On the West Coast, Special Boat Units would conduct
underway gunshoots at San Clementi Is for their
heavy crew served weapons such as 20mm and the 60mm
and 81mm mortars and 50 cal MG. However during the
winter months "inclimate weather caused sea states
too rough for our small boats and many a scheduled
gunshoot and valuable training times were lost.
In 1981 at Special Boat Unit-13 LCDR Thomas "Hulk
"Richards was the Commanding Officer. He was a
highly respected SEAL Officer and SBU-13 was his
first Command and he wanted his command operating. A
certain cancelled gunshoot infuriated him,
especially when the crewmen were given work details
and pier watches. But, what got his goat was he
happened to walk in to the Ward room and find the
Officers eating donuts and reading the newspaper.
Well that wasn't going to ever happen again while he
was in Command. So he questioned his Officers in his
"gentile manner" what are the alternatives for heavy
weapons shoots. At present none they told him.
"Bullshit" was his reply.
About a hour later I just happened to be in the
admin office checking the Pier watch schedule
when Hulk poked his head in and asked me to come to
his Office. So for about a half hour we talked about
heavy crew served weapons and discussed what was
needed to build a mobile land gun platform. "Gray,
I want the plans and drawings on my desk before you
So I spent the rest of the day and, a long day, at
that in the Armory with GMG1 Bill Danforth and we
brain stormed and what weapons training could be
accomplished and what we would need to mount crew
served weapons and how to get them mobile. The
answer was a truck! Then heavy steel plate for the
bed would be added to mount the weapons and it would
be strong enough to handle the recoil and shock of
the weapons being fired.
We came up with the standard universal tripod the
MK26 which could mount most of our SBU weapons,
M-60, 50Cal, MK-19, and importantly the 60mm MK 4
naval mortar. We also wanted a MK 68 mount which
would mount the 20mm cannon.
I delivered the plans to the C.O. he looked them
over and said where's the 81mm mortar? "Sir, the
60mm and 81mm are fired the same way, both trigger
and drop fire methods and we train our guys the same
methods and safety standards. If we add a 81mm we
will need some heavy lift equipment to mount it
which is probably out of our command." The Hulk
growled a little, then said "Good enough, we will
shoot it next month!"
In less than a month the SBU-13 Rat Patrol Truck was
born. GMG1 Bill Danforth was the real wizard in
scrounging the steel plate and getting the HT's to
do a little drilling and welding. Capt Richards
borrowed a truck from Naval Special Warfare Group
ONE minus its truck bed. We then married the weapons
platform to the truck.
Within a month to the day the "Rat Patrol" truck and
ammo truck rolled out of the SBU-13 compound and
went to the NSW desert base by the Salton Sea, Camp
Bill Danforth, a few other active duty gunnersmates
and I were the advanced party and the rest of SBU-13
Boatcrews would be come in Busses the next day to
shoot. So we had a whole day of shooting and working
out the bugs and having a fun day doing what
gunnersmates like to do.
The Rat Patrol gun platform was a success, and would
serve for years shooting at Niland and Camp
Pendleton. Later the platform would be moved to a
bigger truck SBU-12 would also borrow the platform,
Its final evolution was into a wheeled trailer
including an 81mm mortar. Many a Combatant Crewman
trained from that little bit of steel plank. It
wasn't a boat but was a great heavy weapons training
Capt Hulk Richards gave me allot of credit for the
platform, but I give most of the Credit to my friend
The Gut Shot Rat with K-bar Knife,
our logo on the Rat Patrol Truck.
The Rat Patrol Guntruck with 20mm
cannon and 50 cal. MG at Camp Kerry Niland
The creators of the Rat Patrol
Guntruck: GMG1 Jim Gray on 20mm and GMG1 Bill
Danforth on 50 Cal MG
20mm firing from the Truck gun
50 Cal MG firing from the gun truck
The second version of Gun Platform on
a larger truck, GMG2 Bob Crow checking head space
Guntrailer circ. 1993 showing MK4
60mm mortar, 81mm mortar, and gunner firing MK-16
20mm cannon at Camp Pendleton.
81mm mortar being fired on Final
Version of the Land Crew Served Weapons Platform,
now in trailer version
Guntrailer shows the variety of
weapons to train on, twin 50cal. MGs 81 mm mortar/
50cal. MG piggyback and 20mm cannon it could also
mount MK-19 GL and M-60. etc.