This page was last update at 11 - Apr - 2010
|This is a story about a incident witch took
place in mid July 1968 at Wunder Beach in Qwang Tri province. A sand
and dirt track ran from Wunder Beach south west to highway 1, some six
miles in land, crossing about half way a dirt road named "Street
What follows are bits from the book
In the maintenance detachment named in this story was a
A BARC is an Amphibian with wheels taller than a man and the sides of the vehicle were another 2000 mm above the wheel wells.
About four hundred yards north of our supply depot
perimeter, there was the abandoned hulk of one of these behemoths. It
had become inoperable in a storm, we had been told and had been washed
ashore long before we arrived at the scene.
always provided a light escort for these salvage missions because we
never knew when a band of North Vietnamese or local Viet Cong might be
lurking out there looking for a likely target. It was just far enough
away from the perimeter to make it prudent to provide a little
One day in mid-July we were asked to provide such an escort for a
salvage team from the transportation battalion, which wanted to get a
couple of urgently needed parts from the hulk. We obliged by sending
out three ACAV's from our headquarters security platoon. They formed a
short column, the transportation battalions maintenance crew sandwiched
between the ACAV's.
they arrived at the inoperable BARC the ACAV's formed a loose perimeter
facing in land while the maintenance crew cambered onto the BARC to go
Three of the salvage crew began to work on the shore side of the BARC, while the fourth went around the deck to the ocean side.
There the lifted a hatch cover in the deck to gain access to the part that he wanted and was startled to see people moving around in the semi darkness of the partially flooded compartment below him. He dropped the hatch cover back in place with a bang and quickly walked back to the rest of his crew to report what he had uncovered.
They hurriedly abandoned there mission and the BARC, eyeing the still closed hatch uneasily as they did so and came running over to the nearest ACAV to report what they had found.
AVACs quickly spun around to face the BARC and waited watchfully with
their fully loaded heavy machine guns trained on the top of the BARC.
The troopers yelled for the occupants to come out, using English and
some broken Vietnamese phrases. Nothing happened.
After a few minutes, it became apparent that whoever was inside was not coming out. Some of our security platoon troops put on their gas masks, grabbed some tear-gas grenades and climbed onto the BARC with drawn pistols at the ready. They opened the hatch that the mechanic had opened and dropped down several tear-gas grenades. Then they slammed the hatch cover shut, stepped back and waited.
In a few moments the hatch cover was pushed up, and eight gagging Vietnamese clawed their way out. They were quickly searched and placed under guard on the sand in back of our ACAV's. Under questioning by an interpreter, who had been send out to join the group when the incident was reported to the command post over the radio, one of the detainees indicated that there were sill some others hiding in the bowels of the BARC.
Back went the troopers with their gas masks and pistols to search out the remaining people.
This time they lowered themselves through the hatch into the murky
interior. Slowly they worked their way through the maze of fuel lines,
electrical wire ring and machinery, but they could find no more
Official US army picture.
they climbed onto the BARC and again they lowered themselves into the
hull. In a few minutes a voice called out that they had found some more
Vietnamese. Slowly eleven more Vietnamese emerged from the open hatch
under the watchful eyes of the troops.
They were all a bit dazed fro the concussion of the exploding tank shells, but they had not a scratch on them.
They had been hiding in the lowest part of the ocean-side corner of the BARC, and the shells had whizzed over without touching them. In all we had now taken nine-teen detainees from what we had thought was an empty, abandoned piece of equipment.
We called for a large cargo helicopter and had them flown back to an interrogation centre for questioning. We also loaded up the material we had confiscated:
grenades, rifle ammunition, web gear and parts of North Vietnamese uniforms.
We did not find any weapons, and we never did hear why or for how long the Vietnamese had been living in that BARC.
In the quiet that followed the departure of the helicopter, the transportation battalion mechanics went calmly back to work to salvage the parts that they needed, which had miraculously escaped harm from our shelling.