WE WERE THERE TOO

It's been over 35 years since I returned from my tour of duty in the "Vietnam Conflict". Since then I have read and watched everything I could find in books and in the media and from my point of view, very little has been presented about the US Army Artillery Units that fought side by side with the Marines in Quang Tri Province and along the DMZ in 1967.

In the northern part of I-Corp along the DMZ, three attached US Army Artillery battalions supported the seven Marine battalions there. They included the 105-mm howitzers of the 40th Artillery, the big 175-mm self propelled guns of the 94th Arty., and of course the Twin 40-mm (Automatic Weapon) (Self Propelled) Dusters of the 1st of the 44th Artillery Regiment. Attached to the 1/44th were the Quad .50s of Battery G of the 65th Artillery and the searchlights of Battery G of the 29th Artillery. All the units mentioned above were deployed along and above Route 9 From Gio Linh in the east to Khe Sanh in the west. Firebases and other points of interest include: Dong Ha, Quang Tri, Cam Lo, Con Thien, Camp J. J. Carroll, The Rockpile, and Khe Sanh, We were there, guarding and patrolling along the infiltration routes of some 50 or more battalions of N.V.A. regular army units positioned in the area just north and south of the DMZ.

By now most of America has some knowledge of the 77 daylong siege of the Marines at Khe Sanh in 1968. It was an important event in the war because of there would be severe psychological damage to the war effort if America lost a major firebase like the French did many years earlier. News correspondents were able to fly in and out of Khe Sanh to tell their stories and the siege was on the nightly news back home (again with little mention of the Army units stationed there).  There have recently been television documentaries on Khe Sanh that did include members of our organization who were stationed there during the siege and lead the relief column that reopened the land route to the base.

Well I for one would like it to be known that there was a longer siege in mid-1967 going on at a place called the Con Thien or "Hill of Angels" from late May to mid-September 1967. Con Thien was being barraged around-the-clock with mortars, rockets, and enemy artillery. The same type of activity was going on at the little known outpost of Gio Linh at the east end of the so-called "McNamara Line". These were much smaller outposts than Khe Sanh and did not have air strips, so it was rare for reporters to get to them and tell our story. Actually I do remember a young Ted Koppel at Gio Linh briefly in early 1967 and I also remember reading an article in the Stars and Stripes in August of 1967; where the reporter mentioned passing the hull of a burnt out tank on his way up to Con Thien. The tank was actually a 1st/44th Duster destroyed when it hit a landmine. (see later chapters for that story)

Very little else has been said or written about these early battles. Compendiums about the Vietnam War do not even have the words; Duster, Quad-50 or Air Defense Artillery (ADA) in their glossaries. I am recording these personal recollections so that I could document these events and my feelings during my tour of duty. Also to give credit where credit is due and hopefully inspire other ADA vets to tell their stories. The following stories are but a few of what happened back in 1966 and 1967. I hope you enjoy them.

-Paul Gronski, 1/44th ADA Dusters

On a personal note, I would like to thank Paul Kopsick, the DQS  Historian, for all his assistance in helping me organize my thoughts and editing my articles and photos.

Next:  My Trip to Vietnam