and I mean really incoming!

{aka FSB 14}


Well, they WERE howitzers at one time.  Now they resemble leftovers after a pileup on a fog-shrouded California highway.  The gun pits are also gone...blown up when the RPGs that hit the guns also ignited the ammo bunkers.  (So much for blast barriers!)

But, despite being armed to the teeth and using everything we had - like Beehive rounds, makeshift mines from damaged artillery shells and claymores - that attack and loss of #3 and the crew was a constant reminder that we were completely surrounded and the surrounding force seemed to be getting both larger and bolder. We were trapped in a vise and the vise was closing despite air support and everything else we could do. Some of the men told me they knew we would never leave the hill alive. 


But something fundamentally changed on that desolate and battered hill after gun #3 was hit. It was someone from either gun #4 or #2 who magically appeared with an American flag. Someone else went down the hill and cut a long pole to mount the flag. 


When the flag was erected, I think every set of eyes in A Battery was on it. No one said anything. No one magically began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance - at least out loud. But, as I looked around the battery position at the fixed and focused way we all stared at the flag, I knew in my heart we each were saying the Pledge of Allegiance silently to ourselves. And, if the NVA were able to get to that flag, we all intended to be killed in the process before they got there. 


It was a magic moment. I knew we were willing to and probably would die for each other. I had seen the extreme risks taken and knew there would be far more to come. But now, there was something new, a symbol that made that the possibility of that final sacrifice even more important. 

I had the blocks reassembled and put the wheels on sand bags. That let us elevate the guns to something approaching 0 (zero) mils so that I could shoot charge 1 onto the backside of the neighboring hills where the mortars were positioned. Those mortars were causing us fits ~ you couldn’t land a chopper on the base due to mortar fire…..just touch and go. Resupply – particularly ammo - was an exercise only for the craziest or the bravest men.  In my case, we all knew I was crazy. I mean you had to stand there while the bird approached, waiting to unhook. Between the mortars and the constant snipers, that was a nerve-racking job. But shooting charge 1 has its consequences……you have the other 6 powder bags in the pit. One day, while we were firing counter mortar as the gooks were firing counter arty, one of their rounds hit a powder pit that was, due to heavy firing, overflowing.  "White hot" isn’t enough to properly describe the results. My Chief of Smoke was in full run past the pit but could not go fast enough to get past quickly enough or to stop. He got an extremely bad "sun burn"’ on his back that required immediate evac.  It dried out a lot of the fluid in his spinal column. Thankfully, he recovered.  {Note.  See photo at end}

BnCO LtCol Bobzien would come out and walk around the area, inspecting for a secure perimeter and ‘bomb proof’ bunkers about once or twice per week. I could understand his concern since the position had been nearly overrun during initial occupation plus about 96 hours.  Beehive rounds and a lot of really gutsy guys kept the hill from falling.  I dreaded/feared/hated those visits since I had to be the "escort" and the mortars would step up their rate of fire as soon as the chopper switched to short-final.  He would get out on the run and ~ with an extremely casual air ~ stroll across the base. The snipers, seeing a very slow moving target, would then get into action.  Bobzien, with me in tow but hugging the bunkers, would continue to carefully inspect the firebase. I was sure that, as an LtCol, he was putting on a brave face for "the boys".  All of us knew, however, that he was "brave-crazy" to take the stroll with no flak jacket, not even wincing when rounds ‘"popped" near us.  

The only time it was worse [maybe just worse for me] was when COL Dewhurst, with DivArty, would come out, too…..with Bobzien in tow. And me as their "escort". Then, the two of them would slowly stroll around the base and regularly stop to discuss something……making perfectly immobile targets for the snipers. The two of them together would always freak me out. I’m lucky I survived their visits!  

Actually, they were both very good. Bobzien was the best commander I had during that 1st tour in Nam . He always seemed to care not just about having a competent FO or the infantry but also about me as an individual. He always, for example, brought me a new helmet when he would visit. Mine was immediately discarded whenever we had a firefight – I just couldn’t run with that darned thing on.  It flopped everywhere and was more a problem than a solution.  Perhaps I should have been saving one for him on his visits to LZ Incoming.

Lt Bert G. Landau  

"War Story" Footnotes from Lt Dauphin and Lt Landau:

Dauphin:  Bert, upon reading your last paragraph about the ill-fitting helmet, I remembered that event!  YOU were the FO who could not get a helmet liner to properly fit and had to walk thru the jungle as if he was wearing a soup bowl on his head.   Bet that was really a pain!!

Landau: It’s why I quit trying to wear them when I had to move quickly – easier to throw it away and then have Bobzien (Bn Commander) snap at me for not having a helmet. CPT Terry Pierson (Arty LNO) finally asked me why; I told him and he told me that- every visit – he would bring me a new one and we would not think too much about where the old ones went.  LtCol Holbrook would look at me, never say anything about the helmet, but would come over to me and say ‘You’re doing a good job, son" and then walk away. I’m pretty sure he had no idea who I was. He eventually figured it out after a bad firefight when he wanted to land his chopper and I wouldn’t "release" the 155mm battery I was firing in close support so that he could land. Terry said that I had apparently threatened to shoot the chopper down myself if he tried to stop or get in my arty flight path.  Maybe I did, but didn’t remember it when Terry told me about my poor manners.

MapLZ Incoming.jpg (10657992 bytes)
Map - LZ Incoming Location
{click to enlarge}

FireInHole.jpg (2910089 bytes)
"Fire In The Hole"
Burning of excess powder charges
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