What follows is an excerpt from “Sole Surviving Sons, a Marine Tanker in Vietnam“. The book is unpublished as of yet and is a Marine odyssey in Vietnam. Please comment if you would lie to hear more…..

Although these short stories stand on their own, they suffer greatly from having the art and photos stripped out as well as being out of context. My book takes the form of months, not chapters and each month is prefaced by one letter that I sent home and paraphrasing of others….and then the real reality.

by D.
There was one shitty week that I got stuck in the Company area, on light duty, due 
to a foot infection. Things got real interesting one of those evenings.
Two other Marines, also on light duty, and I spent most all day unloading a tank 
that had taken four or five RPGs and had just about been turned to junk. The hydraulics 
were blown out, the electrical system was haywire and it had to have certain areas 
bypassed with jumpers around the shorts. Not to mention the holes blown through the 
turret and TC’s cupola.
The vehicle was no longer serviceable, even by Marine Corps standards, and was 
being stripped down to be sent back to the States, for refitting. I had had to bang an 
empty cartridge case into part of the electrical system to jump around a short, just to get it
started and moved to the ammo bunker. Once there, we could off load the ton of 
ammunition. We had to unload twenty or so 90mm rounds, a few hundred .50 
machinegun rounds, and a few thousand .30s for the coaxial machinegun. We also 
stripped the tools and any serviceable equipment. It was hot, tiring work and we were all 
beat by the end of the day.
Not long after we had finished, we were called to a briefing. The Captain had just 
got off the “horn” with Division Intelligence. He had more good news. It seems the 
Division Recon teams had spotted two divisions of NVA and they were moving towards 
our area of responsibility. Intelligence had surmised the scenario, that the NVA intended 
to sweep into our compound, overrun us, and capture the artillery in our perimeter and 
use it to shell Da Nang. This had to be the wildest Intel briefing I’d ever heard, but they 
were all being deadly serious.
Our instructions were bizarre. We were to get the only tank in the area at the 
time, you guessed it, the one we had just spent the day unloading, fueled, rearmed and 
running. We were to hold the perimeter as long as possible, but at the first sign that the 
berm was being breached, we were to turn our main gun on the artillery emplacement, 
inside of our own wire, and blow it away. Accomplishing this, we were to throw a 
thermite grenade into the breach of our main gun, close the breach and fuse the gun into a 
molten lump. After all of that we had no choice but to abandon the vehicle. We would 
then be on foot and our own. Real fun news to start the evening with.
We once more worked our asses off. We got reloaded, jumpered around the 
electrical shorts below the turret floor, and even got the Xenon searchlight working. We 
were a few hours into the night by this time. We decided to take the tank around to the 
main gate to check out the search light and try to do a minimal sight check. We called in 
on the radio net, received permission and pulled into the road at the main gate. I was 
gunning and traversing along a tree line about a thousand meters out. The TC flipped the 
switch on the searchlight, with the system on infrared I saw something moving and yelled 
out on the intercom “I think I’ve got something here!” I’d briefly seen four figures 
moving over a sand dune. We called the Company C. O. to check that there were no 
friendly patrols operating in that area. He came back on the radio, in seconds, saying 
“There is no one anywhere around that area, fire, right now! I’ll clear permission with 
Division later!”
The loader threw an HE round in the tube, and lined up two more to follow it. 
The TC turned the switch on the white light and I let it rip. Three rounds later there was 
not much sand dune left. We talked to the C. O. and he said they were arranging a patrol 
for early morning to check it out, but as far as he was concerned, we had “Four confirmed 
kills, ‘cause they’re probably blown to pieces!”
The perimeter stayed at 100% alert the rest of the night, but the two divisions of 
NVA never showed up. Either the intelligence out of Division was bullshit, or our little 
show made them shy off. I didn’t know which was the reason and I damn sure didn’t 
care. I’m just glad we didn’t have to play out the Captain’s earlier plans. I didn’t much
care for the idea of the four of us, out on our own, crawling in the dirt in the midst of an 
NVA attack. Armed only with four .45s and 50 some rounds of ball pistol ammunition. I 
could live very well, thank you, without the thought of that scenario, let alone it’s reality!

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  1. DearOldDad;

    Portions of the book have been published in an historical anthology of Combat in Cities, as well as at the USMC Vietnam Tankers website. I also burned a limited number of Beta CDs for Charlie Co. tank crews and collegues. It also contains about a hundred photos and very localized maps, as well as a one hour video edited from hundreds of feet of super8 film that I shot. The book takes what I believe is a very unique format.

    John and I have briefly discussed serializing it (It is a big, perhaps unworkable, job at 354+ pages) and then offering it on Amazon as an E-book through MSO. The response here will determine how that project goes.
    Regards, D.

  2. Another good read is “40 Miles of Bad Road” , if my memory serves me right. It was by a Dwayne. . . .can’t remember his last name, but another good tanker memoir about Vietnam

  3. I have to agree w/DearOldDad. Just with these 2 short stories already I wish there was a book option so I wouldn’t have to wait each day for a new one.

  4. My dad was in Da Nang around 1971. He was a combat medic who had went to Saigon on leave when his firebase was overran by VC. Supposedly everyone perished. He told me this many years ago when he was very drunk. Carries many odd memories about that war with him till this day. Damned tragic situation for all them young men over there.

  5. Make that three! I don’t read a lot of books anymore. I believe Rourke’s book “A Survival Story” was the last title. But, I enjoy military history more than any other subject.

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