Commanders Diary

25 Sept-8 Oct 68

DIARY 25 Sep-1 Oct 1968

25 Sep - [field strength] 469 Quiet nite - B Co. (-) & R opened RT22- Convoy okay in both directions.
C Co.(-1 plat stand down) secured FSB Logan, occupied for nite.
A Co. (-) & 164 RF Co. opened RT 22 - open 1030 - convoy 1330.
B Troop, 3/4 OPCON 1300 - one plat escort convoy to Logan & Rawlins.
C Co.-3/187 [ABN INF Regt] (CPT Bond)-OPCON 1400- Secure FSB Rawlins.
A Co. 2/27 (Capt Mulligan) OPCON 1400. Secure FSB Logan.
Letter from ML.
Open Thunder Road [No  explanation found in diary as to a mission with the codeword THUNDER  ROAD. From the diary context, this was a concerted effort to open the  road to FF.]

26 Sep - [field strength] 457 Quiet nite - B Co. & R opened RT22- Convoy up & down okay. B Co. (-) closed [returned to] FSB Rawlins.
OPN THUNDER ROAD
C  Co. 4/23 & 1 plat B Trp. -3/4. Open road from FSB Bragg to FF (open  by 1105). Out posted road. Occupied NDP. Liberated 3 Plat, A Co. from  FF. [facetious remark about returning the platoon to company control.]
A Co. 4/23 & 1 plat B 4/23. Moved to old [FSB] Bliss. Started at 1530 to open Front [?] road. Stopped at 1630. Occupied FSB Bragg.
B Troop, 3/4 (- 1 plat). Escorted bulldozers to FSB Bliss & FF. Had 1 M48A3 hit 2 mines, 1 WIA. Closed Tay Ninh [probably TNBC] with all elements.
C Co.-3/187. Local RIF, defend FSB Rawlins.
A Co. 2/27. Improve defense FSB Bragg.
HQ 14 hit mine & destroyed (5 WIA). Engr tractor trailer hit mine & damaged (1 WIA).
4 NVA Chu Hoi
No mail.

27 Sep - [field strength] 464  Quiet nite - B Co. & R opened RT 22- Convoy both ways okay. B Co.  escort dump trucks to blown culvert site. Closed in Rawlins with all  platoons 1930. Sct [R] at RC.
OPN THUNDER ROAD - 2d day
C Co. 4/23 & 1 plat B Trp. -3/4. Open & out posted from RJ [probably a reference to the intersection of RT 4 & RT 243] to FF (open by 1200) Recovered remains believed to be CPT Phillips. Closed NDP. Lost OPCON B Co. plat.
A Co. 4/23. Open & out post road to RJ. Received lost plat. Closed FSB Bragg.
B Troop, 3/4 (-1 plat). Escorted engineer columns. Had AVLB hit mine (1 WIA slight). Blew tank in place. Left 1 plat OPCON to 3/22 at FSB Bliss.
C Co. - 3/187. Open & out post RT 26 - 35 to 35 E
A Co. - 2/27. Improve defense FSB Bragg
No mail.

28 Sep - [field strength] 466 Quiet nite - B Co. open RT 22- Convoy up only - late, including Rome Plows. Closed Rawlins.
Sct [R] escort engineer vehs on RT 26.
A Co. 4/23. Open route 243 to RJ Green. Found 5 mines.
C Co.4/23. Open route 4 from RJ Green to FF. Lost 1 APC to mine. 4 WIA.
B Troop, 3/4. Escort engineer column to & from FF. One tank destroyed by mine. One engr dump truck destroyed by mine.
A Co. 2/27. Improve defense FSB Bragg.
C Co.-3/187. Open RT26 to 35 E.
3 letters Mary Lou - 1 to her
ammo back in boxes.

29 Sep - 1st day on RT 22 for C Co. [field strength] 470 Quiet nite - C Co. 4/23 open RT 22- Convoy down only. Rome Plow up by MP. Closed TNBC.
Scout [R] stand down.
B Co. 4/23 & C Co.-3/187. Open and outpost RT 26 - convoy to and from DT. Secured VTR. [Vehicle Track Retriever]
A Co.4/23 & 1 plat, B Trp, 3/4. Open RT 243 and 4 to FF. Found no mines. 1 dump truck (1 WIA) hit mine. Escorted ammo resupply late.
B Trp-3/4 (-). Escorted convoy. 1 plat at Bliss, 1 plat at Bragg.
A Co. 2/27. Improve defense FSB Bragg.
Ambush nite with whole company.
No mail.

30 Sep - 61 malaria. [field strength] 476 Quiet nite - C Co. 4/23 & Sct open RT 22- (2 plat C Co. stand down.) Convoy up & down.
A Co. 4/23 & 1 plat B Trp. -3/4. Open FF routes. Found 4 mines. 1 DT [dump truck] hit mine (1 WIA).
B Co. 4/23 & C Co. -3/187 & A Co. - 2/27. Open RT 26.
A Co. 2/27. Returned night ambush.
B Trp-3/4 (-). Escort convoy.

[I] Left field 1300. - Rec'd SS & DFC [probably from 1st BDE CO at TNBC] - went to SGN on chopper - met by rep. of Sang Woo tailor - stayed at  Embassy Hotel -had supper w/ Sy Fong & group of officers. 

[Thus began my 5 day R & R to Hong Kong. The Saigon arrangements had been made by the 25th ID CSM whose name I forget. He was later involved in a great scandal  involving rake-offs from clubs. In retrospect, I was being steered to a  business man in Hong Kong who no doubt made it worth his while. I was  young and innocent then and more trusting of senior NCOs than I should  have been.]  

Cliff Neilson
Mohawk 6
May-Nov 1968    

Illegitimi nil carborundum


2-8 Oct 1968

2 - 5 Oct - R & R (All  my entries for these days, discuss expenditures for tailored clothes  and uniforms for myself, gifts for Mary Lou and the children, and  housing and eating. On the final page it shows I spent $675.)

The following remembrances of what  occurred while I was on R & R were supplied in October 2004 by Don  Starnes, who at the time was the Battalion Executive Officer and  in-charge during my absence: 

"During the week, we ran a convoy  around the east side of Nui Ba Den from Soui Da (FSB Bragg I or II) to  Katum (FSB Barbara, Old French Fort). The vehicles were mostly supply  and dump trucks. However, an M-88 Vehicle Track Retriever (VTR) was  included.

As the convoy was driving around  the mountain, a dump truck detonated a mine, killing the passenger and  severely wounding the driver. The VTR operator, on his own, pulled out  of the convoy and attempted to approach the dump truck. The ground was  very spongy and wet. As a result, grass, dirt, and brush became entwined  in the tracks and drive sprockets. Between the truck and the VTR, the convoy was halted.

I landed the OH-6A (Loach) and  began to attempt to clear the road way and get the VTR back on the road.  Of course, I began to receive call after call from BDE demanding that I  get the convoy moving again. The dump truck was loaded with laterite  and was very heavy. The VTR could only move a few feet until the tracks  were filled with debris. The stuff was so thick that the track was raised several inches away from the drive sprockets. You  had to clear the stuff to move the vehicle or lose a track and that was  something horrible to contemplate.

Of course having hit a mine and  there being a likelihood of others being planted in the area, COL Fair  only flew over the site giving orders. As a consequence I didn't have to  contend with his presence on the ground.

At one point, he ordered a second  VTR to be dispatched to the area. I asked that he delay that order as I  did not need a second vehicle stuck. He insisted. Fortunately, MAJ Cain  Bridgeman, S-3, used a land line to cause the VTR to be delayed until I  got the first one on the road. After several hours, the VTR moved ahead  of the damaged truck, hooked up and moved north.

While all of this was going on,  BDE was demanding to know the exact size of the mine and the extent of  the damage. I was at a loss as to the size, etc. A soldier sitting on a  track, said, "Tell them it was a ten pound mine and left a three by four  crater." I did and they were happy.

A second event happened when I  received a call from BDE to report to COL Fair at once. I flew into TNBC  and walked to BDE HQ where COL Fair was waiting for me. He ordered me  into his jeep and we sped off to the 25th ID Direct Support  (DS) Company that supported the 4th (M)-23rd. On the way he accused me  of not keeping our tracks running as there were parts and engines available and we were not drawing parts, etc.

When we got to the DS company, he  demanding that our PLL clerk come across the street and check his due  out list. He did and it was for the second time that day. The 1LT  commanding the DS Company admitted that he did not have any engines  available but thought perhaps some might become available in the salvage  yards. In other words the LT had tried to impress COL Fair with BS.

COL Fair got so mad that he  jumped into his jeep and left me standing. I walked across the street  and got a ride back to the pad and went back to work.

(As a footnote, in 1970-71, I was  assigned as the Chief, Operations Center, USARV. One day I saw then BG  Fair walking toward me. As I tried to duck into an office, he followed  and you would have thought we were blood brothers. He began telling all  who would listen about our daring dos in the 25th ID. He was assigned as the guy in-charge of automated information and was on a junket to learn about our needs for information)

That entire week was made very  easy for me through the efforts of MAJ Cain Bridgeman, CPT Houston (S-2)  and BCSM Wise. They took the load off of me and tried to anticipate  missions, troop requirements, etc. They would present the BDE  requirements along with their recommendations. They would answer my  questions clearly and distinctly. As a result, orders were issued and the companies complied.

One last thought. I remember that you were impressed with the BCSM's ability to plan and arrange your R&R."

Don Starnes 

 

6 Oct - [field strength] 520. Return to Saigon 0900 - caught chopper to Div & then to Tay Ninh, then to Rawlins. Arrived 1900.

Final Results - Opn Thunder Road (25 Sep-3 Oct)
1. Vehicles destroyed
    2 - M48A3 Tanks
    3 - M113A1 APC
    3 - 5 ton Dump Trucks

2. Vehicles damaged
    1 - AVLB
    1 - 5 ton Dump truck
    1 - M113A1

3. Personnel
    2 - KHA (1 from 4/23; 1 Engr)
    9 - WIA (8 from 4/23; 1 Engr)

7 Oct [field strength] 485. 62 malaria, 10 APC DL [probably meaning dead  lined, e. g., inoperable. This is the first of many such entries about  dead lined APC's. Funny, when combat was intense and APCs were destroyed  with great regularity, higher headquarters was not concerned about DL.  Let the action die down and we're back to Regular Army - dead lined vehicles, haircuts, and inspections.] Quiet nite - B Co. stood down - 1st day.
A & C Cos - open road to Dau Tieng.
Scout - escort battery to Hull, secure & return. Also artillery convoy & DT convoy.
2 plt AP
No mail. Mailed films. Wrote ML.
Visit by MAJ Redden, LT Reid, & CAPT ?

8 Oct - [field strength] 487. 10 APC DL. Quiet nite - Sct plt escort DT-TN convoy one way.
A & C Cos - open Rt 26.
B Co. moved to TN. B Co. - stand down, move to Rawlins.
2 letters ML, 1 letter Vic
2 plt AP

[notes at bottom of page]

Motor stables
Delegation of auth to sign 02
Supervise Maint
Maint of weapons in arms room

From the 25th ID CG Journal, 8 may 1968:
"...Colonel Fair [1st BDe CO] stated he is concerned about the level of maintenance in the 4/23 Mech...."  

Cliff Neilson
Mohawk 6
May-Nov 1968    

Illegitimi nil carborundum

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