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My first memory of the 1st of the 30th is of a fateful haircut at the main barbershop at Ft Lewis in the fall of 1965. I walked in the door and the first person I saw was Major Bob Laychak under whom I had served when he was a 1/Lt in the 16th AFA, Baumholder, Germany in the ‘50s. (He used to tool around in a little black Austin Healey, as I recall. He was quite the “cat” in those days). Anyway, we got to chatting and he mentioned that he was in the 1/30th and was going on an adventure to ‘Nam. Asked me what I was doing and I told him that I had just made SFC as a 13E and was supposed to be running Bn FDC in the 4/42d FA, 4th ID., but was actually filling in as HHB’s First Sergeant. Maj.L. said that he needed a Chief for his FDC and now that he found me, I could count on an adventure also. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I got my orders. Have been afraid of barbershops ever since!
The next few weeks were pretty hectic over at North Fort. We were processing equipment for shipment, trying to get our families squared away and just a myriad of things to do. The battalion filled up with folks eager (?) to join us.
The battalion at that time, was commanded by LTC John Colt. The XO was Major Dick Clearman and the S3 was Major Laychak. I think Capt John Dynes was Asst 3 at that time. Capt O’Ravez was S2 and I believe Capt Bailey was S1. Capt McKoy was HHB Co and that’s about all I can remember right now of the Officers.
SMAJ was Billy Kosinski, Ops Sgt was MSG Jack Jones, S2 Sgt was MSG Ledbetter and the HHB 1st Sgt was Lethaniel Ray (Ol’ Saddlehead). MSG Randy Pender was Commo Sgt and SFC Bob Weaver was Chief Surveyor. So many more that this old fading mind can’t pin down. Maybe later when I go thru some of my photos.
The materiel was shipped and then we boarded the train for Oakland Army Base. There we loaded onto one of the ships that was used by the Merchant Marine on the Atlantic runs to Europe.
And our “cruise” began. Longest boat ride I’ve ever been on in my life. In the ‘50s, I had made several trips via boat to Europe courtesy of the Army, but this trip across the Pacific was the pits! As I recall, it took 17 days to reach QuiNhon. I gained about 20 lbs dining on that good ol’ crap they fed us.
There were no docks or piers available for off loading, so we had to dis-embark over the side into Landing Craft. Here we are with rifles, no ammo, steel helmets on, you’d a thought we were going to make an assault landing. LTC Colt leading his stalwart troops to the shore. I think most of us were a bit scared………not knowing what was in front of us. We were also a bit gung-ho and were ready to “storm the beaches.” What a letdown when they dropped the ramps and we were greeted by a bunch of jarheads in bathing suits just enjoying the beach life. What a downer!
We were trucked to a couple of small bare hills outside of Qui Nhon which was to be our base camp. Not too far from the Korean “Tiger” Division’s headquarters area. We set up some tents and dug a few holes and settled in. The first few nights there were really kind of scary. Saddlehead posted some perimeter guards to secure the area for us. This was supposed to be a somewhat secured area and I guess it was, considering that we were in a strange land where a war was going on. We heard shots all night long. Where they came from or where they were going was unknown. Fortunately none seemed to be directed at us.
The next several weeks were spent creating a base camp….We set up more tents and when the lumber and concrete came in, began building barracks and other buildings. Our new primary MOS’s became Construction Engineers. Our howitzers had not arrived yet so we had nothing but our small arms to shoot with. We heard a rumor that one of the guns had been dropped into the harbor at Oakland during loading and the ship was delayed because of that. Never did find out if that was true.
One day, a 500 KW Generator showed up and along with it, 4 105mm howitzers. Word was out that our illustrious S3 (Maj Bob) had stolen ‘em off the beach. I don’t know whether I believed that or not, but we did finally have a firing battery in HHB. And a lighting system for the camp. The 105’s were placed on the perimeter.
The Senior NCO’s put together their billets under the supervision of MSG Jack Jones, Opns Sgt. He also supervised the construction of the best, most beautiful bar west of San Francisco. Made of native stone and with loving hands.
The 155’s finally arrived and it wasn’t long before the firing batteries went out to support other units. As I recall, A Battery stayed fairly close initially to support the Koreans, B Battery went off to support the 101st Airborne around Tuy Hoa and C Battery went with the 1st Cav up around An Khe. I may be wrong but I think that’s the way it was.
Not too long after we became fully operational, We went into a support role for the Tiger Division (ROK). I remember accompanying the S3 and Capt Dynes on a recon for a firing site up near a river with the Korean counterparts. They took us to a village on the riverbank and said they wanted us to fire support for an attack on the other side. As I recall, the name Bong Son sticks in my mind. Anyway, the ROK division was going to attack into the woods to clear out some entrenched VC units. There was no room to emplace the howitzers in the village, but the Koreans said, just have ‘em here in the morning. Sure enough the village had been bull-dozed into the river to enable the howitzers to emplace. Believe that was A Battery.
At that time we were the first and only 155mm towed battalion in-country. And we learned a lot. B and C Batteries were quickly indoctrinated into having their howitzers moved around slung from Choppers and learned first hand what “fire base” war was all about. A Battery got their chance also. I never did get to any of B Battery’s fire bases, but did get to visit C Battery’s and A Battery’s “Camp Ameliorite.” I do believe it was the muddiest spot in ‘Nam! 1SGT Bob Baxter was Top Sergeant in A Btry and was a real “HardCharger.” He had that Firebase “lookin’ good”! To my recollection, he was also one of the original “Flying Sergeants” in the old Army Air Corps. Enlisted Pilots.
Not too much more of significance in my memory. I spent a lot of time riding shotgun for LTC Wigner and SMAJ Kosinski. Did go on several operations with the 1st Cav. There wasn’t much for a FDC Chief Computer to do when all the firing batteries were being controlled by other units. Some of my troopers did get to go out to the Firing Batterys. We did a lot of training, but spent most of the time building the base camp, almost like garrison troopers. I’ve got several slides that I took during the year and am having prints made and will send them on in……..maybe someone will recognize the folks in them. And maybe someone else will conjure up some memories.
As for the rest of my career; I went from the 1st 30th to HQ, Combat Development and Experimentation Command at Fort Ord, California. Served as Operations Sgt at Hunter Liggett Military Reservation where the Joint Services were conducting such wild experiments as “flying infantry platforms” and all sorts of craxy things, some of which are used today. Made MSG there, and then was transferred to the HHB, 8th Infantry Division Artillery, Baumholder, Germany, as S2 Sgt. DA gave me exactly one year and then shipped the old fanny back to “Nam. This time as S2 Sgt, Hq, 25th Infantry Division Artillery at Cu Chi, RVN.
I spent the first six month of this tour, as a flying FO doing Fire support missions for the DivArty battalions. The DivArty Commander thought that I was pushing my luck, having crashed or been shot down three times during that period, and had me transferred to Headquarters Area Command in Saigon. I was the Operations Sgt there in the Services Department and as such, wound up being the manager of the managers of all the hotels in Saigon. At that time there were 61. That was the scariest job I’ve ever had. Every time a hotel got bombed, they called me out. Saigon was not the safest city in the world to be chasing around in.
When that tour ended, I requested, and received, assignment to Germany and was sent to the 2d Bn, 33rd FA at Augsburg/Neu Ulm.
I spent a couple of years there and then was selected to attend the first class of the US Army Sergeants Major Academy. There were 100 of us selected and I think 97 completed the course. I made the E9 list while at the Academy and on graduation was assigned as Senior Enlisted Advisor to the South Dakota National Guard at Rapid City, SD.
After a year and a half there, I was selected for the Command Sergeant Major List and was appointed CSM of the 1st Bn 3rd FA, 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. That battalion went to Grafenwoehr, Germany for six months as part of Brigade 75.
Not long after that, I was transferred again back to Germany as Command Sergeant Major of the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Battalion with batteries at Spangdahlem, Bitburg and Hahn Air Bases.
I finally hung up my sword on November 1, 1979. I retired at Oakland Army Base in California and went to work for Pacific Gas & Electric Co and eventually became a Materials Management and Operations Superintendent. In March of 1998, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I retired again. Since then I have been perfectly content learning the art of doing very little slowly. (Except for golf, I do that rapidly).
I miss the Army, even after 20 years away from it. My Army career spanned 30 years. When I went in in 1949, they were still using mules in the old 4th FA Bn (Pack), at Ft Carson, Colo, my first duty station. Over the years, we went thru many gyrations, re-organizations, modernizations, and attempts at re-inventing the wheel. But the one thing that I do not believe has changed is the Mission of the Field Artillery. Move, Shoot and Communicate!
I do not regret one minute of my Army career.
CLOSE STATION, MARCH ORDER! (CSMO)
Harlan J Mohn
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