1/83rd Artillery
The Mysterious Case of the "Missing" 5-ton Wrecker

 
 

Bill Taggart (66-67)
HQ
Battery

I recently was contacted by retired Army Brigadier General Richard F. Allen who served with the 2/83rd Artillery (an 8-inch SP Battalion) in Germany in 1963-1965. I had a very nice conversation with him and he shared a great story with me. After his time in Germany he was later to sent to Vung Tau, Vietnam to be CO of the 148th Ordnance Company (Ammo) in late 1967 and 1968. General Allen related the story of the time that the 1/83rd tried to steal their 5-ton wrecker when the 1/83rd was being sent to I Corps in early 1968.

It appears that some of our industrious leaders from "A" Battery hatched a plan to acquire a 5-ton wrecker to ease some of their ammo handling difficulties when they reached I Corps. How they tried to solve this problem fell a bit short of actual official authorization but how they attempted to make this acquisition does reflect the high standards and outstanding ingenuity of the Field Artillery. Despite a clever plan that was well thought out, the attempt was not successful but makes for a funny story.

We had a good laugh about this caper and I know you will enjoy the story. Here is the story.

When I told our group about this, the following dialog resulted.

General Allen also sent me 2 other stories which I think you will find interesting. First is the story he wrote describing his tour in Vietnam with the 148th Ordinance Company (Ammo). Second is the story he wrote for the Army Magazine of his time with the 2/83rd in Germany, an 8-inch SP Artillery Battalion.

Ed note. I found both of General Allen's stories very interesting reading and particularly enjoyed the one describing his Vietnam tour.

Mike Jalone (67-68)
"A" Battery XO

LOL, I just read your story about the wrecker being “borrowed.”  I was the XO of Battery A, 1/83rd.  It was our unit which liberated the wrecker and attempted to move it north with us. I will find and read my “daily log” and send you more information from our perspective.

Mike Jalone (67-68)
"A" Battery XO

Hi Richard, it gives me pleasure to give you the rest of the story.  Attached is excerpt from my March 17, 1968 entry in the daily log I kept during my stay in Vietnam.  After all these years I don’t remember why we thought having the wrecker was a good idea but I do recall it seemed important at the time.  Although I didn’t write about it I do vaguely remember a water truck (Ed. note. see below for more on the water truck) that somehow made it into our convoy.

 I enjoyed your story, especially the arrival in Vietnam and waiting for orders at the replacement unit.  Like you, I was fortunate with where I ended up.  My original orders were to an infantry unit as a forward observer.  Going to work with the Aussies and Kiwis close to Vung Tau was a good way to start my year.  We ended up without a wrecker bouncing all around I Corp and even spent July 4th at Con Tien on the DMZ. 

Ed note. The attachment Mike refers to is fully included in the story that General Allen wrote and which I have a link to at the top of this page.

Richard Allen (67-68)
148th Ordinance Company (Ammo)

You were wise beyond your years to keep a journal—I had to rely on memory, but on the other hand, memory can be selective, recalling the good and dumping the bad. When I was in the 2/83d in Germany from1963-65, I believe the 5 ton wrecker was used to unload ammo. As you recall the projo’s came in six-round pallets (for the 8 inch anyway) with a nose plug with an “eye.” The men made a field expedient device out of a steel bar with chains and hooks that could be used to off load the pallets before they were broken down, saving a lot of time and energy. Your guys probably did the same.

When your guys turned in your excess ammo before moving out, they could not wait their turn to take it into  the ASP, so they just kicked it out along the side of the  entrance road. This irritated me more than your “liberating” the wrecker, but again I can understand why they were in such a hurry.

As Gen. Patton used to say, those of us lucky enough to be stationed in Vung Tau “Never missed a meal, or heard a shot fired in anger,” almost. We never missed a shipment though, even during Tet. At the Ordnance Ammo school we were taught that “Men in combat can live weeks without mail, days without food, hours without water, but can’t live a minute without ammunition.” We took that to heart, and worked hard to do our part.

Stephan Early (67-68)
"A" Battery

That five ton wrecker was real close to being loaded on our ship heading north out of Vung Tau. Captain Yore knows the whole story. It's not mine to tell.

Ed note. Stephan was the driver for Capt John Yore, "A" Battery Co at that time.

John Yore (67-68)
"A" Battery CO

Hello Bill,

What can I say???  Richard Allen's story is true. As I'm sure you know, an 8" projectile weighs 204 pounds; 4 per pallet brings the total weight to 816 pounds. Trying to man handle these heavy rounds into ammo bunkers by the gun crews is laborious ..... so we were looking for an easier, softer way.

To that end, a 5-ton wrecker seemed to be a good choice. My ammo sergeant and motor sergeant appropriated the wrecker and we stashed it over by the Australian camp near Nui Dat. We took the canvass and bows from a 2-1/2 truck and put them on the 5-ton since the mounting slots are the same. A wooden shipping box for the breech of an 8"  Howitzer neatly covered the boom extending out the back. Another box covered the winch up front. After painting out the numbers, we covered the truck with a gallon of motor oil and a few pounds of local dirt thrown on did the rest to camouflage it as just another 2-1/2 ton vehicle.

They drove down to the dock at Vung Tau the morning of the move via an another (and uncleared) road.

Had Allen's NCO been 10 minutes later, the wrecker would have been neatly stashed aboard the LST and off to I Corp. It all seemed like a good idea at the time.

Stephan Early (67-68)
"A" Battery

Great story about the wrecker. Capt. Yore and his motor pool NCO almost pulled that off. I was driving for the Capt. and he played it close to the vest on a need to know basis. Thanks for sharing.

Bill Taggart (66-67)
HQ
Battery

I wanted to add a comment on the mention that Mike Jalone made about a water truck that did make the trip Nort

We had a water truck (at least Korean War vintage or earlier) that we called Juicy Lucy. One of our mechanics in HQ Battery found it somewhere, brought it back to Nui Dat and refurbished it. The paint job was not exactly military quality (or color)  but I spent many days on water runs with her. She was a bear to drive, had an unorthodox gear box. I wondered if she made the trip north. Here is a link to a page on my site with water trucks. In the first one is a picture of me riding shotgun in Lucy.

 

Richard Allen (67-68)
148th Ordinance Company (Ammo)

Great pics! Juicy Lucy looks like it might have been left over from WWII—maybe abandoned by the French when they left in 1954.  

Don Eikenberry (66-67)
Service
Battery

Click here to see Don's pictures of a 5-ton wrecker and other equipment used at Nui Dat.

 

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