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Posted on Sep 14, 2007 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

How They Fought: Marine M-60 Machine-Gunner, Hue, 1968

By Jerry D. Morelock

Carrying a “pig” through the bush was hard work, but the weapon was worth its weight in gold in Hue‘s “urban jungle.”

TIME/DATE: 3:15 p.m. , February 1, 1968
PLACE: Hue, Vietnam
UNIT: Squad from 2d Platoon, F Company, 2d Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment

Man! Getting into this town was a whole lot easier than getting out of it’s going to be – getting out alive, that is! When they pulled us from the boonies yesterday and told us we were moving into Hue city, we had no idea what to expect. Gunny just said the lieutenant told him that the “little people” – soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam – were having some trouble and needed our help. That was no big surprise because the ARVNs are always having trouble. We were even on stand-down since there was supposed to be a cease-fire during Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year holiday. Now the scuttlebutt is that the Viet Cong (VC, or “Charlie”) and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars are attacking the whole damn country! Nobody knows exactly what’s going on, but it sure ain’t good!

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I’ve been the machine-gunner for our squad’s M-60 since I came in-country three months ago. Gunny gave me this 23-pound monster to lug around because I’m the biggest – and the baddest – guy in our unit. It’s hell humping this thing on patrol, but it’s great in a firefight. It can pour out 550 rounds of 7.62 mm, full metal jacket, ball ammo per minute and can do a real J-O-B on anybody within a thousand yards. You want to bring some pee on somebody, just turn me and my “pig” loose on him!

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(left) Pfc. Martin, the squad’s radiotelephone operator (RTO), pauses for a second as his fellow Marines from Fox Company look at a dead Viet Cong lying in the road. Image Credit: SPJ/ACG (right) Fox Company’s "Devil Dogs" quickly move for cover as fire erupts all around them. This battle is shaping up to be one of the bloodiest of the war. Image Credit: SPJ/ACG

We dismounted our trucks at the outskirts of Hue this morning and started walking into the city, which at first didn’t seem so bad. Somewhere ahead of us, we heard lots of small arms fire – some M-16, but mostly AK-47 – yet all we found was one VC lying dead beside his bicycle. But about that time, the sh-t really hit the fan. The entire street erupted in gunfire, so we hauled butt to find some cover. Unlike in the bush, there were lots of buildings and walls to duck behind. Hell, the whole damn town is one big fort! They actually call it the “ancient Citadel,” which of course means there are plenty of protected firing positions for the VC to hide behind, too.

Up until now, the hardest thing about fighting Charlie has been finding his skinny ass. We hump for miles through the bush for days at a time and the only things we find are mosquitoes, leeches, blisters and booby traps. But Charlie’s not running and hiding today, that’s for damn sure! And it looks like he’s brought the first team with him – this place is crawling with NVA regulars. It’s a whole new ballgame now, and it’s some serious sh-t!

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(left) Enemy AK-47 fire keeps the Marines pinned down behind a wall. Image Credit: SPJ/ACG (right) As the enemy fire briefly lets up, Lance Cpl. Brown and the other Marines try to shoot their way out of a bad situation. Image Credit: SPJ/ACG

Most of us piled behind this wall, which is welcome cover, but we’ve been pinned down now for over an hour. Every time the AK-47 fire slacks off enough for me to raise my head up, I get my pig working and hose down the buildings around us pretty good. I can’t see any dinks to shoot at, so I blast away at where I think the enemy fire is coming from. Yet as soon as I stop to load a new ammo belt, they hit us even harder than before!

A few minutes ago, Gunny had the RTO (radiotelephone operator) get on the horn and ask higher for some help, but all he got was a “xin loi” (sorry). So it looks like it’s going to be up to me and my pig to shoot our way out of this one!

Jerry Morelock, PhD, ARMCHAIR GENERAL Editor in Chief.  

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(left) Lance Cpl. Brown pounds suspected enemy positions with a deadly burst of 7.62 mm bullets. Image Credit: SPJ/ACG (right) The brutal combat in Hue City tests Lance Cpl. Brown’s reputation as the "baddest Marine in the squad." Image Credit: SPJ/ACG

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The Marines’ calls for fire support have been in vain, so they now pin their hopes on Lance Cpl. Brown’s M-60. Image Credit: SPJ/ACG

 ARMCHAIR GENERAL thanks the staff at Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey (royalgunpowdermills.com), and Les Hearn for their invaluable assistance. Uniforms and equipment are from the collections of the American Infantry Preservation Society (AIPS). With special thanks to Ben Roberts, Lisa, Dapo, Leroy, Dallas, Little and Max.

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