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Military Quotes

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

-- Sun Tzu

Vietnam I was GPO for the move to Nui Dat, and on arrival I was responsible for deploying the guns in a temporary position on the brigade's south-west perimeter, the first time the bty had been this exposed since Korea, according to our BC, Don Kenning, and we had to look after our own defence.

There was a period of alarm when a newly arrived gunner-alcoholic, suffering drying out and the DTs, suddenly decided to dive into the steep gully that ran along our flank. We could hear him yelling and having something of a fit. Terry Hughes was his gun sergeant, and volunteered to take a party down to retrieve him, and did so smartly. But the BC wasn't happy: ‘There could have been VC down there, you should have shot the bastard!' was his snarled advice. Yeah. But I never thought he meant it - a chance meeting with VC had to be preferable to the paperwork.

In a second more minor incident, the BC suggested this would be a good time to fire the guns against bamboo to see what effect shell-burst had on it, another first, and we were given permission to do so - 'testing local defences'. No plotting, just line of sight. We fired and observed several rounds. Some of the men had gathered to watch, standing on and around the sandbagged edge of the CP, a temporary hole in the ground. They began to mutter about hearing the buzz and whine of shrapnel coming back past us and several of the sergeants recommended I stop firing. (I heard none of the shrap, but that's another story.) Some of them moved to cover, wisely, as it turned out. ‘One more round', says I, and away it went. Bill Godfrey, standing next to me, was slashed across the top of his boot and earned a trip home from that last round. And the Aus bty CP phoned over to ask if we would stop peppering them with shrapnel - please?- as it was making holes in their Landrover canopy. (We were between them and the target, so they were beyond the skip distance.) The bamboo probably suffered less than Bill or the Aus CP.

We relocated to the permanent gun base across the road to the east, and I laid out the guns as an X, one gun at each of the five points, the middle gun officially being the ‘spare' for our four gun bty. When a sixth gun arrived, I thought, it could be placed left or right of the X to create a more conventional layout. No-one was really happy with the way I'd done this, the common complaint being that the guns would always have overhead fire. True, whichever way you look at it, when targets were anywhere around an arc that went the whole 360 degrees. Never figured out how it could be avoided with any layout.

Note: by Mike Dakin


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This Day in History
1865: Confederate General Joseph Johnston officially surrenders his army to General William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina.

1865: John Wilkes Booth is killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm 12 days after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

1865: Joseph E. Johnston surrenders the Army of Tennessee to Sherman.

1937: The ancient Basque town of Guernica in northern Spain is bombed by German planes.

1952: Armistice negotiations are resumed.

1971: The U.S. command in Saigon announces that the U.S. force level in Vietnam is 281,400 men, the lowest since July 1966.

1972: President Nixon, despite the ongoing communist offensive, announces that another 20,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam in May and June, reducing authorized troop strength to 49,000.