QuarterHorse Stories

MIRACLE ON HIGHWAY 13 - SEPTEMBER 1968

as related by Steve Determan - A Troop 67-68


There are no atheists on the battle field. John Conley, A Troop CO, 67-68


John,
Funny you should mention writing a book, so am I. I am trying to get the son of the writer who wrote "The Killer Angels" which they made into a movie "Gettysburg" . The writer is Jeff Sharra. He has written two more books after his father died in 1988. His fathers name was Michael Shaara. Anyway I am trying to contact him to write a history novel about the 1/4 Cav 67-68 and those fun times we had. I say that with sarcasm. My son is also a writer. he is still looking for a publisher to publish his book. Next topic Miracle on Highway 13. This occurred about September 1968, North of Quan Loi. We, (2nd Plt), were tasked to escort a portable bridge up to Loch Ninh. Don't know if I spelled that name right. We had just our complete crew for alpha 22 Track Acav. Up until then we had a crew of three. Our other gunner was with A22 for one day and was wounded outside Thu Duc the same day that the lead tank lost their T.C. and their Gunner. This happened late in the afternoon 30 mar 68. My track was right behind the lead tank about 300 yards. I jumped off my track and hit the ground at a dead run seconds after they were hit. When I got there they still wanted to shoot , and at me!! They would not let me get on the Tank. I went around to the back of the Tank, all the while praying to God the tank driver didn't back up. I finally got inside the tank after 3 or 4 tries. The Gunner was dead at my feet. This day my T.C. recommended my for the Bronze Star with V device. I received it after I was wounded in May 68. Sorry got side tracked. Continuing the story. So the new Gunner was shopping at the P.X. at Quan Loi. We had to move out. We left him there at Quan Loi. We went up Hwy 13 with the tracked portable bridge to replace the one the V. C. had blown up the week before. We got to this stretch of road that dipped down and curved left, a perfect ambush site I thought. We were all on high alert. Why only 2 Acavs were sent I will never know. No tank for additional firepower. As we went into this place no fire enemy contact. We traveled further up the road North about 5 miles. Then suddenly we got hit from our left, light ak47 fire. We didn't stopped but barreled thru as we had been briefed early on about how the enemy liked for Acav's to stop and fight it out. And we dumb Americans were in the Kill Zone. So in 1965 and 66 1/4 cav had learned not to stop and fight it out but to keep going. So about 10 or 15 mile further up we finally got to Loc Ninh. Dropped off Portable Bridge and turned around for our return trip. As we approached the area of last contact and attempted ambush we tensed up ready for anything. The enemy realized they weren't going to stop us with small arms fire. So they knew we would be back. They waited patiently and heard our tracks coming. This time they(The Enemy) opened up with RPG's. the 1st one came in in front of the lead track. It might have been A21 track. It fell right on the road 50 yards in front of the moving lead track. The next (2nd RPG) came in a fell short 50 yds next to lead track on the right side blowing dirt all over. Meanwhile my track, last, was fast coming up to the kill zone. Next another RPG came roaring in over our heads and blew up 50 to 100 yards on our left, over the road. Now this is where it gets interesting. Now at this time my T.C., SSGT Pheltz, turned down and yelled at me. By the way, I habitually rode on the left side of the track, and Jumped down when we had action. I had already moved to right side of track by this time. Pheltz yelled at me Quote "Doc, you gotta fire the 60,the 50's jammed. So it was up to me to save the track and my crew. I pulled back the handle to chamber the 1st round of the 60, pulled the trigger while aiming, nothing happened. I immediately did a clear on the 60, chambered another round, pulled trigger, nothing again. By this time I thought we are all dead meat. Because the Enemy RPG crew had us zeroed in by now and the next one was sure to get us for sure. So, in this brief time about 3 to 5 seconds had elapsed. I thought a silent prayer and tried again. This time the 60 fired. I was not trained to shoot a 60. I proceeded to walk the rounds out to the enemy. By firing at the ground I could see where my rounds were going. The puffs of smoke were coming from about 2 to 3000 yards out. So I walked my fire all the way out to the puffs of smoke. At the instant I reached the Puffs of smoke they fired. The RPG Gunner probably saw the 60 bullets coming straight for him. I will never know if he lived or died. So I fired about 100 to 150 rounds all the general area, raked it from side to side twice. Then suddenly the 60 ceased to fire. I once again tried to clear and chamber, nothing, tried again, nothing. By this time we were clearing the kill zone. while we were concentrating on the RPG's being fired on us we were ignoring the AK 47 fire. The lead track kept firing their 50 and 2 60's. Suddenly we were out of the zone a hauling ass out of there as fast as those tracks could go. When we got back to Quan Loi and stopped the track to pull into our night defensive position, the new Gunner came up. Sgt. Pheltz was extremely mad as was I. We jumped all over the new Gunner about the 60. Pheltz had me dissassemble the 60. We laid it on an Army blanket and took it apart , piece by piece, placing each part down on the blanket. We quickly got to the firing mechanism, the bolt etc. I examined it very carefully with Pheltz and my Driver looking on. Their was no, repeat no firing pin in the 60. We looked on the floor of the track inch by inch on the track floor, into cracks and on the deck,no firing pin was to be found!!! Now we started to chew the new Gunner about the 60. He had cleaned it the previous night. Pheltz and I were letting the new Gunner get the chewing out we thought he deserved, almost getting us killed. Then suddenly, I was struck by a thought. I walked over to Sgt. Pheltz and told him to let it go. I said Sgt. Pheltz, let it go sarge, it was a miracle. We all sat down inside the track and had a very quiet thoughtful moment for about 5 minutes. Then suddenly the Gunner jumped and was waving something. he was jumping up and down excited. He was only 18, fresh out of High School. He was waving something in the dwindling sun. Something shiny. It was the firing pin we had been looking for. He had stuck it in his shirt pocket, been there all the time since the night before. After what happened, Sgt pheltz, made sure we had extra firing pins for all the weapons. I had forgotten 95% of all of VietNam over the last 33 years. In Nov 2000 when I found 1/4 Cav website, I later received the Roster for A Troop to send out notices to Troopers for the reunion. I came across Bill Pheltz's name. I thought to my self,that name sounds familiar. So I called long distance. Bill answered. he said he didn't want to talk to anybody and was going to hang up. I said very fast over the phone to Bill, A troop 2nd Plt,1/4 Cav. There was a long long pause at the other end. Then Bill said politely, who is this. Then I told him, it was Doc. We talked for almost 2 hrs long distance. Later my wife was going to kill me for the phone bill. Later about a couple of months he called me to say hello. we got to talking, and suddenly I remembered "The Miracle on Highway 13". I asked Bill if he remembered. I suddenly paused in mid speech. he said yes. Since then I check in with my old T.C. Alpha 22 from time to time just see how he is doing. If you need another witness to the event Bill Pheltz's phone number is (360) 491-0406 Address is 6818 Sierra Dr. S.E., Lacey,Wash 98503 E-Mail address is wcpheltz@hotmail.com he now works in ICU, how about that?? Anyway William(Bill) Pheltz said he can't remember the name of our driver and neither can I. Don't know what the new Gunner's name was either, funny, I can sometimes remember events with crystal clarity, but never anyone's name. Don't know why. Well this should you another chapter. It is all true. I would never make something like this up. I am forever grateful to the Lord every day since I have remembered this special happening from the past, sent to my crew and me as a gift of His Infinite Grace and Glory. I will forever treasure His Gift. I think I have written enough for one day. I will e-mail you soon. Steve (Doc) alpha21mike@hotmail.com Tracks I was on :A26,A21,A22,A29 moved from A21 to A22 Jan 68


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