Trans Wheel

585th Trans Co Vietnam

This page is a collection of stories from members of the 585th Transportation Company, about there time in Vietnam.

Terry Smith
I was a platoon leader (1LT type) at the 585th from November 1968 thru August 1969.

I went through ROTC at the University of Texas at Austin (#2 in the nation in football this year) and entered the Army in September 1968. My first assignment after officer's basic was as a Training Officer at Ft Lewis with an Infantry AIT unit. I volunteered for Vietnam and got it. My first assignment in Vietnam as an Asst Adjutant at Group Headquarters sitting behind a plywood desk, which was not very exciting. I worked for the Colonel, a full bird who really cared about the men. I asked him to be transferred to a unit and I got it. When he told me my request was approved he told me that he wanted a promise - keep the men, and myself, safe. He wouldn't accept "I will do my best", he wanted a solemn promise. One day when we were on a convoy he was overhead in his helicopter and radioed down, "Lt Smith, is that you. You're keeping that promise right?"

At Ft. Lewis I probably learned more than the trainees, which was great for a ROTC trained officer who really stayed in ROTC for the money. My roommate ran the M-60 range, and he taught me the fine art of the M-60 machine gun, which became my weapon of choice. I had one on the jeep and carried it when we went on the patrols around the base.

I went on a lot of convoys. Before my arrival it didn't appear that the lieutenants were there during the night convoys from the Tan My Ramp, so I didn't really feel welcomed at first by the NCO's who were used to running the show. I persisted, as I thought that was our job. I remember when the convoys would leave the ramp, the dispatcher would say over the radio "Restricted Transmission, Wolfpack on the Prowl." I always thought that was cool Of course, a lot of the transmissions were our codes, like wolfpack for convoy, hotdogs for artillery projectiles, and the locations each had some code. We would call checkpoints along the way so the could follow our progress in case we had any problems - the checkpoints were charlie papa alpha, bravo, etc.

The other convoys were the ones to Fire Base Blaze, with Birmingham and Bastogne on the way. We would often have additional security that would join us at Bastogne, including a tank and a couple of APC's, and sometimes even a couple of Cobras overhead. They were nice, but we also had our internal gun trucks and jeeps. My jeep had a .50 cal, I had my M-60 and the jeep driver usually had a M-79. Again we would call the checkpoints, which were girls names like checkpoint Nancy, etc.

I recall my trip home. I missed the last flight in Dallas and slept in the airport terminal. I was awaked by a young hippie type poking me and when I opened by eyes he ran away. A security guard come over to me with his hand on his pistol and said that he had he was watching me and didn't want any trouble out of me. Welcome home. I came home on emergency leave as my mother had a serious operation and was not expected to survive. When I got to the hospital they wouldn't let me see her, and I guess I had enough as I just went back into the ICU and sat down next to her. A dietitian came in right after I got in her room and said that she heard that I was there - must have been a slow news day at the hospital. He sent me a hamburger and a shake and said that if anybody bothered me to call her and I guess she meant it as I saw her arguing outside the room with some gentleman in a suit for quite a while. No one bothered me, but it didn't take long for me to get some civilian clothes. I wasn't permitted to return to Vietnam as I didn't have enough time left before DEROS when I got back to the company, so I got an early out.

Bottom line - the guys at the 585th were great. They did their jobs, and I knew we could depend on them for anything. I was serious about my responsibility and the promise I made to Col. Ti. I am pleased that there were no serious injuries on the convoys I was in charge of, and I am also pleased that I kept my promise to keep myself safe - but it was probably because I had an M-50 over my left shoulder.

I agree with all of the previous comments that you are the finest. You did great jobs and should have a lot to be proud of.

I am now married, for 33 years, and have a son and daughter. My daughter is a dietitian working at the local military hospital. My son owns a bar. My wife is a school teacher. I am a business intermediary and also teach at a local university part-time. I live in El Paso, Texas, as does one of our former 585 members, Richard Verlander. We have had lunch a couple of times and shared photos.

And - that's my story, such as it is. I didn't get to know you guys as I was stuck in the officer's hotch. Yep, I agree about officers, but somebody has to do it. At least I had a better cot, and we had our "exclusive outhouse."

Terry Smith

Jim Lull

I was in the last group of the 585TH, we turned in all of the trucks, trailers and all the rest of the equipment that was assigned to the company. We turned everything in in Da Nang and after that while we were waiting for orders, we were sent to the docks to load and unload ships, the company commander said, what the hell, its all transportation! I was fortunate to be a member of the gun truck crew, I was the last one to drive Born Loser. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to serve with a great crew, but the ones that deserve all of the praise and thanks are the maintenance guys, they worked around the clock to keep all of us on the road each and every day. I can't say thank you enough to those guys. I often think about all those long hot days on the road, that would have been even worse had the mechanics not done such a great job. To all of them, I say thank you, and God Bless You !! You saved more lives than you will ever know . My life changed dramatically during that year, I don't know who I would have been had I not had that experience, but I do know I wouldn't trade that time for anything..

585 till I die!! Jim Lull

Jack Hohenstein 66-67

I got to say that is a great idea. Being one of the Fort Lewis guys was a very distinct pleasure for me as we were young and had some fun.

Also, it seems worth talking about trip over to Viet Nam on the troop ship the General William Wiegel. Do any of the originals guys remember that we were never told where we were going as the mission was secret? (I later learned our mission title was "Counter Offensive Phase II") I was hoping, at the time, for Hawaii. Do you remember sitting on buses in the out skirts of Oakland International Airport? Do you remember the sea sick folks, four man high bunks, and the salt water showers, etc., etc., etc. All our memories count for something - like it or not, we all are a part of world history.

In addition to sharing the many personal memories of when "We Were Soldiers Once And Young", why not also fill us in on what in your life happened after the war, after the Army, what were your dreams, what were your pursuits in life, which dreams came true, and what you are up to now.

Sharing memories, hopes, current aspirations, and other personal things might be fun. I'd love to know what you guys have been doing; the good, the bad, and unfortunately the unfortunate.

If you want, I can try and get things started, but I warn you my life was and is rather boring.

What do you all think?

Remember always, all of you, you are and were the best America had and has to offer!

You're the best.

Jack Hohenstein 66-67

P.S. For instance, I was 130 pounds then and am 245 pounds now!

Ed Duff

Do you remember a guy named Duff with the original group at Lewis? That be me. My platoon was the platoon that was TDY at Phan Rang supporting the air base and the 101st for aver 4 months. Were you with us at Phan Rang? So many of the guys I don’t recall except the Phan Rang group. Good to hear from you. I will recount some of the past as I recall and as time permits. As far as weight, I went over weighing 185 pounds and discharged from Valley Forge Hospital at a whopping 135 pounds. USS Wiegel was KP every other day. There are plenty of stories about that first group over there.


Ed Duff

Paducah, KY

Jim Marcille

Speaking of stories, does anyone remember when we had to shoot up an entire trailer load of beer due to the fact that the full trailer had slipped off the road and overturned late in the afternoon? We salvaged what we could put in the jeep and the tractor but had to shoot up the rest due to the fact that all that beer would have hit the black market.
Jim Marcille

Jim Lull

You are right, damn shame to waste good beer in a combat zone. Reminded me of a similar tragedy, sometime around Sept. or Oct '71, the VC blew up a train headed north from Da Nang. They did it just where you start up the road to the Hai Van Pass, headed south from Phu Bai, just after that small village, right along the coast. The real tragedy is that the explosion took out a rail car that was loaded with toilet paper, now that made day to day life real difficult. The little packets from the C-Rations became a valuable commodity, real valuable !! Everybody was writing home asking for emergency care packages to be sent ASAP, because the tracks weren't expected to be repaired anytime soon and Da Nang supply couldn't get a replacement shipment in for several weeks. Now that was hardship in the making

Jim Lull

Wayne Chalker
The end of June '68

Sometime near the end of June or early July ’68, Frank Koseck and I were sent to Tuan An on the coast just east of Hue to pick up some oranges off a refrigerated ship that was too large to make it down the Perfume River to the ‘ramp’. I may not have the name of this place correct, so if any of you remember it by a different name please correct me.

I think it was an unwritten rule if you were ‘short’, than you could get some ‘milk’ runs; in this case it was an orange run; my DEROS was 27July. Frank and I set off to make the most fun of our little adventure early in the morning with our new M-16’s in hand a bandoleer each of mags, and I think Frank may have had a ’79 for good measure.

I should step back a minute and explain Frank to those of you who didn’t know him. Frank loved the Army and war. He always seemed to be itching to get into a fire fight. So it was with some trepidation we made our way up Hwy 1 toward Hue. Of course I was one to always look for a little ‘adventure’, but being with Frank gave me that slight uneasy feeling-kinda what I felt each time I drove through Bong Son down south. I have contacted Frank several time over the years at his home in Michigan. Frank told me he wound up doing five tours in Nam. I don’t know if that was a record, but it must be right up there.

I had never been to Tuan An where these larger ships came in and I don’t think Frank was either. We knew this area wasn’t the safest area during and after TET, but we didn’t dwell on that too long. On the way, Frank had the idea to stop at this little ‘ville’ a short distance outside of Hue and have some fish. The ville consisted of two or three shacks that stood right next to the dirt road we were on. There was a body of water in back of the ville, but I don’t remember if it was an inlet or the S. China Sea. In either case, we knew we could get some prawns here.

‘Locked and loaded’ we marched into the shack and there was a ‘mamma-san’ squatted down eating some wonderful looking prawns. I noticed she was dipping the prawns into a little porcelain bowl with a mixture of salt, pepper, and lemon. On my trips back in ’06 & ’07 I learned this is a favorite way of eating prawns for the Vietnamese.

Frank and I, with the help of some sign language, indicated we would like some prawns. ‘Mamma-san’ indulged us and prepared some of these succulent little devils. While she was doing this, I noticed she once or twice nervously looked at a curtain that led to a rear room. There was that ‘uneasy’ feeling again. I’m not sure if Frank noticed her nervousness or what she looked at, but I wasn’t going to volunteer any information for I knew if I did we would be behind the curtain in a heart-beat. I have always wondered who or what was in the other room.

We made it out to the deep water dock area and loaded on to our flatbeds dozens of boxes of the most beautiful navel oranges I had ever seen. I think it was a rare occasion when we had any fresh fruit back at the compound, so naturally we had to stop on our way back and sample these beauties. I remember filling every pocket of my jungle fatigues plus the inside of my truck. I was thinking the guys in the first platoon were going to feast on oranges tonight.

As we got back into Hue, Frank and I had to stop because of the dust; we just couldn’t see each other. When the dust cleared, we both noticed about six kids had jumped onto our flatbeds and were throwing off our precious cases of oranges. We both got out of our trucks M-16’s in hand thinking we would scare these kids. Well it didn’t work at first. Frank said something to the effect, “watch this.” He let loose with a ‘burst’ in the air. This caught the kids attention and they scattered, but not out of sight.

We jumped back into our trucks and didn’t stop until we got to where ever we were dropping the oranges off (I think the Seabees). This was one of those little stories I never forgot. For sure, everyone in the 1st Platoon got their daily vitamin C allowance that day and we learned the Vietnamese love oranges too.

Wayne Chalker

Jim Lull

That it was, we hauled hundreds of 55 gal. drums out of there, as well as various other supplies. I remember waiting to load up there and there seemed to be drums as far as you could see, well maybe not quite that far but ther sure was one hell of a lot of them. I later found out that most of them had chemicals ( agent orange) as well as many other chemicals in them. We had to load our own trucks and with the usuall youthful exuberance we would slice the sides of some of the drums open with the forks on the forklift and some of the contents would blow back onto who ever was driving and anyone else standing around. I also found my little dog in the bottom of one of those drums, I guess one of the civilian workers was saving him to take home for dinner.Real glad I found him first, I named him "G.I. Joe" I thought would be a good name, after all he turned out to be a real trooper. He use to ride in my truck with me ever day and seemed to love it. Over the weekend I found my best friend, Jim McCarthy, on Face Book and I called him last night we talked for a long time. He reminded me of one crazy night in Quang Tri, a night when sappers got into the ammo dump a strarted blowing the place up. We were sent up there to hook up to any trailers that were loaded and move them out, never mind rolling up the legs, just get them out of there. We made about three trips in and out of there before it was just no use any more. It was so nasty that guys in the guard towers were jumping out of those 50ft. towers just to try and escape all of those explosions, one real bad night. Our hooches were about a quarter of a mile down the road from the ammo dump and the shock waves blew our hooches apart. We lived in a half of a drainage culvert while we rebuilt the hooches at night after a long day on the road. Gave me a whole new appreciation for being able to sleep up of the ground, no creepy crawlers, few contact with the rather large rats that thought that it was their home not ours. You wanted to hear more stories about the day to day life in the 585, well I think that this not only gives a little insight to the living conditions, but also the courage that these guys had and never flaunted it, Heroes on and all.

585th always, Jim Lull

Wayne Chalker

The Colonel is right, when I was on the Gun Truck, we use to test fire our weapons just after we passed that village. I'm sure it was to remind those people not to mess with the convoys, as we passed the village the people would come out and line the road and just stand there staring at us, I always had an uneasy feeling about that. I figured that after the convoy moved on they signaled ahead that we were on our way. Never had a good feeling about the people in that village.

On Tue, Mar 9, 2010 at 10:26 AM, Wayne & Marilyn Chalker wrote:

I think the name of that village is Lang Co and I have some good video of it from my ’06 trip. There is now a tunnel through the Bach Ma Mountain, or whatever it’s called, and comes out at Lang Co where it joins Hwy 1 going north.

I have a full bird Colonel friend who was with the 101st in ’68 and said he was in a convoy going north through Lang Co when a bunch of unarmed young men attempted to stop their convoy. A “show of force” was needed to get through. It sounds like Lang Co was not the friendliest ville in VN.

Wayne Chalker

Vietnam, The Trip Over, by Ed Duff

The trip over on the USNS General William Weigel introduced me to ship KP every other day. This was late September of 1966. I worked the serving line. I was one of the lucky ones that didn't get seasick. As we served we could see those guys that were having a rough time of it. As we served, we would sway back and forth and up and down together and sing, "up and down, back and forth". It wasn't uncommon the see someone break from the line to go puke. Especially when the serving vessels were sloshing against the sides. The place where we slept was way below in a big room fitted with hanging bunks of 4 or 5 high, linked together with chains. Yep, I did get lost down there among the many steel grating steps. I can say, when someone got sick down there the smell would create a chain reaction. Yep, puke will drip through the air holes in a cap. On day when the sea was calm, I stretched over the railing to see a layer of puke stuck to certain places along the hull. I am glad that I had KP. We ate as much as we wanted and wasn't bored. When the side doors of the mess hall were open and the ocean view was exposed, sliding across the water listening to radio out of Hawaii, it was close to Heaven, simply beautiful.

Now, salt water showers were another story. We were told that we were using special soap for salt water. As I recall, there was no lather, just gummy roll up of stuff off of the skin surface and a rinse. As I passed guys heading to the shower for the first time, I just grinned real big. The days off was spent listening to the "pink, pink, pink" all day long with guys making rings by tapping on the edge of a coin with a mess hall spoon. Dang, all day long, "pink, pink, pink". But what else was there to do?

The trip over on the USNS General William Weigel lasted about a month with a stop at Okinawa on October 12, 1966. You are probably thinking how good of a memory I have. Not the case. It was my 21st birthday as I sat there drinking a beer in a local bar. The irony about this is that I couldn't buy beer at Ft. Lewis anywhere because I wasn't 21. So now that I became "of age" it didn't make a bit of difference any longer. Thanks Uncle Sam for the BS at Ft. Lewis with the beer thing. We had been given about six hours to explore the coastal city of (I don't know) and then get back on ship to sail on. A few days out of Okinawa, a few of the guys were having trouble at the urinal. They had caught the Clap from that six hour "tour" and I didn't have a clue about that. Even that I had just turned 21 years of age, there were a lot of things I hadn't been exposed to or think of and that was just one of them. Somewhere between San Francisco and Okinawa the seas got really rough, a storm. The order was for everybody to go below while the crew started buttoning down the doors and hatches. It got rough. It felt as if we were bouncing around like a cork. Another sound on a mental replay was the changing sound of the propellers when they slapped the top of the water as the ships stern raised.

After about 5-7 days out of Okinawa we dropped anchor off of the coast of, what we were told, Vietnam. It was a beautiful afternoon when we stopped. The sun was shining, the sky was blue with soft floating clouds and a slight breeze kept my face cool. We were eventually told that we were letting off troops the next morning and proceeding to the next coastal stop. We would be the third drop-off on the third morning. The breeze was still blowing as the sun began to disappear. We headed to the mess for chow. I didn't have KP any longer. After chow we went up to the deck to enjoy the breeze and fresh air vs. below deck with stale air. As we looked out toward the coast it started to look like the 4th of July scattered all over the land. I just didn't get it. I just didn't know. My brain started to process what was going on with the help on different commentaries surrounding me. I was thinking, "Holy crap!" I went to bed very late that night with little trouble falling to sleep. I was very tired. The next morning was another beautiful day just like the day before. Looking toward the coast displayed a picture of calmness and serenity. This was a contradiction of the night before. A little anxiousness began to creep in.

We pulled up anchor and headed down the coast. I am thinking down the coast because the coast was to my right as we proceeded. The day was a rerun of the previous day and guys were starting to talk more about the unknown in Nam. Than night was the same, 4th of July everywhere. The next group got off the ship the next morning and loaded onto the troop landing craft. We waved good bye to them as they motored off. They landed on the coast just far enough that details couldn't be picked out but I knew they were there. We pulled up anchor one more time and headed down the coast again, realizing that we were next. Someone said that we were getting off at CamRahn Bay the next morning and that it was a secure base. That was a relief, sort of. After chow that night, on deck again watching. "Damn, the 4th of July again. Secure my ass", I thought. Litherland (my best buddy) and I leaned against the ship's railing dragging on a cigarette acting unafraid. I never did ask him what he was really thinking that night.

The next morning came swiftly and before we realized it, we had our weapon, ammo and gear ready to depart. We ramped down to the landing craft and stood in the bottom, not being able to see out over the high sides. It was exactly like the boats that are seen in the WWII movies where the front ramp flops down and the guys start charging out firing their weapons to reach cover. Or worse yet, be left floating in bloody water until washed ashore or out to sea. That is a hard image to scrub out of the brain as we approached the coast. Not many were talking during that trip and mostly could hear the motor putt putting. There wasn't enough time to let my life go before me before I could hear the sand scraping the bottom of the boat. By this time of the day it was getting very hot. I knew anytime that door would flop down and we would be in a fight. I am not sure about anyone else but I had my rifle tightly gripped at port arms, thinking, "This is it."

The boat driver began to let the ramp cables unwind and the front ramp began to expose a land view. As it flopped to the sandy beach we kind of marched out toward an incline and a roadway without even getting our feet wet. Shocker number three of hundreds was an army bus waiting to transport us to our company area. The driver yelled, "You guys with the 585th, hop in." There he set, wearing a t-shirt with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve and ball cap setting back on his head with no weapon to be seen. Here we go.

Ed Duff

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