Family Veterans

For Veterans Day I should recognize my dad, who served in the Army in World War II and Korea, my grandfather, who served in the Army during the Spanish-American War and World War I, and my great-grandfather, who served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

I served in the Army in Vietnam.

Heroes or Villains

Today the word “hero” is overused. Heroes do exist, but not everyone who does a good, brave thing is a hero, according to my definition. A hero should be someone extraordinary, so that the phrase “everyday heroes” is an oxymoron.  To call thousands of people heroes debases the term.  In ancient literature heroes were often divine, godlike figures.

In a few days American police have ceased to be heroes helping other types of first responders with the Covid-19 crisis while protecting society from violent crimes. Instead, they have become murderous villians, who kill without compunction. It reminds me, as a Vietnam veteran, of how attitudes toward veterans have changed over the years. When we came back from Vietnam, we were definitely not heroes.  We were called war criminals, baby killers, and other horrible things.  I don’t know of any Vietnam veterans who were actually spit upon, but that was a common way of describing how they felt when they returned.

Until recently, veterans were looked upon as good people who were protecting the nation and should be thanked for doing so.  They may be losing some of this luster as a result of Trump’s calls for them to control domestic demonstrations for the rights of blacks.  Attitudes change rapidly in these days where good and bad are defined by social media.

Most police are good people trying to do their job of maintaining a peaceful society, although there are clearly some bad apples.  Today social media is focusing on the bad apples, and all police are tarred with their failures.  Police have become an object of hatred by the black community.  Blacks are stopped more often than whites, perhaps treated more roughly than whites, but statistics show that the blacks are more likely to be criminals than whites, and police are justified in being more suspicious of blacks than whites.  However, police should not violate the law while enforcing the law.

It is encouraging that recent demonstrations by the black lives matter movement have become more peaceful, with less looting and destruction, but the fact that looting characterized the early days of the demonstrations was a bad sign.

It looks to me like America is changing for the worse.  It is becoming more violent, less civil, less law abiding.  I hope I am wrong.  Maybe the police will return to America’s good graces, as the military did in the years after Vietnam.

Memorial Day

For Memorial Day I want to remember the two men who were killed in my A battery 2/94th artillery at Firebase Barbara in Vietnam – Paul John Kosanke and Willie Austin.

i also want to remember my dad, who served in both the European theater (in France) and the Pacific theater (in the Philippines) in World War II. I still have the teddy bear he brought back to me from the Philippines when the war was over.  He stayed in the National Guard after the war and was called up again for the Korean War.  When he returned from Korea, the National Guard in Mobile could not find a place for him; so, he became a member of a National Guard unit in Camden, Alabama, and commuted to the meetings there for years until he retired.

Here he is in uniform on the left:

And his dad, who served in the Spanish American War (in the Philippines) and in France in World War I, and who is buried in Arlington Cemetery.  His tombstone incorrectly says he served in World War II.  On his way to France, his troopship, the Tuscania, was torpedoes by a German U-boat.  He survived and found refuge on the Scottish island of Islay.  Another survivor’s experience of the sinking of the Tuscania is found here.  A souvenir handkerchief he brought back from France to my grandmother is below. 

M252 81-mm mortar

At LZ Sharon, I pretty much had my own 81-mm mortar that we used to fire illumination rounds for the quad-50 machine gun that was our main ground defense. We didn’t worry much about a ground attack while the battery was firing, which usually lasted until 3 am or 4 am. So, the main concern for firing the mortar was from 3 or 4 until daylight. Here is the Wikipedia article about the mortar.

Our mortar at LZ Sharon:

Some stock pictures of 81-mm mortars currently in use:

M110 8-inch howitzer and M107 175-mm gun

The 2/94th artillery batallion was a heavy artillery batallion with three batteries of 8-inch howitzers and 175 mm guns. The self-propelled carriage was the same for both configurations. A tube (barrel) change converted it from one to the other. The 8-inch howitzer could fire a heavier shell about 10 miles, and the 175-mm gun could file a lighter projectile about 20 miles. The 8-inch was very accurate; the 175-mm less so. Our battery switched back and forth several times. At LZ Sally, I think we were always 8-inch supporting the 101st Division in the A Shau Valley. At FB Barbara we were mostly 175-mm firing up and down the Ho Chi Minh trail along the Laotian border. At Charlie-1, I think were were 8-inch firing along the DMZ. A few times, I think we were half and half, two 8-inch and two 175-mm to cover longer range and shorter range targets.

Here are some pictures of the 8-inch howitzer and 175-mm gun. The 8-inch barrel was much shorter than the 175-mm, and the 8-inch shell was larger and heavier. Whether a device is a howitzer or a gun depends on the bore size of the barrel compared to its length. If the barrel is very short compared to the bore diameter, then it is a mortar. Here is a discussion among some Vietnam vets about the difference, which is not very clear.

One of our 8-inch howitzers at FB Barbara:

Here is one of our 175-mm guns:

Here is a stock photo of a 175-mm gun:


Here are some stock photos of an M110 8-inch howitzer:

Here is an additional description of the 8-inch howitzer and here is a description of the 175-mm.

M577 Mobile Command Post in Vietnam

The fire direction center (FDC) of our heavy artillery battery had as part of its standard equipment an M577 mobile command post. As the chief of section of the FDC, I had to sign for the M577, as well as all the rest of the equipment, radios, generators, computers, machine guns, etc. The M577 is a modification of the widely used M113 armored personnel carried, the main change being a higher roof so that you can stand up inside.

This link contains some specifications for the M577:

M-42 Dusters in Vietnam

At Firebase Barbara we had 40 mm duster for ground defense of our heavy artillery battery, since we had no Anerican infantry support, although we did have Vietnamese infantry support. Like the quad-50 machine guns, dusters were used in World War II as anti-aircraft weapons, but in Vietnam, they were used as anti-personnel weapons. When they fired, it was dramatic because every round was a tracer. It was like two streams of light leaving the guns.

This video contains a history of the M-42 Duster, including its use in Vietnam.

This video shows a duster and a quad-50 firing at Firebase Bastogne, which was in I Corps near the firebases Sharon and Barbara, where we (A battery 2/94th heavy artillery) were based.

Duster firing at FB Bastogne

Quad-50s in Vietnam

At LZ Sharon we had quad-50 machine guns for ground defense of our heavy artillery battery, since we had no infantry defense. We did have a motley crew of South Vietnamese solders for perimeter defense. I used to fire our 81 mm mortar for illumination to support the quad-50, so they could see what was going on along the perimeter. If we ever had to fire, we had to get headquarters clearance to make sure that there were no friendly troops where we saw movement.

Quad-50s were used in World War II as anti-aircraft weapons. In Vietnam they were used as anti-personnel weapons.

Here are some pictures of quad-50s.

A YouTube video of quad-50s in Vietnam.

Mattis Not Vietnam Vet

I was somewhat surprised when I started reading Gen. Jim Mattas’ book, Chaos,  that he did not serve in Vietnam.  I guess I did not realize how long ago Vietnam was.  He talks about training with Vietnam veterans after the war.  One of his first tours was in Okinawa.  I haven’t gotten into his war experiences, but guess he had them in the Middle East.

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