Bill Patterson - Quan Loi Vietnam 1968-69 by 9Rxo4Q2


									Bill Patterson - Quan Loi Vietnam 1968-69

As I grow older, I realize some things in my life are incomplete. One
thing is I spent a year in war and have not told the story adequately to
my family or some close friends. Telling now will ease my mind and
possibly help others understand me better. The Quan Loi incident is
one of my most vivid memories because I felt most threatened by
death or capture on that day. My job in Vietnam was driving a five-
ton tactical truck delivering food, ammunition, supplies and anything
else I was told to. Our 319th Transportation Company was based at
Long Binh, about 10 miles north of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).
The Quan Loi run was one of our most dangerous as the base was
located near An Loc in western Vietnam near the Ho Chi Minh Trail
and Cambodia. It was also a long drive of 80-100 miles each way
over dirt and broken paved roads. The convoys averaged only about
20 miles per hour. Our convoys did not stop for breaks. We had
seen much action in this area, being involved in ambushes and
firefights. I had been relatively safe for most of my time in Vietnam
however. On this one day in particular that would change. Our
convoy had driven to Quan Loi from Long Binh, unloaded and was
returning to our base. The day had been a long one and it was late
afternoon. We really tried hard to not be on the roads after dark as
the enemy was most active then. As we drove through an especially
dangerous area, I noticed brass machine gun spent shells in the dirt
road ahead of my truck. Not anticipating any immediate problem, I
continued on the road. Immediately the truck came to a quick and
unannounced halt. It would not move despite all my efforts. I jumped
out to see what was wrong as the other trucks continued past me. I
found three of my ten tires were flat. The gun shells had worked
quickly but silently on the inflated tires. A Military Police jeep of
regular Army soldiers (I was an activated reservist) with a driver,
radioman and M-60 machine gunner stopped with me. My friend
Wendell Blanchard, also from Augusta, stopped and offered to help
but was told to go on by the MP in the jeep. Wendell threw off his
spare tire for me. I went from being in the relatively secure convoy
with friends to being the driver of a stalled truck with three strangers
in a jeep stranded in dangerous country with 3 flats, 2 spares, no firm
surface to jack up the truck and the sun setting. Things got quiet as
the convoy went out of sight. the MPs did not offer to help me
change the tires but waited for me to do so. You never saw a 150
pound man work so hard! Our five-ton truck had dual axels on the
rear. Each axel had two tires. By driving the inside tire onto a big
block or rock, the outside tire would elevate off the surface and could
be changed. In this way I was able to remove all 3 flats and install
the 2 spares I had. The tires were nearly as tall as I was, were heavy
of course and had to be loaded onto the empty truck to be repaired
back at base. As I completed the work I realized I was shaking and
exhausted in the high heat of Vietnam. The MP jeep now saw my
truck was drivable and left to rejoin the convoy, now many miles
nearer to base. I was alone and really scared. I started the engine,
put it in gear and was joyous that the truck moved. I raced the setting
sun with my foot to the floor. The truck reached 50 MPH I'm sure and
was bouncing into the air and sometimes off the road. After an
eternity I spotted the convoy ahead. Of course the other trucks were
doing their usual 20 MPH or so. I was flying up on the end truck
around 50 with my foot frozen to the floor in a near panic. I passed
several of the trucks and noticed astonished looks from their drivers.
Finally realizing I had panicked and was endangering the other
vehicles and drivers, I relaxed my foot, slowed and rejoined the
convoy. They could see I was missing a wheel and probably
understood my wild action. We made it safely back to base that
evening.          I don't know if the enemy was watching that day. I do
know that Wendell, the MPs, my hard work and God's grace
(probably not in that order of importance) saved my life or prevented
my capture that day.        I will probably tell more of these stories as
time passes......

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