498th Dust Off

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One evening, as I headed down the hill I saw a flash off to my right--in the 129th Gunships area--and heard a thunderous bang. A mortar round just exploded a dozen yards away from me. I jumped into the nearest bunker and hunkered down. I heard another mortar land somewhere further away and clambering out of the bunker and made a dash for my hootch; where I grabbed my M-16, my steel pot, and my camera. I stopped to confer with some of the guys and heard the high-pitched whine of Huey turbines, as the 129th Gunships came alive.

As I made my way down the hill all hell broke loose on the perimeter off to my left. Someone had cut loose with an M-60, sending tracers out across the wire into the dark shadows beyond.

For the first time since I’d been there, Lane was under direct attack.

With all the fireworks going on, I decided to snap a few pictures. I climbed up on the roof of the supply building, aimed my camera towards the gun fire, and starting shooting. At one point an officer came by and told me to get down and take cover. I lied and told him I was the official 498th photographer, and I needed to get some pictures of the attack. Another mortar landed on the flight line, and the man lost interest in me.

With our M-60’s pouring out lead, the 129th gunships quickly got in on the action, saturating our perimeter with mini-gun rounds. Giant flares illuminated the area, casting stark shadows all around me. The eerie shadows swung wildly back and forth as the flares drifted down from above.

The six-foot long spent flares tubes, like ghostly apparitions, floated silently down until they landed with a startling thud and a clang.

Out of film, I headed down to the radio shack to find a cluster of guys crammed into the little radio room, where Lt. O’Quinn was manning the radios. He told us that Bulldog Ops had just called and they were in need of additional fuel (for their gunships). He needed someone to drive our POL truck over there so they could get their birds back up.

I said I’d do it, so he handed me the key and said, “Thanks.” The next thing I know, I’m driving a truck filled with thousands of gallons of JP-4 fuel across the compound as mortars explode off to my left, on the flight line. I pushed the gas pedal to the floor and held my breath. A few minutes later the fuel was delivered and I found myself helping a 129th crew load rockets into their rocket pods. What a night!

Later on, it became clear that there hadn’t been a ground assault, just a dozen or so mortars lobbed into the compound. The best we could figure was that the VC had come back from a mission humping some extra mortars, and they decided that rather than carry them any further, they’d let us have them. And they did.


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