41st Signal Battalion
Nui Dat

 
 

I recently had an interesting dialog with Dave Ellis from the 41st Signal Battalion. Dave was stationed at Nui Dat with the Aussies and spent some time at Camp Everett at Nui Dat. He shared some interesting stories that I think you will enjoy reading.

All of the pictures Dave mentioned can be found in this Photoshow.

Dave Ellis (67-68)
41st Signal Battalion

"Bill.
I was sent to Nui Dat in Aug. '67 until the week before Tet in Jan. '68. I was a radio relay operator for D" Co. 41st Signal, 39th Sig. Bn. and we were providing communications for the Aussies, Kiwis and I think we had land lines in from your area too. We relayed phone & TType back to our base at Vung Tau. There were 4 of us Yanks on post at Nui Dat.

I have a grainy picture of your perimeter that faced toward Xuan Loc, and a picture of myself and Mike Rossi from California, with one of your (1/83rd) "3/4 ton" trucks that we had for a few days after we lost our deuce & 1/2 because it broke down on the road from Baria to Vung Tau. I don't know how we worked it out with your guys, but we had to have a truck to get fuel for our generators and back-up equipment.

I was in your Nui Dat camp area at least twice and I think we had chow with your guys too. But damn, you guys were noisy! I'm sending a picture of your noisy neighbors across the road, too -- the noisy New Zealanders artillery unit. The pictures are blurred because you probably fired a "155" about the time I snapped it.

But anyway, thanks for the use of your truck. We filled it up before we returned it.

Dave Ellis
Waynesboro, Pa. 17268
Co "D" 41st. Signal
39th Sig. Bn."

Bill Taggart (66-67)
HQ Battery

 "Hi Dave, thanks for writing. Are you sure it was us and not the 2/35th? We were at Nui Dat from Nov 1966-Feb 1968 before we moved north to I Corps.

We were down the road on the same side as the 2/35 but perhaps 1/4 mile away but before the Vietnamese Village of Hoa Long which was also on the same side of the road.

Also at Nui Dat besides the Aussie and Kiwis was "A" Battery of the 2/35th. They were a 155 Self Propelled (SP) unit. The 1/83rd was 8-inch SP and 175mm SP. The 2/35 was at Nui Dat both before and after us. Look at the "Nui Dat Area Layout" link in the first column of this page on my website, it shows the general layout at Nui Dat.

The 3/4 in your picture was ours, the bumper marking are clear and although the one guy has his leg covering it, it looks like a HQ (HQ 38) vehicle. Also, the picture of the gun looks like a 155 not one of ours.

After we arrived in Nam on Halloween 1966, the Battalion shortly thereafter dispersed. HQ, Service and "A" Battery to Nui Dat, "B" Battery to Bearcat and "C" Battery to Xuan Loc. I was in HQ, I was an Artillery Surveyor.

Let me know what you think after reading this. Welcome home!"

Dave Ellis (67-68)
41st Signal Battalion

"Bill
Yeah, It was your camp we were at. I didn't know about the 2/35 being another "Yank" artillery unit. I thought it was all your guns. Your 175s used to loosen the tubes and screws in the radios when they'd fire and double thump the ground clear up where our site was. The 155s were bad enough.. We used to say "damn, I'm glad they're on our side!", after we'd get startled by an unexpected shot. And don't be in the latrine when you guys fired !! The ground would thump and it would send a "gigantic fart" out of the holes followed by a million flies !! It was like smelly bats leaving "Carlsbad Cavern".
Do your ears still ring ?

Your right, that is the 2/35th in the picture. I know we did get the truck from 1st/83rd.

We were on the 2nd or 3rd road behind the Kiwis Arty., off to the right in the rubber trees. We did put a relay up on Nui Dat hill to get a better shot to Xuan Loc and Bearcat and that would have been in Jan. '68, and then they sent me back to Vung Tau, up on the "Hill" where all relays tied in. I watched Tet unfold from a guard tower up on the mountain with the big UHF wave antennas.

I left RVN on March 8th, '68. I worked at Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa. for a couple of years in the 90s during Desert Storm and we rebuilt and restored 155 self propelled Howitzers (109s) and the new "Paladin" 109s and 175 tracked Howitzers. There were only a few of us that ever heard one live fire . I'd actually think back about your "outfit" in the field while we'd be putting them back together or tearing them down. It made the job more personal when you knew what the guys expected from their equipment, 'cause you saw them in action.
Nice conversing with you, and I'm going to look through your web site some more.
Thanks again for the use of the truck.

And welcome back to you too !

Dave Ellis"

Dave Ellis (67-68)
41st Signal Battalion

"I was in a small U.S. signal unit attached to the Aussies in '67 and early '68 at Nui Dat, and we were in your "Company Area" to put in a land line to our radio relay and I have a picture of myself and another fellow posing on one of your 3/4 ton trucks that they lent us to run back up to our site for some equipment.

Our company "D" Co. 41st Sig. Bn. was under the command of the 39th Sig. Bn. which was one of the major Signal units in Vietnam. We set up field telephone and teletype communications for "firebases" and "base camps" so you could pick up your "field phone" and call anywhere in Nam. Just give us your wires from a switchboard or direct wire, and we'll put you on the "Air". Our "wire" platoon can even run the "lines" for you.

Our "base camp" was in Vung Tau and then we were sent out to different sites to shoot back a VHF radio Signal to Vung Tau Relay that controlled a lot of "Com Traffic" in the "Delta".

We were located on top of "VC Hill" in Vung Tau, but lived out on "Back Beach" in an old French Catholic Monastery from '66 until June '67, when they moved us to the Vung Tau Airstrip, next to the 36th Evac. Field Hospital. In October '67 they finally moved us all to the top of the "Hill" where those big "UHF Long Line " towers were that you could see from Baria.

That's kind of a basic history of our unit in Vietnam, I just happened to get sent to Nui Dat to maintain the radios and carrier equipment from late Aug.'67 to Jan. '68. They pulled me back to Vung Tau about a week before "Tet" cause I was getting "short".  I watched "Tet" unfold allover the Delta and out at Nui Dat from a guard tower on top of that hill and wondering "what the hells going on", it was tracers and thuds of artillery and mortar, flares all over the place and planes and Hueys flying at night .. Highly unusual ! Who knew, a witness to history !!
Sorry, got long winded again, but here's some pictures of our base camps and field relay.

Hell, Bill there's a damned amusement park built on top of that mountain now. It's got a hotel, rides, a man-made lake and aerial cable car ride to the top. I think it's called "Ho May Park" and there's a big white "Buda" right about where our Radio Relay building and guard tower was. Go Figure !!

Dave"

Bill Taggart (66-67)
HQ Battery

"Thanks Dave, I knew that we had a pretty good size Commo section on the 1/83rd but never thought about how we tied into the rest of the "world" we lived in. I'll bet we crossed paths at some time at Nui Dat, I did not come home until late November 67.

The picture of the Nui Dat VHF Site, where was that at?

Really funny about the Amusement park, I can't imagine what the places we were at must look like today. There was a Firebase that the 1/83rd was at up north in I Corps called FSB Roy. A couple of years ago one of the guys sent pictures of it now. It is a Spa. Look for FSB Roy - 2011 on this page... http://www.1stbn83rdartyvietnam.com/Firebases/Firebases.htm

Time does march on doesn't it?!

In the other photos you sent, it really seems strange to see Vung Tau all lit up.

I just looked at this link, YIKES!!!... http://www.homaypark.com/en/"

Dave Ellis (67-68)
41st Signal Battalion

"Bill,  our radio van was right across the road from 1st Aus. Task Force Headquarters. We were in the rubber trees on a road off to the right about 300 ft. past the 2nd /35ths north perimeter. I have a grainy photo that shows the 1st ATF HQ that I took from the doorway of our "hooch". Look close and you might see the Australian, American & South Vietnamese flag right above the jeep. The other pics are our "hooch" and the radio van that's inside the grey hut that we built around the sandbagged walls.

Since the sandbags were filled with dirt, in the rainy season they would turn to mud bags and would squirt out at the bottom when you guys would fire the big guns and double thump the ground. We were always replacing a section until we put the "siding" on. Maybe we should have complained to the Home Owners Association, but they said you guys were just renting and probably move when your lease ran out !!
Wow, how about that amusement park on the "hill" in Vung Tau !
Dave"

Bill Taggart (66-67)
HQ Battery

"Did you guys have any security there or were you within the Aussie perimeter?

When we got to Nui Dat in November 66 it was a barren old rubber plantation. The Aussies cleared out some rubber trees and we set up. We eventually built barbed wire fences and installed a mine field along with our 10 Guard posts, 4 of which were manned 24 hours a day. We also had a berm around the compound with claymore mines on the berm.

I must have filled and lugged a million sandbags, at least it seemed that way. There was a place down toward Baria where they used to take us and fill sandbags. One day while we were there a guy from our unit emptied a full M-14 clip into a Water Buffalo. The owner went nuts. The guy who did this was a crazy Samoan who was always doing something crazy. Never did know what punishment he got for doing it."

Dave Ellis (67-68)
41st Signal Battalion

"Bill
Yeah, we were well inside the Aussie perimeter in the rubber plantation and our guard duty bunker almost faced along the front of the Aussie O.P. hill (Nui Dat) where they would land choppers in that little open field. We could see the very end of the airstrip on the other side of the hill and Rt. 2 was on our left about 75 yds.

I filled a lot of sandbags at that same pit down the road. We were replacing the original "mud bags". Sometime we would pay locals to fill bags for us but we still had to throw them up in the truck.

2 seasons there: Dust Season or Mud Season !
Dave"

Dave Ellis (67-68)
41st Signal Battalion

"Bill
I told my buddy "white socks" Mike Rossi that was in the picture with me on your truck about our e-mailing each other, and he sent me this little tidbit. I had just got called back to base camp a week or so before and he was still at Nui Dat. We had a radio relay site from the ARVN camp east of Baria called Van Kiep and they were running out of ammo, so check this story out.

Dave

Mike Rossi (67-68)
41st Signal Battalion

"Dave,
Was this the tiny “Football” field sized U.S. Artillery base outside the main gate of Nui Dat, down the road on the right, heading towards Baria?

If this is that Artillery base down the road, man do I have a story for you. If I already told you, Sorry my Brother, I really don’t mean to be repetitious. But your email really jarred my neurons.

Two days into TET an Aussie Officer stuck his head in our Radio Van and said they couldn’t communicate with that Artillery base and it was VITAL that they do. There was a “single pair” buried just below the dirt along the right shoulder of the road running down to that Arty. Base.

He asked if I would try to “trace down the problem” for him. I said sure ... IF you send some firepower with me to cover my ass. So he agreed and a bit later on two "Diggers" showed up as my “escort”. TWO! Bear in mind we were still taking small arms and mortar fire at night (and that continued for another week or so, decreasing each night) so we knew Charlie was still all around us.

Anyway, once I stepped outside that main gate and started pulling the single pair up & out of about 10” of that fine red dust we all loved, I imagined a platoon of Gooks just laying in wait out in the bush with their sights on us ... all THREE of us. I also expected to step on a damn Bouncing Betty every step I took. And yes, my friend ... I WAS SCARED. But what’s a mother to do but do your job.

As it turned out the wire pair was good all the way there. They had problems with their switchboard. I could have strangled somebody when I learned what the problem was. And the very next day is when Lamb & I conned the two Aussie Huey Pilots into flying us over to the Baria Site, aka Van Kiep, with a load of brass, grenades and M79 rounds for Sgt. Lambert and his crew.

I recall Paul McGuire being one but do not remember the other two guys. We flew tree-top all the way there and took small arms fire when we landed in the middle of the soccer field. That’s when I had to run backwards to the berm surrounding the soccer field because Lamb jumped out of the chopper facing one way (holding one rope handle on that heavy wooden ammo box) and I faced the opposite direction holding the other. I also had bandoliers of 7.62 strapped all over me like Pancho Villa.

We must have looked like Laurel & Hardy or some such shit. You may recall that Frank and I have different accounts of how long we were there and what else transpired. But we do agree that it was Sgt. Lambert who yanked me to me ground as I was standing there in the middle of a storm of chopper commotion and a rotor wash dust cloud, catching my breath and swatting bugs flying all around my ears & head.

That’s when I learned that bullets DO buzz like insects! So these events had to take place on 2 and 3 Feb. 1968 for sure. You can NEVER forget shit like that.

So keep me in the loop.

Thanks Brother,
Mike"

Bill Taggart (66-67)
HQ Battery

"Great story Dave, although our compound was a lot larger than a "tiny football sized..." base.

I have a section on the website called Reminiscences where we put stories like Mike's. I will add it as it is a great story. The red dust Mike mentioned brings back memories for me. When we first got to Nui Dat, way before we had built guard posts, we pulled guard laying on the berm, 3 to a post. After a night laying there you were covered with that red laterite dust. Of course when the monsoons came that red dust was red mud. I have tried to tell people how bad the mud was but you had to really experience it to understand.

I love how so many stories like this get brought up, we sure do have a lot of experiences don't we? What is even better is when someone tells you a story that you had known but after 50 years were not sure if it happened as you remembered. Nice to know that it wasn't all in your imagination.

I sure am glad you found us. I will let you know when I get Mike's story up and when I load the rest of the photos. I still can't get over the one of Vung Tau all lit up."

 

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