This article is from the Vietnam FAQ, by Brian Ross, John R. Tegtmeier, Edwin E. Moise, Frank Vaughan, John Tegtmeier with numerous contributions by others.
From what I understand, the a/c was lost when a 105 round blew up in
I was wondering what it must look like from the ground if you
were on the receiving end of all this firepower?
It really depends upon the weapons. With the 40mm and the 105mm, it
was nothing more than exceptionally accurate artillery. In many cases
we would fire the first 3 or 4 rounds and the first time Sir Charles
knew he was under fire was when the rounds impacted.
Imagine, you are either a conscripted or true "volunteer". Your job is
to memorize a 5 to 10km section of winding, twisty trail. Every night
you start out with a truck, either alone or part of a carefully spaced
convoy, and you haul ass down that trail as fast as you dare with no
lights, no trail markers, and often little or no moon to help you.
Now, out of nowhere, the truck that is 250 meters ahead of you just
vaporizes as it takes a direct hit from a round of 105mm high
explosive. You have no where to run, no where to hide, no turnoffs, no
nothing. You slam on the brakes and as soon as the truck slows you
bail out (assuming you can-an amazing number of drivers never left
their trucks lending speculation that they were chained into the cabs)
and run like hell into the jungle. How do we know this happens,
because we watch the whole thing on infrared, and watch the little
white dot (that's you) jump out of the truck and run away.
Maybe you are as patriotic as all hell and run a couple of klicks and
man one of the AAA sites that dot the trail. Great, you fire a few
rounds of 37mm at us. Of course, we are painted flat black, we have no
lights and the only thing you can do is try and spot our muzzle flash
on the other side of the orbit, and try to guess when we are within
range of your gun.
Maybe you are a good guesser, or maybe you are just lucky, but your
shots at us change from being a mere nuisance to a potential threat.
You never see the small grey smoke marker we drop when we go by. You
cannot see the plume of bright white smoke that rises. You do not hear
us call the F-4 Phantom that has been in a fuel conserving orbit at
45,000 feet overhead. You don't know that we just told him that you
are about 1200 meters on the 70 degree radial from the smoke. You
never knew that he dropped two canisters of cluster bombs directly
over your site, blowing you and your gunsite to hell.
Now imagine a different scenario. You and your buddies have been
bothering this Army outpost for about a week now. Lobbing in mortars,
probing the defenses, generally raising hell. You've built lots of
ladders and lots of coffins and you are ready to attack. You've even
brought in some NVA Regulars to help ensure that you kick some
It's late and dark. Your probing fire becomes more intense, your
mortars are hammering the firebase, your sappers are moving in to blow
the perimeter, and your buddies are massing in the treeline for the
first of many assaults during the night.
The Americans don't back down. They never do. You attack once, twice,
three times. You feel the imperialist dogs weakening. You can smell
victory. Unfortunately, you didn't hear the radio call that went out a
little while ago. You have no idea that an AC-130 gunship is in orbit
overhead. You can't hear the engines over the noise of battle.
We've been watching for about 5 minutes. We can see your troop
concentrations in the tree lines because our infrared works through
the smoke of battle. We've carefully plotted the perimeter. We watch
your troop surge across the open ground hoping to breech the American
lines. We tighten our orbit and drop the left wing. We put #1 20MM on
line, and using our infrared, we target the largest concentrations of
Suddenly long ribbons of red fire reach down from the sky (tracers,
usually every 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th or 10th round) and 20mm high
explosive shells pepper your formation. In a matter of seconds an area
the size of a football field has at least one round hit in every
Another ribbon of fire, your attack is decimated.
Another ribbon, and now the reserves in the tree line have been
reduced to a copper-smelling red mist.
The pattern continues...thousands of rounds are fired. And now the
40mm begin to take its toll. Every time two or three survivors bunch
up, they are blown to shreds by 40mm, and never even hear the incoming
Some of your survivors do make it back to the base camp...and they
bring death with them. We now know where your base camp is, because we
used our infrared and low light level TV to track your survivors as
they struggle back. Using our laser designator, we bring in three
flights for F-4D Phantons equipped with laser guided bombs, and
obliterate nearly every trace of the camp.
You're participating in the attack on the provincial capital of An
Loc. It is early 1972. You've fooled everyone by bringing armor into
play. You are currently sitting in a plantation house on one of the
Michelin tire rubber plantations. You feel nice and secure. Surprise.
We are overhead, and have just set our 105MM ammo for maximum time
You never hear us fire the three rounds. The first goes through the
roof and detonates inside. The second goes through the remains of the
roof and blows out what remains of the outer walls. The third round
buries itself in the pile of rubble and when it goes off it scatters
debris all over the place.
Aha, but you just left the house, so we missed you. You're in a tank.
We line you up with the 40mm and hit you with three rounds of armor
piercing ammo. Unfortunately, this is WWII technology ammo, and other
than giving everyone on board the tank a massive headache, we don't
even slow you down as you race towards town. No problem, we hit you on
the top of the turret with a round of 105mm white phosphorous. The
fire sucks all the oxygen out of the tank and you suffocate and die
long before any flames reach you.
There you have it.
Given the choices, I'd rather give than receive.