His name is Tom Levey, and he's from Chicago.

His first tour in Vietnam was 1965-66, posted on Hill 327, near the sprawling Danang Airbase. He was up there with Bill O'Brien, and Tom's nickname was "The Professor." He came home for less than six months then went back to Vietnam (ChuLai) for 1967-68.

Tom said he'd had a talk with a Dan Currey two weeks prior. Dan, who retired as a Marine gunny (or first sergeant) after serving 22 years, had mentioned that the VC's rocket attack on Danang Airbase of 14 July 1967 had injured 13 Marines from H&S Battery. He added that of those 13 only three later received the Purple Heart. 

He said it was an "unofficial policy" of LAAM Batallion to not award the PH unless the injury was serious in nature (i.e., requiring hospitalization). I found that policy very interesting.

Tom Levey also mentioned that that bomb dump at Danang Airbase was located less than 200 yards from a LAAM Battalion. From my understanding, the base's fuel and napalm storage areas ("dumps") were located near each other. The Air Force bomb dump, containing 500- and 1,000-pound bombs, was also nearby.

All of these dumps were within 200 yards from the "Old French Compound," also known as 1st LAAM Bn., H&S Battery. The direction of these dumps would have been north/northwest of the bunker that I was in during the rocket barrage.

On 14 July the dump took a direct hit with either a 122-mm (launcher photo above-right; range: 9 miles) or a 140-mm rocket, with another five or six rockets impacting around the dump. Guess I'm lucky to be alive, although I'm not sure if my mind survived. My hearing sure didn't.

I don't recall hearing any warning sirens that night, nor the whine of incoming rockets after the first two smaller explosions. We responded like jack-in-the-boxes as the rockets were coming in volleys, some impacting in front, behind, all around us. After each volley of explosions, we'd stand up — that was really stupid — until someone yelled "Get down!" as another volley hit the base.

Although I heard the calls to "Get down," I no longer could hear the sounds of the incoming projectiles.

Dash between volleys
Someplace within those lulls between volleys, I decided I'd sprint to the hooch where I was staying, locate a rifle or two, and sprint back to the bunker before the next volley arrived. Heck, all of us were wearing only our skivvies, plus we were all without weapons.

So off I ran but I wasn't able to find even one rifle in the dark, probably because I was frantic. I did find my glasses (enabling me to see again) and a flak jacket, then sprinted back to the bunker just in time to hear "Get down!" as the next volley was arriving. Whew, just made that run.

The lull came again and somebody said, "Get my cigarettes." OK, I'm stupid, so I sprint back to our hooch again, find my pack of cigarettes and another flak jacket, and dash back to the bunker. However, I still wasn't able to find a rifle.

At the next lull I yelled to Pete (Duncan), "Come help me!" We both ran to the hooch, grabbed two more flak jackets, and ran to the bunker just as someone yelled, "Get down!"

We made it back okay, but not before rounds had begun exploding. The scene was no longer exciting as I'd become obsessed with finding a rifle. At the next lull I just turned around and ran back to the hooch, not caring what was happening around me. I found another flak jacket, no rifle, and ran back to the bunker.

Everybody now had a flak jacket except me as, in my anxiety, I'd forgotten that I had not been issued one or a weapon — because I'd just returned to Vietnam that afternoon.

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"The palest ink is better
than the best memory."

Chinese proverb
Launcher for VC's 122-mm rockets
750-pound bombs stored at Danang Airbase, circa 1967.
Click to view same ordy loaded on a ready-to-rock F4.