Bruce RobertsHi, Jim (and Dave, too, if you receive this)...
First, for Dave... I've sent along a couple of emails in the past few weeks, but don't know if they're getting through or not. If I'm making a pest of myself, please forgive me... I wouldn't have bothered you again this time, except that Jim sent his note to both of us. Jim... you asked for war stories. Well, that's going to be tough, since Red Dyer was there too, and it was probably the quietest of his combat tours. We actually had a pretty easy time of it at Seafloat, though some other people didn't.. In fact, the closest I ever came to becoming a casualty was friendly fire... a couple of times.
And then there was the day I almost shot Wayne Baum while clearing a jam for him in an M3 grease gun he'd picked up. As to the above jousts with death, I can think of several, including one that Red may remember. We used to break out five or six rounds of 60mm for the mortar before an op and have them ready to go. After keeping them around for a week or so, I began to distrust them, since the increments would absorb moisture once the cans were open. One day, we were tied up at Seafloat and i had some ammo that had got a bit old, so I decided to shoot it up, just lobbing it over to the cleared area on the south bank. I had drop fired two or three, and you'll remember that you get a pretty good thump out of even a 60 when it fires. When I dropped the next one, though, I got a feeble pop, and literally watched the round come out of the barrel, arc up about twenty feet, and start down. I just watched it... there was no time to duck or anything. I just thought, "Oh, shit". The round hit the water about ten meters away... and didn't go off! I don't know what went through anyone else's mind, but I really thought I was dead meat.
By contrast, I can remember the first time I ever heard a round go past my head close enough to hear it snap. We were up on the Bay Hap and were waiting for a sampan or whaler full of SEALs to come out of a small canal. I was up on the engine cover when I heard firing and the sound of machinegun bullets going past my head. I dropped down into the cockpit and got everyone down behind the armor, but even though the bullets were real, they somehow didn't seem very threatening at the time. Turned out the SEALs were reconning by fire, or maybe just bored, and were firing through brush and hitting us.
As to our best (or worst) op... I guess I would have to pick one of the few daylight missions we ever had. The SEALs decided they wanted to get into the Rach Cai Keo without going in the front door, which was the river's mouth, opening into the Bay Hap at the village of Cai Keo. I found a small east-west canal running into it from the Cai Nhap on the map that looked like it might work and rode a helo to look at it from the air. It looked do-able, although our LCPL drew five feet. Anyway, we loaded up, proceeded up the Cai Nhap, and turned into the stream. For the first hundred meters or so, everything looked good; then the canal started to narrow. And narrow. Trees were growing across it and our skeg was deep in the mud. Soon we were knocking down tree limbs with the conn and brushing both banks with our sides. Being a single-screw boat, there was no way we could back out, so I just had to keep going, but by now, I was figuring out how to blow the boat up and walk out... also thinking about what I was going to say at my courtmartial. Anyway, somehow, the old boat made it through into the Cai Keo, and we put the SEALs and a couple of Kit Carsons in on the west bank, then proceeded downstream a couple of hundred meters.
We hadn't been gone long when we heard firing and turned back toward the SEALs. It was all over before we got there (It always was). A sampan had come by with a man and a woman in it. One of the KC's had lai dai'd them, whereupon the man had jumped up and tried to go over the side. At that point, everyone had opened fire, killing him and gut-shooting the woman. They'd fished her out, and we picked up a couple of ammo cans full of money and documents, mostly VC atta-boys. We went out through Cai Keo, Bay Hap, Cai Nhap, and Cua Lon. I called for a dustoff for the woman, but they wouldn't give us one, since he was VN, so the result was that she lay all crumpled up on our foredeck all then way home, four or five hours. I wanted to give her morphine, but somebody said it would kill her, so we did nothing. I've always felt badly about that, even though she was VC. She was still alive when we transferred her to the VNN "hospital ship" at Seafloat, but doubt she made it. The upshot of the mission, though, as I understand it, was that we had gotten the district finance and economy minister. And the Money? Well, we were supposed to share it with the SEALs "after intel was done with it". We're still waiting. No more now. Best, Bruce
Hi, Dave...Many thanks for your note.
It's great to hear from you. Your letter really brought back some things I'd forgotten. I can remember a couple of ops we ran through Square Bay, or at least parts of them. I had completely forgotten that particular one until you mentioned it. Was the one you mentioned the one where we came home one night through such a heavy rainstorm that we were shooting off pop-flares to try to see where we were going and were still running into the bank, going up the Cua Lon?
Do you remember the tax-collector op we ran up to the mouth of the Song Bay Hap, supporting the SEALs and a couple of LDNN's in that big junk someone had captured? The SEALs were taking the junk in past the LP you mentioned, which was apparently also the tax collection point, when the tax man lai dai'd the LDNN's running the boat. Supposedly, Skip Crane told the VN to say they were aground and for the VC to come out to them, whereupon the LDNN replied "We ARE aground." Anyway, two of the bad guys came out in a sampan and Hudak blew one of them away. Someone else got the second one in the boat, but a third, ashore, got away. When we got there, one VC was floating and the other sprawled in the boat. There was talk of giving that one a Viking funeral... setting the boat on fire... which seemed like a neat idea, but no one really wanted to hang around long enough to do it. As to other Square Bay ops... I sent Baum and Schatz up to the mouth of the Bay Hap one night in an LSSC. They went up on step, no problem, until they got to the mouth of the river, where they slowed to figure out where they were. When they did, the boat came off step and they ran aground, a couple of hundred meters from the LP. Everyone apparently spent the rest of the night digging their way back to deeper water. On another occasion, we spent thirty six hours aground in the PL, after I'd told the base CO we couldn't get the big boat through the bay. His comment was that a 50-foot Swift could do it, so we could. I wasn't until years later that I learned that the reason a Swift had no problem was that they drew two feet less water than we did! Well, no more now. Best, Bruce (I've been out of the LT business for a long time!)