1/83rd Stand Down

 
 

In one of my weekly "Updates" I passed along this question from one of our members, Bill Bailey (Germany 76-79). He asked if anyone knew when the 1/83rd was reformed in Germany and if any of our equipment went from Vietnam to Germany. Here was my reply:

"Hi Bill. The 1/83rd stood down in May 1971 in Vietnam. All remaining personnel were transferred to other units in Vietnam. The guns were turned over to the Vietnamese when we left. I assume our remaining assets were as well so I would be surprised if any equipment in Germany was ours. We have some guys who were there at that time if you are interested.

I don't really know exactly when the unit was reformed in Germany. From what I understand it was not a long period of time. There is a guy in our active group, Russell Griffis, who said he was with the 1/83rd in March 1972 in Germany, maybe he knows more. He also said that we were a 155-SP unit at that time. I can put out a query (we have a few Germany guys on the active group) and see what we can find out on this.

Can anyone shed any more details on this, such as:

1. What happened to our assets when we stood down?
2. When exactly was the 1/83rd reformed?"

In reply, I received the following accounts of what took place at that time when, after over 4 1/2 years in Vietnam,  the 1/83rd stood down in May 1971. Bill Burke (70-71), Dennis Donati (70-71), Ron Sims (70-71) and Barney Downey (70-71) sent these accounts.

"Bill, I can shed a little light. It was my dubious honor to take 2 LSTs full of our equipment down to Da Nang right before I left country on or about 21 May '71. I assumed it was headed for property disposal as a lot of the stuff was Korean war vintage. Some of it may have made it to Germany but I doubt it. I got back just in time to grab my papers and jump a cattle truck to Phu Bai airport. Only the basics were left behind for the guys who were packing up. Lt Estes was my replacement. If anyone knows his whereabouts, he may be able to shed some light on the unit's final days in Nam.
Denny"

"Bill,

I can provide some more details on this. And by the way, Denny was the Commo Officer when I was the HHB Commander and I appreciate to this day his help in ďrunningĒ things in the Battery.

Equipment-wise, everything we had was turned into the Property Disposal Office in Da Nang. As Denny said, he got to take two LSTs down the coast. These to the best of my recollection were the Battalionís tracked vehicles. A day later, the wheeled vehicles were road marched down QL-1 to the PDO site. This site was located on the east side of Da Nang Bay, at the bottom of the mountain that forms a hammerhead looking peninsula. It was quite a trip, over the Hai Van Pass, around the west side of the bay, through the city of Da Nang, and around to the east side of the bay. The PDO site was right on the water, at the base of what the local troops called Monkey Mountain.

From the condition and age of the equipment, I doubt much of it would have been shipped back to CONUS or to Germany. The old 3/4 ton Dodge trucks were leaving the Armyís inventory and most everything was pretty well used. If anything survived for US use, it might have been the M35, 2 1/2 ton trucks (I seem to remember we had M35s) and equipment like the 10kw generators, and FADACs that were in fairly good condition.

The scuttlebutt I received was that the guns would probably be turned over to the Vietnamese. I seriously doubt the M107, 175mm guns were given to the Vietnamese. I donít think their level of training was such that they could have effectively used them and I have not found any reference on the Internet that the ARVN's ever had them. That said, there are pictures of a 175mm gun in the museum in Hanoi that appears to have South Vietnamese markings. It would be interesting to research this gunís history.

As for the M110 8Ē howitzers, the Vietnamese used 8'ís according to what Iíve read. The last time I saw ours was on the ramp at the PDO. I think it is possible that these were left in-country for Vietnamese use.

Personnel-wise, we were more or less divided into two groups - those who had accumulated enough time in-country to be sent home and those who had not and would be assigned to other units. After our stand down date, all personnel (and equipment) were accounted for and those who were staying in country were sent to their new units. Depending on a scheme I donít remember now, some personnel were rotated home immediately, others stayed to help prepare for the turn in of equipment, and then went home. Denny rode the LST, others drove the wheeled vehicles down to the PDO site.

As soon as the vehicles arrived and were accepted by the PDO, the drivers and assistant drivers were sent back north and shortly thereafter sent home. As the HHB Commander, I had to stay in Da Nang a little longer and by the time I got back most all of the battalion was gone. (I think I missed giving a proper farewell to Denny because they loaded him up on a C-130 at Phu Bai and sent him and many others to Cam Rahn soon as they got back from Da Nang.) The people remaining were the command group, Battalion Commander, XO, and Sergeant Major who were taking the colors back to Fort Lewis to be retired. I believe the Battalion Commander, LTC Lammons, may have departed early for a command somewhere else. These details are now fuzzy in my mind. Others remaining were the Battery Commanders, Supply Sergeants, the S-4, Property Book Officer and a few S-4 personnel. As each unitís property book was cleared, itís personnel were released to depart. When I left only the Bn XO, CSM, PBO (?Property Book Officer), S-4, and some S-4 personnel remained at Gia Le.

Back to the equipment, after leaving Vietnam I spent a year at Fort Sill attending the Field Artillery Officerís Advanced Course and was then assigned to a 155 unit in Germany. Our equipment in Germany was much more modern and in much better shape than what we left in Vietnam. I guess Iíd really be surprised if much of anything we turned in made it out of Vietnam.

Whatever happened to LT Estes, I donít know. I guess he was re-assigned to another unit.

I know you just asked the time and I built you a watch, but thought you may find the last days of the battalion of some interest.

I have my own personal story of getting out of Vietnam, arriving at Cam Rahn AFB with orders that had a DEROS date a couple of weeks later. I may write that up one day and pass it own. Itís kind of funny, at least to me.

Again Bill, thanks for all you work on the web site and otherwise being the 1/83rd FA historian, coordinator, and information clearinghouse, etc.

Bill Burke"

"I also have some information about the turn over of FB Sally to the ARVN in May 1971 because I believe I was the last officer to walk off the base. I had to actually have an ARVN Major sign for the rest of the C Battery equipment,

Ron Sims"

"We were all over the A Shau Valley after the move north , I was even up at Khe Sahn sometime in May , 1971, moving one of our batteries out of there and turned it over to ARVN.

We moved personnel and their belongings and no equipment,, everything else was left with the ARVN, the base was just turned over to them in post haste.

We drove from Camp Eagle and stayed overnight at Khe Sahn. That was an eventful evening as well, with red flares tripped and then machine gun fire all of a sudden breaking out from the perimeter wire, with everyone making a mad dash to the bunkers for cover!

We slept (?) under our trucks and left out the next morning in what was a long and unorganized, chaotic convoy. The 5 ton I drove was the very last vehicle and the truck in front of me, driven by Johnny Cleveland blew a tire. I pulled over to help him change the tire and due to a lack of communication, the convoy kept going, leaving us to change the tire like an Indy pit crew, when we started to take fire from an elevated position. We could see an individual firing a grenade launcher, but fortunately we were out of range and they were falling just short of us ! Just another day in the RVN , ( J.C. can verify these events as well ) .

I cannot tell you what Battery we moved out of there though, another person that has knowledge of this particular time that I remember was a lieutenant that rode in the cab of my truck , O'Brien was his name, I think.

Feel free to publish my email accounts if it may help jog others' memories and help you pull together the research information needed .

P.S.  Passing through Hue on the way back to Eagle was a whole 'nother story, with the angry villagers throwing stuff at the convoy and all pissed off with us.

Barney Downey"

 

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