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SP5 Norm Roy - Pleiku, RVN 1969 - 62nd Maintenance Battalion

I, NORM ROY, served in Vietnam from September 1969 to September 1970. I was attached to the 45th Group, 62nd Maintenance Battalion, at Pleiku, located in the Central Highlands of II Corp, and assigned to the Artillery Repair Section. My MOS at the time was 45L20. Our mission was to perform repairs on towed as well as tracked artillery. I believe our maintenance level was a step or two below depot repair. Since I was formerly trained (Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland) in artillery repair of tracked as well as towed artillery, I supervised subordinates on many repairs in Pleiku. I also did a lot of traveling to remote FSB, CIDG Camps, an occasional hip shoot location, etc. to make repairs that could be done on site. During my tour I spent a fair amount of time in the field. Trying to remember all the destinations I visited 45 years later via convoy and helicopter would have been darn near impossible. Fortunately I kept my helmet cover which doubled as a notebook at the time. I actually found it and it had many of the places I had visited written down. Some names were too faded but I was able to read several of them. Unfortunately I did not record any dates but it’s doubtful I would have been able to read those anyway. Here’s what I could pull from the cover-Kontum, Firebase 6, Ben Het, LZ Blackhawk, Plei Mrong (may have been a hip shoot), Plei Djereng, Dak Pek, LZ Weight Davis, Duc Co, Plei Me, Duc Lap, Buprang, LZ Plantation (in Central Highlands not near Long Binh), Ban Me Thuot. Post-Vietnam After my leave upon return from Vietnam I was assigned to A Battery 1st Battalion, 7th Artillery, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, KS. I served as a SP5 in the battery motor pool. My unit was on the Reforger exercise in Germany so I had it pretty easy for the 1st month while I awaited their return. Once they returned, peace as I knew it disappeared. The Battery had to stand down from the exercise and that was no easy task. At the same time, the Battery was introduced to a new CO. From what I was told either the Battery or the Battalion did poorly on an earlier I.G. inspection and this CO was not going to let that happen again. My section NCO (Staff Sgt) and I had to make sure that the motor pool was “strack”! Turns out it was and I believe our Battery got the highest score. In August 1971, I was getting an early-out to return to college. The CO called me in for the “ETS” RE-UP talk. He was impressed with the high score the motor pool got on the I.G. inspection and my overall record while under his command and I guess looked like a good candidate career wise. His first offer was promotion to SP6 or Staff Sgt. I didn’t bite. Next came the offer to get me into OCS. I mulled that over for a bit but turned it down to return to college.

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1 - SP5 Norm Roy - Artillery Hill, Camp Holloway, and USAF Base
Jan 1, 1969

These are snapshots I took during various trips to Camp Holloway and the USAF base in the Pleiku area. I took many helicopter rides on repair missions. Most were in Hueys but occasionally a Kiowa Ranger served as my taxi. I also recall lifts on Chinooks and once on a C7 Caribou heading to Ben Het with some supplies.

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2 - SP5 Norm Roy - Cam Ranh or Qui Nhon
Jan 1, 1969

I guessed at the two pictures labeled as GIs processing out for the trip back to the “World”. I’m pretty sure I did not have a camera when I flew into Cam Ranh Bay in the Fall of 1969. Several days later I was headed to Qui Nhon where I would be assigned to a unit. While there I met a dude in personnel processing that was in my basic training platoon (Ft. Lewis, WA.) named Larry. He said he could get me a position right in Qui Nhon where it was safe with nearly all the comforts of home. I almost took him up on it but in my mind I gave thought to the pretty decent training in artillery repair and finally artillery repair supervisor which upon graduation promoted me to Spec5. I felt I wanted to put that training to good use. We got drunk and stoned that night and the following morning I was on my way to Pleiku and the 62nd Maintenance Battalion. There is one photo showing some GIs heading for a flight from Pleiku Air Base to Cam Ranh. I wasn’t on it.

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3 - SP5 Norm Roy - Convoy Pt-Roads QL14_QL19. Dirt Road 512
Jan 1, 1969

I got to see a lot of the countryside when I traveled via convoy. The convoy points were always interesting since the Vietnamese used to gather there to sell their wares or bodies. As a matter of fact I had to make a couple trips to the 71st Evac Hospital as a result of some purchases which I made. Typically the convoys I rode in would start in the morning after the MPs verified the road was clear of mines. Many of the roads were paved so I questioned how it would be possible to lay a mine which could avoid detection. On one trip I made on QL19 the convoy passed by a mine crater in the paved road. I never questioned the MP checks after that. Depending on the area the convoy would pass through, a truck mounted quad 50 was along for security. On one trip to LZ Blackhawk I got to witness one of these brutes in action. Riding along QL19 a couple of mortar rounds dropped in but not close enough to cause any damage. The convoy commander must have ordered the quad 50 to cut loose. Convoys along QL14 north were not always mundane. Typically there was a tank here and there on watch. The tree-line was cut way back but occasionally a rocket or mortar would drop in. If there was a tank close by, it went into action. We did have to cross over some wooden bridges when heading north and typically they were guarded by a small ARVN unit. Two occasions come to mind regarding the bridges. One was attacked by some VC but they were killed and their bodies were lined up by the side of the road. The truck driver of my vehicle said they were put that way so some ARVN big-shot officer would chopper in to view “the kills”. I believe that was when I realized this conflict was about body counts! Another instance involved two girls on a motorbike (see pic). Based on what one of the ARVNs told the convoy commander, one or both were VC suspects but the one lying in the road tried to make a break and she was knocked off the bike by one of the soldiers. I guess no shots were fired. The picture of the horny monkey has a short tale. He belonged to a truck driver. The monkey had a habit of jumping on a GI’s shoulder, putting his little hands on the guy’s head and then tried to hump him in the ear. I witnessed this at least once and it made me a believer!

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4 - SP5 Norm Roy - Dak To, Ben Het, FB6 Pictures
Jan 1, 1969

As one can see by the number of pictures, I spent a lot of time at Ben Het. It was like my 2nd home. Depending on the criticality of the problem I either went by convoy or caught a hop on a chopper. Since the base had frequent fire missions, especially zone 2-3 charges, I changed quite a few gun tubes. Usually those were routine and I’d convoy up with two wreckers needed to make the change. During a few trips there, I had a chance to run like hell to a bunker when someone yelled incoming! I remember one episode where the VC were popping mortars or rockets which just by coincidence(?) were landing in the area of the two wreckers as we attempted to change a 175mm gun tube. At some point an FO must have pin pointed the VC location because a 155mm got a fire mission. A few rounds were fired and no more incoming occurred. I went to FB6 a few times but only managed to get the single picture. I recall my first trip there thinking “brother is this FSB remote!” The Dak To pictures were taken as the convoy passed by on the road to Ben Het. I recall looking at a hill in the distance and noticing what looked like some bare trees sticking up. I later found out from my then Platoon Sgt that during his first tour in the Nam his unit was in a battle there in 1967. I have since learned that it was the battle for hill 875. I flew over the hill a couple times during chopper rides and two years later, 1969, the devastation was still apparent.

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5 - SP5 Norm Roy - Kontum
Jan 1, 1969

Via convoy, I passed through Kontum many times but only stopped a couple times. As I recall I had a 175mm gun tube change there early in my deployment. I think my platoon warrant officer wanted to test me on a field trip to see how I would perform away from the Pleiku maintenance shop. On one of my deployments there I had to stay overnight. The next day I caught a hop on a Huey that had dropped off a couple of GIs. Also on the flight back to Pleiku was a wounded GI that looked like he’d been in the field for a while. I later found out he was from a SOG team. The other two photos I took on some other visit, probably passing time while waiting for the convoy to continue either north or south from Kontum.

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6 - SP5 Norm Roy - LZ Blackhawk
Jan 1, 1969

I made a few trips on QL19 to LZ Blackhawk. As I recall it was a Battery of the 7/15th Artillery. The one trip I do recall truly upset me. A 175mm had a round explode in the gun tube during a fire mission. My section warrant officer and I were dispatched to the base by someone high up in II Corp area command to evaluate the situation and gather info. As one can see from the photos the damage was extensive. I don’t recall the status of all the crew but unfortunately one of them, the powder man, was holding a zone 2 or 3 charge while in the gunpit. The explosion ignited the powder bag and the crew member basically vaporized! There was some indication on the ground where he was standing. From what I was told some 175mm missions in II Corp were put on hold for a period of time. The gun was picked up by a “draggin wagon” for a trip to somewhere for evaluation.

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7 - SP5 Norm Roy - Pictures From My Helicopter Hops
Jan 1, 1969

These photos were taken while I was on a helicopter ride to some destination. For the most part they were taken from a Huey which, comparatively speaking, had lots of room for me to shift around from one side to the other.

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8 - SP5 Norm Roy - Pictures and Locations Unsure
Jan 1, 1969

In some cases I was not able to determine where I took the picture so these were put into this unknown location folder. The 155mm SP Artillery (Cheap Thrills and Cherry Popper) were likely located at one of the firebases I went to on a maintenance assignment. Of the two pics labeled as possible hip shoots, the one labeled Plei Mrong if indeed I ID’d it correctly does have a little story. This location was not too far from Pleiku, at least by air. I was sent their on a repair mission. As it turns out I needed a part so the radioman connected with my unit and handed me the radio. I screwed up as I spoke with my warrant officer regarding what part I needed. I referred to him by his name which was a no, no! I was supposed to use his code name, Pepsi Cola 1. A lesson learned. In late afternoon a rumor was circulating regarding a possible ground attack. My warrant officer had given me the ok to remain at this location overnight considering that the gun was inoperative until I received the part. Leaving and returning in the morning would have wasted a lot of time. A short time later the word came down that Artillery Hill’s 155mm howitzers could reach our location. This brought a few incoming rounds to zero in on our perimeter location in case the attack came. I got to sleep under a couple of Culvert halves and fortunately the VC must have decided to take the night off. I repaired the gun the following morning and caught a chopper back to Pleiku. The dead VC and Sapper foot picture also have a story. I guessed the location as Dak Pek because it was one of the few locations I visited where I wondered if I was going home in a bag. From my helmet cover I recorded a trip there sometime in 1970. Again I was on a mission to make a repair on site. I don’t recall why I could not leave the same day since I believe I finished the job. Sometime in the middle of the night there was an explosion and someone yelled “incoming”! An NCO dispatched me to a location with instructions to keep my Fx!?en head down. I got to use my M-16, possibly for one of first times while in Vietnam, other than target practice when I first arrived in country. The following morning I got to follow a couple guys to one of the barb wire perimeters. It was there that I saw the dead VC. They checked a couple other locations in the wire and stumbled upon the foot. Several days prior to my arrival they had a night probe/attack and due to the condition of the foot believed it was from that one. Later on I caught a chopper back to Pleiku. The vision of the dead VC and the foot stayed with me for quite a while. The twin 40 Duster picture reminded me of one I believe I saw at LZ Blackhawk (7/15th Artillery). I actually got to see one wherever I saw it work out and I was truly impressed! The 2 pieces of shrapnel in the pictures could have been from a number of firebases where I encountered incoming while on a repair mission. The significance of these however was the close proximity to me of the rocket or mortar which made the delivery! I picked them up and when I returned to Pleiku, drilled a hole in one of them and it was to be my necklace for a while. The shrapnel returned with me when I DEROS’d. They are still a reminder that on that day I dodged the “Grim Reaper”. I decided to take a pic of them so they could be included with my other photos.

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9 - SP5 Norm Roy - Pleiku Compound
Jan 1, 1969

Pleiku was home base during my tour. For the most part it was fairly quiet there, but occasionally the VC liked to shake us up. Our company barracks were next to the southern perimeter and it was our responsibility to man it in the event of an attack. I do recall three incidents while I was at the base. One occurred while I was pulling CQ. One of the guards was smoking up in one of the towers despite the fact he was told not to, at least not while standing up. He was wounded and the medics got him patched up and he was airlifted to 71st Evac. I don’t recall what happened to him although the wound did not appear to be severe so I guess he may have been lucky that the sniper was off the mark that night. I believe my thought at the time was why in the hell did this happen on my shift of CQ? Another time while in camp we took a few rocket or mortar rounds pretty close to our barracks area in the dead of night. The company personnel were out of the sack, into the perimeter bunkers and trenches in short order. As quickly as the incident began it was over when a Huey showed up with a searchlight followed by another chopper, possibly a cobra, which created a line of tracers from his location to the ground. It was an awesome display! The third incident I recall hit close to home. The company clerk had taken some new dudes out to the rifle range to sight their M16’s and had just returned to the area. I was in the company CP when a shot sounded. Outside we found the company clerk still in the cab with the front of his head splattered all over the cab. The incident really shook me up since I’d had a few beers with him the previous evening. An investigation took place while I was out of Pleiku but was later told one of the new guys had a round chambered in his M16 while he was still in the back of the truck. Most of the pictures I took while in Pleiku are self-explanatory and are labeled with a description. There are a couple pictures that could use further explanation. The photo labeled as tracers/lightshow I have no idea what I was looking at. I couldn’t even figure out which was the correct rotation of the picture. While on a convoy that took some incoming, the draggin wagon hauling 175mm gun tubes took an indirect shrapnel hit. There are some holes that can be seen on the driver’s rearview. The driver was wounded and medivac’d out on a chopper.

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