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Unit Shirts: Getting Started | Gallery | Pricing | Contact Info Who's Got a Compass: By G.I. Cressman

Artillery Redlegs preparing to fire for effect cartoon lot of "yarns" have been spun by this keyboard about my experiences in South Viet Nam. While they have all been based in fact without embellishment, none have given a feel for the true mission and life of a "Redleg" (Artillery Man - excuse me, Person in these times). My job was to communicate with the Infantry (lovingly called Grunts), receive incoming Fire Mission raw data, convert it into gun calibration/ammo data, and communicate this to the gun crews. We worked 12 hours on and 12 hours off, but EVERYONE was ALWAYS present during a critical fire mission (loosely defined as a friendly life in danger). Often the guns were firing around the clock. While oversimplified, this gives you an idea of what we did. (who cares that we input weather data up to 25,000 feet into our "points of reference" hourly, manned foxholes when under attack, pulled details such as human waste incineration, ate C-rations,drank warm beer and rice rum when necessary, etc.).

Sometimes we fired "Harassment and Interdiction" rounds all night. These were usually High Explosive rounds fired at predetermined spots just to harass the VC. Every now and then, we actually hit something, but that was rare (the grunts gave me my first AK47 as a result of an H & I kill - proof is in our photo album).

Sometimes we tried to hit sampans (little boats) on the Tra Bong River that were out after curfew. While I know for fact we gave a few of those boat "captains" religion, we never actually hit one.

Sometimes we would fire in close support of Infantry that was engaged in a firefight. These were always exciting and always VERY critical. Grunts would die if we didnít get the rounds on the ground fast and accurately. We could always get a round in the air within 2 minutes of the START of a radio transmission which began with the adrenaline producing word "CONTACT" (I just got Goosebumps typing the word CONTACT). We placed a premium on speed and accuracy due to the critical nature of these missions. In fact, many times at night the gun crews did not take the time to get dressed and completed their missions naked (Seeing that was worse than seeing dead bodies!). D Battery, 1/14th ARTY was VERY GOOD!!

Sometimes we would get involved in something special (no I'm not going to tell you about my Cambodia experience - maybe another time!). One morning at first light, over 300 North Vietnamese regulars were spotted digging in on a hilltop about 10,000 meters away (within range of our 102's). This was bizarre as it was broad daylight, there was apparently no effort to conceal their activities, and our LZ was clearly visible if they cared to look north. In fact, they had to actively AVOID our position to get from the Ho Chi Min Trail to that hilltop, so they MUST have known we were there. Every battery that could reach the spot was pulled into a "simultaneous impact" fire mission, and I was the "controller". We would all "fire for effect" (no marker rounds to adjust fire) so that every battery's rounds would hit the ground at the same time. We had 102's (little guns), 155's (big guns), 175's (bigger guns), and something even bigger firing (I can't recall the name of the biggest guns, but they were land based). Once the firing commenced, it was continuous for an hour. I gave the countdown to commence fire (ammo flight time to the target was different for everyone), with our guns firing last since we were the closest.

As our "flight time" was about 20 seconds, I had time to get out of the bunker and witness the simultaneous impact of about 50 artillery rounds - it appeared that the top of the mountain just disintegrated into a haze of smoke and fire. When we ceased fire, two gunships cruised the area and shot the 3 NVA's they saw moving around. Our spotter, who I personally visited and talked to after the engagement, counted 242 dead enemy. This was the biggest enemy kill attributed to an artillery mission that I've ever heard of. As the South Vietnamese needed a "victory" due to political and morale reasons, they were assigned the task of going in, cleaning up, and getting credit for the official body count (you had to touch a body for it to count). For whatever reason, the South Vietnamese took 4 days to get to the spot, and by the time they arrived, there were NO bodies there to count. So, the official result was no kills - go figure. I think I knew before then that this wasnít a perfect world, but that sure drove it home. Anyway, it was a sight to see, and WE knew the true result!

Iíve rambled long enough - Credence is starting to run through my head - WHO DO YOU LOVE!!!

Semper Fi!

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