Personal Stories

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I decided to do a page like this after I talked to my friend Alabama. While we were talking about old times, he told me the stories you are about to read. What he said came from the heart and in all honesty. People who have never been that scared, will never know the rush of adrenaline in a major crisis. I know that all of us who were there have at sometime had something strange happen to us.


LaVaughn Baird "Alabama"
Place LZ Professional May 1969

I remember while on LZ Professional that we got hit around 2 AM. I woke up smelling blasting powder. I jumped up so fast that I didn't know what was going on. I grabbed my helmet and M-79 and put on what I thought were my boots. When day break came around, I found out that I had on someone else's boots and had them on the wrong feet all night. And it seemed to feel like they were two sizes too small. That's how scared I was that night. Someone asked me if I ever got scared while I was in Vietnam? Only once, the day I got there until the day I left. That's the truth!


LaVaughn Baird "Alabama"
LZ Professional May 1969

It was a dark night in Vietnam and I think it was around Ho Chi Min's birthday. It had been pretty quiet that day. I think it was sometime around midnight that it started raining, thundering, and lightening. Shortly thereafter, we got hit, I woke up and ran outside by Gun #1's parapet wall and took my stand. After a while, the gooks hit and I was scared. About that time lightning struck the urinal tube that I was laying close to. I smelled the smoke off the tube and it smelled really bad, but not near as bad as it would if I hadn't been so scared. I would have messed in my pants, but I guess it worked out good to be so scared because I didn't go to the bathroom for three days. Ha! Ha!


Clarence L Marrs
Place LZ Professional May 1969

I remember it was a few days after Mother's Day 1969. I don't think I had washed off my body in a good four or five days. As one might wonder I am sure that B O had set in. Things seemed to be some what calm so just before sundown, I took off my clothes got some soap and a towel and went to our shower. The shower was a 55 gallon barrel sitting up high on a stand with a shower head on it. The shower was behind the Exec. Post or off to the side. Gun #1 was the furthest gun away. I remember getting in, getting wet, and starting to get cleaned up and we got in coming rockets and mortars. Things were very intense. I was so scared and I felt so vulnerable because I didn't have anything to protect myself except a towel and a bar of soap. It was a long way back to gun #1. The main thought on my mind was,"I am going to die. How is it going to look with me killed not having any clothes on?" I could just see me dead with not a stitch of clothes on. I just didn't want to die like that. It is funny what one will think of in the heat of war. I made it back to my gun pit, got some clothes on, and made it through the night. I did not take another bath until we got to LZ Fat City. That was a week and a half away.


From Tom McAndrews
Medic 3/16th Artillery
Lz Fat City September, 1969


This is a true story from Tom McAndrews who was a medic on LZ Fat City. He was with 3/16th Charlie Battery 155 howitzers. The details of this story is of September 6, 1969, when gun #6 of the 1/14th blew up and Dell Burns was killed, LaVaughn (Alabama) Baird lost a leg, Ed Kiser, Fred C. Bryan, and Joe Borgasano suffered burns and injuries due to shrapnel.

These are Tom's words as written to me on June 7, 2002. I have done some editing to make the story flow better. Otherwise, these are Tom's thoughts of that time.

Tom's story...I will try to tell my story of the night that Alabama's gun blew up.

I remember that day because I got a real bad sunburn. Being a fair skinned person as I am, I should have kept my shirt on, but we were playing football that afternoon and it was skins against the shirts and you can see which side I was on.

I am not sure of the time when one of your guys came to get me, but it was late at night or very early morning. Whenever it was, I was sleeping. He woke me up and said that he needed me to hurry. To this day, I can remember the panic in his voice.

I put my boots on, grabbed my medical bag, and went with him. I had on only my shorts and boots.

I didn't know where we were going. I didn't know what unit he was with. All I knew was that someone needed me. When I got to where Alabama's gun was, I saw bodies all over the place. Men were crying out for help and in so much pain.

The first person I saw was Dell Burns, not that I knew anyone's name then. Dell was the first one that I tried to help. I had one of your guys start mouth to mouth while I went to attend to the others. Alabama was next. I put a tourniquet on one of his legs and bandaged the other one. I went to two or three more of your men. I wasn't sure of their injuries. I believe that at least one of them also had a leg injury.

When the Med Evac came in, I thought it would have medics on it, but it didn't. I felt that I had to go on to Chu-Lai in order for the other guys to make it. One of your men who wasn't wounded went with me. I never gave up on Dell. I tried all the way to Chu-Lai to revive him, but I couldn't. Once we arrived in Chu-Lai and the doctors and nurses took over, the guy from your unit, who came with me,and I sat outside.

It was then that a doctor came up to me and asked if I was okay. I said that I was fine and he said that I better look in the mirror. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Once I looked in the mirror, I was shocked. I was completely covered in blood. I looked like I had been burned. The blood was from me wiping the sweat from my face forgetting that my hands were covered in blood. I had also forgotten about my sunburn. I looked a mess.

I never knew who the guy was that went on the chopper with me. He was very helpful. I wanted very badly to get back to my unit that night, but they wouldn't let me. I felt I had left my outfit without a medic. Remember I never knew your gun blew up accidentally. I thought it was from incoming and my guys would need me.

Anyway, the next day, I got a ride back to my outfit. I didn't know if my captain was going to read me the riot act or not. He didn't. I never knew if any of your guys made it or not. It was so nice knowing that they did.

I would like very much to meet you guys. Let me know about your reunion next year.





The top photo was taken in 1967 of Tom McAndrews.
The second photo was taken at Tom's home in 2002.
The last photo was taken in 2002 at the Vietnam Memorial.

Tom, I just want to tell you again the deep heartfelt feelings of gratitude for your efforts that you put forth on the night of September 6, 1969. This is a rare opportunity to hear a story and understand the events of that night that has touched so many people. Thank you for a job well done!!!


I was going through the pictures of our unit, and came across a picture that Mark Sullivan took of the destroyed orderly room.  He could not  provide the story of the incident, I can.
I'm not sure of the month, but I think around late July or early August.  The mess hall driver who went to get ice every day in An Ton, was ticketed for speeding and possibly driving under the influence of intoxicants.  As the battery commander, I suspended his driving privileges.  Within a week the Orderly room storage area was racked by an exlposion at about 2000 hrs.
The CID & MP'S were called out to investigate after it was determined it was not an incoming around.
I digress, the Intell for that night had been saying we were at risk for some kind of attack (which never happened, except for the bomb), so I canceled the movie acheduled for that night.  I thank God that I did because the bomb went off on the NW corner of the orderly room and sent a multitude of small metal particles into the EM Club.  If the movie had been going on, we would have had 30-50 casualties.  The whole portion of the orderly room storage area was destroyed and a hole was blasted into the EM Club along with several hundred small holes caused by the construction of the bomb.
The bomb was constructed from about 2 lbs. of C-4 and several hundred small pieces of welding rod milted into a container of water.  This enabled the particles to be aerodynamanically devastating to anybody within range, about 100 meters.  Fortunately, the blast was designed to go up and not out so most of the blast effect and particles were absorbed by the ponchos and liners directly over the blast site.
There was a week or so long investigation.  The upshot of which proved that the bomb was an attempt on my life by the cooks driver and the local daily hire shit burner.  The shit burner, who we called, Joe Dink, admitted to his role of bringing the bomb onto the frirebase the first day of the investigation.  He indicated that the bomb was suppose to detonate at about 1700 and was suppose to be placed under the SE corner of the orderly room or under my desk area.  I always did the daily paperwork at about 1630-1800 at my desk.  It took the QC five more days of interrogation to implicate the cook's driver.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep well during this period and constructed social blast walls in my hootch to protect myself and slept with my pistol under my head.
The shit burner was arrested and detained and I never saw him again.  The driver ws charged with attempted murder and transferred back to Battalion HQ.  I don't know if he was ever convicted or not.  I doubt it since there were no collaborating witnesses, and the only word of his involvement was the shit burners.
This is the story of the Orderly Room blast as near as I can remember it after 33 years.  I'm sure that somewhere in the CID files is the whole story.
So, this is the story of the Orderly Room bombing of 1970.  It's just another fragging incident gone wrong, but a bit more complicated than some soldier throwing a grenade into his officer's hootch.