Knocked ‘Em Down And Blew ‘Em To Kingdom Come
My Problem was history. I am well educated in some things. I had a choice of periods of history to specialize in in College and I chose the American Civil War.
To really understand the Civil War I had to understand the war before it which was the Mexican American war and after the Civil war there was the Spanish American war which gave the Americans the Philippines which started the Philippine American war.
When the Americans acquired the Philippines as a result of the Treaty of Paris in 1898 from Spain they got a raw deal. The Philippines were not really under control of Spain in anything but name. The Philippines had already declared independence from Spain.
The Americans knew little about the Philippines. President McKinley appointed a commission to investigate conditions in the islands in 1899. In the report that they issued to the President the following year, the commissioners acknowledged Filipino aspirations for independence; they declared, however, that the Philippines were not ready for it. That’s when Bill Grayson, an English immigrant to the US and a private in the Army said, “Well, I thought the best thing to do was to shoot him. He dropped. Then two Filipinos sprang out of the gateway about fifteen feet from us. I called "Halt" and Miller fired and dropped one. I saw that another was left. Well, I think I got my second Filipino that time.”
Then the war started.
Michigan State University was a large school with 60,000 students and a budget to go with it. That meant you didn’t just get a professor you got an expert in the field. A guy that had written books and who people called up to interview on TV. The lecture sizes for the better professors were staggering. 2000 or 3000 students per class being the norm for the highly paid profs. There was an assistant professor for ever 20 or so students to conduct discussions and answer questions. I didn’t bother with the grad assistants, my mouth or behavior normally attracted the main guy. When you call an expert in field a dummy in front of 2000 people it makes the student newspaper if not regional or national news.
Frequently I burned the midnight oil studying obscure texts to back up my spur of the moment outbursts of verbal diarrhea. Some professors liked this. Some liked it so much they flunked me so I would come back for another term of repartee.
If the Civil War was about slavery, why did Lincoln wait till it was almost over to free the slaves and then only in the Southern States? Why did Lincoln say it was OK for Texas to secede from Mexico but States not secede from the Union? Chicago was called the “Windy City” because of all the BS and lies at the convention that elected Lincoln rather than any weather condition. There were almost no bayonet wounds in the Civil War because men were killed easily at 200 yards by rifle, so why did the generals keep ordering bayonet charges. 50% of the troops didn’t even have a bayonet. During the battle of Spotsylvania Court-House, VA, much of which was hand to hand fighting, there were 14 bayonet wounds, 1 sword wound, 37 cannon wounds and 8,218 bullet wounds. For those who are interested there were only 49 men shot in the balls and 880 in the head. These guys were trying for head shots not being as dumb as most people figure. Sexually transmitted diseases put more soldiers out of commission than bullet wounds during the Civil War.
There were repeating rifles and pistols available 20 years before the Civil War; why were single shot muskets used? Did you think the Colt Auto 1911 was adopted by the US Army to stop the Moros in the Philippines because the .38 had no knockdown power? Savvy sergeants brought the old single action .45 Colt Peacemaker and a shotgun in their baggage prior to being off loaded to the Philippine Campaign.
In 1860 At 600 yards, a .58 caliber Mini้ ball fired from a Springfield or Enfield rifled musket could penetrate six 1 inch pine boards and was lethal to 1500 yards. When it hit the human body, destruction of tissues and bone was massive. If a man was hit in the arm or leg, the bullet shattered the bone for 6 to 10 inches and made amputation almost certain. If hit in the torso, a man was usually left to die. The Civil War's deadliest weapons were not Gatling guns or giant cannon, but the simple rifle-musket and the humble mini้ ball.
The rifle-musket and mini้ bullet drastically altered the tactical balance between an attacking army and a defending one. Frontal assaults by infantry on a waiting enemy suddenly became suicidal. During the Napoleonic era, attacking infantry could safely approach to within 100 yards of an enemy line with little danger of being shot down. During the Civil War, however, because of the rifle-musket's accuracy at long ranges, stationary defenders could load, fire, and hit their advancing attackers more quickly than the attackers could fire back.
The rifle-musket and mini้ bullet also forced a change in the employment of field artillery. In the early 1800s, Napoleon often placed the artillery forward in his battle lines, even during advances, to provide direct fire in support of the infantry. This same tactic was used very successfully by US forces during the Mexican War. During the Civil War, however, it was too easy to shoot down an exposed cannon crew and/or its horses operating in the front lines. The artillery thus had to be placed further to the rear and protected.
The role of the cavalry was similarly changed by the rifle-musket and mini้ ball. Napoleon often used his cavalry as a surprise offensive weapon, sending his horsemen on charges to trample infantrymen armed with smoothbore flintlock muskets. But the Civil War soldier armed with a rifle-musket and mini้ bullets could reliably hit a man at 200 or more yards, while a horse and rider made an even easier target. As a result, the colorful cavalry charges of the Napoleonic era became all but obsolete. In fact, as the war continued, more and more cavalrymen fought as mounted infantry, using their horses for mobility and then dismounting to fight on foot. In effect, they became the forerunners of today's mechanized infantry.
Unfortunately, it took most Civil War generals a very long time to realize that some of the tactics they had learned at West Point or from military manuals were obsolete, particularly the frontal assault. Some never learned, and Generals on both sides continued to send their men on suicidal charges right up to the end of the war. Some generals, such as Grant, perhaps realized that the old tactics were no longer effective, but they apparently didn't care, as long as they could count on a fresh supply of men.
General George B. McClellan in the summer of 1861, decided in favor of muzzle-loading rifles for all Union infantry, although both breechloaders and repeating arms had been available for 20 years.
After the Civil war, the Indians were vastly better armed than General Custer which is why he lost and committed suicide. You didn’t know Custer shot himself? Neither did most of my history profs. Nor did they like to be reminded that almost all of the Generals on both sides during the Civil war were idiots. Mrs. Pickett, who lives in Sarasota Florida still hasn’t forgiven Robert E. Lee. The dumbness did not stop at the Civil war. It followed our troops to the Philippines. 4234 Americans killed out of 126,468 deployed. That’s a much higher percentage than Vietnam. American troops were sent to the Philippines with a rifle and a pistol that would not stop charging Moro natives with a bolo knife. The Philippine American war lasted from 1899 to 1902. The first Colt M1911 automatic pistol was finally shipped to Moroland in 1944 to give the Moro guerillas the firepower needed to stop Japanese Banzai charges.
Normally I wouldn’t care about this but since I was in Vietnam and a war was going on I assumed that the American Generals had followed the proud traditions of the service and WestPoint (ringknockers) and were hopelessly addled about armed combat.
The plane approached Camhron Bay and did a wing over and a very steep descent onto the landing strip. Steeper than I thought a large commercial jet could safely do.
I wasn’t afraid but I wondered why we were landing in such an odd manner. On the ground it became obvious the flight crew wanted us out of the plane ASAP.
I still wasn’t afraid. Boom, boom boom. I had no weapon. I was getting a little afraid. 6 weeks of training was sufficient, so the army thought in 1967.
The winner of the marksmanship and familiarity with the M-14 contest, got a weekend pass. No beer and pussy for a few weeks motivated me to win. The marksmanship was easy thanks to dad and my 30-30 Winchester deer rifle. At a hundred yards I could outshoot the relatively loose rifles available for basic training. Wind didn’t effect the heavy round fired from the M-14. I imagined the round flying straight and true in the jungle despite any branches, small trees or other tropical cover. I had practiced at night in the dark and in the daytime blindfolded. I could field strip it and put it back together flawlessly. I got the weekend pass and a couple of marksmanship awards.
I liked the M-14. Never had a jam and it shot true every time but I could understand its problems when placed against the AK-47. In my mind I understood the concept of building a squad around a machine gun but the reality of jungle warfare made individual soldier firepower seem more important.
Boom, boom, boom. I still didn’t have a weapon and I was getting agitated. The Swiss Army knife I carried in my pocket was not going to do the job against a squad of commies carrying automatic weapons.
Camhron Bay was under attack when I flew to Vietnam for the first time. Boom, boom, boom. I was getting scared. A creature came out of the sky with a low rumble that changed my fear to awe. I imagine it did the same for the attacking VC. It was a DC-3.
The very first DC-3, American Airlines "Flagship Texas," took its maiden flight on December 17, 1935, over Santa Monica, California. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower once identified the C-47, the military version of the DC-3 as one of four things that won World War II for the allies. The others were the Bazooka, Jeep and Atom Bomb (note he does not mention Generals).
In 1953 the US sent teams of mechanics to Vietnam to help the French maintain their fleet C-47s . By 1961, additional C-47s had been supplied to the South Vietnamese Air Force.
As the Viet Cong activity shifted to nighttime operations the C-47 was virtually born again into a new role, twenty years after production of these airplanes had ceased. What Donald Douglas had designed as a basic passenger airplane evolved into a highly efficient gunship, designated the AC-47.
AC-47 gun ships had three window-mounted electrically operated 7.62 mm (same bullet as M-14) machine guns. In this role, the gunship flew with a crew of eight; the pilot, copilot, navigator, mechanic, two ordnance men (to load the machine guns), a flare launcher and a Vietnamese observer. The gun ships carried 2,000 pounds of ammunition and 45, five minute, 5-million candlepower flares.
The three 7.62 mm miniguns could selectively fire either 50 or 100 rounds per second. Cruising at 120 knots air speed at an altitude of 2 or 3,000 feet, the AC-47 could put a high explosive or glowing red incendiary bullet into every square yard of a football field-sized target in three seconds.
The NVA and VC had standing orders, “Not attack dragon. Not want make dragon angry.” Our troops seeing those orders nicknamed it, “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
It did create one problem for our body counting officer corps. There was not enough of the enemy left after Puff to count bodies. The scene looked more like a piñata of raw hamburger had been exploded.
I began to feel better. You could see the progress of Puff by the tracers as it worked its way around the field.
During a lull in the action I was picked up, still sans weapon, and choppered into Long Binh.
Long Binh Vietnam was the largest military base the world had ever seen.
My original bravado had disappeared. I was quickly made aware of the shortcomings and strengths of the US Army in Vietnam. It was filled with contradictions, some of which made sense for the majority but left my personal state of self defense sadly lacking. I was issued a flack jacket, tear gas mask and an M-16 which were immediately locked up in the supply office by the supply sergeant. I don’t know if he actually kept them or sold them. Nothing would have surprised me. This is a war right? I am in a combat zone right? People are shooting at me right? But I don’t get a gun? Right. So if Mr. Victor Charlie comes to visit me who is going to ask him to wait while I run to the supply office and pull a weapon?
A couple of days later I was taken to a shooting range to qualify with the M-16 in the odd event that I had the time to run to the supply shack and get armed during an attack. It didn’t strike me as a very effective weapon after the M-14. In fact I was not very impressed with it at all.
Since most of my movement in Vietnam would be by helicopter it even made less sense. It is hard to shoot a rifle in a helicopter. The M-60 door guns made sense and they worked well most of the time in my experience (unless it rained, got dusty or you ran out of duct tape) but lacked the reliability and punch of the Browning .50 Cals. I knew no one was going to give me an armored vehicle with .50 caliber machine guns so I set about to see what else was available. I would have taken Eisenhower’s advice and got a jeep, bazooka and an atom bomb but I doubted if anyone was going to give me all three.
The Army took care of me well enough during the day while I was performing my normal duties but at night it was another story.
They put me in a wooden barracks that was in a line with other barracks. These structures were neatly lined up to facilitate anyone blowing them to hell with a minimum of effort. I didn’t care about hot water, flush toilets or army food; none of which I used anyway. I was trying to extricate myself from large gatherings of soldiers. The troops liked the hot water showers so the VC rocketed them. The troops ate at the mess hall so the VC rocketed the mess hall. We lived next to helicopters and sappers liked throw satchel charges in the helicopters. The troops liked flush toilets and they were a target also. I found an outhouse, old cold water showers and a Chinese/French restaurant which only poisoned me on rare occasions.
I showed up for work every day but at night I would get out of Long Binh.
This lone ranger status also left me exposed to brief encounters with hostile forces.
I had not come to Vietnam to kill anyone. I came to get away from my wife in the States. Anyone who knew her felt, for the most part, my actions were justified and Vietnam was safer than living with Beverly.
I set about searching for personal weaponry. I had some initial criteria. 1. Ammo had to be available and light weight. 2. Although I would have liked a crew served weapon I reconciled myself to operating it alone. 3. It had to be accurate to 25 yards. Beyond 25 yards I could run away fast. 4. It had to be easy to carry, both while walking and in a UH-1 helicopter. 5. It had to have stopping power. I didn’t want to shoot some one and have them still shoot back at me.
There were a lot of guns available in Vietnam in 1968. Current issue ones and the black market in Saigon in addition to those, had everything that was used in SEA for the past 20 years. If you couldn’t get it on the black market a green beret would usually trade it for booze.
FNH Browning H-P Mk III, Smith & Wesson Mark 22 Mod.0 "Hush Puppy", Colt M1911A1 pistol, S & W Model 15 (USAF M-15), S & W models 12, S & W Aircrewman model.
F-1 sub-machine gun.
Owen sub-machine gun, Sterling L2A3 sub-machine gun, – Walther MP (MPL), Carl Gustav M/45 or Kulsprutepistol m/45, Thompson M1A1, M3/A1 'Grease Gun', Ingram MAC-10, Beretta Model 12.
Colt XM-177 A1, Short assault rifle
Armalite/Colt XM16, M16 A1and
Heckler & Koch G3 automatic.
M1/M2 Carbine, M1 Garand, M-14 rifle, L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (SLR), Springfield M1903.
Ithaca 37 pump-action shotgun, Remington 870 pump-action shotgun, Remington 11-48 semi-automatic shotgun.
Not wanting to approach my decision from an uneducated viewpoint I decided to try testing.
When they checked me out with an M-16 we had used a watermelon. I didn’t think I would have to kill to many more watermelons so I tried to get some cadavers.
In 1968 in Vietnam you have to figure there are going to be a lot of cadavers. I just wanted to borrow a couple. Try as I may no one would loan me any. Sure they had em but they wouldn’t part with them and they looked at me strangely when I asked. I explained I was only going to shoot them a couple of times more and not violate them in any way but even the Koreans wouldn’t give me any.
I did have a few offers to go out and kill my own but that was not the point. I didn’t want to kill anyone anyway.
First, we would paint the map pink and they we would drop leaflets telling everyone to leave. Then we would fly in gunships and shoot anything that moved. I have never had anything against water buffalos. I don’t like the meat but the animal never bothered me. In the wisdom of the Pentagon the water buffalos in the pink areas of the map had to go. I took three different pistols on the UH-1 gunship and went out hunting water buffalos. The crew of the chopper were less than enthusiastic about landing me to shoot a water buffalo. After an hour of looking at the closeness of jungle to the wandering water buffalo I could see why. Charlie could be in the jungle and would not like me shooting a buffalo.
So we scrapped that idea.
Instead, here is what I found out. 1. You can kill a chicken with a .45 in about 1 second even if you don’t hit him in the head. 2. The shock of the impact of the bullet knocks the chicken all over the place. 3. The exit wound is about the size of a golf ball, if you can find an exit wound with blood spattered for 15 feet and I never did find the spent bullet.
It was my first chicken killed in combat. This is not a good way to kill chickens because there is not much left to eat.
Before Vietnam I had made a Colt Dragoon black powder kit gun. The Dragoon had been made to stop horses at close range as well as men. I had the opportunity on a hunting trip to use the Colt to kill a black bear. It put out a .454 inch lead ball at 850 feet per second in 1848 about the same as the Army issue Colt 1911 automatic in 1968. The modern colt kicked more than the Dragoon and the Dragoon was marginally more powerful especially if you put an extra 10 grains of powder in, but it was really not appropriate for jungle combat. It was hard to load a revolver and run at the same time and I had enough eccentricities as it was, let alone adding black powder arms to my arsenal.
My choice of the Colt .45 Auto decided my ammunition and the only other weapon that used .45ACP was a Thompson submachine gun (Thompson M1A1) . There were a number of Thompson’s in Vietnam. The US and Vietnamese Armies used then in small quantities as did the VC. The Thompson had a few handicaps in not being able to penetrate heavy jungle cover, helmets or armored vests but I decided to avoid any VC wearing a helmet or armored vest. I never did see any nor did anyone I knew.
Can a Thompson M1A1 submachine gun kill a chicken? Indubitably. One short burst does the trick and even though the gun climbs a little while shooting it makes no difference on the final outcome. I could not verify the size of the entrance or exit wounds because all we found were feathers and blood and unidentifiable chicken parts like in macnuggets.
There are all sorts of debates in gun circles about stopping power and knockdown power and one shot kills. I can tell you this. If Vietnamese chickens ever declare a war against us, the .45 Cal. is the weapon of choice whether in hand gun or submachine gun. It stopped em, and knocked em down and blew em to kingdom come.
You would think I could legally pull a weapon if I went into Saigon. Nope. The base commander had a policy that we should not be issued side-arms, in a misguided attempt at precluding shootouts at the Crazy Horse saloon in downtown Saigon . . . booze, girls, guns, and horny GI’s being a dangerous combination.
The battle of Gettysburg killed more men in three days than the ten years of Vietnam. I realized my odds were pretty good of staying alive if I exercised a modicum of caution but the Army was a total clusterfuck. The French had wanted to use airpower to stop the Vietminh (later VC). The French wrote a very good analysis of the situation after they lost. Airpower would not stop a determined enemy who used manpower to move supplies along jungle trails that were carved out in a couple of days after being bombed out of existence.
During WW II the US Air force was part of the Army. After WW II it became a separate branch of the service. This created inter service rivalries. After WW II the Air force got rid of all its prop fighter and attack planes and converted to jets. The Army, Navy and Marine corps established air wings because they didn’t trust the Air force. They also got rid of most of their combat experienced pilots. The United States approached Vietnam without enough pilots and planes that were suited to gorilla warfare. The US Air force eventually wound up using B-26 bombers (until the wings fell off due to age) and then B-52 bombers for close infantry support from 30,000 feet. The B-52 was designed to carry a nuclear payload and drop it from a great height.
How did I find out all of this? I was a pointer boy. I was in the staff meetings and stood at attention every morning until a General made a reference to the big map on the wall. I would then point to the area the General mentioned. I almost lost my job for laughing out loud when an Air force General referred to the B-52 campaign as “Operation Masturbation and bombing the trees again last night.”
The Army wanted to arm anything that flew slow which meant observation planes, helicopters, and anything with an engine and a prop. It was simple one just put .50 cal. gun pod under the wing and if it had two wings a rocket pod under the other wing. The Air Force did not want the Army to have planes with guns aboard because that was the mandate of the Air Force.
The grunts on the ground just wanted bombs and bullets flying at the enemy. To begin with it took a couple of days to schedule a B-52 strike because they flew out of Guam and refueled in the air (a dangerous operation). Since the Air Force did not have enough planes for ground support and the only extra ones were from SAC (Strategic Air Command) they built bigger bellies in the B-52’s and stationed them at U-Tapao in Thailand among other places. There was also a big problem of where to bomb. They finally made big boxes on maps and the 30,000 foot high bombers could usually hit a ten mile square box. The radar bombing systems did not work well in SEA and most of the planes could only bomb in fair weather conditions. Most of the pilots had received abbreviated training periods and were not able to fly during inclement weather conditions. Inclement weather was about every other day. Secrecy was another problem. When we started bombing
Sihanoukville, I was better informed than the Air Force Chief of Staff. The plans were worked out by the White House and a Colonel. In secret, B-52’s flew 3,630 sorties and dropped 100,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia. Somebody eventually told the New York Times and they broke the story. I didn’t tell em.
I sat in my non flush toilet shitter and watched the sunset every night after work. Sometimes I drank Crackling Rose wine and sometimes beer. I smoked Kool cigarettes and marveled at the war.
1 million tons of bombs fell on North Vietnam. 4 million on South Vietnam. 3 million on Laos. Half a million on Cambodia.
We never stopped the 559th Transportation Group which transformed the Ho Chi Minh trail from a foot path to thousands of miles of truck roads. In October of 1971 the North Vietnamese had more than 2,170 miles of single-lane roads, multi-lane roads, parallel routes, bypasses, and spur roads in Laos. They also added while we were bombing, 344 AAA batteries, new MiG bases in Southern North Vietnam, and dozens of SA-2 SAM sites, most of which were along the Laotian-North Vietnam border. There were 96,000 NVA in Laos, 63,000 in Cambodia, 200,000 in South Vietnam and 26 in Thailand. Road maintenance required 96,000 support personnel.
When Laotian roads were unusable during the rainy season, the NVA compensated by developing rivers as alternative means of transportation. They often used the Kong and Banhiang rivers, whose tributaries flowed across the DMZ into Laos.
The NVA also constructed pipelines. Three ran into Laos from Vinh in the North Vietnamese panhandle. They were made of Soviet-imported plastic pipes connected with metal couplings. These Soviet-made pumps pumped motor oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosine. The Soviet Union was exporting 10,000 trucks per year to North Vietnam. We were blowing up 10,000 per year on the trail. It doesn’t make much sense except for the truck manufacturer.
In the last months of the war from Thailand the USAF sent B-52 raids to speed up the Paris peace talks. They went in in a three wave pattern over the same targets at the same times. They did it three days in a row. I wonder what the pilots and crews thought on the third day. The first two days they got away with it. The third day North Vietnam shot down 6 B-52’s and damaged a couple more. Anybody at U-Tapao from pilots to the guy who cleaned the pots and pans at the mess hall could have made a more intelligent utilization of air assets. What did the brass have to say? Sin loy GI. Sorry about that GI.
I practiced with my guns. The trigger pull of the Thompson was stiff. It took some getting used to, to squeeze off 3 or 4 round bursts. It only had two settings full auto and single shot. I wore the 45 in a shoulder holster under my fatigue jacket. OD tee shirt, shoulder holster then fatigue jacket. The shoulder holster had room for an extra clip. I had mamma san make me a couple of 30 round clip holders for the Thompson and kept those on my belt.
The lifers at headquarters had custom made uniforms; tight, form fitting, starched and pressed military works of art. They made fun of me with my baggy regular army issue jungle fatigues. Military historians have long observed that the army most likely to win a war is the one with least attractive, or extravagant, uniforms. This is called the "Sukhomlinov Effect", in recognition of general Vladimir Sukhomlinov, who was the Russian minister of war in 1914, at the start of World War I. Sukhomlinov himself was a sight to behold, favoring uniforms generously adorned with gold braid embroidery and similar accessories. Alas, Sukhomlinov was a spectacular failure as a military leader. There are numerous historical examples to back up this thesis.
I gotta admit the fitted, tiger striped fatigues were a superb fashion statement but mine concealed my hardware. The loose fitting uniform was also cooler and it was hot until you got used to the weather.
I took pictures of myself with my .45 pistol and Thompson submachine gun and sent them to my wife and girlfriend. I also gave autographed pictures of myself in combat gear to whores in Thailand and Taiwan. I burned some incense for the chickens and called it a day.
The Stick is on death's doorstep so no comments.