George Allen / EducateMHC Blog Mobile Home & Land Lease Community Advocate & Expert

March 27, 2023

Largest Enemy Weapons Captured During Vietnam Conflict

Filed under: Uncategorized — George Allen @ 11:04 am

Blog Posting # 735, Copyright 7 April 2023. EducateMHC

This blog posting is a radical departure from the manufactured housing and land lease community fare I’ve shared with you weekly for the past 14+ years. Events described here date back 54 years, to when I was a young lieutenant of U.S. Marines serving a 13 month tour as a combat engineer in the Republic of South Vietnam. Had many adventures during that time in my life, but those chronicled here were among the most harrowing. Nothing graphically gruesome however, as I was penning these letters to my wife Carolyn and toddler daughter Susan; certainly did not want to unduly alarm or depress them. The letters you read here are among 400+ I sent to Carolyn at that time. I’m now transcribing them into a 600+ pages Allen Family Journal, copies of which will be prepared for Susan, her brother Adam, as well as Carolyn and me. GFA

My autobiography, From SmittyAlpha6 to MHMaven!contains more stories and photographs from my combat tour in RVN. To order, visit or google the book title.

George Allen

Largest Enemy Weapons Captured During Vietnam Conflict

An Excerpt from Chapter 12 of the Allen family Journal, subtitled,

‘My 13 Months in the Republic of South Vietnam during 1968 & 69’

Introduction. There were several defining moments during my combat tour in Vietnam as a lieutenant of U.S. Marines. First, as a combat engineer officer, participating in the breakout from the infamous Khe Sanh combat base. Then, training in Japan & Okinawa as an Atomic Demolitions Munitions (‘ADM’) technician, for secret deployment into North Vietnam if need be; and, during February 1969, participating in Operation Dewey Canyon, in the Ashau Valley adjacent to the Laotian border. During that latter period I was the shore party battalion’s primary rigging officer, preparing slinged and cargo net external loads for helo-lifiting into and off mountaintop Fire Support Bases (‘FSBs’) manned by grunts (infantry), and Helicopter Support Teams (‘HSTs’) from shore party companies*1

22 February 1969

Hi My Love,

            (Well into the letter) Wasn’t going to tell you what I’m about to, but I’ve been candid and honest and open about my work over here, so there’s no reason to keep something like this from you until it’s over or canceled.

            A few days ago, one of our grunt (Marine infantry) companies, out on the Dewey Canyon operation, captured two large enemy (Russian) field artillery pieces – originally thought to be 122mm howitzers (5,500 pounds each), but were determined to be 122mm field guns (14,500 pounds apiece). Yesterday I received ‘hints’, and today almost ‘definite word’, that, in the next couple days, I’ll be dropped into the jungle in the vicinity of the guns. Then, have to clear a landing zone around them, rig the guns for helo-lifting, and hook them one at a time, to a hovering CH-53 or CH-54 ‘flying cranes’, for retrograding back to Vandegrift (‘VCB’)  or Quang Tri forward combat bases . I don’t think I have to tell you this could be a pretty hairy experience, but I’ll do the best I can to get them out. To give you an idea about the size of these weapons, they’re larger and heavier than the 155mm howitzers you’ve seen in photos.

23, 24, 25 February 1969

            (Portions of these letters are missing) Before we quit for the afternoon, we started stripping all the gear we could from the first gun – to make it as light as possible for the flying crane. The guns are really interesting, as all writing on the guns is in Russian; and a lot of the accessory gear (firing lanyard, intact 122mm rounds and firing tables) was still here when I arrived.

            Just learned these are the biggest enemy weapons captured during the Vietnam conflict! They will probably be sent back to the states as war trophies once I get them lifted out of here. Would have lifted the first gun out this afternoon, but the engineers still have trees to fell around the guns, as the CH-53 & CH-54 need a lot of room to hover over heavy loads.

            Well hon, it’s so dark I can hardly see to write any more tonight.

            It’s now the morning of the 24th and a long night it was. Seven of us slept under a poncho lean-to positioned over our fighting hole. Along about 2300 hours (11PM) the ‘shit hit the fan’, as we became the brunt of an enemy ground attack. Don’t know how many gooks there were, but the air was filled with bullets and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). The attack (firefight) lasted about 30 minutes before the enemy broke contact and withdrew. Don’t know how many of them we killed, but we had a few casualties ourselves.

            Now we’re sitting here waiting for the weather to break so I can get those guns out. I expect the flying crane will arrive around 1400 hours (2pm). So I’ll likely be spending another night out here.

            Sorry ‘bout the quality of my penmanship this morning, but wet paper does not help much. We are thoroughly socked-in right now and a light drizzle is falling. Boy it sure is desolate out here. Not a lot more to tell you right now dear. Of course I love and miss you something terrible. Can’t wait to get home to you and darling Susan (daughter).

            Well, it’s now 1400 hours. Since writing you this morning I’ve rigged both big guns (just hope they fly OK) and survived yet another firefight, but more on that later.

            These guns sure weren’t the easiest thing to calculate and rig. We finished stripping the guns of armor plate and accessory gear to make them lighter. Then I had to figure out the rigging. This is what I came up with: from the donut-shaped nylon lifting ring, two 16’ slings out to the end of the gun tube (barrel), two 17’ slings out to the end of each of two trails, and two 5’ slings on each side of the guns to the wheels and axles.

            Know where I was when the next firefight started? Sitting out on the very end of the long gun tube (barrel), straddling it as I attached the heavy nylon slings. A couple Marines were sitting on the trails and gun carriage to counterbalance my weight on the tube…when the gunfire started. My men dove for cover – while the tube and I hit the dirt.

            One of our OPs (observation posts) radioed in a while ago and reported seeing enemy troops and elephants loaded with gear. Also this afternoon, one of our patrols found the firing sites where these guns had been located, and uncovered numerous bunkers, two gun pits, and many documents. Really an outstanding find.

            Stopped writing for a minute, to take a look at the captured gear. Manuals (all in Russian) for the big guns, gas masks, 50 caliber ammunition, and a personal diary. Some of my buddies out here tell me, that during the assault, grunts saw individuals who were definitely not Vietnamese – much much larger in stature, and heard talking and hollering in a foreign language – sounding like Russian.

            Well love, I’ve got a bit of a headache, so I think I’ll close for now. Darling, I do love you so very much and wish I could be home with you and Susie right now.

            It’s now the morning of the 25th. Slept like a rock last night. Hit the deck at about 1930 hours and didn’t stir until about 0730 this morning. No firefights or incoming rockets or artillery rounds last night – at least none I heard. Was really tired, but feel great this morning, except for bad news I just heard. Seems someone back at VCB does not feel the ‘flying crane’ can lift out the guns in one piece (I disagree); so now an ordnance team is on its’ way out to dissemble the guns for lift out. I really think that is going to be more trouble than it’s worth; first off, any manuals we have on the gun (and these are few at that) are written in Russian; secondly, we don’t have the necessary tools to dissemble them; and finally, even if we can get the tubes separated from the gun carriage and trails, the barrel alone (5-6,000 pounds) is going to play havoc as we try and manhandle it off the carriage. Looks like I could be here at least today and tomorrow awaiting disassembly.

Right now we’re just sitting around waiting to see what the weather will bring: either ordnance guys to take the guns apart or a crane to lift the guns out intact.

Know what? I love you lots! Really I do. Sure wish I was on my way home to you;

I miss you and little Susie so very much..

            Hi again love. It’s about noon and not much has changed since I wrote earlier this morning. Had one CH-53 fly in this morning and drop off the ordnance team. Now they’re hard at work on the gun. Wish them luck, as those guns are going to be a bugger to take apart.

            Remember the small U.S. and Pennsylvania flags your mother gave me? Well I taped them to one of the guns, before preparing them for retrograding.

            Back again. It’s about 1800 hours and guess what? The guns and I are still here. In fact, the only helicopters we saw today were emergency resupply birds bringing in water, chow, and ammunition.

            The guns are now rigged and ready to go. It’s just a matter of getting big enough choppers out here to lift them in four lifts, plus a fifth for the large nylon cargo net containing gun gear and ammunition.

            (In the meantime) The ordnance Marines told me if I could get a CH-53 into the area where the guns are, the tubes and carriages could be helolifted out. Well I got on the radio and had a resupply bird fly over from fire support base (‘FSB’) Cunningham to pick me up to go to Quang Tri or Dong Ha. Well the pilot, after getting me aboard chickened out, due to heavy ground fire (another firefight), and would not pull the tube out. He flew me back to Quang Tri where I reported to the Battalion CO and obtained a jeep so I could go to Dong Ha. At Dong Ha I went to see Colonel Sexton, General Davis’ Chief of Staff, about getting more birds out to the Ashau Valley for the guns pickup. The colonel then sent me to see Colonel Jobe, the division air officer, who authorized CH-53s and a CH-54 to fly out and pull the guns out. My job then was finished; I’d rigged the guns and arranged for retrograde. I must have cut a less than professional appearance however, as I appeared before both colonels in my field-worn uniform, pistol belt and helmet.

            I drove back to Quang Tri, where I explained to my Battalion CO what I had done; he seemed pleased, so then all we had to do was sit back and wait to see what would happen. Result? As of 15 minutes ago, the guns arrived safely at Quang Tri LSA. Mission accomplished.*2

End Note.

  1. More detailed descriptions of this historic capture and retrograde of Russian artillery pieces can be found in the short stories, ‘PUC Beer’ and ‘Pluck, Politics & Shore Party’, both contained within my autobiography, From SmittyAlpha6 to MHMaven, available for purchase via & the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN. Also, the late Donald F. Myers’ book, YOUR WAR MY WAR, ‘A Marine in Vietnam’, 2000. Suggested passages: p. 59, & pp. 347 – 355; where Myers describes the assault that captured the guns: “…what eerie thoughts the enemy must have had as this rebel-rousing, reeling, cursing, insane group of Marines came at them in a John Wayne style charge. I have a feeling if I saw this berserk group trotting towards me, waving and shooting rifles, many of them with bayonets affixed, and screaming bloody murder (& some loudly singing the Marine Corps Hymn), I may have been inclined to break and run. And that’ just what the enemy did. I glimpsed shadowy figures bobbing and weaving at a distance away from our advancing force.”
  • Today, one of the two guns is on display in the USMC Museum in Quantico, VA. The other one? Well, there’s an interesting story to tell, someday, about what became of that one. Hint? Has something ironic to do with the Russian conflict in Afghanistan.

All of which was just described here, occurred more than 50 years ago. For some, if not many of us, who fought in Vietnam, the memories – at times, are now distant and dim; but at other times, near and clear. I’m grateful to be alive today, enjoying life with Carolyn, the adulthood of Susan and her brother Adam and their spouses, as well as their six children (our grandchildren), and now, three great grandchildren.

TODAY, 29 March 2023, is National Vietnam Veteran Day. Take a moment to recognize, thank, and ‘Welcome Home’ Viet Vets you know. Trust me; they will sincerely appreciate the sentiment!

George Allen, LtCol USMC (retired)

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