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Red Devils of Quang Tri
5th Mechanized Infantry Division Insignia
I would like to take time and introduce you to the first unit that I served with in Vietnam. The group as a whole was the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division, originally out of Ft. Carson, Colorado. My unit was "D" Company, 75th Support Bn., 1st Brigade, 5th Mech. Inf. Div. We were positioned about 30 miles south of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) in the province of Quang Tri, South Vietnam. Before a little history, I would especially like to thank our 5/4 Artillery Battery who answered immediately with 155mm and 105mm rounds when we were hit with 120mm mortar and rocket fire. I am not applauding war, but we all did what we had to for the sake of survival.
A Little History
The 5th Infantry Division (later mechanized) operated in World War One, World War Two, Vietnam, and Panama. At various times since about 1918 the unit has been inactivated, then activated to be deployed in various problem areas. The 5th, has a long history of serving bravely and in a determined fashion while sustaining minimal losses.
In the summer of 1968 the unit was called for deployment to Vietnam. Along with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Infantry Division; the following units were acquired to form one: 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry; 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry (Mechanized); 1st Battalion, 77th Armor; "A" Troop, 4th Squadron, 12th Cavalry; 5th Battalion, 4th Artillery; 75th Support Battalion; "A" Company, 7th Engineers; 517th Military Intelligence Detachment; 86th Chemical Detachment; 48th Public Information Detachment; 77th Combat Engineer Battalion; and the 43rd Scout Dog Platoon. So what we had were the infantry, armored units, artillery, air units, medical, supply, and mechanical personnel. I know the list is long but I didn't want to slight anyone.
The 75th Support Battalion
This battalion consisted of four companies A(alpha), B(bravo), C(charlie), and D(delta); each with its own responsibilities.
"A" Company-took care of administrative, personnel, legal, and finance issues. Attached to it were also the Inspector General, Information Office, Staff Judge Advocate, as well as responsibility for orientation of those newly arrived (newbies) in country.
"B" Company-handled medical issues. It also included dispensaries, battalion aid stations and pharmacies. There were a few wards for those who were mildly sick, while serious illnesses were handled by the 18th Surgical Unit. The 18th Surg as we called it also dispensed medical assistance to the Vietnamese who lived in the area.
"C" Company-the main task was transport and supply, along with the responsibility of water, petroleum, and graves registration collection points. Most battlefield remains were transported immediately by helicopter, to be identified, processed, and given last rites by either the brigade chaplain or the 101st Airborne chaplain.
"D" Company-supplied everything from office equipment to wheeled and armored vehicles. The mechanics and vehicle maintenance men were also a part of this unit. A huge warehouse stored over 3000 line items, they were tracked by the means of data processing, using the old punch cards.
75th Support Battalion
Initially when I was assigned to the 75th Support Battalion, my job was in data processing. The equipment was located in two air conditioned vans, about the size of a double wide mobile home. Remember the old punch cards, card sorters, etc.? It turns out I had a somewhat of a personality clash with 4 or 5 soldiers all ready working in the job, but that is definitely another story.
I ended up working in the warehouse and organizing the 3000 line items by name and part number. Prior to this it could take up to six or seven hours to find a badly needed part. A lot of theses parts were sent out to the boonies to repair trucks, jeeps, tanks, or armored personnel carriers that broke down. These items were "Redballed" or expedited for immediate pick up by helicopter every night.
Every 3rd night we rotated pulling guard duty on the bunker line. Our perimeter consisted of ten bunkers, two guard towers, and two disabled tanks (guns were in working order). Guard duty ended at seven in the morning. We were given until noon to rest, then had to report to our regular jobs. Before my tour was over, I would end up working at night preparing the "Redball" (redball parts were expidited for immediate delivery by helicopter) items for pick up and later as a truck driver.
There was one way to get out of guard duty. That was at guard mount where all the soldiers were inspected by the Sergeant of the Guard, to be selected as the best looking soldier in formation. Remember the fellows I had a personality clash with? One of them was always selected for the "spit and polished soldier" and rewarded with not having to pull guard duty.
We generally got hit with rocket and mortar rounds every couple of days. I lost a few friends but most of us pulled through, that I thank God for. In spite of this I made some very dear friends, both American and Vietnamese.