January 11, 1968
Thursday was our scheduled day to pick up the weekly dry goods order. The depot in Da Nang, FLC (Force Logistics Command), had separate loading docks for ice, produce, meats, canned/dry goods and a large bakery.
Every Wednesday a request for our dry goods order was submitted and would be filled the following day. “Filled” did not mean we would get everything we ordered . . . we may have ordered six cases of canned apple juice but only receive four, plus two cases of pineapple juice. It seemed arbitrary, but there was some sort of logic to the madness. None of the other docks needed a request, we would just receive what was issued.
One of the first things I noticed was the massive amount of shrapnel holes in the warehouses. These holes ranged from small pea size up to 3 inches in diameter. They were the result of NVA rocket attacks fired from launchers miles away and gliding randomly into a certain area (they weren’t precise).
Looking northwest toward the mountains, there was a long convoy of vehicles lumbering up the grade. This was the “Hai Van Pass,” the highway to Phu Bai, Hue and points north to the DMZ. Our 4th Battalion “Lima Battery” was located near Phu Bai. It didn’t look very inviting, and I was hoping not to get that assignment.
We picked up our dry goods and moved to the produce dock. There was a variety of fresh vegetables (limited fruit), and we usually got to pick what we needed. The meat loading dock had a prescribed issue. Thursday was always “Ocean Perch.” Moving to the ice house, we loaded four 100-pound blocks of ice into a portable thermal chest. Finally at the bakery we picked up racks of fresh bread (unsliced), and I was told they occasionally issued hamburger buns.
Driving back we had a good view of the beach and a long string of shanties or HOOTCHES (dwellings or homes). It looked like another version of Dog Patch. There was little foot traffic on the road, and aside from military vehicles, it was busy with bicycles and Mopeds.
The whole routine took less than three hours round trip and was repeated every day except Sunday. Operating a successful mess hall required a daily run to FLC. There were additional issues, such as a supply of fresh water, gasoline for the burners, soap, brooms, scrub brushes, etc. It was obvious to me that this endeavor required a team effort and cooperation from everyone. Gunny Sampson’s leadership style demanded teamwork, and he was completely backed by the officers and staff of the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines.
Next Edition: Lima Battery Attacked