Driving through the jungle at night is not a good idea;
you might not reach the finish line

{Sp5 Dante 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.

Urgency 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. Im 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. 
I wanted to be away! I felt as Poes 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.
Racing 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? 
Out 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.
Whoosh, 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.  Ill stay here for the night.     
No, 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 mission. 
At periods I would stop and grab my weapon, as I heard the deafening sounds of the quad 50s 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-16s. Thank the lord they werent 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 Im 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 the truck.


submitted by
Sp5 Dante Puccetti

FOOTNOTE - Pucetti 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...


Back to War Stories