The convoy back to Tuy Hoa included several deuce and a half’s that were carrying our troops, interspersed among several gun trucks and tracks that were escorting us for protection. The gun trucks had quad 50’s (four 50 caliber machine guns) mounted on them, one on each corner. The long column of vehicles spread out, keeping a safe distance between each one. I remember thinking to myself: “Man!… All of this equipment, All of these vehicles, All of this firepower, All of these men”…This shit is real!”
On the six-hour convoy ride back to base, I once again had an opportunity to witness the living conditions of some of the Vietnamese civilians, more commonly referred to as Gooks or Dinks by us.
It was still shocking to see how many of them lived in shacks or cardboard huts along the roadside. I even saw a hooch made out of crushed Coca-Cola cans. They scrounged up and made use of any trash that had been discarded by us Americans. Overall my impression of them was not good; they mostly appeared to be dirt poor beggars, especially along the highway. Farther back off of the road, there were some sturdier and more attractive looking buildings.
Everyone was in a good mood and glad to be out of the field. I was half falling asleep, laid back, and relaxing in the warm sunshine on the back of the truck. I think most of the other guys must have been sleeping too when suddenly I heard a loud explosion. I opened my eyes and could see smoke pouring out of the gun-truck that was directly behind ours! Then within seconds, another blast as the truck right behind that one was hit too! Our driver must not have heard the explosions over the loud truck engines. We were still rolling down the highway, and I was yelling at our truck driver to stop, “stop, STOP!” Pointing behind us, I yelled,” They’ve been hit and need help!” Thick black smoke was pouring out of the two rocket damaged trucks. The driver looked back, and then he floored it! We were all holding on, bouncing around like crazy before we stopped a short distance down the road.
I could hear the gun truck’s 50 caliber machine guns rapidly pumping out rounds. They fired up the hillside from where the two B-40 rockets had launched. On our truck, anger and adrenaline were taking over. The firefight sounded intense and Moran, our M-60 machine gunner, wanted to go back to the site of the ambush, to help fight. He asked me to grab a can of 60 ammo and go with him. I didn’t want to say no, and I didn’t want him to think I was afraid, but that seemed crazy to me. We can’t just walk down the road into the middle of a firefight with no cover! Thankfully things suddenly quieted down, so I just replied to him: “It’s over, I think the gun trucks handled it. Moran climbed back up onto our truck.
Soon after the shooting stopped, I could hear choppers approaching. Medevac dust offs arrived to evacuate the wounded. They were landing on the road out in front of us, far enough away from where the action took place to land safely. As the trucks carrying the wounded drove past us to meet the choppers, I saw two of the wounded guys, one had his pant leg ripped open, showing a shrapnel leg wound, and the other one had a head wound with blood running down the side of his face. They were both sitting upright in the front seat of the trucks, so that was a good sign.
We remained stopped along the side of the road next to a village for quite some time while the medics attended to the wounded men, and the choppers took off with them. Everyone was pissed off, and I was afraid the guys were going to fire up the village. In our minds, the villagers were all suspects who may have been part of or at least knew of the ambush and let it happen. We were a bunch of armed and angry GI’s who were taunting and threatening the dinks. Some of the younger little kids that didn’t understand were still coming up to the trucks begging for food or candy. The mama-sans quickly gathered up the kids and ran away. Some of the guys had climbed down off of the truck and were walking back and forth on the road, pointing their weapons at the civilians, threatening them. The villagers all scattered and disappeared. It was intense, and I was afraid that there was going to be a riot or a massacre. I was so glad when the convoy started moving again before anyone got killed.
I couldn’t understand why we didn’t stop to help the guys that had been blown up right behind us. But then, I was still the new guy and learned later on that a convoy never stops for anything, especially a roadside ambush. It would have been stupid to stop moving and become sitting ducks ourselves, resulting in even more damage and losses. The experienced troop transport drivers knew to vacate the area as fast as possible when coming under fire, knowing that the gun trucks were there to do their jobs. So, fortunately, the driver did the right thing and probably saved a whole truckload of our lives. There certainly could have been a lot more casualties. As it was, two of the guys from our company had suffered injuries, along with several others from the escort company. The remainder of the trip back to base no longer felt like a relaxing ride in the sun.