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Subject: Friendly Fire

Bill Bellinger
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Date Posted: 06:25:08 04/21/05 Thu

Early in 1967 the 85th Maintenance Company established a maintenance detachment at Dong Ha with the logistical task force located there. Their primary mission was to support the Army artillery battalions on the DMZ, which provided fire support for the Marines. They had some big guns up there. Self propelled 175 mm cannons and 155 mm howitzers. Our maintenance detachment consisted of 5 or 6 GIs, 2 DACs and a lieutenant from the 5th Maintenance Bn. The Lieutenant was Alfred Pelham, and I believe he came from the 618th HEM. Keeping the big guns firing was a big deal. Each artillery tube has a life expectancy of so many rounds fired. Every night one of the jobs of the duty officer at the Da Nang Sub-Area Support Command was to receive the tube count from Dong Ha and to then pass it on to Qui Nhon. This was done by telephone. The telephone service was not the best at the time. You could spend half night just trying to get through to Qui Nhon. When the tubes approached their life expectancy, new ones were flown into Da Nang and then shipped up to Dong Ha by Barge. Our guys would then assist the battalions in changing the tubes on the guns. The 175 mm cannon has a high trajectory of fire. One day as a C-130 airplane was circling to land, it flew into the path of an outgoing 175 shell. The shell hit the plane and blew it out of the sky killing all on board. They call it friendly fire, but there is nothing friendly about it.

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