83rd FSB Bastogne

Dan O'Brien (69-70)
"A" Battery



"Arrived at Bastogne on 27 January 1969. That night the FSB was hit by incoming RPG’s, followed by an attempt to over run the US ARMY’s troops. I had not been assigned a gun section so I supplied SGT Gary Thomas [TEX] with rounds for the 50 Cal machine gun. It was raining hard and the barrel turned white hot with the rain boiling as it touched the hot metal. After much use, Gary and I put on asbestos gloves and changed the barrel to let this one cool down. Gun section 4 had the ACE howitzer backed up to the berm so the barrel would point level or down if needed. The VC were coming up the entry road and were visible with the lighted parachute flares from the 105’s. SSG Gary Scoggins was section chief of the ACE and ordered two men at the end of the barrel to shovel dirt into the tube and throw in bottles, cans, spent brass and anything that could cause damage. On the breech end, a charge 7 was dunked into the water barrel, shoved up the tube in place of a projectile and a dry charge 7 was put in behind it. The result was a ten foot fireball that traveled 1000 feet with all the sand and increments of destruction intact. We were a few hours into the battle and an F-4 Phantom USAF fighter jet appeared on the scene doing a real low level bombing run, putting the ordinance at the end of our road and further out. A bit later an AC-47 Goony Bird renamed PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON or SPOOKY fired mini guns that looked like red ribbons coming out of the sky. The reds were tracer rounds with 6 rounds in between. We were told PUFF fired 30,000 rounds a minute. In later years, a C-130 was converted to a SPECTER GUNSHIP and used a 40MM cannon off the left side. Some Specter aircraft had 105 howitzer’s mounted inside. I was assigned to 3rd section MINDBLOWER in the morning and started humping projo’s for the next 20 hours. About the 20th hour my third exhausted partner dropped the projo tray forcing the 214 pound projectile into my left boot and toes.

The boot was cut and the toes were damaged and bleeding. I was sent, not to a medic but an XO officer 2LT LLOYD who told me I did this on purpose to get out of work and was told to GET BACK TO WORK. I shoved a red maintenance rag in my boot to keep dirt from coming into the cut boot and bloody toes. The big toe nail became green and infected and still no medic looked at it. After 3 months of limping while humping projo’s, the nail in the big toe fell off and a new one started to grow. At the end of the mission to save the firebase, Captain Virtis Savage gathered all of us together and told everyone what a great job they did and he would TRY to get a bronze star to each of us for our actions. XXIV CORPS gave very little awards and no rank to the SP4’s until 10 months in country. Most shucked off that well meaning speech as dealing with XXIV CORPS fell on deaf ears. Captain Savage always joined in the fight and many times humped projo’s to the guns short of help. Once a PVT challenged him to a gun duel. Virtis Savage faced him and told him to draw his gun. The guy backed down and I hope he was sent to LBJ [LONG BINH JAIL] for being insubordinate to one of the best officers in country.

A Btry left Bastogne due to hard rains and returned in March 1969


There were four OUTPOSTS or NDP’s [NIGHT DEFENSIVE POSITIONS] which incorporated first generation Starlight scopes on our M-14’s. We used tracer rounds from the M-60 machine guns and filled both magazines, two taped upside down to each other for quick reloading. Trip flares and Claymore Mines were set out along with four vibration sensors that were connected to a device in the OP bunker. To check for a working device, we put the switch on A and stomped the bottom of the foxhole, We had the choice of a red light, and earphone with a faint buzz or both that would receive the vibration some 50 feet from our location. B, C and D were checked also. The starlight scope was mounted to the top of the M-14 much like a daytime scope used by snipers. A battery pack was somewhere hung on our web gear to power the scope. Our right eye was used for the scope and it’s green view of the hillside while the left eye was shut and only used to see in the dark as it was our night vision eye. These early starlight scopes had a cell that could burn out if a bright flare was fired from the 105’s and we did not cover the front lens. One of many incidence’s involved seeing a lit cigarette being puffed on across the hill. The scope magnified the light 1000 times brighter. I got on the hot loop and called the other three OP’s and had them take a bead with us on this guy. On the next drag of smoke, one designated shooter called FIRE and all four M-14 tracer rounds went directly to that location. FDC had the mortars already set and watching for our QUE. They lobbed in a few from the top of our hill and the action across the way ceased for the rest of the night.

After a few weeks, A Btry MARCH ORDERED on Rt 547 towards Blaze and passing Veghel which looked like PSP plates all damaged from incoming. The 27th Engineers and 591st Land Clearing Engineers moved out in front of us using ROME PLOWS to take out trees and finish the road to the next fire base. A Vietnamese man was writing on a pad as we moved. I asked what was his function and was told he worked for the government and recorded every tree the US Army knocked down, [saplings or mighty Oaks] with the US paying South Vietnam $100.00 for each tree.

The SCREAMING EAGLE newspaper for March 1969 had a headline that read.




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