.   We left Hawaii for Viet Nam in Dec of 1965.  I arrived in a C-141 with water tank, jeep+ trailer (we called the "Pink Kitty").  Also on board was another vehicle of some sort and I think a platoon of men. We were carrying our M-14 rifles.  The runway we landed on, in the Central Highlands, was dirt and the plane turned around and took right off.  Boy, it then got real quiet and we saw the Cav pulling out as they were there to pull security and now, we were on our own.  That night was Pup Tents.  No one dug a fox hole.  I returned to California in Jan of 1967. I believe I extended for three months and thus was able to get a three month "early out". The Pink Kitty Trailer was a 1/2 ton trailer and then we built (plywood) a box on it. Inside we ran our FDC with radios and chart boards and map on the wall.  I have no pictures of this (this was what we used in Hawaii). Needless to say this plywood did NOT work in Viet Nam and so in the Base Camp at Pleiku we had dug in a CONEX and covered it with sand bags and had a vent pipe sticking out the top. That was done in Jan of 1966. Then that’s that last time I saw it as the rest of my tour was in the field, keeping up with the infantry.  It seems as though we moved about every three or four days, and of-course filled sand bags on each move. But I no longer have a good memory on that.  I do not know when but "B" Battery was split up (sometime in Feb or Mar) - that is of the 6 - 105's (old type -split trails) one gun was left in base camp and we took the other 5 into the field with us.  For awhile we convoyed around and then at some point we were moved by Helicopter (Huey, CH-47's and the big 'Crane' {SkyCrane} helicopter)  for most of the Tour. The SkyCrane chopper was used when we kinked a 105 tube and they brought out a new tube, lifted the old off and mounted the new.   One time I was sent back into Base Camp with the Battery Commander to pick up the payroll.  I carried a .45 on my hip, but did not know how to use yet; I learned later.  Anyway, my first return to Base Camp was an eye opener as we now had wooden barracks and even some sidewalks and a separate Mess hall. The next day we returned to the field and paid everyone. For awhile I drove the Commander around in the jeep. One time we in base camp and we had a little nip and I drove through a large mud puddle and we bounced kind of hard. Capt Rice yelled at me and took over the driving and did a 180 and - yes - drove right back through the same mud puddle.

The 292's {radio antennas} were always a challenge and in my memory I see them always straight and true.  But I must have held my camera wrong for the 292's look CURVED in my pictures.  Also in one position, we took artillery ammo boxes and made furniture. As to driving the jeep -- it was only used for awhile in base camp. MOST of the time it was our field radio power source. Thus the radios were in the FDC and cables out to the jeep. The jeep only moved when a CH-47 showed up and we would back it into the Chinook.     One time we were airlifted into position and then the rain came and we flooded and so we were taken back out to higher ground.   


The (first) CONEX was never in the field with us and it was located back at the Base Camp in Pleiku.   We would dig a horseshoe foxhole in the tent; the middle part of horseshoe is where the chart board was located. Radios were at the bottom ends of the horseshoe.   Thus we felt we might be able to keep working when even under fire. Thankfully we never tested this concept.   So we always worked from a GP-small with the horseshoe pit in the bottom and map boards on the sand bags and the jeep providing power. We would need to start the jeep up about every 4 hours I think. That’s all we did with the jeep and trailer except to back onto the CH-47. Actually, the jeep and trailer were pulled onto the CH-47 by a tow line from the chopper. One time I was holding the center pole while a CH-47 was flying in the pick up a load of empty brass casings, slung three on a string. Well, he got too close to our tent and the next thing I knew I was standing in the open with just the tent pole in my hand and the tent was on down the way.

Ed Note:  Please refer to the War Story "An Unlikely Hero".  It tells the tale of a "grown up" CONEX airmobile FDC.

I was on some type of foxhole guard duty, why I was on guard I have no idea. And this is probably the only time I pulled Guard Duty, as FDC pulled no duties other than FDC. We only had five of us to run a 24-7 shift.  I do not think we dug the hole, but I helped to set out the claymores and the evening was coming on.  (I think some Infantry guys were around, perhaps the "Palace Guard"?  And perhaps teaching us about guarding our perimeter?)
The foxhole I was in had a trail running laterally across my front. I had identified the obstacles to my front and within my "field of fire". Got my "munchies" out, so they would not make noise in the dark.  Well, I guess I was there about two hours (of 4 hour shift) and the evening was falling into near darkness. I head a noise off to my left and so I became alert and hunted for my rifle, found it!  I got the claymore trigger nearby and started darting my eyes and using my peripheral vision.  In other words, I didn't know what I was doing.
So having claymore trigger nearby,  my rifle ready and eyes wide open, and last, my "Artillery" ears on alert. I began to hear noise to my left front and little later some talking. As the hair stood up on the back of my neck I saw two figures coming down the trail. One was taller then the other.
FINALLY, I began to make them out in the near darkness.  They were a man and a young girl (about 11 to 14) and both were carrying something. As they came closer I was able to see they were carrying large bundles of branches. The man was using a head band and it ran around the large bundle of branches on his back. The girl was following him and she was carrying a bundle of branches bigger than her with her arms in front. Thus, she really could not see the trail and the evening did not help her. At this point I began to relax a little and to breathe again. As they walked to my front, the man walked around a puddle on the trail. The girl came up and she not seeing the puddle, because of wood bundle in her arms, stepped into the small hole and fell down. I wanted to help her get up but did not. (still feel bad about not helping her).
So she jumped right back up and never lost a branch of wood. I do think I noticed her eyes wince from pain but she never uttered a sound. And the two of them went on. I did noticed that the man did look back when she grunted a small sound. He saw she getting up and with out a word they went on into the darkness.     I never even knew we were near a village of Montagnards.

Referring to my Photo Gallery, starting Page (tab) #10, photos #97 through #102, you will see a combination of young boys and adults being detained at our firebase.   The
Infantry brought them in for holding.

We were located North and West of Pleiku somewhere and all of a sudden lots of commotion sprang up in the Battery area. Come to find out the Infantry (don't know which unit) came into our Battery area. We were the first line of "holding" prisoners and then they sent to rear area – on up the ladder.  I was on duty and heard the commotion and went over to see. I was surprised to see the “boys”/ “Rice Carriers”. And then I noticed two "older" fellows.  The adults were in a gun section pit. They were eating some “good C-rations. (JCOOK-#98 in my Photo Gallery).  One infantry guard by them (see the foot over his right shoulder).

Out of nowhere an interpreter shows up and, with an Infantry guy and an Officer. They go to one older fellow and take him out of the pit and to the field away from all the others. They begin to interrogate the adult. (JCOOK-#101 in Gallery).  You will also notice that the Adults are not blindfolded – What’s with that?

As for the boy’s - (JCOOK-#102) - You see them as I found or saw them for the first time. It’s hard for me to put an age to them. (Asians usually looking younger than their age.) But I have placed them in the young teen to older teen age bracket. Anyway you see they are tied and blindfolded and are NOT TO TALK. But even in the pictures you can make out they are talking (whispering). And I could hear them.  The boy in (JCOOK-#100) is trying to talk to the other. And has been told NOT to TALK! If you look at picture you will see that one boy leaning over and talking. Notice an infantryman coming in from the right. He sees them talking and takes his rifle butt and hits the kid on the back shoulder or hard on the head.  It is curious that you will only see one guard at each place. That is there are three places – the adults are separate and the third is where the kids are.

After some time a Helicopter comes in and takes all away.  

The ROKs fill sandbags differently...
(Refer to JCOOK #9 in my Photo Gallery.) Here I am (other is unknown) showing the ARVN how to fill sandbags. I think they are willing to let us demonstrate as long as we wished.  
But this brings to mind a time we set up a FSB in the boonies and right next to us was a unit from the Republic of South Korea. (ROK). Only point here how they built their bunkers with sandbags.  
We layered our bags "sideways", that is,  the top and bottom of bag were laid left to right and flat.   The ROKs layered their bags with the top and bottom laying in and out and on their side. Thus the ‘wall’ was twice as thick, giving them twice the protection.  But you can figure out that the ROK solider had twice the amount of work.  Anyway, I always thought that was the way to build a bunker.


 I was there twice.  See the photo above (not mine).

  •  Ditches on side of main street and the kids running out to the ditch and going to the bathroom.
  • The tree-lined street
  • Of course the dirt road - Main Street
  • All the little shops
  • GIs walking around with no rifles.  We left them in the 2-1/2 ton in the parking area, under guard.  Yes, a truckload of rifles and one, maybe two guards
  • The Lambretta bus with the passengers in the back end.

Heating ‘C’ rations
I remember the method of heating the "C" rations, for some of us at least, in "B" Battery in 1966.

There were different methods and I seemed to narrow it down to the following. In order to get the meal in early days, we would line up and be handed a "C" ration packet. We had no choice. Later on, each Section would be given a whole case and then within the section, we would work it out. I do not remember ever having a problem, as we (FDC) each seem to like various ones. Of course, there were some that were left to be eaten during radio night watch and thus to snack on.  My method was:

          Example: I would get "Spaghetti w/ beef chunks in sauce in a B-2 Unit”.

          I would take my trusty “P-38” (located on my Dog Chain, dirty as it was) and open my Spaghetti and being sure to leave the lid still attached to the can. I needed the lid still in place during the heating.   After partially opening the can I would set the can into the box.   I then set the box on fire. Lid must be on can. When fire went out, I would get the divider piece of card board that I saved from the box;  this became my "pot holder".  The partially attached lid would serve as a handle. Sometimes I folded the lid on both edges and thus a little sturdier to hold.

          The result was piping hot C-rats.  Boy I can smell it now! Remember the “Accessory Pack”?



In my 'stuff' here at home I have a black boot worn in Viet Nam. In reading "Photo Gallery" - Harold Woody --- I came across photo that included the name of  - Sgt. Robert Gibson - B- Battery --- I am wondering if this is the same as 'Robert R. Gibson'. For in the boot, I now have is the name written inside, as prescribed by military requirement.
When I rotated out, I was walking by Gibson on way to a helicopter for start of journey, from the boonies to home. I yelled to him that his turn is next, he replied that he was going to stay another tour.  And then he asked for my boots I had on.  Saying his boots were not working for him and that mine would. So I traded with him and still have his boots here in Pennsylvania. In fact I never even laced the boots up completely until I got to the equipment turn in center.  There I had to give up my field jacket (which I had used for everything, like a pillow, seat cushion, etc.) 

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