Falcon Logo used Courtesy of Jim Bowers, 77th FA Assn.
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Part of this is from what is apparently a 2/34 armor association periodical of some sort. It seems that it is called "Tank Aces"
This again, was furnished to us by Jim hardin, 2/22 Inf.(M) vietnam, 1967 - 1968. It was donated along with his personal story and observation having taken part in the battle himself. As usual, thanks Jim!
-2/34 Armor History, and honors.
This is the story of the action at Sout Tre which involved the relief of an isolated Fire support Base (FSB), known as FSB Gold. The relief of FSB GOLD was the last aormored operation of Operation Junction City I, and took plade after the VC had launched a massive daylight assault on the FSB, which was located near Soui Tre. At the time the fire base was being garrisoned by the 3rd Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, together with the 2nd battalion of the 77th Artillery Regiment, equipped with 105mm howitzers. In the general area were the 2nd Bn, 12th Inf., the 34th Armor Regt. and the second battalion of 22nd Infantry (Mechanized)Which was conducting search and destroy operations. On 20 March 2nd Bn of 34th Armor which wascommanded at the time by Lt. Col. Raymond Stailey, was movint north, led by A Co. 2nd Bn, 22 inf (M) which had been sent to link up with the tanks. By last light, the two battalions had joined together and established their night laagers less than 2 km apart. Earlier that afternoon, the scout platoon of the mechanized battalion had cleared a track through the jungle some 1,500m to the north but had been unale to find a suitable ford over the Soui Samat stream. Lt. Col. Ralph Julian, who was the CO of 2nd bn, 22 inf, (M)decided that on the following day his column would move north along the cleared track, then swing to the east, to look for a suitable vehicle ford adcross the upper part of the stream. In its location on the other side of the Soui Samat about 2 km northeast of the tank battalion's laager position, the garrison of FSBGold had been working on its perimeter defences all night. Then at about 06:30 hours all HELL broke loose! An ambush patrol from the firebase made contact with a large enemy force that was moving towards the FSB, while at the same time GOLD came under heavy mortar fire - over 600 mortar rounds landing inside the perimeter, while wave upon wave of hevily armed VC came out of the jungle, firing recoiless rifles, rocket grenades, automatic weapons and small arms The ambush patrol position was quickly overrun and the patrol had to go to ground. As the fighting grew more intense at GOLD, the armored units to the south of the firebasse were ordered to cross the stream as quickly as possible and go to the relief of their hard pressed comrades. Lt. Col. Julian immediately moved up part of Company C, plus a tank platoon along the track cleared by the scout platoon. However, as the column was still closing up, the situation at the firebase got worse and worse, causing the brigade commander Co. Marshall Garth, to order, "If a vehcile throws a track, leate it. Let's get in there and relieve the force. The APCs in the lead straddled each other's paths in order to clear a wide enough safe lane for the tanks, while the scouts searched desperately for the steram and a suitable ford. Soon after 07:00 hours, despite the accurate counter mortr fire from GOLD, giving the enemy mortar crews a hard time the VC managed to overrun a platoon position(1st plt. B company) on the east side of the perimeter. But a reserve force of artillerymen helped re-establish the situation. But under an hour later,the enemy broke through again in the same place and within a few minutes more, positions northeast of C company were almost completely overrun. A company sent men over with much needed ammunition, but soon they had their own problems - The VC overrunning a Quad .50 and trying to turn it onto the defenders and almost succeeding until it was knocked out by a direct hit from the defending artillery. At the same time, A company reported a number of penetrations in it's northern perimeter. Col. Garth ordered that the stream must be crossed no matter what even if the armor had to fill it up with their own vehicles, and then drive across them! At last with the valuable assistance of a helicopter the armored column found a way across the stream, and moved swiftly on towards GOLD. To the northwest of the armored column, the 2/12 Infantry was advancing on foot. The 2/12 managed to reach the firebase first and re-enforce it. But GOLD was still far from secure. The eastern sector of the perimeter had given way,and the defenders there forced to fall back. The VC were now within just 5 meters from the battalion aid stattion and within hand grenade range of the FSB Command Post. The Artillery, who had used up all of their flechette rounds, were firing HE at point blank ranges, so the battlefield was a smoke filled scene of carnage. 'Into this chaos came the tanks and APCs, crashing through the last few trees into the clearing. The noise was overwhelming as the new arrivals opened up with more than 200 machine guns and 90mm tank guns.' The ground all around shook as they cut through the enemy, crushing many under their tracks, while the VC, realizing they could not outrun the tanks, turned and tried to climb aboard them, but were quickly dealt with.'Even the tank recovery vehicle of Company A, 2nd battalion, 34th Armor smashed through the trees with it's machine gun chattering. Most of the crew,who were all mechanics, were throwing grenades, but one calm mechanic sat serenely atop the vehicle, his movie camera grinding away.Among the tank crews of 2nd Bn 34th armor, was Gerald Charles Lapp, who is now the treasurer of the Green Bay chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. He had recently returned to his unit from the hospital, after injuries to his left eye and left calf. In his absence, his position as loader on tank C-32 had been filled by a replacement, so he had been temporarily assigned to C-25 tank. He recalled the action thus:
"March 21st started normally for a tanker in the field. Four people on a tank shared 10 hours of guard duty a night. Guard duty started at 20:00 and finished at Stand-to at 06:00......I do remember that we were not the lead tank, but 2nd platoon was lead platoon....movement through the jungle is very slow and tears up the gun tube aiming, over heats engines and tears up transmissions. While C-25 was not lead tank, we were close to the front tank. I do remember the engines racing through that the lead tank cut to get to the FSB. Several times on other operations, when C-32 was lead tank, and we were pushing through the jungle, I as loader was responsible for cutting the vines off everything that they hang on to. One time the fender brushed against a tree that had a nest of those big red army ants hanging from a limb. The nest fell on the turret of the tank and a zillion mad red ants were soon all over the top. As the tank commander (SSG Sheets) and I were spraying or swatting thes ants I saw one climb up my arm to my shoulder, up my neck and into my ear. He clamped down on something inside my ear and I had never been in more pain in my life. The tears were rolling out of my eyes until
SSG Sheets poured some water down my ear and flood it out. Another time when we stopped to give me a rest from cutting off all the vines and I was leaning against a nearby tree standing on the fender. SSG Sheets looked over towards me and asked: "Who is your little buddy?" Several inches from my hand on the tree was a little snake that SSG Sheets said was a Banana Viper. I do not understsand the Vets that want to go back to that country.
Anyhow, back to the war. As the tanks were racing up and down these trails to get to GOLD I was down inside. The center of gravity on a tank is so high that nce it starts bucking back and forth racing down these trails it is very dificult to stay up top in the loader's hatch without getting thrown around. Down inside I was having a hard enough time holding onto anything that would give me support. Sitting on the loader's seat, feet spread apart for directional support, right hand on the steel grid that protects the radios from the shell casings coming out o fthe breech block, left hand holding onto the gun carriage. That's the best place to be. Once we broke through onto the LZ (Landing Zone)SSG Badoyen told me to get ready. One of the prides I had in being a lowlyloader was that I knew how to keep the 7.62 Coax machine-gun going and that I could load the main gun so fast it sounded like a semi-automatic. I remember we raced across the opening for some distance before we opened fire. I do remember members of 77 Artillery waving and cheering as we raced around them moving north-east. We had not opened fire yet but we were in the clearing. I jumped up in the loader's hatch and I coud see the black grille doors of three other tanks in front of us, meaning that we were the fourth tank into the clearing. Once I had jumped down and was loading the main gun and keeping the Coax firing without jamming I remember thinking: This is it. this is real combat. I wonder if an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade)will come through the front slope and kill us all? Hope SSG Badoyan has his pistol ready to keep anybody from jumping up on the tank and throwing a grenade down inside. I just kept loading that main gun and keeping slack in the belts of rounds feeding into the Coax. I remember seeing the empty shell cassings falling on the floor and hearing the ringing that they made as they fell on the floor of the turret. I remember taking my boot and keeping the away from the turret ring because when several of them got stacked up on the floor they would roll over to thedrive gear and jum it up. The charges in the tank cannister rounds were not like the charges in the Artillery 105mm rounds. these expended rounds were realy hot (we wore special asbestos mittens to handle them but the heat even got through these). The shell casings cooled of fairly quickly so you could handle them after about ten minutes but the loader still had to keep them out of the ring gear. After it was all over I jumped down off the tank to retrieve an AK-47 automatic rifle that had been left by someone not wanting to carry it any more. While was on the ground I remember seeing the small ditches that the grass had hid. The ditches looked perfect for someone to crawl in without being seen. The charge by the tanks had been an immediate success, as the fire base commander, Lt. Col. John A
. Bender, exclaimed:
"It was just like the late show on TV,
The US Cavalry came riding to the rescue!"
Another defender, Master Sergeant Andrew Hunter, recalled:
"They haven't made the words to describe what we thought
when we saw those tanks and armored personnel carriers.
It was de-vine!"
The prefered type of Patton tank for service in Vietnam was the M48A3, because it was fitted with a diesel engine, giving a better performance and greater crew safety n cases of a 'brew-up'. Weighing over 50 tons, yet capable of speeds up to 30 m.p.h and reasonable going, it mounted a 90mm main gun as it's main armament. The A1 and A2 versions of the M48, both of which had gasoline engines, also saw service in Vietnam. There were variations including an Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge and a Recovery Vehicle.
Since this is mostly an Armor page, here is a contribution from a troop who was in recon, 2/34 Armor. A personal account from his seat on his tank ----Larry George,Thanks, Larry it serves well to further highlight the sacrifices of brothers made for other members of 'the brotherhood
Sgt Mikey-this is a photo from the june '09 2/34 re-union near chicago.I (recon) am holding the presidential Unit Citation streamer. The heavy set guy in front is maxwell (C co). The guy in blue striped shirt is sgt Bob Washington (recon). The two guys in the front I am not sure about. I think the one on the left was a cook and not at soui tre. His name is D'amico. I think the other one was at soui tre,but don't know if he was in C co. or recon. Recon was always being split up and sent to different units that I never knew all of the guys,maybe 1/4th of them. It didn't get any easier once replacements started coming in.------Larry. (Sorry, Larry. Somehow, I lost your picture. Will try to find it, and meanwhile, if you stil have it -IMG_0742, YOU COULD SEND IT TO ME?) So, on to Larry's personal view of Soui-Tre -----
We'll start with his entry in our guestbook on Jun 25. ---I was just looking at the unit logos of everyone involved at soui tre.Just returned from a 2/34 recon re-union. I was injured that day in a freak accident when a 105 round cooked off and ended up hitting me. Iwas a gunner on an apc.The left side gunner saw it coming and ducked-Was lucky that I wasn't de-capitated.I am thinking of somehow making a flag with all the unit crests from that battle. Larry-----then I asked him to share his rather unique story. Below the red line is his reply. It adds a whole new dimension to the overall story.
Greetings-I have no pictures of myself during soui tre or of the battle or after. I wasn't in any condition to take photos and I think my camera got trashed when I was hit. I remember that I refused an airlift out. The vision of the downed aircraft did not give me alot of confidence. I used my good arm to help load the dead vc on the apc tailgate until I was told to go stay still so I didn't get a blood clot. The things that I recall prior to entering the battle zone-
1)."we are in for some hairy shit".
2).I hope that I am up to the task.
3)We had to sacrifice an apc to help get the tanks across the soui samat river and later we put c4 and det cord (after taking arms and ammo off) on seams. I was amazed as the whole apc lifted and then broke apart going about 60 feet in the air.
4)when I saw the vc coming and I started shooting,I got tunnel vision and had difficulty seeing the whole field without turning my head in an exaggerated manner.
5)Things got suddenly quiet and I could almost hear my heart pounding,when I suddenly felt as if a semi had struck my left side. I was lifted off my feet and crashed to the floor of my apc. I was numb from my waist to my neck on my left side. Suddenly I was being dragged out of the apc,my ears were ringing and when people spoke,it was as if they were far away. My vision was blurred. My best buddy, John Drogokupiec was the driver of our command apc and was just ahead of me in the battle. His voice was the first I recognized. guess that's what being in shock is. John told me later that he tried to warn me of an artillary shell hurling straight for me. I think if I had turned ever so slightly,I would have been decapitated.The shell struck me,then hit my machine gun and came to rest on top of the apc,next to the exhaust. Larry george --Editor's note...Larry mentioned that
John died this Jan. at 62 from agent orange complications.I feel saddened by his passing,but I know that he was in much pain the last couple of years and is in a better place.
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