Those supplies were the lifeblood of the base in northern South Vietnam that had been under siege since Jan. 21.
Although combat troops dominated the news during the Vietnam War, much was owed to the vast armada of support personnel who backed the fighting troops up. For every infantry soldier in the field, nine other soldiers were necessary to ensure his success against the enemy.
By JON GUTTMAN
However much combat troops dominated the news during the Vietnam War, the grunts knew they owed much to the vast armada of support troops who backed them up. The battlefield heroism performed in the rainforests and the highlands would have been impossible without the weapons and ammunition to fight, or the food to sustain those who fought.
All of those supplies had to be shipped or flown over thousands of miles to the main bases, then distributed by truck or aircraft to the scattered posts where they were most needed. Before that work could be done, the main base facilities had to be established, built up by Army engineers or the legendary Navy construction battalions, abbreviated CBs, or more colloquially, the Seabees. Those facilities had to be periodically maintained and repaired.
Trucks were universally fair game in Vietnam, whether they were communist-run vehicles dodging a variety of U.S. air-dropped ordnance on the Ho Chi Minh Trail or American haulers who were subjected to frequent ambush and often defended their own vehicles with makeshift armor and gun positions.
Airplanes and helicopters also often came under fire while transporting “beans and bullets” from a firebase to some platoon in the boonies.
Even the clerk typists were appreciated when payday arrived…or the tour of duty ended and the service member was signing up for a ride on the Freedom Bird.
Despite the disparaging names that combat troops had for the rear echelon soldiers, Vietnam was distinguished by not having much of a rear echelon. Whether you were a clerk, a cook or a supply sergeant, there was no place from Khe Sanh to Saigon where mortar fire or some Viet Cong with a bag of explosives couldn’t find you.
This article appeared in the April 2022 issue of Vietnam magazine.
Admin: Anybody ever see a “Mobile PX”? This is a first for me…
This article, although depicting Marines, applied to all services that hunted the enemy on the ground, in waterways, and from the air. A Special THANK YOU is going out to all those who supported us and came through when needed. God bless!
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well done; informative
MY book— Gerald E. Augustine HELP A VETERAN!!!!!
Good Article but don’t forget about the hospital personnel.
Interesting and spot on. I saw one comment that referred to the Seabees Battalion 11 making hard backs in the Dong Ha combat base and curious as I was with the Marine Corps 11th Engineer Battalion that built at least our compound at Dong Ha. We also opened Rt. 9 to Khe Sahn in Feb/Mar ’67. I have the original photo of the sign we put up in Ca Lu that read “Rt. 9 Open to KheSahn courtesy 11th Engineer Bn.
Can’t forget the “Dustoff Medivac Units too, Saved many lives with their support throughout the war. I was crewchief out of the 498th Dustoff, QhinNhon all 1968.
There is no doubt that every soldier at a base camp like Dau Tieng ‘Camp Rainier’ or Tay Ninh base camp, when we went on operations and sweeps for many days or weeks, those who did stay in the ‘rear’ did Berm Guard (always subject to snipers or probes of the perimeters) and mortars / rockets etc… We had a saying in our company, maybe the Battalion or even the Brigade that “There was only one bullet with ‘your’ name on it… All the others said “To Whom it Concerns”… No matter where you where in Vietnam, Harm was not far away.
Very TRUE, everyone had a job to do whether civilian or soldier, man or woman, they’re dedication helped us all. RIP to them all.
OK story. I wish I wasn’t so tired. I would mention the units, just the ones I know of, which supported infantry and special ops units, in the field and in trouble.
My unit was Marine Air Support Squadron-3, Chu Lai, Camp Evans, Da Nang, Dong Ha, Khe Sahn and LZ Stud, ’67-’68.
Been there in 1967 all those city’s
They left out the Mobile Riverine Force around Dong Tam. We hauled 9th infantry up and down the waters of the Mekong Delta from65 to early 70’s
A lot harder being a front line grunt and didn’t have the luxurious living conditions back at base camp. Nothing worse than being in the field for 30 days and go back to the rear foe resupply and have to guard the REMFS. They never took a turn guarding us.
I was on of those”REMFS”. I had guard duty in a tower,, 12 hours 6 to6. I figured it out had guard duty every 3rd night.
I guess it depends where you were. I was Quion Nho.
Guard duty was in addition to regular job.
I was with D/2/16, 1st Inf Div 1967-68. On a couple of occasions, we had a PX cubicle airlifted to our NDP. Of course, this was during the day. They would open it up and when finished, airlifted it back to our base camp, DiAn.
Great article. I was there with a signal company that operated a microwave comm system that went from the delta to the DMZ. Although it was Army Signal Corps we mostly provided communications for the Air Force. We tied the air bases to Ton Son Nhut air control. Several terminals, on bases, with numerous relay stations, in a few not so nice places.
In a large military operation no more than 10% of the troops are infantry. I was one in Vietnam.