MEMORIES OF TET, 1968
by Tony Durbin, Creel Little
and Ronald Schmidt
5 TON COMING THROUGH THE FRONT GATE
Durbin and Schmidt do not remember all that much about the night in late January
that kicked-off the Tet Offensive of 1968. After checking several
sources on the subject, the offensive began in Pleiku shortly after midnight
on January 30th. A Company was stationed at the 299th Engineer Compound.
As Durbin stated, he most likely had been to the EM Club for a few beers
(which was his nightly ritual when off duty). Durbin doesn't remember anyone
waking him, so may have still been awake doing something in the Supply Room
when the alert sounded. He did recall going reluctantly to his assigned bunker.
Memory tells him that it was near the front gate. Supply Sergeant
Nils Lindstrom was in charge of the group. Durbin was the Company Armor.
Ron Schmidt was the Supply Clerk. The three of them manned the bunker,
with one on, and two asleep, if you could sleep.
Sgt Lindstrom waves goodbye
SP4 Ronald Schmidt
Durbin at the 299th
We could hear the mortar rounds off towards Camp Holloway.
Our Army helicopter base which housed the “Hueys”, “Chinooks”,
“Skycranes”, recon airplanes, et al was at Camp Holloway. Small
arms fire, machine gun fire and the like rang out in the distance
as well as nearby. Flares kept going off. All kinds of sounds of
an all-out war taking place, but Durbin doesn't remember seeing anything
of it from his bunker, nor did he fire a shot the whole time. We
were just a small, insignificant compound as far as the VC was
concerned. They had bigger game in mind that night.
Creel Little remembers the ARVN camp next to us. They were celebrating
Tet by shooting off fireworks. Creel said he made the statement to
someone in the commo shack that this would surely catch them off guard
if the VC would attack. It wasn't a few seconds afterwards that they
started getting hit with mortar rounds. Hueys were called in. Creel recalled
seeing tracers being fired at one of them. Commo was tuned to the
choppers, frequency and Creel recalled hearing one of the pilots warning the
other that he was getting ground fire. To which the pilot replied that he had
seen it and would take care of it on his next pass. It was pretty amazing to
Little how calm the pilot was when he said it.
Both Creel Little and Ron Schmidt remembered the mortar round coming through
the roof of one of the barracks, but didn't explode. You can read about that
in Langs's story. Ron Schmidt recalled that the round turned out to be a
flare launched by the ARVN camp next door. Fortunately, it didn't explode.
Schmidt & Broekema in Commo
Creel Little at the 299th
Huey flying over head
What Durbin remembers most about Tet (of 1968) transpired the next day.
In talking with Ron Schmidt, they both recalled the same event. So, they guess it
hadn’t been just a dream all these years. Under whatever pretense,
Lindstrom commandeered a jeep and he, Ron, and Durbin drove to downtown Pleiku.
Their journey took them by a school. In the yard where the children would have
played soccer, was a pile of dead bodies of VC killed during last night’s
attack. It stood 10 to 15 feet high, circular at the base, some twenty or
thirty feet across. (That may be stretching the truth, but it looked huge
to Durbin & Schmidt. Something like you would see in a photo taken at Auschwitz
during World War II.)
there were a lot of things transpiring at this time. Sgt Nils Lindstrom
was due to go home shortly. (That may have been the reason we were downtown
when we saw the bodies. We were taking him to catch his ride home, and he
did a slight diversion to go past the school yard.) I made Sergeant
E-5 on February 3rd. The orders came down just before I was scheduled to go
on R&R. My dates of rest and relaxation in Sydney, Australia were 9 February
to 16 February (the day of my 24th birthday.)
Little, Broekema & Pretty hold
Sgt Nils Lindstrom goes home
Durbin behind the wheel
commo pizza party
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