Song Moa in II Corps ...
Firebase Trooper!
M-88 Tank Retriever
by:Tony Dodson
© 1998
Photo: Skinny trooper is Tony Dodson, on the way back from the Cambodian Dance, 1970, standing by one of our hunter killer teams Loch helicopter.

Photo above: Skinny trooper is Tony Dodson, on the way back from the Cambodian dance 1970, standing next to one of our hunter killer teams' Loch.

Vietnam left me with a lot of unforgettable memories. I often wish I could rid my mind of the nightmarish ones. Then there are the ones that will forever bring a chuckle, a smile, and sometimes maybe a small tear.

It was a clear evening in August of 1970 outside a small outpost known as Song Moa in II Corps. We had just returned from the "official" invasion of Cambodia. A Troop, Third Platoon, 2/1st Armored Cavalry was out trollin' in what we called a Recon En Force. Nothing could get my juices flowing better than riding atop those M-48 tanks and M-113 armored personnel carriers while on mounted patrols.

      Our Platoon Sergeant was in the lead tank (don't remember his name). We came upon this rice paddy. Instead of Sarge going around the paddy, he had the bright idea to cut across. WRONG WRONG WRONG!!! I Remember when that old M-48 initially got bogged down in the Monsoon Mud. I said to myself, "Oh crap (not my exact words) now we're sitting ducks." Those guys went from forward to reverse, from reverse to forward only making matters worse, by the time reality hit them, the 90mm main gun (which normally stood about 7 feet off of the ground) was neck deep in that rice paddy. Not good, not good at all.

      Lt. made the decision to send Sgt Terry's track back to Firebase Trooper to get some tow cables--ALONE: another great decision! I remember I let loose with a sigh of relief when I heard that diesel engine growling it's way back through the jungle toward our precarious position. I knew those guys on Alpha 3-2 were good to go when I saw that black diesel smoke break into the clearing. I peered over my gun shield and saw Sgt Terry in the TC hatch crouched behind his 50 CAL, Doc Good and Mud Puppy were manning their M-60s, and Conway was laying on his stomach covering the rear of the track with his M-16 (Got tears in my eyes now). At that moment I said to myself, "Those guys on that track have their stuff together."

Photo: Inside Firebase Trooper.Photo: Inside Firebase 










Moving on, we daisy-chained two or three APCs together and tried to pull the tank out of that mud. The mud had other ideas. We even managed to snap one of the tow cables. That tank wasn't going anywhere that night. Papa San came out of his hooch and called us some strange Vietnamese names. I remember thinking to myself, "This guy is really pissed off. He's probably going to go inside and dig up his VC radio and rat us out." I wasn't far off the mark.

      Some of us were ordered to dismount and set up in night positions in that God awful rice paddy. I can still remember the smell of the water buffalo dung. The only thing separating me from it's clutches was the poncho I spread on the ground. Man, I can still hear those mosquitos buzzing in my ears. The frogs were making enough noise to drive a man insane. That is, until all of a sudden they just stopped. It got quiet; I mean really quiet. I looked back over my shoulder toward the firebase, and there it was: The base had come under attack, and Puff The Magic Dragon was chasing the bad guys--RIGHT TOWARD US, OVER! I figured Charlie knew where we were located, and didn't need us and Puff in his behind. Thank god he diverted away from us. The Pucker Factor was off the scale for the rest of the night.

     I remember early the next morning hearing this roaring coming from deep within the jungle. It got louder and louder. It was that M-88 Tank Retriever. I remember it had two 50 CAL machine guns mounted on top. The driver was this 6'5" guy from down south somewhere. I said to myself, "What's up with this guy? Is he loony or something? If Charlie decided to hop on his tail, how can he drive and man any of those 50s at the same time?" I wonder if anyone ever had the heart to tell that big country dude how dumb that was?

     Well, to end the story and/or flashback, that VTR made short work out of getting that tank out of Papa San's hard worked field. Man what a mess we made! It looked as though a couple of F-4s had dropped a few 500 pounders. Papa San showed up again, this time with his wife, and they bid us good riddance with a few more DO MAMMIES as we roared off back into the boonies.

     Now I've got those goose bumps again.

      The first attached pic is from. The one with the skinny trooper is me on the way back from the Cambodian dance 1970 standing next to one of our hunter killer teams' Loch. Tony Dodson A Troop 2-1 Cavalry (Blackhawks) and 6-32 Field Artillery (Big Sticks), 1969 to 1971, Phila. PA.


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