Echoes from the Regiment’s Service in Vietnam 1966 – 1972
Don Snedeker, 11th ACVVC Historian
3rd Qtr 2015
· Combat Ready. On 26 September 1966, 20 days after the main body of the Regiment arrived at Vung Tau, the 11th Armored Cavalry was declared ready for combat and placed under the operational control (OPCON) of the II Field Force Vietnam. One day later, elements of First Squadron provided an escort for the movement of heavy equipment from C Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, from their Long Binh staging area to an area south of Xuan Loc – the start of the Blackhorse Base Camp construction. On 9 October, the Merchant Marine Ship North Hills arrived in Saigon. At this point, 95 percent of Regiment’s heavy equipment had arrived in country, including 499 wheeled vehicles, 483 combat tracked vehicles, and 22 helicopters.
· Lipstick on Your Collar. On 20 August 1967, the Miss America show entertained an audience of 2,400 at Blackhorse Base Camp. On 13 December, Connie Francis presented a musical show to 2,000 personnel at Blackhorse Base Camp.
· New/Used Car Sale. Uncle Sam was having a new/used vehicle sale, and the Blackhorse was first in line. In the first half of 1968, the Regiment received twelve ‘right off the showroom floor’ M-548 cargo carriers with two 500 gallon bladders each to be used as fuel vehicles in those cases where trucks couldn’t get off the roads to the armored vehicles. Not to be outdone, the Regiment’s Howitzer Batteries turned in their M-109 howitzers and drew the ‘new and improved’ fifth-year model M-109A1. The Regiment also received four diesel engine M-132A1 flamethrowers (Zippo!). The 919th Armored Engineer Company drew two Combat Engineer Vehicles (CEVs) in exchange for their M-48 dozer tanks. Not to be outdone, Air Cavalry Troop began receiving its first OH-6A scout helicopters in May. Nine venerable OH-23s, which had been in use since the Regiment’s arrival at Vung Tau two years earlier, were exchanged for the OH-6As. In August the new AH-1G Cobras also began arriving. All in all, not a bad take in such a short period of time.
· The Dog. From the July 1969 edition of the Blackhorse Newspaper: “‘Hey, D-three-three, you have the oldest tank. Why don’t you take the lead? That way there will be no loss if you hit a mine.’ When that not too serious challenge came over the horn recently the crewmen on D-33, of the 11th Armored Cavalry’s D Company, accepted it in good humor. Had they known what lay ahead they probably would have had second thoughts. ‘But we took the lead willingly,’ said loader SP4 John N. Klinepeter of Duncannon, Pa., ‘and started down the road from Gia Ray towards Blackhorse [basecamp].’ They hadn’t gone far, however, when the challenge proved all too true. D-33 struck what was later evaluated as an 80-pound mine, blowing off one of the right road wheels. Tank commander Sgt. Larry E. Hall, Somerset, Ky. was tossed up on the hatch. The driver was completely thrown from the vehicle. But driver SP4 Roger Gentry, Beattyville, Ky., was more shook than anyone else. Luckily the commo on the six month old vehicle was momentarily bad. Thus he had been standing in the hatch in order to hear instructions from the TC, and had escaped the worst of the blast. ‘The first thing we did was try to shut her down,’ said Hall. ‘But everything was jammed tight – it wouldn’t steer, so we couldn’t get it out of gear and it wouldn’t shut off. The second thing we did was evacuate.’ One crew member refused to leave the stricken tank, however. Mounting the gun shield, nose into the wind, third platoon’s mascot, a canine named The Dog, continued to ride the tank along its erratic, circular path. ‘The vehicle was going around in a big circle, busting jungle on both sides of the road,’ commented gunner SP4 Edward Slay, Savannah, Ga., ‘when 1SGT Strickland (Joe Strickland of Killeen, Texas) came up along side the stricken tank riding an ACAV, and jumped onto the tank.’ After his rodeo-style leap 1SGT Strickland attempted to stop the runaway machine but he didn’t succeed. Finally giving up, he tossed the dog from his perch and jumped off… On its third time around the ever-widening circle, the tank stalled and finally came to rest in a small stream. ‘It’s a good thing she stalled’ said Hall. ‘One more trip around and it would have gone through a small village that was in its path.’ After it was all over the crew admitted it had been a pretty rough day. ‘But we got a new vehicle out of it,’ chuckled Klinepeter.”
· Where’s My Hat? From the October 1970 edition of the Blackhorse Newspaper: “He had to go through War Zone C, Cambodia, and all the way back through Di An to the eastern coast of Vietnam, but Specialist 4 Larry W. Maltbe, of Lenoir, N.C., finally found his hat – 10 months and 100 miles from where he lost it. When Maltbe came to the Blackhorse Regiment last November, he got a brand new jungle hat and like many others, had his initials and home state sewn on the brim. His hat was easy to identify because the girl who did the sewing left out the last ‘a’ in Carolina. But he only had his hat for a few days before he lost it while in-processing at the finance office in Bien Hoa. Then, in mid-September, while working with the 2nd Squadron supply platoon at Fire Support Base Rivera, he saw a familiar-looking hat atop a young Vietnamese boy’s head. It was his long lost jungle hat, right down to the missing ‘a’. The boy, whose name is Ba, said that he had found the hat in a trash pile near Rivera, and had cleaned it up. Maltbe offered to buy the hat from the boy, but he was turned down. He consoled himself by saying, ‘It won’t make any difference. I’ll be going home in a couple of months anyway.’”
· Stand Down. From the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Redeployment After Action Report, dated 5 March 1971: Typical of the manner in which outprocessing was handled throughout the Regiment, Third Squadron organized a checklist process for each departing Trooper. “The prevailing theme throughout was that the troopers were not leaving the Blackhorse Regiment, but were still members of a Regiment which, having completed its mission, was leaving Vietnam… Twice daily, an S-2 debriefing was conducted. This briefing also included a map briefing on where 3d Squadron had operated and where other major units in Vietnam were located. After the S-2 briefing, a ceremony was held presenting any approved awards to the departing troopers. The Squadron Commander, or in his absence, the executive officer or S-3, talked to the departing troopers. They were thanked for the job they had done for the Squadron and the Regiment. The meaning of the wearing of the Blackhorse patch on the right shoulder was explained along with the responsibilities of the men to this Blackhorse patch.”