Cavalry Unit Near
IN QUI NHON -- Charles Black,
military writer for The Enquirer, is now in Qui Nhon (arrow) South Viet
By CHARLES BLACK
NHON – This place looked different after flying over the
and the picturesque sampan fleet at the entrance to the bay in a
piloted from Nha Trang by Maj. Lowell J. Ballard, commander of the 92nd
are tents lining the beaches, cargo ships
anchored in the bay and landing barges busily ferrying men and
ashore. The men are part of engineer, maintenance and support
detachments – a
whole collection of the specialists who build up a logistical base for
by Brig. Gen. Richard T. Knowles, assistant
division commander, the advance party of the 1st Cavalry
(Airmobile) is located in force at Ankhe between here and Pleiku. Many
pilots are “farmed out” to helicopter units all over the central
learning the area and familiarizing themselves with tactics.
are various groups which hurry in and out of Qui Nhon by helicopter,
things ready for the division which is due to land here soon and move
the highlands to go to work.
job facing this division is going to be very similar to the one I saw
done on Route 14 by the Vietnamese marines – with one major exception:
are more Viet Cong here; they are “hard core” units with discipline and
equipment -- and the stakes are higher.
Route 19 to Pleiku and routing the 325th
Divison and whatever separate VC battalions are occupying the
open the way to an ever greater strategic thrust. The division could
clear area all the way to the Laotian border on the same axis of attack
the same thing the VC has been trying to do to us here -- cut the
forces in two
and separate them.
from Dr. (Capt.) Leon Curry of Ban Me Thuot to take it easy for a
days after having had some sun trouble; and there were many people I
see at Qui Nhon.
Nhon is about the only way to get to Ankhe,
either by air or (if all goes well) in a truck convoy. The convoy would
more interesting way to go; and at this writing I was trying to make a
catch one at 4:30 a.m. Monday.
have been a lot of miles under the wings of the
92nd’s Caribous since the day last October I landed here
in a howling monsoon; but the men don’t show too much wear from the
months. If they are wise old pilots now, they are still as cocky and
their unit as ever.
Met at Plane
Sam Cook, the platoon sergeant and my next-door
neighbor back home, met me on the runway when I got off the plane. With
Sp4 Bill Garton of Monks, N. C., crew chief of the Caribou in which I
12,000 or so miles during my first assignment to Viet Nam.
Cook told me that he and 1st Sgt. Don
Fare had been getting ready for my arrival.
come to supper at our hootch tonight,” he said.
“We’re going to cook pork chops, pinto beans and boiled cabbage, and
going to make some corn bread.”
Cook showed me a clipping his wife had sent him,
saying I was on the way, then looked critically at my muddy, sweaty,
jungle uniform. It hadn’t been improved by my three days with the
marines, and I hadn’t had a chance to unpack anything from my rucksack.
look like a Viet Cong deserter,” he decided.
arrived at Maj. Ballard’s office just in time to
see a very fine event. Fred Ritterspa, a first lieutenant whose wife
children are waiting for him back in Columbus, had his captain's bars
him and I was able to greet him and extend congratulations at the same
Capt. Bobby Wagg, an individual I admire because he is such a “solid
of a soldier and a man, almost knocked me down hitting my back in
had met Capt. Dale
Michelson down at Tan Son Nhut as I was leaving for Ban Me Thuot. Capt.
Michelson is built like an especially powerful fullback and when he
he has authority. Capt. Wagg had completed the set of bruises by
up with a handprint on my back.
up to greet the new arrival, either singly or
in pairs, were Capts. Cecil Ramsey, Emmett Hollowell, Larry O’Nellion,
Holloway and Dave Hume (who recently sent back a running account of the
exploits) and CWO Hugh Wellman.
got a room for the night with Maj. Dennis Harron,
the 92nd’s executive officer, whose wife is a native of Colombus.
felt good to be home.
pilots told me they:
Had set a record in Viet Nam “which is going to stand for a long time.”
Had “showed the Air Force that C-123s can haul more load and fly
they can’t do it in Viet Nam. They can’t land where we land, and they
make cargo extractions because they have to fly at 120 knots and it
Are “getting very short and home is just around the corner.”
NCO’s have mysterious means of obtaining such creature
comforts as refrigerators, cook stoves, air conditioners and the like;
the evening at the rather luxurious hootch of 1st Sgt. Don Fare and SFC
Cook was a real joy. It was a special event -- a real celebration.
folks on Selective Service Board 14 of Lenoir, N. C. were probably just
job, but they made our evening a complete success. It needed a light
They supplied it.
They sent SFC Don Fare a questionnaire and informed
he should prepare himself for the draft. With 20 years of service, he
is now preparing
himself in Viet Nam.
was exactly what was needed to make up for Sam Cook’s putting too much
the pinto beans.
rain started as the darkness came. Majs. Harron and
Ballard arrived with a jeep to take me over to the villa the pilots
villa sits near the runway and is guarded by
mercenaries hired from the famous Nungh tribe, a Chinese clan which has
traditionally lived by fighting for pay. They are among the most
sentries in the world and they look very reassuring in the bunkers and
gate to the quarters. The men who live by the strip now have a security
platoon; scout dogs are due; and a battalion of U S. Marines prowls the
around the city.
we drove around the runway and down through the town to the villa,
there was a
grim reminder of the necessity for these added security measures: A
rubble-filled vacant lot is all that remains of the concrete hotel in
Americans lost their lives in a terrorist bombing last February.
atmosphere around Qui Nhon is still quite tense, and there is a bit of
West in the rooms where the men sleep. Weapons are quite plentiful.
had started writing this series of stories when Maj. Ballard came back
tall leathery man dressed in civilian clothing.
man was CWO Mike Lowe who probably knows more about Highway 19 than any
Viet Nam. He is the engineer adviser to the Vietnamese engineer
charged with keeping it repaired.
studied the road thoroughly," Mr. Lowe told me. “You have a real good
chance to do it here. The VC dug it up so much, you get real well acquainted with it, right
down to the foundations. They blow the bridges and you get real well
with that, too.
going to take two jeeps and make a reconnaissance up to Ankhe – or as
far as we
can get – tomorrow. It’s livelier and faster than a convoy. If you want
come, we can use all the help we can get.”
sounded like the fanciest offer I’d heard yet to get to Ankhe without
becoming dull, so I’m taking him up on it.