Originally constituted as the 54th Quartermaster Truck Battalion on 28 May 1943 and activated by 7 July 1943 with the transfer of personnel, equipment, and history from the 2638th Quartermaster Truck Battalion (Provisional). Before joining the 54th, the 2638th was deployed in Tunisia and operated in conjunction with the 2640th Quartermaster Battalion using 230 2 ½-ton trucks and trailers to move 1,100 tons of ammunition from Tebessa to Tabarka despite difficult road conditions and the strafing runs of German aircraft.
On 3 November 1943 the battalion was redesignated the 54th Quartermaster Battalion, Mobile and reorganized with a Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment. The lettered companies A, B, C, and D were redesignated 3353rd, 3354th, 3355th, and the 3356th Quartermaster Truck Companies and would follow separate lineages. From 9 July 1943 to 17 August 1943 the 54th supported operations in the Sicily Campaign. It continued to support army units on the Italian peninsula up until 9 October 1944 when it was transferred over to the European theater. In Europe, the 54th supported the allied units that landed in Southern France and continued to transport supplies to allied forces through the campaigns of the Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland, and Central Europe. After performing its functions in Europe, the 54th was inactivated on 31 October 1945.
By 2 September 1949, the 54th was needed again. This time it was activated and redesignated as the 54th Transportation Battalion at Fort Story, Virginia. HHC, 54th Battalion was evidently the senior headquarters on little Army fort at Cape Henry. Consequently, it provided command and administrative control for all the units assigned to Fort Story to include one port company and three truck battalions and the battalion commander acted as the post commander.
The 9224th TSU-TC Detachment III was activated at Fort Story on 31 October 1951 to provide administrative overhead personnel for the purpose of command all Transportation Corps and Second Army units stationed at Fort Story to include the 54th Battalion. The 54th Transportation Truck Battalion reverted to a cadre training status. Effective 13 May 1952, the recently activated 99th and 285th Port Companies, 605th, 606th, 607th, and 612th TAT Companies were relieved from the command of Headquarters Company 9224th TSU-TC Detachment III and placed under the command of 54th Transportation Truck Battalion. By 1 September 1952, the battalion was redesignated as the 54th Transportation Battalion (Amphibious Truck).
The 54th Battalion participated in Exercise Long Horn at Fort Hood, Texas, on 30 July 1952. In July, the 606th and 607th TAT Companies received their DUKWs and could begin accelerated Military Occupational Skill (MOS) training. The 605th and 612th TAT Companies only received four task vehicles for on-the-job training. The 606th and 607th TAT Companies began their 8-week basic training program for their soldiers on 3 November and 1 December respectively. The 604th conducted bivouac support for the Transportation School. On 5 December, the 54th Truck Battalion underwent reorganization
In March 1953, the 612th TAT Company began its 8-week basic training program. On 23 April 1953 due to extreme shortage of personnel and impending operational commitments, the 169th, 461st, 489th and 604th TAT Companies were assigned to the 54th Truck Battalion from the 5th Transportation Battalion. The 5th Battalion was reduced to one officer and one enlisted man and attached to the 54th Battalion. The 54th Battalion participated in a cargo handling problem 1 through 11 December in conjunction with the 117th and 349th Port Companies from Fort Eustis. DUKWs from the 54th Battalion were used for Navy operations training at Little Creek in support of wet embarkation and debarkation with LST and LSD, 9 and 12 December. Evidently no Fort Story units were needed for SUNEC 53
In June 1954, one officer and 27 enlisted men from the 612th TAT Company formed a Barge Amphibious Resupply Cargo (BARC) platoon to train in BARC operations for participation in Offshore Discharge Exercise (ODEX)-54 along the coast of Northern France in November. This resupply training exercise resulted from the fear that the Soviet Union, which had recently acquired the nuclear bomb, might to deny the NATO countries use of the fixed deep-water ports by bombing them. Beginning with ODEX-54, the US Army rehearsed a Normandy style resupply operation. The BARC latter known as Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo-60 ton (LARC-LX) was an experimental craft received in 1953. The companies of the 54th Battalion underwent joint OCT and Second Army inspection designed to inquire into the individual knowledge and training of their soldiers, conditions and availability of equipment, from 3 to 6 May. They earned an overall excellent rating. On 15 September, HHC, 5th Battalion was relieved from attachment to the 54th Battalion and the following companies were attached to it: 169th, 206th, 489th, 606th and 607th TAT Companies. The 5th Battalion with the 169th, 206th and 604th TAT Companies and 870th Port Company conducted US Army Reserve unit training from 18 July to 29 August. The 54th Battalion with the 870th Port Company and 604th and 612th TAT Companies supported ROTC training at Fort Story from 19 to 31 July. On 2 October the 5th and 54th Battalions were reorganized with the following companies: 5th Battalion received the 169th, 206th, 489th, 606th and 607th TAT and 565th Terminal Service Companies. The 54th Battalion received the 461st, 604th, 605th and 612th TAT and 870th Terminal Service Companies. The 5th and 54th Battalions conducted LOTS 4 at Fort Story in November.
The 605th TAT Company was relieved of responsibility for RSI training on 1 March 1955 and the responsibility was given to the 461st TAT Company. The 5th Battalion with the 605th TAT and 565th Terminal Service Companies (approximately 276 men) conducted a LOTs exercise, 11-16 April, for participation in SUNEC. Crews from the companies would link up with prepositioned equipment to conduct the LOTS operation. HHC, 5th and 54th Transportation Battalions were inactivated on 27 June, and HHD, 10th and 376th Transportation Battalions were activated and assigned to the 5th Terminal Command. The companies formerly under the 5th Battalion were assigned to the 10th Battalion and the companies of the 54th were assigned to the 376th Battalion.
It was quickly reactivated as the 27 August 1955 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and redesignated as the 54th Transportation Battalion (Helicopter) (Army) for shipment to Bremerhaven, Germany as a transport aircraft unit under the Seventh Army. It had three companies under it. One company had H-37 helicopters. The 524th Trans Co (DS) (Light Helicopter) (H-34) was stationed at Hanau and primarily conducted tactical troop movements in the field. The US Air Force had allowed the US Army to have helicopters as long as they did not put weapons on them. Early 1963, the US Army received permission to mount machineguns on helicopters and the helicopter troops were then allowed to blouse their trousers into their boots.
The 54th Battalion was then inactivated again on 21 October 1963. The 524th Transportation Company was inactivated in 1964. It was stripped of all its equipment and the personnel sent to the Fort Benning, Georgia for the activation of the 11th Air Assault Division, which became the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
In May 1966, LTC Melvin M. Wolfe was a plans officer at Fort Monroe, Virginia when he received orders to report to Fort Lewis, Washington, to activate the 54th Transportation Battalion. He arrived at Fort Lewis in May 1966. On 1 June 1966, the 54th Battalion was reactivated at Fort Lewis, Washington, for service in Vietnam along with several other TC units activated at same time; the 506th Transportation Battalion, as commanded by LTC Porter, and 8th Transportation Group, commanded by COL J. P. O’Connor. Only one of the 54th Battalion’s truck companies, 585th Transportation Company, was at Fort Lewis with it. The others were organized at other bases.1
CPT (P) Nicholas Collins arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington, in July 1966 and became the S3 for the 54th Trans Battalion. Soldiers were arriving in batches of 40-60 every week. The battalion had no equipment and had to borrow 5 trucks for driver training from main post transportation office. They borrowed two 5-ton trucks and three tractor and trailers. They ran “the pants off of those things” driving 12 hours a day.2
The 54th Battalion did not have its vehicles or equipment, so they trained with the 4th ID (M), which was also getting ready to go to Vietnam at the same time. The truck drivers used their ranges and ran convoys with their vehicles, because the 54th Battalion vehicles were enroute to Vietnam. The 54th and its one company departed for Vietnam in October.3
Back on 21 May 1966, two busloads of recently graduated truck drivers rode from Fort Jackson, South Carolina to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. There were no officers to command the unit. A staff sergeant from an airborne unit was put in charge until an officer arrived two weeks later. Until then the soldiers preformed post details and guard duty. On 30 May, they received orders assigning them to the 523th Transportation Company. The company was being activated for Viet Nam. The company had no trucks to train with but conducted infantry training and escape and evasion training instead.4
In July, the drivers boarded three buses to Gary, Indiana where they would pick up 96 5-ton trucks from Kaiser Corp. factory. They also ended up with two 2 ½-ton trucks and drove back to Fort Campbell. Less than 10 miles outside the gate, they had an accident. They were supposed to have convoy clearance that allowed them to run straight and not stop for traffic lights, but a car cut into the formation at an intersection and caused seven trucks to wreck. Once at Fort Campbell, they prepared the trucks for rail shipment overseas. They never trained on their trucks.5
They remained over night (RON) at Fort Knox, Kentucky and completed the trip the next day. They did not have time to train on the new trucks but prepared them for rail shipment to California where they would board ships for Viet Nam. Two weeks later on 27 September, the company boarded two aircraft and flew to Oakland, California that night. The one Dan was on had to stop in Omaha, Nebraska for fuel. They were bused from the airport and boarded the USS William S. Weigle, a merchant marine ship that had been taken out of mothballs and converted to a troop ship.6
The ship set sail on 28 September. The men sat on deck and played cards to pass the time. Near an island, either Wake or Midway, the ship stopped to offload a passenger with appendicitis. On day 20 of the voyage, the ship stopped at Okinawa for fuel and supplies and the troops were given a 12-hour leave. The ship left Okinawa in early morning and arrived at Cam Ranh Bay on 20 October 1966, Dan’s 20th birthday. The Weigle then made two other stops before it anchored offshore at Qui Nhon on 23 October.7
The 54th Battalion arrived at Qui Nhon as part of the 8th Transportation Group on 23 October 1966. LTC Wolfe, who had arrived with the advance party, sent word for CPT (P) Collins to be the first person to step off of the landing ramp at Qui Nhon. Wolfe was waiting at the beach ramp ready to pin on Collins’ oak leaves. Collins was promoted to major when he arrived in Vietnam.8
The 512th, 523rd and 669th Transportation Companies from the 54th Battalion rode ashore aboard LARC LXs. Qui Nhon. While standing on the beach waiting for buses, trucks drove by the beach and the drivers yelled out “Short!” and announced how many days they had left in country. Vernon Hood felt bad enough for being in Vietnam without anyone reminded him that he was on his first day of a 365-day tour. The Army buses were waiting for them at Qui Nhon and took them to their new home, where an advance party had erected tents prior to the arrival of the main body. They moved into 16-man GP Mediums. That night they ate C-Rations heated in trashcans with immersion heaters.9
MAJ Leo McMahon’s 27th Transportation Battalion had already been there for a year. The 54th Battalion established its headquarters at Camp Addison in Cha Rang Valley. The 27th Battalion assumed command of the medium truck companies and the 54th assumed control of the recently arrived light truck companies at Phu Tai and Cha Rang:
The equipment arrived on two different ships starting the second day they were in country. The 8th Group wanted the 54th Battalion to conduct a 100% commitment the next day, their third day in Vietnam. The soldiers worked around the clock to get the trucks ready. They had 92% availability the next day. The second ship arrived before the first one had left. They unloaded everything over a period of three days.10
The 27th Battalion had done all the supply work until the 54th Battalion had all its trucks. The battalion hauled supplies 100 vehicle convoys every day. The convoys supplied the 1st Cav Division at An Khe, the 4th ID(M) at Pleiku and an US Air Force unit at Phu Cat. 11
An Ordinance and an Engineer unit were in the area where the 54th Battalion set up camp. The camp was not officially named while Wolfe was there. The trucks of the two battalions were at different locations. The 54th Battalion arrived with 600 men and only had a three-hole latrine and a two-man shower that worked. The advance party had done some work. They had also erected a headquarters tent. Those drivers not busy unloading trucks were busy building latrines. They then build their mess tents. Until they erected GP Medium tents, the drivers slept in trucks. This was not more than three days. They then built perimeter. The dug a 16-inch by 12-inch deep trench inside a three-foot high sand bagged wall around the tents for protection against mortar attacks. They put wooden pallets, not plywood, on the floors of the tents to keep from walking in the mud. To be able to walk at night they had to turn on the light to walk. This was not popular at night when everyone was asleep. They did not see plywood until spring. They later named their camp three months after they arrived, Camp Davis after SP5 O’Neill Addison, the first driver killed on 4 May 1966.12
To train drivers, Collins put the drivers who were not busy unloading and readying equipment riding with 27th Battalion trucks as assistant drivers for the first three days. As soon as the 54th Battalion had trucks ready they drove. The drivers drove more miles in three days than they had all during training.13
One set of drivers would pick up the cargo at Qui Nhon port and drop off the trucks or cargo at different depots along the road at night then another set of drivers came in the next morning to drive the trucks. The depots were located outside Qui Nhon. The distance from Qui Nhon to the 54th Battalion camp was about eight miles. All the 8th Group trucks marshaled in the 54th Battalion area. Convoys consisted of 30 to 50 vehicles. There was about an hour of total confusion every morning. Wolfe and his staff referred to their camp as “Confusion Alley” or “Camp Confusion.”14
The drivers learned the routes while waiting for their trucks by riding along as right seat drivers with 27th Battalion trucks. It took Wolfe about a month to bring his company commanders up to his standards. The Deputy Commander of the Qui Nhon Support Command, COL Gordon Maybe, inspected the 561st Transportation Company and found dirty weapons, so Wolfe relieved the company commander. That was the only commander he had to relieve. 15
The 54th Battalion landed at Qui Nhon the same time the 4th ID arrived. The trucks of the 54th helped haul the 4th ID up to Pleiku where they relieved the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division at Dak To. The convoys then carried the 101st back to Qui Nhon where the paratroopers then moved to Duc Pho. BG Willard Person was 1st Brigade Commander. LTC Wolfe personally knew him from previous assignments. Part of the 1st Logistic Command from Ft Bragg, North Carolina was at Pleiku.16
On 19 October 1966, COL O’Conner left Vietnam because of a medical problem within a month after he arrived. The Group XO, LTC Ramsey, assumed command from December 1966 until February 1967 when COL Noble Taylor came up from 1st Logistic Command. COL Taylor ran the transportation element of 1st Log down in Saigon. He assumed command of 8th Group in March 1967.17
A transportation company has 120 drivers assigned for 60 vehicles. That allows for two drivers per vehicle and transportation companies were supposed to run on a 75% availability. This would allow for down time to maintain vehicles and allow crews to rest. Unfortunately, many non-transportation officers not familiar with this saw the drivers as excess. The 54th Battalion had not been in Vietnam three weeks when Qui Nhon Support Command received permission from 1st Log Command and directed that 8th Group task 30 drivers per company to guard the two ammo dumps. Between that and the requirement to shuttle the trailers at the port and run the night convoy to and from Qui Nhon, this seriously reduced the availability of drivers. Drivers drove trucks every day. The battalion filled every commitment that it had.18
The drivers woke up at 0330 hours every morning and returned to camp late at night. Prior to the road being paved, it was hard for convoys to accelerate to 15 miles per hour. The pot holes were unreal, some were one foot deep. The convoys were lucky to arrive at Pleiku by 1400 hours. It took nine hours just to drive 110 miles. They unloaded, turned around and departed between 1700 and 1730 hours. The convoys returned between 2200 and 2400 hours. LTC Wolfe, his CSM and S-1 arranged for every driver to rotate them on guard duty every tenth day to give them a break from the road.19
The primary destination was An Khe and Pleiku along Highway 19. Sometimes the convoys ran north to Dak To and south to Plei Djereng. It was a steep climb and trucks slowed down to four miles per hour. At the top of the An Khe Pass was a wide open space not very far from the entrance to the 1st Cav camp. A trailer transfer point (TTP) was there. They would leave any trailer that was broken and pick it up on the way back. MAJ Collins usually was waiting for his drivers at the top of the pass to provide the drivers cold drinks. Down the west side of An Khe Pass was a bridge. The 1st Cav provided a security check point there in the form of a light tank and two APC.20
About a month after their arrival, the trucks of the 54th Battalion began hauling to an infantry base at Bong Song, with an air strip made of perforated steel planking (PSP). The air strip went over the crest of a low hill and had an ammo dump, a hospital tent, and a ration yard. It was fifty miles north of Qui Nhon on QL19, and took over half a day to get there and unload. On Dan Medley’s first run to Bong Song, he had to remain over night (RON) as his truck was not unloaded in time for the return convoy. That night he was writing a letter to his girlfriend under the dashboard light while mortars started impacting on the other side of the base. During the early runs to Bong Song, the convoys were heavily guarded with gun jeeps and helicopters.21
In November 1966, each company was asked to give up about two drivers to go to the GOER unit in Pleiku. Vernon Hood was one. Because the soldiers of the 523rd. had come over together they would rotate home at the same time.22
At first the dirt road was smooth, but a few months after their arrival, the entire QL19 had deep potholes. Dan Medley believed the potholes were the result of constant traffic by the daily convoys. The drivers had to constantly tighten the lug nuts on their tires to keep them from coming off. Medley’s truck hit a deep pothole while coming down the An Khe Pass that bounced him and he landed on the hinge between the seats, breaking his tailbone. He did not go on sick call, but drove his truck for over a month, while sitting on one hip. The constant bouncing of the trucks would shift the loads. Forklifts would load pallets of cement and push each forward with the next until the truck was full. There was space on both sides of the pallets, and with the constant bouncing the load would shift to one side. The heavy weight on one side would cause the bed bolts to break and the bed to come off. When Medley’s load would shift to one side, he would deliberately hit potholes on the other side of the road to bounce the load back to center.23
An Engineer detachment lived in village just down the road from the last bridge before An Khe Pass. The engineers reconnoitered the route every morning. One day during the winter rainy season, they reported that the last bridge was impassable and asked the Group to delay its start time for its convoys. The triple Bailey bridge had come off supports during a flood. Luckily no trucks were on it at the time. It took the Engineers 12 to15 hours to fix it.24
All trucks had Continental multi-fuel engines and only one made 1,800 miles. They could not put multi-fuel in them. That was not very good since the trucks ran 300 miles a day. That included the night convoys to and from the port at Qui Nhon then the 110 miles to Pleiku and back. They did not even last a month. Within a month the battalion received new Mac diesel engines and a team was sent from the United States to replace them. The cost of engines and shipping was about $20,000.25
As a war planner, Wolfe knew about the annihilation of French GM100 in 1954 because he had to study the history of Vietnam. When he saw the marker along Route (QL) 19, he realized the significance of it. Surprisingly as planners, they believed most of the enemy activity would take place in Thailand.26
The initial enemy threat consisted of mines and sniping. At least every two weeks a sniper would shoot at driver or “dinky” Coke can bomb would blew off a tire of a truck. The engineers would drive the road looking for mines but would overlook something small like a Coke can in the road. The 54th Battalion lost a truck hauling JP4 at the hairpin. In July, one of those Coke can bombs exploded, blowing off the tire of the truck driving at 10 miles an hour up the Hairpin. The truck went off of the road and the fuel exploded.27
For protection the drivers put sand bags on the floor of the trucks, on the hood in front of the windshield and even on the fenders. The heat and vibration made the latter a bad idea. They also put sandbags on jeeps and discussed why could they not use a halftrack or armored car for escort protection. MAJ Collins tried unsuccessfully to get two halftracks from the property disposal officer (PDO) lot in Saigon. The PDO had mounted cranes on the halftracks to move vehicles around. Collins had led a mortar platoon in Germany in 1956-57. The mortars had been mounted in half tracks and he felt they would be perfect for convoys escort. Collins offered to trade the PDO two new trucks but he would not trade.28
The convoy interval was supposed to be 150 yards apart but there was an accordion effect of the trucks bunching up most of the time. Plus, no one wanted to follow a truck laden with JP4 or ammo when driving 4 miles an hour. Commanders flying overhead would call to the battalion operations complaining about the convoy interval. MAJ Collins put posts on the road every 150 yards as a reference for the drivers, but the next day they would be gone. Collins was more concerned about the safety of his drivers and did not worry too much about the complaints. Until the engineers improved that road it was impossible to maintain the proper interval.29
LTC Wolfe did not change any 27th Battalion SOPs because he thought his convoys were pretty well protected by their protectors. Route security from point at Qui Nhon to An Khe was provided by a Republic of Korea (ROK) artillery brigade. The road from An Khe to Mang Giang Pass was supposed to be protected by 1st Cav. The convoys gathered at the 1st Cav border to determine who was going to stop there and who was supposed to go on. The convoys stopped at An Khe to coordinate with the 1st Cav for artillery support. The 1st Cav was supposed to provide artillery support in case the convoys were hit and they had the call signs to call in air support. From Mang Giang Pass to Pleiku, 4ID(M) was supposed to provide the security, but the 4th ID(M) had not placed tanks and APCs along the road yet. Wolfe said they did not have MP support on convoys.30
MAJ Collins wrote the “Battalion S-3 Notes,” in March 1967. Collins had a young captain as his S-3 training officer, 1LT William Canelos, who wrote the Convoy Commander’s Guide,” prior to his departure. To write his SOPs, Collins had discussed with the 27th Battalion and Operations officers with the 1st Cav about how to react to an ambush. The 1st Cav would investigate the ambush site to determine to determine what size enemy sniped on convoys. If you could keep going you keep going. If stopped by a road block. The only road blocks were caused by mines. If the enemy built a road block then the 1st Cav in would see it. Six months after they arrived in Vietnam, Canelos’ wife left him, so he went home on an emergency leave to get custody of his kids and did not come back. Collins did not receive a replacement for Canelos.31
LTC Wolfe made regular recon flights along the road two to three times a week. An aviation unit moved right in behind the 54th area at Lane 14. The unit had CH47s. The 54th Battalion provided security for them. In turn, the aviation unit provided helicopter support for the 54th Battalion. While Wolfe was doing recon flights, he ever saw anything in the way of APCs or tanks along the roads.32
The 54th Battalion was hardening trucks long before 2 September 1967. His men were being sniped at constantly on the night convoys to Qui Nhon. They ran into mines on the road in support of 1st Cav operations to Bong Son. It was not safe anymore. At night they would also receive a lot of sniper activity around the camp.33
In June 1967, six months after Wolfe had arrived in country, he became the executive officer (XO) of 8th Group. They did not have a replacement for him, so MAJ Johnson assumed temporary command of the 54th Battalion. Johnson was an engineer officer from Qui Nhon. He had headed up an engineer detachment waiting for an Engineer battalion to arrive. When the other Engineer battalion came in, he was excess, so he was brought over to command 54th Battalion. Since he did not know transportation he ran the headquarters while Collins ran the operations. MAJ Buchman became the new XO.34 Johnson had not been in Vietnam a week when he was moved to a fire base near Cu Chi on Hwy 1 to run a Transportation Control Center. Johnson was still in command when Wolfe later left on 1 October 1967. Wolfe directed the establishment of the trailer transfer point (TTP) at An Khe for line haul relay.35
The standards for military tires was not adequate for the road. Tires were designed to go 3,000 combat miles. Many times they did not reach 3,000. If a driver made ten 220-mile round trips with the same tires, he was lucky. Every day, 8th Group provided ten trucks to shuttle trailers around the port. The 27th Battalion provided drivers for the day and the 54th provided the drivers for the night. They stayed at Qui Nhon in the port to shuttle trailers around. The 54th Battalion assumed responsibility for the run to Qui Nhon and back to the marshalling yard. Around the end of June 1967, the 54th Battalion received ten single screw commercial International Harvester (IH) tractors painted shiny olive drab from Okinawa to shuttle trailers around the port. The drivers loved them. They were more comfortable, easier to see out of and easier to drive. Within 24 hours, every one of those trucks had army tires. Every one of those IH tires ended up on the front of a military tractor. Collins never remembered a problem with any civilian super high mile tires.36
MAJ Collins had responsibility for repairing the tires. By the time he left Vietnam in October 1967, he had a pile of tires five stories high (60 feet) spread across almost four acres of land. The Ordinance people brought in a special tire repair team. They never tried to even repair the old ones. It was cheaper just to buy new ones.37
Accountability of trailers was a problem. Since a stake and platform company had two trailers assigned for each tractor, it could haul a loaded trailer and drop it off at the trailer transfer point (TTP) in Pleiku and pick up an empty to bring back to Qui Nhon. The TTP detachment would load it that night and the tractor would repeat the process the next day. Tractors pulled trailers according to the assigned load not which company it belonged to. The problem arose when some units outside of 8th Group “borrowed” the trailers. Within four months of his arrival in country, MAJ Collins borrowed a tool and die set from an Ordinance unit and stamped the trailer numbers into the metal. That way if a unit stole one of his trailers and painted over it, he could still identify it. 38
MAJ Collins saw a Special Force truck pulling a trailer. Since SF units were not issued trailers, he stopped the truck and checked the bumper number. It had an 5SF bumper number but when he checked for the stamp, he found that it was one of his trailers. They called the SF detachment commander. The captain claimed that the trailer was his and pointed to the painted bumper number. Collins then showed him the die cut numbers. The SF captain turned beet red.39
On another occasion, one of his drivers said that when he delivered cargo out to an SF camp near the Cambodian border he saw a trailer. Collins drover out to check it out and found that they had used it as a roof and built a hooch under it.40
To prevent a complete changeover of company personnel, drivers were transferred to other companies in early 1967 and some in mid-1967. In July the 523rd Transportation Company received replacements from the other companies. Dan Medley saw no noticeable difference in the quality of the transfers to the company and the record breaking cargo loads continued.41
The trucks of the battalion hauled supplies daily from the port over 110 miles through the Central Highlands to Pleiku or up the coastal highway (Route 1) to Bong Son or down to Tuy Hoa. Over 200 trucks made the trip each day supplying soldiers in the Central Highlands with JP4, ammunition, food and other commodities. Route 19 snaked their way up two treacherous passes at Mang Giang and Ah Khe
Up until 2 September 1967, guerilla ambushes mostly took out individual trucks. On that day, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) changed their tactics. Realizing that the helicopters were entirely dependent upon trucks for fuel, the NVA attacked the supply line.
A convoy of 37 vehicles under the control of the 54th Battalion was returning from Pleiku under the protection of only two jeeps armed with M60 machineguns. Because of mechanical problems a 5,000-gallon tanker split the convoy in two as it approached the treacherous An Khe Pass. At that time the jungle grew right up to the road, so close that the driver could reach out and touch the branches. At 6:55 in the evening an NVA company struck the lead gun jeep with a 57mm recoilless rifle round killing on man and wounding two others. Simultaneously, the enemy sprung a secondary ambush on the other half of the convoy setting the tanker on fire. Drivers were taken by surprise. Many did not know what to expect. They saw the impact of rifle and machinegun fire on the vehicles in front of them but did not know the lethality of the ambush until the trucks came to a halt. The kill zone spread over 700 meters. Drivers climbed out of their vehicles and put up a fight while NVA swarmed over the trucks killing others. In ten minutes the enemy had destroyed or damaged 30 vehicles and killing seven men and wounding 17. Since they attacked an empty convoy returning at night, this ambush was a dress rehearsal to see if their tactics worked. It did.
The response by LTC John H. Burke, the acting commander of 8th Group, was immediate. Since the local infantry and tack units would not escort his convoys, he authorized the companies to build gun trucks. Initially, the units fielded quad .50 gun trucks but they required a crew of six to drive the truck, man and reload the guns. The best solution was to put steel planking on the bed of a 5-ton cargo truck and arm the “box” with machineguns. The first gun trucks were painted olive green like the rest of the trucks in the convoys so they blended in. The few that were named only had the names stenciled on the gun box in white paint.
COL Joe Bellino assumed command of the 8th Group by the end of September and saw the utility of the gun truck and championed its cause. By the next major ambush in November, the gun trucks were ready. The guerrillas were unable to destroy as many trucks as before and paid a high price in return. In time the gun trucks received pedestal mounted machineguns and were painted black with distinctive names painted on the sides. Each company had two gun trucks.
The next ambush was on a 27th Battalion convoy but was small in size and only damaged one of the last vehicles. It drove out under its own power. It took the enemy time to plan and rehearse large scale ambushes. The NVA launched its next large scale ambush on a 54th Battalion convoy on 24 November. The convoy consisted of 43 5-ton cargo trucks, 15 2 ½-ton trucks and a maintenance truck under the protection of six gun trucks and three gun jeeps. The fired on the lead gun truck and detonated a mine under the lead 5-ton cargo truck. The truck rolled to the side of the road and the other trucks tried to run through the ambush, but only one truck was successful. The remaining trucks were stopped by mines and small arms fire. One truck loaded with ammunition in the next serial exploded destroying the gun truck next to it. Enemy fire hit the gun truck in the third serial and damaged it and a grenade damaged the gun truck in the fourth serial. The enemy damaged 14 trucks to include four gun trucks, killed two drivers and wounded 17 at a loss of 41 of their own killed and four captured wounded. The price of ambushing convoys had gone up.
From then on, the convoys of 8th Group came under daily attack from snipers and mines and once a week the enemy launched a large scale ambush. This was a buildup to the upcoming Tet Offensive that would start on 31 January 1968. The intent was to cut the combat units in the Central Highlands off from supplies before the main attack. For the truck drivers of 8th Group, the Tet Offensive had already begun.
Another eastbound convoy under the control of the 54th Battalion was ambushed by Viet Cong guerrillas at 8:15 in the morning on 4 December. This convoy of 58 5-ton trucks, 11 2 ½-ton trucks was escorted by six gun trucks and four gun jeeps. The lead gun truck stopped when the crew noticed a board with three mines pulled across the road in front of it. The gun truck then received small arms and recoilless rocket fire killing the driver. The lead jeep, with 1LT Todd, behind the gun truck was also stopped by small arms fire. Both vehicles immediately returned fire. Four cargo trucks received flat tires but the drivers returned fire. The remaining five gun trucks drove into the 3,000 meter long kill zone to render assistance. One was disabled by a rocket wounding three gunners. The helicopter gun ships arrived at 8:27, 12 minutes after the call, “ambush, ambush, ambush” went out and the reaction force arrived at 8:30. By that time the gun trucks had broken up the enemy ambush, killing 13 enemy soldiers and capturing one wounded at a loss of only one killed and six wounded. The loss of vehicles was one gun truck destroyed and one jeep and four trucks slightly damaged.
It became clear from the prisoners that the enemy wanted to completely destroy a convoy as the Viet Minh had French Mobile Group 100 on 24 June 1954 near Mang Giang Pass. The Americans were determined to keep the supply line open.
It was learned that the enemy liked to take out the lead vehicles with mines and small arms fire. The order came down that the gun trucks should not lead the convoys but vary their position throughout the convoy on a daily basis so the enemy would not be able to anticipate where the gun truck was. Quad .50 gun trucks required too many crew members and could not depress their guns to shoot down hill or fire through the cab of the truck. They were slowly discontinued in use as more box style gun trucks were built. In time the gun trucks received pedestal mounted machineguns and were painted black with distinctive names painted on the sides. Each company had two gun trucks. After the December ambush the convoys started having fixed wing aircraft or helicopter gunships escort them. They would fly so low that the drivers could reach up and touch the skids.
At approximately 6:15 on the morning of 21 January 1968, a convoy under the control of the 54th Battalion consisting of four gun trucks, four gun jeeps and 60 task vehicles departed Qui Nhon for Pleiku. The convoy was halted at check point 96 east for 30 minutes while the road was cleared. At 10:00 approximately 500 yards east of check point 102, the lead element of the convoy came upon a 5-ton tractor which was attempting to hook up to a POL trailer. Because this operation was blocking the flow of traffic, the convoy commander moved to the front and directed the clearance of the road. He then directed his convoy to continue. At this time, a large volume of automatic and small arms fire was received from the south side of the road. Convoy security personnel immediately returned fire in the direction of the hostile fire. The convoy continued to move through the area. Within five to ten minutes APCs from the road security element at check point 102 arrived and engaged the hostile element followed by tanks from CP 98 within ten minutes. Rear elements of the convoy approaching the area received approximately 40 to 50 rounds of automatic fire. Both APCs and tanks at the site of the incident fired in the direction of the hostile fire. The number of enemy involved were unknown.
At 6:00 in the morning of 25 January, another 54th Battalion convoy consisting of 95 task vehicles for Pleiku and 23 for An Khe, departed the unit marshalling area located at Cha Rang Valley on Route 19. The 95 vehicles bound for Pleiku consisted of 65 5-ton cargo trucks, 19 2 ½-ton trucks, 5 armored 2 ½-ton trucks, 4 radio jeeps and 2 5-ton maintenance trucks. At approximately 10:15, the convoy received automatic and small arms fire from both sides of the road. The gun trucks and convoy personnel returned fire and within ten minutes elements of 2/1 Cavalry were on the site with APCs and tanks. After all firing stopped the convoy proceeded west for approximately 500 yards when enemy fire was again received from both sides of the road. The NVA opened fire on the second and third vehicles in the convoy. The enemy fire consisted of rockets, heavy machine guns, grenades and small arms. A machine gun position was later discovered approximately 25 yards on the right side of the road. The reaction force arrived on the scene from the previous ambush site immediately. The ground distance covered by the ambush was approximately 1,000 meters. Approximately 60 convoy personnel were involved in the ambush. Plus the reaction force. The number of enemy involved was unknown. Two drivers were killed and one wounded. One 2 ½-ton gun truck and one 2 1/-ton cargo truck were damaged, with minor damage to the cargo. One civilian tractor from pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE) was destroyed. Three armed helicopters arrived at approximately 10:45 and two medevacs arrived ten minutes after the request. Two officers, members of the engineer team, were wounded, one fatally, while clearing explosive ordnance from the site.
On 30 January, a convoy under the control of the 54th Battalion departed for Pleiku at approximately 6:00 that morning. The convoy consisted of 80 task vehicles, 7 gun trucks, 8 gun jeeps and 3 Quad .50s. Upon arrival in An Khe, the convoy was joined by 3 PACs and one tank from the security force of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The additional security element was dispersed toward the front of the convoy. Since the convoy was about to pass out of the area of operation of the 173rd, the additional security element pulled out of the convoy and stopped at CP 102. Approximately one mile west of CP 102, the convoy came under fire initially by mortars and followed by small arms and automatic fire from a platoon size enemy. The convoy personnel immediately returned heavy fire. In addition, the 173rd security element advanced from CP 102 and en element for the 4th ID security element moved west to engage the enemy. F111As, F104s and gunships made air strikes. Two US personnel were slightly injured; one 5-ton tractor and reefer were damaged. No enemy dead or wounded was found.
On 7 February, a convoy under the control of the 54th Battalion departed for Pleiku at approximately 6:30. The convoy consisted of 67 task vehicles, one maintenance truck, six gun trucks and four gun jeeps. At approximately 10:10, after passing CP 92 West, the convoy came under fire from small arms and automatic fire of an estimated 50 to 60 NVA from the tree line south of the road. In addition, two rockets were fired at the convoy form a mound halfway between the road and the tree line. Convoy security personnel immediately opened fire killing two NVA at the rocket position. The enemy force began to move forward from the tree line but was driven back by the fire power of the convoy personnel. Gun trucks which cleared the kill zone, which was estimated at 200 meters, returned to fire upon the enemy positions. Within 15 minutes, 6 to 8 APCs and two to three tanks arrived at the scene and began to engage the enemy. Four US personnel were slightly wounded. Six dead and one enemy wounded were discovered. A 5-ton cargo hauling class V was hit by a rocket and destroyed. A gas tank of another 5-ton cargo was damaged. Also several other vehicles, including two gun trucks, received flat tires from enemy fire. The gun ships arrived within 15 to 20 minutes of request.
On 21 February, a convoy under the control of the 27th Battalion departed at approximately 7:15 for Pleiku. The convoy consisted of 54 task vehicles, four gun trucks, four gun jeeps and a Quad .50. At approximately 9:50 the convoy came under fire from automatic and small arms fire and B40 rockets between CP 89 and CP 96. The convoy personnel returned fire in the direction of an estimated 10 to 12 NVA south of the highway. The Quad .50 move into the kill zone, which was estimated at approximately 300 meters, and was credited with one NVA killed. APCs form the 173rdx Airborne Brigade arrived in approximately five to ten minutes an engaged the enemy force. Artillery was also called in by the tactical force. Three vehicles including a task vehicle and the Quad .50 were damaged and three personnel were wounded. One killed and one wounded enemy was recovered along with numerous foxholes.
On 4 March, a convoy under the control of the 54th Battalion departed for Pleiku at approximately 6:00. The convoy consisted of 104 task vehicles, 8 gun trucks and 4 gun jeeps. At approximately 9:00 the convoy was held up at CP 89 by the tactical security force due to enemy activity in Mang Giang Pass. The convoy was allowed to proceed at approximately 11:30 with the escort of one tank and two APCs from the 173rd Airborne Brigade. At approximately 11:45, the convoy came under fire from mortars and heavy small arms and automatic fire. Convoy security immediately opened fire in the direction of the enemy which was well entrenched in the tree line on the north side of the road. The convoy also received sporadic fire from the south side of the road. The enemy force was estimated at about 50 personnel. Two Quad .50s from the 4/60th Artillery, which were traveling with the convoy, and one from the 27th Transportation Battalion convoy, which was behind the 54th convoy, fired upon the enemy positions throughout the kill zone, estimated to be between 500 and a 1,000 meters long. A reaction force of one tank, four APCs and four gunships arrived within five minutes. There were eight convoy personnel wounded, two from the artillery unit. One wounded died on 6 March, from wounds received in the battle. Five of the vehicles and two trailers were damaged. The convoy remained in place on the highway until 2:30, at which time they turned around under the escort of MPs and returned to An Khe.
On 8 March, another 54th Battalion convoy had departed for Pleiku at approximately 6:00. The convoy consisted of 79 task vehicles, four gun jeeps and five gun trucks. At approximately 8:30 the third gun truck of the first serial was hit with a claymore mine damaging the front tires. The explosion was followed by heavy small arms and automatic fire from both sides of the road. Three Quad .50s form the 4/60th Artillery travelling with the convoy joined by a company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which was in the area, encasing the enemy. The company commander of the 173rd was killed in the engagement. The enemy force attempted to repel the flanking action of the tactical security force but was driven back after 15 minutes of heavy contact. One gun truck and one task vehicle were damaged. Two US personnel were wounded and one killed. One of the wounded was a driver and the other two were in the 173rd. The convoy was allowed to proceed after a twenty minute delay. At approximately 9:15, two kilometers west of CP102, a task vehicle in the first serial hit a mine then small arms fire hit the cab of the disabled vehicle wounding the driver. B40 rockets then ignited the JP4 that the truck hauled. Small arms and automatic fire and rocket fire opened up on the convoy. The convoy security element fired in the direction of the enemy positions as the convoy maneuvered around the burning vehicle. Tactical security forces from the 173rd and the 4th ID arrived within five minutes and engaged the enemy. The enemy force of undetermined size established a kill zone of approximately 300-500 meters. Only one soldier was wounded with one truck damaged and another destroyed. No enemy dead or wounded was recovered.
On 23 March, a night shuttle convoy from the port of Qui Nhon was proceeding west on Highway 1 toward loading sites in Cha Rang Valley. At approximately 12:15, the convoy consisting of five task vehicles, one gun truck and one gun jeep approached the bridge guarded by the Koreans. The convoy commander, 1LT Paul J. Stegmayer, observed a pipe line fire in the vicinity of Tuy Phovc. After reporting the same, 1LT Stegmayer proceeded with his column. As the convoy reached the site of the fire, an explosion occurred on the north side of the road near 1LT Stegmayer’s jeep, followed by heavy small arms and automatic weapons fire. Although both 1LT Stegmayer and his driver received wounds from flying glass and shrapnel, they were able to cross over the bridge at the site of the pipe line fire. Due to the intense enemy fire, only the jeep and one task vehicle were able to clear the kill zone. Despite great personal danger, 1LT Stegmayer, braving a withering hail of bullets, crossed back over to bridge on foot to take control of the drivers and insure that they could clear the scene. Moving from vehicle to vehicle, Stegmayer assured himself that all drivers were out of their vehicles and had taken up positions to engage the enemy. He crossed back to his jeep to radio reports to Battalion and adjust illuminating artillery rounds. With arrival of a reaction force of three gun trucks, one gun jeep and a Quad .50, 1LT Stegmayer again crossed over the bridge to direct flanking fire into the suspected enemy positions. The enemy force estimated at 15 broke contact and fled the area. All six vehicles in the convoy received small arms and automatic weapons fire. Four personnel were wounded. Intelligence reports indicated that the enemy’s mission was to destroy the dual bridges (railroad and highway) at the site of the pipe line fire thus cutting a vital link on the only main highway between Qui Nhon and major tactical forces to the north and west. With the arrival of the shuttle convoy, the enemy, for reasons unknown, fired on the column. It has been recommended that the enemy may have mistaken the convoy as a reaction force investigating the pipe line fire. The action by 1LT Stegmayer and his men contributed to the failure of the enemy to accomplish their mission of interdiction of lines of communication to the north and west.
The Tet Offensive had run its course by the end of March 1968. The insurgents had shut Route 19 down only momentarily right after 31 January, but the convoys started pushing cargo back up into the Highlands to the camps and kept the supply route open. The gun trucks had denied the enemy the chance to shut down the supply route. From then on, the enemy would launch periodic attacks on convoys to inflict pain and suffering to the supply line, but the enemy never again tried to shut down Route 19 like it did from November 1967 to March 1968.
At 10:00 on 12 May, two 8th Group convoys were involved in convoy ambushes on Highway 1. A southbound convoy consisting of 14 task vehicles plus security, under the supervision of the 27th Battalion, received enemy fire 200 meters south of Bridge 329. A north bound convoy consisting of 31 task vehicles plus security, under the supervision of the 54th Battalion, was approaching the same location when an enemy force, estimated at a reinforced squad, opened fire with automatic weapons and M-79 fire. The primary force was in a tree-line 150 to 200 meters form the west side of the road. The kill zone was estimated to be about 200 meters long. In this action, the 240th Quartermaster Battalion sustained one wounded POL driver. Several vehicles were damaged by enemy fire. Both convoys increased speed and moved through the kill zone. A 54th Battalion driver was killed and his 2 ½-ton cargo truck ran off of the road onto a small bank. A gun jeep and two gun trucks rendered immediate assistance while directing the convoy through the kill zone. The casualties were evacuated and the convoy continued north without further incident.
The 27th Battalion convoy cleared the kill zone with only minor damage to vehicles and continued south. As the convoy reached the vicinity of Bridge 376, at approximately 10:10, enemy fire was again encountered, this time from the east side of the road, from a distance of 200 meters. An estimated platoon size enemy force fired M-79 rounds and automatic weapons. Upon receiving enemy fire, the lead gun truck pulled over and engaged the enemy while allowing the convoy to pass through the kill zone. One driver was wounded. Four 27th Battalion vehicles were lightly damaged as a result of both encounters.
At approximately 12:15, 14 August, a convoy under the control of 54th Battalion departed Qui Nhon on Route 19 for a line haul trip to Pleiku. The convoy consisted of 68 task vehicles, 7 gun trucks, five gun jeeps armed with M-60 machine guns, and one Quad .50 gun truck. At 3:45, as the first serial of the convoy proceeded west past an area approximately two miles west of Bridge 34, an enemy force dressed in ARVN Marine uniforms attacked the convoy with small arms and B-40 rocket fire. The enemy force was estimated at between a platoon and a company. Four gun trucks, one Quad .50 gun truck and one gun jeep immediately returned fire within the estimated 3000 yard kill zone. A reaction force of six APCs and three helicopter gunships arrived within five minutes after contact. All task vehicles made it out of the kill zone. However, five f those vehicles suffered damage; and one of the five was heavily damaged. The convoy had four men wounded and one soldier from the 1/69th Armored Battalion was killed. The convoy commander reported 12 enemy troops hit by return fire. After the security forces swept the area of contact, they discovered four enemy dead. The five wounded US soldiers were medevacked to the 71st Medical Evacuation Hospital. Of these, two were treated and released.
By September, 1968, the gun trucks combined with helicopter escorts made large scale ambushes a rarity. The gun trucks had gained a reputation
In time the crews of the gun trucks began to paint their vehicles black with red, orange, yellow or white trim and paint brightly colored names on them. The following companies built these gun trucks:
512th Transportation Company had the Devil Woman.
523rd Transportation Company had King Kong, Ace of Spades, Uncle Meat, Eve of Destruction, and True Grit.
669th Transportation Company had built three gun trucks, Steel’s Wheels, Tilly’s Terriors, and Killer II, by the Tet Offensive. The first two were 5-ton gun trucks named after the 2nd and 3rdPlatoon Leaders, 2LT Steele and 2LT Tillison, but Killer II was a 2 ½-ton gun truck hardened with sandbags but the frame broke under the weight of the sandbags after they got wet. SP4 Charlie Brown then built the 5-ton gun truck named Cold Sweat for 1st Platoon in July 1968. Since 8th Group was getting ready to hold a celebration in July and the crew mixed OD paint with black and brake fluid to give the gun truck a dark finish, then painted white dots on all the bolt heads just to make it stand out in the parade and on the road. They painted the name on with white balls to form the letters. This truck may be the first gun truck with dark paint and fancy lettering and trim. The 669th later added Bad Hombre.
On 1 December 1968, the 529th Light Truck Company (2 ½-ton) at Phu Hiep, just south of Tuy Hoa air Base, and 545th Light Truck Company (5-ton) at Vung Ro Bay were attached to the 54th Transportation Battalion. On 12 December, the battalion zeroed out the 529th on personnel and equipment to bring the other companies up to strength. On 10 January 1969, the 545th received order to move into the facilities at Phu Hiep vacated by the 529th. This was intended to provide the 545th a better defensive posture than Vung Ro Bay, but the living conditions were not as good. They completed the move on 15 July. The 545th ran local convoys from Vung Ro Bay to the air base but did run some long hauls along Highway 1 as far north as Qui Nhon and south to Cam Ranh Bay.
LTC William R. Sarber, Jr assumed command of the 54th Battalion on 8 January 1969. By that time, the 54th Battalion provided command and control over the following:
On 5 July 1969, the 666th Light Truck was detached from the 54th Battalion and sent north to Da Nang. The majority of the personnel flew by air while the equipment sailed north on an LST. In the I Corps Tactical Zone, the company was attached to the 39th Transportation Battalion. The Heavy Lift Platoon was transferred to the 512th Light Truck Company.
On 10 November 1969, the 545th Light Truck Company at Phu Hiep attached one platoon to the 593rd General Support Group. Another platoon was attached to the 523rd Light Truck at Cha Rang.
On 17 March 1970, the 8th Group picked up the mission to run missions north to Da Nang in support of the Americal Division.
On 1 April 1970, a convoy under the control of the 54th Battalion left for Pleiku and ran into an ambush just short of the Hairpin below An Khe Pass. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the hood of the lead gun truck. The enemy opened fire with small arms, automatic and mortar fire disabling six cargo vehicles. The lead vehicles out of the kill zone continued to drive to An Khe. The crew of the gun truck, Matchbox, saw the gun truck get hit and the smoke of the ambush. Larry Fiandt, the driver, instinctively drove in the direction of the kill zone. The task vehicles that had not entered the kill zone turned around to head back down Route 19. Many of the 5-tom cargo trucks had 105mm howitzers on them. As the trucks backed up they backed into the side of the mountain and several flipped over. One driver jumped out of his vehicle and ran away but later returned to his truck. This made it difficult for the Matchbox to get to the kill zone. By the time it arrived, it rendered assistance to the other gun trucks ammunition. The crew of the damaged gun truck did not want to leave their disabled truck so the Matchbox passed on ammunition and proceeded up the road and found a wounded driver. They had him medevaced out at the top of the pass then went down and cleaned up the ambush trucks. Uncle Meat also arrived with a reaction force of infantry walking behind it.
COL Langston, Commander of 8th Group, was concerned over the effects of the peace rally scheduled in the major cities in the US on 15 April 1970. To divert his soldiers’ attention from the peace rally, he planned to award a stand down day to the company with the best vehicle utilization that day. The 669th Transportation Company won the “Best Company Utilization” and a day off.
There were rarely any ambushes going to Chu Lai or Tuy Lai in 1970. Larry Fiandt, 523rd Transportation Company, returned to day convoys as the driver of the ¾-ton gun truck, Wild Thing. He did not like the name and renamed it “Malfunction,” after a friend’s street racer back home.
As early as 1969, the US Army started drawing back on the forces in country. With the reduction of forces, this reduced the daily tonnage requirements. So the number of truck companies was reduced. The 54th Battalion was brought down to zero strength by 1 July 1970 and its companies were attached to the 124th Battalion. The 54th Battalion was then inactivated on 13 August 1970. For its performance in Vietnam, the unit received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.
The 54th was reactivated in Germany as the 54th Support Battalion (Forward) on 1 May 1987 and assigned to the Division Support Command (DISCOM) of the 3rd Armored Division. It was stationed at Ray Barracks, Friedberg. The battalion had three lettered companies.
In 1990, the Iraqi Army invaded the country of Kuwait. The United States deployed several divisions into Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield to preempt any further aggression as it was believed that Saddam Hussein wanted control of the oil fields in the desert. With a mandate from the United Nations, President George Bush then decided to increase the number of forces in Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait. The 3rd Armored Division received orders to deploy to Saudi Arabia on 8 November and the equipment deployed by rail to Rotterdam and Antwerp on 24 November. The equipment then deployed by 48 ships to Jubayl and Damman on 14 December. The personnel deployed from Rhien-Main, Ramstein and Nuernberg airports to King Fahd and Dharan airports from 14 December 1990 through 14 January 1991. Because of some logistical problems, the 3rd Armored did not receive much needed parts until it was almost too late to participate in the advance. On 24 February of 1991, the 3rd Armored moved into Southern Iraq to hold the line and defend against any Iraqi counter-attack. When the war was over, the 3rd Armored Division pulled back and took up defensive positions in Kuwait. They held those positions for the next three months when they were relieved by Kuwaiti and United Nations forces. In March 1991, the first units of the 3rd Armored Division returned to their bases in Germany. The 54th Battalion was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its service between 31 January and 19 June 1991.
With the downsizing following the end of the Cold War, the 3rd Armored Division received orders to inactivate. Its subordinate units were either transferred to other units or inactivated. The 54th Battalion inactivated on 15 April 1992. The 3rd Armored Division was inactivated on 17 October 1992.
The battalion was again reactivated as the 54th Support Battalion (Base), 80th Area Support Group (ASG), on 16 September 1994. The 80th ASG stationed at Chievres, Belgium provides support for NATO and SHAPE.
Counteroffensive, Phase II
Counteroffensive, Phase III
Counteroffensive, Phase IV
Counteroffensive, Phase V
Counteroffensive, Phase VI
Counteroffensive, Phase VII
Defense of Saudi Arabia
Liberation and Defense of Kuwait
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army), Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1967-1968
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army), Streamer embroidered SOUTHWEST ASIA (31 Jan 91 - 19 June 91, DAGO 14, 11 Apr 97)
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gilt Star, Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1966-1970
Approved: 29 March 1967 for the 54th Transportation Battalion, redesignated to the 54th Support Battalion on 1 May 1987.
Description: A gold color medal and enamel device 1 1/8 inches in height consisting of a brick red disc-wheel with a gold rim and a blue hub from which emits upwardly a gold broad arrow overall, and on the lower half radially six gold spokes . The rim is inscribed in black letters with the unit's motto, "Resolutely for Freedom".
Symbolism: Brick red and gold are the colors used for transportation, the predecessor organization, and the wheel alludes to the Quartermaster Corps, from which the organization descended, and also to mobility. The board arrow and blue hub refer to the air carrier aspects of the predecessor unit and implies speed. The six arrow spokes refer to the battle honors awarded the unit during World War II for the campaigns of Tunisia, Sicily, Rome-Arno, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland and Southern France; the broad arrow is for the seventh one, Central Europe.
(Displayed on the Battalion Flag)
Approved: 1 May 1987
Description: Gules (brick red), a wheel or the spokes formed by ten arrows of the like radiating from a hub azure, in chief a broad arrow of the second.
Symbolism: Brick red and golden yellow are the colors used for Transportation, the predecessor organization, and the wheel alludes to the Quartermaster Corps from which the organization descended, and also to mobility. The broad arrow and blue hub refer to the air carrier aspects of the predecessor unit and implies speed. The arrow spokes refer to defense and support. The broad arrow is symbolic of the unit's war service during World War II.
Description: On a wreath of the colors or and gules (brick red) a cross patty of the first entwined with two palm branches proper tied with a ribbon of the second.
Symbolism: Brick red and golden yellow are the colors traditionally associated with transportation. The cross patty is adapted from the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry Award and represents that award. The palm branches are indicative of victory and achievement and allude to the unit's campaign service in Vietnam. They are tied with a red ribbon, suggesting the award of the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
MOTTO: Resolutely for Freedom.
1 Collins interview.
2 LTC (R) Nicholas Collins summary of telephone interview by Richard Killblane on 29 April and 18 June 2004
3 COL (R) Melvin M. Wolfe telephone interview by Richard E. Killblane, 31 March and 14 April 2004.
4 Walter Dan Medley interview by Richard Killblane at Pigeon Forge, TN, 6 August 2009; and Vernon Hood interview by Richard Killblane, Pigeon Forge, TN, 6 August 2009.
5 Medley interview and Hood interview.
6 Medley interview.
7 Medley interview.
8 Collins interview.
9 Medley interview and Hood interview.
10 Collins interview.
11 Wolfe interview.
12 Collins interview.
13 Collins interview.
14 Wolfe interview.
15 Wolfe interview.
16 Wolfe interview.
17 Wolfe interview.
18 Collins interview.
19 Collins interview.
20 Collins interview.
21 Medley interview
22 Medley interview
23 Medley interview
24 Collins interview.
25 Collins interview.
26 Collins interview.
27 Wolfe interview.
28 Collins interview.
29 Collins interview.
30 Collins interview.
31 Wolfe interview.
32 Collins interview.
33 Wolfe interview.
34 Wolfe interview.
35 Chester Currin was MAJ Johnson’s driver and remembered MAJ Buchman replacing him, but Collins did not remember any replacement.
36 Wolfe interview and Collins interview.
37 Collins interview.
38 Collins interview.
39 Collins interview.
40 Collins interview.
41 Medley interview.
Bellino, Colonel Joe O., “8th Transportation Group; Sep 1967 – Sep 1968.” n.d.
Canales, CPT William, “The Convoy Commander’s Guide,” n.d. (before May 1967).
Collins, MAJ Nicholas H., “Battalion S-3 Notes,” Headquarters, 54th Transportation Battalion, APO 96238, 5 March 1967.
Heiser, Lieutenant General Joseph M., Jr., Vietnam Studies: Logistic Support, Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 1974.
Kramer, LTC John C., “Operational Report of 124th Transportation Battalion (Truck) for Period Ending 31 July 1969,” 8 August 1969.
Langston, COL Alex T., Jr., “Operational Report of the 8th Transportation Group (Motor Transport) for the Period Ending 31 January 1970,” 15 February 1970.
Langston, COL Alex T., Jr., “Operational Report of the 8th Transportation Group (Motor Transport) for the Period Ending 31 January 1970,” 15 February 1970.
Langston, COL Alex T., Jr., “Operational Report of the 8th Transportation Group (Motor Transport) for the Period Ending 31 July 1970,” 19 August 1970.
Ludy, COL Garland A. “Operational Report of the 8th Transportation Group (Motor Transport) for the Period Ending 31 January 1969,” 7 February 1969.
Ludy, COL Garland A. “Operational Report of the 8th Transportation Group (Motor Transport) for the Period Ending 31 July 1969,” 10 August 1969.
Thomas, COL David H., “Vehicle Convoy Security Operations in the Republic of Vietnam,” Active Project No. ACG-78F, US Army Contact Team in Vietnam, APO San Francisco, CA 96384, 30 Sep 71.
Wolfe, LTC Melvin, “Field Vehicle Operations,” Headquarters, 54th Transportation Battalion, APO 96238, 6 November 1966.
_____, “54th Transportation Battalion Standing Operating Procedures for Field Operations,” 54th Transportation (Truck), APO 96238, 16 March 1967.