Ray Pollard
HQ Company 4th Marine Regiment
3rd Marine Division
Communications
I went through boot camp at MCRD SD in the summer of 1967 (Platoon 2025) then ITR and Comm. Centermans
Course at C&E Bn. in San Diego. I arrived in Vietnam at Da Nang on April 2 and was assigned to 4th Marines. At
Da Nang they took those of us going north to the armory and got us our M-16's, magazines of ammo and flak
jackets (seemed ominous). We test fired the M-16's (first exposure to them) at some trees nearby and headed
for the airstrip and caught a cargo plane to Quang Tri (I'd guess we actually landed in Phu Bai and trucked to
Quang Tri) at the Regimental Rear I met up with a couple of others getting processed and ended up being sent
to B/1/4 at Cam Lo by truck (convoy). Little did I know that the convoy continued on to Camp Carroll? After filling
sand bags for 3 or 4 days at Cam Lo I was told I was being sent to HQ Co. since they had a full blown Comm.
Center and was short people. I got on a truck in the next days convoy and rode to Carroll where I checked in a t
HQ Co. (my record book says April 11th). I was assigned to the Comm. Center (MOS 2542) and given a spot in the
last tent in the line next to the CoC. I soon learned about the bunker between our tent and the next in line and
why there was a blast wall of sandbags around the tent. Of course the bunker next to the tent (to the left if at
the front of the tent) was the one Sgt Rabey was killed in. The guys in the tent told us the story and always beat
us to the bunker when the first sounds of incoming were detected. I don't think I saw the inside of the Comm.
Center for a while...I was once again filling sandbags. They were digging a hole for the new CoC pretty much
directly in front of our tent it seems (that will figure into a later story). There was a pretty large open area from
outside the front of the tent to the Comm. Center (we filled sand bags at a pile of sand in that area) and the At
Da Nang they took those of us going north to the armory and got us our M-16's, magazines of ammo and flak
jackets (seemed ominous). We test fired the M-16's (first exposure to them) at some trees nearby and headed
for the airstrip and caught a cargo plane to Quang Tri (I'd guess we actually landed in Phu Bai and trucked to
Quang Tri) at the Regimental Rear I met up with a couple of others getting processed and ended up being sent
to B/1/4 at Cam Lo by truck (convoy). Little did I know that the convoy continued on to Camp Carroll? After filling
sand bags for 3 or 4 days at Cam Lo I was told I was being sent to HQ Co. since they had a full blown Comm.
Center and was short people. I got on a truck in the next days convoy and rode to Carroll where I checked in a t
HQ Co. (my record book says April 11th). I was assigned to the Comm. Center (MOS 2542) and given a spot in the
last tent in the line next to the CoC. I soon learned about the bunker between our tent and the next in line and
why there was a blast wall of sandbags around the tent. Of course the bunker next to the tent (to the left if at
the front of the tent) was the one Sgt Rabey was killed in. The guys in the tent told us the story and always beat
us to the bunker when the first sounds of incoming were detected. I don't think I saw the inside of the Comm.
Center for a while...I was once again filling sandbags. They were digging a hole for the new CoC pretty much
directly in front of our tent it seems (that will figure into a later story). There was a pretty large open area from
outside the front of the tent to the Comm. Center (we filled sand bags at a pile of sand in that area) and the
Mess Hall was on the far side of the open area. Seems the hooch used for the enlisted club was just behind and
to the right of the back flaps of our tent as well as a couple of shitters and a shower somewhere in that area.
I finally got assigned to a watch and started working in the Comm. Center (by the way, a much more secure place
to be during incoming). Monitored one of the TT for a while then started cutting message tapes (long sitreps
from units in the field), got pretty good at that and we actually used to have a little competition to see who could
cut the longest tape with no errors. The tapes were long yellow thin strips of paper with a 5 hole code punched
in them...an error was covered up by punching a series of lines of all 5 holes if I remember correctly. As far as
incoming goes, it seemed like an almost daily thing and I have vivid memories of sitting in our personal bunker
by the tent pressing myself back against the wall trying to be as small as I could to avoid any chance of being
hit. Ronn sent me a picture from inside the bunker and it sure brought back memories. I remember running my
hands through the loose dirt and finding bone fragments while waiting out the rocket s. It always seemed that
started out near the gate and walked them right across the cam and the line the followed was right over our
bunker and tent, that tent had a lot of holes in it by the time I left. I remember a couple of tents being hit over on
the other side of the Comm. Center, one caught fire and ammo was cooking off in the debris. For some reason I
remember a couple of ARVN officers being involved (maybe it was their tent).
The marine in charge of my watch was a tall thin Cpl. who had been there for a while (had been in the bunker
with the others the day Sgt. Rabey was KIA. One evening we were both headed up the stairway out of the Comm.
Center (opening towards the mess hall),I was in front of him and suddenly he pulled me back down and about
the same time there was a loud smack as is something hit the ammo boxes lining the stairway. He may have
saved my life and I have no idea what he heard because I didn't hear anything. He told me to go warn the next
shift not to use flashlights when walking from the tent to the Comm. Center and I did....the consensus was that
we had a sniper outside the lines...on the way back in the pitch black I took a wrong step and ended up at the
bottom of the hole being dug for the new CoC bunker and suffered a badly sprained ankle which had me on
crutches for a week or two. I never knew it was a practical joke to play on the new guy or what but I remember it
crutches for a week or two. I never knew it was a practical joke to play on the new guy or what but I remember it
very well. For the next couple of weeks someone brought my chow so I didn't have to wait in the line at the very
well. For the next couple of weeks someone brought my chow so I didn't have to wait in the line at the mess hall
or negotiate the large open area on crutches (my medevac record shows April 28th). Eventually things went
back to normal, incoming almost every day...riding shotgun on the convoys back to Dong Ha/Quang Tri ( the
primo place to ride was in the bread truck with those huge boxes of warm fresh bread...good thing they didn't
count them before and after). Riding through Cam Lo and all the kids begging along the road. Standing lines
along the stretch of the perimeter manned by the HQ Co. (there was a small hill outside the perimeter which I
used as a landmark when I went back in 1999). Cpl Gave gets his PH for knee injury during incoming, PFC Gould
(cook) getting a Gallantry Cross for coming out of his bunker to turn off the stoves in the mess hall. Getting
promoted to LCpl and having stripes pinned on in the e-club. Somebody had a reel to reel tape recorder and
played music...I remember the Association playing a lot. An older guy named "Yogi" who practiced yoga in the
nude by his bunker (lotus position at dawn or sunset). Cpl. Sperling and his buddy from the comm. repair area at
Carroll shaving off their eyebrows out of boredom.
One of the Cpl's who came from a Comm. Center in Hawaii to us telling tall tales about life back home in Possum
Trot where the most exciting thing each week was going down to watch the Safeway truck unload on Friday
nights. "Sandy" who was from the east coast but was into surfing, when he found out I was from Huntington
Beach we had a lot of talks about surfing. The rats at Carroll....used to say they'd come out at night and hold
drag races down the middle of the tent. The walkways between rows of tents with pallets to keep you out of the
mud in monsoon season. In the hot dry season red dust everywhere...in the rainy season (also hot) slippery red
mud...
I went down to the CoC on occasion and remember a little cubbyhole where the radio operators had a long desk
(shelf) against the wall...a map of the AO with unit locations marked and listening to the Bn. net to hear what was
going on...never really knew any of the radio guys but enjoyed being able to go down and listen to the radios.
Sometime around Oct '68 the rumor started that 4th Marines was going to pull out as part of the draw down of
troops in Vietnam. Thought I might be able to get home early but no such luck. A group of us left Carroll and
went to Ca Lu (out past what would later be Vandegrift Combat Base VCB) and set up on the north side of the
road (Rt. 9 or Highway 9 - but just a little dirt road). We moved into an area of old abandoned bunkers with a
lighter color of sandbag than we used at Carroll. In the process we found a few chicom grenades in the brush
(the elephant grass at Ca Lu was amazing - 8-10 ft. deep and so think you couldn't see an arms length in front of
you). We set up a tent just up the hill about 50 ft. from the north side of the road and when the equipment
arrived put in a small Comm. Center. In time it didn't grow and we ended up with excess men so some of us got
sluffed off to Task Force Hotel. I was out of the Comm. Center pretty much permanently then and I did stuff like
go out on the MedCap patrols to the Montengard Ville across the river, take new guys to test fire at the dump
(once again down by the river) and various other duties. Had the designation of Rockcrusher 10Alpha for a
while and went out to the outlying locations with KY38 code keys and replacement equipment when needed.
Carried a brown leather pouch and a couple thermite grenades in case I had to destroy the stuff in my charge.
Got to all the FB's and LZ's in the vicinity (Fuller, Cates, Russell...Khe Sahn and a few places with no name at all).
Was part of the reaction force that went out on a 2 week op when a new FB was established out to the nw of the
Rockpile for an op along the valley that ran from the vicinity of Con Thien into the Rockpile/C2 area. One that op
I was a fire team leader with Maxwell Burch and another Marine (who I think was Jonnie Prechtl - who I've
e-mailed but not heard back from). For that 2 weeks we lived in a fighting hole (hand dug) ate C's and ran
patrols. We had the night LP duty one night and in the middle of the night we took a pretty heavy probe from an
NVA unit and tried to warn the rest of the unit back on the lines and couldn't get any response. I figured the only
way to let them know we had company was to open up on the gooks so I told the other two the plan and I stood
up from behind the logs and rocks and opened up...we lit them up and three a few grenades and broke for the
lines shouting the password so we wouldn't get shot at by our own men...I'll never forget the password that
night "Clarabelle" as in the Howdy Doody show....we made it back and got down in the hole with the Lt. and told
him what we saw and they called in a fire mission...we had illume all night and some random fire missions. At
first light it was out on patrol (I walked point) to check the area...we found a couple satchel charges, blood trails
and lots of footprints and at the bottom of the hill a wide trail t hat seemed well used. More fire missions were
called and a few days later we pulled off the hill and back to VCB where the Comm. Platoon. had moved while we
were out. The Comm. Platoon was out on the Western edge of VCB with some pretty deep elephant grass
around. There was a radio bunker with a couple of antennas on it that was hit by lightning one day and ruined a
radio and some other gear...knocked all the guys down but didn't hurt anyone. There were ARVN at VCB and
therefore our first real exposure to marijuana...some kid named Anderson bought some and when we were off
duty we went out in the grass and smoked our first joints, not all the memorable to tell the truth, maybe I was to
scared to get high. One of my buddies from NCO Leadership school on Oki came up when he was getting ready
to rotate home (he had been with 3rd Marine Division in Da Nang). He wanted to see what it was like out in the
field (it was all relative - he had spit shined boots and green utilities). He brought a sea bag full of booze he got
at the PX and there was some pretty good partying for a day or two, his name was Joe Mcgarry (or something
very close to that). I remember a SSGT from wire or radio that had a bunker by himself at VCB and someone
threw a smoke grenade in his bunker as a warning fro him to back off of the bullshit he was laying on
everybody. I got my rotation date in May of '69 and caught a chopper to Phu Bai from VCB and a single engine
plane from Phu Bai to Da Nang.
I went back in 1999 and went to Dong HA, Cam Lo, Carroll, Ca Lu and Khe Sahn among other places. The thing
that shocked me most was how much things had grown back from when we were there. Down at the river where
you crossed to go out on patrols to the Ville there was a large pointed rock (almost pyramid shaped). James
Napier had a picture of it from 1968 and when I took another in 1999 the difference is amazing....although you
would never forget that rock. Here are some of the other names I can remember (I got a unit roster but the
quality is so poor you can't read it)
Max Burch nickname Clint Burchwood
Bill Gibbony
Gave
Sperling
Prechtl
Brown