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castleSM.gif (1734 bytes)  Crusader   July 1971 castleSM.gif (1734 bytes)

Duc My, Vietnam   538  Engr. Co.   by:  SP4    Larry G. Zeiler

     Robbing Charlie of his natural sanctuaries and ambush points has been the continuing job of the 538th Engineer Company (Land Clearing)  Most recently this job has taken them to the Duc My Pass, some 20 miles north-east of Nha Trang.  Long a stronghold of enemy activity and considered by many to be the most dangerous stretch of highway in the II Military Region the Duc My Pass was a natural for the land clearers.  The mission called for the clearing of a 150 meter right of way on both sides of the road. 

     A small element of 4 D-7E dozers and a crew of less than 10 men under the leadership of Sergeant Tatom of Salem, Oregon, were detached from the company to set up camp at the foot of the pass.

     The engineers and their machines began immediately the task of cutting away the undergrowth.  Korean security and American air cover were provided to lessen the chance of any possible harrassment by the enemy.

     One of the highlights of the cutting as described by one of the dozer operators, Specialist 4 Jim Binckley of Junction City, Ohio was when "we were caught in a cross-fire of B-40's from the Viet Cong and the return fire from an element of Vietnamese National Police that had been hit on the road.  We had to stop our operations until the firing had ceased."

     After moving as far up the pass as the terrain would permit, the clearing operations were redirected to the nearby perimeters of the Vietnam's Ranger and Artillery Training School in the village of Duc My.

     A somewhat different type problem confronted the engineers here, for at the beginning of the cut, an old unmarked French mine field was uncovered.  Although the 20 foot high bamboo jungle provided little visibility for the operators, the camouflaged mines presented no real alarm.  According to SP4 Gerald E. Vile of Skaneateles, New York "they were all anti-personnel mines so our big dozers had no trouble detonating them harmlessly as we passed over."

     Another problem, which slowed clearing operation came from the bamboo stalks. Specialist 4 Billy Phipps of Potasi, Missouri and Douglas Abbott of Madison, Indiana described how small slivers of bamboo fibers would clog the cooling systems of the dozers causing frequent overheating and time consuming maintenance.

     The overall clearing operation at Duc My by the 538th Engineer Company took approximately two weeks.  Sgt. Tatum and his men were and will always be a necessity, for land clearing continues to be a vital and most important part in securing the II Military Region in Vietnam.


Article submitted by:  Jerry Vile


Published Article Links:


538th Come In

Highway  QL-14      '69

Van Canh     '69

Long Binh               '70

Highway QL-19       '70

Tam Quan District

An Khe Pass            '71

Duc My                    '71

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