83rd Stew Stenberg (68-69)
"C" Battery

Memories of Bastogne

 
 

This is a remembrance that Stew recalls of a very bad time at FSB Bastogne.

"I left Nam in December of 1969 from FSB Bastogne.  I remember a fresh, arrogant Captain who was assigned to C Battery as Battery Commander.  This was his first Nam tour.  He demanded that everything that was troop or mission related be strictly adhered to as if we were in the states.  Respect and recognition were absolutes when it came to addressing him.  He expected polished boots, uniforms clean and inspected, 175 mm guns wiped down and cleaned on a scheduled basis.

There was an immediate dislike for his arrogance and his implementation of stateside bullshit, most of which could not be employed because of the conditions we had to work in and were exposed to.  He took advice from no one, if  you’d been there a week or a year, your knowledge and insight was of no value to him.

When Bastogne got hit horribly in May of ‘69, we lost Doc Paddleford and sixteen others were flown to Camp Eagle for their severe wounds. This Captain was one of those air lifted out and never returned to Bastogne for further service.  Depending on the nature and severity of their wounds, some of the guys did eventually return to Bastogne.

As most of us were tied up defending the perimeter from rockets and any small arms fire, our total concentration was on the enemy.  We pretty much remained ‘in place’ until sunrise when we determined we were no longer under threat.  It had been a very long, cold and rainy night with extremely low overcast skies.  I believe it was around midnight when we initially got hit, but due to the extreme weather conditions, neither air support or other artillery support were able to provide any additional support to our position.

The Medi-Vacs flew in after daylight for the wounded as the weather had cleared just enough.  In the latter hours of the day, the gun section crews gathered and exchanged our personal accounts of the attacks.  We quickly learned who had been wounded and heard that Doc Paddleford was in terribly critical shape.  When it came to the Captain, no one had much to offer as to the wounds he suffered or how critical they might be.

He was hit very close to the FDC tent that was not well protracted from incoming.  I recall vividly from a couple buddies who were near the BC’s position that he had been shot in the back and had witnessed such wounds while awaiting the Medi-Vacs to take him back to base camp.  Word (I guess we can say ‘rumors’) began to circulate that the wounds the Battery Commander suffered were as the result of an accidental ‘friendly fire’ incident.  After that day, his name was seldom spoken, if ever, amongst the troops.  We never learned of his exact injuries or the possible disabilities he may have endured thereafter.  His name is not on the wall and I have made many internet searches in the last few years, out of curiosity mostly, to see if I could find out anything about his disposition in these later years.....I keep coming up with a blank.

I shall not mention his name, out of respect for his service and sacrifice.  I’m sure there are others who were in C Battery during that unfortunate time period.  Perhaps they can speak to this as well.  I’m not insinuating anything, nor do I have any factual proof as to what happened during that enemy engagement, but the end result is speculation on my part based on what I seen and heard regarding the Captain’s fate.

I know it was extremely insulting and dishonorable to be in Nam and have stateside military crap shoved down your throat day after day by an inexperienced  ‘newly’.  We were there to fight a war under undesirable conditions, and not to see how pretty we could look.  We worked hard and fought hard and took care of each other as brothers should...having a polished pair of boots and a clean, tidy uniform was asking the impossible....and the unnecessary.

I pray that this Battery Commander recovered and is able to enjoy the norms of life.  I wish him no ill, but I hope he realizes and understands the true moral of this story.  This is written as accurately and truthfully as I recall.... the memories of Bastogne on that fateful day in May of 1969 will forever be with me.

Stewart Stenberg

C Battery, 1/83Arty
Section 2
December 1968-December 1969"

 

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