Jun 22, 2021


The recent tornado in Naperville made me think about a major storm that hit us back in the day.


A typhoon ripped apart Hill 327 near Danang in Vietnam in October 1970. All of the buildings and much of our equipment was destroyed. We hid out in bunkers and metal vans during the storm. Most of the valley below was flooded. 

The storm actually dropped down below Typhoon strength by the time it hit DaNang, but the winds were very high on top of Hill 327. And I love the word typhoon.

We knew the storm was coming. We sent most of the troops off the Hill down to low ground and tried to windproof or take down our equipment.  The rest of us wore our helmets and flack jackets and got into bunkers. Three of my Marines and I got into a metal radio van. 

We of course had to open the door and watch the storm coming. Young and invulnerable. Very impressive. The winds built up and built up.

WHAM!  The roof of the building connected to our van blew off. We shut the door for a minute, then of course looked out again. Things were flying through the air. A metal stake impaled itself on a telephone pole.

When the eye of the storm moved in we walked out and surveyed the damage. The air had a very weird feel, kind of yellow and still and felt odd. We could see the buildings on the Hill were all ruined.

After ten minutes or so the storm built up again and we retreated back to the van. After it was over we worked fast to get our systems back online. All the air control and helo and fixed wing support for the infantry went through our radios, and until we got them fixed the infantry could not get air support.

The storm destroyed every building. After the storm we moved the troops down to the flat land below. We just kept a skeleton crew working the systems commuting to the Hill, and a small security force guarding the perimeter. The commute up and down the Hill took 45 minutes on a truck, knocking your teeth around.

I would not put up with that commute so I continued to live on the Hill.  I found a partially destroyed hootch that still had some of its roof and moved in. It was at a crazy angle so I slept on about a 30 degree angle. I would just go down to the flat land every week or so to get cleaned up and get clean clothes and eat a decent meal - C-Rats and water on the Hill.

I was in my ruined hootch when two AK-47 rounds snapped by very close. I rolled on the floor with my rifle and pistol ready for the attack, but no attack came. Don't know who was shooting or where they came from.

The big storm flooded enormous expanses of the ground below - Places that were normally dry land looked like lakes. NVA who had been able to hide in below ground tunnels had to come out to high ground. The Korean Marines tooks this opportunity to kill many NVA, flying to hilltops for assaults.

Life was a bit lonely on the Hill, with very few people around. Nothing to read or listen, or watch, except the great view. A time to think. Living like hermit.

I had a panormana view of the surrounding area. At night you could watch firefights in the valley. The tracer rounds looked like fast fireflies.  Often the rounds were in one directrion only, meaning the Marines were shooting with no one returning fire. When you say red tracers flying in one direction and green in another direction you were watching a real firefight.

Puff the Magic Dragon would then often show up. This was a slow transport aircraft with mini guns.  When it fired there was a stream of tracer rounds going to the ground, with a sound that was continuous. Incredible firepower. 

We had four outlying units, and I visited them frequently. I would catch a helicopter in the morning and run up to Birmingham Fire Support Base and Quang Tri, checking on my troops and making sure they had what they needed. Then the Helo would come back to DaNang.

In the afternoon I would catch a Helo to An Hoa and Chu Lai, and check up on our Marines there. Beautiful flights.  All the doors and windows were out on the Helicopters so you could shoot out.  It was cool with the wind rushing.

Some of the pilots would fly very high, and some very low. The low flights were the most exciting. They would run just above the trees and telephone poles. The ride always seemed very fast when you were low. Some photos below.

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