Sgt Mike Medley
1969 - 1970

a very active tour of duty in Nam leaves many memories...


THOSE BORING ALL-NIGHT-LONG RADIO WATCHESMany of us remember the long night hours on radio watch when we would “go all the way up” to the BS push (7500?) in the lonely, melancholy midnight hours to banter with each other and play trivia games (e.g.):

Q: What C-rat month had 2 pound cakes?
A: August '68.

Q: How many holes in the June '67 C-rat crackers?
A: 72

Q: What are the carraway seeds in the cheese?
A: Mouse turds.

It was juvenile on one level, but on the other level it kept us awake, alert and gave us a connection when we otherwise felt all alone in the world. 

One night when I was fairly new in-country, a new voice came up on the BS push. I don't remember the exchange verbatim, but it went something like this:

Major (Jerry) Orr: Get off this push and go to your assigned channel.
Background voice: Oh shit, that's Major Orr.

Me: Roger – out.  

A minute or so later:  

Major Orr: Do you know who this is???!!
Me: Roger that.

Major Orr: You do not "out" me! I "out" you, do you copy?!
Me: Roger – out.

Fortunately, as weird as that sounds, the next day I went out on a hipshoot, I think to LZ Melody and the snakes. I don't know if the rest of this story is true or not, I only know it through hearsay. It might, or probably was, just have been a story made up to mess with the FNG. If so, it worked wonderfully.

While we were on the hipshoot - and yes up on the BS push - I was told that a certain Oscar (officer) had visited the FDC on LZ St. George the day after the radio incident looking for me and was upset not to find me there. Again, I have no firsthand knowledge as to whether this was true or not. However, thereafter if the battalion bird was in-bound, I was given the heads up and would be out-bound to the to the perimeter shitter on the other side of the battery from the FDC CONEX.

Devoted to following FM 6-40
I served under BC Richardson and his XO was this Lt. McKuen.  I recall that McKuen's dad was a full bird colonel.  He started college at VMI and dropped out first year and went through OCS.  As memory serves, he was a 20 year-old 1st LT as XO. Really a great kid (I was 23) and knew his stuff, but we loved to fool around with him. He wanted to fire the battery like the FM6-40, but FDC wanted to fire the battery in case you had to deal with a check-fire situation. Rather than argue with him, we just said "yes sir". Then, we got the Section Chiefs on the guns to go along with us on a little "demonstration".  So there you have the XO McKuen calling out, "Battery" then the Section Chiefs responding (per the Ft Sill manual):" Platoons".  McKuen then orders "Fire".  This was followed by a ragged  "bang . . . bang bang . . . bang . . bang (we only had 5 tubes at the time).  He came into FDC and we offered to show him how to do it.  Chief: "Battery ready", Me: "Battery fire"...BANG in perfect unison.

The First Shirt
He was known as "Sgt Mac".  We didn't get along very well.  He lived in the FDC bunker and  was a big poker player, going to the rear for the $100s of dollar pots.  He would usually have a poker game going in the front of the bunker (his domain took up a quarter of the bunker).  I was not a poker player and had to write down "what-beats-what" for him.  I made the mistake of winning a few bucks.  He got pissed and from then on, he wanted me off the FB.  Don't know when he went home, but it was none too soon for me.  Fortunately, the XO, Lt McKuen saved me since I could do a high-burst registration.

Sp5 Charles "Clint" Curry
Clint and I were nearly inseparable from the time I got to "A" Battery.  He was a short-timer who took me under his wing (Clint ETS'd from LZ St. George the morning following the fight of 6Nov69).  Probably the most fearless guy I've ever known.  I believe he and Joe Sleevi were FO party together on the Chu Pa.  According to Clint he was told to "ruck up" and fill in as FO with Sleevi as his RTO.  He says he told Sleevi he - Clint - would hump the PRC 25 and have Sleevi act as the FO since Joe was most experienced.  Clint got the Bronze with "V" on his last night in the field at St. George (I believe it was downgraded from a Silver recommend).  When we hooked up after 40+ years (we had both moved to new states)  he paid me the highest compliment I've ever received (of course we had been drinking beaucoup beer), that if he could only have one person to cover his would be me.

Fun With the Photo We had an  8x10 full-nude photo hanging in the CONEX over the charts.  Some visiting lifers told us we had to either get rid of it or cover it up.  So we put it under combat acetate and drew clothes over her with our grease pencils.  Our entertainment was dressing and undressing the little darling.


LZ Abbey
LZ Abbey was as beautiful as LZ Tuffy was terrifying.  It was near Bong Son, for the first time in Nam, I had the South China Sea on my map.  We set up in a graveyard on top of a hill surrounded as a horseshoe by water.  While some of us who stayed behind and were temporarily detained for some time, the rest had been going down in parties of 20 to enjoy the sea.  Five on either side while ten bathed, we had slightly less in our group when we got there.   Since I had stayed behind on LZ Tuffy I went as Advance Party to the next LZ, named "LZ Suzie", but more not-so-fondly known by us as "Suzie Pig".  Another stupid blunder.



Thrills on Christmas Day, 1969  
After barely getting back from the "Christmas Eve Raid" and getting to sleep, I get awakened by excited calls that there are "round-eyes" on the firebase and there is going to be a show.  Yeah sure, an over-the-hill DJ and 4 would-be starlets stopping by for a few minutes to pose for pictures and  punch their "patriotic" ticket.

Move, then move again
Our allies seem to have decided that now that we had rebuilt LZ Lois to American standards, it was time for them to quit guarding bridges and evict us.  Right around New Years Eve, they decided to move 1/14th and A/2/9th over to the An Khe side of the mountains.  I'm a bit fuzzy on details of whether we landed and trucked to LZ Radcliffe or flew directly there, but we went to Radcliffe and camped out by the wire.  It was the weirdest thing to get mortared from the mountain inside a basecamp that had been American for many years.  Then, we got to watch them run a sweep up the mountainside to the retrans station on top the next morning.  From Radcliff we trucked to LZ Hard Times and then airlifted to LZ Tuffy.

The "Christmas Eve Raid"
On Christmas Eve morning a deuce-and-a-half hit a mine on the Ban Me Thout road.  Not wanting to miss the Christmas festivities at base camp, they abandoned it.  We were sent out to guard it until they could get someone out to haul it away. For some reason the rear called this a "Raid", although all we did was hook up a couple of tubes, grab the FDC travel kit, and motor down the road.  Being right off the road, and having our Christmas care packages with us, we were soon overrun - by the kids.  We took the Battery dogs with us for the ride.  

Pulling duty for REMFs
After coming back from R&R, I went "AWOL" at the Air Force barracks at Pleiku Air Base until I could hook a ride back to the battery.  Returning to Camp Enari for the first time in almost seven months, I couldn't bear the thought of relieving the REMFs from bunker guard duty so they could go to the clubs and drink the Bud we never got in the field.

Don't mess with the rubber plantations
We weren't supposed to shoot into a French plantation without higher authority due to the economic impact.  They had "protected status".  But we could see the enemy scampering around their bunkers among the rubber trees.  So, we did shot the guns like mortars - high angle, charge 1.  

Heh-heh...about 15 minutes later, the French plantation manager pulled up in his jeep raising holy hell in French.  I had flunked college French and one of the other guys had taken it in high school so we tried to calm him down, which only made him madder since we were butchering his native tongue.  The rear sent out a settlement team to pay him off in short order, less than an hour.  It would have been nice if the rear could have produced a pair of 9 1/2 boots (it took two weeks) as fast as they sent that settlement team.  

LZ Marie - Off to a really bad start!LZ Marie started off bad since they landed the Advance Party a few klicks away from where we were supposed to be and we had to hoof it to the right location.  After the guns got in, we got up a strand of concertina wire.  I don't remember how long we were there, but one evening as the LPs were going out, the new grunt Platoon Leader had the rest of the platoon guarding the LZ in the middle with their weapons field stripped.  Rookie mistake.  The AKs started popping and the LPs came running back in under fire, followed by mortars (just 60 mikes) right behind them.  One of the howitzers went to final protective fire (firecracker, crank it all the way up and down a couple of turns, charge 1 and .2 seconds I think it was). I recall the other tube was loading beehive.  Our eltee was in his hole down from me and I had the radios. Got in touch with the Battery at LZ Lois but there was a problem with shooting due to the GT (gun-target) line.  So we shot the firecracker.  Nothing like the sound of 9 bomblets coming down on an incoming breeze to pucker one up.  Only a couple of them landed in inside the perimeter.  The only casualty - and this might be just wishful thinking garnered over the years, so I'd need confirmation from others - was the grunt eltee who got shrapnel in his rear.

Arriving at LZ Tuffy
As usual, I was part of the Advance Party.  Those of us who didn't find the punji stakes out of the 4 slicks that made it in were stranded in the clouds without commo; the mud was inundated with 50 gallon drums of persistent CS, and each morning a dink from the group on the overlooking ridgeline would come up the draw.  They would let off a clip trying to get us to fire back to locate our M-60s.  It was only fitting that the three-holer was placed in that "shitty" location.  I was hesitant to use it since it was on  the draw and left one's backside facing the dinks on the opposing ridgeline.  

LZ Tuffy - it was "tuff" alright
It was a mother to try to hump trunks up the steep sides of this LZ to use for overhead cover.  The mountaintop was so small and steep that we could only fire the full battery (I think we were still down a tube at that time) on high angle.  Both the 101st and 1st CAV had previously inhabited the LZ and both had the same problem we did -  exiting.  This is based on the evidence of Arc Light strikes and downed chopper husks in the jungle below the LZ. 

Like an idiot, I decided I needed a break and chose to go out on the last chopper for a change instead of the usual Advance Party.  What an opportunity! I got to play with the gun the dinks couldn't see from the ridgeline and they didn't know was there. They opened up on the Chinook carrying (Section Chief) Pineapple's crew and gun.  {See War Story: "Remembering A Lost Howitzer"}



A rare account of one of our Batteries living through the drawdown (1969-70) as the US was disengaging its forces from Vietnam.



At the time of the incident our battery, A/2/9, had a platoon of the battalion we supported during my tour assigned for security on our hip shoot LZ, possibly LZ Marie.   The dufus platoon leader was the 1/14th platoon leader.  The grunt LT had nothing to do with the incident other than failing to properly provide security of the LZ.  We were taking mortar rounds and our LT was taking cover in his hole down the line from me and I had the artillery radio, so I called in the alert to the battery.  If we hadn’t been on the GT line (Gun Target line), I was perfectly capable of adjusting fire if necessary.


I think each year in the Nam was a new generation.  (A direct result of the DEROS policy). I had graduated from the last Artillery OCS Battery in the Army in March '69, but like most of my fellow graduates, I saw no point in going on to OCS since I did not want to spend another two years after commission and a return to law school. To my knowledge only one member of our class became an officer.  The classmate who went on to OCS came through the battery near the end of my tour and was immediately sent out as FO without any real clue of what he was in for.  With one notable exception all of our FOs and recon sergeants during my tour were great.


With the exception of St. George and the firebase near Ban Me Thout, we were always deep in the mountains on hip shoot mountain tops.   Most of our AOs were free fire except a klick along roads (if there were any) and Montagnard villages (which the ARVN seldom bothered to plot).  Much of the adjustment had to be done by ear and a drop 50 might was a real guess where it would land.  The maps weren't the greatest and in many cases we would give a “Shot Out” and “Splash” which never arrived, landing on some ridgeline along the way.  Probably a third of our missions were shot high angle.  I think by the time we left St. George I was one of only two school-trained FDC at Ft Sill. The shortage of trained soldiers led us to convince the XO that it was best to let FDC give the fire order to the guns.


Even before Nixon's "withdrawal" speech two or three days before we got hit at St. George, we stopped getting replacements.  We called it "green bag withdrawals" since they weren't sending replacements.  KIAs, the badly wounded, and the DEROS folks counted as withdrawals on the books.  I was the FNG for several months although I almost immediately became the night chief computer and normal hip shoot FDC computer from the beginning, and was the only one on the firebase able to do a high burst registration.  Most of the normal two FDC crews were OJT whose actual MOS was Lineman, engineer, cannon cocker and 11 Bravo.  Most of the FDC officers were just there for a short while waiting to go back to the rear and only hung around the FDC CONEX during the day.  At deactivation, we only had 5 guys in FDC and didn't have shifts.


As deactivation neared, we only had one LT in the field (the guy I went to OCS Prep with) as an FO and Bowdie Biggers, a shake-n-bake E-6, was the Chief of Smoke.  I WAS the FDC as a Buck Sergeant.  For a long time, the “three man FO party” was actually a “two-man party”, with just the FO and a Recon Sgt or RTO.  Near the end most "FO"s were recon sergeants and an OJT radio carrier.  The infantry companies were likewise very short on personnel.  On hip shoots, our Artillery was expected to provide our own security, although we often got a short squad.  The best defense seemed to be frequent movement of LZs before the dinks could plot us and stage an attack, combined with luck and prayer.