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Convoy operations

from James Rose



We had a set of rules we followed in Vietnam for combat convoy operations. I will try to spell some of them out here.

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1. The convoy commander is responsible for the convoy start to finish. We got a list of the vehicles in our convoys from S-3 and were responsible to see that they got to the marshalling area on time and ready to go to include Maintenance and driver dependability. Loads were checked for accountability and safety.

2. Convoys were lined up per cargo types. such as Reefers, dry goods, POL, Ammo. Slower vehicles to rear such as 10 Tons and heavy loads. Security was located within the convoy. Rule of thumb Guntruck every 10 Vehicles. Did not always work out that way.

3. Radios were checked and call signs affirmed. Drivers briefed and Chaplain usually offered a prayer for those drivers that wanted to participate.

4. Briefing:

A. No stopping for anything.

B. Clear the Kill Zone.

C. Pedal to the Medal at all times

D. Interference from civilian vehicles, Hookem with your bumper and push them out of the way.(Favorite VC tactic, slow a convoy up and snipe or sap them)

E. Mechanical failure. Drivers stay with vehicles and security will be provided.

F. Guntrucks and drivers Lock and load upon leaving secured area.

G. Constant communications at all times.

H. Maintain distance from the vehicle ahead. Rule of thumb 5 truck lengths

I. Attention to surroundings

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J. Guntrucks. See anything suspicious on the passes- Shoot it. Use judgement. (Ankhe and Mangyang Passes not a good area to be in. Mangyang pass is site of worst VC ambush of the French in Nam)

5. When in an ambush, Contact, Contact, Contact was called on the radios. After that anything in the Nam was at our disposal Air, Ships, and support from our allies such as they were. Some of our convoys went to Bon-Son in the area of the 173rd AB and could be reached by the guns of the New Jersey, or the Cruisers Saint Paul or Las Vegas which were off shore. But mostly it was help from the Air. and the Koreans would come in to mop up after the Kill Zone was cleared.

6. Night traveling was discouraged. RON ( Remain over night) areas were provided in most places. The 173rd liked for us to RON at their LZ's because of our guntrucks and would try to delay us from leaving on time to get back. Convoy Commanders really had to push them to get the trucks offloaded.

7. Convoy operations summery turned into S-3 by the Convoy after convoy completed.

8. Most important rule. No stopping in a kill Zone even if wounded but not incapacitated.

Prevention of ambushes start with S-2. Intelligence should be the first thing looked at when planning a convoy. Knowing the route and possible pressure points, Knowing what enemy units are possible in the area and their strengths are things to be assessed. In Nam our intelligence was either a day late or a dollar short most of the time. Experience by the convoy commanders was the most valuable tool. Most of us knew the routes and hot spots.

In Vietnam we had no front and everyone was a potential enemy so my observations about convoy operations may not be exactly what is in effect today but some points are pertinent in every time frame. We had two types of enemy. The VC and NVA. The VC were the most common, They sniped or hit and run. The NVA were there for the long haul and if you got in a fire fight with them it was good to the last drop. I always looked at the intelligence reports from S-2 carefully for any word of NVA in the areas where I was going.

If you are unlucky enough to be caught in an ambush, clear the kill zone as quickly as possible and if not possible the first few seconds is the most important. You have to put all the firepower you have on the enemy in the shortest amount of time. No hesitation. Turn it around on him. Once you have the situation stabilized then you can force him to make choices.

Like I said our situation was probably a lot different from today. We had children walking in front of our trucks with grenades tied to them. People riding up beside us on motorscoters tossing grenades. And the sniping incidents got so common place that our Bn S-3 did not even require an after action report for them unless someone was wounded or some equipment was damaged.

I am sure that there are situations unique to your convoys that I do not know about but would like to hear.