52. Letters Home by Sam Robinson

THE DAY I THOUGHT I DIED

Thursday, January 2, 1969


We were standing around in the 134th Tech Supply about dusk, when we heard what sounded like mortars exploding just outside our compound. Being naturally jumpy, we listened attentively after the first explosion, after the second, mechanics were at a dead run, scattering like rats, looking for cover. I ran into the hanger which had conex boxes for walls but realized that the tent covering was poor protection. The explosions were coming closer and I didn't have much time so I started for the Sheet Metal Shop hoping to get underneath it. The explosions sounded like mortars walking down the road in front of the hanger. As I ran out from under the hanger into the open, the sound was right on top of me and I saw a bright flash out of the corner of my eye. This is it! I thought I was dead! Dang my luck. Why me Lord? Going home in a body bag! KIA at 21 years old! But I didn't feel any pain. Looked at my fatigues. No blood! It couldn't have missed! I looked up as the explosions continued and saw a Mohawk flying over taking some sort of flash pictures!!! Everyone in the maintenance area breathed a sigh of relief. Boy, it's great not being dead!


Saturday, March 23, 1968


The VC hit us last night. They dropped in what seemed to be about 50 mortars on us. The attack started about 10:00 P.M. and lasted about 10 minutes. We had to stay in the bunkers until 11:00 P.M. and after we got back to bed we had to sleep with our clothes on. The attack didn't do them any good because they didn't hit anything. Some of us guys were standing outside the bunkers watching the mortars explode. We had our flak vests on though. We later heard only 3 mortars hit in our area, the rest of the mortars were the Koreans returning fire and hitting just outside our perimeter.


Sunday, March 26, 1968


Last night they hit us with about 25 mortars. 3 of them hit in our company area. It wounded 5 guys and blew a hole in the side of a revetment. The one that hit the revetment was only 2 barracks away from us. One hit 5 feet from our supply room and threw shrapnel all inside. The other one hit on the concrete pad of our outdoor movie theater. There was only one helicopter damaged in the attack though. This is the most scared I've been since I've been here. We're pretty safe though, our bunkers could take a direct hit and it wouldn't hurt anyone. The reason they probably hit us was that we sank two of their Sampans carrying rockets, about 6 hours before.


Wednesday, April 3, 1968


I don't think I told you the other night on guard, we had a GI come through the wire. He had been over at the village (you know what for), and came back through 3 rolls of concertina wire and across a mine field! He set off a flare and the guards at post #9 grabbed him. The flares have a safety on them like a grenade. When the pin is pulled the flares go off. We tie strings to the pin and when someone trips over the string it pulls the pin. We don't have very good lights yet and it is possible to sneak though without a guard seeing you if you don't step on a mine or set off a flare. They are setting up 15 inch spotlights now though.


Saturday, April 13, 1968


The ship we got in for PE today has 17 holes in it from bullets and mortar fire. I dug a bullet out of the sound proofing in the cabin and I'm going to keep it. The pilot and co-pilot were wounded.


Sunday, April 21, 1968


We had a ship come in today that had one bullet hit in it. It entered the co-pilots window, went through the head of the collective stick, went through the co-pilots leg and out the post between the windows on the pilots side. The co-pilot lost four pints of blood and might have to have his leg taken off. This is the second time he has been wounded. It happened at An Khe, that's the same place that the other ship got 17 holes in it.


Wednesday, April 24, 1968


The Company is really fixing up our showers nice. We have hot and cold water now and they are putting in mirrors and wash pans.


Wednesday, May 22, 1968


Mortar explosions woke us up about 3:00 A.M. this morning and at first we thought we were getting hit but this morning we found out that the Korean compound did get hit.


Thursday, May 23, 1968


Phu Hiep was hit with rockets and about 15 civilians were killed. The VC also blew up two APC's full of Koreans on the Tuy Hoa bridge.


Saturday, June 8, 1968


I told you last night that the jets were making air strikes on the mountain. Well, we found out that they killed 150 VC out there. That is only about 2 miles from our perimeter.


Monday, July 22, 1968


About half of our Company has been on detail today. We are pouring concrete sidewalks in our Company area. We were outside the perimeter getting some sand and some Koreans came up and tried to tell us something. We followed them and they showed us a dead VC that they had shot while on guard last night. There were 8 of them and the Koreans saw them when they shot up a flare. They opened up on them with machine guns but only killed one. It was a lucky shot because they were about 400 yards from the perimeter. The bullet hit him in the head and opened his skull for about 3 inches. You could even see his brains. (Barf) They took a bulldozer and pushed some sand over him this afternoon. We found him about 9:00 A.M. and he didn't smell too good then. He was only wearing a pair of green drawers and sandals and carrying an AK-47. He had also been hit in the leg by shrapnel from a mortar. So much for the gory stuff.


Tuesday, August 6, 1968


Don Neiswanger and I were on the same guard post Sunday night. The Officer of the Day came by about 2340 and told us that Intelligence said we were supposed to get hit. We didn’t think too much about it because Intelligence had said we were suppose to get hit for the last month. At midnight they start falling. They dropped in about 50 mortars in 30 seconds then they quit. They were hitting around the Mohawks and Bird dogs. They completely destroyed one Mohawk and damaged four others. Some of the shrapnel hit some revetments and our shower in the Company area. One of the mortars went through the roof of a barracks in Battalion area. A couple of trucks got their windshields blown out and tires flattened. All in all only two guys were wounded, (in 225th), and one dog killed. The mortars were only being fired from about 1/4th mile outside our perimeter because we could hear them coming out of the tubes. Don and I were scared they were going to switch and try for our choppers. We were only about 20 yards from the choppers. One of our ships had an engine failure and had a hard landing. It broke off both skids and dented the bottom. They are going to send it back to the states to be repaired. No one was hurt in the crash.


Thursday, August 15, 1968


Don Neiswanger and I were on the same guard post Sunday night. The Officer of the Day came by about 2340 and told us that Intelligence said we were supposed to get hit. We didn't think too much about it because Intelligence had said we were suppose to get hit for the last month. At midnight they start falling. They dropped in about 50 mortars in 30 seconds then they quit. They were hitting around the Mohawks and Bird dogs. They completely destroyed one Mohawk and damaged four others. Some of the shrapnel hit some revetments and our shower in the Company area. One of the mortars went through the roof of a barracks in Battalion area. A couple of trucks got their windshields blown out and tires flattened. All in all only two guys were wounded, (in 225th), and one dog killed. The mortars were only being fired from about 1/4th mile outside our perimeter because we could hear them coming out of the tubes. Don and I were scared they were going to switch and try for our choppers. We were only about 20 yards from the choppers. One of our ships had an engine failure and had a hard landing. It broke off both skids and dented the bottom. They are going to send it back to the states to be repaired. No one was hurt in the crash.


Wednesday, September 4, 1968 (187 days left)


Of all nights to be on guard and in a bunker. We had a rat in there with us, (It crawled around the other guys neck) it sprinkled rain all night off and on, (our bunker didn't have a roof on it) and we had a sand storm about 4:30 A.M. this morning. The only good thing was that we were on stand-by guard and could sleep all night long (or try too).


Tuesday, September 10, 1968


Last night the VC hit a convoy with rockets, 6 miles from here.


Friday, September 13, 1968


There was a battalion of VC spotted north of Tuy Hoa last night so our gun ships went out and shot them up.


Wednesday, September 18, 1968


The Korean's were hit with mortar and rocket fire Sunday night and again last night. We were out on the flight line at 10:30 P.M. working on our ship when things started exploding over there. At first we thought they were throwing mortars just outside their perimeter but they sounded too loud. Then we saw some exploding in the middle of the compound and that sure didn't look right. It was mixed mortar and rocket fire. We stood on a truck and watched it until it was over. The other guys on another team ran under some vans that had sand bags around them. (chicken's) They were hitting about a half mile from us but if they had come any closer we would have been under the vans too.


Sunday, October 6, 1968


Last night when we were on guard, the Sargent of the guard, told our post not to let any of the 173rd Airborne guys into La Ba. They go into there at night for the village girls. We told them that we weren't supposed to let them in but that we didn't care if they did go in. Some of them called us “true soldiers”. The MP's sometimes go in there to try to catch the guys but we would warn the guys when the MP's were in there. Those Airborne guys have to go out in the boon docks all the time and are always in danger so we aren't going to stop them from have a little pleasure.


Thursday, October 10, 1968


The VC blew up the pipe line (JP-4 jet fuel) while we were up on a test flight. I only noticed it after it had burnt for about 20 seconds. They're getting so they blow it up about every three days now. The other night they blew it up about 2130 and it burnt until about 1000 the next morning. The fire department sure weren't going out there at night to put it out. It is about 5 miles outside our perimeter.


Saturday, November 9, 1968


I was on guard last night and was sleeping between 0300 and 0600. At about 0550, I was rudely awakened by rain hitting me in the face. What a way to be awakened on your 21st birthday!


Tuesday, November 12, 1968


A guy got shot in the leg outside the club. He was showing his .45 pistol to a kid and it went off.


Thursday, November 14, 1968


The New Jersey is down here now just north of Tuy Hoa. I saw her fire last night and the flash from her guns would light up about 1/3rd of the sky. A jet went over a while ago and kicked in his afterburner and the new guy across from me started for the bunker. He is the same one that I laughed at for wearing his flak vest and helmet all night long on guard!


Sunday, November 24, 1968


We got hit again last night. They threw in about 80 mortars in about 10 minutes. They got 2 direct hits on the 225th's club. Most of the mortars landed in the 225th area. None of them hit in ours or Battalion's area. After it was over we had to make a sweep through the chopper revetments looking for VC or satchel charges. It took us about an hour and it poured down rain all the time we were out. I was soaked to the skin and freezing when we finally came back in. I only had one dry spot on my body and that was the middle of my back where my flak vest protected it. They hit us at 0145 which is odd because they normally hit on the hour. Maybe their watches were off!


Saturday, December 7, 1968


Yesterday we had a ship go down with engine failure. A piece of tape about a foot long went through the intake. The tape wiped out about 4 turbine wheels. It threw blades out the side of the combustion chamber. They were just taking off when the engine blew up but they were lucky and got it back down without crashing.


Wednesday, December 18, 1968


The VC threw in two mortars on us last night. They almost hit our fueling point for the choppers.


Friday, December 20, 1968


We had an aircraft lose half of the front cross-over tube on the skids today. They were flying low-level and hit the top of a tree. When they came back here they had to hover until we could get some boards to put under the belly. It didn’t cause them to crash or anything when they hit the tree.


Saturday, December 21, 1968


One of our ships got shot up today around An Khe. They had a load of canned pears and one bullet came up through the floor and hit one of the cans causing it to explode. The juice flew all over the crew-chief and he thought he had been shot and that it was his blood that was splattering everywhere. I thought it was kind of funny but I guess it wasn’t for him.


Thursday, December 26, 1968


One of our gunners committed suicide today. He shot himself in the stomach with his .38 pistol. He even left a note but I don’t know what he wrote. This is the gunner of the ship that was carrying canned pears and had some rounds come up through the floor. The 225th is trying to set an altitude record with their Mohawks. The record is 37,500 feet and they are trying for 40,000 feet.


Sunday, December 29, 1968


They had a memorial service for the gunner who killed himself today. He used to be the gunner on 295. Anyway, 295 went into an LZ this morning and set down on a land mine that the VC had planted. It blew up and the gunner, who is flying with the ship now, caught a piece of shrapnel that went through both his cheeks and knocked his teeth out. It turned the ship over and it just tore itself apart. It doesn’t look like anyone could have lived through it but the gunner was the only one hurt. The ship is so badly torn up that they are just going to destroy it on the spot. Then, 150 was flying just north of here and took a round through the oil cooler losing all the oil. They flew on for about 15 to 20 minutes to get out of the area then set it down out in the boonies.


They sent 2 ships out to recover that one and one of them thought he had a problem with the over speed governor so he set his ship down in the boonies. While all of this was happening one of the 281st ships had a flare go off inside it and just about burnt it up. A Chinook went out and brought 150 back in and Lt. Doyal went out and flew the other one in. There wasn’t any trouble with the over-speed governor on the ship and the Battalion CO, our Company CO and Lt. Doyal all chewed that pilot out for risking all those lives for nothing. O, yes, this morning the 61st had a ship shot through the oil cooler also.


Wednesday, January 1, 1969


You should have seen all the rounds being fired last night at midnight. Somebody in Battalion was shooting and that's just across the street. About 2/3rds of the Company didn’t fall out for formation this morning and they got pretty mad at that.


Thursday, January 2, 1969


Last night on guard the Koreans made contact with 2 platoons of V.C. just outside our perimeter.


Wednesday, January 15, 1969


We had a ship get splattered by mortar shrapnel up north today. It put 27 holes in the ship and the gunner was hit in the leg.


Monday, Feb 3, 1969


They had a ship take a round through the engine up at An Khe so two of our guys took a new engine up to change it. Then something went through the new engine so we have to send up another new one tomorrow. That was $70,000 worth of engines ruined today.


Thursday, February 6, 1969


701 went into the LZ and nothing happened, then 319 went in and received fire killing the gunner. They tried to call 326 and tell them not to come in but they couldn't get in touch with them. So 326 came on in and when it sat down it just exploded. It burnt up the pilot and about 7 Koreans who didn't get out. They said it must have been hit with a rocket.


Friday, February 7, 1969


They had a memorial service for those guys that were killed yesterday. That pilot only had 24 days left. He wasn't going to fly any more but he needed four more hours to draw flight pay for this month so he went on that mission. One of the guys that was wounded had to have his leg amputated. The bullet that killed the gunner just missed the crew-chief by inches, went through a bulkhead, the transmission, another bulkhead and hit the gunner in the back of the neck.


Thursday, February 13, 1969


Last night they spotted some VC at the base of the mountain so two gunships went up and shot at them. The VC started throwing 40 MM grenades at the ship but none were hit. We had a good view of the whole thing from our guard post. It kind of scares you when you can actually see the VC shooting at our ships.


Tuesday, February 25, 1969


Lt. Doyal made Captain today. It sure will seems odd calling him Captain Doyal. It just doesn't sound right.


Wednesday, February 26, 1969


We got off at 2315 tonight. I worked all afternoon and evening pouring concrete for our wash rack.


Sunday, March 2, 1969


The whole Company was off today. They were celebrating Lt. Doyal making Captain.


AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Saturday July 2nd, 2022