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Thread: Hue remembered

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    Silver Hawk Member 53k's Avatar
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    Hue remembered

    Today's Washington Post carried a report written by a British war correspondent who was in Hue, South Vietnam on February 27, 1968. He described the horror of the Tet Offensive as being the most horrible war report he had written in his 50 years of covering wars around the world. My interest? I was about eight miles down the Perfume River from Hue during the offensive. Our camp listened to the eight-inch projectiles flying over from the heavy cruiser guns just offshore. We would first hear the projectiles pass over us then we would hear the muzzle blasts from offshore and finally the explosions in Hue. I can't forget those. I did spend some time in Hue after the Marines had pretty well wrapped up. I went up river by Boston Whaler, light and fast. Only got shot at once (the sniper was a poor shot). Before I left the area to go back to Danang I actually drove to Hue by myself, drove across the pontoon bridge that replaced the destroyed river bridge and toured the Citadel where much of the fighting and damage occurred. Not a smart thing to do, but I was young and dumb.

    I never talked about my experiences until after I saw the Ken Burns series on Vietnam. I showed my wife for the first time after 50 years the diary I had kept. Then I decided to make a bucket list trip where we went to Vietnam. I relived going to the same places I had seen 50 years ago. My wife and I spent five days in Vietnam in January. It's hard to describe the feelings from that experience. I felt guilty, but it's almost like it never happened. People are friendly to Americans, are reasonably prosperous, have many large buildings and incredible bridges, expensive houses. English is taught in the schools. Hue and Hanoi showed virtually no sign of the destruction. I know it sounds silly to expect to see war damage after 50 years, but I could still see the massive destruction in my mind and I don't know that I could be that forgiving.

    Paul Johnson, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
    '64 Daytona Wagonaire, '64 Avanti R-1, Museum R-4 engine, '72 Gravely Model 430 with Onan engine

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    Thanks very much for sharing your experience with us. I'm glad you have decided to bring some of your experiences out in the open as the sharing can provide education for those of us who never went there.

    Thank you for your service and sacrefice.
    Diesel loving, autocrossing, Coupe express loving, Grandpa Architect.

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    I visited Hue a few times the following year. The walled city was very impressive. Quang Tri was my "home".

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    Golden Hawk Member jclary's Avatar
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    I was at Tan Son Nhut during that time. It was an important time in my life, but I have not allowed it to define me. I have tried to use it as a building/maturing part of my life's journey, but I came home, went to work...worked my way through college, and have spent very little time looking back. I have friends who have gone back. Even one who married a Vietnamese, bought her family homes in Vietnam, and returned many times. He died a few years ago. His widow lives near me now. I don't know if she has continued to return for occasional visits. A very nice and talented lady.

    I have fond memories of friends I made there. However, I have no desire to return. In fact, as I have aged, I have become more enamored with my part of the world, and have about as much fun in my own cluttered back yard as anywhere I've ever been.
    John Clary
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    Paul: The first thing I would like to say to you WELCOME HOME. I was lucky that I went to Vietnam in August 1969 because know that was a very hellish time for all involved. I tried to watch the Ken Burns special on Vietnam but decided I couldn't continue to watch. I must admit that i was afraid it would bring back old dreams that I had for twenty years after I came back in 1970. I have no desire to go back and visit like you have. I spent part of my time in Danang from May of 1970 through August 1970. Thanks for sharing.

    As a side note I knew of Vietnam vet in my that I had talked to several times but he never talked to much about his time in Vietnam. I it turns out after he passed away recently that his family learned that he had been awarded the Bronze Star.

    John S.

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    The true heros often don't talk about it.
    Diesel loving, autocrossing, Coupe express loving, Grandpa Architect.

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    Silver Hawk Member 53k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Packard53 View Post
    Paul: The first thing I would like to say to you WELCOME HOME. I was lucky that I went to Vietnam in August 1969 because know that was a very hellish time for all involved. I tried to watch the Ken Burns special on Vietnam but decided I couldn't continue to watch. I must admit that i was afraid it would bring back old dreams that I had for twenty years after I came back in 1970. I have no desire to go back and visit like you have. I spent part of my time in Danang from May of 1970 through August 1970. Thanks for sharing.

    As a side note I knew of Vietnam vet in my that I had talked to several times but he never talked to much about his time in Vietnam. I it turns out after he passed away recently that his family learned that he had been awarded the Bronze Star.

    John S.
    Thanks for your comments. I fully intended not to watch the Ken Burns series. However, a number of friends talked about how good the series was so I decided to watch the whole thing. A lot of the content made me angry and, surprisingly, my wife was even more angry than me. I couldn't really fault the material used though there were some things left out that possibly should have been used. I thought I knew a lot about the war, but the series made me realize that I really didn't. Interestingly, the Vietnamese refer to the reunification of North and South as being brought about by first winning the "French" war in 1954 and then winning what they call the American war.

    As I mentioned in my original post, I never really talked about my experience in Vietnam. That was partly due to my homecoming experiences- stationed in the San Francisco area, hotbed of the most vicious protest activity. I learned to be pretty invisible very quickly. I still feel uncomfortable when people now thank me for my service. I also had mixed feelings about going back to Vietnam, but I read reports made by veterans who did go back and found that they were actually welcomed and I really wanted my wife to see where I had been. Now it's as if the war had never existed. I recognized almost nothing in either Danang or Hue. Americans are welcomed as are US dollars (no need to convert currency). The US has an embassy in Hanoi and a Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City (still commonly called Saigon) and the Vietnamese have an embassy in Washington (where I got our visas- quick, competent turnaround). The only place we saw any propaganda was inside the "Hanoi Hilton" in Hanoi, the prison where many American pilots were imprisoned. A placard in the museum reported that thousands of American planes were shot down, and that captured pilots were humanely treated and were imprisoned for a very brief period. There was even a large picture of John McCain on a hospital bed with his injuries being treated by a Vietnamese doctor. Even more surprising to me was that we were allowed to walk through Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum where we viewed his preserved body.

    Paul Johnson, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
    '64 Daytona Wagonaire, '64 Avanti R-1, Museum R-4 engine, '72 Gravely Model 430 with Onan engine

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    Paul; i think all the people should know that the Tet Offensive started on January 30 1968 and lasted until March 3 1968. I served nine months in a place called Chu Lai south of Danang. I worked at a place called the Sand Ramp. We unloaded LST's and other small ships and landing craft that came down from Danang loaded with supplies. We operated the Sand Ramp 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We had two crews that worked 12 hour shifts one shift was from 12 AM till 12 PM the other shift 12 PM till 12 AM.

    I can also remember like you how bad many Vietnam Vets were treated when they came home. I can still remember protestors burning American Flags on a regular basis. Some of those same people that did the flag burning back then are probably some of the ones that are mad at some NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem.

    John S.

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    Although I never wanted to go to nam myself I could never understand how the kids could blame the footsoldiers of the war. Clearly they were just following orders.

    But I don't feel badly toward the people kneeling at the games. They have the freedom of speech too.
    Diesel loving, autocrossing, Coupe express loving, Grandpa Architect.

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    Silver Hawk Member 53k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Packard53 View Post
    Paul; i think all the people should know that the Tet Offensive started on January 30 1968 and lasted until March 3 1968. I served nine months in a place called Chu Lai south of Danang. I worked at a place called the Sand Ramp. We unloaded LST's and other small ships and landing craft that came down from Danang loaded with supplies. We operated the Sand Ramp 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We had two crews that worked 12 hour shifts one shift was from 12 AM till 12 PM the other shift 12 PM till 12 AM.

    I can also remember like you how bad many Vietnam Vets were treated when they came home. I can still remember protestors burning American Flags on a regular basis. Some of those same people that did the flag burning back then are probably some of the ones that are mad at some NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem.

    John S.
    Thanks for filling in the dates of Tet 1968. Somehow I never thought to do that.

    I remember hearing a lot about Chu Lai, but never got there. My memory is kind of fuzzy, but it sticks in my mind that Roger Staubach was at Chu Lai for his Vietnam tour and that he had to be protected because of his future with the Dallas Cowboys.

    Thanks for sharing your work experience there. We were both in the same business. When I got to Danang I was assigned to be in charge of the Tien Sha ramp to get some cargo handling experience. We did pretty much the same thing you did- 12 hour shifts, seven days a week. Tien Sha was close to the deepwater piers so we mainly took cargo from the piers and loaded it on LSTs and landing craft for transit up the coast. I was supposed to go to Tan My (at the mouth of the Perfume River) February 1st and set up a ramp operation there where LSTs could beach. I would also be in charge of the Hue Ramp, my reason for going back and forth to Hue. Tet changed that. The man I was to relieve was killed in Hue so I didn't make it until the middle of February. Interestingly one of the few places that the NVA didn't overrun was the Hue Ramp. The sailors there held them off for two days and the NVA pulled back. Probably thought it wasn't worth the effort. After several months I was brought back to Danang and put in charge of all the ramps, Bridge and Tien Sha ramps in Danang, Tan My and Hue ramps for Hue and Cua Viet and Dong Ha ramps just below the DMZ. So I periodically traveled to all of them. Cua Viet and Dong Ha were within range of the North Vietnamese artillery hidden it the DMZ so cargo operations there were pretty tense. When I was relieved at the end of my tour in country, shortly after I left Danang a LCU loaded with ammo exploded at the Bridge Ramp where my office was. My relief survived, but had six months in a hospital in Japan. I was very lucky, never had a close call.

    Sorry about the long story. I have never told them before. Maybe it's time to tell them.

    Paul Johnson, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
    '64 Daytona Wagonaire, '64 Avanti R-1, Museum R-4 engine, '72 Gravely Model 430 with Onan engine

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    A couple of our people lost their lives going to Danang for RR outside of Vietnam. The copter they were flying on clipped a power line and crashed and all were killed. The funny part of this is that during my nine months on the Sand Ramp we only received incoming one time in May of 1970. Our complete base was struck with 122 mm rockets luckly during that attack no persons were killed. Another time the VC managed to float a some type of explosive in under an LST that caused some commotion and scared the hell out of every one working that shift. I managed to have off that night but it really scared the hell out of the guys operating the LST and the guys unloading the LST that night. From what I was told it didn't take the crew long to get off the LST as well as the people unloading that were operating Rough Terrain Fork Lifts. I still think that I could operate one of those RT's blind folded.

    John S.

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    For all to know that during the battle to take back Hue nearly 150 Marines were killed and nearly 1000 wounded.

    john S.

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    I was lucky in 1958 when I was drafted that there were no wars going on.
    I had just arrived as an immigrant and when I received my notice I went to the draft board and asked for a 6month extension to give my wife a change to get settled in.
    They asked me if I minded to go in the service and I said that I did not mind but they would have an happier soldier if they gave me an extension which was granted but they apparently lost my file.
    I am still 1A and I never heard from them again.
    Last edited by rkapteyn; 03-07-2018 at 11:18 PM.

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    The Ken Burns Viet Nam story took ten years to put together. He wanted to get it all as correct as possible. We all know something about VN, but we all can learn more. I hope we have learned a lesson about fighting unwinnable wars.

    For me, the hero of the Burns work is John Musgrave. He went from being a brave 17 year old Marine, anxious and eager to kill as many enemy as he possibly could, to barely surviving massive injuries. After he returned home, he became an anti-war activist, throwing his medals over the White House fence, and finally sitting alone in his trailer with his .45 against his head. Had his dogs not scratched at the door, he would have pulled the trigger.

    Later on he visited he VN Memorial and was so overcome he fell to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably for the lives lost and the division and damage to his country.

    Today Musgrave writes poetry, and counsels young men who have served and suffer from mental issues.

    To me, John Musgrave, who you've never heard of, is a genuine hero, an ordinary man who has given everything for his country and asked for nothing in return.

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 53k View Post
    Thanks for filling in the dates of Tet 1968. Somehow I never thought to do that.

    I remember hearing a lot about Chu Lai, but never got there. My memory is kind of fuzzy, but it sticks in my mind that Roger Staubach was at Chu Lai for his Vietnam tour and that he had to be protected because of his future with the Dallas Cowboys.

    Thanks for sharing your work experience there. We were both in the same business. When I got to Danang I was assigned to be in charge of the Tien Sha ramp to get some cargo handling experience. We did pretty much the same thing you did- 12 hour shifts, seven days a week. Tien Sha was close to the deepwater piers so we mainly took cargo from the piers and loaded it on LSTs and landing craft for transit up the coast. I was supposed to go to Tan My (at the mouth of the Perfume River) February 1st and set up a ramp operation there where LSTs could beach. I would also be in charge of the Hue Ramp, my reason for going back and forth to Hue. Tet changed that. The man I was to relieve was killed in Hue so I didn't make it until the middle of February. Interestingly one of the few places that the NVA didn't overrun was the Hue Ramp. The sailors there held them off for two days and the NVA pulled back. Probably thought it wasn't worth the effort. After several months I was brought back to Danang and put in charge of all the ramps, Bridge and Tien Sha ramps in Danang, Tan My and Hue ramps for Hue and Cua Viet and Dong Ha ramps just below the DMZ. So I periodically traveled to all of them. Cua Viet and Dong Ha were within range of the North Vietnamese artillery hidden it the DMZ so cargo operations there were pretty tense. When I was relieved at the end of my tour in country, shortly after I left Danang a LCU loaded with ammo exploded at the Bridge Ramp where my office was. My relief survived, but had six months in a hospital in Japan. I was very lucky, never had a close call.

    Sorry about the long story. I have never told them before. Maybe it's time to tell them.
    That was a short story about big subject. I'd love to hear more of your experiences.
    Diesel loving, autocrossing, Coupe express loving, Grandpa Architect.

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    Silver Hawk Member 53k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by t walgamuth View Post
    That was a short story about big subject. I'd love to hear more of your experiences.
    You'll probably regret having asked for more, but here is some... .

    All the cargo ramps used rough terrain forklifts, amazing machines. They did require maintenance so Seabee equipment operators kept them up. Occasionally the Tien Sha ramp loaded retrograde equipment (worn out, damaged or obsolete military equipment). The retrograde was sent to Taiwan to scrap. One day a bunch of junk trucks showed up and the equipment operators started prepping them for loading on a LST. One of the trucks appeared to be in good shape, honest to goodness, a 1954 Studebaker 6x6. So the EOs pulled it out and turned it into a shop truck (and liberty truck). One night they were coming back after tipping a few and they managed to run over a Vietnamese Army guard post. The soldier jumped out of the shack and escaped injury, but the EOs lost their truck among other things.

    Tan My camp- was primarily a fuel depot. Tankers would anchor well offshore and pump petroleum products in to our tank farm. We had a few Navy security people, but our primary security was a company of Marines from the Third Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF). I had and will always have a lot of respect for Marines. Their company made sweeps at night, kept the Viet Cong (VC) on their toes and on the run. The Amtracks could go over sand dunes and through the water and they didn't have to depend on sand/dirt roads that were often mined. The marines had recoiless rifles and 50-caliber machine guns and they didn't have to ask for permission to shoot. Then the powers to be decided to rotate Army companies in to relieve the Marines so we got a fresh in-country company. It didn't take long for the VC to notice and we got a serious mortar attack in the middle of the night. Our protectors were hiding in their bunkers just like us. Fortunately, the Vietnamese Junk Base about 100 yards outside our base saw where the rounds were coming from and took care of the problem. The mortar crew had walked the rounds through the tank farm and then through our camp. Amazingly one round hit the top of a full jet fuel (JP-4) tank, blew a hole in it, but the JP-4 didn't light off. Another round hit a packed JP-4 pipeline, punched a hole in it, but didn't go off. About our only damage was a Jeep where a round hit a jerry can on the back of the Jeep. The shrapnel took out the barber shop and sprayed surrounding buildings. Most of the rounds hit in the sand and didn't do much. And we had a great CO with a good sense of humor. After the attack was stopped, he messaged Danang and asked that they send him an electric siren. He said the hand cranked one couldn't be heard over the noise of the explosions. When our Army company rotated out and went in to the jungle, they took 22 casualties the first day, not from enemy fire, but from booby traps.

    In the early days of Hue when much of the city was still occupied by NVA, the defenders were running out of fuel. So Tan My loaded a LCM (landing craft) with a 10,000-gallon fuel bladder to carry diesel to Hue. About halfway there the LCM was hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) round. It penetrated the hull, went through the fuel bladder and out the other side of the hull, but didn't go off. However, the LCM was sinking so the sailor beached it and got away. When it settled, only part of the bow was showing. A couple weeks later a crew went to the sunken LCM and refloated it then towed it back to Tan My. They dried out the engine compartment, changed the oil, checked the the Detroit Diesel engine and tried starting it. Fired right up as if nothing had happened.

    For info, per a published Army Center of Military History report, 75 percent of the buildings in Hue, the third largest city in Vietnam, were damaged or destroyed. Military and civilian losses were very heavy which Ken Burns touched on, but didn't elaborate. I respect that. Detailed discussion would have been very difficult.
    Last edited by 53k; 03-04-2018 at 08:16 PM.

    Paul Johnson, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
    '64 Daytona Wagonaire, '64 Avanti R-1, Museum R-4 engine, '72 Gravely Model 430 with Onan engine

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    I presume jp4 is jet fuel.....about like diesel, right? Hard to ignite outside and engine. Cool bit about the studebaker....but the jerry can had gasoline in it, right?

    The Marines are tough mother truckers.
    Diesel loving, autocrossing, Coupe express loving, Grandpa Architect.

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