The Piece Maker

 

My Tour, Memories and Creation of the Piece Maker Gun Truck

From Jerry Pickett 63rd Transportation Company.

I began my tour in Vietnam in April of 71 assigned to the 63rd Transportation Co. 1st Log Command based at the time in Chu Lai in support of the Americal Division.  On arrival I was first assigned to the Co. Operations center for a couple of weeks then an opening as gunner on the Co. V-100 became available.  The V-100 escorted 63rd Trans. Convoys from Chu Lai along QL 1 south to Duc Pho and north to Hill 29 then onto DaNang.  My NCOIC on the V100 rotated out about a month later and the V100 was turned over to the ARVN’s (Vietnamization -failure).  Left without a ride the First Sergeant tasked me and a couple of guys in the motor pool with building a Gun Truck and thus the Piece Maker was created. This advanced me to E-5 and I became the NCOIC of the Piece Maker.  We put together the crew driver and gunner (no longer recall their names).  We were able to salvage a mini-gun from aviation maintenance and the ammo boxes to go with it.  Put twin 60’s on the back, mini gun up front plus M-79’s and began running convoy’s north and south out of Chu Lai.  On occasion our truck and crew would be used for night perimeter security at air strips and firebases.
 

The Mini Gun..........was unique however very temperamental....ammo belt was attached to two ammo boxes each holding 5,000 rounds and the feeder belt would tend to jam up on occasion due to the angle of the feeder belt from ammo boxes to feeder pulley on the gun...ammo had to be extra clean to feed properly and was a huge pain keeping ammo clean. Ammo boxes had to be checked before going out to make sure ammo was laying properly in the boxes as the ammo would shift around occasionally. Gun was made to spin barrels without feeding ammo for gun operation check. Mini Gun was intimidating and I believe acted as a deterrent regarding convoy security.  Not something that anyone would want pointed at them or aimed in their direction.  We could test fire it at Duc Pho to check operational function.  Big rush to touch off the triggers with a short burst of 500 or 600 rounds. Gun bracket was designed to prevent gun from dropping down inside truck once you let off of the triggers which gun wanted to do as the barrels would rotate a bit more once the triggers were released.  The burst would force the gun upward and then back down once triggers were released.  The noise from the gun was hard on your hearing and would ring the ears for a while after firing.  Gun was powered from an additional battery on the truck.

 

Chu Lai convoy staging area just outside main gate......loading mini gun and preparing to head to Duc Pho

 
The other Gun truck in the 63rd was called the Lifer and was an APC mounted to a 5 ton truck.  The Lifer was equipped with 50 calibers.  We would run convoy together the majority of the time.  Don’t recall much down time as we convoyed 7 days a week.  Convoy generally consisted of tankers, flat beds, and reefers.  Also would have a wrecker, tire truck both with mechanics on board to handle any break downs when we had the manpower.  One of the gun trucks would stay behind with the broke down vehicle until it could be repaired or towed the rest of the way.  I would radio the check points (Charlie-Papa) as we rolled the convoy to its destination.  Still recall one of Op Center’s call names (Mushy Co- hart).
The 63rd Gun Truck crews were barracked in a place called the Chu Lai Hilton.  The barracks’ was located a top a hill above the Company area and had a view of entire Company area, beach and South China Sea below.    I viewed a Web page sometime ago that was posted by a group of Vets that had returned to Chu Lai and the North Vietnamese had totally dismantled the huge base camp and  let the area return to its natural state.   Incredible because the camp was huge.  Made to appear as we were never there and no sacrifices ever occurred (saddening). Crews waiting for Clearance to load-up and roll...Sgt. Barber from the Lifer crew walking toward me...my driver sitting up on top of Piece-Maker
In mid January our unit was deployed north to support LAMSON 719, an attempt to push ARVN forces into Laos.  Our convoy left Chu Lai headed for DaNang there the flat bed tractor trailers were loaded with supplies and ammunition, small arms as well as artillery / tank rounds.  Our tankers had already been loaded in Chu Lai.  Convoy consisted of a hundred or more tractor trailers and Gun Trucks from various units.  Our destination was Quang Tri which would become our staging area to supply firebases and other forward areas with supplies and ammo.  I recall it was monsoon season on the way north and the staging area was a mud hole….red clay.  Our unit remained there about a week running supply convoy day and night on several occasions.  This was an experience that I will never forget but we came out of it unscathed and returned back to our own area of operation for the remainder of my tour.   I believe that the armament on the gun truck detoured possible action against the convoys that we accompanied on occasion.  The Lifer crew locking and loading the 50 Cal's...Chu Lai staging area.

I will always remain proud to have served and thankful that my crew as well as myself were able to return home to carry on our lives.  I’m saddened by the many lives lost and those who returned home broken both physically and mentally.  The Gun Truck crews were proud of their vehicles and the service and protection that they provided.  Happy to see an organization devoted to the Transportation Outfits and the accumulation of memories of those who were referred to as Line Haulers. 

 

Picture taken over our twin 60's convoy to Duc Pho 23rd S&T 5 tons.  We were lead vehicle

It saddens me when I hear of another convoy in Iraq being hit and the loss of life that has taken its toll.  These brave young troops are the modern day Line Haulers and deserve the support and equipment to get them through another convoy and another day.

 

I'm in Duc Pho village waiting for convoy to off load.....Locals always gathered to sell us various things and try to bum smokes..

Jerry L. Pickett

63rd Transportation Company

Line Haul

Highway QL-1

Chu Lai, RVN 1970 - 71

 

My rear gunner and I don't recall his name...he had been a Grunt... Unit had been dis-banned II Corp and he was re-assigned to 63rd to finish out his tour...only with us a short while.
Entrance to the 63rd...sign says light truck but all vehicles were 5 ton Tractors...flat bed, fuel tanker, and reefer trailers.  We were a part of First Log 8th Grp.