Ken Beaton: Don’t mess with the 359th

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After a number of fights, the first two Brutus arms trucks inflicted more death and destruction than they received. The arms trucks were painted black with names to create fear in the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong army.

Making a “cold call” can be similar to being in the middle of a minefield. Fortunately, Tom Spencer, president of Vietnam Veterans Chapter 388, answered his phone. I introduced myself. Tom was pleasant telling me, “Instead of me talking about the 359th, Google ‘Gun Trucks of Vietnam’ and call me.
Tom didn’t put me off. He wanted me to see all the stills and 8mm video clips from the 359th Truck Co.’s website. One of the first lessons I learned about writing was “show me, don’t tell me. not “. Going to their website, Tom showed me.
The armed trucks were five-ton M-35 10-wheeler diesel built by REO. The army’s green trucks were painted black, more intimidating. The name of each truck was intended to instill fear in the minds of a teenage Viet Cong or a North Vietnamese soldier carrying an AK47 or rocket-propelled grenade. Some of the names were song titles, “Eve of Destruction”, from the Top 40 Hits of the 1960s. Other truck names were Brutus, Cold Sweat, Gun Slingers, Hell’s Breed, Hillbilly Armor, Hellbenders, Ho Chi’s Hearse, Hot Stuff, Iron Prince, King Cobra, Lead Sled, Misfits, Outlaw, Pandemonium, Red Baron, Satin’s Chariot, Satisfaction, Super Bad, The Assassin, The Big Kahuna, The Breath of the Dragon, The Misfits, War Wagon, Wild Bunch , Wild West and Woon Doon.
In a video clip, a 359th vet said, “These trucks were designed and built by arrogant 18 and 19 year old men protecting their convoy, not a graduate truck designer sitting at a desk in a Detroit office. who received an award. contract! The army staff had nothing to do with these trucks. No two trucks are the same, ‘Army problem’. Another vet said, “You could drive these trucks through the gates of Hell, and they would bring you back!” Trucks could be punished, but they inflicted many more punishments than they received.
What were the grunts that made up a team of trucks like? First, they were proud of their truck. Second, each crew was a bunch of brothers. When a shootout broke out in their convoy or a bar fight, it was our crew against them. They were closer than the blood relatives. Without hesitation, everyone was ready to give their lives for their “family of trucks”.
When a convoy was ambushed by “Charlie”, Viet Cong or NVA, North Vietnamese army, the artillery trucks appeared in combat within seconds.
Most weapon trucks had at least one M2, a “Ma Deuce”, a 50 caliber machine gun capable of firing 450 to 600 rounds per minute. The Ma Deuce could “cut down” a tree in seconds. There was at least one M60 machine gun, “The Pig,” in the truck’s welded 1-inch sheet steel barrel box. The Pig fired 500-600 7.62mm x 51mm rounds per minute. If the gun truck had an M134 mini-pistol, it was most likely stolen from a damaged unattended gunship. A mini-pistol shoots between 2,000 and 6,000 rounds per minute with a range of 1,100 meters. The M134 guns were electrically actuated with 7.62mm x 51mm ammunition. (The twin-engine AC47 cargo plane with two mini-cannons on the port side (left) would fire 180,000 rounds on a night mission.)
On September 2, 1967, a convoy from Pleiku to Am Kae was ambushed. “Charlie” destroyed the lead truck creating a “destruction zone”. Seven drivers were killed and 17 drivers injured. The convoy was destroyed. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know these were unacceptable losses. Truck convoys were essential to supply our troops with little or no loss of men or supplies.
The 18 and 19 year old troops of the 359th knew what to do, protect yourself! First, they acquired 2 ½ ton army trucks. They placed 1 ” sheets of plywood to hold the sandbags in place. The biggest problem with using sandbags was that it was raining a lot in Vietnam. The wet sandbags added more weight than the truck could handle. The diesel engine did not have the power to propel the truck down a slope.
The 359th switched to 5 ton trucks. Then they visited the army junkyards for 1 ”steel sheets. The steel was cut and welded vertically to the bed of the truck, making it a protective combustion chamber for shooting at the enemy. The VC and NVA did not have a bullet capable of piercing 1 inch of steel. (Army 50 gauge can drill 3/8 “steel, not 1”.) Then each truck was painted black and named.
The 359th Truck Co. was not the only gun truck. The 8th transport group had five medium truck companies, the 2nd, 585th, 597th, 64th and 563rd. Their trucks were painted black with similar intimidating names.
“Although the ambushes continued, the Americans had shown that they could not be stopped. Between September 2, 1967 and September 2, 1968, convoys of the 8th Transport Group were ambushed 36 times. The unit had 38 soldiers killed and 204 wounded. During the same period, the unit delivered 597,572 tons of cargo and over 4 million gallons of fuel. During the accomplishment of their mission, the truckers traveled 7,331,924 miles. Without the gun trucks, the Transport Command would not have been able to carry out its vital resupply mission. “
Armed trucks saved American lives while supplying our troops.
The first question I asked Tom was, “When were you drafted?
“I was not drafted. I joined because no one wanted to hire me. I served from February 1, 1968 to December 21, 1970. I was in the 1st Logistics Command, “1st Journal”, 240th Quartermaster Battalion, 359th Truck Company.
The 1er Log was activated in Saigon on April 1, 1965. It became Vietnam’s largest unit with 50,000 troops providing over 500,000 soldiers with everything from meals to toilet paper. Toilet paper is not important until you have it.
Tom concluded by saying, “When we went back to the ‘States’ over 50 years ago, eggs were thrown at us. We are called, “baby killer” or we spit on! Now people are shaking my hand and thanking me for my service.
Thank goodness time heals.
Happy Ann Margaret Veterans Day to all her “boys!” “


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