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77th Tank Regiment - On the road: Individual stories of traveling to the Unit or Front: 1941 - 2005

This account was written by George E Goebel. Corporal Company A 77th Heavy
Tank Battalion Camp Chitose Hokkaido Japan 1949-50.
Take in part from his memoirs which are now kept in the 77th ARA archives.
He has given permission to the 77th ARA to use to part, or in its entirety
for publication on this web site. All rights reserved George E Goebel and
the 77th ARA 16 Jan 2005.

Korea "The Trap" The Winter of 1950-51

It was a summer Sunday morning and I was stationed in Camp Chitose
(shi-toe-sea) Japan, with the 77th Heavy Tank Battalion. Some guy was going
through the hallway of the building, yelling for everyone to report
upstairs to the dayroom. The executive officer was there (1Lt Ellis V. St
Clair) and he told us that "War had been declared - - - - (he stopped, and
waited a few seconds)- - between North and South Korea" Our hearts started
to pound again, was we were in sight of Russia, and we thought that it was
between Russia and the United States. We all let out a sigh of relief and
said, "Big Deal". Then the Exec. told us that North Korean Communists had
invaded South Korea and it was almost certainty that the United States
would go in and help South Korea. He told us that we were going to get
heavier tanks (we had M 24 tanks). We were also told that some military
personnel claimed that they never swore the allegiance (oath taken when you
enter the service) to the United States when they enlisted in the service
and they did not consider themselves to be in, and wanted out. He then
told us that we will all stand (he also asked is anyone here had not been
sworn in ... no one answered) and repeat the oath of allegiance. We all
stood and repeated the oath after him and every man could be heard. He
watched each of us to see if we were repeating it. We finished and before
we left, he told us that some U.S. troops were already assigned to Korea.
We were dismissed, and it wasn't too long before we found out that the 24th
and the 25th Infantry Divisions were being ordered to Korea. I think one
Division was from Hawaii and the other from Okinawa.
We later got word that we would go down to Yokohama and meet up with
the rest of our Division. We were to become the 31st Tank Company, attached
to the 31st Infantry Regiment (7th Inf. Div.) attached to the X th Corps
(tenth) in Korea. In order to keep the 77th Heavy Tank Battalion active, it
would be kept on paper only. We had a warrant officer in our outfit (I
forget his name) and he was to become the entire 77th Tank Battalion. He
was the Commanding officer, the First Sergeant and the entire cadre and man
of the outfit. We got a kick out of that, because he could not be promoted.
He was the commanding officer, and he could promote any one he wanted to,
but he couldn't promote himself, so he was stuck. The famous "Catch 22". We
got larger M4 (medium) tanks in Yokohama, and we stayed in Tokyo, Yokohama
area until the crews were accustomed to the new tanks. We left Yokohama on
ships and I believe that they floated around the Pacific ocean and the East
China Sea for a week, before we came into the waters of the Yellow Sea. Its
was easy to see why they named it the Yellow Sea, because that's just the
way it looks. At some time, I heard or read that it was sulphur deposits on
the bottom of the sea that makes it the Yellow color. During that time on
the ship, one of our guys (we called him "Whittie") heard me say something
about "China Doll" (a Japanese girl that I was seeing a lot of during our
stay in Yokohama). He asked me if I was seeing her,and I said yes, he
started to laugh, and that he was seeing her too. I told him that he
couldn't have been seeing her because I was at her place every night. He
said " I know you were, but I was there during the day". I couldn't believe
it,but soon it sank into my head, and we both laughed like crazy about how
stupid I was, thinking that she was my girl, and how easy I had the wool
pulled over my eyes.
The United States Navy blasted the hell out of Inchon before we
landed. It seemed odd that they were shelling and shelling Inchon. I
thought they all must be dead or left the city by now, but they kept
blasting away at the North Koreans. The big Navy guns would fire, it seemed
very odd to wait a few seconds before you could see the shells explode.
You could hear the shell take off, but you couldn't heard them when they
landed. You could just see the explosion, and wait for the sound. Every
outfit was assign a "WAVE" (every time the landing crafts leave the big
ships to take troops to the shore, that is called a "WAVE"). I believe the
navy may have shelled Inchon all night. It was September the 16th, 1950,
and we were waiting for our Wave to go into the L.C.T's ( Landing Craft
Troops) which hold about twenty to thirty men. We knew the Marines had gone
in on the first Wave, that's the worst of all. You don't know what's in
front of you on the first wave. We were told that it was coming up to our
time to disembark, and the order came "Over the side". We left the ship on
the side that was facing Inchon. We went over the railing and climbed down
the rope nets that seemed almost as wide as the ship. You didn't have to
wait for the guy under you to climb down, as the net was so large you could
climb around him and pass him on either side going down into the L.C.T.. I
found that the best way to get down the nets was to rely on your hands and
arms to hold you and use them mainly to get down in a hurry, because if you
try to climb down like it was a step ladder, your feet could slip and pass
through the net and then you have to wait and pull your leg out from the
other side. One of the things that you are told is to get down that damn
net as fast as you can because you were exposed to enemy fire on the net.
Once we were inside the Landing Craft we could not see the shore line any
more, as the sides of the L.C.T. were above our heads, and I was just as
glad because I knew that we were out of the line of fire. We were all
standing in the L.C.T. and there wasn't much talk going on. None of us
young guys knew what to except (I was 18 years old, and turned 19, on the
22nd of September, before we left the Inchon, Seoul (Soul) area. The front
ramp went down on the L.C.T. and when we got on shore and looked around,
the entire city had been blasted all to hell. Our ship had pounded them all
night before we landed. Some building were standing, but it looked like a
big used brick yard. We were not under fire when we landing but the line
was just a little ahead of us as you could hear the firing. We regrouped on
shore an hiked inland.

George E Goebel,
Corporal - Cook
31st Regimental Tank Company (Co A 77th Tk Bn)
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

My broken leg. SSG J Griffin

We where given a two week leave, before our departure to Viet Nam. Sgt
Parrett and I where screwing around. I told him I could break boards with
my hands. He didn't believe me. He grabbed a piece of one inch pine, and
said "Lets see you break this. He held it up, and I hit it with my hand and
broke it, I also hit him in the eye, it swelled, and started turning blue.
He was really upset and told me he would get me later. What a way for a
poor guy to go home.
We returned from leave. The next day I was walking down the steps of our
barracks, there was Sgt. Parrett with a fire extinguisher pointed at me. He
turned it on and I was swept off my feet. I started falling down the steps.
When I reached the bottom, I had a severe pain in my leg. Parrett had paid
me back.
I went to the Infirmary. They told me I had broken my leg. They put me in a
room, they said I would be staying until the swelling went down. We were
supposed to leave for Viet Nam the next day. That night, Captain Harrington
came to my room. He told me. that he wanted me to go with our Unit to Viet
Nam. He said, if I didn't go that I would have to retrain with the third
Brigade, and that I wouldn't know anyone.The Third was going over in three
months. Captain Harrington told me, the Doctor had okayed my trip. He
handed me about fifty Darvon, and told me the Doctor wanted me to keep the
leg elevated for twenty four hours. the Doctor put my leg in a cast and
gave me some crutches.
The next day, at Pete Field, we loaded into the C141 Starlifters. We
started our trip to the Nam. I found a seat and soon realized there was
nowhere to lift my leg, and the seat in front of me was two inches from my
leg. We took off. After awhile my leg starting hurting pretty badly. The
Darvon did not seem to work. After eight hours my leg was really swelling
up, and the pain started to get intense. We finally landed at Danang, Their
were incoming rounds hitting the Landing Strip. The Captain of the plane
said, "I'm going to the end of the runway, and taking off again. I'll lower
the ramp. Grab your gear and jump off". You guys remember that. I grabbed
my crutches and duffle bag and made it to the end of the plane. I jumped
and hit the runway hard. I was laying their with the rest of you. No
weapons. I thought we would all be killed.
We moved over to Wunder Beach. It was nearly impossible to walk in the
sand. The next day
I went to the clinic and asked them to remove the cast, they wouldn't.
The next two weeks was a living hell. The leg was itching constantly. I had
sand fleas and sand in the cast, and it was driving me nuts. I went back to
the clinic to see if they would take the cast off. they said, "no!". At
that moment I saw another GI getting his cast off. His leg was covered in
sores, with maggots eating at the sores. I told my self "That's it, this
thing is coming off". I found a pair of wire cutters and started to work.
After some time, I got the cast off. The first thing I noticed was the
smell, it was rancid. The swelling was also bad. It felt so good to get
that cast off, that I didn't mind everything else.
The next day our M48's arrived. My crew had to push me on board. We left
for wherever. The pain from standing on the gunners seat, was intense. I
decided to spend my time sitting on the Tank Commanders hatch.
About one month latter the pain subsided, and I felt good. Two months
latter I took a trip to Captain Harrington's bunker. I asked the Captain
when the Third Brigade would arrive? He gave me that Captain Harrington
stare, He laughed a little , and told me the Third Brigade was sent to
Germany. I had to laugh a little myself.

Jay Griffin
Alpha Company 1/77 Armor
Alpha 13
Fifth Mechanized Infantry Division
RVN 1968, 1969
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wet cot & trip in the mud......

The Cot:
I recall it was raining- all day. I was taken by truck with others
to a replacement company and shown to a large tent. I entered carrying
gear and an M16. With a quick glance I noticed one cot was unoccupied. It
was in the far left hand corner. I recall 10 or 12 cots in the tent. I
would learn why this cot was the last to be filled in a few moments . I
stepped up a slight grade making my way to the far side of the tent.
Looking down to a dirt floor, I noticed a small run of rain water snaking
through the tent area. I arrived at the foot of the cot and stood looking
over it in poor light. The nylon material appeared quite dark in color. I
noticed a droplet of water, then another and another landing on the surface
of the cot. I raised my eyes upward to the tent roof. It was leaking.
Great! I placed my hand on the cot, wet- ah crap! I looked up, scanning
the ten or so bunks in the tent. All were occupied with lifeless forms of
guys sleeping or they were piled high with gear. I looked back down
thinking, no problem, just move the cot, settle in, get some chow at the
'Mess',..... somewhere? I looked around for the guy who showed me this far,
he was gone? I can't say I expected him to wait for my approval. I place my
gear on the driest area of ground I could find. Attempts were made to
improve the situation by moving the cot left then right. I was unable to
escape all the dripping water. There were several holes in the tent roof,
geezzzzz! Did I remember to bring my congressman's address? The ground was
quite uneven. When repositioning the cot not all legs were supported. Back
to the start location, hmmmm? I went for my gear, removing a shelter half I
covered the cot. For the remainder of my stay I dealt with the dripping
water begrudgingly. A shelter half was modified and rearranged several
times over a week. I was pissed off. The rain kept coming down for days, I
waited. Chow lines were always long. Lots of waiting in the rain. I recall
one morning standing in a 'chow line' with an M16 slung over my shoulder -
butt up- under my poncho. I noticed all the trenches were now filling with
rain water, I wondered how deep they were? These trenches laid between the
tents throughout the company area. As I stood there with water dripping
from my helmet rim, I could see myself diving into one of these trenches as
mortar shells ripped through the area! Geezzzz! How long could I hold my
breath under water: two, three minutes? The battle with dripping rain water
from the tent roof continued but repositioning the shelter half, or poncho
and moving the cot seemed to make me feel better. The water kept coming
down with a drip, drip, drip on the tent within a tent. I tried to keep
track of who was to be leaving the tent next for their unit. I recall
striking up a light conversation with a guy who'd be leaving soon. His bunk
was a dry one. We decided I'd move my gear over just as he was vacating his
bunk. This would have to be timed correctly because I didn't want to miss
my chance for a dry bunk. He did not know what time he was leaving, but it
was to be that day. After the noon mess I had to leave the tent once again
for a trip to the latrine. I noticed his gear was still piled on the cot as
I left through the tent door. I also didn't notice him en route to the
latrine. It was still raining. I returned directly, not wanting to lose
out on a dry bunk. Upon entering the tent I noticed a stranger in a
dripping wet poncho standing next to 'MY' dry bunk! What the ..... !
Another new replacement, how could this be? I was disgusted! I was pissed!
And still the rain kept coming down.....

The trip:
I was instructed to pack up and move out to a deuce and half waiting
out on the muddy company street. Hurry up, and wait! With pack on my back
duffel in hand I started for the truck. The mud was soupy and a light
brown color. The brown ooze came up above my ankles. Arriving at the
truck, I boarded and waited. It was still raining. The driver came around
at some point, stating a bridge had washed out over some 'river', near some
'village' and to get off the truck? 'Crap' ..... just like the army! Pack
it up, move it out! Hurry up back to the tent to wait. The rain had slowed
down to a very light mist. I thought it advisable to remove poncho prior to
climbing down. I stood facing the rear of the truck, removed and draped the
poncho over the tailgate. Placing both hands on the tailgate, swinging one
leg over to engaging a foothold and started my descent. My pack's heavy
weight pulling back and down during this maneuver made me very much aware
of the potential hazard I was about to face. I pushed away from the truck
anyway, and dropped into the mud. Big mistake! My feet landed firmly in
the mud with a loud splat! The weight of a pack and the momentum gained
pushing off the truck sent me sprawling backward into the mud with a hearty
splat. There I rolled back and forth abit liking to a turtle. My helmet had
flown from my head lodging in the light brown glop several feet from where
I lay. Strapped in place by the sternum and hip straps of a very heavy
A.L.I.C.E. pack I disengaged the buckles. Swatting abit, pushing up with
the right hand, I stood. I cursed abit to myself, the mud and the rain. I
quickly looked around, 'who the heck saw this move'? Ah no laughter, good!
I was dripping with this light brown stuff, right down to the finger tips.
Wiping and flinging muck from self I stepped over to retrieve my helmet.
Next to faced the heaviest pack in Viet Nam. Struggled to drag the duffel
from the truck. Grabbing the M16 I started my return trip up the company
street to a leaking tent and wet cot. It was still raining.

SP5 Robert R Rushforth
Company A 1/77 Hq tank section L65/G66
RVN 1968-69
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The push-ups & No ammo.

I don't remember the few days preceding our departure but the day we left I
didn't think that Air Force plane would get off the ground!! I know it was
a
24-25 hour air time flight. The pilot let us go into the cockpit during
flight--what a disappointment--nothing to see but ocean. I do believe we
stopped in the Philippines and Wake Island on the way over. At that time
did
not think much about it but have come to learn if it were not for the brave
Marines defending Wake during WW II things could have been different. The
Marines occupied Wake before Pearl Harbor and lost half their force in
defense with no chance of rescue from the US. I could not believe this when
I heard it but it is true.
Any way it was a long, long flight to Nam. When we landed in Da Nang I
think
it was later afternoon or early evening but the one thing I do remember is
how dam hot it was. I also think we stayed overnight in tents. The
following
morning as we prepared to leave the CO (Harrington?) was checking the
troops
and anyone who had written anything on their helmet camo had to drop for 10
push ups. What a bunch of BS. I was one who had written "Chi Town Hustler"
being from Chicago and yes I had to do push ups..........PUSH UPS IN
NAM?????????? I bet there are not many vets who did that or at least not
many who would admit to it. But I was one and admit I did. When I think of
it to this day it does not sit well.
As we loaded on to deuce and a half's for our trip to Wunder Beach how
ironic is it that we had our 45's but they would not issue ammo. At that
time I think most of us were so scared and apprehensive it wouldn't have
mattered anyhow. I do remember much about Wunder beach and after
sporadically.

SP5 Kevin Dunne
Co A 1/77 3Rd Plt D34
RVN 1968-69
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The canteens ...

August 27th, 1968
Three young men from Fort Carson, Colorado load up on a bus to be
transported to the US Air Force Base in Colorado Springs Colorado, in route
to the Republic of Viet Nam. Tom McCauley, just having celebrated his 19th
birthday days before, Bill Wilburn, 21, and Bob Rushforth, 20. All three
outfitted with fresh green jungle combat fatigues, a compliment of two
changes of clothes, an extra pair of boots, ruck sack and two canteens.
These three volunteer troopers cheerfully prepared to depart Fort Carson,
embarking on a trip that would alter the lives of themselves as well as
their families, loved ones, future loved ones and future ex-loved ones.
What they did know was that they didn't know what they were getting
themselves into.
No civilian starship would be taking them to their destination, but rather
a military cargo ship with web seats facing backwards amidst an array of
military vehicles and combat equipment. First stop would be an air base
somewhere in the state of Washington, then Alaska, Yo Ko Hama (sp) Japan
and finally Da Nang, Republic of Viet Nam.
The landing gear on the aircraft noisily folded beneath the troopers,
sending an uncomforting vibration through each. With smiling faces hiding
their anxiety, they looked at each other, hoisted a canteen and made a
toast to their safe return. It was a toast to be easily recalled 37 years
later by at least one of the three comrades. You see, these three young
and green members of the 5th Infantry Division decided they knew how to
travel in style. With a total of six canteens between them, before
departing Fort Carson, a joint decision was made that water could probably
be found on the air craft, but other liquids would be scarce. Which
creative trooper made the decision on what to put into the canteens has
long been forgotten, but not the contents. It seems these young lads, none
old enough to legally purchase alcohol, topped off their canteens with a
fine mixture of Thunder Bird wine and grape kool-aid. By the time the
craft stopped to refuel in Alaska, the troopers were well on their way.
Three friends departed together with great braggadocio and even greater
innocence. They went to the Republic of Viet Nam, two came back. That's
all there is except for the details.
God Bless You Bill.
TJM

SGT Tom McCauley
Co A 77th AR
Tank 34 Gunner
RVN 1968-69

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