Dollies in Vietnam

From Rodney Getschman Picture From: Jose Garcia
The picture was taken on QL 1 going through the City of Hue.

Rodney Getschman signed the guestbook and mentioned the following information about the use of dollies in Vietnam to increase tonnage. Since I was in the Mekong Delta most of the time and never saw this rig I was interested. I posted a request for more information on dollies in the Message and Bulletin Board. Subsequent responses and emails produced the following details on the use of dollies in I Corps.--Ralph Grambo

I was assigned to the 39th Trans Bn as maintenance tech in the 666 TC and 515 TC, June 70 thru June 71. CPT Grady Layton was cmdr of the 666 TC. LTC Alvin Ellis (Big Al the Truckers Pal) was the Bn Cmdr. The 2 1/2-tons of the Triple 6 weren't heavy enough for the heavy loads they constantly hauled and were mostly deadlined. The 515th pulled a 12-ton S&P hooked to a navy 5th-wheel dolly behind each of their 5-ton cargo trucks. We had a TTP just below Khe Sanh and dropped the 12-ton S&P's there. The 5-ton continued with its load into Khe Sanh. A 5-ton tractor pulled the trailer into Khe Sanh. I too, had many hours of sweat time working on the guntrucks. I especially remember the "Eve of Destruction." Put a couple of engines and clutch packs in it and, God only knows how many brake jobs. One time it came in and the only thing holding the cab on was the steering column.

I might add; there was much dissension among the plt leaders and plt sergeants when we started using these rigs. They had an excuse for everything. I remember one sergeant arguing with me about the tow pintle being able to pull the dolly and trailer. Personally, I thought it to be a good idea. I also know there was a photographer that came to the Tan My ramp and took pictures of a rig. I was there. I had to brief him on it. Perhaps he was an Army photographer. There was one truck in the 515th that I had installed a "johnny bar" in. We needed a way to apply brakes to the trailer other than normal. I stripped the required parts from a salvaged 5-ton tractor. I was always looking for more "johnny bar" parts. However, LTC Ellis kept me busy doing lots of things. Things are coming back to me as I write this. The navy dollies were painted grey. They were built for moving trailers around within a port. They had commercial tread tires. Most of them LTC Ellis got had bad wheel bearings. I had to change many of them out between ones we couldn't use. The bearings were different than those normally used in 5-ton and 10-ton trucks. I tried to special order them thru the DS units supporting us. But, as you know a 1348 from Vietnam always got lost by the wayside. I used to like to listen to those old Mack Diesels snort moving an overloaded 5-ton pulling an overloaded trailer up QL1. We hauled 105 ammo with those rigs. If only the transfer cases were geared differently, we could have better used them as an auxillery transmission. Dr. Grambo, I could talk army trucks, trucking and, engineer construction equipment all day, and enjoy it, if someone would listen to me. Sorry I don't have a picture, guess I should have taken some, don't really know why I didn't either. By the way, what was said about LTC Ellis is somewhat true. Ton-miles was the only thing on his mind. He was aggressive.

1. Brakes to 5th-wheel dollies and 12-ton S&P trailers. If memory serves me correctly, the navy dollies didn't have brakes. They really were made for moving trailers around on loading docks. We connected two trailer air lines together to get the length we needed. Then we hooked these extended lines from the Service and Emergency outlets from the 5-ton cargo truck to the trailer brake inlets. This then was the same as when one would tow a 1 1/2-ton trailer. That's the reason why I started to scrounge the "Johnny Bar" brake valves from junk 5-ton tractors. We needed to convert the cargo truck brake systems to tractor brake systems so we could apply brakes to the trailer seperately.

2. Army dollies. Yes, the Army has 5-th wheel dollies. I researched this after leaving the 39th Trans when I was assigned to Summerall Hall, Ft. Sill, OK as an instructor. They are smaller than the ones we had in the 39th. They have dual wheels with 9:00 X 20:00 tires. Some years later in Germany I seen one or two of them during REFORGER's. There's an Army manual that lists Army equipment. The Army dollies are listed and described. I believe it to be TM 9-200 Army Ordnance Equipment and Descriptions.

Email from T. Broussard

My dad, Tommy Broussard, was a Spec-4 in the 515th TC in '66 and '67. I was emailed by Mr. Rick Phillips with repleys from yourself and a Mr. Getschman with regards to a Navy 5th wheel dolly. I called my dad (back in Louisiana) and read him all of the messages. He's not sure if what he called a "navy dolly" is the same thing referred to by Mr. Getschman since he served with the 515th 3 to 4 years after my dad. This is what my dad could remember after 30+ years. He recalled that in June or July of 1966, the 515th received a group of new 5-ton trucks with standard tow pintles. Because they were ordered to start hauling 12' by 60' house trailers for RMK (he thinks a company affiliated with Lady Bird Johnson) and higher tonnage loads, they had to rig up something to get the job done. He remembers a CWO Walls having to go to 39th BN brass to get permission to rig up a 5th wheel on the new 5-tons. When the O.K. came down, he recalls another Specialist named Whitman and their sergeant, SGT. Copeland, having to modify some Navy dollies taken at night by 5-finger discount from "squids" stationed there at Cam Ranh Bay. Like Mr. Getschman, my father also remembers problems with the wheel bearings (something about the fact that the sailors would only use them on flat pavement near the piers and where the soldiers had to use them tore them up). Another point he recalls about the Navy dollies is that everytime they had a CMI inspection, they had to hide the dollies off base.


I read with interest Rodney Getshman's piece about fifth wheel dollies, and had to recount my experience with one of those set-ups in the 'Nam. Sometime in early to mid-1969 I was dead-headed to the 506th Field Depot south of Cholon to pick up a RMK-BRJ discard, 60-ton rated, puke-green painted fifth-wheel dolly/lowboy combo and thought it to be an interesting concept as I wound it back through the streets of Saigon and on up to the Long Binh [LB] Depot. It tracked well and stopped OK, but then again it was not loaded so I really didn't know all the ramifications of such a half-baked notion that only someone like old Lady Bird's company could conceive to further antagonize the military. A combo like that could only be rightfully employed around someplace in a more or less static situation rather than actual road use which is what happened when the poor Land Clearing [LC] Engineers of the 20th Bde. wound up with it. A little while later I loaded up a D-8 Cat [painted bright yellow, no less!] on my "Draggin' Wagon" at the Newport dock and hauled it up to the 20th on Engineer Hill at LB. I saw the dolly/lowbed combo sitting in their yard with a new coat of olive drab paint, at least, and was informed that it was to be the transport for the new soon to be Rome Plow-equipped D-8. My experience with the dolly/lowboy encouraged them when I mentioned how it had bent around the corners in town real nice since they would be taking it through a bunch of ville's on the way up to Dau Tieng in the Michelin, not to mention the 'roads' they traveled on the way out to the places they regularly operated in. Later, on the way back from Newport or someplace, I saw the ungainly, unlikely-appearing rig with a now OD-painted D-8 'Plow aboard near the Thu Duc Hill traveling at an uncharacteristically [for engineers] slow pace, and received only a half-hearted reply from the driver and operator when I waved to them. I thought it strange since all 10-ton types enthusiastically greeted one another whenever we encountered each other in the belief we were the only real Drivers in the 'Nam - or anywhere for that matter. Awhile later, at the 20th's Club, I would find out why they were taking it so cautious and somewhat less than than eager to Keep on Truckin' as the now loaded apparition was eating their lunch just trying to keep it between the lines on the well-paved Saigon Hwy., and had already nearly put them in the ditch just getting out of LB since the dolly/lowboy brakes were all but non-existant with a D-8 'Plow on it. The dolly/lowbed/D-8 'Plow tended to want to pass the M123A1C-tractor when the binders were applied and more than once had all but jack-knifed them as they tried to sort out their new combination. To make matters worse the pintle hook-up made the traction less than normal as the drastically outweighed 'A1C lost adhesion on the greasy Michelin tracks/trails and the towed combo finally did wind up in the ditch where it remained overnight, minus the 'A1C and the 'Plow, in the hopes the gooks would come by and blow it away. Unfortunately, it was still in one piece and was to make several more trips with D-8's before the 20th finally procured some regular, direct fifth-wheel hook-up style, 16-wheel lowbeds and the dolly/lowbeds [by then there was at least one more which I had also seen at the 506th] were taken to the PDO at Ho Nai for a well deserved retirement after a much maligned, albeit short tour of active duty. I'm sure the 20th Association's LC-faction sent flowers to Lady Bird's funeral since she and her civilian cronies from the RMK-BRJ conglomerate had done them such a nice turn back in '69! And fortunately for us Heavy-Lift types, from LB at least, my encounter with a dolly of that ilk was the only one I know of unless my good friend "KY" can shed light on any episodes I am unaware of. I remember having an officer from the 34th or 69th Armor at Tay Ninh telling us our "Draggin' Wagons" were worth their weight in gold since they were in such demand at one point in that same time period. I know the LC Engineers certainly thought they were when it came hauling D-8's with 'Plow blades on them. Humbly submitted by Jess Paul Tomey ["BeaverHunter"], 277 CC&S Co., RVN 68-69-70 ______________________________________________________  

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