Bill Short, chief #4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID, 1969 - LOH Convoy

Shake And Bake

Section Chief
#4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID
Mother's Day, 1969

by: Bill Short
© (2011)


Photo: Bill Short, chief #4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID, 1969 - LOH Convoy, just before it was hit!

Shake & Bake, by Bill Short, NCOC, 1969

I served as section chief #4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID during the Mother's Day, 1969 attack. Our gun was closest to the FDC and Mess Hall, and our permanent bunker was being rebuilt at the time. Our section of 8 men were sleeping in an 8 sided tent with sand bags three feet up on the sides. That was standard protection for a tent.

Photo: Bill Short, chief #4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID, 1969 - Smelling Good on Stand Down.

Bill Short, chief #4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID, 1969 - Smelling Good on Stand Down. We routinely set up the 4 guns of the battery on "final fire" Azimuths so we could cover the perimeter of the O as well as other batteries that were within about 10-15 clicks. Our gun (named Destruction II) had a fresh barrel and so it was the register gun (most accurate) of the four. We had registered 3 rounds on an H&I target about 10 PM so at just after midnight we had 7 men asleep in the tent and one (Phipps) on guard duty on the gun.

The first thing we knew about incoming rounds was when an 81mm mortar hit inside our tent. Our newest member took the round almost directly to his head, killing him instantly and severely wounding Spec 4 Rick Peoples (my Asst Gunner) in the groin, legs, and lower back. We all were deafened by the blast and woke up scrambling for weapons and flashlights. When I stood up another round went off just outside the tent and killed our two adopted pups as well as wounding me in my left upper arm. All we could see by flashlight was smoke, dust, and feathers from the sleeping bag Mike was laying on. All I could hear was Rick screaming and rounds still exploding in and around the battery area. When we finally got hold of Rick to assess his wounds it was just a mess of blood and
feathers everywhere. Rick's artery in his leg was squirting and that is all we could think of was to control that. It was like cooking oil on pasta trying to pinch that artery. I took a piece of T-shirt and used it on thumb and forefinger to get a grip. We did get it stopped but had no medic in the tent. I showed my Gunner, Glenn Clendenon how to hold the thing and decided I had to go to the FDC bunker where the medic was. Our phone had been blown up. The mortars were still coming in about one every 45 seconds and then the rockets started to scream in. They were not hitting our area but the sound was enormous. I low crawled the 30 yard to the FDC and not remembering the identification challenge and reply all I could do was to yell IT'S ME...SHORT. I was pretty lucky that night because Phipps who had been on our gun when it started had run to the FDC and he knew me. Well then I had to get the medic to our tent. He was willing and able and we got back to Rick soon enough that the medic was able to save his life before he bled out.

Photo: Convoy -- Highland Dust! Bill Short, chief #4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID, 1969
I think all that only took about 15 minutes, but it seemed like hours. The mortars slowed overall and quit altogether in our area, so we took the chance to evacuate Rick directly to the aid station about 200 yards away. When we got back we went into the FDC and they were discussing firing Firecracker rounds. #2 gun was laid on the right general AZ. I was senior NCO so I took 3 other guys to gun #2 and we fired all the FC rounds we had after telling the perimeter bunkers to keep their heads
down. We never heard an exact count but were told unofficially that we had plastered the area with bomblets all the way from the bunker that was overrun to the air strip.

We ended up with Michael Scroeder KIA, Rick Peoples severely wounded, and 3 more of us with light wounds. As it worked out my shrapnel in the arm was not all that bad, but I had several burns from hot expended shrapnel that got infected with some bad-ass germs they couldn't cure so I got sent back stateside to Ft. Sam Houston hospital a month later and after about a dozen doctors taking scrapings of the stuff growing on my face, a Spec 4 finally cured me. He just gave me some Phisohex soap and said to scrub it bloody 4 times a day. It healed up and I got an early-out discharge July 3rd, 1969.

I finally contacted Rick in Alabama in 2008 through some film people who were reuniting old buddies. They gave me his number and I got him on the phone.. I figured he would be just as glad to hear from me, but he just mumbled a few words about don't want to talk about it and hung up. My 39 year build up turned out to be a big downer, but it was good to hear
that he lived through it.

Bill Short

Photo: Convoy -- Shake and Baket! Bill Short, chief #4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID, 1969
Shake and Baket! Bill Short, chief #4 gun, D Btry. 5th / 16th Arty, 4th ID, 1969I had lost my cousin Andrew J. Short, III in May, 1967 just before I got drafted. He was with the 2/22 Triple Dueces at the southern extent of the 4th ID area of operations near the Iron Triangle. They lost 2 APC's and several KIA and WIA that day (all mounted at the time). I didn't know any details until someone wrote me to find out about my cousin (we called him Butch). His family had lost touch (this was about 1998-99. They were building a local memorial in Brookhaven, MS and he was one listed with no details. That got me to go online and search out the info. After just a month I ended up hearing from his platoon leader who actually kept a daily diary and gave me map coordinates and everything. That got me to reach out for my old buddies but only found one ( a fellow instant NCO) who served with 2/9th arty. They were 105's and had fired defensive fire for us once and of course I didn't know.

Most of my photos got blown up when our tent was hit that night (we had a fire too). These photos were on a 110 film cartridge that I had in my dop kit when I evac'd to the States. I didn't get it developed until the next year. I have about 20 more but have not scanned them.
I forgot the date, but we were in the convoy from Bobbie to the O in March (stories written) where the LOH was hit along with some other ground vehicles that were in front of us in the convoy by almost a click. We rolled through the same area at high speed later after the area was cleared. Some of it is in the pics I enclose. I am not certain after all the years, but I am almost certain the pic of the LOH is just before it was hit.

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