83rd TET-1968 Experiences

 
 
Bill Taggart  (66-67)
HQ Battery

Don Eikenberry (66-67) who was in Service Battery at Nui Dat recently asked me if I knew for certain whether our base was hit during the 1968  TET offensive.

Don's original question was " Have you ever heard any reliable information about Nui Dat during TET? I’ve heard a few stories, but don’t know how true any were."

I first sent out an email to our Aussie members since many of them were there at that time. Not surprisingly, I got a tremendous response from them.  Later I asked all of our US members, whether they were at Nui Dat, Bearcat, Ham Tan or Xuan Loc, about what they recall from TET 1968.

Below are the responses I received. Unlike some of our "Reminiscences" the replies are not part of a running dialog, they are just the replies grouped by each individual who I received them from.

First are the many replies regarding Nui Dat followed by other locations.

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As usually happens when I ask questions of our group, there are some conflicting accounts of what did (or did not) happen. Since these recollections are all based on our 50+ year old memories this is to be expected.

If anyone who had not replied before wants to add their story, let me know and I will update this page and if anyone who has replied wants to add more just send me you additions (or corrections).

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The Reminiscences on this website are a great joy for me to read, I hope they are fun for you as well. This is a good one especially for those of us who were at Nui Dat.

Nui Dat

Australian Replies

Bob Billiards
131 Divisional Locating Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery

Bill,

 Yep 1/83rd was hit twice, on the first morning of TET and from memory the next day.

 I was on duty at our LP “31D” on top of post 6? I heard the sounds of rockets being fired and then flying overhead to the task force but there was no explosions. I called into our Arty Tac HQ and was talking with the duty officer when there were mortars between the bypass road and the guard posts towards the 1ATF base. I asked if we were firing DF’s and he said no so I said I had to hang up as we were being mortared. I managed to hear the primaries and presumed they were firing at max range so gave the direction and 6K. 161 Battery were tasked and they started firing very quickly. I didn’t have overhead cover at that stage so went down into the guard post and suggested we pull our heads in until the mortars stop. The following day the infantry found (3) 82mm mortar baseplates and a dozen unspent rounds.

It was either that night of the following night that Barry Guzder was in the LP and he received AK47 fire from a tree to his left which went right through the LP and one round hit one of our sighting nails and bent it. It was a great talking point for our blokes. I have a photo of it but just can’t find it at the present time. The whole 1/83rd stood to and a few of your blokes emptied several magazines into the bush.

Other than those two incidents, there was no other TET action around the 1/83rd base that I can remember.

Regards

Bob

Grahame Dignam
131 Divisional Locating Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery

Hello Bill, 

Good to hear from you again.

I was at Nui Dat when the SH*t hit the fan. On the night I recall the 1/83rd had some contact on the southwest perimeter where we had 31D look-out post manned. Bob BIlliards whom I think you correspond with was there at the time and may also reply. I was leaving duty at the ARTY TAC HQ and heading for the "Farter"  (bed) but never got there - I went back to find out what was going on. My mate Barry G nearly had his hair parted by an incoming rifle round - Bob may mention that too.

Anyway, I have a link to the AUST Battle map detailing most of the incidents, who, what, where and when and could come in handy (also included ref to USA units where involved.

Click here.

That'll keep you busy for a day or 2!!!!!

Ernie Newbold
131 Divisional Locating Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery

G’day Bill,

I was in a group that left Nui Dat on 30th January 1968 to return to Australia via Saigon. So I missed out on TET ’68 by a few hours. There seemed to be a lot of activity around the perimeter on Tan Son Nhut Air Base as we took off at about 20.00 hours. Next Tuesday I’ll be at a meeting with some of the guys who were still in Vietnam for TET ’68 so I’ll ask them for their recollections.

Regards,

Ernie Newbold.

G’day again Bill,

some more info on TET ’68, in case you are not aware of it.

Link one.

Link two.

Link three.

Regards,

Ernie Newbold.  

Warwick Brooker
131 Divisional Locating Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery

G’day Bill

 I’m not sure. I came home on 20 Feb 1968. On 17 Feb, two of us (artillery surveyors) were choppered back to Nui Dat from FSB Anderson to prepare for RTA (Return to Australia). At 0100 on the following morning (18 Feb), FSB Anderson was attacked. One of the fellows who replaced us was killed and the other was seriously wounded. I don’t think Nui Dat was attacked at that time, but it might have been attacked later that month, i.e. after I’d left. I can remember other attacks on the base, but I can’t remember the dates.

I’ve found a brief summary of the attacks on FSB Anderson, which doesn’t answer your question about Nui Dat and it mainly focuses on our experience as Artillery Surveyors.

FSB Anderson Mortared!

At 0100hrs on the 18th Feb, FSB Anderson was hit with a barrage of 82mm mortar and RPG fire. 25 mortars slammed into the Eastern sector of the FSB, killing L/Bdr Jimmy Menz and seriously wounding L/Bdr Marty Van Driel.

The Cavalry, Engineers and Artillery also experienced an RPG attack. B Bty 2/35 Arty reported a ground attack on their position while a second wave attacked the Infantry lines.

Coburg Grinds On

FSB Anderson was to come under attack yet again on the 20th and 28th of this month.

On the 20th at 0230H the FSB was attacked by a large enemy ground force using grenades and RPGs. Most of the perimeter, including the LPs were involved in repulsing this assault that lasted less than an hour.

On the 28th at 0100H FSB Anderson received 24 to 30 rounds of 82mm mortar inside its perimeter.

March 1st all elements involved in FSB Anderson were withdrawn to the Taskforce, Phuoc Tuy. All Sections of 131 involved in FSB Anderson, returned to Nui Dat. Operation Coburg concluded.

Australian losses were high, 17 Aust KIA, 1 NZ KIA, 57 Aust WIA, 8 NZ WIA

I’ll pass your query on to others who might know or might be more adept than I at accessing records!

With best wishes

Warwick

Allen Morley
131 Divisional Locating Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery

I went home on TET eve so missed it all. I agree re: Baria, but am pretty sure the task force was not hit.

Allen

Colin Campbell
Troop Commander of 6 Troop, A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment (Australian).

Hi Bill, 

Yes there was activity at 1/83 during TET 68. I will send an email with photos of three pages from my book . The information provides first hand accounts of what happened. 

The book is ‘More Bang for No Bucks’ available from me

Ed. Here are the photos Colin sent. Plus, I have read Colin's book and found it very interesting.

Regards 

Colin

Ross Wood
“B” Company 5RAR.

Hi Bill,

I had left Vietnam well before the TET Offensive, however I found this in the Australian Official History.

THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF AUSTRALIA’S INVOLVEMENT IN SOUTHEAST ASIAN CONFLICTS 1948-1975

ON THE OFFENSIVE
The Australian Army in the Vietnam War 1967-1968

Indicates

On
1 February 1968, about 05.45hrs, an area 300 metres west of the ‘Heavyweight’ compound occupied by Battery A 1/83rd Artillery (US), close to the southwestern corner of the 1AFT base, received approximately 40 rounds of 82mm mortar fire. About 25 of these rounds, suspected initially to be delay-fused, failed to detonate. Two RPG missiles were also directed at the Americans’ compound. No damage or casualties were reported.

This is all I could find, I hope this helps

Best Wishes

Ross Wood  

Bob Billiards
131 Divisional Locating Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery

Bill,

Interesting the stories from the 5 RAR bloke. I can't remember any infantry or cavalry at the 1/83rd during TET so I think they might be confused with the 2/35th as the cavalry were in that area. There was no indication of the time of the TET offensive and definitely no AUS infantry anywhere near our listening post which was right near one of the 175's. I think both of them were confused with 2/35 which was in the perimeter of the main task force area. We couldn't live without grunts and tankies but they know nothing about artillery :-)

Regards,

Bob

Bill Taggart  (66-67)
HQ Battery

I asked Bob Billiards the following:

Bob, did you really mean the part from Colin Campbell? Ross Wood was 5RAR but I don't see your reference in his comments.

Bob then replied:

Bill,

Not sure why I said "both" as it is the Colin Campbell book that I could not verify as per my comments. Ross Woods's reply is correct as far as I can recollect. Unfortunately I cannot find any official documentation on the action as there was no real archives of the stuff around the task force that involved Artillery, it is generally anecdotal.

It could have been 5 RAR that went out the that day after the attack to search the location. We went out with our survey group to check the location of the attack from a crater analysis to get an accurate location for the infantry to look for the primaries. We didn't count the number fired at us as we were informed (I was the radio operator) that there was a group of VC hearing our way and to head back, so not having infantry with us we scarpered back to the 1/83rd compound after one of the surveyors doing the maths and sending off a grid reference where the baseplates were found.

Maybe that group of VC were heading home to Hoa Long or the ones who fired at our LP the next very early morning.

Regards
Bob

Ken Robinson
Royal Australian Army Provost Corps (which was their version of our Military Police.)

Bill

Some of us Aussies moved out of Nui Dat in early January an infantry battalion with some 155 sps which I think were the ones based with you at 1/83rd a troop of our 105s and dug in at FSB Anderson between Saigon and Long Binh at Tran bong which was hit at sundown on 31 January, but we were left alone, I have since learned that the action was to keep us from interrupting the troops moving through to attack Saigon, about 3 weeks later I was recalled to Nui Dat and Baria was certainly showing signs of battle the movie theater had a lot of small arms damage.

At this time of year I still recall a lot about 68 TET even after all this time, it certainly was messy up in that area, my 34th birthday was celebrated on 7 February with a fireworks display and warm chlorinated paddy water instead of cold beer, bloody hard way to fight a war.

My seasons greetings to all the 1/83rd boys from us Aussie mates.

Ken (ROBBIE) Robinson

Ted Harrison
5RAR Association

G'day Bill,

Nui Dat wasn't engaged but the Task Force responded to the VC in Baria. Click here.

Have a safe and joyous Christmas.

Cheers,

Ted Harrison.

Nui Dat

1/83rd Replies

Tim Jacobson (67-68)
HQ Battery

I was there with HQ during TET and can remember being attacked around that time.  I can’t remember the exact date but it was  shortly after that when we all moved North to Camp Eagle.  So it would have been right around TET.  The attack came from the Baria side of the compound.  I was on the opposite side, facing the Aussie compound.  This side took no direct hit, but there was incoming rifle bullets coming from the Baria side all the way through the compound and striking the berm next to me and Capt. Horowitz.  At first I thought it was a snake until I saw the dirt puffing up.  I then told the Capt. that were moving to behind the shower building for a bit more protection.  The attack didn’t last for very long and I don’t recall anyone getting injured.  There may have been but not to my knowledge.

Tim Jacobson

HQ  67-68.

Jim Gannon (67-68)
HQ Battery

Hey Bill,

I was at Xuan Loc, we had to evacuate the area we were separated from the group. Myself and two guys hitched a chopper back to Nui Dat.  They dropped us off in Baria, there were a lot of civilians dead, looked like a massacre. We got back to Nui Dat by truck convoy. I don’t remember the dates or who the two guys with me were, sorry I couldn’t offer more information but you have to remember it was complete chaos.

Jim Gannon 

Paul Griffith (67-68)
HQ Battery

Bill, As I recall we were not hit at Nui Dat. I led the first convoy from Nui Dat to Vung Tau after TET and saw much destruction and many dead and decaying water buffalo along the road.

I was the paymaster and was returning the excess funds Bien Hoa. The helicopter I was on stopped at Xuan Loc. I stayed on board and suddenly we shot straight up. When I asked the pilot what was happening, he said we were taking incoming. That was my introduction to the TET Offensive.

We then flew to Tan Son Nhut Air Base where I spent the night. I was in a bunker at the end of the runway. I decided I did not want to die of suffocation in the bunker, so I sat on top and watched F-4's take off, drop their ordinance and return to refuel/rearm and take off again.

While I was there a 155 SP battery arrived and set up. I walked over there and ran into one of my NCO's from Fort Sill. He said they had orders to level the town if necessary. (They didn't.) The next day I flew back to Nui Dat and found it intact.

Paul

Tom Bailey (67-68)
HQ Battery

Bill

In response to your email, I was at Nui Dat during the 1968 TET and do not recall much of anything happening. I do recall the time when we received mortar  fire. I was assigned to Post 4 that night and we were informed the Aussies were going to perform some H & I mortar fire in front of us because of reports of VC in the area.

They placed an FO on Post 6. When the mortar fire began the rounds seemed to be getting pretty close the bunker.  I got on the telephone and asked the Aussie FO “is that your mortar fire or is that theirs.” The response I got was, ”that’s theirs mate.” I thought, oh my, a little notification might have been in order. I would have kept my head down a little further.

The other incident I remember is, we were put on alert that there may be trouble one given night. I, along with Larry Williams were assigned to bring the M16 and ammo to the perimeter. Which we did. Again not much happened but I do remember amidst all the hoopla,  Captain Wilkie walking the top of the berm. I don’t think either of these incidents took place during TET.

Tom “Beetle” Bailey

Mike Kraus (68-69)
HQ Battery

Happy New Year Bill, 

I arrived at Nui Dat at about 4:30 in the afternoon of my third day in country. The supply Sergeant had gone to chow. The supply clerk gave me bedding, a flack jacket, a rifle and ammo. The helmets were locked up and I was told to get it in the morning.

I was with the metro section and worked the evening balloon run. I went outside to admire the stars and was spinning around looking up when the tree behind me blew up. 

Then mortars started coming in all around. I ran into the metro building and yelled incoming. The regular crew laughed at the FNG. I grabbed my weapon and ammunition and ran into the bunker. The laughing stopped and I had company in the bunker. This was the beginning of the TET offensive. 

When the ground attack started I ran out to the berm and fought because some of them were getting pretty close. 

The rest of the metro crew stayed in the bunker till it was mostly over. 

I had strong moral misgivings about the war going over. They were solved with my first night in the field.  When it’s kill or be killed the choice was automatic for me. 

I sure missed the helmet that night.

Michael M. Kraus

Bob Bosl (68-69)
"A" Battery

I arrived  at HQ/Nui Dat ~1/5/1968, I vaguely recall our base being attacked, but as a medic, I'm sure I would have remembered had there been any casualties.  At the time of that attack, we had already packed up most of the camp before loading everything on LST 281 for the DMZ & beyond.

The most memorable event surrounding that attack occurred when incoming rounds or sirens were noted and everyone scrambled to their battle stations.  Our battalion surgeon at the time (Marshall Horowitz) made it from his hooch to the Battalion aid station in what was probably record time but wearing:
Army boxer underwear
Flack Jacket
.45 caliber pistol and holster
that's all, interesting visual image.

Unfortunately, the gun was loaded, safety was off, gun discharged, much to everyone's surprise, no injuries, bullet went into metal  shipping container and through 8 bars of Fostex soap!

Rod Dolton (66-67)
"A" and Service Battery

I rotated back to the States on Thanksgiving, 67 (A Battery’s first Nui Dat # 2 gun replacement, November, 66).  I remember hearsay back at Fort Sill as the TET raged during my remaining last 6 months of active duty that our perimeter at Nui Dat was overrun or breached (early spring, 68?).  Also that one of our A Battery/Service Battery – Sept 67?) brothers was killed? This is really shooting from the hip, but remember hearing something like that while the TET was raging.  Hope it wasn’t true!

 

Rod Dolton
#2 Gun, A Battery, Nui Dat, 66-67 

My Reply to Rod

I got home Thanksgiving week also Rod. I have heard from one Metro guy who said there was a ground attack but no one else has said the same thing. Mortars, yes but not an attack. Still waiting for more relies but not one of the Aussies said that happened. And I can definitely say that no one was killed at Nui Dat except our HQ MSgt Everett in Dec 1966 and that didn’t actually happen at our base.

 Bill

Stephan Early (67-68)
"A" Battery

I remember one of the guns getting loaded with metal scrap maybe and then fired level with a huge fireball coming out the front. That might have been TET.

So might this, one night, I was off, we had finally gotten a few replacements, we had been at about half strength and had been firing day and night, mostly night, we got hit and there were men in the wire and tracers in the air. I had had a shower, I was passed out on a cot in an above ground hooch. By the time I got my boots on and hit the blast wall outside of the hooch I could see the tracers and hear the rounds ripping through the air and I thought of my Father who had been at Iwo Jima. He had said on a number of occasions, to other vets, that he could remember the sound of the rounds as they went by. “They sounded like angry bees.” I heard him say that at VFW clambakes with other Veterans who had been in combat. They nodded in agreement. Now I could hear it. I looked out towards the berm, fifty, sixty meters away, and told myself it was time to move, to hit it, but my feet wouldn’t move and each time I leaned out to leave the blast wall and move through the fire I shrank back, a little smaller with each effort.

After about two eternities of trying to “screw my courage to the sticking point”, I thought I’d never move. Then I remembered this pudgy, pasty, replacement from the week before. After he had been on the gun for seventy two hours or so, we were breaking him in, he was a newbie, he cracked. He broke down in broad daylight during a fire mission. He dropped the round he was carrying, on our gun you carried the rounds by yourself, he might have only dropped his side of the cradle, and sobbed. At first the crew chief, a young E-5 screamed at him to get back to work. He collapsed on the ground, on his knees. Then the fire mission was called off, I was on the phone and called out the command to cease-fire. Then it got real quiet except for the sobbing. The crew chief might have yelled a little longer but the scene was so pitiful and embarrassing that even he stopped and felt ashamed. The Chaplain came and took him away. 

The picture of the broken coward on his knees in the dirt came to me as I crouched behind the blast wall and I thought “There are worse things than dying” and I stepped out in to the fire. I ran to my position on the Berm and fired that old M14 into the night. I just wanted to feel the kick.

Bearcat and HamTan

1/83rd Replies

George Benham (67-68)
"B" Battery

I was the Battery XO, as a 1LT at Ham Tan in charge of the line of metal prior to TET.  About a week before the TET offensive began, We road marched to a firing position near Saigon.  The 101st Airborne sent a battalion to provide our security.

After we were ready to fire, A major from the 101st visited me and told me my guns were too far apart and I was to move them closer together because he could not defend that much real estate  I explained to him that if the guns were close together the affect of the rounds landing would be close together, thus minimizing the capability of our artillery.  His response was "Don't give me any shit Lieutenant."  I reported this to Battalion and the next day The 101st was replaced with an Infantry Company from the 199th Inf. commanded by a Captain.  Upon  arrival, they were digging trenches all over the area to include the perimeter  The Captain in charge wore a hat with the words on it "You Got To Be Hard".

When TET was over down south, The battalion loaded on a barge and relocated to the Northern part of South Vietnam.  The city of Hue was in that hands of the NVA, so we made this our first stop.  We then focused on destroying the 20 ft. thick wall.  Later, we relocated to a firing position near Kazan, and bailed out the Marines.  Then to a position overlooking the A Shau Valley.

Dave Neumann (67-68)
"B" Battery

B Battery moved a few days before TET to Bien Hoa to be the only artillery to fire in the defense of the air field.

We were rewarded by a sea cruise to the DMZ.

Xuan Loc

1/83rd Replies

Rollen Brooks (67-68)
"C" Battery

I was at Xuan Loc during that time, we didn't get hit from the ground, we got a little mortar fire. We got a fire mission to fire on Xuan loc don't remember the unit that was stationed in Xuan Loc during that time 

 

Ed Kloiber (68-69)
"C" Battery

Bill what I can remember at Xuan Loc was that we were lobbing rounds out past the chopper pad and we were giving support to the South Vietnamese Ranger company that was fighting the NVA.  I know we could see our rounds fired and seen some of them explode.

We just about were firing day & night during TET. You have that letter on the website were the SV Rangers were thanking us for our support. Also, I remember the helicopters that fired down on this area mostly at night and listening to the strange sound they made and just seeing a line of tracers being fired down.

I did have a video that I bought and it said that there was a battalion of NVA out there and that if the forward observer hadn't seen that there was a lot of movement out there, well I guess I may not be writing this now and telling about it.

I thank the forward observer, SV Rangers, the choppers and our firepower for deterring them from getting us and continuing on. Bill this is what I remember which isn't much but hopefully I helped.

 Ed

 

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