Veterans Day Section 2012

A veteran’s experience, Vietnam 1967

I should like to commemorate Veterans Day by remembering a very gallant Marine Corps Artillery unit, Charlie Battery, First Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, commanded by Capt. Rich Guinn (deceased).

They were a part of the First Provisional Artillery Battalion, an outift that had been formed to increase the pressure on North Vietnam. On Feb. 26, 1967, the battalion established a fire base near the village of Gio Linh, located about six kilometers southwest of North Vietnam, on the east coast.

The rest of the First Provisional Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Bill Rice, USMC (deceased), consisted of an Army 175 Gun Battery, (Bravo Battery, 6th Battalion, 127th Regiment), a Marine Rifle Company (Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, Fourth Marines), two Marine tanks, two quad 50 caliber machine guns (vehicle-mounted), and two twin 40 mm guns. The 175 mm guns were for long-range missions into North Vietnam.

This provisional battalion had the distinction of receiving the first incoming artillery from the NVA, in March and April 1967. The firebase received approximately 3,000 mortar rounds since first arriving. However, the first artillery attack on March 20 caught us totally by surprise and lasted for more than eight hours. The unit was fairly well bunkered in by this time due to the mortar attacks, but the thing that saved us was that the Marines of Charlie Battery fired counter-battery fires during the attack. They were firing at muzzle flashes, sounds, crater analysis results and gut instincts.

The battery was equipped with World War II vintage 105 mm howitzers of limited range, but were maneuverable and could get into action quickly. The cannoneers had no overhead protection, and many casualties resulted. The NVA had not anticipated this reaction. Subsequent research after the war revealed that the NVA had assembled an 8,000-man force to attack our position following their artillery fires, and as the result of the counter fires, they called off the attack.

On April 27, 1967, another attack took place, only the NVA had guns with longer range, and our 105s could not reach them. Again, we fired back, and at the end of the attack, Charlie Battery had one serviceable howitzer remaining, resulting in the unit’s replacement the following day. Forty-two members of the Battery ultimately received Purple Hearts for wounds incurred at Gio Linh. Two of them were posthumous.

I stay in touch with several of the Marines from Charlie Battery, but our ranks are thinning and things have not gone well with many of them.

I owe a big debt to all of them.

Jim Jerrell, First Sergeant, Usmc (Ret)


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