A Minnesota PBS Initiative

A Gun Trucker on Convoys

I had spent a year as a Army truck driver in Germany before being sent to Vietnam.

At first, I was in a Reefer platoon pulling refrigerated vans to Phan Rang from my base in Cam Rahn Bay. One convoy we were joined by a returning long haul convoy. In a valley between rice paddy's with high ridges beyond them we were hit with rockets, mortars and small arms fire.

The MP jeeps stopped in front of us and returned fire with their mounted M-60 machine gun. I fired my M-16 out the window but I released that our standing orders were to accelerate out of the kill zone.

I let any new guy drive for practice, I ordered him to drive around the Jeep and take off, I could see the convoy bunching up behind us. He panicked and was screaming shoot, shoot shoot. I had to calm him down by shooting across the hood and telling him what we had to do. Finally as the rounds were getting very close he followed orders and took off. 

Young soldier sitting on a truck with aviator sunglasses on and a bandolier around his neck.

Dave Schmidt on Gun Truck near Dalat.

I could see in my mirrors that the rest of the convoy was following. At places the road was destroyed by sappers so we had to follow a trail off the road into the rice patties and back up.

My driver was driving as fast as he could and barely slowed down for the off road trails. The trailer behind us rocked sideways and all I could see behind us was a huge cloud of dust. 

We came to an ARVN checkpoint, with barbed wire and barrels to weave around. The South Vietnamese soldiers waved their arms and shot into the air to try to slow us down, but the driver blasted right through and we just kept rocking until we crossed the bridge into Cam Rahn Bay. Soon after that I was transferred to a long haul company, 670 Transportation and began going out on long convoys across central Vietnam. 

I was eager to get home to my sweetheart. When I did get home she refused to see me, because I was a baby killing war pig. That was pretty harsh on a young man.

As both a qualified expert driver and machine gunner I was assigned more difficult loads, or driving the gun truck, which was like driving an oversize oven with it's open armored cab, or as machine gunner. It was always interesting. I suppose I could write more stories. 

I was eager to get home to my sweetheart and home. When I did get home she refused to see me, because I was a baby killing war pig. That was pretty harsh on a young man. 

I left the war but it never left me.

Biographical Details

Primary Location During Vietnam: Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam Vietnam location marker

Story Subject: Military Service

Military Branch: U.S. Army

Dates of Service: 1967 - 1969

Veteran Organization: VFW, VVAW, CVMA

Unit: Transportation

Specialty: Light and heavy truck driver

Story Themes: 1967, 1968, 1969, Army, Buffalo, Cam Ranh Bay, Close Call, Combat, Coming Home, CVMA, David Schmidt, Dear John, Homesickness, Read, Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW, VVAW

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