The day it rained trees.

The day it rained trees.
The 3rd.Platoon of Golf Co. 2/5 was placed on Hill 34 (a pile of dirt next to the road) for road security. The
story about the 81-M Mortar Team that got their guns turned around in the wrong
direction during a fire mission and blew away a village was being pass around.
The Platoon Lt. ask me about my MOS of 0341 and if I could call in a fire
mission. It had been two years since my training at Camp Geiger but I stated
that I felt pretty sure of my skills (I mean—I am a Marine after all!). Well,
there was a 81-M team at our position and the Lt. challenged me to order a fire
mission on a ridge line that he spotted. I found the position on the map, give
them to the mortar team and order one H.E.round for adjustment. I didn’t have to
adjust anything. The round hit dead center on the spot the Lt. was looking at (I mean— it’s a sad dog that won’t wag his own tail) .
And then showed him that I knew how to move the rounds right-left, up-down, and
“walk them in”. The Lt. informed me that I would be his backup for F.O. if it
became necessary. I wasn’t all that grateful for this opportunity to be a
Forward Observer. I shared this experience for three reasons: 1. This Platoon
Lt. didn’t trust the men in his platoon to know their jobs and do them—there
for my challenge. 2. His radioman was a big kiss-ass (to get rank) and would
tell the Lt. anything on the men in order to look good, whether they were true
or not. 3. The reason the Lt took me a long with him on this walk.

The Lt. told me to get my radio and come along with him. We left our premier
and started up this ridge which was maybe couple hundred meters from Hill 34. We
got almost to the top when we turned and watched about eight VC moving into a
tree- line. I assume the Lt got a call about this situation and was told to
check it out. Anyways, we got out the map and found the tree line and then
called two F-14, who happen to be in the area, for air support. We mark them as
they flew over the right tree line. The F-14s crewed that tree line up! They
dropped HE and fired their guns and finished with napalm. It is really something
to see especially from our point of view. As we sat there a few minutes
afterwards to make certain that no one walked away from that hell. The parts of
trees started coming down like rain. It was surreal to see that tree line one
minute and then have it rain down on us the next. By the way, no VC walked out
of that hiding place nor did we get hit the whole time on we were on Hill 34.

Footnote: This Platoon Lt. “loss it” one day and accused the whole platoon of
not following his orders and it was our fault that “Ragman” (one of the men)
loss his legs to a boobtrap because of it. Man, guys locked and load on him and
had to be stop by some of the others. Myself and another guy left for R & R
shortly after this situation. While we were waiting in DaNan, we heard that
there was a death threat against the Lt.. Someone had thrown a grenade into his
hooch but didn’t remove the secondary safety. I also crawled under the Senior
NCO and Officers tent back in An Hoa in order get a grenade that had been
thrown. The only reason it didn’t go off was the secondary safety. When we got
back from R & R, the Lt. and his radioman were gone!

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32 thoughts on “The day it rained trees.”

  1. Are you sure about the Hill number that you are referring to ? The Hill 34 I remember was where Camp Love was located,just a few cliks west of RED BEACH ( FLC) north of Da-Nang. Maybe there were two Hill 34’s ? E-2/1 68-69

    1. We’re all getting older. Second story with the F-14 mentioned. Didn’t think any F-14s made it to Vietnam, until much later, if at all. My memory is fuzzy these many years later.

      1. The Marine Corps flew A-4’s alot for close air support. They didn’t have that distinctive smoke trail that the F-4’s did, and they could turn quicker than the F-4, which meant they could get steel on target faster during any secondary runs. It was easier to spot the F-4 with that smoke trail, and engage with ground fire.

    2. Now that you tell me that, I’m not as sure as I was. The hill was just a pile of dirt a long side the road. We built bunkers all around it and thought we fortified it real good. However, the next unit that moved in got hit real hard with zappers and blew the place up. I got hit so I never got to see it again but was told that the zappers changed it all back to a very high pile of dirt. Thanks for helping me with the name. If you recall the proper name for this location, please let me know. Take care.

  2. They were F-4’S or A6’S in the early days I worked on the nav systems for the A-6. Saw both launch from the ship. Support was flown from Yankee station from rotating carriers. In for action out to refuel and resupply. Lots of aircraft came back with bullet holes. Some even with holes from flying thru their own bomb clouds.

  3. There where no F-14’s in Vietnam in the years mentioned. I was stationed at DaNang from 68 to 69 the only planes we had at that time where A-4’s, F-8’s A-6’s F-4’s and Air Force 105’s I believe I am correct after all it’s been 50 years plus and I am over 70 years old.

    1. I appreciate the help with name of the jets. All I can say is that I hadn’t thought about them until I started writing this story and was fairly certain that I was getting the information wrong but counting on one of you to help me out with it—thanks. Was there a jet that was being used over there that they were having a lot of trouble with?

    2. Correct — The F-14 Tomcat (Top Gun!) wasn’t even on the drawing boards a that time…It wasn’t introduced to the Fleet until 1974.

  4. Please explain to me what is meant by the term “Secondary Safety ” on a handgrenade. To the best of my knowledge and experience-once the ” PIN ” is pulled the only thing keeping the grenade from detonating is the hand pressure on the “SPOON” Grenade is thrown – spoon flies off and there is an explosion Shortly thereafter. ( Unless the grenade is a dud .)

    1. Frag grenades were equipped with a small wire clip over the spoon that had to be pushed out of the way in order for the spoon to come off. Thus, “secondary safety”.

      1. Must be newer version of the grenades I threw. The only secondary safety was the packing cardboard sleeve it came in. Once removed from the sleeve, the only thing to prevent it going off was the cotter pin that held the spoon. And we made sure that the cotter pin was well bent to keep it from accidentally coming out when not wanted. While there, they did bring us some new grenades they called baseballs. But a week or so later they came and collected them all and gave us back the ones we were using. Those might have been the 10 foot arming grenades. You could release the spoon and hold it because it didn’t arm till it was thrown 10 feet. Heard people were throwing those thing into the air 5 feet to demonstrate it. Problem was 5 feet up is also 5 feet down.

      2. Thanks! I should have realized that a lot Marines used the grenades without that little wire. They gave us those and the baseball ones but not many and not for very long. I lose a buddy because of a short fuse on one of those baseball grenades. As I remember they weren’t reliable.

        1. As usual the Army got the first issue of the grenades with the safety clip(jungle clip) we had to use up all of our stockpile of the old type which most of us probably got issued before the new type came to us.I was never issued grenade with the clip Harry

  5. I was with spec Opps attached to Service Co 3rd Mar div. I was at Quang tri, Ang Loc, Puh-bY , but HQ was at Mac-V We got hit hard on thed pull out of Saigon. I was at the Embassy at the time of the attack and I never saw anything like that. We had ch 56’s taking people off the top of the place nd we had 2 Bat’s going up the river to a bridge to cut them off. There were VC everywhere dressed as nuns and priest. My CO got hit and we dragged him out with 5 others getting hit. When I left Nam we called them (MR CHARLIE)

  6. 81’s receive extensive training. As an assistant gunner and later a gunner for 81’s 3/5 in 66 and 67 I can attest to the fact about our training. If the guns were turned around then it could have been intentional, someone called in the wrong coordinates or there were VC in the village. Our gunners were trained extensively to do free firing and all of our gunners could hit their targets within two rounds. 3/5 81’s Vietnam 66-67.

  7. Some of this is pretty amazing to me. When I was in Vietnam (66-67, 3/9/3, Quang Tri Province) myself and my guys went through grenades by the case and I NEVER saw some of the grenades mentioned in this article. The last four months I was there, I was on an outpost approx 1.5 miles northeast of Camp Carroll. I do not remember the number assigned to the hill but we went through grenades by the cases and I never saw a grenade with any kind of safety other than the pin itself. Pull the pin, throw it and the spoon flies off and it goes boom. I also do not remember a certain distance the grenade had to travel before it would explode. That doesn’t even make sense to me. As I recall, although it was a very long time ago, you had approx 4 to 6 seconds after the spoon flew off before the grenade went off. If someone had been stupid enough to pull the pin and let the spoon fly off while still holding it in your hand, well needless to say your remains would have been gathered up and placed in a bag..

  8. First off, THANK YOU MGySgt. Jim Mackin for your last post! Now then, as for grenades in Nam, I was in-country 66-67 mostly Thua Thien and Quang Tri… and the only grenades I ever saw of ours were the egg shaped ones with one cotter pin and a handle or spoon safety. Sometimes I put a tape over the spoon and it didn’t slow down my use of them at all. I often joked that the grenade was my first weapon of choice… my 1911 sidearm was used mainly to give to a wounded Marine who couldn’t handle his M-14 anymore, so I took his and gave him mine, just in case. I never saw one of those “baseball” types until I got home. A grenade that wouldn’t arm until it had traveled a certain distance? That sounds like what I was told about blooper rounds. That was a what, in my failing memory cells, an M-49?

  9. I was in -country 67-68-69-70 . When we got the baseball grenades ,we only had them for about a week. When they took them away we were told that there were a lot of them short fuzed. The scuttlebutt we heard was that it was sabotage at the plant in America where they were made. I never heard of a grenade that armed itself after a certain distance . All artillery rounds arm themselves after so many rotations of the round out the tube. If you ever heard of a round blowing up in the tube , it was because of an accident involving the fuse . Papa Battery , 155 mm towed howitzers had a round blow-up in the tube on one of their guns in 68. They found out that the crew smashed a VT ( variable time fuze ) when loading a round at night for H&I fire . That’s what we were told . The M-79 fired a 40mm grenade round . It had to travel something like 35 feet before it was armed .

  10. I was with Echo 2-5 in 66-67 at An-Hoa. The only grenades that we had at the time were M-26. The only safety device that I can think of is the rubber band that I put around the spoon. Unfortunately, rubber bands were hard to come by. Once I pulled that pin I had approximately four seconds to throw it. I remember during Christmas week I had a number of brand new M-26 grenades that failed to explode even though I made certain that I popped the spoon prior to throwing it. Was it sabotage? I guess will never know. As far as the grenade going so many rotations before arming itself, I believe the person is talking about the M-79 grenade launcher that fired 40 mm rounds. In addition, someone mentioned hill 34. I remember My-Loc hill, Phu Loc 6, Nong Son (AKA coal mine), etc. there were many numbered hills which I do not recall. As far as air support, I recall A-4’s and F-4’s Phantoms as our primary air support. After all, most of us are in our 70’s now.

    1. I been wondering on the grenades, It’s true 1969 they started making with jungle clip. I never saw one. Typed Hand grenades used in Vietnam into Bing search and it all came up. As far as a lot of other things said on this site, I know are a lot of bull, but entertaining. I was there Dec 66 till Aug68 and back May69 till Aug69. Went with 1/9, 2/9, 3/9, 2/26 and others on many operations. On Nixons first 50,000 pulled out in Aug 69, they said first in first out, 1/9.

  11. I was at Hill 34 in 69/70. It was more than a pile of dirt (not much) that was home to HQ 4/11, a Recon team, engineers, and a 175mm gun battery to name a few. A tank unit was across the road where convoys staged on their way to An Hoa, etc. Prior to my arrival, we supposedly lost a gunny to flying shrapnel when the ammo dump near the 3rd MAF brig blew up. We almost always got the short fall stuff when the Da Nang air base received incoming rockets.

  12. When I was at Hill 55 in ‘67 we had a joker throw a grenade in our hooch. He had pulled the pin out and placed it in the booby trap hole closer to the fuse. All we heard was the ping of the handle flying off and saw the grenade come in. The striker hit the pin so it never went off. Perhaps this is what the FO is talking about. Semper Fi

  13. All I am going to say is that I was a Foward Observer that use to get sent out alone for 1/4 and 1/8. I am 62 now.

  14. I love the Corps to this very day. However, there were many years that I would not tell anybody that I am a Marine Sgt. from the Vietnam War. Then one day I saw on TV, huge skyscrapers having planes fly into them in NYC, Then one into the Pentagon, and my blood ran steel cold. It was 911!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The darkest day in the history of the USA. After a day or two of watching all the Crap on TV, and hearing people making excuses for the murderers who skyjacked the civilian aircraft and flew them into the buildings the Marine Corps Sgt. started coming out. (Oh yes, will someone tell me the difference between a moderate Muslim and a Muslim Extremist, because I can’t find a bit of difference, except a moderate is just an extremist who is bidding his time. They all hate Israel and the United States of America, and are waiting until the time is right to destroy and take over both nations.) Anyhow as the days went on past 911 I became very pissed, and developed an attitude Chesty would have been proud of. So I went first and foremost to my local Marine Corps recruiting office, and said I am here to re-enlist, at first they thought I was joking and had a good laugh, after all I was in my early 50’s. So I had to explain to them, that I was entirely the perfect person for the job. First of all I had on the job experience, Vietnam. Secondly, I was pissed off to the max. Thirdly, I had developed an attitude that Chesty would be proud of: “Kill them all and let God sort them out.” I wasn’t afraid to die, because in typical Marine Corps fashion I had already spent my time in hell. Fourthly, by sending me and those other old Devil Dogs they would be sending the most fierce fighting force they could send, trained experienced killers with modern weapons who had more of this life behind them than they had ahead of them, that wanted to secure for the next generation the great American way of life. The C.O. of the recruitment office commended me and excused me by stating “Sir you have already fought your war, now it’s our turn to carry on for you.” At first I didn’t understand what he meant, but soon I realized the Marine Corps is a perpetual group of highly trained killers, our first and foremost mission is to protect and serve those who cannot protect themselves, even if it means we have to kill them all. Franklin Roosevelt’s wife stated something to that effect when she tried to get us disbanded, but WWII stopped her. Now, 17-18 years after 911, I can say I am very proud of today’s young Marines, they have served our country well, and upheld the highest traditions of the Corps and I look forward to serving with them in the future when the streets of Heaven will be guarded by United States Marines. One last thought, every old Marine will tell you that when it comes to military intelligence in the Corps, it just does not exist. After I came back to the States from Nam, The Corps sent me to Camp Lejuene, NC and sent me thru, get ready for this, Jungle Warfare School. I mean man I already had a Master’s Degree in Jungle Warfare and now they sent me to school to learn how to do it right. Hey, I thought I did it right, I survived Vietnam and everything it had to throw at me. Semper Fi.

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