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RD FOSTER  USMC

THE DAY THE
DA NANG AMMO DUMP BLEW

SUNDAY, 27 APRIL, 1969
Pictures by Ronnie D. Foster
{click on picture for large view}

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First view, looking west from Marble Mountain From the east side of Da Nang, Getting close Beginning to feel the heat Coming around the south end of
Da Nang Air Base
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Traveling west around the southern end of the runway Back at Maint. Bn. 1st FSR hooch area Close enough to beware of shrapnel
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We're headed to our bunkers on the other side of those
hooches. We were responsible for defending the perimeter.
Real Close! Not only is the red-hot flying shrapnel a real danger, the concussions are very severe. I used this photo on the cover of my book, "One Day as a Lion"
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The big ones going up Piece of shrapnel that hit our bunker This photo was sent to me by Bud, another Marine who was there.
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These 2 photos by Bobby Edwards These 2 photos by Tom Cleveland, USMC
Jerry Fisher 4 Jerry Fisher 3 Jerry Fisher 2 Jerry Fisher 1
 
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27 April, 1969
ASP-1 (ammo supply point)

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These 4 photos, taken by Jerry Fisher from a tugboat in Da Nang Harbor, were sent in by
Clyde Lovell, USN. However, Clyde thinks they could be from another explosion in Da Nang.
The 21 photos below were sent in by James Clark, USMC
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The next 20 photos of the Freedom Hill Transit Facility are from
Doug Conners, Cpl. USMC
Danang, Viet Nam, 27 April, 1969

I was a guard at the transit facility. We eventually evacuated to China Beach. Our Captain organized a patrol to go back the first night while it was still blowing up and secure the area. They walked at night through the live ammo and falling debris. I think they got decorated for their efforts? I couldn’t go, I didn’t have my rifle. I only had my camera. Taken with a Kodak instamatic.

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THE DAY AFTER
THE DA NANG AMMO DUMP BLEW
April 28, 1969
Photos by RD Foster

This was a large metal shop building This was the building next to the first pic. Walls blown off  
Enlisted Men's club Another view of the club Shower building Inside shower building
Hill 327 in the background Shrapnel damage to ambulance Regimental HQ Battalion mess hall
Repairing the hooches Chapel Side view of Chapel Pacific Stars and Stripes articles
These 4 photos by Tom Benton, USMC, were taken 6 September 1969, after a sapper attack on ASPII
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This article appeared in "Nam Magazine" June, 2005.

THE DAY THE DA NANG AMMO DUMP BLEW
By Ronnie D. Foster

After almost twenty months overseas my short-timer’s calendar was down to one day and a wake-up. It was Sunday morning, 27 April, 1969, and being as short as I was, the Gunny had left me off of any duty rosters. My only remaining responsibilities were to check out, survey my gear and climb aboard that Freedom Bird out of Da Nang the next afternoon. I didn’t have far to go as I was stationed on the western side of the air base with 1st FSR, 1st FLC, 1st Marine Division.

Danang Ammo Dump- One of the big ones going up! RD Foster

A truck-driver buddy of mine was on a routine convoy to Marble Mountain that morning, so I decided to take my camera and go along for the ride. The view of the Da Nang area on that clear sunny morning was magnificent as we worked our way to the top of the mountain. At around 0800 a tremendous explosion to the northwest got our immediate attention. We could see a large column of gray and black smoke rising from the area on the other side of the city, southeast of Hill 327 in the vicinity of our compound. The blast was followed by a series of more explosions. Word came over the radio for the convoy to return immediately, at which time the trucks found a place to turn around and headed back.

We didn’t know exactly what was going on as the explosions didn’t look the same as the incoming VC rockets which were accustomed to and were much too big for mortars. Our unit was responsible for the security of the western perimeter of the air base, so that was our immediate destination. As we headed back down the steep mountain road at white-knuckle speed, word came that the ammo dump had been hit. It was located just across the road from our compound and west of the little village of Dog Patch. As we worked our way closer the intensity of the explosions increased, filling the air with gray smoke and burning pungent aromas to go with it. All along the road locals had stopped whatever they were doing and were watching the once in a lifetime show. The convoy worked its way around the stopped vehicles and continued on.
We entered the main gate on the eastern side of the air base and turned left to go around the south end of the airstrips. The two-lane road was filled with a stream of Army, Navy and Marine Corps vehicles, all going in the opposite direction we were. There was nothing to slow us down now and the drivers drove even faster. As we came around the south end of the air strips, we saw truck after truck loaded with personnel headed away from the massive wall of fire and smoke that covered the horizon only a couple of miles away. We could really feel the heat on our faces by that time.
We pulled into the rear gate near the motor pool and stood beside bunkers while waiting for orders. Massive blasts shook the ground and the tin buildings around us as we watched in awe the huge mushroom shaped clouds that billowed hundreds of feet into the sky. We were so close now that we were looking up to see them. Small pieces of rock and metal dinged off our helmets and the hoods of the trucks. We didn’t have to wait long. We were told to proceed to our assigned bunkers along the outer perimeter wire. By that time it must have been around 0900, and the intensity of the explosions showed no sign of letting up. As a matter of fact they seemed to be getting bigger and more frequent, which in reality they were.
We stooped low and hurriedly ran across the open company formation area which had pieces of jagged metal lying around on the ground, some of which were still red hot and smoking. As we ran through the hooch area we could hear rocks and pieces of metal hitting the tin roofs. My assigned bunker was on the perimeter near the main entrance gate and just across the road, Highway 1, from Dog Patch. The other members of my squad were already there, peering out the open port of the sandbag covered emplacement with M16s, and an M60 machine gun locked and loaded not knowing what to expect. We figured if any VC were brave enough or bad enough to come through that fire and metal hail storm and attack the perimeter, we would certainly have a fight on our hands.
As the day went on the intensity grew even more severe. Somebody had a transistor radio tuned in to Armed Forces Radio, and the news report said that the situation was so dangerous that all military and civilian personnel in the area had been evacuated. Well, not exactly, we thought as we all laughed at that and tried to relax to the music of the Beatles, the Animals, and Elvis that continued to play. It was certainly exciting, but a scary place to be.
Every few minutes one of those big explosions that produced the mushroom clouds would occur. We guessed they were 1,000-pound bombs but never did know for sure. When they went off we could see the shock waves rolling toward us across the ground like ripples on water. As they passed through the village, roofs of houses would fly into the air like in disaster film footage of tornadoes and hurricanes.
We would watch until the wave got to the road and then we would hit the ground face down and cover our heads. The ground and the sandbag bunker would shake and the concussion would raise us off the ground and slam us back down. We would then jump up and look out the rear porthole and watch the waves roll across our compound sending big metal shop buildings and roofs of hooches flying through the air.
The show continued on through the day and all night long. Once darkness fell it was really a sight to see. Talk about a fireworks show. The explosions finally began to let up about twenty-four hours after they began. As we exited the safety of our bunkers we could see the damage that had occurred and it was extensive. Huge metals buildings that had been fourth echelon heavy equipment repair shops were now just piles of metal and tin lying on the ground, or gone altogether. Most of the damage was from concussions, with the hooches being the least damaged as they had sides made of screen wire. All the wood buildings were in bad shape: the mess hall, chapel, sick bay, Battalion HQ, and our shower building. An ambulance that was sitting next to sick bay had a live artillery round lying in the floor that had gone through its metal roof. Dangerous live rounds and large jagged pieces of shrapnel littered the area. Up on Hill 327 the damage was also extensive at the PX and the R&R center.
I was able to check out and turn in my gear that Monday afternoon, and by 1500, was on my way out of there. The view of ground zero from the plane was something to see. Just a large patch of blackened smoldering earth. That night I was at transit barracks at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, and watched the footage on the TV news. It was totally awesome. Once again they erroneously reported that all personnel in the area had been evacuated. I didn’t even bother to tell anyone else in that room that I had been there, very close. I just didn’t think anyone would believe me. It certainly looked unbelievable.
Two weeks later I was back in my hometown of McKinney, Texas, a civilian once again. I never heard what caused the ammo dump to blow, if there were any casualties, nor what happened to that compound or the village of Dog Patch after I left. In the past couple of years I have begun to surf the Internet and have learned a lot of stuff about my time in Vietnam. I have seen a few mentions of that day but not much. One of the things I just recently found was a warning that anyone who was in that Marine compound across the road from the ammo dump at the time should get an Agent Orange Test. I am being tested next month.
(OCTOBER 2010, UPDATE - On 26 December, 2007, I underwent open-heart surgery at the VA Hospital in Dallas, Texas. In 2010 the VA announced that Ischemic Heart Disease is related to Agent Orange. I have filed a claim and am waiting to hear back.)
Witnessing the Da Nang Ammo Dump blow up, first hand from a ringside seat, was without a doubt the most awesome thing I have ever seen in my life. My hearing has never been the same, however. But I’ll bet I will never witness another fireworks show like that one again. What a show!

 

EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT TO HOW IT ALL BEGAN
By Bill Letendre, Sgt.  U.S. Marine Corps
Bradenton, FL (Born and raised in Massachusetts)

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ASP 1, Camp Monahan
Da Nang,  South Vietnam
April 27, 1969

I was in the ammo dump on that Sunday morning in April when it all began.  Out by the road at the far end of the dump by the “grade 3” area some Vietnamese were burning trash.  A 5 year old kid supposedly lit a piece of paper on fire and stuck it under the fence and started a field of dry grass burning which eventually reached a pallet of 105 WP (white phosphorous or “willy peter”) rounds. I, and 3 other marines, (I think one of them was named Sanders or Sandman) tried to beat the fire out with our shirts and the firefighting tools in the area.  These firefighting tools consisted of an 8 ft. 2x4 with a rubber mudflap attached to the end. This old Gunnery Sgt from South Dakota (I can’t remember his name) yelled from a distance to “get the hell out of there” because it was going to blow.  We started running and sure enough it went up.  The rest, as they say, is history.
 When we got to the main operations office in the dump it was really starting to spread.  One of our truck drivers, Tom Robertson from NJ, told us to get in the back and he drove us to the gate at the other end of the dump (which happened to be closed).  He said to “hang on” and he crashed through the chain link gate.
Back in the compound there was pandemonium.  Everyone was scrambling around trying to figure out what to do.  I, Stan (Buck) Owens and a guy named Hart (I think) were running down the dirt road.  I believe we jumped on the back of a tank that was going by.  When it got to the hill on the other side of the rice paddy we jumped off.  We were at the entrance to a communications compound which had already evacuated.  We had a fantastic view of the destruction taking place but it soon got out of control.
By now the Air Force bomb dump and bulk fuel area were also blowing up.  1,000 pound bombs were flying through the air and skimming along the ground like little toys.  Some were too close for comfort so we went into the communications compound where there were some pretty good in-ground sandbagged bunkers. The compound was deserted except for us three.  Some of the explosions were so big that the 4x4 beams across the top of the bunkers were starting to collapse and sand was falling in.  We would take turns watching the dump from the opening in the bunker while the other two huddled in the corner.
At one point, the dynamite mag went up.  The day before, my crew unloaded semi after semi of pallets of dynamite (250,000 one pound sticks).  This looked like an atomic bomb explosion.  You could see the shock waves coming through the air.  When it reached our bunker the concussion was unbelievable.  Hart was starting to freak out.  We had to leave that bunker and run to another one about 30 or 40 yards away.  Hart didn’t want to go but we dragged him out and told him to run for his life.  All kinds of debris was falling from the sky and the dump was going “full bore”!  All the smoke and dust made the daylight seem like night time.  The air was moist with a stench of fuel, chemicals and gunpowder.
We spent the entire day till about dusk running from bunker to bunker.  We had one M16 with us and wondered if the VC would try to take this compound during the night.  Then all of a sudden we heard trucks and dogs barking.  To our relief it was the entire rest of our company. They had all gathered early in the day and ran down the road a few miles and laid low till dusk.  They decided they had to find shelter for the night and ended up in the communications compound.  Were we ever glad to see them!  We spent the night and most of the next two days hunkered down while the ammo dump “did its thing”!
When it finally started to die down they gave each of us a piece of paper, an envelope and a pencil and told us to write home and let someone know that we were OK.  I guess this event made national news and loved ones would be concerned. In the aftermath, SSgt Vanmeter received a medal for bravery when he drove a jeep out to the dump in the midst of the destruction and rescued SSgt Fulton from the underground bunker there.
Clean up of the dump began immediately.  I was in the first wave of guys sent to walk the road (or what was left of it) looking for any live rounds of ammo.  We had a couple EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) guys with us.  About 2 weeks later I was transferred to ASP 2 and spent the rest of my tour there.
The day the ammo dump blew up I had been in country a little shy of 10 months of my 13 month tour.
Well, that’s my account of that fateful day in history.  I did read an official account of that day in some publication.  It said that some of the explosions had blown the metal doors off a concrete foundation at 3rd MAF headquarters which was 15 miles away.
I hope this helps.  Just writing about it brought back the memories.  I’ve never done this till now.  What a rush! (Nov. 2010)

PACIFIC STARS and STRIPES
10 July, 1969

AN EXPLOSIVE JOB,
EVERY INCH OF IT

By Spec4 Jim Clare
S&S Correspondent

Da Nang, Vietnam- The shells and shell casings stick out of the ground like small crosses in a large cemetery. The land itself is burnt and littered with twisted metal like a junkyard. Giant mounds of earth cover not tombs nor treasure, but bombs of unknown type and number. And there are craters 100 feet across, 100 feet deep, and big enough for several swimming pools.
The Da Nang ammo dump disarmed itself with the proverbial bang. The present problem is cleaning it up. A Vietnamese- if his name were known, he might be as famous as Mrs. Leary’s cow- was burning trash on the morning of April 27. The trash set the grass on fire, and the grass fire swept a short distance to the U.S. Marine ammo supply area. The munitions started to explode. The troops pulled out. The air filled with smoke, fire and hunks of metal. Some of the bombs were buried across the road where they set off secondary explosions in the Air Force ammo dump.
The explosion continued for 15 hours. Cleaning up the mess is taking a lot longer. The amount of munitions stored here and the totals of what was lost have not been released. But right after the explosion the estimated cleanup time was about six months. By this week the job was about one-third done.
The Marine ammo dump covers 332 acres, the Air force dump is about one-third that size. Munitions are separated by type and sorted in revetments, areas about 40 yards square and surrounded on three sides by high, thick walls of dirt. There were 215 revetments in the Marine dump and 60 more on the Air Force side. One guess is that about one-half of the stored munitions exploded. Some of the ammunition is still usable. It was either untouched or buried by dirt from other explosions. Other munitions were thrown through the air. Marine ammo landed in the Air Force dump and vice versa. Most of the ammo that didn’t explode has been subjected to enough heat or stress to make it highly dangerous. Some of this ammunition, scattered on the ground as casually as pickup sticks, has taken all the temperature or tension changes it can. One more nudge and it will explode. There’s no way to tell which piece of explosive is about to go off. So it’s all treated the same. Most Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) work is classified, so the men don’t talk about the tricks of their craft. But it looks like a giant police call.
A man slowly picks up an explosive and carefully carries it to a group of the same kind. If it’s small, like a hand grenade, he’ll cradle it in sand inside a box. These will be boxed and trucked away, to be dumped at sea or blown up in specially designed holes. In the meantime, the men continue the cleanup. Nobody rushes, they take frequent breaks. They work only a half a day to cut down on accidents caused by fatigue. There is a look of casualness about the work, but of course it’s not like a police call.
"Everything you pick up is different. You remember that it might kill you," said S/Sgt John L. Lorentz, with the Marine EOD team. "You must treat everything like it was the first time you touched it. You never let it become routine. I like the work," he continued, "not everyone can do it. And I’d go crazy if I had an office job, filing the same papers day after day."
It would be safer for the men to simply blow up everything in place, but there are so many explosives that it could set off another holocaust like the one of April 27. Jobs as big as this are rare for EOD men. Typical would be a load of bombs in a plane that crashed. For the EOD men cleaning up the ammo dump it is like a small town fire company having to battle a four alarm blaze everyday.
"First the EOD teams cleared the roads that ran past the revetments. Then they cleared the ground and piled the munitions along the roads for the trucks to pick up. The last phase is digging out the buried revetments," said Capt. Gary J. Williams, chief of the Air Force EOD team.
The Air Force has 24 EOD specialists from all over Vietnam and the Pacific on temporary duty in Da Nang to help the base’s nine-man EOD team clean up the ammo dump. The TDY personnel are in Da Nang for two-week stretches, so that every Air Force EOD specialist in the Pacific theater can probably expect to be sent there.
Lt William R. Sullivan leads about 50 men working mornings and afternoons to clean up the Marine dump. Five are U.S. Army EOD specialists working one-week shifts. Twenty-six are Marine EOD from Vietnam and the Pacific area. Another 25 are ammo technicians who worked in the dump before it blew up and who have volunteered to help clean it up. The same Marines will stay on the job until it’s finished.
One other important fact; Not one of the men actually cleaning up the munitions in both dumps has been injured on the job.

(Note by R. D. Foster: Two things I know are wrong in this article. The explosions went on for over 24 hours, not 15. Not all of the troops pulled out, as these pictures and the comments below can attest to that.)

 

 

The following pictures were submitted by Jerry H. Bond, from Fayetteville, Georgia
I just discovered your site. It's great. For so many years I've wondered if anybody even remembered. I am thrilled beyond words. After all these years I'm finally in contact with someone who actually experienced this event. My scrap book is coming back to life. Thank you again for all you have done for a bunch of old Nam Vets.
The article PACIFIC STARS and STRIPES, 10 July, 1969 - AN EXPLOSIVE JOB, EVERY INCH OF IT (above) is a great account of the EOD clean up. My pictures show exactly what Jim Clare is describing. Thanks for all your work and time in putting this fantastic website together. I'm almost 69. Most of the EOD team I was assigned to were 10 to 15 years older than me at the time. I'd love to see some of them respond. There's probably not many of them left. They were real nice to me. They let me drive the truck loaded with rocket boxes filled with cluster bomlets through the bomp dump to the disposal site while they walked the long way around on the other side of an earthern revetment from where I was driving. Most of these EOD guys were only in Da Nang TDY for 2 weeks. They had to be careful. AIC and FNG volunteers were expendable. OORAH! What a time.

I was working in the AF dump the morning all this all started. I was an AF munitions specialist and volunteered to assist in the EOD clean up for the duration.
These live munitions were armed. The cluster bombs would detonate if bumped or tilted. There were case-hardened steel embedded with ball bearing.
There seemed to be millions of them scattered like popcorn at a circus. The detonator was a rocker arm about the size of the end of your thumb. If the rocker arm moved, Ka-Blooey! I saw it happen twice. I have a commendation to prove it. We had to gently pick them up and set them in a 2.75 rocket box filled with sand so they wouldn't roll. We'd carry them to a demolition site, cover with C-4, connect the wires, set the primer, back away and "fire in the hole."

The heavy and less sensitive munitions were transported 6 miles north of Da Nang, off loaded, tail plugs (if there was one left) packed with C4 and we left a "fire in a damn big hole." A volunteer rode in back on top of the explosive load with an M16. You remember how rice paddies bordered both sides of the dirt roads north of Da Nang. The local militia wearing black pajamas, friends during the day carrying M16s and VC by night carrying AK47s, loved to harass the crap out of us by firing fully auto into the rice paddies just as we passed by them. I was always prepared for one of these assholes to lift his gun barrel. It never happened. Thank God.

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Main street of Dog Patch, at the base of Hill 327 - Freedom Hill
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POW Camp
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Bombs broken open like cream-filled candy. Live HE which Charlie wanted badly.
We'd transport 6 miles north of Da Nang in convoys, pack with C4 and back off.
I rode shotgun on top of these trucks with nothing but an M16. What a joke.
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A TERRIBLE WASTE OF GOOD FIREWORKS. Most of these munitions
were cluster bombs. We recovered and disposed of these highly fragile explosives
on site. We had a 3-block limit of C4 per each 2.75 rocket box full of cluster bombs.
If we used more than that, it would piss off the nearest brass which stayed at least a
mile away. That's as close as they ever got. It didn't take long for craters to form.
We kept them filled with water to prevent static electricity. After all, we were using
electric blasting caps. We were doing a job not many people wanted to do which
afforded me a bit of leverage for a little fun. I set up a loaded rocket box
one day and placed 6 blocks of C4 on top like I was supposed to do. I set the
highly charged rocket box at an angle toward the nearest officer's quarters. Next,
I loaded every trip flare I could find on top of the C4. It took about two minutes
from the time I cranked off the charge handle for the EOD Chief Master Sergeant
to come looking for me. All he said was, "Don't do that no more." As he turned
and walked away, I saw a faint grin. He understood what it took to stay
sane on this mission.
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Beach market north, near the DMZ.
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Forklifts Twisted Like Pretzels
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Off loading damaged munitions for disposal 6 miles north of DaNang.
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Prepping Flares
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Driving a tractor trailer loaded with damaged high explosives for disposal on a
 one-lane dirt road through Charlie country was a bitch. On one such convoy,
the driver thought he was under sniper fire and ran off the road. It was a good
thing the ground was soft. Having to recover the same munitions twice
was sort of like taking the same hill twice.
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Can you believe all the protection the EOD guys wear these days?
Times have sure changed.
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Tunnel City
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Rocket Prep Station
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This was our disposal site for the small and fragile stuff like cluster bombs
and grenades. It was one of the dumps just off base. It was surrounded by
rice paddies. Almost every morning before we began, we had to run
the locals away from the site. They would not DEE DEE MAO until we
began firing our M16s into the water at their heels. The C4 we used
was a cream white. We chopped it with machetes and formed it in any shape we wished. It would even burn like Sterno fuel. About midway this mission,
maybe June, we tested out some green C4 that wasn't worth a crap.
We only used it for about a week. Many times only a half block
would explode and it would merely scatter the ordinance and make
it more sensitive than before.
That was always lots of fun and excitement. On one such occasion,
a scattered cluster bomb that failed to detonate on the first attempt
exploded 15 yards in front of me when I was walking to pick it up.
Lucky for me the shrapnel went skyward. I saw a sergeant drop one.
It exploded in his face. It took one second from the time the handle
was cranked until detonation. It took another second for the
shrapnel to hit. So I'd crank the handle, snap a picture exactly ONE
second later and then duck.
 photo cid_1DE4E80D-1192-405D-865D-0D23EDC83F7C_zpsadebba86.png
 photo cid_0A026392-EC57-4D57-A3A5-E2394D612A22_zpse4dfeab8.png  photo cid_08A2F9F0-FB85-47BC-BB1E-B57BABF887D7_zps374f3616.png
 WP (Willie Peter) still burning.
 photo cid_2DB48992-FD1C-48A6-8F13-E008B9437923_zps71970b4c.png  photo cid_E97846E1-D6C5-4080-9430-1B84EB24EB99_zps42544bb1.png
Marine Hangar. The cockpit instruments had shattered.
Photos of the Dong Ha Ammo Dump blowing up on 20 June, 1968
            
   D Monteleone Dong Ha          D Monteleone Dong Ha 2

Dong Ha article
CPL (name with held by request)
Engineer Maintenance Co
1st FSR 67 68
FLC FLSG Bravo 68 69

I found your site because I was searching for ammo dump hit. In Dong Ha we some times took 50+ rounds of Artillery in a day. I spent the month of June on perimeter guard at Dong Ha Combat Base. We lived in the fighting holes and bunker 24/7. On 20 June 68, the NVA walked about a dozen rounds on to the ammo dump which was 30 yards behind us. Several of us made it to the command bunker which then took a direct hit and collapsed half of the bunker. The tear gas, CS gas and more drove us from the bunker, and me and 4 other Marines took cover in a bunker someone had dug out of a Vietnamese grave. Do you remember how the Vietnamese would bury there dead in a mound of earth? This dug out area was 4'x4' and we were trapped in that grave for 10 hours. The earth shook and secondary explosions rocked the world every 1 billionth of a second for about 8 hours. Early in the morning a friend of mine recovered the radio and called in for a medevac. 2nd Lt John Scribner organized a volunteer team and drove an Amtrak in to the area, driving over 10's of thousands of rounds of un-detonated smoking rounds, everything from mines, m79's 155's and 250 lb 8 inch rounds. We gathered wounded along the way out and he was awarded a Bronze with a V for his heroism. Later he died of agent orange complications. There were 22 of us that night, 12 were wounded, miraculously none mortally. Some articles differ in the details, the official 3rd Mar Div Chronicles state 13 Thousand Tons of Ammo was destroyed, took 6 months of clean up.
Has any one else contacted you from Maintenance BN? I have several friends that I have searched for over more than 10 years. One of them was a welder, Walter Carter, I laughed when I saw the pics of the Da Nang 500. Walter was a heavy gambler, he was making book on the race, and I think h won over 1 thousand dollars in MPC.
Take care Marine and welcome home as well. No one every told us that till the last few years.

                        

Comments from others who were there

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7/11/2013

Sgt. Thomas E. Quetschke U.S.M.C.

My name is Thomas Quetschke. I was with the Marine Corps and in Vietnam from 1/1967 to 5/1970.

The incredible 3 to 4 day pyrotechnic display hurled 500 pound bombs more than 2 miles away, not to mention smaller explosive devices and munitions scattered all over hells half acre. I also remember seeing a 6X6 truck launched straight up for hundreds of feet above all the smoke and flames.

 

I'll tell you what I know about ASP 1. Alpha Co. 1st Anti-Tank Bn. was a part of 1st Tank Bn, (USMC) just outside of Da Nang. At the time that ASP 1 blew, A Co. was stationed with 1st Tanks. By chance, I happened to be inside of 1st Tank Battalion's compound at the time of the fire at ASP 1.

 

Short history:

There were three platoons of Ontos (Alpha Co. 1st Anti-Tank Bn) or 15 Ontos attached to 1st Tanks. Generally, two platoons were in the field at all times and one platoon was in the compound with 1st Tanks when it blew. Two platoons were either on bridge security or out in the field on an operation. Sometimes you would find our Pigs (Ontos) at outposts. The outpost’s names were OP Thumb, OP North and OP Three fingers. The OP's are irrelevant to what happened at ASP 1, but I just thought I would throw that in there.

 

To continue what I know about ASP 1 blowing up. 1st Tanks perimeter was very close to ASP 1. The view of their compound was clear and no obstructions between 1st Tanks and ASP 1. 1st Tank Bn was slightly on higher ground than ASP 1 and we could overlook their area and see their bunkers.

 

I can't tell you the exact day ASP 1 blew but I was inside 1st Tanks / 1st Anti-Tank Bn. area. I was I was supposed to be going on R & R the next day. The evening before leaving on R & R (which I did not get to go for another 6 weeks) there was a small USO show at 1st Tanks little outdoor theater.

 

About 200 yards behind the theater’s stage and to the right in ASP 1's area, we could see what looked like a small fire about the size of a campfire. No one really was paying attention to the fire but we noticed it. There was smoke coming from the fire and no one gave it another thought. A short time passed and we saw what looked like four or five pop-ups being shot at the same time but in a scattered pattern. Everyone (25 to 30 Marines at the USO show) cheered at the display of pop-ups. It was like the 4th of July.

 

Soon after that, the small display of "fireworks" became a little bigger and then a little BIGGER, until…

Well you know the rest. ASP 1 blew up for days. I won't fill you in on all of the excitement after that. However, I don’t believe anyone thought we were going to live through that. We were not evacuated from our area because it was to dangerous to move.

 

After reading all of the other descriptions and dates, everything is now a complete story. That's not to say I sat around for 44 years thinking about it, but it happened to cross my mind today.

 

1st Tank Bn. area was destroyed. It took weeks to put it together and pick up all the debris.

 

One last thing that I would like to tell you about in remembering the event. I remember seeing a tremendous shock wave coming at me after a gigantic explosion. It was incredible. It knocked me off my feet.

 

 

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Cpl. Jerry Pfohl USMC
I just read the post re: ASP-1 blowing up. I was on the Perimeter of ASP-2 at the time of the explosion. Watched the shock waves travel through the air.
For the life of me I can't remember the exact location of ASP-2. Can you help?

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Ed Peters USMC
 When the ammo dump blew up I was doing guard duty at Dilac Pass. I was with the 2/7 H&S Co. Weapons Platoon. I remember the shrapnel and the red heat waves in the sky. It was like seeing the end of the earth.
81's forever. Semper Fi !

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Kent McBride - USMC
Dear Fellow Marine,
I was taking a break from some office work and I discovered your website on a whim. Good job my friend! This brought back a bunch of memories. I don't have much time at the moment but I will provide some photos and other information later. This is what I offer for the moment:
I was working at ASP-1 in the main office (had been there about a month) when the incident occurred. Someone came running in and said we had a fire in Grade 3. We rushed out to help but only had shovels. This didn't work too well because the ground was hard as brick. There was a pile of old ammo and a lot of wood, and the fire was starting to catch on. Someone said there was some WP in there and it was time leave. We grabbed rides on anything with wheels and drove back to Camp Monahan to wait out the burn off (this is why Grade 3 is segregated from the rest of the dump). What we didn't figure on was that two flatbed semi trucks loaded with civilian dynamite had just pulled into staging to be counted before being stored in a secured area. The staging area completed the link between Grade 3 and the rest of the dump. The first big explosion was the lead truck of dynamite. When it went off things swapped sides in our hooch and we went running outside to see what was going on. That's when the second semi went off. I was watching the fire ball grow and grow and I thought we were going to be consumed by fire. Not wishing to meet that fate I literally dove into the bunker next to our hooch. At that point our entire company decided Camp Monahan wasn't a good place to be. The rough terrain forklifts lowered their forks to the ground and we followed in a dead run through our perimeter wire headed west. I think we all collectively broke the four minute mile that day! Even that distance away, when a big magazine went off, we could see the shock wave coming at us, knocked us on our collective asses. This was in an area that was later made into an ARVN 155 battery. The problem now was, few of us had weapons or ammo, and we were all by ourselves.
We finally got some transportation and headed south then east to a camp that formally had been a 175 battery. Later that afternoon as I headed to the latrine I saw a small piece of shrapnel land next to me, I started running for cover (a truck) yelling "In-coming!". Everyone thought I had lost it until they (and me) heard this large piece of shrapnel coming our way. I dove under the truck at a dead run and got sprayed with gravel and dirt when the thing hit. Unfortunately, it took out part of the elbow of the guy that dove in after me. For the next two days I kept my back glued to a two foot high berm cut for a 175. As best as I can recall, it was three days before we felt safe coming out in the open.
A few other tidbits and I'll have to go for now. Twenty volunteers (Marine Corp style) were hooked up with five EOD to clean the ammo dump up after it was all over. We were on the job trained and not one of us got killed or hurt badly though the whole thing. It was projected to take a year and a half to get the dump going again and we finished in six months. We had one EOD man to four of us. If we saw something on the ground we couldn't ID the EOD would instruct us on how to handle it. My EOD man was S/Sgt John "Chief" Lorenzo. The Stars & Stripes misspelled his name. Funny thing is, that was my interview, not his. Why the mix up? I wasn't there. In fact, none of my other fifteen volunteers were there. You see, we were handling dangerous stuff for which we were not trained, nor did we have the secret clearance required, nor did we get the hazardous duty pay the EOD folks got. And we didn't care. We were proud of what we were doing and how we were doing it. And the EOD folks were the best, an honor to have worked with them. When the commendations eventually came, it was directed to the EOD team. This fact really pissed them off because they wanted us to share in the laurels.
Another interesting note. When we were almost completely done a film crew was brought in, and myself and my crew were filmed loading damaged ammo for transport on a 5-ton truck (we developed a new technique). When they said they were going to show the film I asked if I could see it. They said I could not because I didn't have the clearance!
As to why ASP-1 went high order? A whole bunch can be said (and speculated) about that. I was told at the time that we were 20% overstocked on ammo, that is why we kept getting sympathetic detonations. Our perimeter was not cleared of combustables for 50 feet (more like 20). Our fire truck had been taken from us (sent to Red Beach) a week prior. There's a few other things but I'm not going to put them in here. Besides, they are only speculation.
That's all for now. 

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Cpl. Greg Nemetz, USMC
Mr. Foster, my name is Greg Nemetz. I served as a Marine Sergeant of the Guard at the TFAC Da Nang during 1969 and am very familiar with the ASP-1 explosion of April. One name I see on your site is Doug Connors. I would like to contact Doug since he and I served together. If you can help me contact Doug, I would appreciate it. On the first day of the explosion, our commanding officer of the TFAC abandoned the compound along with the E-8 Army liaison. When I attempted to locate the CO, I was informed by the gate guard that the lieutenant colonel “nearly ran over” the Marine at the gate. Several of our NCO’s organized the evacuation of newly arrived Marines who had only been in country for a few hours. Our permanent party personnel were using their labor to reinforce our bunkers. The new guys were taken by “deuce and a half” to First Medical Battalion  which was further out of the zone of risk. Several trips were made to get everyone out. My close friend, Ben Welsh and I, and a Marine named McAmus White, took the first load out to First Med. Ben was the driver and returned for at least two more loads of Marines. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for his actions. From First Med, a large convoy was formed and we were then transported to the area of China Beach.
Thank you for recording the history of that day.
 Semper Fidelis-Greg Nemetz

_____________________________________________

Cpl. Michael Wimmer, USMC
 I was in 7th Sep Bulk Fuel right across the road that day. We lost everything we owned. My personal stuff was in the mail room ready to ship, as I was so close to heading home. It was hectic. I'm fuzzy on some things. I was driving a 3/4 ton PC with a group of guys and were some of the last to leave. Amtracs where going from bunker to bunker getting stranded people out. As we highballed it to the road I remember bombs, shrapnel, parts of 3rd MP's buildings, 7th Sep Bulk Fuel, etc. rolling along side of us. At the staging area no one was there, so we drove out to a fire base miles down the road.
I'll have dreams and wake up sweating for the rest of my days.

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Bill Hunter, US Navy
I was a corpsman with First Marine Airwing, HQ'ed in Da Nang. I was down from Quang Tri and got some pretty good pics of the bomb going up. Two large ones went off and the concussion ended me up in a hosp. in Da Nang with bleeding ears and loss of hearing for some hours. Part of my service-connected disability is a result of the damage done to my ear drums here. The place I was, was located really close to Freedom Hill which was on the other side of the hill from the bomb dump.

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Roy Leighton, USMC
        First, I want to thank you for all your hard work on this over the years! So many of our Brothers have had immense difficulty trying to make the VA believe that it actually happened at all. We know, we both lived it! I was stationed at the ammo dump and had just got to the check stand and found some cold coffee to get moving with, when we saw smoke coming from across the road near the 366th munitions group, which was the Air Force's Bomb Dump. In a few minutes, 4 or 5 guys were running to grade-three area where we stored the suspended or unserviceable munitions. Next I ran down there to see if I could help with whatever was happening. Some were using shovels to try to stop the grass fire which had invaded grade three. A S/SGT was busting up a stack of 4.2 in. WP in an effort to get the rounds out of the boxes and into a fifty-five gallon barrel to cool and isolate them from the air. The fire was too fast, and had already caught some of the crates on fire.
        Next thing we heard was someone yelling "Get the hell out of here, It's gonna blow!"  Everybody ran like crazy, and as we got near the check stand, It started blowing up. The white phosphorous spread all over grade three and ignited some rockets that were pointed the wrong way, and in this way it started a chain reaction which spread threw the rest of the dump! To make a long story short, we ran for our lives!
        Our living quarters At Camp Monahan were flattened by the blasts, and we ended on the other side of the hill behind Monahan to wait out the next 24 hours in the bunkers at First tanks.

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Bill Woodcock, Cpl. USMC
I was part of the reactionary platoon. Freedom Hill did get attack during this period of time. I have two hearing aids today-a gift from the VA -this definitely contributed.

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Mike Wellington, Cpl. USMC
We watched the same show from our bunkers on Hill 37.  Scuttlebutt had it that Da Nang had been hit, and we were expecting a ground attack.  That is why they had us man the bunkers. We could actually see and feel  the shockwaves from some of the explosions, and we were about 18 miles South East of Da Nang. My cousin was with 7th Bulk  fuel. Their compound was totally destroyed.
                                --------------------------------------------------------------

Mike Mcjunkin, S/SGT. USMC
Wellington, I think that you and I watched the same show from the same hill I was to rotate out on 5 may 69 had to wait a couple of days for a flight out.

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Ronald Brazier USMC
 Welcome Home Mr. Foster
 I saw your pictures for Nam and that you were in FLC. I was a Cau Viet with FLSG B. If you are interested there is a couple of web sites with many more pictures and we are having a unit reunion every year. This year it is at Savannah Georgia 9/10 thru 9/12. (2010). We have a good time visiting and just keeping each others' back. I will include links to 2 sites for you. Semper Fi hope to hear from you.
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/flsgab/
http://www.mikefishbaugh.homestead.com/

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Frank Piontek , M.A. USMC
I and others were coming back from China Beach to our AO on Hill 10, lst Tanks lst MarDiv-  which was pretty "blowed up" at about 1700 when the Btn CO ordered the napalm removed from the tanks and had them refilled with water and other agents to put out the fire. I  have never seen a mention of that extremely clever action (which apparently saved several 500 lb bombs from going off)....I also thought it could even be deployable today in certain situations in CA etc.....Keep up the good work!
 

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Larry Greer USMC:
I Was Stationed with a security platoon near the Freedom Hill PX when the explosion occurred. It rained gunpowder for at least two days. I was in the General's Guard Platoon. We stood watch at General Ormond R. Simpson's compound at the top of Freedom Hill not far from Charlie lines, Hill 327, and Di Loc Pass. I was 19 at the time. Enjoyed your website, Sir. I live in Mississippi and am a retired State Trooper. Semper Fi.

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Sgt. Bill Woodcock, USMC
I was there also. I was part of the reactionary platoon. Freedom Hill did get attacked during this period of time. I have two hearing aids today-a gift from the VA -this definitely contributed.

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Cpl Mike Wellington, USMC
We watched the same show from our bunkers on Hill 37.  Scuttlebutt had it that Da Nang had been hit, and we were expecting a ground attack.  That is why they had us man the bunkers. We could actually see and feel  the shockwaves from some of the explosions, and we were about 18 miles South East of Da Nang. My cousin was with 7th Bulk  fuel. Their compound was totally destroyed.
 

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Sgt Al Shook ,USMC / MAG11, 6 June, 2010
For what ever reason, today I decided to look up the Dang Dump going up. I read your story and it literally sent chills down my spine. I was with MAG 11, MABS 11 from Aug. 68 through April of 70. Was a radio operator for a mobile reactionary platoon. When the dump went up we were sent out to secure a perimeter on one side of the dump. Your description, to the letter, is what I saw and felt --- again: You sent shivers down my spine. One thing that I was able to hear that you probably didn't was all the choppers being called in to evac upper echelon "brass". One of the Bright spots of the night? We spent the first night on a perimeter around the dump and as you said ,I was more worried about what was coming from behind me, then from the front. We had a boot Lt that had me request "flares" because he thought there were gooks coming in for us. You would not believe the anser that he got from the command center. Next day we had a new Lt.    Well "thanks for the memories".   

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James Clark - USMC
I wonder if any other guys  who were  in Nam with us reads your web site. It sure would be nice to see some of the guys again. Or at least communicate with them. I was in the motor pool light shop working when ASP-1 started burning. MTM Company was not evacuated like the Stars And Stripes reported. They were not eye witness news. We were the eyewitnesses to the explosions April 27, 1969. As anyone can see from the pictures we were across the street from Dog Patch on line while the ammo blew. In fact I was in the Mess hall between 8:30 and 9 AM that Sunday morning when the first BIG Bang dusted  the screens on the building. With all the dust you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. As soon as we realized we were still alive we ran to our duty stations. We were in the bunkers until daylight the next morning. Thank God no one was injured in the mess hall.
SIMPER FI.

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Bob Lindgren
1st Anti-Tanks, Ontos  1969
Thanks for this site, the pictures and the memories. I was on O.P. 10, a hill near First Tanks when the fireworks began. A few of us climbed to the top of our 80' tower to get a better view of what was going on. We saw the concussions in the sky and that's the first time ever I noticed shock waves rolling for miles in the air. It looked like some sort of biblical event. My eyes couldn't believe it. With the larger explosions there was all kinds of munitions debris landing all around our O.P., the stuff whizzing through the air and when some of the stuff fell into the rice paddies below, the thud would be accompanied by a sizzle of hot metal as it cooled down in the water. The days that followed were just as exciting. I'll never forget what I saw during this event.
Semper Fidelis!

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Ty Walford, son of Richard L. Walford
My father is a veteran of the ammo dump explosion that took place on April 27, 1969.  He was with MARUE working as an EOD with the 1st Marine Division Ammo Company.  We came across your site, and the images began to bring back many memories.  Your pictures were very vivid and reminded him of that terrifying 24 hours.  He has many photos of the explosions taken from inside Camp Monahan.  "I was working Sunday morning and decide to go mass.  Half way thru the mass, a small explosion occurred. I was aware of something going on when I saw five Vietnamese burning a tire next to the high grass outside of the dump.  He was concerned at the lack of precaution and the lax behavior the were exhibiting due to the close proximity to the munitions.  That turned out to be the fastest sermon in the history of a Catholic ceremony. Ha Ha Ha.  He blessed us and told us to get the hell out quick.  He immediately ran to his hooch and gathered what gear he could and then went outside to observe the explosions.  At first it was entertaining watching the smaller ordinance cooking off.  Marines were lining the rooftops watching when one of the big boys was set off.  He laughed as he told how everyone was falling off the rooftops and scrambling for cover.  At that time,  it turned from entertaining to frightful.  He grabbed a case of beer in a backpack and sought out the platoon sergeant, Sgt. Williams.  He and Sgt. Williams headed out to the perimeter of the compound into the boonies.  Sgt. Williams decided that the possible danger of the enemy outweighed the danger of the explosion.   So they moved back toward the compound and took up a position over the crest of the hill where the 175 howitzer battery was.  Here they spent the rest of the night.  Around dusk, they were told that they go back to the EM club for food and drinks.  While eating, another explosion sent an 8-inch artillery shell thru the roof top of the club where it thudded and smoldered. It  was a dud.  All they could do was hold their breaths and pray.  He found his way to a bunker where the bodies and heat were too much so he left and sought refuge behind a five-foot high loading dock to avoid the hail of shrapnel and unexploded shells in the air.  All the roads leading in and out of the compound were closed so he passed out where he was at.  At daylight, it was still an inferno."  He climbed to the crest of the hill and witnessed what he thought that hell would look like. He cant remember if there was even so much as one building left standing.  This will forever be etched in his memories.  There isn't a day goes by that the events of that day do not enter his mind.  I want to thank you for listening to his story and any feedback that could help him remember more details such as names and locations would be greatly appreciated.  We are currently in the process of converting the photos and slides to disc so we could upload them.  His name is Richard L. Walford and is very interested in corresponding with you.  It seems that many peoples lives have been affected by this one event.  Thank you
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Richard (Rick) Baker - Cpl USMC
I was with MTM Co. Maint. Bn. 1st FSR/FLC Da Nang.  Aug 68 through April 70.  Sometimes rode wrecker with Dave Cordray out of Banister Mi or Jimmy Pierce out of Atlanta.  Worked a little with Chuck Connelly out of Ft Smith Arkansas. Yes, I was in a bunker near the back of the storage yard when the dump went up. Your picture with Ski, Frenchy and others have me in the back row, last on the right and again at the Barbeque with Frenchy.  Ski was From Detroit, Frenchy was still a private, how many times was he busted? I was with the company when we moved from Dog Patch out to China Beach.  I chased a couple guys back to El Toro for Dishonorable discharges in late April 70. 
I was on of the guys who later in 68 and 69 ran the projector for our movies...

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Dan Coleman - Aurora, Ohio
Just found your article about ASP-1. I was at Red Beach on April 27, '69 - remember it well.  We felt the shock waves from five miles away. Can't imagine what you felt.  I was told at the time that there was 100,000 tons of high explosives that were valued at $100 million.  Because of "force feeding" ammo into RVN, the dump was 100% overloaded. Stuff was piled everywhere and once the fire started, there was no stopping it.
I am very interested in your comment about Agent Orange exposure.  I spent time in ASP-1 during the cleanup operations and have had prostate cancer.  Do you have any more information about AO storage or handling at ASP-1?  Have you heard from anyone who might have info? That's what got me thinking about where I got exposed to Agent Orange.  I would be willing to bet there was AO stored in ASP-1.  If so, then I and many other Marines and Seabees walked around in that stuff.  Danang is still is a major hot spot for dioxin which was used in high levels in AO.  And it is said to be 25% more toxic when burned.

Hey Ron,  Mack Gordon USMC here……….
Thanks for sharing the pictures and stories and thanks to all who have followed up with their stories. If it’s ok I’ll share a bit of my own.
Dan Martin (Mud) of Colorado and me arrived in country that very morning around 6:00 AM at the Da Nang Air base. I don’t know if we were the first plane, the last plane or the only plane of troops arriving that morning. Like those before us we exited the plane to the heavy air and unfamiliar odors. The sun was just coming up and the sky was clear. We were shuttled by tractor pulling a flat bed wagon from the plane to the staging area where we were to be picked up by someone from our unit.
The staging area as I remember it was a small village of two story wood structures with screened ventilated panels. We were seated between two of these structures in long wood pews waiting for our names to be called when the first explosion went off. We heard shrapnel whirl over head and we heard it strike the buildings. As quickly as it started it happened again. Mud and I found ourselves sitting there alone duffle bags in hand not knowing what was going on or for that matter where everyone disappeared to. It didn’t take a third explosion and flying debris to determine shelter was in order. I remember finding and entering a bunker just a few feet from where we were sitting only to find it was packed full. That didn’t stop us from piling in on top with everyone else. Packed so close with so many made for a bunker full of human Jell-O like experience each time there was an explosion. Some men were venting anger and others were actually crying. All in all we were scared no two ways about it.
Can’t remember how long it took but eventually the bunker emptied as different trucks and jeeps could be heard outside honking their horns in an effort to let others know help was in the area.
Mud and I stayed put for several hours most of the day actually just sitting there to scared to look out over the blast wall for help. As the day past and the explosions continued we were repeatedly thrown from one side of the bunker to the other. Then a more frightening sound became clear. It was the sound shrapnel piercing the sand bags just before the thud of hitting the rocket boxes lining the interior walls of the bunker. The noise is the pierce of the sand bag the thud against the rocket box and then the cooling sound of hot shrapnel coming to rest in the sand.
We figured a change of location was inevitable or be buried alive. One look outside over the now lowered blast wall told a story of complete devastation. All buildings were leveled to a pile of sticks and metal roofing. There was nothing left. Couldn’t see anyone or make out any road way. So we stayed put scared and confused.
Long about 4:00 PM or there about a horn honked and voices could be heard calling out. We made a bee line out of the bunker finding a jeep full but willing to let us pile on.
The jeep took us around the back side of the hill through the woods down through a village eventually headed south toward Marble Mountain. Since we didn’t know where we were or where we were suppose to be the driver dropped us at what he thought to be a safe distance from the explosions. Turns out it was an army base on Route 1 down by Dog Patch. We stayed there for two or three days wondering around aimlessly but well fed. At some point Army personnel got hold of the Marine Corps base next door and they came and got us.
I am writing in hopes that someone might know who drove in there with all that was blowing up around us that late afternoon. You couldn’t see you couldn’t hear you couldn’t think. Yet some brave soul came in for another load. It was a jeep that took us out to safety. I’m sure they saved our lives and I’d like to say thanks for I have often given thanks in memory ever since.
Simper-Fi
Mack Gordon of Casstown Ohio
10-5-2009


    I think that you may have made a location mistake. You have a picture of an Air Force jet crash. You said that it was on Marble Mountain. My girlfriends brother-in-law was in the Air Force and ran the MARS Station on top of the mountain. When I went on in country R&R from Camp Monahan I went to see him. I passed that JET WRECK on my way up to the radio station. That was on Monkey Mountain, not Marble Mountain. My friend was a door gunner with the III MAG at Marble Mountain which is 4-6 miles south of Monkey Mountain.

   I like all of your photos. The ones of the ammo dump blowing up. I was with 7th Separate Bulk Fuel at Camp Monahan. There were 2 companies there Ammo Company and ours. I got medavac out of country January 69 to the Yokosuka Naval Hospital in Japan. I returned to Nam in October 69. Then got sent to Hill 55, but before I went there I went back to see Camp Monahan. I couldn't believe  that every building was gone and replaced by new ones. I was wondering if the photo of the shower was the one that was in Camp Monahan?

 
Bob Fedak 

James Clark, USMC -
Welcome Home Brother: My name is James Clark. I was there from 2-1-69 to 1-18-70 in MTM Co. Light Shop ( motor transport maintenance) when the dump went up smokin'. WOW! I have some pictures also. Thanks for putting this sight together. I, like others, was surfing the web for FLC. I'm glad I found it. It's not every day you see an AMMO dump exploding in person. We were headed for China Beach, "So we thought" but had to get on line in case of a ground attack. 
I remember seeing the hugh explosions and shock waves like it just happened yesterday. A couple times the vacuum created by the explosions sucked the air from my lungs until one of the Staff NCOs told us to ex-hale and cover ears when we saw the blast approaching. 
 Thanks
Jim

Hi Ron:
It was good to hear from you. Yes S/SGT. Steen was my NCOIC. I can't remember a lot of  names or even what a lot of the guys looked like. Shame on me. I think it's old age fogging the good memories. However, all the memories of the dangerous situations we were in are so vivid. I can remember going to China Beach a couple times. On one occasion an Amtrack came up out of the water onto the beach. I asked the driver to take me for a ride. He said get on. I climbed up on top of it and it jerked when he started for the water. When it jerked it set my "butt" right on the exhaust that looked like a drainage grate you see along the highway. Ha, Ha. Ouch! That burned and I jumped off. That was enough for me.
Do you remember Charlie Grant who died in March, 69? He was also in the light shop.
I filed a claim with the VA for Tinnitus (constant ringing sound in ears) and hearing loss in 1995. It took two appeals over six years and they gave me 10% for tinnitus and service connection for right ear hearing loss at 0%. Nothing for the left ear. The ammo dump blowing was one part of my evidence. I now have a PTSD claim that's on the second appeal. One stressor is the ammo dump, another is a ground attack on Aug. 15 at Camp Books "Red Beach" Were you still there in Aug. 1969? I'll keep you posted and let you know what happens.
Simper Fi Brother 
Jim

 

Richard G. Williams, Cpl. USMC 65-68
Good Morning Mr. Foster,

Just found your website, OUTSTANDING !! The amount of work involved boggles the mind. I served with H&S Co. 1st. FSR/FLC from 08/67 to 07/68. My second tour, then rotated back to " the world " for discharge.
I drove a 543A2 wrecker named "Uptight "( later renamed " Uptight Jr. ") It was hard not to notice, it was painted staff-car green/grey, and had Uptight painted on the boom. The other wrecker was called " Can Cau ", Vietnamese for " Big Hook " My "A" driver was L/Cpl. Tom (the animal) Rentmeester from Green Bay. His favorite saying was "Are we cool or what ?" Also I noticed you started playing guitar in the early 60's. so did I. In fact I had brought along a Harmony arch-top from home, ( it's 2nd. tour in country also) I got that guitar when I was 14, and right now it hangs in my den along with others I've collected over the years. Do you remember a guy named Ernie from somewhere down south ? He played guitar and harmonica and could cheer-up the hardest nights with his " Rock of Ages Rock." In fact he could play a bunch of Hymns with a 1950's rock-a-billy sound.
Well I want to get this off to you. If you find time, give me shout..I'm sure we must have crossed paths at some point.
Take care...
Regards,
Richard G. Williams, Cpl. USMC 65-68.................I was called " Will "

Clyde Lovell USN Ret
I ran across your site while surfing.  Sunday April 27, 1969, will always be in my memory.  I was supposed to fly home that day after my first tour in Vietnam.  The USAF guys ran us to and from revetments while all sorts of shrapnel was falling around us. Needless to say no plane was going to land that day.  A brave Navy Seabee drove a bus through that mess and took us back to the big Navy Base at Tien Sha.  I finally got out of there on May 1st 1969 only to return Jan 1970 for another tour.  I lost a 8mm movie camera that day and I hope whoever took it got some good video.  I ran the camera as we were getting off the bus.  When the bus came back to get us the camera was gone.
 

Terry  Nicholas  USMC  68_70   
Ronnie, your  pictures  posted  on  this  site  brought  back  memories  of  that  day  in  April  69.  I  was  with  the  26th  Marines  and  we  had  come  down  to  Da Nang  when  the  Khe Sahn  Combat  Base  was  deactivated.  Our  platoon  took  over  security  of  the  ridgeline  that  overlooked  1st  Mar  Div  head quarters  in  Da Nang.  This  gave  us  a  front- row  seat  of  the  fire  and  fireworks  but  we  were  a  good 10  to  15  miles  away.  We  didn't  see  how  any  troops  in  the  area  of  FLC  could  possibly  survive  such  a  sustained  series  of  explosions.  I  remember  being  put  on  "full  alert"  in  case  it  was  a  diversion.  I  remember  sitting  on  our  bunkers  all  night  and  watching  secondary  explosions.  One  of  the  guys  was  joking  about  wondering  if  Dogpatch  was  still  in  business.  I  am  still  amazed  that  there  were  not  more  casualties!  Glad  you  all  made  it! 

Tom Cleveland, Maint. Bn. 1st FSR
Hi. Ronnie I sure am glad you're still out there being a good Marine.  The last time I made contact with you I had a heart attack a few days latter that kind of set me back a little.  My wife and I now live in Rio Rancho  New Mexico.  I have a small plumbing company and I deal in antiques and collectables on Ebay as a hobby.  One of these days we have got to get together while we can still remember some of those good old days.  It may be difficult to talk about the craziness we went through as young immortals with someone who actually share experiences that were so close.  I'm sure you understand when I say that its getting harder and harder to separate the realities of what happened there and some of the unbelievable things we witnessed from the stories we heard and dreams.  But I do so remember the day the Ammo dump exploded.   It must have been pretty early as I remember I was on my way to the shop, where we repaired brake shoes when I noticed the first explosion.  must have been pretty early about 7:00 a.m.  It seems to me it started on he west side of Hwy. 1, just south of our compound.   We stayed at work for probably an hour or so.  I think we decided to leave and head back towards the barracks when the shrapnel started hitting the metal roof of the shop.  We were walking back to the hooches when the first of the napalm dumps went at the south of the compound. That scared the crap out of me.  If you remember the way it happened, different parts of the dump went at different times all the way up and down Hwy 1 and up towards Freedom Hill.   Ammunition would be blown for one bunker to set off another several hundreds of yards away.  But there were three moments that I can remember above all.    One,  we sere standing on a deck of one of the hooches, I believe it was the E-5 barracks  which was the closest to the fence line on the Dog Patch side, watching the small-arms dump exploding like popcorn when one of the guard towers was blown down and seeing what I'm sure was a body hurdle towards the fire.  I don't know if I was the only one who saw it or we all just decided not to say anything because what I remember is that no one said a word, and about two minutes later, the whole small-arms dump kind of inhaled and and then came that life-changing moment and this I'm sure you remember.  We could see the shock wave coming at us and I can remember thinking to myself that I should probably do something, but like everyone else there I had no idea of what was about to hit.  I remember seeing Sgt. Ackers from Oklahoma's helmet blown straight off of his head and turn up side down and come straight back down and knock him cold and people were just flipped over and then the sound hit and that's why I was in the V A Last week.  I don't think I have spent a day since then with out hearing crickets in the key of G.  I remember we tried to pull back and made it just pass the mess hall before the MPs turned us around and sent up back to our bunkers because we were the only unit left between Happy Valley and the Air Base.  Hey I bet you still remember the sound of an F14 afterburner.  How about the difference in the sound of an incoming 122 and a B4.  Or how about hearing whistle of a 122 over the sound of the artillery that was just south of base.  Remember the Da Nang 500.  Bread runs to China Beach Orphanage.  I think we remember those days because we were so alive and living so fully. I would like to know if you can remember New Year's Eve 1968. It was also an important day and I would like to have someone help me remember what happened that day. I do remember drinking too much.   Well anyway lets entertain ourselves with those so fond memories.  The pictures are from my limited collection. 

Hi RD  My name is Dick Allen. I was a Seabee (MCB128) in Vietnam. We were at Camp Faulkner just north of Marble Mountain. Our battalion helped build ASP-1. My platoon poured concrete head walls around the drainage
pipes under the interior roads in the dump. We were back at Gulfport, Miss. when the dump blew. Later we returned to Quang Tri for a tour. Thanks for the great pictures.
Dick


Thomas Benton USMC
WOW!!
Thanks for your memories (apologies to the memory of Bob Hope).  I arrived in Country at the end of May 1969, and I heard many stories concerning the GREAT AMMO DUMP EXPLOSION of April.  It wasn’t until I was transferred to ASPII in August of '69 that I began to learn about the event.  I was a forklift operator (MHE Plt. Support Co. H&S Blt. 1st FSR FLC).  It seems that one of the guys in my platoon had driven his forklift, with forks extended, into a chain link fence on the perimeter and lifted it up so that who ever was near by could get out of the dump.  He evidently was awarded a commendation with combat V for his efforts.
While we lived in the ASPI compound (“do not kick anything sticking out of the ground it is probably a live round”) we were trucked over to ASPII every day until late September.  The Seabees built living quarters (huts) and a mechanics shop for us.  This was after we had been hit twice, about three days apart, and the original shop was damaged, along with a couple of forklifts.  The VC were in our compound long enough to have wired several forklifts with grenades.  It has been a long time now but it seems that I was one of the first to climb on to a forklift when I discovered a grenade wired to the front wheel; the date was September 6, 1969.

BOB EDWARDS
Hi Ronnie, I just ran across your Web Site. Marine MAAG II were immediately across our Operations Center on the West Side of Da Nang, and I remember this event very, very well as for the first hour or so, I had a chance to get a few photos, and then after a Major Bunker of Bombs went off - Everyone were ordered out of the area to the East Side of Da Nang AB, myself included.  Because we had a Top Secret Operations Site by Freedom Hill / Dog Patch area - we were a bit exposed with what we thought was an almost empty side of the Base, and the Security Police were the Only ones there from our Unit.  I was Selected to Return to the Operations Center, while the Sky was Black with Smoke, and Frequent Explosions were blowing doors off Buildings up to 12 miles away.  With the Squad of ERU "Emergency Reaction Unit" going back, we witnessed an empty base deserted by all the assigned units.    As we turned the corner on the North side of the Base, I could see my Friends framed in a Sky of Red Flame.  I don't know why, but I thought of the possibility - could there be any Nuclear there?  Could there be any Poisonous Gas?  And, why weren't there more people on that side of the Base?

     We offloaded, and one of the Communication Center crew had me and John Kovacs into the Comm Center Showing us the Krypto Comm Sytems, and he showed us the Phosphorous Bombs sitting atop the devices.  We were shown the Activator Bars that had to be Pulled out and Pushed back in, and I thought and then said - "How Much Time will we Have".  And, then he laughed and said "Not Enough".  With the laugh, I just thought he was jerking my chain.  John Kovacs and I had just been charged with Destroying some of the Most Secret and Sensitive Communications Systems in Vietnam. 

The Security Police then positioned us at different spots outside the Operations Center.  In between the Explosions, a Couple of Marines coming down the road decided to join in with us and climbed into one of the Sand Bag Bunkers we had around the Operations Center.  A Long Night with a lot of stuff landing and hitting all of the Metal Buildings in our Compound.  At daylight, the Bomb Dump began to play out, and our Marine Deuce and Half arrive from the other side of the base to remove the Krypto Gear.  Our Operations site would be destroyed three times in the years we were at Da Nang, and that night of April 27th would see the Complete Destruction of our Facility.  The Intel for the Air War in the North, was now down and out.  The mission had to continue, and part of our Unit were sent to the top of Money Mountain outside of Da Nang, and I was lucky enough to be able to make it to the Philippines for four weeks, while Mobile-Communications Vans were sent by Ships to the Harbor of Da Nang.  Within 2 days after the Bomb Dump Explosions, I was sitting at the Major Communications Collections site in the Pacific Tracking all of our Air Traffic in Vietnam.  We Were Down!  But not out - The Mission Continued.
You can find some of my other photos at:
 www.bobedwards.myphotoalbum.com 

 CAPT. ED MC DANIEL, USMC, RET.
 
I was stationed at ASP 1 when it blew up in 1969. I was a Cpl  with Ammo Co. I participated in the clean up and then was promoted and sent over to ASP 2 to replace their rotating NCOIC. I was injured in Aug 1969 while burning the unserviceable 155mm gun powder that was left from the explosion. I was burnt pretty bad and after several months recuperation in Japan and Okinawa I was sent home. I was sent to MCB Quantico and was stationed with Schools Demonstration  Troops (SDT) and trained officers and went to Wash. D. C. to quell Americans during all the anti-war riots from 1969 to 1972. I chose to reenlist and later went to Warrant Officers School and retired as a Captain in 1989. Yours is the first sight I have seen about the ammo dump blowing up. All the pictures I had of the explosions were confiscated and never forwarded to me after I was med-evaced out. I do still have a few BEFORE pictures. I now am the Manager of all Ordnance Services for the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida. 
I was in Platoon 293, June 1967,San Diego, ALL TEXAS PLATOON. 
I
will dig out the old pictures and send them to you. The Truck Company that was by the 1st Mar Div helped with the clean up quite a bit. We put 55 gallon drums filled with sand behind the driver and lined the truck beds with sand bags to transport all the unserviceable ordnance to the destruct site out past the old ARVN camp. A lot of that was very sensitive due to the blast effects it had be subjected to during the explosions. We had one that slipped off the road and was hanging over a 50 foot drop off and carrying 155mm gun powder. Every time the driver and A driver tried to get out the truck would slip a little more so I had my troops grab onto the side still on the road and I climbed in the back and unloaded the pallets by hand that was on the drop off side to equal the weight so the drivers could get out before it fell over the edge. The driver who was from Beaumont, Texas, was named Richard Hamilton and I later met in Texas while I was home on leave and he remembered me as the Marine that had climbed up on his truck so he could get out. Walked up to me in a bar and related the whole story to me. Told me I should have stuck around after because the 2 SNCO's  that were there and had climbed on the side of the truck had got Bronze Stars for their action. I told him that later they had given me a Meritorious Mast for climbing in the back but it did say for heroic action. SMALL WORLD.  No Agent Orange worries so far even though my daughter did delivery two premature babies. We had CS (tear gas) and CN (vomiting agent) stored there but no nerve or blood agents. I did get a good dose of them when we went back in to rescue some Marines that had been trapped in the rear of the ammo dump. But I have never suffered any long term effects as far as I know other than a low grade fever for years that the Doctors have never been able to pin down or get rid of. Did another 20 years after that so couldn't have been too bad. Will order you book. Glad you responded, SEMPER FI!!!  

My name is MICHAEL TIERNEY.  I was in the Marine Corps from July 1965 to May 1969.  In Vietnam from October 1967 until May 1969.  My first duty was with Electronics Company, Maint Bn FLC/FSR – Da Nang RVN. Based on some of your pictures – ah they are great pictures – remember watching Star Trek episodes on the big screen?  I am assuming you were in Motor Transportation.
While I was with FLC, I and two other Marines were Court Martial – We took a Mighty Mite from 3rd MP’s back to Maint Bn – we were too drunk to walk.  I was busted from Cpl to PFC.  So instead of returning back to the States for 11 months, I extended my tour in VN another 6 Months – I was sent to 5th Comm at China Beach – and then detached to the Army’s 37th Signal Bn – they were right across the street from the Air Force base. – Ice Cream, air conditioned movie theater – man that was nice.
Anyway – I was on the Air Force side of Da Nang Air Base when the Ammo Dump blew up – you are right – it lasted at least 24 hours – I can’t remember the exact time it started, but I do remember the sky at night was Red with the glow of the fire – I remember the bigger bombs going off – we could see the sound waves come across the sky and feel the heat – then a few seconds later we could hear the explosions.   Where my Radio Relay Station was located, there was a tall tower – we could climb up that and see across the Air Base – I recall doing that and seeing the fire – the next day – I was attending some kind of Army event and we were still talking about the Ammo Dump – I was wondering if any one from Electronics company that I may have known were still ok.
Thanks for the memories
MICHAEL TIERNEY
Roseville, MN

DT3 MIKE MOLITOR USN, FLC 11th Dental Co.  Norton, Mass.
DEAR MR. FOSTER, I was cruising the internet looking for old photos of Da Nang and found your site about the Great ammo dump explosion April 27, 1969.

I was a Dental Tech at FLC at that time. And I do remember this day, I remember Dawg patch and Freedom hill were leveled.  I also remember sitting on the roof of our Dental clinic which was a Quonset Hut trying to get a better view. If memory serves me, rumor had it a National was burning Garbage and set the dump afire and some of the bombs or rockets went up and into a second ammo dump and set it a fire. I've told this story for 39 years and never had pictures to back it up Thank you for posting these.

WELCOME HOME BROTHER
 

DOUG PUGH - Louisville, KY
I just visited your website with the awesome pictures of Da Nang. I was in the Corps stationed at Camp Monahan (ASP1) at the base of the west side of Hill 327. Our group did guard duty in the towers and bunkers on and around Hill 327. Later I was at Red Beach and ASP2.  I arrived in country Aug ‘68 and rotated ‘back-to-the-world’ July ‘69.  I really enjoyed going through your pictures – it brought back a lot of memories.
I lost my pics during my various moves during the first 2 years I got home. Even so, no where near as many as yours - you've captured history. I forwarded your site to a buddy of mine I was in 'Nam with - we still keep in touch. I'm curious if you remember or have pics of the night the Da Nang airfield was hit. I can't remember the date, but it was before ASP1 blew. I remember being on bunker watch on Hill 327 and rockets hitting the airfield. It blew on of the large JP40 jet fuel tanks located at the east end of the airfield. I remember seeing the fire trucks and guys in asbestos suits hosing-down the other large tanks - quite a sight. More later...
Semper Fi,
 

GARY H. SHULER - Corporal of Marines, Vietnam '69-'70

I saw your on-line article and photos of the ASP exploding.  I was an ammo tech at Camp Monahan but I didn't arrive until a day or two after the explosion.  Looks like you were  leaving country as I was arriving.  I was wondering if perhaps you have more photos (not posted on-line) of the dump, pre-explosion, or maybe even Camp Monahan, were the Marine EOD unit and ammo techs were based.  I'm trying to put together a map of the unit locations in relation to each other, such as #3rd MPs, 7th Motor Transport (Bulk Fuel? I think they may also have been at Monahan), the 175 batteries right next to Camp Monahan, ASP 1, Dog Patch, Marble Mountain, Hill 327, etc.  I bought a Miranda 35mm at Freedom Hill and took lots of photos, but Florida hurricanes (mostly Ivan, in Pensacola) eventually got them all, including 95% of my service records and memorabilia.  Enjoyed your article on the day the dump exploded.  Thanks for the memories.  

 TIM CONRADY - GySgt. USMC RET 
Ronnie, I cant believe how much I enjoyed your web site. It brought tears to my eyes. You see, Ronnie I
was one of the original ammo techs who put ASP 1together in August 1965.There were about 40 of us at
the time. Back than the Vietnamese had graves all through the ammo dump. The American government were
paying them so much to dig up their dead and move them. being a converted 0331 to a 2311 I knew what a
mortar stake was and so did the other guys. All at once these poles started sticking up all around the
bag charges. We told the CO but he basically ignored it. The XO didn't and put us on alert. Evidently he had
heard something earlier about a strike on the dump and took matters into his own hands. Well it was about a
week of silence and no sleep. Needless to say all of us were scared to death. It finally happened. Mortar
rounds started coming in. It didn't last long. 1/9 got the fire mission and took them out quick. It wasn't
long after Operation Hastings was over and 15 of us had to pack up. We were all transferred to Dong Ha where
we had to construct a brand new dump. We were there a few months and and we got severely hit.
Ronnie, I have not seen any of the men that I served with at the dump. Do you have any knowledge of any one
who was at ASP 1 ASP 2 or Dong Ha in 1965 or 1966? If you do could you please advise me of such. I did 24
years in the Corps and I retired in 1988 as a Gunny. I sure would like to hear from you.
                     

JAMES D. PRIM
I remember that day very well. I was in Da Nang at HQ Squadron and we had to leave the buildings and stay outside and watch the waves in the sky due to the explosions. We were in front of "Dogpatch."
 

RICHARD KAST
I remember this scene. We were down on the beach that day and I was the only one who had a weapon. Being a Corpsman, we only had my 45 and my unit #1. We jumped in the jeep to get back to headquarters and had to go out around. It took us approximately 2-3 hours. After this we took the roofs from the clubs that were destroyed and delivered them to the people outside the compound. I was a Corpsman with the Wing Surgeon’s Office, 1st MAW at the time.
 

RANDALL C. WOOTEN
I remember this too really well. I was there in Happy Valley at the time. We had to be evacuated from our battalion on tanks. The ammo dump blew for three days and completely our battalion area.

JOHN DANIELS
That was something I won’t ever forget. I was at 1st Med Bn. Right down the road. Stuff was landing all over the place.

RON GEROFF
Found your website this morning. I served in the fire department, USMC, Force Logistics Command, Headquarters Bat. in 1969. I have no clue what motivated me to do a search for Force Logistics Command, Da Nang, but it got me to your site. Thanks for the photos. I'll get back to work now, but you've done a great job documenting things.
The ammo dump got blown a few months prior to my arrival. The fire department had photos up and there were still Marines around who told me the story.  
It has been good to be home. Most of us came back, got jobs, raised families, and voted. Now more than ever I think those of us who love this nation need to step up and object to the politicians who denigrate our military and our very nation. It was a pleasure searching through your website. Thanks for serving our country.

RALPH J. TAYLOR
Found your Web Site and it brings back lots of memories.  I was out at Camp Brooks.  Would you happened to remember Cpl Larry Tyson?  I believe he was with your unit.
One of the Marines from my unit. Sgt. Green, was at Freedom Hill going on R&R when the ASP blew up.  He was in kakis and had to run from Freedom Hill to Hwy 1.  I was at Camp Books and we had parts of bombs which blew up landing inside my base.
I have another friend Doyle Carr who was in the Provisional Rifle Company at Camp Books.  I also spent about 2 months in Prov Rifles.  You might want to look at
http://www.billyjoe.net/vietnam/ .  Its later than when I was there.

 Cpl. TJ GOWER   USMC  Vietnam 1968-69
Hey, I don't know weather it matters anymore, after all its been many many years since I was in Vietnam but anyway here goes. I was stationed at MAG 16 Marble Mountain, and the day the Da Nang ammo dump went up was the first day since I had been in country that I got to leave the base camp. Well me and a buddy decided to go to the R&R Center slash PX in Da Nang, its just at the base of Hill 327, or should I say it was at the base of Hill 327. Well we were in the PX when we heard the first explosion and it shook the building so bad that I though we had been hit with a  rocket or a mortar round. Anyway some guy came in and said it was just the Seabees clearing some fields out so nobody really paid much attention. But as we walk out of the PX another bomb went off and the concussion took the roof off of the bowling alley. Then we started running. The heat was intense and it was raining hot metal. It would burn when it hit your bare skin. And then there was the concussion from the 1000-pound bombs; it would literally knock you to the ground. I have to admit I was scared to death. Well anyway we ran through the R&R Center and the wood buildings were just coming apart behind us, then we came to a very tall chain-link fence with a gate and a lock on it. Well it took about two seconds and about fifty scared military personnel to take that gate down and I mean in pieces. Then me and Baggy (my buddy's nick name) ran 8 miles all the way back to our base, and that night in our perimeter towers we could see the fireworks and 8 miles away we could still feel the concussion. It would shake the lookout towers like they were toothpicks waving in the wind. it went on most of the next day. We heard later on that sappers had got to the dump. That’s my story.
Semper-fi   

The video below was taken by an unknown Marine in Iraq. It is very similar to what I remember seeing in 1969 near Da Nang, although at ASP 1 Da Nang there were large bombs, napalm and chemicals stored.

Department of Defense:  “On October 10, 2006, at approximately 10:40 p.m., a 82mm mortar round, fired by militia forces from a residential area in Abu T-Shir, caused a fire at an Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) at FOB Falcon. The ASP, containing tank and artillery rounds, in addition to smaller caliber ammunition, set off a series of large explosions. About 100 troops from the 4th Infantry Division were reported to be stationed at the base at the time, but no injuries were reported.”  (Looks like the DOD forgot about the Marines in the area - just like 37 years earlier.) If anyone know who filmed this, please let me know.

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