I just had a chance to read the novel Circle the Wagons by Richard E. Killblane.
I could not help but notice how much it has changed from the manuscript I read 10 years ago when it was a historical account. It seems that rank does have its privileges when it comes to modifying history.
Page 18 states:
“Lieutenant Colonel Phillip N. Smiley, Commander of the 27th Battalion, directed his battalion to build the first two gun trucks” in the summer of 1967.
If this were true, where did he keep them during June, July, and August; what happened to the men who crewed those trucks? The first we saw a ring mount on a gun truck was around Oct. 1967. Our GUNTRUCK crew was discussing who would want to stand up above the truck to fire a M-60 machine gun from that position during an ambush.
Page 10 states:
“Many truck drivers in Vietnam believed that had the 8th Transportation Group used gun trucks before September 1967, the enemy may not have attempted ambushing an entire convoy serial.”
I am saying: There were no gun trucks before the September 02, 1967 ambush.
I was in the 666th at the time the first armor-plated gun truck was put together and it was after the ambush of Sept 2, 1967. Those plates came from a storage yard in Qui Nhon where they had been for some time as some were rusted together. We were told they were Navy surplus.
Around the middle of September the first 2 ½ ton truck had the metal plates bolted to the wooden side boards and it was not a pretty sight. As a sergeant, I was assigned to the truck along with two other men plus the driver. There were no weapon mounts or radio anywhere in the truck. In the bed we placed three stacks of four sand bags on the bare metal floor to use as seats. We had 2-M60s, 4-M16s, 1-M79 and 1-.45 pistol. The ammo we were permitted to load onto the truck was 4- boxes of M-60 ammo, 2-magazines of 18 rounds each for the 4-M16s 144 rounds total, 12- M79 rounds, and about 15 to 20 rounds of .45 cal ammo. This ammo had to be checked out from the ammo bunker each morning and returned each evening when we returned to the compound. We ran in convoys but were not ambushed with the truck in this mode. This truck was later named “GUNTRUCK”.
The 666th maintenance guys reworked the truck one night by adding mounts for the M-60s and building plywood boxes around those mounts and filling the boxes with sand bags. They chained the steel plates to each other because their weight was splitting the wooden sideboards. They also sandbagged the entire bed of the truck. At first I did not like the floor being sandbagged because it raised us up about 5 or 6 inches above the armor plating.
Within a couple of weeks Sgt Jones, our supply sergeant, got a PRC -10 radio for this truck. The radio had a hand-held receiver like the telephone of the day. It was very difficult to hold that receiver to my ear over those rough roads on trips from Qui Nhon to Pleiku and back. A few weeks later Sgt Jones gave me a set of headphones which was maybe the greatest gift I received in Vietnam.
After our first ambush we increased our ammo supply by many folds. When I left as NCOIC of “GUNTRUCK” in June 1968, there had been no other improvements made to the truck.