BOOM! Another Landmine
© 2000, by:
1SG Lonnie Dotson
A troop, 3/4th Cav, 25th Inf Div

 

Photo: 1SG Lonnie Dotson.

It was late in my tour with A troop, 3/4th Cav, 25th Inf Div. I had about 28 days remaining before I could jump on a freedom bird. It must have been around Feb. 70, I'm guessing. We were busting bush in III Corps, looking for "Sir Charles" in an area they called the Hobo Woods. Usually it was a unit of the 101 NVA Regt. that we would run into. The Hobo Woods was a major staging area for the NVA to assemble and mount an attack at the 25th Inf Div base camp, Cu Chi City or Saigon. The NVA would traveled down the many trails and sneak in across the border from Cambodian and Laotian. They would all rally in the Hobo's for food, ammo, plans and instructions. Much later, after the war we found that the NVA had a major tunnel net work right below us all the time (I guess that's another story) Gees gives me shivers just to thinking about it.The Cav was good for doing sweeps through the bush.

 

Photo: Our Squadron and the 11th Armored Cav Regt had been using the new M151 General Sheridan Airborne Assault Tanks.

Due to our mobility we could keep the Enemy off guard and moving and a grunt company would take too long and be too costly in injuries. We could literally roll over small mines and booby traps and keep going. These sweep missions would make be it harder to mount a large-scale attack. We would also force him into battles before he was ready, hitting them before they were unprepared. Our Squadron and the 11th Armored Cav Regt had been using the new M151 General Sheridan Airborne Assault Tanks. Now I use this term "Tank" loosely, since being a tanker of a 52-ton medium Tank and now having a 17-ton light tank was rather hard to swallow. But they were fast and had a hell of a punch. It had a main gun of 152MM (which had a beehive shell with 10,700 fleshetts), while the M48A3, only had the standard 90MM. But, As a Tanker I still had some pride.

The average Cav Platoon had 3 Scout Tracks (M113's, with two M60's mounted in the back and a 50 cal for the commander) called ACAV's, 3 tanks, one mortar track, a platoon Cdr.'s track and a squad of grunts. The headquarters section was composed of the Command, Mortar and Medical Track's. We packed a lot of firepower in one platoon. Each of the ground Troops had three platoons like the third.

We had just left our base camp after a three-day stand down. The Troop Commander tried to return us to base camp at least every other month. We needed to clean the tracks, pull and replace the engines and generally pull heavy maintenance. Getting drunk, taking a shower, finding new uniforms, and get into any trouble was also on the menu. It had been a long time since many have of us had anything other than a bath in our helmets, or anything to drink.

After the much needed cleaning and resting we returned to the Hobos Woods and started our combat sweeps. The way we conducted a sweep was to have all three platoons abreast on line with about 25 meters between each track. We would intersperse tanks and ACAV's to balance out the firepower. The command tracks would follow behind us with the Medical and Mortar tracks. Using this line formation we would bust down the jungle and drive through the dense brush. Our grunts would dismount and walk to the sides or rear as we busted the trees, brush, bamboo and anything else got in our way. This type of close support kept Chuck from jumping up after we rolled by and shooting us from behind. It got hairy many times! It was hard to see where we were going. Generally it seemed like I was looking at a wall of green to my front.

I had a newly tailored uniform on (actually it was a real faded almost, white jungle uniform that I had cherished). We kind'a gained a sense of prestige and honor based upon the age of our uniforms. . The older they looked the better we felt. I had them tailor the pants, sew on stripes and patches (yikes I almost looked like a real soldier). I felt great and looked like an old combat hardened vet all at the age of 19. Most the time we only wore cutoff jungle pants, and towels around our necks, and generally looked like crap. Setting up on top of those V12 Turbo diesels got pretty hot and dirty, and busting brush and putting tracks back on wasn't a very neat task either! All day we pushed down bush and knocked down trees, and I was tired of fighting vines and getting the dang red ants off of me. Seemed that each time we hit a tree it was filled with red fire ants that bite like crazy. Guess where they fell? Yup, right on top of my turret, where my crew and I rode!

Photo: The new M151 General Sheridan Airborne Assault Tanks. It must have just been just after the monsoon, since the paddies were still somewhat wet and soggy. The troop halted just on the outside the woods. My platoon was assigned to see if the paddies were dry enough for us to send the troop across. I told my driver to move out into the rice paddy and not to let off on the gas. "Peddle to the metal!" We were moving across the first paddy and when I started to feel it. I could feel it getting too sloppy. A tank (even this small one) digs in and throws all the mud up and all over the place. Well guess who got stuck? Of all the tracks in my platoon, I was the first to get stuck! Old A36 was stopped in her tracks! Well the plan was for another track to back up and pull me out. We would place put the "trainee" in reverses and try to get back on high ground. Well I swallowed my pride and allowed an Infantry track to help pull on my Tank (man if the guys at Fort Knox, ever hear about this!). A Small Infantry ACAV could have never pulled out a M48A3 Med. Tank. Well being the good tank commander I was *smile*), I jumped down to help, leaving my flak jacket and helmet up in my Commanders copula. This must have captured everyone's attention since not only was my crew on 36's back deck watching the fiasco, but so was half the troop.

Well I got the cables all hooked up and was a little PO'd since my new uniform was getting dirty, but had to do something so we could rejoin with the troop and head to a night defensive position. All was set and I was read. I walked to the front of the M-113 ACAV track and was giving the driver hand and arm signals. This way I could see my tank and the track. I was standing about 50 feet to the right front of the pulling track. As the driver pulled all the slack out from the cables, I signaled for him to stomp on the gas and give it a hard left turn. I didn't want the tracks pulling back over the same deep ruts we made when we pulled in to this mess. I thought the ground would be dryer and give us better traction. Well the ACAV moved about 10 feet and all I heard was a large BOOM!! I was either blown down and away or something.. All I knew was I couldn't see or hear a thing, and I wasn't where I started! I didn't know what the deal was.. I thought we had taken a rocket, or were being attacked.

The platoon medic ran over and was bending over me and cutting my brand new uniform off. I couldn't believe it, my new uniform! Man the uniform just cost me some serious bucks getting all the stuff sew on. Now it had only lasted a few short hours! I really liked that the uniform, since us old-timers had great pride in our faded uniform, it gave us a little bit of pride. New guys would be noticed their new crisp clean jungle cammies. The medic tried to talk to me and comfort me since I couldn't hear or see too well. I managed to feel my groin to insure it was all there and tried to feel the rest of me but they held me down so I wouldn't mess up the wounds I guess.

I felt the rotor wash of a small Chopper landing close by and managed to see that it was the Squadron Commanders Command and control ship. He bounced out and they helped my driver and I into the bird. I was carrying my uniform, and all I had on was my boots and bandages. Great sight I bet!

I looked over to the pilot and noticed that he had these flowers painted all over his helmet, and he looked like he had a size 5 head and was wearing a size 10 flight helmet! He looked about 12 years old! As I looked over he just grinned. I was thinking to myself, "What the heck was this kid doing flying this chopper!" Well he just kept grinning and lifted the bird up only a few feet. He buzzed up about 10 feet above the ground at what felt like 100 miles an hour. He zoomed between trees, and did what felt like loop de loops ... anyway he got me to the 12th Evacuation Hospital in no time flat. The medical people came out and helped me to a gurney, and wheeled me into the Triage unit!

I was told that I had actually guided the vehicles right on top of a buried land mine. It was estimated that the charge was about a 150/200 lbs. charge. It was buried deep and when it blew, threw mud and bamboo shards all over the place. It of course covered me with mud, black powder, and bamboo like toothpicks. It must have been all encased in bamboo, so it wouldn't be detected by the land mine clearing teams. The miracle that no one else was injured. The lack of injuries might have been due to everyone being out and standing on top of their vehicles watching.

Well here I was with no clothes on, covered in mud, gun powder burns to my eyes, ear drums blown, and with only 28 days to go until I was to go home! The doctor told me to shower off so he could see what my wounds were, and I had to get x-rayed to see where all the foreign objects were. I was lying right next to NVA Solider who was wounded as well. Geesh, what a feeling!

My treatment? All they did was pour a bottle of disinfect all over me, gave me a few shots, and send me to my unit. I still couldn't see or hear well but at least I was in the rear. I thought no more war for me, it would be nice. I found out soon that most of our rear guys were drunks and shot up the place each night. I kept worrying if I'd ever make it home, at least in a combat area we knew who the enemy was. Back in the rear it was our own guys I worried about most!

I made it home, but that's another story. I'm sure after the guys back in the bush found out I was ok, they must have had a good laugh about me blowing up my own tank!

Lonnie Dotson,
1SG (retired)
A troop, 3/4th Cav, 25th Inf Div
Submitted: November 01, 1999 8A

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