Reactivation and Displacement to Vietnam
(01-06-66 to 10-21-66)
In a continuation of a long history of valorous and meritorious service the 2nd Battalion 94th Artillery Regiment was reactivated as a 175mm (SP) unit at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on 1 June 1966.
Note by chronicler: There were 11 OCS graduates assigned to the New 2/94th Battalion from the graduating class of May 1966.
Formal activation ceremonies were held at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on 9 July 1966 at the Old Post Quadrangle. The activation was attended by Major General Harry H. Critz, the Fort Sill commander and later the 4th Army Commander. The Battalion colors were passed to the new Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Richard G. Trefry.
The activation marked the beginning of what was to be a long period of service in which the Battalion would face problems few artillery units had known in the past. Not only was there the hot Oklahoma summer ahead, filled with the task of building and training an entire Battalion on a relative new weapon system. Looming more ominously was the prospect of combat duty in a tropical climate of the expanding Vietnam conflict.
All the training and organizing of the summer months ahead would be in preparation for fielding a combat ready unit on the beaches of Vietnam nearly 10,000 miles away.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Trefry took command of a skeleton Battalion previously commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Eugene L. Adoue during the planning stages. The problems of organizing and training a unit of over 600 men were many. The most serious problem at the outset was the severe shortage of equipment. The TO&E was being delivered in piecemeal fashion and half of the training period passed with only one gun per Battery. Most of the equipment arrived prior to completion of the ATT. However, some items arrived barely in time to be shipped to the port for loading.
Training at Fort Sill
Training at Fort Sill
On 9 August 1966, after an eight-week intensified Combat Training Program, the Battalion satisfactorily passed the Army Training Test.
Battalion and Battalion Colors on Parade at Sill
These Artillerymen of the 2/94th would see battle in a
land far away, called South Vietnam.
These officers and enlisted men would set the standard for those who would follow.
The Battalion began preparation for the overseas movement immediately upon completion ATT.
By 2 September 1966, all wheeled vehicles and equipment less, that which was to accompany the unit, were shipped from Fort Sill to the Beaumont, Texas Port of Embarkation and loaded aboard the USNS Drake Victory.
Comment by chronicler: It is thought that a possible small detachment from Service Battery may have accompanied this equipment. If any 2/94th personnel actually did steam over on the USNS Drake Victory, their names and number are not known at this time. Approximately 25 members may have accompanied the equipment on the Drake Victory.
On 14 September 1966, seven weeks after the completion of the ATT, all red TAT equipment that would accompany the Battalion (not accessible during the voyage) was shipped from Fort Sill to the Oakland Army Terminal at Oakland, California. Upon arrival, the bulk of the equipment was loaded aboard the General Leroy Eltinge (USNS).
On 18 September 1966, the Battalion was notified that due to some cargo restrictions, some red TAT equipment could not been loaded aboard Eltinge. This equipment was then loaded on the Purdue Victory (USNS) instead. Purdue Victory (USNS) also had participated in the Korean War.
Lieutenant Douglas R. Beard was detailed to accompany that equipment aboard the Purdue Victory.
Battalion Members route march to train loading and embarkation area
Battalion Members arriving at train embarkation area
Battalion Members boarding train at Fort Sill
Family Goodbyes are Tuff!
On 22 and 23 September 1966, the Battalion, less a 25-man rear detachment/advance party, departed Fort Sill by rail movement, commercial air, and chartered air flights. All personnel arrived at Port of Embarkation by 1000 hours 24 September 1966 and immediately embarked on the USNS Eltinge.
Account by Lieutenant Greg Smith, one of the first Officers with C Battery: “The Battalion left Fort Sill on busses from the area just east of Key Gate and went to the airport at Oklahoma City. We flew a TWA flight to Los Angeles and then on to San Francisco, and boarded the Eltinge and slept there that night. We then sailed out past Alcatraz under the golden gate bridge. I never knew there was any other plan than to go to Da Nang. We sailed to Okinawa and stayed there one night. Most everyone went into Naha that day.
We then landed at Da Nang. This was before the deep-water piers were built. We off-loaded on smaller flat ships that took us to shore where we actually waded ashore on Red Beach (later called China Beach). I never heard anything about Saigon and we never went there. In fact, until we left flying out from Cam Rahn Bay to Tokyo to Seattle. I was never south of Da Nang.
I was teaching FDC procedures to new guys all day long on the way over there. I may also have played too much poker at night as well. My impression was that the Marines were preparing to cross the DMZ and invade the north and those plans were changed and we all sat there for the duration in fixed locations as targets.”
Not all the 2/94th members were lucky enough to fly to San Francisco
Account by Lieutenant Barry DeVita, who was lucky enough to be assigned Mess Officer on the train to California for two days: The troop train left late in the afternoon, almost sunset. Stopped in Amarillo in the wee hours of the morning. Then rolled thru the Southwest, arriving in Southern California (Mojave Desert) for the next sunset and Oakland the following morning.
Battalion Members in dining car on the way to California
(Courtesy of the assigned Mess Officer, Lieutenant DeVita)
Account by Lieutenant Barry DeVita, regarding
embarkation: “As we got the word to "saddle up" at HHB, I
stepped into a phone booth and made a quick "coded" call (just the one word, "Now")
call to Lieutenant Leo Ruth (who was [still is] a great friend from college; and was, at that
time, head of the MP detachment at the Oakland Army Base...). He looked on "the
board" ; and was able to determine which train we'd be on... ; and was there to
"meet" us, just after we backed in alongside the Eltinge...
Do any of you remember the MP car with the flashing red lights that pulled up; and asked for Lt DeVita...? Bet COL (excuse me, sir) LTG Trefry does... 'cuz; I was "dismissed" to accompany the MPs to HQ -->> where (totally unbeknownst to me [honest ! ] ), Leo had assembled my brother, my Dad, my Aunt Alice and Uncle Art, my Cousin Art and his wife Ginny as well as a girlfriend, for one last good-bye party...!
So while you guys were loading the ship, I was having one last beer with family and friends!"
Comment by chronicler: Payback, even after 36 years, is still sooooo sweeeeet!
Seven weeks after the completion of the ATT the entire Battalion had been crated, loaded, and transported from Fort Sill, Oklahoma to the Army Terminal at Oakland, California.
On 24 September 1966 at 1500 hours, less than four months after activation, the Battalion loaded on the USNS Eltinge and departed the United Sates for the Republic of South Vietnam.
General Leroy Eltinge (USNS)
(The last combat use of the General Leroy Eltinge (USNS) had been during the Inchon, Korea Invasion.)
Staff Sergeant Philis E. Neaves would carry the Battalion Colors to Vietnam.
Lieutenant Douglas R. Beard, detailed to accompany the equipment on the Purdue Victory above, was left on the dock waving good-by.
Account by Lieutenant Doug Beard regarding the trip over: “I was the officer that accompanied the extra equipment on the Purdue Victory. You guys got diverted to I Corps but my ship did not. I landed in Saigon with 40 pallets of equipment and absolutely no one knew where my unit was located. When I figured out where the unit was, I loaded on to a Korean Navy LST and headed up the Coast. We hit every port along the way. I was seasick the whole way and the food that those little fellows served was very strange. I was out of money by the time I made Cam Rahn Bay, but the slots in the "O" Club were very generous and kept me going.”
Battalion Members taking in the last view of home
Account by one of the enlisted men (lost name) with 2/94th at Sill regarding his arrival at Sill and embarkation : “Seven of us graduated AIT as 45B20`s, Small Arms Repairmen. This was at the time of the airline strikes so we had to ride the train to Fort Sill. We really stopped at Oklahoma City and then took the bus to Fort Sill.
When we got to Sill, we found out that we were assigned to an artillery Battalion that was forming up to go to Nam. As soon as we got over to the 2/94th they gave us our gear, set us up with a rack, and then told us if we wanted leave we had better go now or we would not have time before we shipped out.
When I got back I helped load the trucks on the rail cars for shipping.
After all the trucks were gone, we made sure all our gear was straight and packed, and three days later we boarded a troop train for the coast. I spent three or four of the most boring days of my life. The train passed through my town of Van Nuys, and I could almost see my house, I was so close.
The next day, the train stopped on the dock. We got our gear, got off the train in single file, marched over to the ship, and walked up the gang plank.
The Leroy E. Eltinge was a troop transport from WW1 that had been converted from a coal burner to a fuel oil burner. It had so many leaks that there was the smell of oil all over the place, and the smell was enough to make you sick.
Speaking of sick there was one guy in my Battery that got sick going up the gangplank and was sick the whole time till we got to Nam.
After we were on the ship for thirty days they knew we were going nuts, so we stopped for the afternoon in Okinawa for a picnic. We then got back on that damn boat for another five more days. We docked at Da Nang Harbor, got off the ship, got on buses, and were taken to the airport where we picked up the guns and trucks. I do not remember any other artillery group on the ship.
We had lots of time to talk to everyone on board and I cannot remember any other units . I do remember that there were about 2500 men on the ship, but I do not know how many men are in a reinforced Battalion. I heard that after we got off the ship it went down to Saigon, and picked up 4000 ROK Tiger troops. I know that was tight, because 2500 artillerymen were sitting all over each other when we were on that boat.
As I was saying, we were bused to the airport to get the 175`s and the trucks. The 1st of the 40th went their separate way because we never saw them again, at least I never did. We mounted up and then we convoyed up Route One to Dong Ha.
When we were still at Fort Sill we had put these large bows with canvas over them on the SP bodies. The idea was that Charlie was not going to be able to tell that this was a 175 artillery piece, but no one seemed to think about the front half of a forty three foot tube sticking out the front of the canvas with CONG KILLER written on the end of the tube.
This was of course Army thinking?
When we got to Dong Ha we made a left turn and went the 18 Kilometers to Camp JJ Carroll. The Marines were real happy to see us, because it gave Charlie more things to shoot at.
I talked to some of the guys that were in the advance party and they told me that they waited at Fort Sill for about 25 days and then they got to fly over on an airplane, and up until yesterday I had never heard anything about a ship called the Purdue Victory.”
Account by one of the first enlisted (lost name) with C Battery: “C Battery had a very long and tall black guy by the name of Sam P. Cothran. Sam started puking his guts out while standing on the pier just listening to the water lapping against the pilings. He did not stop until we reached Vietnam. What I do remember was the ship’s paper. Lieutenant Barry DeVita was in charge of it and named it the Albatross. We also got lots of canned figs, large gobs of very sweet Golden Slim. Also little pyramid shaped cartons of sterilized milk, tasted like sour milk. It is no wonder the decks were covered with Puke.”
Account by Lieutenant DeVita referenced in the above account: “The USNS General Leroy Eltinge was 0 for 4 in previous attempts to cross the Pacific, before it was pressed into service for 2/94th (and 1/40th). That is why, as the designated "Editor of the Ship’s Newspaper", providing daily news to the troops, I originally chose "The Eltinge Epitaph" (liked the alliteration and thought it appropriate to both the Eltinge's record and our mission) for the name of the paper. However, someone (forget who) higher up the 2/94th chain of command said, "NO"! Thus, I chose "The Eltinge Albatross", (for the obvious Ancient Mariner reference, which nobody in the Army hierarchy seemed to note or at least object to), although it did NOT please the ship's captain one little bit . . . ! (He had NO sense of humor; and noted his ongoing displeasure daily . . . )
On a more mundane matter, it was particularly galling that every day the troops had to wind their way down 4 or 5 flights of stairs to eat gruel (ox tail) and drink swill (Tang), while the officers dined on far finer cuts of meat, fresh shrimp, etc., while drinking fresh milk, concentrated OJ, etc. . . . ; but the real pissing point was that the doorway to the officers' mess was open to the stairwell that the troops had to descend, so that they had to endure an unnecessary indignity daily.
Made me wonder how the Navy did not have mutinies with regularity . . . (?)”
Comment by chronicler: With all the seasick guys and the record of this, I hate to call it a ship. It is a wonder you guys made it at all much less then have to crawl on the smaller boats to Dong Ha and have enough stuff left to head up to Carroll. Sure glad I missed this party! I am sure I would have been sick. I got a little woozy just reading about it.
Account by Lieutenant Greg Smith with C Battery: “Regarding the seasickness on the way over - the officers had cabins on the main deck of the Eltinge and ate in a formal dining room with civilian waiters etc. All I could do for the first week was grab some crackers and an orange to suck on and had to pass up all the great food for fear of not being able to keep it down.
The enlisted men were housed "below", where there were no windows to get a fix on the horizon, slept in racks with not much vertical space between each and ate in a cafeteria style setting. When the enlisted men went "on deck", they went to the deck above the main deck.
If you were on the main deck during the first week the one thing you did NOT want to do was to go out on deck by the rail, because there was pretty much a steady rain of vomit coming down over the second deck rail.
It seemed like after finally going through the vomiting stage, everyone was immune to further seasickness, because we actually went through a pretty bad storm, with footlockers sliding across the rooms, etc., a few days before getting to Okinawa and I was not aware of much sickness then.
Specialist Jim Fisher and Specialist John Green were my main two guys in FDC, although neither one originally had a FDC MOS. I pulled them off trucks at Sill and had them transferred to FDC because of their GI and math scores in their personnel files. I trained them on the way over. We'd sit up on one of the Eltinge decks with firing tables, doing met messages, day after day.”
The ocean voyage must have seemed a well-deserved vacation to the men, with the exception of some being seasick, who had worked hard and fast to launch their new fighting force. The pace of work and necessity for cooperation throughout the Battalion created a pride and unity few organizations have duplicated. Pride in their swift and sizable accomplishment over the period of just a few months, and thoughts of the larger tasks for which they were headed, accompanied them across the Pacific.
Battalion Members staying in shape
A quiet place to write home and perhaps reflect on the upcoming challenges
Battalion Members enjoying the cruise???
(Just think civilians had to pay for this!)
Battalion Member Dreaming of home or what is to be?
The 2/94th was accompanied by the 1st Battalion 40th Artillery, a 105mm SP outfit, and an Army Finance outfit (not sure of the size). All on the ship were to land in and unload in the Saigon area. The 2/94th was the last scheduled off the ship so it’s equipment was loaded first.
Comment by chronicler: It is my guess the finance unit was the 192nd Finance Center. This unit would be in the Da Nang area to support the Army units that were now being sent to the Marine Controlled I Corps Theatre. As I arrived in 67 they were the finance center for that area.
On the ship, they had to learn the new fire mission procedure as everything changed from "on the way, over" to "shot, over" along with some other refinements.
The voyage did have its problems, as the plan was to have the laundry done at Okinawa and resulted in an extensive loss of individual clothing.
On 30 September 1966, the Advance Party from the Battalion arrived in Vietnam.
Account by Lieutenant Andy Tenis with A Battery: “I am glad I was with the advance party. We flew to RVN on a C130; with stops on every island. Played a lot of cards on the aircraft (pinochle). I remember Wake Island because we stayed there for a while to fix something on the aircraft. Anyway, the booze flowed at the local base club and all had a good time. Wouldn't want to live on Wake Island; not much happening and the runway extends over the water on a coral bed. When landing an aircraft, it’s like coming down on the water. I think only the pilot can see the LZ.”
On 11 October 1966, the USNS Drake Victory, that had left from the Texas Port with some of the vehicles and other equipment, arrived at Da Nang. It was off-loaded and the vehicles and equipment were being processed and guarded by a 25-man advance party team.
Comment by chronicler: Restating here, it is thought this team actually came over on the Drake Victory.
On 11 October 1966, after departing Okinawa, the rest of the Battalion on the Eltinge was diverted from its original destination (Qui Nhon), RG4 to Da Nang, RG3 to debark the 2nd Battalion 94th Artillery as well as the 1st Battalion 40th Artillery.
On 15 October 1966, after twenty-one days of crossing the Pacific and South China Sea, the USNS Eltinge arrived at Da Nang Harbor. Debarkation of personnel was satisfactory.
Da Nang Harbor
The Battalion had to wade ashore. For some reason the men were unloaded on to the smaller craft, landed, and waded ashore. Then the Eltinge was docked and the Battalion equipment was unloaded.
Comment by chronicler: It seems that the docks were either full or damaged during these few days therefore the unloading into smaller landing craft and wading ashore of the Battalion personnel.
Landing Craft arriving to take the battalion ashore
Battalion Members leaving the Eltinge for landing craft
(Note Battery Banner)
Battalion Members on landing craft
Battalion Members on landing craft
(Looks like the Battalion Colors on the left rear still cased?)
Battalion Members wade ashore from landing craft
A "welcome to Vietnam" committee
Equipment of the two battalions, however, was in the bottom of the ship’s hold, since other units had been scheduled to debark first when loading was done at Oakland. All the equipment aboard the ship had to be off- loaded into lighters, and then much of it reloaded.
The process of off-loading took five days.
The unit had landed at Da Nang and was staged at Red Beach on the northern edge of the city. However, because of the facilities of the port, the equipment from the Drake Victory was located 17 road miles from the troop staging area. The equipment from the Eltinge was brought to a third location. (Does not indicate where.)
The rest of the equipment which, had been loaded on the Purdue Victory at Oakland, was still at sea; bound for Saigon (Vung Tau). That equipment was not received until mid-November, after being transshipped twice.
Comment by chronicler: It sounds as if the 2/94th equipment was not the primary mission of the Purdue Victory and that may be the reason it was heading for Vung Tau. The additional 2/94th equipment was probably a very small portion of the ship’s cargo.
With the war in the Northern Tactical Zone increasing and the enemy threat growing at a rapid Pace, it was decided to send in Army Artillery to reinforce the Marine controlled Northern I Corps Theater.
The assignment for the 2/94th, as well as possibly the 1/40th, was changed from deployment in the Saigon area to that of reinforcing the Marine controlled I Corps area along the demilitarized zone.
It seems the Army let the Marines borrow the 2/94th to prove the combat worthiness of the 175's in combat and their value to the Marine Battle plan. Otherwise the 2/94th would have been in Saigon as part of the Saigon defense system.
The officers, the enlisted men, and their guns would prove
their combat readiness and worthiness
to that Marine Battle Plan!
Account by Sergeant James (Jim) Lary, one of the first gun chiefs with C Battery: “Our original assignment was to provide security for Saigon. Our advance party was setting up the bases for each Battery when our orders were changed at Okinawa. We had a 4-hour pass and when we got back to the ship we were given another 4 hours. When we left Okinawa we were told we were going to Da Nang in support of the Marines. We waited on our equipment to arrive from Saigon, and then loaded onto "Mike" Boats to Dong Ha and then convoyed to JJ Carroll. THEN THE RAINS CAME. OCTOBER 1966.
I was with B Btry 1/36th ( 8" SP ) at Sill that trained the Core Battery for the 2/94th. I then moved to Battalion Headquarters as the STR NCO ( Battalion Training ). A request came for staff NCO's with 175/8" experience to join the 2/94. Since I helped organize an 8" SP Battalion in Germany they asked if I would go with them to RVN, I said yes, and the rest is as they say HISTORY!"
On 18 October 1966, the Guns and all heavy equipment track vehicles were loaded on LCU’s and departed Da Nang. Arrived at Dong Ha on 19 October 1966.
The Business end of the Battalion staged in Vietnam
Account by one of the cannoneers (lost name) that made the trip above: “I was on the Eltinge and I don't remember that it stopped in Saigon, only remember it stopping in Da Nang, getting off, making pup tents in the sand - then taking an LST north. Everyone pretty much got sick during THAT little trip. Then, I remember motoring to where we set up camp (muddy as hell!) I was in the FDC track. Never heard the term 'Camp Carroll' until some years later.”
The Battalion (minus A Battery) was assigned to Camp Carroll ("Artillery Plateau") to provide support for the 3rd Marine Division.
Account by LTC Richard Trefry, first Battalion Commander, regarding the initial assignments of the Battalion: “We were assigned, when we first arrived in Vietnam, as a major subordinate unit of U.S. Army Vietnam with A Battery, OPCON to Task Force X-ray of the 1st Marine Division further OPCON to the 11th Marine Regiment. If I remember the spelling correctly, A Battery was OPCON to the 11th Marines at a place called, as best I can remember, Nui Vo down Route 1, south of Chu Lai.
The Battalion minus OPCON to the 3rd Marine Div and further OPCON to the 12th Marine Regiment with station at Dong Ha and Camp Carroll. The 12th Marines were the Division Artillery of the 3rd Marine Division and the 11th Marines were the Division Artillery of the 1st Marine Division.
We stayed that way until approximately the 1st of December 1966 when General Westmoreland sent a detachment of first field force Vietnam North to Dong Ha and put us ADCON to them thus removing us as a major subordinate unit from U.S. Army Vietnam.
We remained in this status until the late spring, I believe sometime around the end of April 1967, when Task Force Oregon arrived and became the Americal Division at Chu Lai replacing Task Force X-ray. At that time A Battery became OPCON to the Division Artillery of the Americal Division and the commander was a Colonel named Mason Young. The Battalion commander who was given further OPCON of A Battery was a friend of mine named Dick Livermore. He passed away a few years ago here in Washington.
During the entire period I was in Vietnam, I had basically two bosses in the Army. The first was Brigadier General Desaussere and he was followed by Brigadier General who was visiting us at the time of the great North Vietnamese artillery attack on Gio Linh, Dong Ha, Con Thien, and Camp Carroll.
I recall we had visited all our Batteries as well as Khe Sanh and we had departed Gio Linh and were eating supper when the show started. He later told me it was one of the more exciting experiences of his life!
Although our TOE or MTOE called for an aviation section, we had none authorized. You may recall, I had an exciting afternoonearly in our stay with General Walt and General Westmoreland concerning the lack of our air section and the fact that we had not registered around Khe Sanh!
This provided us some instant notoriety but in a few days our friends in the 3rd Marine Division explained the situation satisfactorily to General Walt and then we became one of his favorite units.
The 12th Marine Artillery commander was Colonel Ben Read who later became the G2 of the Third Marine Amphibious Force and who was a stalwart friend to all of us while we were in Vietnam. Unfortunately, he passed away from cancer several years ago. He was a great soldier and a true gentleman.
Marine General Walt was another great soldier and a true friend and unfortunately he too passed on several years ago. When he came to the Pentagon on visits in his retirement, he always came to call on me and we would remember incidents along the DMZ.”
On 20 October 1966, after about a week on the beach, Headquarters, B, C, and Service Batteries, less 20 vehicles and 40 men, road marched from the Da Nang Red Beach staging area north of the city, through Phu Bai and Hue to Dong Ha, arriving at Dong Ha on 20 October 1966 at 1500 hours.
Battalion convoy staging to leave Da Nang
On 20 October 1966, Service Battery, after arriving at the 9th Marine Combat Base at Dong Ha, left the column and took up positions there. 9th Marine Combat Base was a sprawling base that would be the home for Service Battery for the next two years. Dong Ha is where the Ammo Storage Facility was located for the entire DMZ area. A continual and valuable target for the NVA gunners.
Dong Ha Ammo Storage up in flames
Account by Lieutenant Martin McKnight with C Battery and Service Battery: “Captain Powell was the original Service Battery Commander. He had been a carpenter before the service, so it really helped when we were building the hardback frames for our tents. Captain Powell was decorated when the night re-supply to the Gio Linh outpost was ambushed.” (See Gio Linh ambush in 1st Campaign.)
On 20 October 1966, the remaining elements of the column continued west along QL9 and on to JJ Carroll, arriving at 1810 hours. With this arrival, and B Battery 6th Battalion 27th Artillery being attached, a full 12 gun Battalion was formed at Carroll. B/6/27 was assigned as D Battery 2/94th. D Battery was already located and operational on JJ Carroll at this time.
Note by Chronicler: D Battery was already operational and firing on Carroll at this time; no gun pads. It may very well have been the recognized success of this Battery that brought the entire 2/94th to the Marine area
Comment by Chronicler: It is unknown at this time if a gun fired the first D Battery round or if guns fired the first D Battery rounds.
Would like to post a few pictures of D battery on Carroll early on if anyone has any.
Account by Lieutenant Larry Vinyard, FDC, regarding D Battery: I was originally assigned to C/6/27 at Phoc Vinh, about 50 miles north of Saigon, when I arrived in Vietnam on 5 August 1966. B and C/6/27 were composite units...two 8-inch and two 175's. HHB was also on site.
In mid-September 1966, a decision was made to send one Battery of 175's to I Corps; B/6/27 was selected. Captain Gary Van Der Slice was the Battery Commander, Lieutenant John Hiser was the XO, and Lieutenant Charles Lincoln and I were the FDO's. We convoyed to Saigon, shipped guns and vehicles by ship to Dong Ha, and convoyed to Camp Carroll by 6 October 1966. I believe that B/6/27 was the first Army unit in I Corps along the DMZ. I do recall that the Marines were happy with the 175 range and that had something to do with 2/94th coming to the I Corps Area.
We fired without pads and wallowed in the mud. Our biggest problem was that chassis spades broke often.
Comment by chronicler: From the research I have done, I believe the statement is correct that B/6/27, D Battery, had the honor of being the very first Army combat unit in the Marine controlled, I Corps Theater of Operations. It is also noted that the spades breaking was a common complaint throughout the operational reports for six years, as they seemed to be under-designed for zone 3 firings. Several recommendations were submitted to increase the strength of the spades as opposed to saving weight. No action was taken by the Army.
The move from Da Nang to Dong Ha and on to Camp Carroll went smoothly, without any enemy contact. The move was conducted completely during the daylight hours of 20 October 1966, since the enemy usually employed night tactics. Both Dong Ha and Highway 9 to Carroll, which paralleled the DMZ, were well within range of the NVA gunners.
Comment by Chronicler: Most of the pictures in the "Reactivation" were taken by Lieutenant Barry DeVita. Unfortunately, the 1st movement of the Battalion from Dong Ha to the Camp Carroll Base Camp along QL9 were to be later discovered to turn out bad. His picture documentation of the Battalion is as complete as you could ask for. Unfortunately, there is not enough room in the history to include all of these wonderful pictures so I have sampled to give the viewer an idea. The Battalion owes Lieutenant DeVita a great deal of gratitude for keeping these pictures for 36 years and then sharing the 100's of pictures he took during Fort Sill and up until the time he was wounded in April of 1967.
I hope to one day to be able to make a picture CD set of all of our pictures by campaign. Time does not allow that at this point. Maybe someday?
Arriving in the new base camp area amid torrential rains of the monsoon season, the men of the Battalion set up tents in ankle deep mud. The position they occupied was little more than a plateau when they arrived, and ahead lay the huge task of digging in and building up.
On 21 October 1966, C Battery occupied firing positions on the northwest corner of Carroll along the perimeter. B Battery would occupy the back of the hill. D Battery, already in position and firing, occupied the front of the hill.
Note by a Marine FO with 3/4 “We went back to Carroll in 1994, and it's now a pepper tree farm with a NVA statue right about where the tower use to be.”
On 21 October 1966, A Battery was moved by LST from Da Nang; arriving at Chu Lai on 21 October 1966. The Battery occupied a temporary position at (BS535075).
Account by Lieutenant Doug Meredith of A Battery: "I believe A Battery fired its first round on 21 Oct at 0930 hours with Gun 3 firing the registration on azimuth 4750. Andy Tenis was pulling the lanyard, Jerry Heard on the BC scope, and Tommy Starks in the FDC bunker calmly yelling FIRE!"
The LST that moved A Battery from Da Nang to Chu Lai was the USS Sutter Country (LST 1150). Described as, “With its built in roll with an equal propensity to lose either all power or an anchor.”
Account by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Trefry, the Battalion Commander: “I was on that expedition. We loaded up over near the Da Nang pier and while leaving the harbor for a while we lost power. It was interesting to watch the Navy cope with that situation. When we got outside the harbor of Da Nang we ran into what was probably a good midsize storm and we finally arrived at Chu Lai and of course no one was there to meet us. We beached and unloaded and I have never seen an LST depart as quickly as did the Sutter County. You may or may not remember but earlier an LST had washed up on the rocks outside Chu Lai and was there for everyone to see. It was hardly reassuring!”
On 23 October 1966, the newly arrived Battalion became completely operational on Carroll with Gun 3 of C Battery firing the first registration round.
C Battery Gun Four
(Note: Picture is not the 1st firing) (Could not find one of the 1st)
Account by Sergeant Jim Lary of C Battery. Sergeant Lary recalls some of the firsts for C Battery were: Firing the first round for registration was Gun 3, Firing north was Gun 1, Firing the first direct fire mission across the valley at what appeared to be lights was Gun 4.
The first Battalion mass firing was on 100 meter grid squares to take the top off of the jungle.
On 25 October 1966, the final movement of the 20 vehicles and accompanying 40 personnel arrived at Carroll.
D Battery would remain with the 2/94th from 20 October 1966 to 13 September 1967.
Note by Chronicler: The 6th Battalion of the 27th Artillery was originally an 8-inch self-propelled M110 howitzer Battalion, but was converted to the dual 8-inch self-propelled howitzer and 175mm self-propelled M107 gun configuration. It arrived in Bien Hoa and became part of the 23d Artillery Group at Phuoc Vinh in November 1965, and was posted to Saigon in June 1966. The Battalion went back to Phuoc Vinh and on to Quan Loi in January 1968. While at Quan Loi it became part of the II Field Force Vietnam Artillery on 21 October 1969. In March 1970 the Battalion was posted to Phu Loi and there in April 1971 was reattached to the 23d Artillery Group. It primarily reinforced the 1st Infantry Division while in Vietnam.
Account by Lieutenant Greg Smith with C Battery: “A Lieutenant Hiser, was the graduates’ OCS Artillery Instructor. He would yell at the graduates if they started dozing off, "You guys are all going to Vietnam and you are going to need this information, so you better pay attention." So the graduates, build the 2/94th, sail across the ocean, and head up to Camp Carroll and who was the first person they see? Lieutenant Hiser from the OCS School, who had beaten them over to Vietnam and was XO of D Battery 2/94th (B Battery 6/27). Lieutenant Hiser would later become Battery Commander of D Battery.”
From 'Letters Home' by C Battery, FDO, Lieutenant Greg Smith: “Lieutenant Hiser's brother-in-law was killed down by Saigon and Lieutenant Hiser was given a leave to accompany the body of his sister's husband back to the States. He was gone for several weeks. It must have been really hard on his sister, especially to see him go back.”
A BATTERY REPORT and Accounts
General comments from Captain Jerry Heard, first A Battery Commander
Account by Captain Jerry Heard of A Battery, First A Battery Commander: “I arrived at Fort Sill fresh out of Europe as one of the first to be levied from 4th Armored Division, 1st Bn, 22nd Arty. I asked for a firing Battery even though I was promoted to Captain as I arrived. Luckily I was able to rat out a few of my fellow officers. Roger Schultz had been an S-1, and another Captain had gone to supply school (Kelly?) and I was allowed to start as CO of "A" Battery, 2/94th.
Sergeant First Class Nesbitt had some 175mm gun experience so I latched on to him and posted him at the door where others were reporting in. He hand picked most of the NCO's for me.
My Officers all came from OCS --XO was Lieutenant Andy Tenis--looked like the Russian boxer from Stallone movies, but was great. Lieutenant Tom Starks was FDO, Lieutenant Doug Meredith was FO, Lieutenant James Berry was FO--all helped train at Sill and move to 'Nam. Lieutenant Colonel Dick Trefry (later Lieutenant General, DA IG) was our able leader.
I remember that many of the enlisted were from New Jersey and when they went on leave before departure I had a time getting them all back. Had a Sergeant First Class Bryan as First Sergeant initially. Sergeant Kozik was the supply Sergeant (I think) and got a full conex of stuff donated by Lawton dealers (at least I think they donated it).
We shipped out together and things went well until we got to Okinawa. Some genius decided to let the officers go on pass but keep the enlisted at the ship. RIGHT !! They were diving off the ship!! We also pulled out with laundry being delivered and it was all dumped in the hold for us to sort through--no one ever got the right stuff back. My favorite story was the supply guy going around the ship with a clipboard gathering "contraband". We had good china, silver, and linen when we got to 'Nam --all with little anchors on them. I saw how differently the Navy treats Officers and EM on that trip. Had to go down and eat cold reconstituted eggs, beef tongue, and soggy toast to see it with my own eyes.
We were joined by the Battalion CO prior to arrival in Da Nang's Red Beach and told that Gen Westmoreland had requested a Battery of 175's to support the 1st Marine Division in Chu Lai. Lieutenant Colonel Trefry said he selected "A" Battery for the outstanding performance in training at Sill and the experience of our NCO's. He beefed us up with a few extra personnel and equipment and separated us at Red Beach. We made the first amphibious landing of a 175mm unit when we reached Chu Lai. We shipped down from DA Nang on LST's after surviving a night of pure hell in the first rainstorm.
The gallant A Battery men played football in the middle of the night in waist deep water. We also policed up huge amounts of coke which had fallen off pallets at the dock.
I reported to Lieutenant General Nickerson, 1st Marine Div CG, and was briefed as to our mission in Chu Lai. It seemed that Charlie had ringed Chu Lai just outside the range of Marine artillery. We were to go in, set up, and blast some intelligence targets before they realized our range. We fired from the edge of the Chu Lai airstrip for a few days before moving south to a position shared with the 2nd ROK Marines between Chu Lai and Quang Nai.
We built one of the greatest fire bases you will ever see. Navy Seabees came in and dug huge firing pits and capped them with bridge timbers. We could shoot in 360 degrees without getting off the pads. The Fire Direction Center used 4 different charts and fired constantly all day and all night. We had more confirmed kills in A Battery than the rest of 2/94th combined (a quote from my OER by Trefry). We built super protected barracks by staging competition in filling sand bags--some of those guys could amaze you. We were mortared with Chinese rockets, sniped at, and suicide rushed, but GOD willing--we did not lose a single man.
I must mention our Marine Liaison Officer--Arnie Swenson, who almost shot Lieutenant Tom Starks one night when we had tracer rounds coming through the officers tent. He spent his last two weeks in a bunker and wouldn't come out.
I signed the Battery over to a Captain Mike Clay and moved up to the Americal Division when it was Task Force Oregon. I spent my last 2 months working in the FDC at the HQS. I also got to go up as an Air Observer and adjusted my old Battery on a couple of trucks the VC had been using in the Song Tra Bong valley.
I discovered in 1975 that A Battery was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by the Navy and that the Battalion was too. So all the original guys wear 2 of them--which pisses off all the Navy and Marines.”
Note by chronicler: A Battery, as a stand alone Battalion Battery, was award the Navy PUC; DAGO 59,69 (Chu Lai). As a Battalion Battery, A Battery was also awarded the Navy PUC; DAGO 32,73 (Vietnam)
On 26 October 1966, A Battery moved to a position at (BS631851), where they were in general support of the 1st Marine Division. The Battery had been occupying a temporary position at (BS535075) from 21 October 1966.
Account from Captain Jerry Heard of A Battery, first A Battery Commander regarding the first Battery move: “A Battery shot from the landing strip at Chu Lai for about a week and then road marched down to what was to be our final location. I re-conned by air and then the Marines got involved.
Brigadier General Stiles, 1st Marine Division (Rear) dictated the make-up of the convoy from Chu Lai to Quang Ngai (north of Duc Pho) We were led by a company of Marine Engineers checking for mines. In front of the convoy were 2 Amphibious vehicles with quad 40's. Spaced in the convoy were two platoons of Marines. We had two jets circling overhead and two helicopter gun ships. There were two Marine 0-6's moving back and forth, but they essentially let me feel in charge.
The convoy was so long it took two hours to travel the 15-20 miles. I was delighted to get into position and see them leave. Politics dictated that we were the not to be lost; since we were the only long-range artillery the Marines had.”
Battery A, from its location could support the vicinity of Chu Lai as well as the Special Forces Camps at Tra Bong (BS344880) and Ha Tanh (BS394702). To support Special Forces Camp Minh Long (BS540518) the Battery must displace to (BS636785).
Account by Captain Jerry Heard of A Battery, First A Battery Commander regarding a temporary fire support move: “At some time we were given a mission to move down the road and occupy a village location in order to fire at targets which were positioned just outside our range from the permanent position. I took two guns and set up in what seemed to be a soccer-field sized area in the center of the village. As we began to fire, the huts started to fall apart around the field. Several glass cases broke and people started running out of the huts with their hands over their ears.
I believe we stayed two days and one night with constant firing and then moved back to our base camp. This was the only time we left the main area.”
Comment by Chronicler: It is unclear at this time if this move was to the support the Special Forces Camp at Minh Long (BS540518) referenced above or another mission that required the move.
Account by Lieutenant Doug Meredith FO assigned to A Battery: “Since this was my third ocean crossing, I recall little other than intensive training on the new fire mission language. I didn't see a lot of sea sickness, just a little. I'm sure Greg has it right.
My best memory was the departure from Okinawa. I had just gotten off my OD watch and we were short about 6 guys, which they were not going to wait for. I don't even recall if they were ours or the 1/40th guys. Then up comes a taxi full of black guys naked. Somehow they lost their clothes and wallets but conned a cab driver to bring them to the ship. We left immediately with 100% of the troops returning. Many of us thought we'd lose up to half of our own guys, but then where would one hide on an island?
We found out the 2/94th was going north to I Corps, OPCON to the 12th Marines, Third Marine Division. It took forever to get everyone else off-loaded so the 1/40th and we could go north on LST’s and unload in Dong Ha.
We then discovered we were to send A Battery to Chu Lai, OPCON to the 11th Marines, First Marine Division, while the rest of the Battalion went to Camp Carroll. Already at Camp Carroll was B/6/27, another 175mm Battery. At that time the 2/94th had four firing Batteries. Bastard A Battery, to be located in Chu Lai; while B, C, and D Batteries (B/6/27) were to be located at Camp Carroll.
We then started to join the "infusion" program with each Battery shipping out and getting back in from other in-country units about half of our people so everyone did not rotate back home at the same time.
A Battery stayed with the 11th Marines and was located in a compound with the Korean Marines south of Chu Lai. We never understood "firebases", as the Marines never called them that. I rotated a month with A Battery and a month with the 11th Marine Regiment, as an Air Observer in the daytime and Regimental FDO at night. I was "Black Coat 13" as an Air Observer. I ran as FO on a couple of "Rough Rider" convoys up or down the coast from Dong Ha to Quang Ngai. There were days when we had to lay on the floor of a H34 helicopter with a PRC 25 to call in air missions.
The Marines had A, B and C Batteries made up of 105's, then one Battery of 4.2 mortars mounted on old pack 75 frames (called Howtars). I think H Battery and M Battery were a Battery of 155 towed. Then they had a Battery of 155 "long toms" from WWII assigned to each Arty Regiment. Don't recall the range, but they were long shooters until the 2/94th got there. Based on the distinction made between a howitzer and a gun, technically those long-toms and our 175’s were rifles.
Then later when the Army came in with the Americal Division, we oriented their air observers before we went up to the 12th Marines. That was when there were more choppers available than we ever saw before. With the Marines, we were usually with the C model Birddog fixed wing.
We had a tube blow up at our initial site, when A Battery was assigned south of Chu Lai. When we were down south and the Americal division was formed, we immediately had to change two tubes into 8-inch and send some folks to Korea to get nuclear training; which we all thought was dumb, but then they didn't ask us! The Marines had their 155 rifles, which was why they always called our guns "rifles", which always raised Army eyebrows. We did need their range, and many times they were the only guns that could reach to support the Special Forces Camps, or Khe Sanh later on.
SSG Churray had base piece. He was cool. One night in Chu Lai after laying the guns for the night, he checked my lay and was on the way back to the FDC to let me know it was a safe lay. I was looking up at him, walking on the road, when all of a sudden, the biggest snake in the world stood straight up in front of him and looked him in the eye. In a flash, he reached for his helmet, swung it, and hit the snake in the head; killing it. We put it on the perimeter wire, it was a 12 foot constrictor. I'll never forget his reflexes.
I stayed with A Battery and, I think, in Sep/Oct 67 moved up to Dong Ha with the 12th Marines. We convoyed to Camp Carroll and our A Battery occupied the extreme Western part of the hill. I later took a platoon of guns to the Rockpile to better support Lang Vei and Khe Sanh.
I had 2 tours at the Rockpile of a month or so each. On one trip, we convoyed a platoon there and back; on the other I was just there. Little did I know at the time that my future boss in Florida (88-90) was the USMC commo guy, sitting on top of the pile. It was only accessible by chopper, so we never met back then. Small World.”
End of A BATTERY REPORT and Accounts
Comment by Chronicler: The chronicler has recently seen footage on the History Channel that confirms that there were 8-inch tactical nuclear projectiles in South Vietnam. The program indicated the nuclear rounds were stored in the Saigon area. In addition; the same channel, reported and showed studies (wind direction and wind speed, best places to be used) being performed for potential use of the tactical nuclear projectiles in the defense of Khe Sanh should they be needed.
In addition: A recent Marine contact; Marine Anthony Bartleson of C Battery 1st Battalion, 13th Marines indicates other weapons were being considered: " I have some declassified documents from the Presidents office; where they stated that if the build up continued at the rate that they estimated, they indeed would need a more efficient weapon. Their choices would be tactical nuclear or biological weapons."
Would like to post a few pictures of A battery in Chu Lai if anyone has any.
The men of the 2/94th found that there was a lot more to being artillerymen than loading projectiles, powder, and pulling a lanyard. They had to build latrines and showers, and started building wooden frames for the tents that would be called home. Along with the torrential rain and wind, the men were subjected to temperatures that had dropped into the low 50’s.
Supplies and ammo were moved from the 9th Marine Combat Base at Dong Ha to Camp Carroll and areas west of Carroll along QL9 (Highway 9), the only all weather road in the area.
The first priority was establishing gun positions. The soil at JJ Carroll was clay, and the heavy rains combined to cause many guns to get stuck in the mud. The Seabee’s eventually came in to build platforms and gun pads for the artillery pieces, thereby alleviating the problem.
Ammo convoy, towards the camera, heading toward JJ Carroll on QL9
Gravel convoy, away from camera heading towards Dong Ha.
Gravel had been delivered to help build the pads below.
Seabee's working in mud; bulldoze out a gun platform area in C Battery area
Seabee's laying out wood for a gun platform in C Battery area
Finally; out of the mud. C Battery Fire mission pointing north
Tents were the only shelter for the first three months, and the monsoon season was just beginning. By December of 1966 the first “hardback billets were erected for Headquarters Battery. Most of the Battalion still occupied tents, but were beginning to get tent frames and wooden floors.
The Beginnings of the Battalion Home
Picture of Carroll November 1966
Unit in lower right corner from B Company 3rd Marine Tank Battalion.
Phil Sauer's Marine Ontos unit in mid-pic from the 2nd Platoon, "A" Company Third Anti-Tank Battalion. C/2/94 located beyond that.)
Picture of Carroll November 1966
is from the left, 90° to the above picture.
C/2/94's perimeter in the foreground along the left.
The Motor pool, Supply and Officers' Hootches on the right edge.
In the background are USMC units and HHB/2/94.
Comment by Chronicler: The bunkers beside the tents would eventually prove to be unacceptable during the rainy seasons. The bunkers would fill up with water. Interesting to see by the pictures in the history, the progress of the Battalion as it built its new home over the next two years.
It is thought that Golf Company, 3rd Battalion 4th Marines, had the duty at this time, and among their assets were a 155mm Howitzer Battery from the 12th Marines, M/4/12; a Marine 105 Battery, C/1/12; a Marine Mortar Battery, unit unknown at this time; tanks from B Company 3rd Marine Tank Battalion; and Ontos from Third Anti-Tank Battalion.
In addition, a company size unit of the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines would eventually move in, replacing 3/4, to provide perimeter and area defense for the encampment. It is thought that these 2/9 Marine units remained at Camp Carroll until the end of 1968 or early 1969 when the camp was closed upon the departure of the 3rd Marine Division for home and the 2/94th moved to other locations with in I Corps.
Camp Carroll was to be the permanent base camp for the Battalion until the end of 1968. This position was strategically located five miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). From their positions at Camp Carroll the 175mm guns of the Battalion could cover the I Corps area of Vietnam from Laos to the South China Sea, most of the entire width and length of the DMZ and well into North Vietnam itself.
Comment by Chronicler: A new Marine General would take over the I Corps area after Khe Sanh in mid- 1968. The new commander had a different philosophy as to the tactile operations of artillery. He would close Camp Carroll as the lynchpin and invoke a more mobile, raiding type, of artillery operations in the theater. However, this did not last long as a new smaller version of Camp Carroll was rebuilt on the same plateau as the old Battalion home had been on previously. While the Battalion would never base there again; Batteries would rotate in and out for the rest of the war on the new smaller Camp Carroll. The majority visitor from the 2/94th to the new Carroll would be B Battery.
The 175mm guns of the 2nd Battalion 94th Artillery at Camp Carroll would become the lynchpin for the defense of the entire DMZ area in South Vietnam for the next two years.
The 2/94th would become heavily involved in the defenses of Con Thien and Gio Linh in early 1967, engaging in massive intense artillery duels with the NVA.
In late 1967 and early 1968, the 2/94th would engage the enemy artillery and NVA ground units trying to overrun the hills around Khe Sanh and the Khe Sanh Combat Base itself.
The Marines had formerly called Camp J.J. Carroll, "Artillery Plateau". The Firebase was located at (YD063545) about 12.5 miles west of the 9th Marine Combat Base at Dong Ha; just south of Highway 9, between the refugee village of Cam Lo and the 3rd Battalion 9th Marine Firebase at the Rockpile.
It was officially named Camp J.J. Carroll on 10 November 1966, which coincides with the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. Camp Carroll was built by the 3rd Battalion 4th Marine Regiment early in October of 1966 following Operation Prairie. It was named Camp J.J. Carroll in honor of Marine Captain J.J. Carroll, who was killed on Hill 484 during Operation Prairie. Captain Carroll was Company Commander of K Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines.
The 2/94th would operate in the Northern I Corps area for the next 6 years in what was called “Leatherneck Square”. Hills, valleys, and mountains with peaks from 4,000 to 5,000 feet characterized the terrain.
In addition, the plateaus and peaks were often enveloped in a heavy fog which would precluded some air operations.
Temperatures and conditions would range from extremely hot and dusty to rainy, wet, cool and muddy.
Article from the Stars and Stripes 1966: “Viet Weather Just Ain’t So.” CAMP JJ CARROLL, Vietnam (S&S)- Staff Sergeant James P. Lary, 28, (C Battery 2/94th) stepped inside the maintenance shack with his field jacket zipped to the top. “I’d like to meet the man who said it’s either hot and wet or hot and dry in Vietnam. The temperature’s been down to 40 degrees up here lately. It’s raining out and the mud is two feet deep in places.” The sergeant continued, “I heard they had frost up on the Rockpile last night.” SNOW? Not yet, but hang onto to your jackets and poncho liners, Vietnam is not always that hot."
Note by chronicler: It did eventually snow at the Rockpile! See Lieutenant Barry DeVita accounts in the 1st Campaign.
Comment by chronicler: Around Christmas time in 1967, conditions at Carroll included a drop in temperatures to about 38 degrees, winds of 15 to 20 mph winds, and rain.
Next Campaign is 1st Campaign, which is Counteroffensive, Phase II
(06-01-67 to 01-29-68)