83rd FSB Cannon
May 1969

 

 
 
 
Dan O'Brien (69-70)
"A" Battery

1969 MAY RVN - FIREBASE CANNON

" “A” Battery 1st 83rd Arty left FB Arrow at the end of April and proceeded up the hill to our newly carved out firebase at the top of the hill.  Higher ground was a real plus in the game of taking real estate.  The four parapets for each gun emplacement were opened up but no burms were put up around each section so each gun section proceeded to use the spade on the rear of the howitzer to bulldoze a burm of sand around 90 percent of the emplacement to have a place for the spade to dig in and settle as the gun fired. We set up our NDP’s [night defensive positions] with Claymores and tripflares.  A hot round from “C” Battery blew off over our head causing us to dive for cover before the shrapnel reached us from above.  Some of the hot fragments landed in one of our barrels of spent and rusted ammo and set it of like a fourth of July firecracker. 

The first or second night at Cannon, a light was flashing across the way from the ridge.  An M-60 tank pulled up to the ridge and fired out a few rounds.  The light came back again.  The tank fired a few more and the light came on.  Our howitzer closest to the ridge which was northwest and the Rao Nai River separating us from the light, turned the gun pointing to the direction and backed up until its spade was on top of the burm behind to get a good direct shot with the barrel lower.  The call was for a VT [variable time fuse] fuse which was set for about 15 seconds after impact.  A full charge SEVEN drove the 214-pound shell directly into the hill a few hundred feet across the ridge.  Of course, it rammed itself deep into the soil and didn’t blow.  The light came back on quite a few times as to say we must have fired a DUD when the 15 seconds of time came to an end.  There was quite an eruption of light and dirt across the way and there were no more lights for the complete month we stayed at that base.

Dong Ap Bia or Hamburger Hill took place in early May and had us firing day and night.  We nearly ran out of shells because the ammo trucks were unable to cross the damaged  Pohl Bridge. It was midnight with a hard rain when the Ch-47 Chinooks came in with sling loads of three six packs each of projectiles and dropped them on a nearby hill using no lights and only a radio vector to guide them in to a place two thirds of the way to the A Shau Valley from Camp Eagle.  And the aircraft kept coming for an hour until they had brought a sufficient amount of projos to keep us firing to protect infantry forces taking Hamburger Hill.  We walked and ran up the hill, put a 214-pound projectile on our shoulder and slid down in the mud or tried to walk if possible. After hours of doing this, we began another fire mission.  The continuous firing went on for 10 days during the siege of Dong Ap Bia.

One night we ran a MAD MINUTE of firing all we had in small arms including 50 cals and all the firebases in our Area of Operations did the same.  Fire base AIRBORNE or Eagles Nest was shortly attacked after the MAD MINUTE and most of the VC were on the drug made from poppies.

The enemy KIA was many and they were loaded into a rope net and transported by Chinook over our head to old Firebase Arrow and buried in a mass grave and covered over by the engineers using ROME PLOWS.  A few years back I was in touch with a government archive gent from DC and gave him the info as he was looking for remains of North Vietnam soldiers.  Shortly after our arrival at Cannon, the engineers, tanks, dusters and gun trucks proceeded on Route 547 towards FB Currahee as the road was being made west towards TABET on the valley floor.

About June 10, another section fired a howitzer over our third section culverts and caused severe hearing loss and bleeding of ears to three of us. It is SOP to wake anyone in the path of fire which was not done.  The next day, we took a UH-1 helicopter to Camp Eagle and walked to the 101st ABN TAC hospital to be given an audiogram.

We had lost 75 percent hearing on the high side of the audiogram.  We stayed at Gia La/Camp Eagle for two days and were flown back to Cannon to continue the mission. The gun sections were short of help and could not spare three soldiers from the same section being gone.

It was near the end of June when we received a MARCH ORDER to evacuate FB CANNON.  “A” Battery was the only unit at Cannon.  It was at 0200 hours plus or minus and INTEL stated on the PR-25 that we were about to have company within two hours if we didn’t head out.  We packed our gear on trucks and fired up the howitzers for the 6 clicks [kilometers] drive back to Blaze in blackout drive with two Cobra helicopters overhead going back and forth for extra protection.  We arrived safely without incident.

In 1992 at CT AVCRAD, I met one of those pilots from the 101ST ABN who had volunteered to fly out projectiles to a way out firebase [ours] to keep us from being overrun without ammo.  I told him “A” Battery greatly appreciated what he and others did to keep us alive.  He said we were nuts to be out there alone on a hill and I told him he was nuts to fly out there and help us.  We both agreed on that."

Dan O’Brien  SSG  US ARMY RETIRED

A/1/83RD ARTY 1969


 

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