All the (off)road going amphibious vehicles of the world. (work in progress) All the (off)road going amphibious vehicles of the world. (work in progress)

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 Without Joy".
Sgt. Bushee

What follows are bits from the book
"Ring Of Steel" by Michael D. Mahler

In the maintenance detachment named in this story was a
Sgt. Bushee and his picture is on the left.

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.
On top is a narrow, flat deck that surrounded the cavernous cargo hold. The narrow deck, about four feet across, covered a labyrinth of sealed flotation compartments, electrical connections and mechanical equipments build into the walls to make the BARC work.
All of that machinery came together at a very small cockpit that perched on the narrow deck at the aft end of the amphibious vehicle. The front of the BARC, of course, was a huge ramp that dropped down to give access to the cargo hold for loading and unloading on dry land.

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.
For some reason the decision had been made not to try to recover and repair it and it had simply squatted on the beach near the surf line, sinking a little farther into the sand with each changing tide. The transportation battalion maintenance people used it occasionally as a source of scarce parts and they would travel out to salvage what they needed.

BARC We 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 protection.

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.

BARC When 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 to work.
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.
BARC Bob Our 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 Vietnamese.
They found food, supplies, some ammunition, but no enemy solders. The waist-deep mix of oil and water and the tight space made it impossible to check all the nooks and crannies. Knowing this, the troopers pulled themselves and their confiscated gear back up through the hatch.
They then moved back in to the waiting ACAV's which attempted to flush out the remaining enemy solders with their heavy machine guns. They peppered the sides of the BARC with their .50-calibre guns, but there was no response.
They called back to squadron headquarters and requested a tank. One of B Troop's tanks was dispatched up the beach to join the small cluster of vehicles around the BARC.
It fired four high-explosive rounds into the BARC, laying open great gashes in the light metal of it sides. Still no response. The troopers were sure now that nobody inside could have survived the shelling by the tank gun.

Official US army picture.
Again 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.