Lt. Taubinger makes only the occasional visit to LZ Sherry, even though he is formally assigned to B Battery. What few memories he has are vivid.
Of all the batteries I had fire for me, B Battery at LZ Sherry was more responsive than any of the other batteries. Farrell was the first sergeant at the time.
Not On The Ceremony Agenda
I was up in a tower taking pictures of a change of command ceremony (probably early May 1969 when the new battery commander arrived who could come to be known as The Ghost),when an F-4 jet comes on a bombing mission off our perimeter. He makes multiple drops on a single target and when he comes in for another run he goes into a nosedive and never pulls out of it. I turn my camera in that direction and take a picture of the black plume of smoke that comes up when he hit. I felt sorry for the pilots, and I felt really bad that we could not go out there, because we were not geared for that kind of thing.
Safe Place During a Mortar Attack
One night at Sherry they had me bunk with the battery commander, I don’t remember his name. I woke up to incoming mortar rounds and said to him, “That’s incoming.”
He said, “No, that’s out going.”
Then the whole battery woke up – the incoming siren going off, the machine guns in the towers opening up, illumination popping in the air and lighting up the battery – I got my helmet and flack vest on and started out the door. I turned around and saw him going underneath his bunk. Outside Farrell came around the corner and asked me where the captain was, and I told him, “Under his bunk.”
No Table Manners
Another incident with this chickenshit captain – I was there a of couple days – we had a monkey there at the base (Sergeant Farrell’s monkey). Susie was her name and the captain did not like her one bit. He told me how the monkey once ran up his back, sat on his shoulder, and began looking for lice in his hair. I also heard the story of how Susie went into his hooch while he was in his cot, got up on the T-bar supporting the mosquito net, and peed on him.
I was with the captain in the mess hall, both of us eating pie when Susie came and sat at the table. The captain said, “Get that monkey out of here.” At which the monkey grabbed food from the table and threw it in his face.
My radio operator and I went out with the South Vietnamese and worked along the border with Cambodia for quite a while. We were both real grubby when we came back and we stopped in at Sherry. This captain told us to get haircuts, so out of spite we got buzz cuts and showed up nearly bald, which made him even madder.
With only a couple months left in Vietnam I go to the Tactical Operations Center at Betty. At the TOC I am responsible for ammo getting out to the firebases, the helicopter resupply runs, and making sure our guys get everything they need.
Hank Parker is still at the TOC, about to go home like me. I say to him, “I hear there’s a party up at the morgue.” Four of us go up there in a jeep. I’m driving, there’s a little short pudgy master sergeant riding shotgun next to me, with Hank and another guy in the back. After I round a sharp corner the guy in the back says, “Where did Top go?” I look over and see he’s gone. I stop and right away back up and I hear someone yell, “Oww.” I had run over his shoulder. It was in the sand so he isn’t hurt too badly. The pins securing the seat were not in and when I went around a corner he had slipped right out.
We get up to the morgue and we see an older Marine lieutenant outside scratching his head. He says, “I was backing up and my jeep fell into this big hole here.” We look and see a large sinkhole with his jeep in it upside down. He is all worried about getting into trouble, so we tell him we’ll call a wrecker when we get inside.
We go inside and they tell us all the food is stored in a big refrigerator room with a sign saying HUMAN REMAINS ONLY. I walk in and see beer, steaks, chicken and lots of other food, but no bodies at the moment. I grab beers for all of us, but the guy who was in the back with Hank says he’s not about to eat anything that came out of that refrigerator. To me it looked cleaner than grocery stores you see today.
Worth More Than A Man
At the TOC I got called out for whatever they might need me for. B Battery was shooting H&I one night (random short range shelling to protect a perimeter) and two rounds landed in a village, killing an old man and a water buffalo. I had to go out to the village to investigate the incident and do a crater analysis. I had thousands of piaster with me to make reparation pay offs. But before I went to the village I went to the battery Fire Direction Control center to look at their charts and any coordinates they may have plotted. I told the battery commander not to say anything until after I got back, because it might have been a VC rocket they were claiming was U.S. artillery.
When I got to the village there were Vietnamese military and province officials there as well. The villagers were running in and out of the craters obliterating the spray, so you could not tell where the rounds came from. They handed me 105 mm fuses they claimed they had dug up from the craters.
I called the battery commander back and said my official determination was we didn’t know what it was. It could have been VC rockets. They could have given me fuses from anywhere. But the battery commander had already found the error and reported it. It was a mistake with the powder charge. Thank god he did not get relieved over the incident. The old man cost us 500 piasters and the water buffalo 1,000 (about $2 and $4 respectively in 1969).
I got a call to meet a convoy from Sherry at the ammo dump, saying they might have a problem picking up their ammo because of the ASR (ammunition supply rate). They were already over their allotted rounds for the month and might not be able to get their ammo.
The supply sergeant in charge of the ammo dump was a fat E-6 staff sergeant. Had to weigh 400 pounds. He was wearing a Combat Infantry Badge and I asked him how he got it. He said, “I was on guard duty at Cam Ranh Bay. A sniper shot at the base and everybody got a CIB that day.” Then he said he wasn’t going to give us our ammo. He got sarcastic that we were out there at Sherry just shooting away wasting ammo.
I put my hand on my .45 pistol and told him we’re going to get the ammo one way or another. One of the guys from Sherry, a big blonde E-5 buck sergeant in charge of the convoy (Sgt. Rock), shifted his M-16 to a very aggressive position. We got our ammo.
A couple days later I was called to the 1st Logistics Command at Cam Ranh because they wanted to talk to me. They were going to charge me with something, and ordered me to meet with the general. I hitchhiked chopper rides up there and when I get there I see the Playboy Playmates walking around his office building, a real nice building. The general could not see me because he was busy with the Playmates. He was giving them a tour when I was supposed to see him. And these weren’t your average donut dollies. I told his aide you drag me all the way up here to see the general and I see him walking around with a bunch of girls. You guys sit up here in these plush offices, but I’ve got work to do. I said it wasn’t right and I demanded to see the general.
The general, a one star, finally saw me and straight out asked me what happened. I told him about the high casualty rate at the battery and said, “Sir, we need our ammo. If we don’t get it I’ll write every single newspaper in the country.” I got a little insubordinate with him. “If you arrest me every newspaper in the country will hear about it. A stupid thing that you can’t shoot at the enemy because you don’t have ammo.” I also hinted that Senator Howard Baker (of Tennessee) was a family friend. He was actually just an acquaintance. Baker was a real hawk. I said I’d send the senator a letter or call him from jail.
The general was real nice about it. He said, “OK, I just wanted the whole story. The ammo sergeant got upset, told his colonel at Betty, and that colonel called it up the line to me.”
The general was never belligerent with me, which I did not expect. But I wasn’t the typical young officer either. I already had seven years experience. I knew how far I could push the conversation without going too far. I also knew General Camp who was the Corp artillery commander. Camp was a guy who would back up his officers. This was late in 1969 when I was getting ready to go home in a few weeks anyway; I had a real short timer’s attitude.
One of my proudest moments was when I heard about VC propaganda leaflets that put a bounty on me and Hank Parker for a couple thousand dollars – each. I know one of the platoon leaders in the 506 also had a bounty out on him. They did not want me and Parker dead, they wanted us turned over alive, and then the whole family would get the money.
The highest bounty placed on a U.S. soldier was for the death of legendary sniper Carlos “White Feather” Hathcock. By his own estimate he killed over 300 enemy soldiers. The NVA gave Hathcock the nickname for the white feather he wore in his bush cap. They placed a $30,000 bounty on him, worth almost a quarter of a million today and a fortune in Vietnam at the time. The typical bounty on a U.S. soldier was $8 – $2,000, putting Lieutenants Taubinger and Parker proudly at the upper range.
Alex was promoted to captain immediately after leaving Vietnam on his way to his next assignment in Augsburg, Germany. He spent a total of ten years in the Army.