Phu Bai, Vietnam, just 60 miles south of the DMZ
Seabees of H Company, MCB-7

by: Raymond Cochran
Naval Mobil Construction Battalion Seven
attached to the 3rd Marine Division
Vietnam 1966
(© 2010)

BEE-VERY SMALL.jpgJeep Recon

Dawn, summer of 1966, Phu Bai, RVN: our four jeep recon mission was about to begin. I was to be body guard and shot-gun rider on my lieutenant's command jeep. This was a mid- deployment recon mission northeastward up the coast of the South China Sea. We were to scout a location for MCB-7 to build a causeway for a LST supply point to the area. I was well experienced by this time on foot patrols, shot gun riding on supply convoys, VIP body guard and courier duties. (Looking back 40+ years, I assume I was good with my M-14, available, dependable and expendable.)

We left our MCB-7 Camp Campbell after a quick bite of our C-rats and proceeded out of the Phu Bai area. We soon left the pavement, and then proceeded down dirt roads that turned into rutted paths.  About an hour out and 15 miles from the nearest Americans, we were approaching a vil. It was then when I saw a g--- standing on the edge of the jungle on the other side of the rice paddy, fifty yards away, staring at us intently. He was wearing black pajamas, a straw hat and carrying a M1 carbine. He looked like a stereo-type VC to me. I asked permission to plug his ass (the stupid rule was don’t fire, unless fired on first). The LT replied,”Hold your fire. He is probably a South Vietnamese Militia.” I thought to myself; bullshit!

We rolled through the vil at maximum safe speed of 5 mph. The rutty trail was that bad. After another mile, we jostled into a sand dune area. I knew we were near the coast. There were very large sand dunes 10-20 feet tall. Still, we could travel no more than 5 mph. After about ten minutes into the dunes, the LT announced that he was getting hungry, and ordered us to turn around and head back to camp. We did a five point turn between the dunes, because there was so little maneuvering room and putted back to the paved road.

The next afternoon, the Marine grunt battalion camped next to us asked our battalion if we had any jeeps in that coastal area the day before. We informed them that we had a jeep patrol in the area. Then they stated that they had a foot patrol in the same area this morning and had discovered a VC ambush site about fifty yards further from where we had turned around. The Marines said the VC had a platoon ready for us on both sides of the dunes with three machineguns. For the VC, it was a perfect cross fire set up.

We would have been annihilated. That g--- with the M1 was a lookout for the ambush! We could not have outrun the planned ambush. The rule was in an ambush situation like this was to dismount and charge the enemy. There was no charging up those sand dunes.

The Marines asked us why we turned around. We told them about the LT’s hunger pains. They could hardly believe our luck.
Thank God for the LT’s stomach growling!

This was one of many very close calls.

Ray Cochran EA


Report a Broken Link / Photo (tell me where!), or eMail a Comment
© War-Stories.com 1995-2023. All Rights Reserved.