"the wire" from the roof of our "hootch", Duc Trong compoundour Cambodian mamasan

Vietnam Memoirs is dedicated to those who served in the Air Defense Artillery (ADA) units in Vietnam and Korea

I served with the ADA unit of the First Field Force in the central highlands of Vietnam as the crew chief of a quad-50 gun truck. Long since rendered obsolete in their air-defense role by surface-to-air missiles, these units were used primarily as perimeter security and convoy escort.

We much preferred being on the road with a small convoy, usually a day-long run supporting stuff moving through our area, or even just being parked somewhere while engineers worked on a bridge or the road itself. (They sure liked seeing our big gun truck sitting nearby :). Best of all, would be a fully-independent solo run to the PX at the basecamp in Phan Rang, about 3 hours away, or even simply down the road to the swimming hole. It was just more exciting to be 'on the road' and it certainly made the time go faster. At night, however, with few exceptions, we would be in a perimeter security mode, the truck backed into a birm on the perimeter, guns pointing outward. In either roll, our greatest power was as a deterant -- it was usually wise on the part of the VC to leave us alone.

Our unit worked in section-sized groups (two trucks, called sister trucks) with five guys per crew plus a section chief.  Our battery (company) had eleven sections with which to cover a very large area (all of MR2, most of Vietnam's central highlands), and each section was assigned to some other unit in a supporting role, scattering our battery all over the central highlands.  We seldom saw our actual commanding officer -- he was generally a couple hundred miles away.

Each truck had a name and a paint scheme designed by the crew.  The back panel of our truck sported a chess-piece knight and the words "Have Guns, Will Travel", modeled after the calling card of Paladin (the 60s TV-series about a soldier of fortune in the old west).  The quad mount itself also had a little artwork, as seen in the close-up at the right.

Cam Ranh sunrisenear Duc Trong

near Dalat"Dodge City"special convoydaring the VC


1st Field Force, Vietnam

1st Field Force units included:

1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)101st Airborne Division173rd Airborne Division
4th Infantry Division25th Infantry Division

1971 Typhoon articles:

(about our unit)

One Who Remembers

Vietnam Veterans of America



Montagnard Village

The real natives of Vietnam were the Montagnards. All they needed was a grass hooch, a banana tree, and a crossbow -- they didn't give a damn who ran the country.

The Montagnards always greeted us warmly and were ready to help us with anything, including helping us once with a broken-down truck. We would often leave them candy, cigarettes, canned goods, and such, and as a thank-you, the Montagnard girls would make necklaces for us out of wild seeds. (I still have one.) To their own peril, the tribesmen supported the U.S. involvement because they absolutely hated the communist insurgents. Infiltrators from North Vietnam and the Vietcong would attempt to force them into supporting the communist agenda (the Vietcong were created in this way from the South Vietnamese villagers), but the Montagnards would have none of it.

Near our Duc Trong compound in the central highlands, about 30 km south of the beautiful mountain town of Dalat, the civilian Dr. James Turpin operated a Project Concern Hospital for the local Montagnard villagers. One night in June our compound went on 'red alert' after the VC fired a rocket-propelled grenade through the wall of the Dr. Turpin's hospital just outside our wire. We learned the next morning that one of the Australian volunteer nurses had been killed. (This incident is mentioned in the Typhoon article about Project Concern and Dr. Turpin, "One Who Remembers", linked to above.) Three years earlier the VC had destroyed a dispensary set up by Dr Turpin in another area. All this because the Montagnards refused to cooperate with the Vietcong.

These fiercely independent and proud people and the beautiful central highlands where they lived their semi-nomadic lifestyle are my fondest memories of the country. The only regret of my experience there is that I feel we abandoned them. I will never forget them.