A Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry 25th ID - Vietnam

Personal Experience Narratives (War Stories)

"Willie Pete Calls a Dust-off"
by Dave Cox - 65/66

The September 22, 1966 timeline brings up a funny story. Or at least part of it is funny. Item 48 for Sept. 22 describes a 2 1/2 T truck hitting a mine w/WIAs and illustrates the brevity of information that got printed in the S3 journals vs the actual event. 

I recall this incident since I was driving A18 directly behind the vehicle that was hit. I believe we were the last vehicle in the column. Not sure about that. It was a Philippine engineer truck with about 15 guys riding in back and it was hit by a command-detonated claymore-style mine from the left side of the road. 

We radioed A10, the platoon leader, and the column halted. Two of our guys dismounted and ran up to the truck to check their status. They ran right back and reported that two of the Filipino troops were very badly wounded and would die if not dusted off right away. SSG Dave Shields, who was the vehicle commander of A18 at the time, informed A10 (Lt. Don Appler) of this. A Centaur gun team from Delta Troop was flying cover for the convoy, but they were a few miles down the road. Centaur 40 was up on our radio frequency. He came on and said that there was no medevac ship immediately available, so if we would mark our position in the column, he would land and pick up the wounded Filipinos himself.

One of our fire team leaders, who will go unnamed because he was a total f/u and everybody knew it, reached up and grabbed one of the canister grenades we had hung by the spoons along the TC shield. He thought he was grabbing a smoke grenade, but he didn't really look at it and so threw a White Phosporus (WP) grenade into the road in front of the track. Of course, it immediately began burning a hole in the road and spewing white smoke.

Centaur 40 called Don Appler, and said something like, " I see white smoke on the road. Please instruct your people on the correct use of white smoke." 

Don Appler radioed Dave Shields and said, "18, this is 10. You know better than that, over."

Dave radioed back, "10, 18, negative, it wasn't me, it was one of my elements, over."

Don Appler replied, "Ah, roger, 18. You don't have to tell me which one."

Naturally the rest of 1st Plt got a big laugh out of that and it was one more incident involving this team leader that he had not yet lived down by the time I DEROSed in December.

Meanwhile, we had a fire team out on the ground to try and find the VC who set the mine off, but you can guess how that went. The Centaur elements didn't spot anyone either and we had mostly rice paddies all around us. 

Centaur 40 came in and picked up the two WIAs and took them down to 93rd Evac. The column proceeded to Cu Chi. I never did find out how the two wounded guys made out.
Dave Cox
A18 65/66

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