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Subject: Re: Street Without Joy

Jon White (I remember the next day.)
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Date Posted: 18:51:03 02/07/15 Sat
In reply to: Bill Bellinger 's message, "Street Without Joy" on 08:01:55 09/18/05 Sun

>Some believe that "Street Without Joy" refers to that
>section of QL1 between Quang Tri and the DMZ.
>Actually, in his book, "Street Without Joy", Bernard
>Fall describes the "Street Without Joy" as an area
>that lies east of Quang Tri between QL1 and the South
>China Sea. Fall reported in 1967, that the same VC
>regiment, the 95th, that had given the French fits in
>the French and Indochina War in 1954, was again active
>and operating in the same area. The only
>difference was their enemy was now the U.S. Marine
>Corps. Fall was killed later in 1967, traveling with
>those same Marines in the "Street Without Joy".
>In 1967/68 the NVA and VC had the equivalent of
>approximately 5 divisions, or 50,000 troops operating
>in and around Quang Tri Province. Most of these were
>at Khe Sanh where the NVA were attempting another Dien
>Bien Phu. They used similar tactics against the
>Marines at Khe Sanh that the Viet Minh used against
>the French at Dien Bien Phu. They attempted to
>surround the Marines and bombard
>them with artillery and rockets. They dug
>perpendicular trenches toward the Marines lines
>inching closer and closer each day as they had done at
>Dien Bien Phu. But there was one big difference. The
>French did not have the massive airpower the U.S. had.
>As bad as it was for the Marines, it was worse for the
>NVA and they finally gave up the 77-day siege effort
>after TET 1968.
>Early in 1967 the Department of the Army sent two
>Department of the Army Civilians (DAC) to the 85th
>Maintenance Company in Danang to train a maintenance
>team on the M-113 Self-Propelled 175mm Cannon. Their
>training consisted of completely rebuilding a M-113
>float vehicle. When they were done we had a fully
>operational 175mm cannon
>sitting in our maintenance yard. After the training,
>the team , the DACs and the M-113 shipped out to Dong
>Ha. Their mission was to support the 2nd Battalion
>94th Artillery who in turn provided fire support for
>the Marines in Quang Tri Province including those at
>Khe Sanh. I sent two technical supply clerks to Dong
>Ha, who in turn supported the maintenance team. The
>5th Maintenance Battalion sent an Ordnance Lieutenant
>from one of their companies.
>During off duty hours up at Dong Ha and the artillery
>fire bases there was very little to do other than
>drinking beer, smoking pot, listening to music and
>shooting the bull. Some got a little stir crazy after
>a while. That happened to four soldiers one night in
>the Spring of 1967. Two from 85th Maintenance Company
>and two from the Artillery Battalion decided to drive
>into town. They took the 85th
>Maintenance Company detachment's 3/4-Ton Dodge
>maintenance contact vehicle. I suspect they were
>headed for Quang Tri down QL1. Mistake number one.
>They drove down the road and came to an ARVN
>checkpoint. Shortly after passing the checkpoint they
>came to a large pile of brush in the road. They rolled
>to a stop. Mistake number two. The VC opened up on
>them. Since they had just passed an ARVN checkpoint,
>they thought it was friendly fire. Mistake number
>three. They started shouting cease fire, we're
>Americans to
>no avail. Three of the soldiers were hit, two fatally.
>The two that could, ran off the opposite side of the
>road into the safety of the night. The VC then
>approached and finished off the two wounded soldiers
>and attempted to blowup the truck by tossing a hand
>grenade into the engine compartment. All the grenade
>did was blow a few holes in the hood. It was a tough
>truck. The `Street Without Joy'
>claimed two more victims. The two soldiers who were
>hiding in the bush, made their way back to the ARVN
>We heard about the ambush the following morning at a
>formation. After the formation, the CO, Captain Young,
>told me that I would be escorting the remains to the
>Saigon mortuary. The 85th Maintenance Company soldier
>was in my platoon, even though he was detached to Dong
>Ha. The Army has a tradition of escorting it's dead.
>This is not true of the other services. I was driven
>to the Navy graves registration collection point,
>which was attached to a
>field hospital at the Danang Airbase. When I arrived,
>I was shown the remains of the Army troops. They were
>stacked like so much cordwood in body bags, in a
>walk-in refrigeration unit with 10 dead marines. I was
>also shown the paperwork on our soldier. He had
>multiple gunshot wounds in his torso and one wound
>over his left eye. I was told that the next KIA
>evacuation flight to Saigon was
>not until the following morning. Danang did not have a
>mortuary at that time. I called the unit and was told
>to stay with the remains until they reached Saigon. I
>spent the day and that night with the Navy hospital
>unit. They treated me well. I guess I was a curiosity.
>The following morning, three Navy ambulances arrived
>at the graves registration point. The body bags were
>loaded, four to an ambulance. I rode in the lead
>ambulance and we made the short trip to the flight
>line at Danang Airbase. The C-130 that we loaded onto,
>was rigged to carry stretchers in the center of the
>plane. After the 12 body bags were loaded, an Air
>Force ambulance drove up with a 13th body bag. The
>ambulance driver said that someone had left it on the
>side of the runway and that there was no
>identification tag and no paperwork. They decided to
>load it on the plane and take it to Saigon and to let
>them sort it out. I guess that's how `unknowns'
>happen. So much for graves registration. The Navy
>graves registration chief gave me all the paper work
>for all 12 of the remains they were shipping to
>Saigon. So at that point, I guess I became the escort
>for our two Army troops, ten brave Marines and one
>unknown. There were two other passengers on that
>flight. I could tell from the look on their faces that
>they wished they had taken another flight. The flight
>to Saigon was uneventful. Not a word was spoken in the
>back of that plane.
>When we arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airbase in Saigon, the
>C-130 taxied right up to the Saigon mortuary, which
>was located adjacent to the airbase at that time. When
>we deplaned a line of Army ambulances were waiting to
>take our grim cargo to the mortuary. As I was leaving
>the plane I noticed an Air Force transport being
>loaded with large casket like metal cases used to
>transport remains. It was not the reverent picture you
>see today of the neatly spaced flag draped caskets
>returning from Iraq. These cases were stacked on
>pallets and were being loaded with a forklift. I
>walked to the mortuary, which was a short distance
>from the flight line. When I walked into that place
>the enormity of the war hit me. There were body bags
>everywhere. They lined hallways and corridors. There
>must have been fifty or more there. I went into the
>preparation room and gave the man in charge the
>paperwork for the new arrivals. In the preparation
>room there was a row of three tables. The table on the
>right had a zipped body bag on it. The table on the
>left had an unzipped bag. The man in the unzipped bag
>was of small stature and appeared to have olive skin.
>He also appeared to be very dirty. The man on the
>center table was not in a bag. He was a large white
>man with dark hair. There was not a visible mark on
>his body. There were several
>others on the floor of the preparation room waiting
>their turn. I took all this in, in a matter of
>seconds, because at that point I was in a panic and in
>a hurry to get out of that place. But it was all
>seared onto my brain and it remains as if it happened
>After I left the mortuary, I made my way downtown and
>checked into a hotel. I stayed in Saigon for two
>nights. It was pretty much a blur. I did go to
>Directorate of Supply at 1st Log Headquarters to try
>to clear up some repair parts requisition problems we
>were having. I spent a lot of time drinking, trying to
>erase the images of the previous two days from my
>mind, to no avail. I went to Vietnam a hawk. My visit
>to the Saigon mortuary made me a lot less

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Re: Street Without Joyi was there!21:32:54 03/13/17 Mon

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