|C. O. Remembers SFC Vazquez and Convoy Operations|
|58th Transportation Company||by Charlie Thomas|
Vazquez, which was the 8th Transportation Group HQ
was named after my mess sergeant, SFC Juan Vazquez, who was shot through
the heart during the first attack on Tet; he was filling the water truck
near our camp. I was on Convoy patrol that day, I went out with a
different platoon every other day. Only lost one man, Juan. I should
tell you I blanked on his name for years. As I worked in DC when the
wall was opened; three days after it opened I walked down there; his
name flashed out at me, I will never forget again. He was a dear
friend to me my and my first Sergeant, and I think to all the men.
Cleaning out his chest and writing the letter to his family was one of
the most difficult things I did. He was an extraordinary man who
always had the interests of the men at heart; somehow we always had
steaks and other wonderful meals on Sundays. I never asked how he
always got the best food. He knew what to do, and it kept morale high.
Col Bellino came to our Company's Thanksgiving and Christmas
celebrations; and had the camp named after Sgt Vazquez after his death.
His death was a terrible blow to the unit. What was particularly
galling to me was that we worked extraordinarily hard to take all the
precautions we could to keep our convoy's safe; and no
one in my company was killed during my time; except for Sgt Vazquez; at
the water hole at our base camp. And yes, we went everywhere in the
Central Highlands on a daily basis.
is a picture of me near Qui Nhon overlooking the South China Sea,
probably around May, 1968.
Recollections of the 58th Transportation Company
I had the honor of Commanding the 58th Transportation Company, Light Truck, from 3 September 1967 until early June 1968, when Col. Bellino asked me to join the Group Staff and Maintenance and Safety Officer. In reflection nothing else in my life has compared.
I made Captain around May 1967 while serving as CO of the EUCOM Car Detachment in Stuttgart, Germany. Shortly thereafter I received orders to report to the 8th Group in Qui Nhon, Vietnam. My C-130 arrived in Qui Nhon on 2 September 1967; I reported to 8th Group HQ that fateful day; the day of the terrible ambush. LTC Burke was in Command; and I had the opportunity to hear the reports; and feel the tragedy. The next day I reported to the 58th, down the hill from the Group HQ, and that of the 27th Bn. LTC Quinton Martin was CO of the Battalion.
Internally I knew I never wanted to see a tragedy like that occur to anyone in my Company; and the “lessons learned” became my Bible. I was blessed by having a superb First Sergeant, SFC Saunders who ran our unit's headquarters magnificently, how he got the lumber to upgrade the quarters from tents to wooden barracks and get them constructed with Vietnamese laborers was a constant sort of pride to him, and amazement to me. But what was so important was, when my truckers returned from convoy everyday they could expect a comfortable place to rest; and a good hot meal; with cheap beer (I think it was 25 cents).
I should add my three platoon leaders were exceptional; as was the Warrant Officer who ran the Maintenance Section. I wish I could remember names; but I can assure you I have all your faces committed to memory.
This allowed me to focus on what was most important. Being able to join our trucks on convoy duty; at least every other day. We knew that convoy discipline: proper interval allowing the space to maneuver and not become a target; wearing hard hats and flack jackets; and maintaining proper speed could save lives. We went every where: LZ English, Bon Song; Duc Pho; Duc Tho; An Khe; Pleiku; Dak To upon occasion and even one platoon went North toward Khe Sanh on a special detail. I guess we were quite lucky. In spite of numerous minor engagements no one died on convoy duty during that time.
The one we did lose was Sgt Vazquez; who was shot on 4 February 1968. Through the heart by a 22 rifle bullet while filling the water truck just outside of our base camp. I was on convoy duty that day; I had never seen Top cry before. We all did. Juan was an absolutely wonderful, kind man; without an enemy in the world. Writing that letter to his family was probably the most difficult thing I have done. Colonel Bellino named the base camp after him. I have seen some postings referring to Camp Vazquez.
I know this is maudlin; for almost twenty years I blanked on his name. I worked in Washington when the Wall was built; three days after it opened, I walked there. The name Juan Vazquez flashed at me. I will never forget again.
When I left the Company I was given a plaque; “Best Wishes to Charlie, “The Captain”. I keep it; and remember it and all my truckers with the greatest fondness. I hope you are all well and have lived wonderful lives.
Charlie Thomas, Lottsburg, Va. 27 February 2009. .
|This was taken in December 1967, looks like we were stopped, probably for a lunch break, somewhere on Rt 1 headed to Bon Son. My jeep in the foreground, one of our guntrucks at the head of the convoy behind.|
|LZ English, a firebase on Rt 1, taken in Oct 1967 while we were unloading artillery shells. This was not a pleasant place to spend the night because of our random protective fire all night long.|
|Taken in October 1967, and looks like our convoy headed toward An Khe Pass, in the distance. At that time the road was paved out of Qui Nhon, but unpaved most of the way. The same was true of both Routes 1 and 19; by the time we left most of the routes had been paved. Of course the VC figured out how to dig holes in the hard surface, put in a mine, and patch it up again.|
|I was William and Mary ROTC. Entered service at Ft Eustis in June 1964; TOBAC, assigned to the 714th Railway Bn for a while, then to Ft. Rucker, Ala; thence to Paris France where I was the Motor Pool Officer until DeGaulle kicked us out, and moved my unit to Stuttgart as the EUCOM Car Detachment. Made Captain; was curtailed and sent to Vietnam in August 1967, left in September 1968; was on orders to the Advanced Course but got a job with Southern Railway; worked for them for 15 years, Amtrak for 18, was Senior Director of Labor Relations, there, retired 7 years ago and now live in Lottsburg, Va which is 10 miles up the Potomac from the Chesapeake.|