QuarterHorse Stories

THE TRIP - From Ft. Riley to Vietnam - Pre AP Bau Bang I

As told by Bill Baty

A Troop, 1/4th Cavalry - Mar 65-Oct65

They put us through something akin to Ranger Training at Ft. Riley during the months leading up to deployment. Booby Traps, Escape and Evasion, Live firing on the ranges, Patrolling, Geneva Convention, First Aid, Individual and Crew served weopons training. We spent most of our time in the field. Around August 65 they brought us back into garrison and we prepared our TOE for Shipping. We cleaned everything several times then carefully wrapped it in sticky stuff. One night at the NCO club on Cavalry Hill I won a double barrel 12 gauge Shotgun and I stuck it in the tube of my 4.2 mortar before we wrapped it. Someone either saw me do it or they checked everything closely because it wasn't there when we unwrapped the mortar in Vietnam. Finally in late August they gave us leave to take our POV's home and say our farewells to family and friends. When we returned to Riley we stood numerous inspections with emphasis on personal equipment serviceability and accountability. Had a couple parades and then boarded the Train for a fantastic ride from Ft. Riley to Oakland, CA.

19 year old SGT Bill Baty taken at Camp Funston, Ft. Riley, KA just prior to Shipping out to RVN

The day before we arrived an announcement was made that we could expect protestors trying to stop the train when we neared the terminal so we were eagerly hoping to see our first blood. The protestors must have been forewarned that we weren't going to stop even if they were lying on the tracks cause they didn't show. All went well as we loading onto the USNS Sultan and got assigned our bunks and compartments. After that there really wasn't much to do except go up on deck and take in the sights. Sorta like going on a nice cruise compliments of the Army and Navy. We left the terminal and cruised by Alcatraz, San Francisco (I left my heart, in), The Golden Gate Bridge and into what had to be some of roughest water on earth. There was aft to stern puke. In the stairwells, latrines, on deck....everywhere, even the mess hall. The Navy probably still tells stories about those tough Army GI's who nearly didn't make it to Vietnam thanks to the sweet smell of salt water. How rough was it??? Well I tell you, at one point in time the ship's Captain ordered everyone inside except for the swabs and they battened the hatches behind us. I'd always heard that you don't have to worry on a ship unless you heard the propellers slapping water. I remember lying there for two days and nights listening to the props as they left the water and then mercifully began churning again. Prior to entering the Army, I worked in a rendering factory so I considered myself as having a cast iron stomach. I did fine until one day about two weeks into our journey. I was the projectionist for Troop A and while on board ship our training continued. It was a hot muggy day and on tap for that day's training was a "First Aid" training film. I went into the projection room and got the film rolling and it had the most realistic scenes I had ever seen. Spurting blood, exposed broken bones, gushing eye and mouth wounds. And the ship rocked, and it got hotter and hotter in that little room. I almost lost it. I made my way to the deck and fresh air real quick. After two weeks the seas calmed and it began to feel like a vacation cruise again. We enjoyed watching the porpoises, jelly fish, flying fish, playing cards and reading dirty books. Who knows where they came from but it seemed like everyone had one. We customarily met up on deck everyday to exchange porno books for one we hadn't seen. This was very upsetting to the Chaplain and it finally came to a head one day when he got on the ships intercom and chastised everyone for their choice of reading material. He ended by saying, "Just read them, read them until your sick of them and want to throw them over the side of the ship". I felt a little guilty after his talk and gave all my books away. A few days later I got bored and started asking my circle of friends for some reading material. Not a one of them would give me anything and I didn't have a single thing to trade. Fortunately for me, we arrived at Subic Bay, Philippines about this time and were given passes to go ashore provided we stayed on the base. I enjoyed one night of freedom spent entirely at the Chiefs Club with friends. My Mortar Section crews consisted of all three mortar platoons and they really did a great job of sticking together. One of them was a recent newly wed and his young bride was in her 8th month of pregnancy. He took quite a bit of ribbing from his fellow mortar men but it was always good natured. On our first night of freedom in two weeks, they settled in at the post Bowling Alley and drank enough beer for everyone on the ship. Everything went well until in walks this beautiful young lady who must have been 7-8 months along. Out of respect for Mac, no one said anything but there was a group of Marines in the bowling alley who, according to my entire section, verbalized the poor women, so Mac went to her rescue closely followed by my entire section. I'm told they wrecked the place. The Shore Patrol apprehended most of my people except Givens who didn't stop running until he reached the open sea. He then stole a boat and paddled across Subic Bay landing near a small village. Thinking he was in Vietnam already, he proceeded to single handedly assault the village until the local authorities arrived and bundled him up. All my people were placed under ship arrest and I immediately went to the top of the duty roster for CP duty which lasted for the remainder of our stay at Subic Bay. We left the Philippines and headed across the South China Sea for Vietnam. The adrenaline started flowing and everyone was on edge. I'm not quite sure what was done to make the Ships Captain mad, but one day he got on the intercom and read us the law. Something about the Captain of a ship at sea was next to God in authority and pretty much convinced us that if our attitudes didn�t improve he would have us all thrown overboard, or words to that effect.

Our first view of Vietnam pulling into Vung Tau...Getting ready for the trip to Bein Hoa AB

Upon our arrival we were loaded with personal gear onto Landing craft and taken ashore, just like in the movies, at Vung Tau. Then loaded onto waiting trucks and moved to Bein Hoa where we were reunited with our TOE. We had the privilege spending the next several nights in a Vietnamese Cemetery while we unpacked and cleaned our equipment. It was in this cemetery that I was introduced to the largest scorpion I have ever seen. It was jet black and bigger than your hand. Evil looking thing. When everything was ready we did our first Vietnam convoy from Bein Hoa to Lai Khe.

(Lai Khe from the air)........................(Lai Khe from the air)


Upon arrival we spent the next week digging in.


Lai Khe - The way we found it in 1965.......PVT Neeldner volunteered to fill all the sandbags!!


Kampfert doing a small job for 1SG Pepe.......Consolidated A Trp Mortar Positions

The engineers came over with their bulldozers and dug out large holes to park our APC's in. We set up tents among the rubber trees, surrounded them with sand bags and were finally introduced to cobras, monsoons and our constant enemy, the communist ants (Reds). All three mortar sections were placed together at south end of the runway and we did daily fire missions and established new registration points. We began to slowly settling into our new way of life. Remember "Hot and Dry or Hot and wet" weather.


Ukn, Warne, Dempsey and Pullen.......A Trp Billeting area


1SG Pepe and OR personnel clean weapons.......SSG Noelder wondering where Kampfert is?

Personal hygiene was a top priority. We took baths in everyway from helmet liners to digging holes in the ground, then lining them with our ponchos and filing the hole with water. The rains became a favorite time. You jump outside with a bar of soap and in a few minutes you'd be sparkling clean. At night when most sane people were sleeping, we were up enjoying live fire demonstrations, (sure relieved the stress). Our favorite target was the old water tower which sat almost directly out from our position. All the APC's along that perimeter used the tower for target practice. I always hoped it would fall while we were firing but it withstood many .50 caliber and M-14 attacks before it finally fell. (after I was gone). When we weren't busy firing at shadows we had great times on guard duty. One of our Infantry Squad leaders was a Samolian named SSG Joe Kekepi.

Cavalry Scout Extraordaneer!

He was a Korean War veteran with Silver Star so all we young NCO's listened and hung onto his every word. Some of his more popular teachings were: 1. When posting a young troop on guard, and your not sure if he will stay awake, hand him a hand granade and pull the pin out. Tell him you'll put the pin back in when you return. 2. Same scenario, tell him in a serious tone, that you'll be attempting to sneak up on him while he's on guard, and if your successful, you'll cut his throat and claim the VC did it. 3. Use every weapon at your disposal. When SSG Kekepi ran out of ammo during a fire fight, he would commandeer the driver's seat of his APC and run the enemy down using his vehicle as a weapon. 4. When in a fire fight using his .50 caliber, you could hear him anywhere on the battle field screaming "yahoo" at the top of his lungs. He said this unsettled the enemy giving him the advantage of firing first. Our favorite mentor of course was First Sergeant Michael Pepe. 1SG Pepe was "Cavalry" clean through. He ate nails for breakfast and washed them down with gasoline. He spit them out at anything that got in his way during the day. It was quietly spoken in back rooms and places of loneliness that 1SG Pepe should have been retired with the last horse from active duty. Back at Riley 1SG Pepe's office was adjacent to the orderly room and the CO's office was off to one side with a doorway into 1SG's office and another door that had been build leading outside. Although we rarely had any extra time we used to hang around the orderly room in hopes that one of the young 2nd Lieutenants would enter the orderly room and attempt to access the CO's office by going thru 1SG Pepe's office. Everyone feared confrontation with 1SG Pepe but all who knew him respected him because while he was strict and verbally gruff, he was fair. On more than one occasion he passed on some of his valuable knowledge and wisdom to this young and eager NCO and I can recall him picking my 190 pound body up and shaking it to get his point across at least on one ocassion. He is one of the finest Troopers I have ever known. I hope he checks in someday because I've lost track of him. We made it through the first 30 days without a single casualty except for 2lt Snaverly who was stung by two scorpions hiding in his fatigue shirt when he put it on one morning.

(Mess Kit washing machine)

Life was mostly digging in deeper and learning to live with the weather and red ants. We left the comforts of Lai Khe several times participating in operations like Hopscotch, Viper and Hump, and while we were fortunate enough to be casualty free, others weren't. The body bags became a common sight lying along the airfield. It was a sight no one ever got used to. Somebody up above was looking out for us because in early Nov we received a shipment of metal plates which when assembled, protected the TC on three sides. Problem is, they didn�t send along the mounting devices for these wonderful shields. So we assembled them and "placed" them into position facing forward. This at least provided some protection from incoming but restricted the rotation of the .50 caliber machine guns. We were also told to fill sand bags and cover the floor of our APC's with them which would soften any land mines we ran across. Then we were told to fill sand bags and place them around the top edge of our APC's so that when we exposed ourselves we would have a sand bag between us and the enemy. Now the M-14 was a fine weapon, as long as it was clean. Lessons learned: A bullet ripping into a sand bag throws sand all over the place. One grain of sand in the right place and an M-14's only use is as a baseball bat. Lessons Learned to late: never discard unused mortar round charges onto the floor of the APC. It makes a hell of a fire when/if ignited. Throw them outside. Mortar firing tables were designed with distance in mind. They didn't make any provisions for close in firing. We learned soon after arrival in country that we needed to elevate the mortar tube almost vertical using sandbags or empty ammo boxes in order to fire close in "illumination, WP and HE" fire missions.

A Troop lining up at Lai Khe on 10 Nov 65

In early Nov 1965 A Troop left Lai Khe with a road clearing task force made up of different elements of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. About 5 miles north of Lai Khe, we pulled off Highway 13 in a logger NDP. The next morning s Alpha Six pulled back onto the road a mine was detonated blowing up harmlessly but barely missing his APC. CPT Hubbard was a fine Officer and he had seen that we all were trained well, but that day he did a foolish thing. He exited his vehicle and picking up the wires that had been attached to the mine, he began following them into the underbrush alongside the road. When he came to a point where grass had overgrown the wire, he yanked on it setting off a personnel mine which severely wounded him. He became our first WIA and was air-evac'd out. lLT Garcia, the XO, became Acting Commander of A Troop. We continued our road clearing operation. We soon learned another valuable Lesson: never ride on top of an APC unless you prefer a sniper bullet to dying of heat exhaustion. We lost PFC Benjamin Costello, Infantry Squad, that day as he became our first KIA.

The seemingly peaceful hamlet of Ap Bau Bang, 11 Nov 65

About mid-day we arrived at the hamlet of Ap Bau Bang where we provided mounted guard duty for task force personnel performing "Civic Action" duties. Our medics administered to anyone who needed medical aid and we passed out c-rations and chewing gum mostly to children. There was a noticeable absence of men in the village but we had been briefed that the VC had forcibly recruited most of the able bodied men from that area into their ranks. Little did we know that they were nearby and waiting for the opportunity to launch an attack. Sometime prior to midnight a couple mortar rounds were sent into our perimeter, The first battle of Ap Bau Bang was about to begin.

Battle of Ap Bau Bang (1) 12 Nov 65

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