WILD RIDE: A NIGHT CONVOY
through the jungle at night is not a good idea;
you might not reach the finish line
Puccetti drove in a convoy
to deliver a howitzer to a new 2/9th firebase;
he recounts the perils of the journey.}
I was assigned to deliver a howitzer
for The Mighty Ninth; I was heading
westwards towards Cambodia and firebase Maryann, where I stayed with some
medic friends. Early the next morning, the empty convoy departed, and
proceeded to a desolate area that had been "Agent Orange-ized". I
waited until a shitload of "flying crane" helicopters delivered
a bunch of 105-mm artillery guns from the Mighty Ninth. One was slated for my
2-1/2 ton truck. There was no way it will fit. The gun was
cranked down as short as it would go but it barely fit, and the two and a half
ton springs sagged in complaint. I looked at this monstrosity, with the barrel
protruded into the cab, stuck just inches from my right ear. I
smelled the cordite stench of death wafting from the worn muzzle, and I knew
why the truck had NO TOP.
was an understatement; stuck in Indian Country after dark with my M-16 was
bullshit. The jungle encroached on the road, and the triple canopy covered it
like a tunnel. I’m not claustrophobic, but I watched that snakes did not
drop in as guests. There were two-steppers (Bamboo vipers); their poison
describes their nickname. The tunnel was twilight until sunset then darker'n
dirt. I departed as the sun was heading towards the horizon , and I followed
the forward truck. The jungle roads were narrow, and I had a hard
time staying in its path. I was whaling the hell out of the gas petal, the
clutch, and the gear shifter just to stay in sight of the sign that pointed to
my destination. This dust was a bitch! Spewed clouds
obliterated the vehicles in front or in my mirrors; alone
within a convoy. Normality was a memory, as the motorcade became an illusion.
I was following this ominous cloud I despised, with the portent of disaster,
but longed for its company, yet this swirl incessantly taunted my imagination.
Lost, but then retrieved. The dust hid me, but camouflaged the enemy; taunted
by my chamber of horrors, and trapped behind my creation- a diaphanous
envelope stalking my every move while thwarted my striving for security.
wanted to be away! I felt as Poe’s madman in A TELLTALE HEART, but
my heart was racing-- isolated and vulnerable. A sense of dread enveloped.
Enhanced by my trap, I was uncontrollably charging into doom. My surroundings
drove my angst at fever pitch-- praying to avoid an ambush. Speeding ahead, I
went wide around a curve; IT happened-- my back wheels hit a huge stump.
Boom...the truck came to an instant halt. Squashed into the windshield, and
bounced off the barrel. Hurriedly, I backed up and steered around the stump.
Behind my lifeline again, and not caring about the rearward trucks.
to find the convoy, I almost caught my treasured, promise of hope; constantly
twisted the steering to compensate for throwing the vehicle off course. My
truck wanted to shimy-shammy anywhere I did not care to go. Using all my
racing techniques, as I was coming around a sharp curve, the truck spun and
slid off the road. My heart was running the three minute mile. Regaining
control of the truck, I took off to find the security of my vanishing paradox.
Sweat and dust was building an adobe mound under my legs in the floor, and
adding to crud I dealt with being in this dirt-hole. When I finely caught the
convoy, I decided that I would ride in the tail end of the dust, to stay
within its path. I was getting covered with grit. I was so totally
involved in staying in the cloud. I was getting to the point that if I knelt
down, I could impersonate a VC. I missed a fork in the road, and suddenly, I
was driving on the side of the hill on a 45-degree angle, - the road and dust
vanished. I thought the truck would flip . What a kick
in the ass; surviving Nam for eight months just to be killed by a rolling
truck. I instinctively turned down the hill to keep upright. I slid to a
stop on the road going down the hill. The other road went up and over the top. Where
the hell am I? Where should I go-up or down?
of the windshield I saw the serene valley beyond. I was on this road now, and
I figured it was as good as any. I took my M-16 off the windshield bracket,
and lay it on my lap. Just Keep on Trucking, and di-di mau'd out to
catch the convoy. GOD was in my side.
I finally arrived at the newly constructed forward firebase and dropped off
the gun, and by this time, it was dusk of the Tet holiday. I’ll
stay here for the night.
the convoy left the firebase to return to its origin, so I had to drive
through unsecured territory at night during Tet! Night convoys were
more intensive than daylight. The night was perilous, so I drove
with my blackout- lights on (no headlights) to provide a low level of
illumination for enemy spotters. Shit! I could hardly see the
truck in front of me to know where I was going, as there were two little
red-lights on the back. I had to ride his ass hard through out this night
periods I would stop and grab my weapon, as I heard the deafening sounds of
the quad 50’s on the gun trucks open fire, spewing out doom to the NVA,
overriding the noise of M-60 machineguns, and the rapid fire the small-arms
M-16’s. Thank the lord they weren’t shooting at me. Once, my leader went
off the road and I followed. I was thrown all over the seat as I plowed
through stumps and an old village. The Montagnards built there huts on
stilts to stay dry during the monsoon. "What
in the hell's going on here? Am I driving
right through a Montagnard village? I
hope I‘m not killing anyone.” I
never heard any shouts or screams. “How the fuck can I find the convoy? Crashing
through trees and stuff, but like driving through snow and ice, nothing was
going to make me stop. Cut
the wheel, slam on the gas. Shift to second, and
cut the wheel back again. I followed the bouncing red lights. I
turned hard right, trucks appeared, and I felt relieved; a miracle! I may
make it through the night.
I made it back to FB Maryann late that night. I was exhausted, so I crashed in
Sp5 Dante Puccetti
was an Artillery Surveyor for HHB, 4th DivArty. One of his duties was
manning two flash OPs: one on Dragon Mountain and two tours on Plei Do Lim
Mountain. He had contact with Battalion FDC and the S3 shop.
Their call sign was Lima 92, and his was Yankee 59.
Dante relaxing in his outpost
bunker; complete with radios...
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