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A Blast From The Past

These are a few pictures from my tour in Vietnam while serving with the 815 Eng. 102nd CS at Camp Dillard in the central highlands. I salvaged these from some 35mm slides I found tucked away so they’re fairly high resolution shots. Unfortunately when I was in the process of rotating back to the states some low life scum bags stole my luggage  when I got to Long Binh along with 8-10 rolls of 35mm film that I hadn’t had a chance to get developed yet. In addition they made off with about 800$ worth of technical books dealing with electronics I’d purchased. It still pisses me off just to think about it, I’d give anything to still have those pictures. To add insult to injury when I got off my plane at LAX I left my 35mm Yashica  under the seat. I noticed it right away but when they went back to check on it for me it was gone. It never ceases to amaze me how rotten to the core people can be.

Stateside I’d went through NCO training as a crawler tractor operator and upon arriving at Camp Dillard in June of 71 I was assigned duties pushing fresh blasted rock at the existing quarry across from the compound. The rock was crushed and turned into asphalt for building a road called QL-20 which snaked through the hills from Baloc to Dalat. At that time the quarry was still a fairly small operation and  only making 25-30 hole shots using detcord and fuse caps as the initiator for the blasts. The drilling and blasting crew was being led by a Sgt Stanley Steves at the time and we became friends when I was assigned to help with the quarry team. Sgt Steves was being rotated back to S. Korea shortly and he picked me to train as his replacement.

We were working a lot of hours including some night shifts at the time and providing our own security with some support from the ARVN troops stationed in the area and things were pretty quiet for the most part. On one of those nights we were taking a break under the flood lights marveling at the size of the moths flying around (3-5″) when we heard the mortar team pop a round into the tube over at the compound and watched to see where it landed outside of the perimeter. Instead the ARVN mortar crew landed the dang thing on the compound. They fired a second one that didn’t explode and found out later it had also landed on the compound next to the PX, I had to dispose of that one later. The third one they fired also exploded  inside the perimeter and they quit trying to hit whatever they were aiming at then. Nobody was hurt and it was funny as hell at the time.

There were 4-5 of us that went through NCO training together that were assigned to the 102nd CS Co.. Spc 5 Larry Greathouse handled our security with a gun truck when we were off compound and Spc 5 Mike Hopwood helped me with the drilling and blasting operations. After Sgt Steves rotated out I got my three stripes and plans were set in motion to open a new quarry 2-3 miles west of Camp Dillard, we drilled core samples, pushed the overburden off and started the blasting process to form the new quarry. We were drilling  200-300 hundred hole patterns and using electric time delay caps and good enough to pile the rock any where they wanted it before long.

I was replaced after a time by a Sgt Rohoer and they brought in a civilian engineer before the company stood down from operations in 1972. Sgt Rohoer became a casualty  after running a track drill over an IED fashioned from an 81mm mortar round before things wound down. He suffered the loss of one of his legs and shrapnel wounds to is face and the rest of his body. The blast also killed an older Vietnamese man that worked with us. He was in shock and I shielded his closed eyes until the dust off helicopter arrived and was still alive when they flew him out. His name isn’t on “The Wall” so I assume he lived, I lost track of him and rotated out of country shortly after it happened.

Vietnam changed my life in a lot of ways I guess. Actually I was a basket case for several years after returning to the “real world” and blocked  most of it out, but some things are hard to forget. Like the day a guy was standing in the pay line and accidentally shot himself in the foot because he left a round chambered in is M-16. Then there was the day I fired an M-79 grenade launcher and the round didn’t come out the other end.  A green Lieutenant actually suggested I try and poke the grenade back out of the breach! I laughed at him and told him no thanks, I removed the sights and receiver blew the barrel on the spot with a bit of C-4.  Some of the stories however are better left untold and I’ll go to my grave with those.

Click on the thumb nails for full size pics with  captions.

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