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Generals speak often of their military duty to their superiors, but never of their duty to their soldiers.

-- Helmut Lindmann

VietnamWe had a new guy in our mortar platoon I will call Joe C. He was a Chicano from East L. A. He was friendly, and fun loving but liked to take chances. In the world of mortars, one of the top rules, is not to have a round in each hand while firing a mortar tube. It is nearly impossible to keep track of where the round in the barrel is.
Each round has a shoutgun shell device on the end that sets it off when it hits the pin at the bottom. Depending on how many powder charges are left on the round it will come out very slowly or if all of them are left on it, very suddenly and then go several miles. We had a fire mission one day and Joe was the gunner. I was standing about 30 feet away at an angle and saw him grab an extra round as he shoved the first down the tube. He actually double fed the tube once before the inevitable happened. A round was almost out of the tube and hit the one he was trying to put in. The round coming out of the tube was deflected from its intended trajectory and went sailing over my head and exploded about 60 feet away. Luckily no one was hurt. The main cause of all of this was that due to all the divisions that were pulling out of Vietnam, they weren't filling officer and platoon leader slots. We didn't have either and were short 2 E-5s. On Joe C. 's track there were several other FNG's also. After this fiasco however, we all got together and made damned sure everybody was on the same page. It didn't happen again. We got a new Lt. about a month later. About that time we went into an area that had been heavily bombed for many years, as well as being fought over. There were wrecked tanks and APCs, as well as 25 ft. deep bomb craters. There were also many unexploded butterfly bombs. These beauties are released as bomblets from a larger bomb and are supposed to explode on impact. In this case, many were sitting above ground, with the little steel ball on top of the two metal parts that resemble a butterfly. Well, Joe C. couldn't resist this. As soon as the ramp on the APC went down, he picked up one of the steel balls from the butterfly bomb and chunked it into the nearest bomb crater full of water and it blew up. He reached down and was ready to do it again when the acting platoon Sgt. grabbed him by his pants, as he didn't have a shirt on, and and asked him what the hell he was doing...He didn't answer and was told in no uncertain terms not to do this again. It had all happened so fast I didn't have time to be scared. It just reinforced my opinion of Joe C. as a loose cannon. Several weeks later, Joe C. and I were walking around a firebase. In my memory it seemed like an ARVN base. I don't recall exactly what we were supposed to be doing. I do remember very clearly Joe C. saying hold it and touching my leg. I looked down to see a trip wire attached to an RPG round. I thanked Joe C. and went back the way I came. Needless to say I avoided him like the plague the rest of my tour. He was still alive when I left. If you read this Joe. C, THANKS !
Note: by Larry Nuckolls, 81MM + 4.2", B Co., 2/22 (M) 25TH INF DIV., 1970.


Display Order
Re: The New Guy Who Saved My Life
by Anonymous
on Dec 29, 2001

Larry-I suspect a mortar platoon has got to be the absolute worse place for a "loose cannon"

Re: The New Guy Who Saved My Life
by Andy
on Dec 31, 2001
No pun intended although it made a good one !


Re: The New Guy Who Saved My Life
by chilidog
on Jan 01, 2002

Larry, I jumped off the top of the track once and on the way down saw i was going to land on a clacker half buried in the road , everyone said I looked like a giant flapping twisting bird but I missed it. It was attached to an rpg launcher too, Welcome home brother

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