A VISIT WITH THE CAV
By Jim Spence
I served with the 31st combat engineering battalion in Vietnam in 1970/71 and pulled duty with the 11th ACR at fire base Ennis, near the Iron Triangle. We (the31st) were clearing the area and building the firebase for the 11th ACR. I remember it all very well.
We were living on the temporary fire base while the regular one was being built. I was a gunner on an APC, pulling security for the base. We got hit pretty hard on one particular evening, lots of mortar and small arms fire, but the ACR impressed the hell out of me. First, they pointed their 105's (or 155's, I'm not sure which) straight in the air and lit the area up like daytime. When things really heated up, your Lt. lowered his cannons and fired H.E. and flechette (sp?) rounds point blank into the woods. (I think my ears are still ringing from that one!) He really saved some lives with that maneuver.
The next day, a Col. from the 11th ARC flew in to survey the damage. I guess he was pretty pleased with the results; he sent me and someone from the ACR back to the rear in his chopper to pick up 10 cases of beer, which he paid for out of his own pocket. Of course, like most of the nice stories from in-country, this one had a lousy ending. When the primary base was complete, we pulled out, along with a couple of the 11th ACR's APC's. We had a friendly race of sorts with each other to see who would get to the dirt road first. (The loser would eat the winners dust, literally!) The ACR won. We ended up third in line to leave. Unfortunately, the lead APC hit what had to be a 500lb mine buried in the muddy road. The force of the blast picked that track up (which weighed about 17 tons combat ready) and threw it through the air like it was a Tonka truck.
It left a blast crater at least
15 feet across and 6 feet deep. There was about a 4 foot chunk of the left
track from the APC that I don't think was ever found. The 11th ACR lost a good
crew that day. Unfortunately, James Ennis had already died at that firebase a
couple of weeks earlier, so the compound bore his name, not the name of one of
your crew. I just got back from my first visit to the wall a couple of months
ago. I found James Ennis's panel and took an etching of his name home with me.
I'm sorry I didn't know the names of the guys on the ACR's APC that got hit,
but the wall does . . . and they're all in good company. You guys did a good
job . . . thanks. Welcome home vets.