A Fine Warm Sunny Day
Charles H. Pennebaker
4th Eng. Bn (Tank Sect.– 7/68-8/69,
H Co 2/11ACR – 7/69-11/70
After patrolling the Loc Ninh area in September, October and November of 1969 for several weeks — busting jungle,
pulling road security and generally driving around in circles to see what we might scare up, H Co gets an order to back track a ways and do a RIF into northwest Tay Ninh. The purpose was to check out the area of operations where a previous Arc Light (B-52) strike had been conducted. So on a fine warm sunny day off we go to do some sniffing around in Charlie’s front yard.
My tank was H55 which consisted of William Kimbell (driver), William Binsted (loader), Gary Patterson (TC), and myself,
Charles H. Pennebaker (back deck gunner). For some reason I was sitting on top of the loaders hatch that day. As we proceeded our RIF, we had to go single file due to the numerous bomb craters all over the place (don’t want to fall into one of those). Some were bone dry, some half full and some full to the brim with water. The terrain was open grass land with numerous clumps of small trees and bushes so you couldn’t see very far. We were running 6th or 7th in line when we broke out into an open grassy area with a bomb crater full of water to our immediate right.
All of a sudden our tank lurches with a jolt to the right which throws me into the open TC hatch cover and throws the TC into the edge of the cupola ring bashing both our ribs in the process. So we are rubbing our ribs wondering what the %&#@ was that all about? The tank stops right on top of whatever it was. The left side of the tank is way up in the air. So what is it? A rock maybe? A tree stump maybe? Pat tells me to take a look so I lean out over the side and was dumbstruck by what I saw. I sit back on the loaders hatch and Pat’s asking me, “What is it?” I don’t remember saying anything for a few moments so Pat crawls in front of me to take a look for himself. When he passed back in front of me, I could see 10 years age on his face as he mouthed the words, “Oh F%#@!” The radios started crackling and someone wants to know what the holdup is. Someone answers that 55 has stopped. The radios crackle, “55 this is 66 ... what’s the hold up?” Pat is searching for some words when he says, “66 this is 55. We’re sitting on top of this big ass bomb.” Immediately the tank in front of us digs out into the tree line and the tank behind us throws it into reverse and disappears back into the bushes with most haste.
As we are sitting on top of our bomb, Pat and I are scared to death to move any unnecessary muscle. Not even to twitch. Finally we convince ourselves we better get the hell off this tank—now! It didn’t blow up yet so maybe we’d be lucky and jump for it. So off we jump and (sorta) get away from the tank (but not far enough to be sure). The CO comes back on foot to take a look and check things out and about all I can remember (clearly) was that everyone was walking around saying “Oh F’ this” and “Oh F’ that”. Finally it is decided that we will just drive off it since it hadn’t blown up yet, maybe it won’t. Ok, it’s time for some more thrills and chills as our driver Bill Kimbell is the man who’s going to do it. The rest of us get waaay waaay back behind another tank as Bill is revving up the engine for a maybe one way ride to hell. He slams 55 into low gear and off he goes, hits high gear and he is really off and running now; shoots past us and was still going strong with a slight case of the horrors hot on his tail.
All’s well that ends well. The bomb was one of ours, OD in color with .yellow stripes around the nose. It was 6 to 8 feet in length and you couldn’t put your arms around it. I will never ever forget just how lucky H55 and crew were that fine warm sunny day. I can tell you it was a “pucker factor 10” kind of day.